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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Just Ducky! Tiny Embroidered Motifs


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These little hand embroidered ducks were So Much Fun to stitch, and they took a total of about thirty whole minutes – which makes them highly delectable in just about every way!

Bullion Knot Hand Embroidered Ducks for Baby Gifts

Remember last week when I exposed my embroidery project to-do list to you? One of the pressing projects is a baby gift, which I’d like to have finished before the baby shower, which is in…oh, a week and a half.

(I’m amazingly ahead of the game, relatively speaking. Normally, I’d be saying, “…which is tomorrow…”)

I was thinking I could work up something quick, cute, and affordable, that would be personalized by a little touch of embroidery.

So, there I was the other day, with Baby-on-the-Brain, digging through a box of linens. You see, I had this vague notion that, once upon a time some six or so years ago, I had thought about embroidering a baby gift.

Deep down, I thought I had purchased some finished baby goods. But I couldn’t remember if I had actually done it, or just thought about doing it. (Do you ever have moments like that?!)

Foraging away, my hand came into contact with Yet Another tissue-wrapped package. But this one was somehow different. It was soft and cushy. I unwrapped it and within – aha! – was a set of good quality, matching interlock knit baby goods – blanket, hat, and bib – in white. They were still pristine and brand new, thanks (I swear by this!) to the habit of wrapping any stored fabrics in acid-free tissue paper.

Gazing upon the baby goods, I said to myself, My goodness, you have such incredible foresight!

And myself wholeheartedly agreed.

My plan is to pick up a pack of white Carter’s onesies (those are what we call baby body suits in America), and on the onesies, the blanket, the hat, and the bib, I’ll embroider a few little swimming ducks in yellow, to match the yellow baby afghan my mom is making for the same shower.

Practice First!

So, before setting off to stitch on the knit goods, I thought I’d better work up some practice ducks.

For ideas, I turned to this book – A-Z of Embroidered Motifs, reviewed here – and sure enough, right inside, I found the perfect little ducks!

Bullion Knot Hand Embroidered Ducks for Baby Gifts

Before stitching on any pre-finished item, I like to do a practice run. And in this case, I wanted to see exactly how long it would take me to stitch up a little motif or two.

Well, time was no problem! The little guy above, and his pond and cattails, took a total of about 18 minutes.

Bullion Knot Hand Embroidered Ducks for Baby Gifts

Ten minutes later, I had a diver.

So, the embroidery is quick. And that’s good!

But there are some things I definitely changed (and will change further) on my ducks, compared to the ducks in the A-Z book.

Bullion Knot Hand Embroidered Ducks for Baby Gifts

For one thing, I decided I don’t need to draw any kind of pattern on the fabric. Originally, I drew the doodle above, because I thought it would be nice to have a shape to go by.

In fact, one dash the length of the ducks body will do it, for the swimming duck. One dash for the vertical length of the diving duck will do it. And the dashes are only to assure a consistency in size and the right spacing and placement on the fabric.

If the bullions are placed correctly, the duck just takes shape by himself. And that’s jolly – no design transfer necessary!

Bullion Knot Hand Embroidered Ducks for Baby Gifts

In the instructions, the color for the eye and bill is a kind of greeny-goldish-brown. I opted for an orange bill, because it’s a ducky, and if you’re familiar with the iconic rubber ducky, you’ll understand.

The eye, though, which is just a little French knot placed between and on top of the two bullion knots, I worked in a regular brown. But I don’t like it. I’ll opt for a darker brown – probably a brownish-black.

The other thing I’ll attempt to do is to taper the tail end of the lower bullion knot that makes up the body of the duck. I think it would be really cute, if the right side of the long knot along the lower body pulls to a tip – like a duck tail.

Another thing I changed: in the book, the bill is made from a regular detached chain stitch or daisy stitch worked with one strand of thread at the front of the head. Instead, I worked a fly stitch with two strands of thread.

Bullion Knot Hand Embroidered Ducks for Baby Gifts

On the diver, I’ll do a couple things differently, too.

The bullion knots will all end at the water line at the same level, so that it looks like the duck is pretty much cut in half by the water, and I’ll try to make the knots a little shorter, so less of the body is above the water.

With the bullion knot on the right, I’ll bring the tail end to a taper, too, to better resemble a duck tail.

Now that I’ve worked through one set of the little guys on the practice fabric (it’s just a scrap of green linen), I’ll work the next set on a onesie, to work out how to space and place them.

I’ll share some tips with you on working on pre-finished knit goods in a few days. There are some tricks to working on knit, but all in all, it’s pretty easy.

And I think I’ll use these little practice guys on the baby card.

How Thoroughly Themey of me.

Hope your day’s just ducky!


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(33) Comments

  1. such a cute baby gift! I’m looking forward to learning your tricks for embroidering on knits for when my daughter starts her family. Are you going to include a rubber ducky in the gift?

  2. Your work is fabulous! I love the ducks and the small changes that you are doing. Can’t wait to see the finished items together!

  3. Dear Mary

    So glad you are ahead of your workload and the embroidery above did not take long. How sweet I love the ducks and the motifs will look lovely on the white onesie, hat, bib and blanket and I’m sure the gift will be much appreciated and what a good idea to use the practice embroidery on the card. I look forward to your tips on working on knit please show us a photo of the completed embroidery. I like the yellow on the green linen they blend well. Thanks for showing us your duck motifs and sharing your ideas with us.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. Just ducky.

    And to answer your question,yes, I have ‘dreamed, thought, imagined,’ that I’ve written a letter already only to find it was only in my mind! Glad to hear I’m not the only one that has done this.

    Looking forward to seeing the completed duck project.

  5. Mary!

    Your plan is lovely and will be treasured by the new parents. Gifts such as yours are almost gone from our busy world.

    Hmmmm, say yes to the stash, eh?

    I must add that diver has stolen my heart.

    Thank you for sharing your talents with us!

  6. Mary, I am so glad you will show us some tips for working on knitted fabric. I have often wanted to, but never did because I was concerned about how the stretch of the fabric would work against the stitches, and if the stitches would pop, etc. This is an excellent gift idea, thanks for sharing!

  7. So so so adorable! Who doesn’t love a little duck! Your motif makes me think of the ducks’ ditty in The Wind in the Willows. (And I love the ducks’ ditty).

    Would you please tell me what floss colors you used for the yellow and blue? Those you selected complement each other so very beautifully!

  8. Oh Mary, thank you for sharing these little duckies. I so appreciate that you make embroidery possible for those if us that have little facility in the needle arts. Thanks for the clear information and the encouragement! Bless you!

  9. Hi Mary,
    Those are just too cute ! I am sure the finished items will look great. Please so show how you would taper the ends of the bullions.
    Many thanks,

  10. I have to try these cute little guys, never have done embroidery on purchases clothing. We have a baby shower coming up later in the year and these would be perfect.

  11. Cute as can be,Mary. As you are going to fidget with the duck tails, I wonder if there is a way the little duck bill could be more rounded. In the photo it seems to be pointed. You are just the person who could manage to round such a tiny motif. Isn’t it just nutty what catches one’s eye and bothers.


  12. So sweet!

    I have to embroider some duck napkins for my neighbours so was interested seeing these little fellows!

  13. Thank you SO MUCH for your post AND your blog. I have learned a great deal, and my improved stitching is immensely motivating. And the best part? Learning about what the stitches themselves and their combinations can create! Thanks again!

  14. Previously I signed up for your newsletter. I enjoyed it very much.
    I have had various computer problems and for some reason I no longer receive the newsletter.
    When I try to resubscribe I get the message that I am currently signed up, however I do not get the newsletter.
    How do I fix this?
    I really enjoy the things you do and share with us.

    Thank you,
    Sammy Westphal

    1. Hi, Sammy – I see you’re a gmail user, so you might check your spam filter, and also check under the “promotions” tabs that gmail uses. It could be filtering in either of those places. If it is, just move it to your inbox once or twice, and it will “train” your email to load it to your main inbox. On this end, it shows you’re still subscribed and receiving the daily email, so I’m thinking it’s landing in one of those two places…

  15. Mary, love your duckies! I want to embroider some onesies for a baby due in November so I’ve got plenty of time. Right?? Just wondering what size hoop you used & if you used any kind of special backing for the knit?

    Thank you for all your beautiful work.


  16. My kinda project, Mary. Small, easy to finish, personalised and still pretty enough to showcase your skill with needle n thread.
    Quack thinking on the diving ducky too.
    I really really want that motif book now.

  17. I love the way you explain how you intend to alter the ducks. I often want to change designs slightly but am nervous of doing so. Perhaps I’ll be more confident now I’ve read how you do it.

    Looking forward to learning how to embroider on knitted fabrics – I’ve tried to do this but never got it right.

    Thank you for all your fabulous advice.

    By the way, in the UK we call them onesies now, too. Words gradually filter across the pond to us. Pond – ducks – groan! Couldn’t resist!

  18. Hi I am looking for a guide for tiny ribber ducks to hand embroider in a hand knitted baby sweater. Can you help with this? Approximately 1/2” high similar to your posting.

    1. I made mine out of bullion knots and it worked well. I don’t know of any source for a different technique or pattern, I’m afraid. But the bullion knots work pretty well!

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