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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One Finish Down the Drain!


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Remember that to-do list of embroidery projects we chatted about the other day? Well, I’ve crossed one off – it’s this embroidered quote project for an upcoming article on Craftsy.

Here’s the finished quote and some reflections on it. I’ll tell you right off the bat that it’s not my Favorite Project that I’ve ever worked. I’ll tell you why!

Hand Embroidered Quote: Lorum Ipsum

Lorum Ipsum is embroidered on a yellow (bright yellow) piece of linen that I had in my scrap box. The finished embroidery is about 5″ square.

Now, normally, I really like embroidering lettering, quotes, text, etc., especially when I can go all-out on stitch, color, and thread choices. One of my favorite lettering samplers to work was The Quick Brown Fox for this series on hand embroidered lettering and text lessons.

With Lorum Ipsum, my goal was to use whatever stitches struck me, while working with the bright southwesty color palette for these embroidery threads we talked about last week, so that I could test the threads and see if I really like them (or not).

Hence, the garish… err…. bright colors.

Hand Embroidered Quote: Lorum Ipsum

I ended up just combining basic line stitches for the project – chain stitch, heavy chain stitch, backstitch, whipped backstitch, laced backstitch, Palestrina stitch, stem stitch.

There were a few other stitches and techniques I had planned to incorporate, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Can you guess why?

Hand Embroidered Quote: Lorum Ipsum

But I did gussy up the edge with a fun composite stitch – if you’ve been working through any of the Stitch Sampler Alphabet letters, you’re probably familiar with it!

I just love composite stitches!

And all in all, it should have been a really fun, relaxing project.

But this is The Thing, and I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again (and again…and again):

The materials you work with on any type of embroidery project – whether it’s just a beginner project, strictly for the fun of it, or your Life’s Great Masterpiece – make All the Difference in the outcome of the project and in the pleasure (or frustration!) you experience while stitching it.

This is why I never advise beginners to start with generic craft floss or low quality fabric. Materials that don’t meet at least a basic standard of good quality lead to frustration while stitching, and produce a less than satisfactory outcome, even if your stitching is ok.

This doesn’t mean you have to use the most expensive fabrics or threads! It just means that you should always start with at least decent quality supplies, so that you achieve the best results you can, with the least amount of frustration.

So, to put it very bluntly: this floss was so very unpleasant to stitch with. I won’t use it again.

I learned a good lesson, though. It really doesn’t take a whole project to know whether or not you’re going to like a particular thread!

And thus ends one project from The List. Time to sally forth and tackle the next one, which I’m definitely looking forward to!

Enjoy your weekend!


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(24) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    What a shame that the floss was difficult to work with although the outcome of the embroidered letters look lovely and the colours you have chosen are nice, bright and cheery. The floss really does make a difference when embroidering a project I remember when I used metallic thread once it was so awful to work with I nearly gave up, I decided I would never use that kind of thread again. Thanks for showing us your up and coming article on Craftsy and for your advice and views on thread. I hope you have a great weekend.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. Mary,
    So glad to see you are making progress with your list. You are exactly right about poor quality materials and needles. I recently started a simple kit for a friend’s Christmas present and thought it would be no problem to use pre-stamped beginner kit. The directions are terrible and the needle is dull. IF I was a beginner I would also be finished with embroidery, but fortunately I have been at this awhile and have other needles to use, although I may have to unstitch what I have already done so it doesn’t look like a 1st graders VBS project instead of an adult stitchery suitable for hanging. Happy Stitching!

  3. Well, I have to say, I’m a bit relieved after reading your post today. For me “down the drain” means it had to be chucked, didn’t work out, something bad happened. LOL. I was so glad to see, altho you didn’t like the thread, you had a finished product!!! Garish it may be, but I love the colors. Maybe I’m a garish person!!! Really turned out pretty I think. BTW, I’ve been enjoying your Craftsy posts.
    Would you mind terribly expanding on what (after doing this project) it was that you didn’t like about the threads? Would really appreciate it. I know you had your reservations in that first post on them. Thanks,

    1. Hi, Carol – Yes, I didn’t really pitch the project – it’s just geeky enough that I will keep it and probably put it on my workroom wall. Not quite a motivational quote, but the techy side of me likes it! And I like the splashy colors!

      The floss – it’s inconsistent in weight (the individual strands). The darker colors (like the dark blue) are very skinny, tight threads, and they did pill, which makes them catch as they pull through the fabric. The threads in general have no real “spread” – there’s no softness about them that makes the individual strands spread at all. When working with 4-6 strands in the needle, they do lay nicely enough (see the lacing on the border) and without a laying tool, but when using two strands, the stitching just doesn’t fill the line nicely, like it does with a better quality floss. The twist on the individual strands is inconsistent, as well. In some spots, they look thinner – the twist is elongated – and in other spots, thicker, as the twist is shorter. The “dry” feel of the thread is a real turn-off to me. It feels cheap and almost papery. I didn’t do any strength testing on the thread – pulling it to see what it takes to break it. And I didn’t really have any problems with breakage or excessive fraying, but still, it just doesn’t have the feel of a higher quality thread (like DMC or Anchor) and it doesn’t perform as well, especially when working with only one or two strands – or even three. I didn’t like it with three, either. With four or more, the number of strands seemed to help balance the inconsistencies a little bit. I know a lot of this has to do with individual preferences and what you’re used to when stitching, but for me, I’m certain this isn’t a thread I’d return to for future hand embroidery projects. Apparently, their machine embroidery thread is well liked, but I’m just not keen on their hand embroidery floss!

    2. Thank you Mary, so very much. This all makes perfect sense to me. I have so much to learn about all things embroidery and this sort of information and knowledge, which I can transfer to what is needed/important/better to other types of threads as I continue my learning journey.
      BTW, I just placed a fairly large order (at least I think it is) with Nordic Needle. Going to try and learn some Brazilian embroidery stitches. I remembered you had them on your site so to “arrive” there I connected from your website. I’m hoping this gives you the “credit”?

  4. Good to know, Mary, good to know. Aurifil has quite a parade growing in the quilting world, but that doesn’t mean we have to jump on the bandwagon too. No one can be all things to all people.

  5. Love your work, your blog, and how much wonderful info you provide us.. To my the fun is in learning the process..mistakes and all! Thanks again

  6. How frustrating! There’s no joy in stitching with unforgiving thread. It’s not always the price or the shine – I’ve often used very cheap stranded cottons when I’ve wanted a matte finish. When I find some that are easy to work with and not too weak, the results can be excellent, even on pulled thread work. I’ve met other brands that appeared very smooth and shiny but were simply hopeless in the needle. It’s pot luck. I’d certainly echo your advice that learners start with well-known, tried and tested brands until they know what to expect.
    I can see the brittle and stringy look of the dark green and the dark blue in your close up photos. They do look like very hard work.
    I like your choice of text for the sampler – most appropriate for the task. Too much ‘dolor’ in it, for sure! Still, that project is finished now and you can get back to more agreeable threads.

  7. Uh, I have a question:
    What is the English translation of “Lorum ipsum sit dolor amet”?

    Glad you’ve got one item checked off the list!


    1. Hi, Sarah – well, there is a translation, but it’s really beside the point, because, you see, Lorum Ipsum is the “filler text” used in web design and desktop publishing. It is used so that the viewer focuses on the layout, design, color, and so forth, without being distracted by the actual text. So, in a sense, it’s a bit of a joke, but on the other hand, it also more or less serves the same purpose!

    2. I couldn’t help googling it. I found an interesting extended explanation at http://www dot lipsum dot com, for anybody else who’s interested.

    3. Mary, even if the first word is truncated, it is still spelled LOREM not LORUM everywhere. The text is not gibberish but a citation and a citation must be accurate even if its only function is as space filler.

  8. Ah, big sigh of relief. I had the same experience when testing this particular floss years ago for a whole sale company. I really didn’t like it and was almost pestered into saying the opposite.

    1. The latin text is part of a quote from Cicero, “The Extremes of Good and Evil” paragraph 1.10.32 – 1.10.33:
      Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem.
      In English:
      Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure.
      My source: http://www.loremipsum.de/

    2. Thank you so much Birgit! I studied Latin for 6 years and every time I saw this famous text filler I coudn’t help wondering what “lorem” meant. Now at last I’ve got the answer.
      Whoever picked this particular text cut the first two letters off. “Lorem” doesn’t mean anything, but “dolorem” makes sense.
      How unfortunate that Mary mis-spelled it (“Lorum”) in her embroidery! It shouldn’t have a capital L either.
      I may sound like a nit-picker but in the same way you want some words tattoed on your skin, you better check the spelling first!

    3. LOL! Ok, I think you’ve missed the point of the quote – this is it: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorem_ipsum

      The famous filler text is called Lorem Ipsum, and those are the first five words of it.

      Yep, I misspelled it. Whoops. I probably should have stuck with something more nonsense-ish, like “twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe…” There’s a lot to be said for made-up words – you can never get them wrong if you’re the author…

  9. G’day Mary,
    ‘Down the drain’…oh oh! But, I too was relieved to see what you meant. Kind of flushed with success eh. Done, finished, wiped!
    I like it. Thanks for the tips and the heads up on the threads.
    Cheers, Kath.

  10. Mary, I’m so relieved that you’d just meant that you could cross this one off your list! In Oz parlance ‘down the drain’ = ruined, time wasted etc. The result is bright and cheerful – good fun, even if the stitching wasn’t. It’s not really time wasted if this small project allowed you to try out some threads and learn that you would not use them again by choice.

  11. I have followed you for years (I’m getting older but in my mind you are as young as ever!) and bounce in and out depending on which art is engaging me at the moment. I happen to be working on an embroidery of my own design which includes lettering. So, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!

  12. Thank you! I enjoy your tutorials and often go to your ” how to” stitch instructions on my ipad when doing embroidery.

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