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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The Pondering Project – Thinking While Stitching


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Late Harvest, an embroidery kit from Hazel Blomkamp that I reviewed here, was meant to be my carrot.

I like to have an embroidery carrot hanging about – an enticing project that I reward myself with when I meet a goal.

Lately, though, it’s been my Pondering Project. And it works well for that!

There are times throughout the work day when I find myself at a loss as to what step to take next. What approach should I take on this project? How should I tackle that project?

When I’m stumped like that, I find I can ponder The Next Thing and work out ideas while I’m stitching on Late Harvest.

I can’t always do that with every embroidery project, especially projects that I’ve designed and I’m working through for the first time. In such cases, my mind is normally occupied with what step to take next on that particular project.

But if I’m following someone else’s directions, it’s much easier to think about something other than the project I’m stitching on while I’m stitching on it. It’s a good time to work out little directional problems and develop ideas. And it’s nice to be able to do that while still making some progress on something.

Beaded Palestrina stitch outlines around leaves

So, while I was doing some pondering, I added the beaded outlines to several leaves on Late Harvest.

The outlines are worked in beaded Palestrina stitch. You can find a tutorial for beaded Palestrina stitch here. I love Palestrina stitch, and it works up really well with beads!

Beaded Palestrina stitch outlines around leaves

The beaded outlines were a lot of fun, even though they can be a bit tricky when changing directions while working your way around the leaf.

I had more success with the outline if I could stitch the whole outline without interruption. If I had to leave the frame and come back to it later, I ended up losing the rhythm of the stitch and the feel of the tension, stitch length, and so forth. The outlines that I stitched in one sitting ended up being much more evenly spaced, much more consistent in tension and stitch size.

Beaded Palestrina stitch outlines around leaves

The next step in the project after the beaded outlines are two narrow leafy tendril thingies worked in long and short stitch.

I tend to mark out the direction of my long and short stitch right on the fabric, especially when the shape is a bit challenging.

When I set out on this project, my intention was to follow Hazel’s instructions to the letter, but habit stepped in before I even thought about it, and I found I had outlined the leaf shape with split stitch, which is not part of the instructions.

Then, I started the long and short stitch, and it wasn’t until I finished the long and short stitch that I realized I missed the instructions on that part, too.

Beaded Palestrina stitch outlines around leaves

Hazel approaches her long and short stitch from the inside out on shapes like this. That is, she starts at the center vein line and works to the edge.

I generally go from the outside edge into the center.

On a piece like this, though, it really doesn’t matter which direction you take. I worked it how I habitually work it, because that’s what was comfortable for me.

On the next tendril leafy thingamabob sticking out from the other side of the pomegranate, I’ll follow the directions. I suspect Hazel’s approach may make shading on an irregular shape a bit easier – it’ll be interesting to try it and to compare the two approaches.

The Moral of the Story

After working a few little elements here and there on this project while pondering, I achieved a little clarity and I made some decisions.

I overcame an instance of writer’s block.

I decided how to organize a section of my work area.

I made a plan in my head for executing a small how-to project.

And I figured out what to have for dinner the next two nights.

Not bad, eh?

You do know the moral of the story, don’t you?

Right! If you’re unsure of what to have for dinner, just go stitch. Dinner will take care of itself.

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(24) Comments

  1. Those stitches are amazeballs!!!! Love the beading, the layers, the colors. And I am really loving that little tendril of beads coming from the leaf. You do such beautiful work, Mary. Love how you documented your thought process for us, also.

  2. Oh my goodness! This is so pretty! Can’t wait to see more.
    (And i am not even a bead-embroidery enthusiast. Leave it to you to come up with such a stunning application. )

    1. Hi, Elizabeth – glad you like it! But just to clarify – this is designed by Hazel Blomkamp, and she does a beautiful job of incorporating beads into her kits. I don’t do a lot of bead embroidery, either, so this approach is a first for me. It’s really fun!

  3. I enjoy all your posts Mary – this one really resonated with me. I too find that once I get into the rhythm of a piece I’m working on my mind can wander where it wants and all kinds of “problems” can be resolved. I call this my “zen” moment. Love it!

  4. My stitching produces a different effect but same outcome and I think it’s because I am at a different level of skill than you are. I am SO focused on what I am doing that the cares and worries just fade into the background. It ends up that dinner is generally forgotten until my stomach protests with growls and I just grab a sandwich. Waa laa dinner is taken care of… πŸ˜‰

    1. This is usually how it works for me as well. It clears my head and then solutions rush in!… well, maybe not rush πŸ™‚

    2. Ha ha. I have the same thing….nice focus on work that lulls me away from the day’s topics, worries, plans….

  5. Dear Mary

    I really like the beaded Palestrina stitch as well and it looks lovely on your leaves. The beaded L&S leaf is beautiful. it’s nice to have a carrot project or indeed a pondering project to clear your head. I always follow your instructions on the L&S stitch outside in so it will be interesting to see what you think of stitching from the inside to the outside. I’m glad you were able to make decisions especially on what to have for dinner. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on pondering projects I will have to try this next time I have to make important decisions.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. Yep, Anita – it’s those Big Decisions (like what to have for dinner) that seem to work themselves out best when I’m stitching! πŸ™‚

  6. This blog was a fun one to read. Your blogs are always full of information and your work is inspiring. But this time, I felt like I was sitting next to you with a cup of hot cocoa and talking about life.

    I tend to be a bead maniac adding them as often as I can. I add them around the edge of a biscornu for a sparkly finish or sprinkle them around in a large area like you did in your pomegranate. But I’ve never tried a curvy line of beads like you did on your leaf. I’ll have to find a way to do that. . . . soon.

  7. Thanks so much Mary for your stitch videos. I refer to them all the time. You have really helped me expand my stitching skills.

  8. It is a beautiful pattern. Show us more of it. I’d especially like to see the two long and short stitch leaves together!

  9. That is looking so beautiful! Now, how can I persuade my husband that dinner will take care of itself while I stitch?

  10. I just got few pieces of the material from the half mother. Been working on same one just creamy shade. What she sent is gray and chalanging.

    Your piece look great so far just wish for a more close ups πŸ™‚

  11. Dear Mary ~
    I find that if I ponder about dinner while stitching, I end up stitching right through dinner, and miss it altogether!

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