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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First Communion Embroidery Design


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Today, I was going to talk to you about linen. Heaps of linen! But I’ll have to put that off until later this week. I have a funny story to tell you about my recent experiences with linen – and a very good lesson to learn – so we’ll be discussing that in depth shortly.

(That is, if the muses of all things electronic cooperate with me!)

But since those particular muses are being downright belligerent at the moment, this morning, I’ll share with you the pattern for my most recent stitching adventure, which has only just begun.

For those of you who’ve been hanging out here a while with me, it won’t surprise you that I’m doing one of those last-minute, I’ve-procrastinated-too-long, what!-it’s-next-week?!? embroidery projects.

First Communion Embroidery Design

This is the time of year when First Communions come up. Normally, I embroider a prayer book cover for my nieces or nephews when they receive their First Communion. You can see previous examples here and here.

A week from Sunday, it’s another niece. I’m not sure how time flies like that, but…here we are, doing a rush job. Thankfully, I’ve had some experience with the book cover and with rush jobs!

So that’s the embroidery design above, which I drummed up using part of this cross, grapes & wheat design, and added the chalice, host, and rays.

Preparation Tips

Previous book covers for children have taught me some good lessons. For one thing, even though white is the “color” of the day, it’s not the best choice for a children’s prayer book cover. Still, I’ll stick with tradition on that one! The white linen cover always looks fresh and beautiful – at least on the first day of use!

But the cover needs to be washable, so two points to consider:

1. the linen should be pre-washed to the point that there’s no shrinkage left. A long time ago, I wrote this article on linen for surface embroidery with tips on preparing it, if you’re interested. I discuss how I pre-shrink my linen in there. It always works!

2. The threads have to be washable and colorfast. No overdyed threads, metal threads, or anything that wouldn’t enjoy a good laundering. DMC cotton floss it is, then!

I’ll show you progress on this project, share tips with you, explore assembling the book cover (I’m going to try a different approach this time), and we’ll see if I get it done by the deadline, which is May 7th, a week from Sunday. Think of it as The Amazing Race, only not really that amazing. And not really that adventurous. But a race, nonetheless!

Free Pattern

For those who’d like to stitch the design as well, here’s a handy dandy PDF printable of the embroidery pattern:

First Communion Embroidery Design (PDF)

I hope you enjoy it!


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(13) Comments

  1. This is a beautiful idea and so perfect in time for me! My son will have his first communion this september (we’re Argentinians) and I’ll give my best to do it! Thank you very much!!!

  2. Dear Mary

    You made me laugh today with your (doing one of those last-minute, I’ve-procrastinated-too-long, what!-it’s-next-week?!? embroidery projects.) I’m sure you will get it done on time as I’ve seen you like this before and you have managed the dead line. I love the pattern and just perfect for a Holy Communion cover she will love it. Whenever I start a project I always look at your post on how to pre-shrink linen it is so helpful in the preparation of a project. I look forward to your progress on the book cover and how you have used a different approach. Thanks for sharing the free patterns with us and for making me laugh.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. My husband has been wanting me to make him a stole for when he preaches. I’ve been having a hard time deciding what I want to do. I really like this one, and I think he will too.

  4. Mary,

    Your book covers are such special gifts for this very special day. I’m planning to make one for my grand niece for her First Communion when the time comes (it’s still a few years from now). I look forward to seeing this latest piece.

    Mary Z in NYC

  5. Gotta echo the sentiment about pre-shrinking the linen. At my church, we have a perfectly gorgeous fair linen (that’s the big one that covers the altar) with wonderful, hand-embroidered ends (butterflies, lilies, etc) on either side above the hem. The embroidery is Madeira-style, all padded satin stitch.

    And whichever professional embroider did all that masterful work didn’t pre-shrink the linen. The first time it was washed after use, the embroidered parts scrunched up into a knotty mess and they have never ironed out flat enough to make the linen a proper rectangle. (I’ve been able to get it nearly straight with a lot of tugging, blocking and patience, but you still get a dent in the hems on either side.) We can use the fair linen, since the iffy part can be hidden in the draping of the big frontal that goes underneath, but it just hurts my heart to see it Not Look Perfect.

    Is there a cure for this, now that the shrinkage is done?

  6. Mary, thank you so much for sharing. My granddaughter will be making her First Holy Communion next year so time is on my side. I hope I can find an appropriate prayer book to cover!

  7. Merci beaucoup pour ce modèle.Je vais tenter de le broder pour mon petit fils qui
    fait sa première communion au mois de mai.

  8. Thank you so much for the pattern. I have embroidered little tabards for christenings and elements of this would also work for that. For one goddaughter I was able to use leftover fabric from her mother’s wedding dress. It was white satin but at least I did not have to worry about it staying white :). As always, thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Thanks Mary, I hope the gremlins in your electronic system are under control soon! I’m also working on a last minute project that must be ready by Mother’s Day. I’m back to quilting, but will have a hand embroidery student this summer. YEAH!

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