Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Amazon Books

…or rather, Y, of the hand embroidered variety:

Floral Alphabet Sampler Monogram Y

Remember not too long ago, when we talked about colors for hand embroidery projects?

These particular colors in the Y above are a little out of my color comfort zone, but … I think they’re fun. I like the way they came together. So I suppose the question should be why not? What do you think?

I’m working on the floral sampler alphabet slowly but surely. There are a few samples that I need to re-work, and some extra color combinations that I want to include with the alphabet so it will take a little time yet.

At the same time, I’m experiencing a kind of discombobulation – that sensation when you finish a Big Project, but there’s still so much to do, that you’re not quite sure in which direction to go. Do you ever experience that? What’s your solution?

Tomorrow, some bits and bobs floating around the workroom that are adding to my current discombobulated state! Oh yes, threads, threads. We must talk threads! Threads make me happy!

Input? Suggestions? Comments? Critiques? Do have your say below! I’m all ears!


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(60) Comments

  1. You’re an incredible woman, Mary – you read with your ears!!=)LOL!

    Seriously though, I feel there could be more contrast in the colour scheme of the ‘y’. They’re mostly light-mid shades and nothing really stands out. The colours are pretty though.

    And threads make me happy too…=)

    1. Yes, I agree – part of it is the background. On white, the colors would stand out better. When I squint (squint tests are invaluable!), all I see are the flowers….

  2. Hi Mary,
    I have deliberately delayed working with goldwork until recently. I feel that it is an embroidery technique that deserves to be studied in its own right and not as an adjunct to other embroidery. However, in stating this I find it difficult to know where to begin if I want to master the Goldwork technique.
    Are you able to advise if there are any course available, preferably online as I live in Australia. Alternatively are you able to suggest how learning should progress. I have purchased several good texts as reference but I am unsure of the difficulty level of many of their projects.
    I have some good teachers available locally but I feel that my progress would be better if it were more structured.
    I would appreciate your comments.

    1. Yes, I would like this information as well. I’ve been fairly intimidated by Goldwork, investing the money, when I really don’t know where to start or what to do. But it’s something I really want to learn.

  3. I love the two curly ends to the Y and I think the flowers work nicely. (The colours are a wee bit too ‘cupcakes’ for my taste, but they are very suitable for dainty initials.) But to my ears, that dead straight right hand bar with the strong green zigzag centre takes my attention off the flowers and off the more delicate patterns of the curves. That’s just my view. Would it be less obtrusive with a peach centre, or with a bit of a sashay to it?

  4. My solution to discombobulation is to make a list. This helps me sort out the priorities. Even if I don’t use the list after that I have it clear in my head what’s next…

  5. Oh! yes, I know that discombobulation sensation when I have completed a big project. Sometimes I only finish a phase piece just in time for the my Japanese embroidery class, in which case starting the next phase shakes me right out of it.

    If I am not ready to begin the next phase, or the big project was something other than Japanese embroidery, I might make a list of things I need or want to do and try to prioritise them.

    Other times I pick something small (as something I can complete in a short space of time) and that I know will be fun to do. A little bit of light relief before I settle into the next big project.

  6. Discombobulation…I’ve had that many times at work. After weeks or months of high activity level, busybusybusy, suddenly the project is done. The sudden lack of urgency is gone and it feels so odd. So far, those times don’t last too long before the next project comes screeching around the corner :-). At home, I don’t usually have that feeling, more relief that the big task is done, now on to the next. But then, I don’t have as many irons in the fire as you.

    About the Y – I agree, the flowers are taking over. Especially from the loop(?) and tail.

  7. Dear Mary,
    Oh! You squint too? I’m glad I’m not the only one whever I lose sight of the big picture I’ll back away and take off my glasses and squint a little. Though most of the time my eyesight is so bad I don’t have to squint, lol. I agree about the ‘Y’ too much in the flower area, I think there should be more body to the Y.
    But still beautiful as always Mary, do keep up the good work!

  8. Hi Mary,

    It reminds me of a fiesta. Bright and colorful. I do agree with Elizabeth though the flowers are so bright and the blue line work for the Y is pastel in nature. Maybe a slightly darker value of blue?

    I am going to add to your discombobulation. Please don’t forget to add some more stitches for the leaf lessons you have been giving. I am making a small notebook of the samples so I have a reference for leaves. It also helps me to learn the different stitches.

    Thank you,

    Barbara La Belle

  9. Mary, I love reading your newsletters and love the “Y” colors. As Elizabeth stated, it does need more contrast, somewhere, although I think it also depends on the look you’re trying to create. I can’t wait for you to complete the project — I love monograms!

  10. I’m wondering what happened to the Hungarian Runner. I miss seeing the progress! Love your blog and wait expectantly for it every day. 🙂 Also, I think the monograms are going to be lovely, but you have them worked on what looks like a fairly heavy fabric, certainly nothing that would be suitable for a dainty hanky. What kind of project do you see them worked for? (sorry for the bad grammar!)

    1. Hi, Carrie – some of them are worked on batiste and shadow work linen, which would both work for hankies, but monograms can be used for anything! Decorative pillows, quilt squares, wall accents, box covers – lots of possibilities. This particular alphabet is a bit too large for a delicate hanky – the letters are about 3 – 3.5″ tall, though they could be reduced, and a different thread used for a smaller, more delicate result.

      The Hungarian redwork runner is waiting for the days when I have “waiting” to do. Since it’s a grab-and-go kind of project, I take it with me if I have a long drive (when I’m not driving), if I am going somewhere where I know I’ll have a long wait, and similar situations. When shorter days and colder nights get here, it’ll also end up being one of those night time projects, too, I’m sure. The summer has been pretty hectic and fast-paced, and not a lot of grabbing-and-going going on. But it’s all packaged up, waiting for the next opportunity. I haven’t forgotten it! Thanks for asking!


  11. The color are a bit muted for me as well, but they work well
    Will you post the colored finished letter sampler….it would be a good example for me. I am slowly coming out of my comfort zone from needlepoint ( favorite is Melissa Shirley canvas) and counted cross stitch. I am drooling when i look at the work you do. I certainly want to have something to look at while trying to emulate…perhaps then one day, i can feel ok to venture out on my own.

  12. Well, speaking as the Queen of Discombulation 🙂 what I do is make lists. And lists. And more lists. I always plan to prioritize them, but mostly I just make the list. Getting it out on paper helps to free my mind from the zillion projects churning in there.

    And just for the record – I do have a love affair with threads of all kinds. Lovingly arranged in bins, and drawers and bags. Sometimes I just like to look at them! 🙂 Karen

  13. In general your sampler alphabet has been very cool with a lot of different and fun color combinations. But the Y seems off. Maybe a light cream or pale pink or pale orange instead of the grey ground cloth? Also that cluster of flowers at the top makes the Y seem off balance. Perhaps if it were at the bowl of the Y with the little orange tendril of flowers making up the flourish. You could eliminate the top “flowerbed” all together but that would put the weight of the Y on the descender which wouldn’t look at good.

    1. Hi Alex! I think some monitors show that background color a little differently. It’s actually a pale oaty-tannish color. But you’re not the only one who has called it grey! Yes, I see what you mean about the balance. I like the bowl idea….

  14. What’s not too like, the Y us beautiful and the color combination is awesome.
    I really like it, congrats for putting it together.

  15. I love your stitching and designing.

    I think on this the blue doesn’t work for me with the other colours. It stretches the colour span too far.

    OR reduce the top flowers to a smaller paler spray keeping the touch of blue in it so the blue bits are less out balanced with the warmer colours.

    I wonder if being as you’re going for the zigzags it would be more harmonious to have it all in zigzags too ?

  16. I think all the stuff you share looks great and I couldn’t suggest any improvements. By the way, have you tried the cotton floss by Sulky?
    It comes on a spool so it solves the storage problem, I suppose. I have not tried it yet as I am slowly transitioning to hand embroidery instead of machine embroidery. The machine software and computer systems become obsolete and I got tired of the cost and hassle of upgrading. Thread, needle, hoop–so simple and never goes out of style. Besides the hand embroidery that I did for my daughter-in-law is a true heirloom that she treasures, yes, she really told me that!
    Thanks for your wonderful website and the great ideas and lessons. It is really generous of you to offer so much, thanks for sharing your talent with all the stitchers looking for inspiration.

  17. The question was ” what is/ are your favorite parts of a stitching project”? A wise person answered “The first stitch and the last.”

  18. Dear Mary

    I love the Y I really like the colours as I wouldn’t choose them but I think they blend in well together and yes they are fun. Yes I often suffer from discombobulation but then to free my mind I play freecell on my computer for a while and that settles the old brain.

    Talking of thread I ordered some variegated silk Au Ver a Soie from Sew & Sew brand dyed by Tentakulum Manufacture made in Germany which I just received I don’t know if you have come across this thread but I’m going to try it today on one of my Little Things, it feels really nice and silky.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  19. I think it would benefit from a deep turquoise where the purple stitches form the cup of the Y and down the left hand side the deep turquoise again to replace the Zig zag yellow.
    I think this would make for a less busy and more balanced palette.
    Lovely stitching though!

  20. I love that color combo….The dark blue in the u part & the green in the straight leg just make the whole letter sing……D.

  21. I’m a lists person myself when facing discombobulation. And I don’t think it’s cheating if the first thing you put on your list is to make a list. That way you get to check something of nearly right away! Lists let me take it OFF my mind and leave it on the paper so my mind can work on something else. It’s easier to prioritize and to account for dependancies when I can SEE the tasks. One notepad I have is titled “Accomplishments” …. I think in hopes of … 🙂
    But it does feel good to check things off

    Thankfully threads don’t usually take as much room as fabric and yet still fill the need to hold beautiful things

  22. I love the aqua, pink combination, but they need a darker background. Put these colors on dark gold, brown or navy blue and the effect will make the lighter colors stand out. Sometimes we get so involved with the threads that we forget that the ground color may need to change to make the thread combo shine.

    As far as your discombobulation, when I feel that way, I take the day to clean and sort and use that time to process what is still on my plate or what needs to be added next. By the time I’m done, I have my stitching mood back. After a major project taking one day to clean and put all of the leftovers away and maybe even reading/studying my magazines for a few hours helps me to regroup and be ready for something new without feeling forced to move forward unprepared. Sort your thread, day dream about what’s next and review your current project list and you will soon be ready to put your needle back into whatever you have planned. I’m sure like the rest of us you have more UFO’s to finish. Happy Stitching!

  23. I am so excited about this alphabet. I want to do my newest granddaughters name for her wall. I found your web cite while I was tending her. Even tho I have been doing embroidery and crewel for over 50 years, I have learned so many new stitches and combinations from you. I love it and read it every day!

  24. Just experienced this feeling of done that! What next? Pawed around thru my piles, tried a little this and that, settled on a Kissing Pillow Pattern for a serviceman. Have oddles of NBS’s and UFO’s, will pick one of them up soon. Pat in SNJ

  25. Mary: Discombobulated is my favorite word when nothing goes right for me. And this morning has been just that. Maybe it is the weather for here in Georgia we are not sure if Fall has arrived or if late summer is just hanging around. It is now 1:15 p.m. and it is only 62 degrees on my front porch. I have been working on a tulip wreath designed by Sharon Schamber that I started in her class about 10-12 years ago. I struggled with the border, finally decided on that, and began the task this past week. The corners have given me fits but I finally after taking one out this morning, not once but twice, have all of the corners but one now finished. I have a feeling that if I ever enter this in a judging the quilt police are gonna’ be asking why did I enter. Some days are like that and some are just wonderful. And so goes the life of a quilter, still just a newbie when it comes to part of the quilting process. Betcha’ no one else is like me.

    Best Wishes to all quilters for best stitches,
    and much love

  26. Usually for me, the end of a project can be broken down into smaller pieces. There might be spell checking or correlation of photos to text. Sometimes I can’t finish a project until I have a strong grasp of the overview that I want to communicate which may have changed as I have worked on it. For me, I usually take the smaller tasks first and finally build toward the larger ones I have been avoiding (cheerfully, mind you! ). Sometimes it’s a game I play with myself…two easy smaller tasks for one large boring task. Or I allow myself to work on a fun piece of embroidery that has been put aside for other pieces. No calories!

  27. Beautiful ‘Y’! Understand the color stress! However, when teaching my granddaughter stitches and making her sewing box, I used so many colors and free form that embroidery has her interest! While visiting we sat and stitched several afternoons! She is 8. Of course, my main lesson was always be consistent where you lay your needle so you won’t loose or drop it!

  28. I always feel a bit of a ‘let-down’ when I finish up a sampler, ornament, project, etc… And I often require a jump start, something to get me going on the next project.

    However, starting a new project is usually not an issue… After all, there is always the excitement of starting something new! It’s picking up a WIP or UFO that is difficult.

    Whenever I have a project that is a must-do (i.e. ‘obligation stitching’, that ornament or baby sampler that must get done by a specific date), I also have a project that I really, really, really want to be stitching on. So, stitching on that is my reward for finishing a project. I allow myself a day or two or three to stitch on that. Then, I pick myself up and get going on the next project feeling a whole lot better about stitching…

    Of course, it does seem to take FOR-EV-ER to finish up that WIP or UFO, but that’s why it’s called a WIP or UFO, right?

  29. Mary, when I start to wonder which way is up I try to take a few minutes to appreciate something beautiful. Beauty can be found all around us if we take the time to look for it, even if that beauty is in the form of a photograph. Almost always things get much better within a few things.

    Earlier today I was asked by a maillist leader if I only used DMC cotton floss for my embroidery. My reply was that I seldom use the floss, followed up by the more prominent manufactures, fibers that I work with, the form / weight of the threads that I use, and some suggestions for where, type of store, others can find similar threads.

    It is my firm conviction that one can NOT have too many threads!

  30. Hi Mary, this looks lovely. As always, a beautiful job. However, for me, two things ‘get in my way’: first, the background colour, which you have already mentioned (ivory might be more delicate); second, the top curl of the ‘y’ is perhaps too dominant and out of proportion. I wonder if a smaller floral that side (or a little something on the right to balance) might be helpful?
    Thank you for such a wonderful website. It’s like having a cuppa with a friend who has forgotten more than I will ever know. Thanks Mary.

  31. Hi Elizabeth & Karen,
    I’m an Aussie too and a member of the Embroiderers’ Guild of New South Wales. The Guild has 3 gold work classes on offer on its January Summer School programme, which has just been released. The NSW Guild also has a Basic Course in embroidery which goes for 2 years and covers all aspects of embroidery, including gold work. After that, students can progress to the Intermediate and Historical Embroidery Course (I think this goes for around 18 months) and they are taking expressions of interest for this course now. Finally, there is a Proficiency Course in the technique favoured by the student. Please, check the Guild’s website to clarify.
    South Australia also has a structured course/s on offer. The NSW Guild has links to other state Guilds on its website. Hope this helps.

  32. Mary,

    You are amazing!!! I love the Y color combination. I LOVE embroidery thread. All colors, all kinds. I love owning them, taking them out and looking at them and touching them. And yes, I also love using them.
    Your newsletter is incredible, so much wonderful information. Thanks for everything.


  33. Take a long walk in the woods, work in the garden, take a day off, make lists of things you want to do in the next three months!
    And best inspiration of all is to have coffee and stitch a while with a couple of like-minded friends. That usually gets me on track again!

  34. As always, Mary, your embroidery is beautiful. I ADORE the filled-in lazy daisies. However that blue did bring to mind the following quote!

    “Experience tells us that blue is a cold, hard, disagreeable color, and when used in combination it should be employed in a very small proportion.” (Art Needlework for Decorative Embroidery, ed Lucretia P. Hale.)

  35. I just finished a project myself and I’m trying to get un-discombobulated right now and the only thing that pulls me out of it is a good list.

    Hopefully the lists are prioritized but not always. I’m glad to read that I’m not the only one who buys notebooks for lists. I have separate notebooks for To-Do lists, Canning/Dehydrating/Food project lists, Sewing/Quilting/Craft project lists and Shopping lists and I never throw any of them away. Well now, reading that back it seems a little extreme like I might have some kind of freakish problem with lists….LOL(did I mention they are all color coded inside and out too?). Hopefully your list making isn’t as extreme or as close to OCD as mine. But, I must say I am constantly looking back to see what I did previously and it really saves me a lot of time in the end.

    I love what you’ve showed us of the monograms so far and can’t wait for them to be available to all of us. I’d really like to make a quilt with them all for my first grand-niece or nephew…whenever that may be.

    Thanks so much for all your hard work.

  36. Lovely design but I think too many colours.
    The green and yellow on the right hand side line do not connect with anything else, and stand out as jarring to me.
    Blue and purple would make it more unified in my humble opinion
    The touch of yellow in the flower centres seems to be enough contrast to lift the design.

  37. When I’m feeling discombobulated I find it useful to step away from what I’m doing and do something physical, preferably outside. It’s like shaking out a blanket for my mind. Often the next step will become clear and I take it from there — with a repeat as necessary!

  38. Hi Mary, I really like the shape of the “Y” but not keen on the light ?ming blue and green together.
    Lists help me focus, keeps me on track. Good advice many years ago about lists – if the chore is still there after several weeks it will never be done.

  39. I love the colors of the Y. I agree with another post that perhaps the “bowl” of the Y is a bit off balance to the flowers on the upper curve. You could perhaps add something to the bowl, some flowers etc..

    I have much discombobulation, to cure this I make many lists. Doesn’t mean I will use them but it gives me a clear picture of where to go next.
    Good luck with the Y, you do such fabulous work I look forward to reading your blog every morning.

  40. I’m really looking forward to the tutorial. It looks like some fun, take-along stitching. I hope you aren’t in the flood area. Staying dry in the Midwest is never easy, especially summertime, but fall is supposed to start being cool and crisp. I’m working on Christmas ornaments and perspiring profusely. Owell, things are changing. I do love the newsletter.

  41. Hi Mary –
    I fell in love with the “B” on blue when you posted it – and I’m hoping
    that you’ll be including the colors and types of fabric used in your
    instructions. I am already playing with gifty ideas in my mind made out of

  42. Patiently awaiting the floral alphabet. Maybe it will be done in time for Christmas, hint..hint! Lattice Jumble Sampler and Church Patterns are on my birthday wish list for next month. I can’t wait to get them. Seriously, the alphabet is gorgeous.

  43. Hi Mary and fellow stitchers, hummmm spell check says “stitchers” isn’t a word. Oh well, I always feel so inadequate when I write to you because I feel like my grammar or punctuation is going to be graded LOL But, on to the comment about the “Y”.
    I was pulled away from the beauty of the colors, which I really like, by the green zig-zag area as another person was. And I do think the flowers would have kind of balanced the letter out if they had been in the ” bowl” of the Y. But I still loved it AND the color combo.
    And, just one more thing. I want to thank you for the tutorials on the leaves, especially the one using the Cretan stitch. I so wanted to see how to stitch that one. You are such a sweet person to try and answer all our inquires and give us so much help and information.
    I a bit behind on ordering your downloads, but i’ll get caught up and i’m really looking forward to the one on the alphabet.
    I, also, fell in love with the “B” you posted a while back and tried to download it fro the site you suggested, but was just not able to do so. My computer skills leave much to be desired i’m afraid. Yours and His, Deonia in Florida

  44. Can’t wait for this e-book to come out. It seems like a monogram I have vaguely been envisioning, but not creative or experienced to put together something this beautiful. I have been watching your site periodically but missed these beautiful letters and just found them today. Can’t tell you how excited I am! Thanks for all you do to promote this art.

  45. I love the colors in the Y monogram. ( the one that is out of your comfor zone. Those are the colors I love. How do I get these patterns. I LOVE your work. I have been looling for some thing like this forever. Thank You, Bettie Bennett

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