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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Weekend Stitching: Lots of Knots and Little Leaves


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Monday, Monday! To give you something bright and cheery to look at, to start the week out right, here’s some development on a little bit of stitching.

I’m working up this sample of an embroidered tree to demonstrate what can be done with the thread I’m using. I really didn’t intend for it to be a major project. It’s not – it’s pretty simple, fairly relaxing stitchery, and not toooooooo time consuming, but more time consuming than I originally intended.

I am an absolute inveterate optimist when it comes to judging time and how long it will take to complete even the smallest project.

Oh, I can whip that up in a couple hours, the Time Optimist in me says…

Hand Embroidered Tree, Blooming, worked with split stitch, seed stitch, and French knots

after all, it’s just a few sketchy little stitches.

And 6.5 hours later, I’m still whipping it up, and not near finished.

It is Ever Thus.

When I posted an update on my Needle ‘n Thread Facebook page this weekend, some folks wanted to know the size of the tree and to see it in context.

Hand Embroidered Tree, Blooming, worked with split stitch, seed stitch, and French knots

I haven’t taken a photo of the whole tree in context with anything else yet, but here’s a photo of the whole tree when I left it last.

If you want to see it in context with a pair of embroidery scissors, you’ll find a photo on this article featuring some tips on sizing French knots.

The tree is just a tad over 3″ high, so it isn’t too big.

This little bit is the only progress I made on any stitching over the weekend. I put in four hours on it, and when I finally looked up at the clock and back down at the tree, I was really surprised that it hadn’t finished blooming yet. Where does the time go? And why does it take me so much longer to do things than I think it should?

I’ll tell you this: I had so much fun in those four hours! It was relaxing, a little methodical and mesmerizing, and it required zero thought. I was listening to an engrossing audio book, and I had no idea that four hours had passed.

That’s what I call a good stitching session!


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(32) Comments

  1. It is coming along beautifully, Mary. I just love listening to audio books and doing embroidery. Now if I could do that while sitting on the porch of a cabin overlooking a quiet mountain lake…. or the beach! Well, THEN!! Yeah, I would have to have a “spotter” so I would stop for eating and bathroom breaks. And sleep.

  2. Like everyone else, I just love this little tree! It’s become one of my favorites of your pieces, right along with the hummingbirds and the table runner.

  3. It looks fantastic. I’m sure there’s no answer for this but as I’m looking at each little knot and leaf, I wonder how you know where to put each blossom, each leaf, which color to use, how large you want the knot to be. Whew. I would make the mistake of lining things up neatly, so many dark pink knots on each branch balanced with a certain amount of light pink knots and green leaves. What a mess that would be. 🙂 Your tree is beautifully random and natural looking. Then again, you know what you’re doing.

  4. Dear Mary

    It looks like a fun project and beautiful design and lovely stitching, I love the different sizes of the french knots and the colours really blend well. French knots always take a long time as I’ve experienced especially if you are stitching both little and big french knots. I like listening to audio books as well when I’m stitching or a good film the time really flies. Thanks for sharing your progress on the tree it’s lovely.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  5. Mary, I do the same thing when I try to judge stitching time. Usually I put on a movie and by then end of it I am no where near as far along in my embroidery as I think I should be after 2 hours of work. Oh well, the journey is just as important as the destination 🙂

  6. Mary the tree is beautiful!!! It was worth all the time you spent on it. Would like to know more about the tree itself. How you did the trunk and the thread you used for it. Beautiful.

  7. I note that you spent four hours on your knots and leafy tree one day…which makes me think to ask what sort of care you take with your hands to prevent repetitive use problems? Knock wood I haven’t had carpel tunnel issues but I do have arthritis in the fingers that hold the needle. I have overused it in trying to finish projects–which results in having to completely stop for weeks or even months while the swelling and pain recede.

    I would be really interested to hear how you and your readers ward off injuries since you are stitching so much–exercises or work/break time or any supports like hand-ease gloves iet or other practices that prevent or minimize injuries.

    Thanks for any thoughts on this.

    1. Hi, Ruth – that’s a good question, and hopefully, some others will chime in with their insights. I normally take breaks when I’m stitching, just because I have to do other things. I rarely sit still for hours at a time. I also sit on a stool that rocks a bit (it’s called a Buoy, by Steelcase – not necessarily the kind of seat for everyone, I admit, but it works well for me, because I do a lot of up and down stuff). The movement of the stool keeps me from sitting in the same position for any stretch of time. As for the hands part, this is where a floor stand or table stand really comes in handy. Since I’m not gripping a hoop or frame, my hands are rarely held tight in one position for any length of time at all. This is very important for anyone who has arthritis or other hand / joint / circulation issues. I’ve not had any issues like that, but I would imagine, if you do, a stand to hold your hoop or frames would pretty much be essential.

    2. I don’t know how much this will help with arthritis, but I sometimes have pain in my hands from long-ago injuries (broken fingers and a scarred tendon from a deep cut), and eucalyptus oil mixed with regular hand cream helps very much. If my hands are being especially uncooperative, I massage the lotion in before bed and wear sleep gloves overnight.

  8. Mary, Your little tree is just fabulous. Like everyone else, I’m in love with it. And like others, I also would like to know more about how you did the stitching on the trunk and decided on placement of the leaves and flowers. I would dearly love to be able to create something so beautiful. Thanks for all of the information and inspiration that you give us.
    Dara Wamsley, WV USA

  9. Dear Mary This is really exquisite. thank you so much for your inspirational beautiful stitching and your wonderful chatty style, I really look forward to it each day.

  10. I found a link for the embroidered tree on the French Knot article, but it sent me to an article about beading. Is the tree available on a different link?

  11. I give up on the time,everytime I start something,it takes way longer then I figure it would,,but that is ok….love your tree,,you can tell a lot of time went into it

  12. LOVE, LOVE this little true!!! Do you have a chart for the tree or did you just free form it for the project?? I’d love to buy a copy of the chart if available!!! Thanks for always keeping us inspired in our stitching, Mary!

  13. Love your knotted tree. It is so simple and yet beautiful. It’s so nice occasionally to do a hands moving- mind free project and have such beauty to look at later. Thanks for making my day! Angela in Lebanon TN

  14. Mary, what a lovely little tree. I haven’t tried anything that tiny, it seems very difficult. May we ask what book you were listening to? I have been listening to Alexander McCall Smith, both the #1 Ladies Detective series and the 44 Scotland Street series. And sometimes M. C. Beaton’s Hamish books. Hamish is a Scottish constable with very funny characters and a good plot. All of these have good readers. Now, What do you like, if you have time to share, best, Charlotte

  15. You were really “in the zone” and that is when any hobby or activity is the most satisfying and, I think, productive! Lucky you!

  16. How gorgeous! I have stitching envy – uh oh! I have a love/hate relationship with french knots and a project to practice them is a good idea for me, perhaps I will tackle a similar tree. Thank you so much for sharing and as ever for your helpful tips.

  17. The tree is wonderful, tho the thought of that many knots makes my eyes cross a bit. Not that I dislike making them, but because it sure doesn’t seem like you get very far for so much work.

    As for time – I think it speeds up & slows down. Why else would things we dislike (waiting in doctor office) seem to take hours, but yet real-world time might be 10 minutes. But enjoyable things like sitting down with needlework for a few minutes is an hour in real-world time. Or as a child, Christmas couldn’t come fast enough, as an adult it’s “What do you mean it’s 2 weeks to Christmas already!!! What happened to November?!?!”

  18. Hi Mary,

    Will you be writing this project up at all? It looks like a fun embroidery that could easily be expanded into a “four seasons” series.


  19. Wow. Both trees are beautiful and I love the manner in which you show how different types of stitching can make the same tree look different. Absolutely gorgeous.

  20. Mary-Your letters make my mornings so bright. Out of curious itch, have you considered doing this lovely little tree in an autumn scheme also? Would make a darling companion piece.

    1. Hi, Debbie – yes, I’m thinking about it! I do have an autumn tree on the site already, made a little differently, mostly with couching techniques. Trees are fun to stitch!

  21. Dearest Mary, I’m good at copying and following directions but I’m not so good at creating my own design, stitches, colors, etc. I really love the little tree! and am thrilled that you may be coming up with one for the other seasons. Would you, could you either do a down load beginning with the drawing and go through the whole process or a kit? I think the four of them would make a great gift.
    Thank you for your time and continual inspration.

  22. i am so glad I found you!!! I am doing a crazy patch something , could be a quilt, could be a wall hanging, and you have given me so many ideas. Thanks so much. Joen

  23. Hi Mary,
    This is an awesome beginner design. Fresh colors and looks beautiful. Am totally going to try this. Can u pls let me know how many strands of each skein u used for this project? I try some French knots/ satin stitch with all 6 strands in a different project and the result is not pretty. Wat do u think is the optimal strand count in general? Thank you

  24. Hi Mary,
    This is just awesome! I am learning lots from your web site, thank you.
    I am a beginner stitcher and wondered the steps it creating this lovely tree. I am working on a crazy quilt, with different things in each block. I think this would be great in my quilt.
    Thanks for reading,

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