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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What Was that Satin For, Anyway?


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After writing about this satin fabric the other day, using it as a ground for hand embroidery and mounting it on an embroidery frame, the inbox played host to many curious visitors who were excited to see a new project developing here on the website, with the champagne-colored satin as the ground fabric.

What’s it for?

I can’t wait to see this new project!

I love that fabric! Can’t wait to see the new project!

Are you using this for the silk version of the Secret Garden?

Where can I get that fabric? I want to stitch along with your next project!

Well, I would be excited, too, if that were the case, but … it isn’t.

To satisfy the curious out there, I’ll show you what happened with the satin fabric.

I’m afraid some of you might have to brace yourselves for a let-down, for which I apologize in advance!

Beetle Wing Embroidery Samples

This is one tiny little sample that went onto the frame. It’s two rows of tambour embroidery with #7 gold tambour thread, and a beetle wing attached using shisha stitches in the same thread.

The tambour embroidery on the satin, by the way, was not so easy. I ended up with a very tight tension (haven’t practiced in a while!), and the heavier tambour needle created some hairline splits in the fabric.

Beetle Wing Embroidery Samples

The frame was be-speckled with some nine or so other beetle wings, all cut the same size and spaced about two inches apart in all directions, and sewn on using a metallic thread (DMC Diamant, actually).

As it happened, once I got all the beetle wings attached, I realized that the metallic thread was just not a good choice, because it’s difficult to photograph metallics, even under the best conditions.

Beetle Wing Embroidery Samples

And so I took all the beetle wings off and re-attached them using Soie Perlee. And that was much better.

Then, I finished the stitching stages for each wing, taped all the needles and threads in place, wrapped the whole frame in bubble wrap, and shipped it off to a magazine, which is featuring an article on beetle wing embroidery later this year. We’ll talk about it when it’s closer to publication. I can’t wait to see what they (the sewing experts) do with beetle wings!

So now you know the sordid facts of the matter: the satin isn’t for you. I’m so sorry.

On the bright side, while I was stitching up the samples, my mind was overflowing with ideas, so it’s likely you’ll see something on this very same fabric in the future!

You can read more about beetle wing embroidery here, if you like, including articles with information on where to get wings, how to prepare wings, and some stitching examples with the wings.


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(17) Comments

  1. Mrs. Corbet,
    I just wanted to say Thank You for all you’ve taught me. If it wasn’t for you I could never have won Reserve Best of Show for my hand embroidery at the fair yesterday. (That means that my hand embroidery project was the second best out of all the hand and machine embroidery.)
    The judge said she loved that I used so many different stitches. Wow! Thanks, Mrs. Corbet, for teaching me all those stitches! I never would’ve even been taking embroidery to the fair without you, let alone getting any awards. You are AWESOME!

    Sarah 😀

    1. Congratulations, Sarah! That is WONDERFUL! I’m so proud of you! 🙂

      Will you send me a photo? I’d love to see it!

      I bet that just made your day. You know, every year, I think about going to the surrounding fairs – state fairs, county fairs, etc. – to check out the needlework entries, but I never get around to it. Maybe this year, I will!

    2. Hi Sarah

      I bet you are delighted and congratulations on coming second with your hand embroidery at the fair I would love to see a photo, well done.

      Regards Anita Simmance

  2. Congratulations Sarah! I hope to be able to do that one day. You are far better at embroidery than I was at your age. Soak up the joy and be *very* proud of yourself.

    Good morning, Mrs. Corbet. I have to admit the beetle wings still give me the willies, as lovely as they are. Could you tell us what magazine this is for so we can buy a copy when your article comes out? I think about trying tambour embroidery every now and then, but I always think… “You’ve got more than enough going on right now”

    1. Hi, Kristina – I’ll write a little more about it, when it’s closer to publication.

      If you ever do get around to tambour work, one nice thing about it is that it is quite relaxing!

    2. I find all embroidery relaxing! 😀 Dealing with pull-skeins… not-so-much! I can’t wait to find out more, but I’ll be patient! I don’t think you realize how famous you are!

  3. Mary I love you and all that you write and do!

    But seriously those wings looked better on the beetles. Like mink looked better on the mink than on grandma’s fur coat. Every time you show those wings I feel so sad!

    Disclosure: I am vegan!

    1. Hi, Elaine – just to clarify about the wings, because I think some people have the misconception that the beetles are hunted and captured and their wings are pulled off while the bugs are still living. This isn’t the case at all. The wings are harvested after the beetle lives out its regular life cycle. The bugs are dead before the wings are removed. The wings would otherwise be waste. Using the wings as decoration is therefore a pretty ingenious form of recycling or up-cycling…

    2. Ok!Thanks for explaining. Maybe I will try some.

      Friends here in New Mexico boil up living cochineal for dye. I would not do that. Same problem with silk which I try not to use.

      I am finding that rayon is a good substitute for silk. People say it is hard to work with but not really once you practice a bit. Working a beautiful needlepoint sky with rayon perle right now. Abuela brand from Mexico.

  4. I was recently at the Montreal Botanic Gardens (lovely place!) and noticed that their roses were having a difficult time with Japanese beetles (http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/PDEP/target_pest_disease_profiles/images/JB_2106096_bugwood_DavidCappaert.jpg). They also have shiny wing cases, but with white spots at the edge. I wonder if they also could be used in embroidery?

    … though I doubt gardeners would be willing to let them live out their natural lives before harvesting them!

    1. Probably! The “armor” around and directly behind the head is somewhat close in looks to the same armor found on the sternocera aequisignata – except no dimples! – but the sternocera aequisignata have longer wings that are not ridged and that are flatter – they don’t “cup” around the body as squarely. The white spots on the one in the photo you linked to look like they are on the real wing or on the body of the bug, underneath the hard casing or the elytra (which is the part used in embroidery) used to protect the wings and body. I’m not sure, though – I’d have to see it up close! Oh, bugs! While I don’t like finding them crawling on me or around me or suddenly showing up on the floor or what-have-you, I think they’re pretty darned interesting to look at!

    2. Hi Jen and Mary, this looks very much like our Australian Christmas beetle. One was next to a pot plant last summer and I left it there as the wings were beautiful however they seemed more fragile than the elytras used for beetle wing embroidery.

  5. Thank you, Mary for answering my questions the other day. As always, you are a superb teacher and mentor to us for all things embroidery!

    Sheila 🙂

    ps. These pictures made me think of the hummingbird project. Can you use one of those wings on the hummingbird somehow? They’d make a cool addition if it fit, or worked with the design as inked… they are similarly iridescent.

  6. Dear Mary

    Late today as I’ve been out helping at Church and visiting friends now I’m tired and I have a project to finish by the beginning of September Panic! Anyway I was wondering as well if you were going to start a new project, thanks for claifying what the satin fabric is for. Good luck with the article sounds interesting and thanks for the clarification on the Beetle wings it’s good that you are recycling or up-cycling the wings and they don’t go to waste. Thanks for letting us interested readers know what the satin fabric will be used for.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  7. Piping up a little late in the fray ::groan:: here. I use blue and green painter’s tape for tons of things – including embroidery on cotton or linen. For silks and satins I use paper or rayon/silk surgical tape. The adhesive is even less likely to leave marks and can be removed most readily.

    Incidentally, I have both the satin you used for your demo and the Duchesse in my closet as I write. I did a variation of the Tudor Rose on it a year or so ago and was just debating whether to use it for a Bat Mitzvah gift I’m getting ready to start.


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