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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Redwork Embroidery – Stalled, but Not Forgotten


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Remember this redwork runner? Oh yes, it’s been a long time since I mentioned this particular embroidery project!

This past May, it reached the point where all the chain stitch on the runner was complete – the Hungarian braided chain stitch is all that’s left to do on the unfinished portion of the runner.

The project’s been nagging me lately, in a quiet way.

Hungarian Redwork Embroidery Table Runner

I keep the Hungarian Redwork Runner folded up in a mesh project bag, along with a little needlebook with the requisite needles, a pair of scissors, and the two types of thread I’m using on the runner.

The bag sits on the first table I see as I walk into my workroom. It’s on top of a stack of books.

For a while, I tried to hide it underneath the stack of books, but it didn’t take well to being stacked upon.

So, it rests on top of the stack. I can’t miss it when I walk into the room. It stares at me with a Pathetically Longing Look.

It reminds me.

And so, day after day, I walk into my lonely little workroom where it’s just me and a lot of threads and fabrics and projects, and I see that mesh bag, and I say, “I know. I know. I’ll get to you!”

But it doesn’t respond. It just gives me a Knowing Look.

And I pass by.

Hungarian Redwork Embroidery Table Runner

Last weekend, when I entered the room, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Stop looking at me like that! I cried.

And I snatched that mesh bag. And I gripped it in my grimy little claws. And I thought, Oh, you Torturing Fiend! I could closet you, and you wouldn’t know what hit you!

But then….

But then….

Something Magical Happened.

I unzipped the bag.

I felt that lovely piece of linen.

I saw those thousands of red stitches on pristine white.

I saw the organized needlebook, the sharp scissors, the easy threads.

And I saw the Look of Reproach on its patient, unfinished face.

And I gave in.

Hungarian Redwork Runner

Over the next hour and a half, I finished all but a few squiggles and swirls on one unfinished section of the runner.

Hungarian Redwork Runner Embroidery Project

Then, I laid the runner out and counted the number of individual side elements that need finishing. The arrows point to three of the side elements. And the center section in the photo above? It’s actually finished now, except for one tiny corner.

There are eight side elements that need finishing with the Hungarian braided chain stitch.

If I figure a generous hour and a half per section (it does take some time to get around those swirls), that’s about 12 hours of stitching left.

If I allot four hours a week to the runner, I can have the embroidery on it finished before the end of November. And then, in December, I can do the finish work on it – the hem and decorative edge.

And one thing that I’ve found very helpful in keeping the speed up, especially with the Hungarian braided chain stitch (where it’s nice to have two hands free to work the stitch) is this sit-on hoop stand. Initially, I worked the project in hand, without a hoop, but I’m finding I can move along on it faster with two hands free using the 8″ sit-on hoop.

When 2014 comes to an end, it will be nice to add this project to the finishes for the year. So that’s my plan!

And who knows? In typical fairytale fashion, the runner may even grace the Christmas table…and then live happily ever after, of course.

You can find the rest of the articles pertaining to this project listed chronologically in the Hungarian Redwork Runner Index. There, you’ll find the pattern, information on the fabric, stitches, and threads used, as well as information on transferring the design to the runner, and progress reports.


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(28) Comments

  1. I’m glad that the redwork runner has managed to persuade you to come back to it again, Mary. It’s so close to completion and will look so lovely when it is done.
    By a happy coincidence, I was overjoyed on Saturday to finally locate my own 8 inch seat frame. I found a 6 inch one with a table clamp in a charity shop recently, and I’ve been looking for the seat frame so I’d have the option of swapping the hoops and bases – 8 inch is a much more useful size for a deep frame. I’ve been turning my flat upside down for a couple of weeks, searching and searching and getting more and more frustrated – and all the time it was waiting patiently for me in a cupboard 30 miles away, at my father’s house. I was so glad to see it again!

    1. Hi, Sue – it’s been waiting patiently for a long time, that’s for sure, but I’m determined to get it done before the end of December – and hopefully, before Christmas. I have a feeling the edge is going to take more time than I’m bargaining for. I have two ideas, and one is much simpler than the other. We shall see. I’m glad you found your seat frame! That’s great! I think I’m going to spend some time this week binding the hoops for mine… I have the table clamp version, too. I like it, but it doesn’t fit on my current table in my workroom (it’s an “ironing” table with a padded cover). I’m going to switch the table out, though, so I’ll be able to interchange with the clamp-on version. I think I like it better than the sit-on version, only because I always sit at a table when I stitch, anyway.

  2. Thank you for this post. I feel less of a failure, now, when faced with all my unfinished and lonely projects. I sent this post to both my sister and my cousin who are red work enthusiasts.

    1. Hi, Barb! Thanks for sharing the post! Oh, I never ever EVER consider unfinished projects a sign of failure. There are so many reasons why a project goes unfinished – I’ve got a blog post coming up about that very subject! Anyway, don’t be discouraged!!

  3. That’s so strange, I was thinking about this project this weekend and couldn’t remember if we’d ever seen the finished product or not! Glad to see it’s almost there!!

  4. Dear Mary

    It’s so nice to see the Hungarian Red Runner out on view again and not forgotten and you didn’t closet it. Please carry on and finish it I would love to see it spread out on your Christmas table as the centre of attention which it deserves after all that hard work your put in, it would be ashame to leave it again as you are so close to finishing. It makes me want to finish my Redwork project for Christmas that I’m currently stitching so I will stop now and get on with it. Can’t wait to see it finished and thanks for sharing your progress on it with us.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  5. Hi Mary, it was nice to get a glimpse of your redwork runner today. You just described exactly how I feel with a long-running (sometimes neglected) embroidery project; right words … right order! 🙂 However, your embroidery looks like its reached that exciting stage when you can see the finish line almost ahead. I find I get a renewal of enthusiasm with a project at that point, so I’m sure your stitchy fingers will work marvels over the next few weeks. Wishing you some peaceful and productive stitching sessions with the prospect of a beautiful, completed runner to admire very soon! 🙂

  6. Hee hee hee! I love that you talk to your needlework!! I really can’t wait to see this done. Please show us a picture of it on the Christmas table. It will be so beautiful!!

  7. So happy to see the runner reappear, Mary. You are inspiring me (well, you *always* inspire me) to resurrect one of my own unfinished projects.
    If I may ask a question about redwork, I’ve always wondered about the laundering of these wonderful pieces, since red dyes are prone to continued bleeding (all that red floss on snowy white linen, oh my!). I’d be grateful if you would recommend proper care of finished redwork pieces. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Linda – well, I don’t have any in-depth advice for after the stitching is done, except to care for it as you would any stitched piece. But before the stitching is done, methinks the best advice would be the six P’s: proper prior planning prevents poor performance… I always test red threads for colorfastness, and in this case, I tested these threads by laundering them the same way I would launder the runner, washing a scrap of white linen stitched with them in pretty much room temperature water with light soap (Ivory) by hand, and air drying. The threads didn’t run, so I’m confident I can launder the finished piece the same way. What I won’t do is wash the piece in hot water, or ever iron it with steam – unless of course, I test the threads first in that way and they respond correctly. The long & short of it: Always test red threads if you’re planning on stitching something that will be laundered…

  8. I was fascinated a while ago when you mentioned the sit-on hoops, never having seen one before. Luckily, I found someone selling them with different sized hoops…. and it’s brilliant! It makes all the difference being able to have both hands free, and is much less tiring. So a big thank you!(and I love the Redwork!)

  9. Hi Mary,

    My comment, or question really, is not specific to the Redwork project. But the Redwork project has brought it to mind again.

    How do you deal with the physical aspects of being in one position and, I assume, bent over a frame? I can only work on a hoop as my neck and shoulders beginning protesting after a mere 20 minutes!

    The hoop allows me to sit back in a chair and hold it up to the right height and angle for my stitching hand. I do find, of course, that that limits the size and weight of the project.

    So, today, I thought I would just ask you as I have designed and transferred onto a nice piece of pale green linen, a tiger in the grass. I want to embroider this for my niece the cat lover, but I am loathe to start the hunched over the frame stage.

    Any advice or what is your secret? (I do have a number of frames, including a floor model and an adjustable table model. I find each as bad as the other for my physical comfort)

    Thank you very much,
    Cynthia on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

    P.S. I have even thought of doing the piece in sections and sewing them together but I fear this will destroy the Japanese-style look I’ve managed to achieve thus far.

    1. Hi, Cynthia – well, I probably do it all wrong, but I adjust my frames and my chairs and my sit on hoop or anything that I’m using a little higher than table level – more like chest level – and I don’t hunch when I sit. I don’t sit straight up like a board, but I don’t lean over my work at all. I pretty much always use an adjustable office style chair, that can sit higher or lower, depending on where I’m working, and it rolls and leans back if I want it too, etc. It also gives a little (hydrolics of some sort, I reckon? Something like that, anyway!) when I move around. Sometimes, I use a stationary chair, but not too often. I rarely sit in one position for a long stretch of time, though. I’m always reaching to get something, readjusting my position, and so forth. As far as couches, sofas, easy chairs and the like go, I rarely sit in them to stitch. So, that’s how I do it. I think the key is setting your frame or stand high enough that you don’t have to bend over.

  10. It’s good to see an update on this project, Mrs. Corbet. You’ve been working on it for so long; It’s good that it’s almost finished! I don’t think I could do a project that big in two stitches and one colour of thread, but you did! (or, almost did :D)
    Can’t wait for the big finish! I’ll be waiting!

    Sarah 😀

  11. It’s looking beautiful, but I can think of three reasons it would risk becoming a UFO if it were my project. One is SOS – it’s so easy to underestimate the time needed to work ‘just lines’. Another is that once you’ve decided on your stitches and threads there’s no discovery in it, unlike the Secret Garden, for example, where every element is an exploration. The third reason is that if it were my project it wouldn’t be looking nearly as good!

  12. I took some time this weekend to also work on my counter cross stich UFO. I am still not done, but I figure every stitch I put in is one step closer to finished. I am down to my last hooping so hopefully I will also get it done soon. Your redwork is beautiful. A friend from Hungary sent me a poster of different types of Hungarian embroidery for my Pinterest page. When I got it, I thought of your runner, so glad to see it is almost finished.

  13. I’m thrilled that your beautiful redwork embroidery finally got her voice again. I ripped out my redwork embroidery four times before I was satisfied to continue. I took it two weeks ago to stitch group. The other ladies were quite complimentary about my work. (I know I have tendencies toward trying to being a perfectionist.) I worked on it for three hours and made great progress. A friend has offered to finish it if I will do another task for her. I told her that I will gladly do the other task for her for our guild and I think I can finish my redwork, too. It felt good to know that I didn’t let the project rule me and I had friends who cheered me to keep going and encouraged me that I was being too hard on critiquing my own work. I can hardly wait to see your runner on your Christmas table – it may well be the star this year.

  14. Mary,
    now I understand my fascination with your website. You are a magician with a giant hat full of surprises!
    This runner is stunningly chic. I love the swirling of red paths opening out to the snowy expanse of linen, evoking jingling bells and sparkling champagne and fires, and, and….E’ bellissimo!

  15. Hi Mary,
    I love you! You are such a real person. I have been having the guilts over all of the unfinished projects I have. And if I tidy up and put them too far away I forget all about them. Then when I have a sort out, like now, I find all these projects that I’ve abandoned because other more exciting things have taken my interest. So much to try, so little time!
    Now I feel better, but they are all calling to me!

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