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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From Long & Short Stitch to Needle Painting


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The long & short stitch is one of those embroidery stitches that is worth learning, and that’s why I published a series of step-by-step lessons on a Long & Short Stitch Sampler several years ago.

The purpose of the Long & Short Stitch Sampler is to take the beginner through progressively more difficult aspects of shading using long & short stitch.

Most of the embroiderers from the Needle ‘n Thread community featured today said they started out with the Long & Short Stitch Sampler, and then worked their way forward to other types of stitching involving long & short stitch, most specifically needle painting (or creating realistic looking embroidery using long & short stitch shading and other stitches).

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

Georgia’s long & short stitch sampler is an excellent example of making good use of an embroidery sampler after its completion! She used her sampler to cover the top of a box in which she keeps her embroidery supplies.

I love this! You know why? Because I can’t count how many little samplers and examples of embroidery I have floating around my workroom, that I don’t know what to do with. Mostly, I slide them into a binder for later reference. But why not use them? Framing them all would be overdoing it, but putting them to use as something usable is a completely different notion!

It’s a lovely sampler with a brilliant finish!

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

Wanting to embroider some gifts for her daughters, Jude started out with the Long & Short Stitch Sampler, and then tackled some beautiful needle painting pieces for her girls…

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

…like this magnolia…

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

…and this perfect little blue wren, both designed by Trish Burr.

Jude says her third daughter will just have to wait until she finishes the Secret Garden project! You can see her progress photos on the Secret Garden project in the Secret Garden Embroidery Group on Flickr. It’s coming along!

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

Sharon Thompson started with the Long & Short Stitch Sampler and then moved on to several of Trish Burr’s designs. When she sent her photos in, this is what she wrote:

The best I had done before finding your website in ’09 had been to try stitches demonstrated in black and white in an old Coats & Clark book from my mother, plus a bit of cross stitch. I have learned so much from you! My favorite has been Long & Short Stitch Needle Painting. I’ve worked from your sampler, through several of Trish Burr’s designs after seeing your book reviews.

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

Exquisite work!

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

Sharon Shetley credits Needle ‘n Thread with helping her considerably with direction and shading when working stumpwork pieces (like the one above).

This particular piece is worked with rayon threads (hence the sheen).

Sharon specializes in Brazilian embroidery, and she carries all kinds of supplies for Brazilian dimension embroidery (among other techniques) on her website, Threads in Bloom.

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

Roxann loves needle painting birds! In fact, she just loves birds!

She came upon Needle ‘n Thread about a year ago after a 40 year hiatus from embroidery. Living on Lake St. Helen in northern Michigan, she has a wonderful array of birds around her. So, combining Needle ‘n Thread, inspiration from nature, and a subscription to Birds & Blooms, she’s found a happy niche embroidering her feathered friends.

The branch below the bird above is covered in a lush array of French knots!

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

Roxann traces outlines of her favorite images from Birds & Blooms onto fabric and then sets about stitching them in long & short stitch and other stitches.

That gloriously vibrant oriole above makes my heart happy!

Long & Short Stitch and Needle Painting

Finally, from the Isle of Wight, Mariolina’s eagle embroidered on a bright blue sky, came about as a result of the long & short stitch lessons, too.

I love the texture and movement she achieved by combing many different types of stitches, layered over each other.

Inspiring embroidery all around!

If you’ve been longing to try long & short stitch shading, or you’ve been yearning to take a stab at needle painting, but you’re not sure where to start, you might consider working through the Long & Short Stitch Shading Sampler. The series has some videos to go along with it, and it’s written entirely with the beginner in mind!

For those just joining in, this is a continuation of series of articles that highlights embroidery from the Needle ‘n Thread community, especially needlework influenced by information, tutorials, patterns, and so forth from Needle ‘n Thread. You can find a call for contributions and an explanation of the series here, and you can see previous examples of embroidery-related reader contributions here.


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(16) Comments

  1. Oh, to be able to do beautiful work like these some day!!
    Once again Mary thank you for time spent in creating this informative website. I know we would be lost without it! Your tutorials is a gift that keeps on giving for gals like us that are just learning embroidery.

    I spend more time on your website than I do with my husband,ha!

    Lynn Schofield

  2. A box is a brilliant idea! A bunch of boxes, one for each type of stitchery,is exactly what I need to hold all my stuff! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Dear Mary

    These are lovely examples of the long & short stitch, when I started embroidering a few years ago and found your site, one of the first things I stitched after watching all your how-to videos was the L&S sampler I really enjoyed the challenge because it teaches colour combination as well as structure in embroidery and different designs. All the above embroidery are absolutely vibrant, gorgeous, colourful and very professional. Well done to all the above for creating such lovely embroidery and thank you Mary for Needle n’ Thread and for showing us these embroidery pieces.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. Oh, I remember that sampler you shared ages ago. I barely got started and then fizzled out. Not sure why. And that’s a wonderful way to finish it off as a box top. Nice to see someone made good use of the tutorial.

  5. So many talented readers. Truly inspirational! My sons are bird watchers. Roxanne, your work has a special place for birders. I love the way you combined the whimsical personality of the birds with their habitat.

    Everyone’s work is beautiful inspiration. Loved them all! Thank you for sharing.

  6. So real. . .So lifelike. Flowers like they grew right out of the ground; Birds like they could just fly right off the fabric at any moment.
    Amazing work. Thanks for sharing.

    Sarah 8)

  7. I love seeing everyone’s projects and the fantastic needlework talent from around the world. Long and short stitch has always been one of those stitches that I cannot quite make smooth. But by watching videos and seeing how the work progresses, my stitching is also getting better. Finding time to practice is the key to improvement.

  8. Thank you, Mary, for your joy in sharing all your skill and experience, and thank you to your readers for sharing the photos of their work. The long-and-short stitch tutorials are high on my list of Projects To Start Soon, following close behind the Lattice Sampler. First to finish some WIPs…

  9. I have never enjoyed the long and short stitch but I knew if I wanted to do the kind of surface work I love so much, I was going to have to become at least a little proficient with it.

    It’s not a stitch that you learn quickly and I could never figure out why my stitches were so crooked. It never occurred to me to draw those parallel lines as a guide! What a difference it makes.

    Cindy in Kansas

    I added a few horizontal lines as well, to make sure my rows were spaced fairly evenly. I think the more I practice, the easier that will be to control.

    So thank you so much for posting the link to your excellent tutorial.

  10. I need to start this sampler, but I have so many gifts to finish! Once they’re all done I’ll be devoting an entire month to just practicing and learning new stitches and techniques. I’m so grateful for this website and your time and wonderful suggestions, lessons, insights, and book recommendations, Mrs. Corbet. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  11. Mary, I have traced your sampler for long and short stitch, and I truly hope I can do it. The l and s stitch kept me from doing the Hummingbird project. I also am having problems getting my ground fabric taut enough even after wrapping my hoop. I found a thick old linen type hand towel that I think will keep the hoop tight, and am going to use that. Wish me luck.

    1. Good luck, Jackie! What type of hoop are you using, and what size is it? Sometimes, it’s easier to keep the fabric taut with a smaller hoop or a smaller (8″ or smaller) but thicker hoop….

  12. The beauty of your site and articles keep inspiration alive. I have lost over a year and I feel as though I am sitting down with a cup of tea for a chat. It is warm and inviting and always encouraging.
    I am beginning again and so happy this article was written it is spiriting me on. Thanks Mary, I wonder if you have any idea how much more you give us than instruction and inspiration. Speaking for myself sometimes you bring us through a storm. I feel very blessed that I can pick up and begin again. Your work is so appreciated. You are a very special person.

  13. Mary,
    Thank you so so much for “publishing” my eagle. I read your website like a book, it is the third person in my marriage!
    I am always bowled over by the perfection of your work and the clarity of your teachings, so your appreciation made me feel nine yards taller. Happy summer day! Mariolina.

    Oh, I too unstitch more than I embroider, but even unstitching requires genius, how about a post about the art of unstitching?

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