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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Mission Rose: Goldwork Outer Frame – Slow Progress. And a Weird Fluke!


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I’ve been stumbling about on the Mission Rose project, doing the goldwork embroidery on the outer frame.

I have (er…I had) high hopes of finishing it by Christmas! But in the past two weeks, every time I’ve started working on it – and I mean every, single time – the same thing has happened that has hampered my progress. It cracks me up!

First, let me show you where I am, and where I’m going.

Mission Rose Goldwork Embroidery

I’m working on the outer frame of the Mission Rose project. Here, I’m couching gold threads to form the slightly heavier outside frame around the project.

Unlike the inner goldwork frame on this project, which is very smooth and shiny, I wanted the outside frame to have a little texture in it, and to be not-quite-so-shiny, so that there would be some contrast between the two frames.

To this end, I chose four different gold threads to cover the frame. Starting from both outside edges and working towards the center, I started with a couched pair of bright gold #5 passing thread, then a pair of #4 passing thread with a silk core that’s a lighter gold, then the #5 again, and then the #4 again.

After couching the pairs of passing threads from the outside in, in the remaining space, I couched a pair of fine check thread, and finally, on the very center of the frame area where there was only a tiny space remaining, I couched a nice gold twist.

Mission Rose Goldwork Embroidery

This changing of the gold threads gives the outer frame a little texture. Although the passing threads shine, they still look slightly different from each other, both in color and size and in the way they are wrapped, which keeps the outer frame from looking just like the inner frame.

Mission Rose Goldwork Embroidery

In this photo above, you can see the difference in the two passing threads a little better. The #5 is the larger thread, and it is a little shinier than the #4. The wraps are larger. And the color is slightly different – it’s a slightly darker gold thread, while the #4 is a lighter gold.

The check thread (it’s the warbly thread on the top inside of the yellow felt line) adds the most texture because it’s a wavy thread.

Mission Rose Goldwork Embroidery

And the photo above gives you a better sense of the look of the whole frame, in relation to that very shiny inner frame.

Strange Timing

Now, I live in Kansas, and I realize that some people may have the impression that Kansas is pretty remote. Maybe even a little primitive. Off the beaten track. However, we do actually have all the modern conveniences of life here, like running water, electricity, and so forth.

But – that having been said – it is very weird that, including just yesterday afternoon (again!), every time I have taken out this project in the past two weeks and just started getting into it – zap! We’ve lost electricity.

The outages never occur when I’m eating lunch, when I’m running errands, when I’m doing laundry or washing dishes (oh, please!). No. They only happen when I’m working on the Mission Rose.

I’m starting to get a complex.

Good thing I’m not superstitious, eh? The project would never get finished!

I’m pushing for a Christmas / New Year finish on the Mission Rose. Everything is in place for it – I just need to couch away on those gold threads.

I’m also trying to finish the Hungarian Redwork Runner in the next few weeks – we’ll see!

2014 will see an exciting new project here on Needle ‘n Thread – it’s a little different from what you’re used to seeing, and it’s definitely a different style of design. I think you’ll find it fun! I Can’t Wait to get started on it, but loose ends must be tied up first.

What do you think of the outer frame on the Mission Rose? Do you like it, or do you think it’s too much? I’d love to hear your take – feel free to have your say below!

You can follow the Mission Rose project from start to finish by visiting the Mission Rose Index, when you’ll find all the articles relating to this project arranged in chronological order.


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(76) Comments

  1. Personally, I think your choice of gold thread is beautiful. Looks like it is already framed. Nice choice and beautifully done!

  2. Beautiful work! Could you show us how you finish the twist thread when you get that far, assuming the cooperation of your electricity? I’ve often wanted to incorporate a nice Grecian twist in my work, but can’t seem to work out how to get it to the back nicely, given its size!

    1. Hi, Cat – that is SO cool. Thanks for the link! I cannot imagine working by a light from one candle, magnified by a glass globe of water. But I think it would be fun to try it! ~MC

    2. That is brilliant. I remember seeing something similar in a Danish museum. A single candle on a stool with a glass globe hanging from the ceiling over the candle(not sure if it had water in it) and The bobbin lace workers would sit around it – just imagine! No wonder people went blind.

  3. Hi Mary,
    I think the outside border will finish it beautifully. I’m curious to see what you are planning for the corners. How do you plan on finishing the piece? Will it be framed? Can’t wait to see it done.

    1. Hi, Janice – Yes, it will be framed. Believe it or not, I don’t have any embroidery of my own (that I’ve worked) in my house. I think I’m going to frame this one and keep it.

      But then again…maybe not. I may get the urge to give it as a gift! (Happens every time!)

  4. I really like the texture you have achieved for this border. You have made it different from you inner gold border and I think the center row of threads will draw the eye and make a nice outline for the whole piece. It also breaks up, just a bit, what could have been a wide Chunk-o-gold :).

    I don’t comment much but I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing your whole process with a project. I am one of those who always has several going and it usually takes a deadline to finish one. Have to admit, it is the process/journey that I probably end up enjoying more than the end.

    Kansas huh? Well we have had a record cold snap here since, oh, before Turkey Day :).

    1. Hi, Catherine – Yes, that’s just it – I wanted to break up that “solid gold” look. Glad you enjoyed the journey – I’m a journey person, too. I prefer the journey to the end. For some reason, once a project is finished, there’s always a huge let down for me. That’s why I always have the Next Project on the horizon, one that I’m excited to get started on.

      It’s been cold here, too, since before Thanksgiving. But I think we’re in for some rain today, a little bit of freezing rain and snow tonight, and then 40’s next week. Sheesh. I’d like a nice coating of the white stuff!


  5. I like the outer border, Mary. I think the different textures add interest. I wish you well for you Christmas/New Yew finish on the Mission Rose. I am aiming to finish my current project by Christmas so I will mentally urge you on and, if you would mentally urge me on, perhaps we can work together to reach our respective goals 🙂

  6. Mary,

    I do a lot of goldwork myself, and I find it interesting that you started with the outside and worked inward. My approach would have been to place the center design and then worked to the edge. What are the benefits to working the area as presented here? What are the challenges?


    1. Good question! Initially, I started on the inside and worked out, but I had trouble getting an absolute center on the twist each time – it was thrown off by the way the inner frame cuts into the outer frame. So I decided to go backwards and start on the outside, so I could situate those areas where the frames intersect first, and then tackle a center line. it works out because the frame is the same size all around, and straight. If it were curvy or varied in width, I’d definitely have to start in the middle and work out. ~MC

  7. Its a little heavy but I like it for this project. For me, its seems to be just right for this type of embroidery. I guess like most projects the end result will be the prove in the pudding.

    Look forward each day to your e-mails and each of your projects.

  8. I absolutely love it! I’ve never been tempted to try goldwork before but this project is so stunning that I keep pondering. I’d classify myself as intermediate level on my embroidery. I embroidery lots and lots but use the same stitches. I’m a little intimidated to work with gold thread. Perhaps 2014 will be the year! I’m also really loving the tambour technique you’ve been teaching us. So much fun, so little time. Sigh!

    1. Oh, yes, Renee – in 2014, you should at least try adding a little bit of goldwork to a little project. You’ll love it! And you’ll discover that it’s not really too difficult!

  9. Mary, it sounds like you need to get either one of the Ott lights that has a battery backup, or one of their LED lights that ONLY uses 3 AAA batteries. The battery backup lamp is good for 4 to 5 hours, and even though I use it often, the LED light batteries have lasted about two years, so far!

    The LED lamp is about 3″ wide, about 12″ tall, and about 3/4″ thick. They come in several colors and / or patterns. To set it on a table, or some other place that is reasonably secure, there is a circular base about 3 1/2″ in diameter. There is also a handle at the top that can be tied to something when vibrations are present. Turning the LED lamp on is accomplished by lifting the front upward. And there are 30 LEDs shineing brightly. The angle of the light is fully adjustable from about 5 to 130 degrees,

    I have used one or the other for stitching during power failures, while my husband is driving us somewhere, and all sorts of other times when AC power is not easily available.

    1. Hi, PJ – I actually have few – the Dublin craft light I’ve reviewed here on the site has a battery pack, an OTT light that’s battery operated, and another little LED light (on a strap) that’s battery operated. Unfortunately, they’re all lousy when it comes to taking decent photographs! Or maybe I need to figure out a different setting on my camera… I might test that! ~MC

  10. I really like the different threads you have used on the outer border. I am a complete newbie to Goldwork, I have just finished my first piece, but I really want to do more!

  11. Dear Mrs. Corbet,
    I just wanted to thank you for all your helpful tutorials! I first found your blog while I was searching for instructions on how to make a French Knot for my cross stitch picture , I tried many different web sites and such, but I just couldn’t make it work! Then I came upon your video and I watched it closely. Guess what? It worked! But then I saw links to your other videos, and when I watched one I’d see a link to another. And another! I watched almost your entire library of video tutorials! That’s what made me think that maybe I should take a step up from cross stitch.
    Ever since then, I have checked your blog every day. I have also used a couple of your patterns: the Turkey, and I’m currently using your Holly and Joy Christmas pattern. I hope I get it done in time for the holidays!
    I am only ten years old, but I just HAD to thank you for introducing me to the wonderful world of surface embroidery!

    Thanks So Much!

    1. Why, thank you so much, Sarah! You just made my day! I’m so glad the videos are helpful for you. I’d love to see your Holly & Joy project, if you want to send me a photo. I’m so excited that someone is working it and I hope you’re having a lot of fun! Thanks for your comment! ~Mary

  12. I love it Mary. At first I thought it looked a bit heavy but on second viewing I think it’s great. When I have got my hardanger bag completed for my daughter’s wedding next year, I just might finally give goldwork a go; I’ve got all the bits, it’s just, well, getting started I suppose…
    Love your blogs and whilst I don’t generally comment, I always read them faithfully and have learnt so much. Thank you.

  13. Love it!! It is a lot of gold, but that’s a good thing. I especially like the inner line of gold twist, it really breaks up the frame and keeps it from being too monotonous.

    Ahh, winter in the Midwest. I moved from Ohio 26 years ago and have been so happy to leave those winters behind. I hope your electricity will start cooperating with you.

  14. It is a little hard to tell from the pictures — but to me it looks like, well, a lot of gold. The outer border looks really thick with gold, maybe overwhelming?
    That is my impression from these pictures. It probably looks different when the whole piece is viewed. You do such good work, Mary. The stitching looks lovely.

  15. “Less is More”. (A phrase used in design all the time.)
    Perhaps you might reconsider all that gold around the edge. Is it about the beauty of the Mission Rose? Or about a thick textured very gold frame?
    Just my thoughts…

  16. I don’t know yet if I like this project! I didn’t when you began, but it has grown on me. I’m impressed by what the gold does to the embroidery and I really liked what you did with your padding. I also like the texture you achieved in this frame edge. I don’t know how it will all hang together, but it have faith in you that it will!

    I am REALLY enjoying reading about this project however. I especially like (forgive me) hearing about everything that goes wrong. NOT because I am malicious, but because it has given me the impetus to do a little better in my own work. I’ve now torn out the same motif on a little project that was supposed to be quick and fun, 3 times trying to achieve the look I want. I know I will eventually, but I never would have bothered before reading about your hardships. So, thanks for giving me the courage to tear out what needs to be torn out and working toward something that, if not perfect, is at least my best.

  17. Hi, Mary! I think your workplan and your work are magnificent. Recognizing that you’re operating at a very high level anyway, you are also aiming for Perfection and a higher Perfection. In my life and my needlework, I get stoppages like this and I listen to them. I talk to God and then wait and listen. Don’t wait to see if it’s God’s will, but just tell Her what you “want” to do and ask if the timing is wrong or something about your priorities, or if there’s a better thread, a different approach — I can’t imagine, but this kind of thing happens to me, most recently in buying a car. I took two buses over the mountain 35 miles to the nearest city, got left in the middle of nowhere, had to walk, never found the used car lot where I expected to dicker hard. I went in the back door of a fine dealer. They sold me a newly-traded older Buick Century with low miles. I was so well treated, it seemed a miracle. . . . So barging ahead is too yang for this beautiful embroidery. Stay busy — fold laundry or stack magazines by candlelight — and listen for the answer! Sorry if this seems off-topic!

  18. I think it is stunning. The use of different wrapped gold threads is a great idea with such a project. I am partial to your expert use of texture in this project, so many times that is lost or not thought of by stitchers and it really should be a thought every time we stitch(my opinion). Happy stitching with your lights on or off! we are having the same problems here in Raleigh.

  19. Very interesting. I am always interested in different ways to combine gold threads and this is very unusual. So far, you might not think that is a positive comment, but I do really like it. I love the twist in the center with the check thread on either side. I am curious about the passing threads. Why do they have different sheen’s? All in all – VERY NICE. Hope your power stays on when you need it to stitch! 🙂

  20. I agree with everyone else. I really like this outside frame. Can’t wait to see it finished. Hope your electricity woes are a thing of the past.

  21. Mary, do you plan to frame this piece? What sort of matting, frame do you plan to use to mount the Mission Rose? I think this looks fine but the other elements, mat and frame, will then have the potential to set is off perfectly — or make it too top heavy losing the central focus, the rose.

  22. Mary,
    I have so enjoyed your Mission Rose progress…it is beautiful and delightful to hear you chat about it…
    Read you every AM…
    MERRY Christmas,

  23. I like this frame. It’s wide enough to complete the piece, and all the gold threads are very beautiful and interesting to look at. I am curious about what you will do at the corners. Will you make a right angle turn with your couched threads and continue to the next side or will you stitch a separate square design in the corner?. Like a cornerstone, as we say in quilting.

  24. Dear Mary

    I think the outer frame is beautiful, I really like your choice of gold, I like the check and twist gold they are so lovely. It looks amazing I hope you achieve your goal to have it completed by Christmas because I can’t wait to see what your next project will be, you always surprise us. So sorry to hear your having problems with your electricity so annoying especially when you want to get down to your needlework I hope you get it fixed soon.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  25. Hi Mary, I was so pleased when I found a Mission Rose update in my inbox just now. 🙂 I love the contrasting textures in the outer frame. The twist bordered with the check and passing threads are beautiful. It has been good seeing how you have used these different types of thread to get the effect you wanted. I have so enjoyed following the progress of this design. As others have mentioned, it has been so helpful seeing the step-by-step decision making and the ideas that didn’t work as well as those that did. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the completed embroidery – power cuts permitting! Oh … and your new project for 2014 is intriguing me now … thank you for giving us another treat to look forward to. 🙂

  26. It’s lovely Mary! V-e-r-y ecclesiastical, if you will. Perhaps in the year 2525, it will be in one of the galleries at CMA! 😉 As to your electricity problems, what about those battery-powered LED lights that fit on your head? They’re on a strap & are used for camping & off-the-grid activities. Best wishes for a year end finish with a flourish!

  27. I REALLY like the different threads together in the frame! It gives me a sense of those large heavy ornate picture frames you see sometimes on museum paintings, great choice.

  28. I love it so far. What I want to know is what are you going to do with it. Is is for framing or for a vestment or a hanging or something else??

  29. Hallo Mary , I,ve been looking at other ares of your blog today about organising embroidery threads lol!..anyway better late than never , here I am looking at your lovely Mission Rose. I hope you dont get too many distractions now ..so that you can finish it before the New Year chimes : ) Have a beautiful Christmas .

  30. I think the frame is cool. Can’t really make a judgement about it being too much or not though without seeing it in the context of the whole thing … I’m sure it’s OK though.

    Pain about the power cuts … I had to laugh.

  31. Hi, I am new to your newsletter and I am really enjoying it. I am currently doing an Intermediate Goldwork course with Alison Cole and I can’t wait to see your piece finished. I think your choice of threads is beautiful and your stitching is so precise.

  32. WOW ! Beautiful. Wish I could think of words that would describe the beauty of your work, but for once I’m speechless.

  33. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for keeping us posted on the Mission Rose project. It looks great. I’ve just received a few new goldwork books, and the thing that fascinated me was the combination of threads in borders. So, this is a treat to see the combination of various gold threads used together.

    I also have a question on a project we had a few glimpses of at the start of the year. It was the beautiful blue bird with the wonderful tail. Was it the blues and taupe colors? I think you were working it for possible inclusion in a publication. Please, if you can, give us an update! Did you finish the piece? Will it be published????

    Thanks for a great year of fantastic articles!

  34. Dear Mary I love your work the Rose is looking wonderful the frame finshes of the whole project I cant wate to see it finshed Love Judy

  35. I’ve been following along as you worked on this project and I’ve been amazed at the time commitment and the workmanship. I think your choice for framing is both beautiful and appropriate. I applaud the tremendous amount of patience and determination that you clearly have that helps you carry out these complex projects. But I wonder … when you finish a long-term project like this, are you just happy it’s over and ready to give it away, or do you spend hours admiring your finished project?

    1. Hi, Mona – wellllll…..that’s a hard question. When I finish this particular project, I think I will be relieved! It’s dragged on quite a while, and I have another major piece I want to work through on the website here, but I can’t start it until I finish this. Usually, though, after finishing any complicated piece of embroidery, I feel a certain let-down. If I’ve really loved the project, I’m sorry to see it end. I don’t usually spend a lot of time in admiration mode – remember, I stitched it, so I’m more inclined to see the flaws in it! This particular piece, I’m planning on framining, and at this point, I’m planning to keep it. I don’t have any of my own embroidery works on my walls – I think I’d like to have this one hanging up. On the other hand, I might end up giving it as a gift, if the opportunity arises and I’m struck with the inspiration to do so!

  36. Mary, it’s fabulous. Such a contrast to the blue insid and it finishesthe whole project beautifully. Merry Christmas.

  37. Dear Mary: I love the border, and the dimensionality of it reminds me of a molded picture frame! Are you going to do a straight frame in the corners, or attempt a miter somehow? Your needlework is so advanced, but it keeps the rest of us aware of what is possible. Thanks for all you do! Also, have a very Merry Christmas, Amy in LA

  38. This is sort of off track Mary, but I noticed that when you frame up a piece of fabric for a slate frame you do not use twill tape, but turn the the fabric and lace through that. Is that an economy decision or not a fan of the extra step?. I’m getting ready to frame up Tricia Wilson-Ngyuen’s Tudor Rose. Thanks

    1. I do either, actually. It depends on the piece, how it will fit in the size frame I have, and so forth. If the fabric you’re using is a more delicate fabric (like a silk satin, for example), definitely use the twill. On satins and silks and the like, that twill is essential for keeping the edges tame and for reinforcing the edges. If you’re using a heavy linen for a ground fabric, the twill isn’t essential on the sides – you can just finger press a hem in the fabric and pierce it and lace it directly onto the frame. ~MC

  39. Dear Mary,

    I’ve been stunned by the beauty of your work since subscribing to your blog.

    This is the “Fabergé Egg” (can’t think of another analogy that does it justice right now) of embroidery projects. What skill and patience you have!

    Can’t wait to see the work finished (but not as much as you, I’m sure).


  40. Mary, your woes with the power outages reminded of many years ago when I lived in eastern Europe. Every day the authorities would turn off the power to particular suburbs to conserve what they had. The problem was that we couldn’t read the local newspapers (not only a different and difficult language, but a whole new alphabet as well) so we never knew when it was our turn until it happened. And that happened to be one day when I was in the throes of preparing for a dinner party! I sympathise with you. I empathise with you.

    I love what you are doing with this project. I can’t wait to see the corners now. I do hope you get it finished by Christmas so you can give it yourself – all wrapped up under the tree.

  41. Mary, I love the outer frame. I think the texture it adds will be a wonderful touch. I am looking forward to seeing it finished.

  42. I continue to be amazed at your design decisions. I’ve never paid attention to goldwork as I generally like less glitzy looking things, but watching this project progress has made me appreciate goldwork and I think the difference in the inner and outer frames is appropriate and I am very much impressed with the overall design now.

  43. I love your work and comments about your progress…for my age I now am using a head lamp for my stitching…. even with the electric on…..keep up the good journey of stitching….have a great holiday.

  44. “then a pair of #4 passing thread with a silk core that’s a lighter gold”……I hear about gold threads being on a silk or a cotton core. Here is a mention of colour. Could you possibly expand on cores of metal threads one day?

  45. I love what you are doing. Before I got to your “request” of what we think I was just thinking “what an artist she is. Always a sense of what will make a beautiful piece/design”. 🙂

  46. Mary, I like the heavier outer frame, & admire the thought you put into the contrasting weights, much less the work of couching all that gold!! But EVERY TIME? Someone is trying to send a message, maybe? Reconsider that Christmas deadline thing, perhaps.

  47. Hello Mary,

    Beautiful work! Always learn so much from your tutorials. Thank you.

    The photos are amazing too.
    What camera are you using?

    Happy Holidays.

  48. Mary,
    Your work on all projects is always fantastic. But I know working in gold threads is a challenge. You have done a beautiful job. Thank you for challenging us to work harder and for all your instructions to help us. I too am interested in your finishing techniques. When I worked in Gold I used a large needle to make a hole in the fabric for each thread so the threads would not have to be pulled through so hard as to cause shreading the thread, then stitched them down on the underside.

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