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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Coloring Book Embroidery – A Glorious Peacock!


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As I contemplated writing today’s article, the whole notion of “April Fool’s Day” rattled around in my head.

I racked my brain for days, hoping to concoct an appropriate needlework-related prank to pull off on you.

But you know what I realized?

Any embroidery-related joke that I could come up with for Needle ‘n Thread was just… too… crewel.

So I decided to skip it!

Instead, I’m going to share with you Karen’s absolutely gorgeous embroidered peacock, taken from Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden coloring book.

Remember my embroidered Secret Garden Hummingbirds from the same book? Well, Karen followed along with that project, working her own version of the peacock page. She kindly sent photos and all the details of her stitching adventure.

So, let’s end the week with some inspirational embroidery and forget the whole April Fool’s thing! Besides reveling in the colors and stitching, you’ll find plenty of ideas to glean for your own embroidery projects.

Embroidered Peacock Coloring Book Page

If you want to view the photos larger, you can click on them – definitely worth it!

I’ll let Karen take us through the details on her project. All the techniques she used for her project can be found in tutorial form here on Needle ‘n Thread, so I’ve linked to all of them throughout her description.

Over to Karen:

Because the design was so busy, I restricted the color palette and used shades within the same families. I also repeated the colors in different elements of the design. I chose the blues and greens based on the colors in the Sulky thread. The colors in the peacock itself are darker shades than those in the background. Also, because of the different filling stitches I used, the peacock itself became a mini-sampler. Here are the details, from the back to the front:

Embroidered Peacock Coloring Book Page

Background leaves:

Sulky petite 12 wt thread in Peacock (color # 4016)

The largest leaves and stems are in Hungarian braided chain stitch. The medium leaves are in whipped stem stitch (using the Sulky thread to do the whipping). The blue-green flower petals are detached lazy daisies. Their centers are French knots in Soie d’Alger 621 (light yellow) or 2622 (light orange).

Embroidered Peacock Coloring Book Page

Background tree branch:

I used Trish Burr’s long-and-short shading techniques to do the branch in Soie d’Alger 3342, 3345, 3436. The little leaves are small straight stitches in different combinations of 2 strands of Soie d’Alger 212 and 1824. The flowers in the tree are 2-stranded lazy daisies in different combinations of Soie d’Alger 621 and 2622 (sometimes all yellow, sometimes all orange, sometimes mixed). Their centers are open.

Embroidered Peacock Coloring Book Page


The branches of the vine are rope stitch in Soie d’Alger 3342. The small leaves are fly stiches in two shades of a flat green silk (as in the upper tail of the peacock); the silks were a gift, so I do not have a brand. The fan-like flowers are buttonhole wheels in Soie d’Alger 622 (a somewhat darker shade of yellow); the buds are also 622.

Embroidered Peacock Coloring Book Page


Head & neck — Silk shading in Soie d’Alger 114, 115, 116, 1445, 4915, 4916. At the base of the head (to separate it from the neck) is Soie d’Alger 202. The beak uses 2622 near the base, then 621. The peacock’s topknot uses pistil stitch in 4916. The eye is padded satin stitch in the grey from the branch, 3342.

Wing & back & upper tail — Upper wing uses fishbone stitch, alternating columns between Soie d’Alger 114 and 1445. The lower wing uses stem stitch as a filling stitch, using the same colors as in the neck. The back uses very tiny lazy daisies as a filling stitch, using 202 (teal). The upper tail uses satin stitch in a flat green silk, with 114 and 116 as the eyes, and 202 as the backstitch outline. The fanciful ribbon-like part uses outline stitch and seed stitches in 4915.

Embroidered Peacock Coloring Book Page

Lower tail:

The shafts are backstitches in Soie d’Alger 1825 whipped with Accentuate metallic thread 360. (You can’t really tell from the photos, but they are sparkly.) The eyes are satin stitch in Soie d’Alger 115, 4915, 2623, with stem stitch in 1825 around them. (The satin stitching is smoother in person than it appears in the photos — the lighting is sunlight from the side, and it is a little harsh.)

I tried four or five different ways of putting in the barbs of the feathers, including using Gutterman’s sewing thread in different blues as a very fine thread. But they all detracted rather than added to the piece, so I decided I was better off with a more stylized design.

Embroidered Peacock Coloring Book Page

Tell me, is that not just a gorgeous piece of embroidery?! Exuberant! Gloriously textured, beautifully colored, and perfectly stitched!

Thank you so much for sharing the photos and details with us, Karen! Congratulations on finishing the peacock – it’s a lovely piece!

What about YOU?

What are you stitching these days? Would you like to share a project with Needle ‘n Thread readers? Did you learn any tips or techniques along the way that you’d like to share with the rest of the wide world of embroidery? Or do you have a particular story about a piece that you’d like to share?

I love including reader contributions on Needle ‘n Thread! It’s a great way to showcase what’s going on in the world of embroidery, to share your interests and accomplishments, and to inspire fellow readers in our online community.

If you’d like to join in with a contribution, I’d love to hear from you! Just drop me a line and let me know what you’ve been up to with your needle and thread!


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(36) Comments

  1. That is absolutely stunning. It is funny, I bought that book when you were doing the hummingbirds too. I thought it was a great source for patterns. Then I started buying more books and then markers and then colored pencils!!! So now I have another hobby. . I have joined the adult coloring craze, although as a retired teacher I have enjoyed coloring for many years. I still plan to use some for embroidery patterns, but I am enjoying the coloring too.

  2. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have the creator of this beautiful piece list all the types of stitches, threads and colors.
    I’m a quilter and just beginning to pick up embroidery again (from childhood) and while I can pull colors from fabric stashes and cut out and rejoin complex patterns, I look at a beautiful piece of needlework and just go blank…so this is enormously helpful!!
    I’m appreciating this from so many levels. Thank you!

  3. “Any embroidery-related joke that I could come up with for Needle ‘n Thread was just… too… crewel.”

    Oh, Mary. Thank you for sparing us! I’ve already been taken in twice this morning.

    Having only recently gravitated toward needlework, I missed your hummingbird post the first time around. Inspired by the peacock and your earlier project, I am now going to binge-read all your earlier posts on the Secret Garden project!

  4. Mary,
    Thank you Karen for sending the stitch and thread instructions! Beautiful piece.
    I am not familiar with the Sulky thread–did not find a review on needlenthread. it looks like it is overdyed/variegated in blue and green. Yes? Is it strandable? how many strands did you use? What were your reasons for usubg this particular thread?–the rest of the piece is in silk.
    Thank you for answering my questions.

    1. Dear Lois, Thanks for the kind words! To answer your questions — I was using the peacock as a sampler for threads, stitches, and techniques. I had seen the Sulky thread advertised on Nordic Needle as a new type of thread, and my inner needlework-supply-stashing magpie kicked in. I ordered some to try out. It comes in many solid and variegated colors, and this one happened to be “peacock,” which was too perfect to pass up.

      The thread is not divisible; this is a single strand. Hungarian braided chain stitch works up beautifully with it. I chose the stitch because I had been following Mary’s red runner and decided to try it. The Sulky thread also cut down on costs, as it covers half of a fairly large piece. I bought the silks when they were on sale at Hedgehog. Thanks again for your interest! Karen

  5. Dear Mary

    I love the pun Mary too Crewel.
    Karen this is a stunning piece of embroidery I love it. It must have taken a long time to complete you should be proud of yourself. I love the mixtures of the greens and blue colours mixed in with the reds and yellows and I really like the green breast on the peacock beautiful. Thanks Mary for sharing Karen’s beautiful work with us it’s so nice to see other peoples projects really inspiring. I hope you both have a great weekend. Happy Spring stitching to you both.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  6. Karen, I love your peacock!

    I too look at (and on occasion buy) coloring books, but the last thing on my mind is coloring. At least with pencils or crayons.

  7. Beautiful! I followed the Hummingbird project with enthusiasm, and this is wonderful too! One day, maybe I’ll be brave enough to try something similar. I have a few “colouring” books now, and have used a design in one of them as the basis for a quilt block. They’re great sources of inspiration. 🙂

  8. Thank you for sharing – it’s a beautiful piece. You mention deciding to leave off the barbs for the tail feathers. Without seeing the original drawing, I would imagine that these would have added considerably to the cover in the lower part of the design? If so, I think your decision was the right one, given you have not filled the blue-green leaves at the top. You could, of course, have filled the leaves in various ways and included the barbs, thereby creating a completely different (and lovely) piece of embroidery, but I really like the delicacy of the way you have worked this design.

    1. Hi Elaine, Yes, that was the issue. I had also originally considered working the entire background in blacks & greys, so that the blue peacock would pop in the foreground. I might have added the barbs then. Thanks! Karen

  9. Thank you, everyone! I enjoyed working on this piece, and I’m very grateful to Mary for providing the inspiration for it. And for providing the instruction for it! I really did use all of the tutorials she linked to above, both to brush up on stitches I thought I knew and to learn many new ones.

    Happy stitching, all!

  10. What a great idea. I am a teacher’s aid at the local school and I’ve seen some pretty cute things go around and thought about making a pattern of some kind out of it. This is brilliant. Yes. Very inspiring!

  11. That’s a beautiful piece of work. Thanks to Karen for sharing it and for talking us through the stitches and threads.
    Regarding Sulky thread for UK readers: Gütermann supplies Sulky over here, so look for it on their stands. The bigger quilting/patchwork stores usually have it, and there are some online suppliers, such as Barnyarns. There are two weights, Cotton 30 and Cotton 12. They are essentially a very smooth pearl cotton with a Z twist. We don’t seem to have the small reels – ‘petites’ – over here (yet), and there are less colours available in the Cotton 12 range than the Cotton 30. I really love the Cotton 12 for pulled thread and counted cutwork embroidery.

  12. Love the cruel/crewel pun.

    Karen’s peacock is gorgeous. My mom was good at embroidery and so was my paternal grandmother. My goal is to one day be as good as they were. Right now I am happy when I can get a cross-stitch pattern to look half-way good.

    1. Thank you, Pat. The fabric is 36-count linen (a light cream), backed with cream-colored muslin. I knew that I was going to be undoing some stitches, because I was learning how to do them. So, I went with a linen that would stand up to the do-overs. Thanks again! Karen

  13. Beautiful work of art! The peacock sampler is gorgeous. Threads are outstanding and the stitching is awesome. That is a labor of Needle and Thread. Well done. I enjoy the post with stitching details and links. Thank you for sharing with us.

  14. Beautiful project, Miss Karen. Such neat stitching and perfect thread color choices! And I love the texture on the peacock… it adds a nice depth. Thanks for sharing pictures with us!

    I love how well Johanna Basford’s artwork translates into embroidery, creating wonderfully detailed projects. I’m embroidering one of her designs from “Enchanted Forest” right now (and I’m not making any fast progress… :D).

  15. Thanks Karen. I have a lot of 36-count linen and wondered if I could use it with a backing and do this kind of crewel work. Your work is really beautiful, all of it — colors, choice in stitches, everything.

  16. Lovely peacock! The embroidery is perfect! Thank you for documenting all the threads and stitches!


  17. I know it has been awhile since you wrote about the peacock above. When trying a new stitch, I refer to your video tutorials frequently. My current project is embroidering a vintage peacock design on a jean jacket. I love how the lazy daisy stitch mimics feathers. Unfortunately, I am unable to achieve a similar look. Can you please do a tutorial on creating a feather look with lazy daisy?

  18. I’ve been using coloring book designs for some time now. So much fun! I’ll have to send a photo of my Egyptian Cat Goddess bag to you sometime. Your website has been VERY useful on many occasions!
    Thank you!
    Jeanna Driver – Houston, TX

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