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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Cotton Floche on a Petal & More About Threads


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Here’s a little glimpse of some cotton floche on a flower petal. It isn’t much – again, like yesterday’s dribblings, it was only a test – but it gives us the opportunity to consider some more points about embroidery threads in general, and the treatment of a design.

Cotton Floche Embroidery on a Flower Petal

One point that I failed to emphasize in yesterday’s article where we discussed two different types of embroidery thread for the Secret Garden project is that floche, in general, makes a beautiful satin stitch. And it’s relatively easy to work a satin stitch with floche – more so than it is with regular cotton embroidery floss.

I’m considering different treatments for the petals on the flowers, from the beginner’s perspective. I don’t want to use long and short stitch for a shaded filling – I’m saving that for the silk rendition – so I’ve been playing around with combinations of satin stitch, split stitch, seed stitch, and the like.

The advantage to combinations like this is that you can still play a bit with shading, and you get the whole “texture” thing going on, too.

Adapting the Embroidery Design

Another point that bears mentioning is that I may make some alterations to the design. Not major alterations, mind you – but adding a line here and there, or subtracting a line here and there may help adapt the design to a beginner’s level.

For example, when treating the petals on the flowers, I liked the idea of adding an inside line on that petal space, so that I can work some heavier solid color on the outside of the petals. This could be done with a variety of stitches, but it looks quite good in satin stitch, and it would give the beginner the opportunity to practice satin stitch on shapes that are “user friendly.”

Again, this is still only a test. These are just the things I think about while trying different threads.

Stylized vs. Real

In embroidery – or any type of art – you can have realistic designs and you can have stylized designs. A stylized design is a design that is nonrealistic. It is artificial, conventionalized. Most embroidery designs fall into this category. Examples of “realistic” designs in embroidery would be embroidered portraiture, some needlepainting, embroidered landscape art, and the like.

The Secret Garden Hummingbirds drawing is a stylized design. It is not meant to look real. The flowers, the hummingbirds, the vines, the dots on the vines – they are not as you would find them in nature, so they can be interpreted in myriad ways. Think of it as fiction as opposed to non-fiction. In fact, you can actually take it farther: think of it as fantasy! Chances are, the hummingbirds are not going to look like real hummingbirds, and the flowers are not going to look exactly real, either.

A Note on Embroidery Threads

I haven’t made a decision on embroidery threads yet. I received a lot of emails yesterday about where to buy floche, and what colors to buy. If you are planning on following this project exactly as I work it, then you might wait a bit. Next week, we’ll talk a little more about threads, and I’ll show you some similarities and differences with a third possibility.

So, more coming up on this next week – and a few other delectable topics, too. Enjoy your weekend!

If you’d like to follow this project as it develops, you’ll find all the articles relating to it in the Secret Garden Hummingbirds Project Index. As the project progresses, each article will be added to the index for your convenience.


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(12) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    I love your satin stitch it’s so perfect and the floche thread is a lovely thread. Yes I agree that the great thing about embroidery and designs is that you can adapt different techniques and add or change the design and incorporate a realistic or stylised style and use a variety of different coloured threads and stitches, and combine this with different threads it’s all so versatile, wonderful. I will follow this project with great interest as it develops. Thanks for your advice on the techniques of starting a new project. Have a great weekend.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. I would very much like to use needle painting on my version of this project, but I don’t think my skill is high enough for it. Those flowers seem to be just crying out for shading, with those graceful curves! But, I’ll stick with the beginners edition since I want this to come out lovely. I can’t wait to see what you do with a white thread version, so many different stitches could be used.

  3. Thank you, Mary, for the discussion of realistic vs. stylized or fantasy. At first, I did not like this design. Why on earth would birds hold still with crossed beaks! Hummingbirds are always single, always drinking from a beautiful flower. I certainly didn’t want to color these birds accurately — and do it twice! I asked myself what Mary would say to sell me on the design. The answer? They’re in love! I respect wildlife; I help feed the little guys and clean their enclosures. I’m psychic enough to tune in on the personality of a baby squirrel or a bear cub. It’s something in the eyes, the spirit. But accurate coloring for this project? I don’t think so! I have some CCS projects of animals in which designers have figured out all the subtle shading. This project with you is going to be a new level of fun and creativity and excellence! Thus far the best surface embroidery I’ve done was a huge bunch of shaded purple grapes on the back of a Levi jacket (late 1970’s). Accountant boyfriend worked for a California winery. It was rustic and funky, but quite accurate as to color.. . . I love the idea of fish-bone leaves. However, as to new threads, maybe next time; my budget is nip and tuck right now, so I’ll be using the floss on hand.
    Mimi in Tahoe

  4. I tried some satin stitch with regular plain old DMC six-stranded cotton embroidery floss today. I definately need to do some practicing!

    Sarah 🙂

  5. I agree with your assessment of floche for satin stitch (I’m sure you are very pleased about that, lol) but I would like to know what you think of floche for thread painting? At the moment I am using 1 strand of cotton floss but I don’t really like it. I could try silk but that would change the whole look of the thing, but floche? Please help.

    1. Yes, floche can work with long & short stitch shading, but it is not really “delicate” – it’s much heavier! So in these smaller, delicate spaces, it would probably be too heavy.

  6. Have just found your site, Mary; it’s fabulous! It will take ages to go back through everything, but as a beginner, I will try to take it all in! What a lovely way to pass the dark, wet winter days!
    I’ll be trying to ‘convert’ tips to help me when making cards, sometimes sewing on material, sometimes on the card itself.

  7. Hi Mary, Thanks so much for this set of projects! I had a quick thought — If you think it would be a good idea, perhaps a new forum could be set up in the “Ask & Share” section of the website. There, perhaps we might all share our thread choices & other decisions, with pictures (provided copyrights would allow this). I’d be curious to see the range of what everyone decides to do. All the best, Karen

  8. Mary, I’ve recently tried floche and loved it for shadow embroidery, but as I believe I’ve heard you mention it tends to wear out and shred easier than some others. This has me wondering if floche will hold up for embroidery on something like a pillowcase or garment. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. Hi, Linda – once it’s stitched, it’s fine. By wearing, I mean the thread, while the embroidery is in the works, tends to wear more easily, because it is a softer thread. So shorter lengths are preferable, to keep the thread looking fresh while you’re stitching. I’d say no more than 16-18″, and to keep an eye on it. As soon as it’s showing signs of wear, switch the thread out.

  9. Thank you so much for this book review. I adore stumpwork and am always looking for new ideas and techniques. I cannot wait to receive this book.

    Stay warm.

    Margaret, MN

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