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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Crewel Corrections & my Case for Rabbits


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Last week, we looked at progress on the Mellerstain Firescreen kit that I’m working my way through.

This weekend’s stitching bout was a journey of self-discovery when it comes to crewel. I found out I’m too uptight with my stitches. They’re not as long and sketchy as they should be, especially in the large grass shards on top of the hillocks.

In fact, some of the grasses look pretty d-r-e-a-dful.

But…all that being said…the piece is coming along! Today, I’ll show you a correction, and then an interpretation. I’ll also defend my case for rabbits.

Crewel Embroidery - Long & Short Stitch

My first inclination, when I showed you this little hill last week, was just to leave it as it was.

But, since it bothered me every time I picked it up, I knew I had to do something with it.

I didn’t want to pick it out, though. I don’t like picking out crewel wool. I’ll do it if I have to, but I prefer to avoid “frogging” whenever possible.

(“Frogging” is what some stitchers call ripping out previously stitched areas. The term comes from the sound a frog makes: rip-it, rip-it, rip-it…)

Relying on the forgiving nature of long & short stitch, then, I took the easiest route and worked in some long gold-colored stitches into the dark brown, just to break it up a bit.

Is it perfect? Nope. But I think it’s better! I’m happy enough with it now, and so I shall leave it as it is.

Crewel Embroidery - Long & Short Stitch

With the grasses – especially those in the gray at the base of the tree trunk – I made the mistake of reading the color placement chart too literally.

On the color placement chart, there’s one color pointing to the tip and one color pointing to the rest of the shard of grass. And so I worked one color at the tip and the other color down the rest of the grass.

I don’t really think the placement is supposed to be taken that literally. I think the colors should blend all the way down the piece of grass. I may or may not go back in and dress those grassy bits up with longer strokes of both colors in them.

May or may not translates into probably won’t at this point.

Crewel Embroidery - Long & Short Stitch

And that brings me to this fellow. I know it’s kind of weird, but let me explain…

You might remember the twin shards of grass I pointed out last week. You thought they were grass, didn’t you?

Now, the thing is, I love Tree of Life designs. They all have similar elements in them – a tree, abundant foliage and growing things. In crewel pieces, they often have these decorative hummocks at the base. And they always sport some kind of wildlife. In this case, we get two parrots, a squirrel, and a hart.

Rabbits also show up frequently in Tree of Life designs. And I think, of all the animals in the world, they pretty much deserve Top Spot when it comes to the whole “abundance of life” thing.

I’m pretty sure whoever initially designed the firescreen thought the same thing, but just didn’t know where to squeeze in the rabbit. Hence, the bunny ears, which I’m sure were originally stitched as grass accidentally.

Ok, ok. Maybe they were meant to be grass. But dadgummit if the little things didn’t speak to me with every stitch I took around them. At first, it was a little whisper, but eventually it become a full-blown scream.

And so I indulged in a whim. I figured, “Why not?” Chances are, no one will ever notice them but me. Every time I see them, they give me a chuckle. And I had fun stitching them! So I’m not apologizing!

It’s not sacrilege to adapt elements of a design the way you want to adapt them, even if a piece is an historical re-creation. After all, you are the Executor of your Embroidery – the Top Dog of your Tapestry – the Custodian of your Crewel Kit. Once you own the kit, your way wins.

And on that note, this week, I plan to finish everything reachable inside the current ring of the hoop, so I can move on to another section.

Coming Up

Besides a whole slew of marvelous give-aways as part of A Stitcher’s Christmas, I’ll be showing you the set-up on a few new projects that I’ll have going over the next several months or longer.

I’ve also been fiddling around with embroidery designs, and you’ll see the fruits of that, too, when I finally get to setting up projects.

Lately, I’ve had a few questions lately about time management and embroidery, so I’m going to bare all and write about that subject, too. Tricky subject.

So, lots coming up over the next month! Stay tuned!


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(49) Comments

  1. I *love* the bunny ears – I knew just what they were the moment I saw the close-up picture 🙂 I love that sort of whimsicality, and I think the originator of the design would have enjoyed it, too.


  2. Case for rabbits well and truly proved 🙂 A truly inspired personal touch. I really admire your creativity and sense of humour. I suspect I will be looking to add touches like these too. Hope you don’t mind copy cats too much! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for all your posts; I find myself now looking forward to them as they always contain good tips and advice….and make me laugh on occasion too, like the latest post about rabbit ears! Keep up the good work please! Best wishes
    Lynda Harrison, Salisbury, UK

  4. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday Mary and that the coming season sees your blessings multiply tenfold. I am looking very much forward to your time management advice. I can certainly use it!
    Also, does my memory serve me correctly- weren’t we supposed to get a studio update (cleaning, messy, whatever?) I’ve been waiting for that with longing, I love to peek into others studios and see what they are up to!
    Last but not least, I love the bunny ears. 🙂

    1. Hi, Carol! Hahahahahhahahaha! The studio!!! It’s gone from bad to worse. It’ll never re-organize itself before Christmas. And I know I won’t get to it before then. I had SUCH plans! I’ve asked for a team of elves for Christmas, though. Maybe they’ll show in the middle of the night one night and work their magic. :-/ If not, it’ll be well after the holidays before I get stuck into it again. When things start moving in that regard, though, I will definitely keep you abreast of the improvements!

    2. No, no, not elves Mary, get that ol’ Tomte working for you. LOL. I loved the email from Nordic Needle, it brought back fond memories of a dear friend who passed a few years ago. She was a Dane and always sent me a handmade card telling me all about her adventures with her Tomte!

  5. Dear Mary

    I love the Bunny ears they had a bit of humour to the design and as the design is about nature with the ears fit in perfectly, maybe a bird or two would look nice. It’s really coming along nicely and your stitching is beautiful. Looking forward to your new projects and embroidery designs and of course the next Stitchers Christmas give-away’s can’t wait. Thanks for sharing your progress on the firescreen it’s lovely and for sharing with us your thoughts on changing designs.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  6. Hi Mary,

    When I am working a design and get stuck I look at the picture the designer has provided . It usually is large enough I can study their color placement and stitches. Sometimes it gives me a clue of how to proceed.


  7. The bunny ears are adorable. I took a class with Phillipa several years ago. She encouraged us to use our own dog as as the inspiration for a dog in the piece. I hope you share your bunny ears with her. She will get a kick out of them.

  8. I think the hill shading now gives it a dimensional feel to it. I give it a thumbs up. I also like the addition of the bunny.

  9. Thank you for the reminder that one can be very serious about being a stitcher, without having to be entirely serious about what’s being stitched!

  10. Mary
    Thank you for all your amazing information and encouragement. As a returning to stitching after a long lapse subscriber–it is wonderful to read your posts.


  11. Mary, you are much to hard on yourself, as are all stitchers. We stock the Mellerstein Firescreen and you are doing a beautiful job, I have seen it finished by many people. Your edges and curves are very smooth and neat, which is crucial in a long and short satin stitch. I do like your “fix” with the longer stitches, if you feel they are neccessary. It looked fine before too, the “hill” is only small so I always saw it as far away so the grasses have vertical lines but do not appear so big. I guess everything is open to interpretation as a pattern is nothing more than a starting point. Philippa’s kits give you so much more than that with her fabulous diagrams to illustrate each stitch and the markings for laying the stitches on the linen, not make you feel the pressure to get them “just right”. The bunny is a hoot … and I HATE unpicking or frogging too!

  12. Your bunny ears make me happy. I think you should hide something equally adorable in every piece of embroidery you do. I think everyone who frequents your site should do likewise. It’ll be fun!

  13. Yes, clearly those are rabbit ears, and not grass. And I would suggest that the two yellow shapes behind the hill on the left may also be rabbit ears, which would give you a whole romantic leporine hide and seek story. Because there is never just one rabbit!

    1. My friend Anne and I looked at this last evening, We agree with Monica.. There is no doubt those are bunny ears!

      Terri P, Albany NY

  14. Of course those are Rabbit ears! He is just about to come up the back of that hillock. I too, am all for rabbits and frequently stick one into crewel pieces. And they always have a fluffy tail.

  15. Love your rabbit! It adds a smile. I haven’t done any crewl embroidery with wool. Your screen project has inspired me.

  16. Thanks, Mary, for a little laugh. Sometimes I wonder if your overseas readers will have difficulty with your down home expressions. I googled dadgummit and got a great list of explanations. I spend time on another fiber-related website where a French woman exclaimed that “Yapluka continues!” It’s a boat, but to me it means hoo-rah and nonsense, and now I’m muttering about Yapluka. Fun.

  17. I love the bunny ears. I am enjoying watching this project unfold so very much. I am indulging in a little living vicariously through your projects until our new kitten learns her manners and gets out of her “the world is my playground” phase.

  18. Good morning Mary, I am loving stitching along with you on the Mellerstain. My piece is started from top down so I am cataloging your ideas for the grass rabbit. When I first saw your beginning of Mellerstain and your beautiful stitches then looked at what I had, wasn’t sure I needed to continue. Your work is soooo gorgeous. So for now practice makes perfect and I soldier on. Phillipa’s kits are the best by far. Enjoying the stitching and look forward to your daily posts. You are a treasure.

  19. When I drive too long in the dark, especially in the snow or rain, I start seeing rabbits on the side of the road. I showed this post to my spouse, who laughed like crazy. It’s rabbititis! Oh Mary, you are a hoot.

  20. I love those bunny ears, Mary! You did a great job making them look like bunny ears, too… there is no doubt about who is hiding behind the hillock.

  21. Thought your readers might be interested, The Mellerstain Fire Screen Kit is out of stock, but an email just now from Kate at Crewel Works tells me that they hope to have them back in stock before Christmas for anyone wanting to get one.

    Happy Stitching all!

  22. One need never apologize for the Bun. They are the elite of the animal kingdom. I love how you incorporated one into your work.

    The bunny lover

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    Thank you.

  24. I rarely follow a recipe or pattern exactly as written… I’d be tempted to put some orange in that grassy hill in front of the bunny ears, tip the ‘tail’ with white and turn it into a fox.
    Love your stitches!

  25. Loved your article today! I still haven’t started anything, but I did get a starter series to get me going!
    I wondered about ” A Stitchers Christmas”, that you mentioned in the article. Is this something you are doing or an event that comes around each year? Where might I find information on it?
    Thank you for your time and your insperation,

    Robin Farley

    1. Hi, Robin – if you use the search feature at the top of the page, you’ll come up with the posts on that. It is a series of Christmas give-aways. I would like to do it every year, but it doesn’t always happen! It really depends on time, participants, etc.

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