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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Opposite Faces: A Few Good Laughs in Embroidery


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Did you know my embroidery workroom / needlework library / household storage room enjoyed a Complete Overhaul earlier this summer? Well, it did!!

In June, with the help of my dear darling niece Anna – who is a doggedly determined little gal, with an amazing amount of sticktoitiveness – things got re-organized out there. I’ll show you the results later on (please don’t expect some kind of Pinterest-perfect crafting space, as it isn’t that at all!), with some nitty-gritty tips on organizing and ideal storage vs. making do with what you have and what you can afford.

In the meantime, though, while we were ferreting through some of the older Stuff in the place, we came across a pair of pillow cases that I embroidered a long, long time ago, when Needle ‘n Thread was pretty young…and when my “fancy” camera was a 2 megapixel point and shoot!

Amazingly, the pillowcases are still in fairly good shape, though they have gone through the laundry at least once. For those who haven’t seen them, or who want to see them in more detail, here are my Opposite Faces Pillow Cases, along with some information about them, how they were stitched, and why you’d want to stitch something like these, anyway!

Opposite Faces Pillow Cases - a few good laughs with your embroidery

Most of my stitching life, I’ve been pretty isolated. Until the internet, if you were an avid embroiderer and you lived in the boonies, you were pretty much an avid embroiderer, all alone.

And even when the internet got underway, it was a while before stitching blogs and stitching forums and similar online gathering places really took off.

When I first started Needle ‘n Thread back in 2006, I was hanging around a bit on a crafting forum called Craftster (a take-off on “Napster” maybe? Talk about early internet!), which, incidentally, still exists.

They ran a contest (the prize, I think, was a selection of DMC floss and doo-dads), and the entries had to feature opposites in some way or another.

And so my Opposite Faces Pillow Cases were born…though it’s not really where they were conceived.

Opposite Faces Pillow Cases - a few good laughs with your embroidery

I took two pillowcases, a white one representing daytime and waking up, and a black one, representing, well…night time and slumber.

Then, with pencil in hand and a 1.5″ circular template, I drew a strip of overlapping circles along the cuffs of both pillowcases. I used a white pencil on the black pillowcase and a regular #2 pencil on the white pillowcase.

From there, I doodled in faces – laughing, awake faces on the white pillowcase, and sleepy, snoozing faces on the black pillowcase.

At the time, I also planned on stitching some text on them, from a poem by Thomas Dekker. On the nighttime pillowcase, it would read “Golden slumbers kiss your eyes…” and on the daytime pillowcase: “…smiles awake you when you rise.”

Well. It might have been an ok idea, but I never got around to adding the text!

Opposite Faces Pillow Cases - a few good laughs with your embroidery

Incidentally, I didn’t win the contest, either!

When I was in college, one summer I enjoyed the Ideal Summer Job. I call it ideal, because I’ve always been an voracious reader, but while classes were in session, I never had time to read beyond school-related material.

So this job was perfect. I worked as a phone receptionist at a big credit union in Florida, and the one requirement (oh darn!) was to stay next to my phone at my (very nice) desk in my (very nice) little office area, and direct calls to different representatives in the loan department.

The lady who trained me, God bless ‘er, told me, “Do what you want – read, study, play games (as in, games on paper, because cell phones as we know them now didn’t exist)… just stay next to the phone.”

So I spent a lot of time reading, and I spent a lot of time doodling and drawing. And I answered the occasional phone calls. It was tough!

And I’d like to say that’s when these faces were conceived. That summer, I made a whole line of notecards, writing paper, postcards and the like, had them printed on decent paper, and ended up selling quite a bit of them. You know, anything to pay college tuition!

I called the line A Few Good Laughs, (because, after all, everyone needs a few good laughs), copyrighted the designs on the advice of a friend, and made a bit of cash with them.

In fact, if I recall correctly, the idea was conceived on a whiteboard at my sister’s house. I walked in one day to find her doodling funny faces on the whiteboard in her kitchen. The next day at my cushy job, I found myself doodling tiny laughing faces (about 3/8″ round), filling up a large sketchbook page with them. And then came the stationery line.

Opposite Faces Pillow Cases - a few good laughs with your embroidery

I made a Christmas card version. A Halloween version. A Birthday card version. And everyday versions.

And years later, I made a pillowcase version.

I’ve often thought of turning these into embroidery patterns. They’re just fun! Every little face I doodled made me smile. And when I embroidered the pillowcases, the same thing happened – only the smile lasted longer, because it takes a lot longer to doodle with a needle and thread!

Opposite Faces Pillow Cases - a few good laughs with your embroidery

As far as the embroidery on these goes, it’s all pretty simple. The designs are worked in one strand of DMC floss. I used split stitch, stem stitch, backstitch, chain stitch, daisy stitch, drizzle stitch, French knots, satin stitch, open chain stitch, herringbone stitch, long and short stitch – any stitch that occurred to me, to get the results I wanted.

If I were to do these again, in any form, I’d probably work even more stitches into the mix. The more, the merrier!

Heck, I could see a whole line of these! Kitchen towels for the whimsical kitchen (for the friend who needs a pick-me-up, for a fun housewarming gift), a neck tie (oh yeah! I must!), sheets and pillowcases for a kid’s room. Or just chortling hoop art.

Anything, really, to remind the world that we all need a few good laughs!

After all, there’s not much in this life more enjoyable than a good laugh and a smiling face, is there?

I won’t be able to access the internet from July 10 – 17th. If you email during that time, you’ll get an auto-responder. Comments left on the website will be queued until I return. Thanks for understanding!


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(18) Comments

  1. you definitely need to do a pattern (or 2 or more!) – these are wonderful! They would be so much fun for kid (or an adult – I’d love a couple of pillow cases with these faces!)

  2. Your right the faces make a person smile. Yes you should put them down on paper for embroidery. I love them. How fun to stitch on a card as a little “pick me up” or “the many faces of your birthday wishes”. Can’t wait till their ready for ordering.

  3. I just have to say I have been reading your “blog” a long time…I remember when you did these! They are cute….

  4. It never occurred to me until I read your post, that the Beatles may not have been the original authors of all of the lines in “Golden Slumbers.” Of course they altered the lyrics and interspersed them with some of their own, but gosh, I never read the original poem before today! Thank you.

  5. These are adorable! I for one would LOVE it if you did a template for us! Pretty please Mary??

    Thank you for all that you do!

    Cindi, Las Vegas

  6. Now those are designs I would love you to share! I love embroidered pillow cases. I have no imagination myself and finding the old fashioned preprinted ones is rare. Thank you for showing these.

  7. Dear Mary, I just popped in to look up a stitching method and found this post. My 2 1/2 year old grandson is into opposite faces and you gave me a wonderful ideas. I’m the grandmother (aka Mia) who makes stuff – too poor to buy stuff. You were listing ideas and I though I could do some doodles of my own and make a ‘Concentration’ type of game where he has to find a pair of smiling/sad faces. Is it okay to borrow your idea? My faces won’t look as good or like yours (not an artist) but as you said a smiley face makes you happy.

  8. I just love your opposite faces pillowcases. Thank you so much for all of the valuable info you share. What an inspiration you are to all of us.

  9. I found your website today, and I feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole! Everything is beautiful, and you’re amazing. I want to embroider myself some monogrammed pillowcases (I’m purchasing your Favorite Monograms ebook), but I’m not sure what pillowcases to purchase. What do you recommend? Thanks for your help and your amazing work!

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