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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Home Again! Finished Ecclesiastical Goldwork Embroidery


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Once upon a time, just over three years ago, a friend and once-fellow-teacher called me.

She: “Can you teach me how to do gold church embroidery?”

Me: “Yes, I can.”

And so we started by covering the very basics of goldwork embroidery. Nothing paid or formal. Just a casual arrangement to meet once a week when she had an hour or two to spare.

Once she understood what threads do what, she decided the best way for her to start would be to actually start, to begin with a real project that could be used upon completion.

Her primary interest was learning to work with real metal threads that can be couched. To that end, we began a “sacred monogram” project. We transferred the design onto velveteen, appliquéd felt padding, and then couched gold passing thread.

After several months of her working on the project quite slowly, the inevitable happened: life got busy, she had to prioritize, and the goldwork was side-lined.

I sent my slate frame and my floor stand home with her, so she could work on it when she had time.

A good two and a half years went by, and although we occasionally touched base, the embroidery was still languishing, neglected, not going anywhere.

Ecclesiastical Goldwork Embroidery IHS

A couple months ago, the phone rang. It was … not the same person.

Instead, it was a young gal who lives in the same town – a 19 year old college student. She was calling to explain that she was persuaded to take on the rest of the goldwork project so that the project didn’t go to waste.

She needed some more gold thread. After a week or so of trying to coordinate our schedules, I met up with her. I discovered that she was mostly new to embroidery, beyond some basic stitching when she was a little kid.

But, really, what does that matter?

So I set her up with a little more gold passing thread and some check thread for outlining the filled letters and working the filigree parts.

We discussed how (and why) to wax the couching thread and how to couch the check thread, discussed a few little tips on plunging and whatnot, and about 10 or 15 minutes later, she went on her way.

And that was the end of that.

Ecclesiastical Goldwork Embroidery IHS

A couple months later – just this past week – the phone rang. “I have that piece finished. Can I drop it by?”


And she did.

And there it is. Above.

Minimal experience with embroidery.

No previous experience with goldwork.

19 years old.

Doing a favor for a friend.

She worked the whole piece, except the main body of the I and a little bit of the left side of the H.

And darn it, it looks terrific! She did a stellar job! The couching is even, the corners look incredibly good, the plunging is all done neatly. The whole piece looks superb.

The moral of the story: you don’t have to be a pro to embroider something beautiful. And you don’t have to wait until you have “advanced” along some imaginary prescribed route to tackle more “advanced” embroidery techniques. All you need is determination!

The piece, which can be used as a medallion on a vestment or on an altar frontal or banner, is about 8″ across at its widest points (both direction), stitched on burgundy velveteen backed with linen, using #5 gold passing thread couched over felt and outlined with check thread.

The design can be found in Church Patterns: Designs for Hand Embroidery, Appliqué, Paper Crafts, Painting, and More.

After that much couching, I can’t help wondering if the poor girl will ever take up embroidery again. I hope she does!

And to top off the happy ending, my favorite slate frame and my floor stand are home again. It was happy reunion all around.

Life is good, no?

Enjoy your Monday!


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(32) Comments

  1. Yes, she should take up more embroidery and why not do more art degree around the subject ? well worth it, good and talented young lady 🙂

  2. Great job! It looks beautiful. After all that couching she may never want to do it again but my guess, as she finished it in short time, is that she has been bitten by the bug and can’t wait for her next project.

    Very well done!

  3. Great work !
    This Young girl MUST study embroidery and go further ! She has really a gift for embroidery.
    And for the story, my daughter and I usually say : “elle n’est pas belle , la vie ?”( the life is nice, isn’t it ?)

  4. Dear Mary

    A lovely story and a beautiful piece of goldwork she must have enjoyed embroidering the work to complete it in such a short time and it looks like it was embroidered by a professional that is determination for you and it will look lovely on a vestment, banner or alter frontal. I hope she is pleased with the finished work she deserves to be and I’m glad you were re-united with your frame and stand. Thanks for sharing this with us lovely.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  5. An inspirational story on many levels. Lovely job. And now the piece will go on to inspire others in a church somewhere.

  6. I’m so impressed. She did a great job. I hope you let her know her wonderful work is being featured here. I’m very impressed with her bravery to take on such an advanced project and her determination to do her very best on it. I do hope she continues with needlework. She certainly has the feel for threads and fabric.

  7. Oh, she did a wonderful job! I do hope that she takes up embroidery again. What determination! And such a kind thing to do for a friend.

    Sarah 🙂

  8. Great story! The young girl put her mind to it and just did it, and did it well! WOnderful piece, too.

  9. Reminds me of my son. He was sick with leukemia and wanted to learn to stitch hardanger. Now I am not very good at hardanger, but can stitch it. I showed him the basics and he did great. Then there was a new stitch he wanted to learn, but I was busy and kept putting him off. Finally, a friend loaned him a book and he taught himself. He was 9 or 10 at the time…Kids! (He is fine BTW and is no longer stitching. He is into woodworking and computers-not gaming-programing and such.)

  10. Wow, this is the second article I’ve read here where very beginners have made perfect projects. As much as I wish I could be such a talent, I do get completely overjoyed to read things like this. I hope the young lady has many more pieces of art in her. Thank you Mrs. Corbet, for always sharing.

  11. It is lovely. And I agree that people CAN sometimes jump into a project and do it well – even newbies.

  12. Hi Mary,
    So nice to see this piece finished. I remember reading about this and wondering if it would ever be finished and what happened to it.

    It turned out beautiful. Now I have to go back and look in you e-book. Is that design in there???….

    What do you have planned for the piece?

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Life can be terrific indeed.

    Thank you for sharing this story, and thank you for generously sharing your knowledge of, and your passion for, embroidery.

  14. She did a wonderful job! I hope she continues in needlework.

    Sometimes I think beginners can do such nice work because they haven’t gotten the idea that it’s supposed to be difficult. They also haven’t picked up any habits that need to be changed for things to come out well.

  15. Dear Marie,
    Marie thank you for telling us this story, we also encourage, I bought materials for the gold embroidery and a gourd as I admire my purchases but I do not get me started, too afraid to mess up. Your Board for determination is very fair. If this girl does not return to the embroidery on, it will come back for sure, such a beautiful experience, it is not forgotten.
    Best regards

  16. Ah, the happy ignorance of youth. At that age I may have taken on something like this, in the mistaken idea that I could do anything. All these years later, I know a) I can’t do everything and some days I can’t do anything and b) goldwork scares the living daylights out of me.

    Maybe this young woman is of similar mind, but having now proved how talented and able she is, hopefully she will continue down the road of embroidery and especially goldwork. This is a superb piece of work and she is to be congratulated.

  17. I love your site and introduced my grand daughter who is 10. I found her watching closely some of the how to videos moving her hands as you worked tbe stitches. My grandson commented that he had been introduced to your site by his textile teacher! So you helping many to enjoy embroidery. I would like to get regular posts but was not sure how to do it. My computer knowledge is limited! Oops just scrolled down and saw how to get on your email list

  18. Ciao Mary mi chiamo loretana ti seguo da tanto tempo sei bravissima mi piacerebbe imparare a ricamare come te sei molto precisa nel lavoro ho visto tutti i tuoi video mi piacerebbe ricamare anche con i fili d’oro ti auguro buon lavoro e belle cose ciao

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