Mary Corbet

writer and founder


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

Contact Mary

Connect with Mary



2024 (72) 2023 (125) 2022 (136) 2021 (130) 2020 (132) 2019 (147) 2018 (146) 2017 (169) 2016 (147) 2015 (246) 2014 (294) 2013 (294) 2012 (305) 2011 (306) 2010 (316) 2009 (367) 2008 (352) 2007 (225) 2006 (139)

Embroidery Project Progress: That Paisley Thing


Amazon Books

Good morning and a happy Monday all around!

Time to look at some embroidery project progress! Thanks heaps for all the input on color selections the last time we discussed this particular embroidered kaleidoscope, which I am officially naming today.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a problem coming up with names for my embroidery projects. But this one fell in my lap. I’ll tell you all about it.

We’ll also discuss color vs stitches. Not that the two things are diametrically opposed when working an embroidery project, but in this case, in my mind, they’ve separated from each other.

embroidered kaleidoscope paisley design

When working my way through an embroidery project like this – one that is open to a million interpretations and that I don’t have a solid plan for – I start by just stitching different elements, to see how I want to interpret them.

If it becomes glaringly evident that something I’ve stitched isn’t going to work, I’ll pick it out and approach that element again. And if I try another approach, and it isn’t going to work either, I’ll pick it out and approach it yet again. It’s all a matter of playing around with ideas.

This is one of the reasons I love good embroidery linen – it takes a picking and keeps on stitching! That is, if you’re using good linen, you can pick out stitches, leaving nary a blemish on the fabric, restitch, and, if you have to, pick it out again. The fabric holds up. The same can’t be said for most other fabrics, but linen is a superstar in this regard!

Once I’ve tried all the different elements with stitches that I think will work and I’m mildly satisfied with them, it’s just a matter of filling out the whole design from there.

On these kaleidoscope designs, this may seem like a lot of repetition, but in fact, with the number of design elements in them and the variety of stitches used, it’s never boring! You can always move on to another element and another stitch, and then come back to previous areas.

embroidered kaleidoscope paisley design

This weekend, I stitched in a lot of scallop fillings, using the “cheater” scallop approach that I talked about in this article on buttonhole scallops, only without the picots.

The scallops on this particular project will be outlined with a different color.

The majority of this design is worked with two strands of DMC floss, but there are a few details that require just one strand. I’ll list the colors I’ve used as soon as I get to the point of certainty in a couple areas that I’m still mulling over.

embroidered kaleidoscope paisley design

I also added some of the leaves, in green, to pull some of the green accents from the middle out to the edge. Besides, it’s a leaf. My paltry imagination couldn’t go beyond leaf = green.

I also wanted to echo the seed stitching again.

The jury’s still out on the leaf.

embroidered kaleidoscope paisley design

We’ve already talked about the color scheme on this wild thing. It’s a bit all over the place.

But I’m sticking with it. I’m actually having fun with it. Sure, it might be a bit garish, but it’s fun, and I’m just testing stitches, so I’ve somehow separated the whole color question from the stitch question in my mind. It seems to have worked!

And that brings me to the name of this one. I’ve officially named it Birthday Bash. My six-year-old niece took one look at it and said, “It’s like the sprinkles on my birthday cake.”

I probably shouldn’t mention that she made the remark with zero enthusiasm. Her birthday cake didn’t settle well, so she saw those sprinkles twice, poor kid.

In any case! Birthday Bash it is!

It fits with my Celebration themed kaleidoscopes. So far, we have Tulip Festival (that’s a shout-out to a local festival we like to go to every spring), Party in Provence (which I finished earlier this year), Octoberfest! (which is available as a pattern and stitch guide), and this one, Birthday Bash.

This week, I have to tackle some other projects, so I’ve packed Birthday Bash into its pillow case and zipped away all the threads into a pouch, to languish until I can revisit the project at the end of the week.

For now, other big stuff to tackle, including…some stitch tutorials, preparations for a massive video session at the end of the month (more on that later), setting up a small project to demo the notion of “what stitch where and why,” some embroidery archeology, and other delectable pursuits.

You know how it is – if you have a needle and some thread, the fun never ends!

Hope your week’s off to a great start!

Favorite Kaleidoscopes Pattern Collection

If you’d like to stitch up your own version of Birthday Bash, you’ll find the pattern available in my Favorite Kaleidoscopes collection – over 30 kaleidoscope designs for hand embroidery and other crafts.

Favorite Kaleidoscopes Collection of Hand Embroidery Patterns

You’ll also find the patterns for Party in Provence and Tulip Festival) in the same collection!

The kaleidoscope designs range from small 4″ designs to large 8″ designs, from simple to complex. You can read about the collection in detail here, or jump straight over to my shop to grab your own copy!


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(30) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    I like garish all the colours are great and I like the name and your stitching is lovely. I agree that good quality linen is great for picking out and stitches, I’ve done that on many occasions. its looking lovely. I can’t wait for the video session and stitch tutorials that sounds exciting. Thanks for sharing your progress on the Birthday Bash project with us and for your future posts. Happy stitching.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. Mary — I have one of weird questions… What are the stitches you used to make that beautiful circle or arc? (With an implicit How do you stitch it?) It looks like an electric blue French knot alternating with a yellow dot. It encircles the purple flowers. It is so pretty and I love the texture of it! Thanks!

  3. As always I love when I get notification of a new blog post – especially regarding these kaleidoscopes! Your work is so fantastic (and your writing as well).

    Quick question – for the kaleidoscopes – do you back your ground fabric???

    Thanks for being such an inspiration.

    1. Hi, Tess – it really depends on the fabric. I did on this one. It doesnโ€™t actually need it, though, because itโ€™s a medium weight linen. Anything lighter and it would be necessary, but for some reason, I did, anyway! ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Thank you for the quick feedback! Southern Belle Muslin is it? I am having trouble finding a good quality backing fabric… where might I find some .. online?

    3. I like Southern Belle muslin, too, and normally, I find it online. Lately, I’ve been getting it here through Amazon, because the shop I used to order it from doesn’t carry it anymore. Really, though, any muslin from a fabric or quilting shop would do the trick! Another option is cotton batiste. It’s much lighter than muslin. You can find it at most fabric shops, either locally or online.

  4. I think it’s happy looking. Maybe I just don’t know any better . I just signed up for your blog (found you thru Pinterest) because I want to learn how to hand embroider.

    1. Hi, Barbara! Thanks – I think it’s happy looking, too! It puts me in a good mood, every time I have a chance to stitch on it, and I think that has a lot to do with the colors!

  5. I like the colors and the stitches. It might not be considered “artsy” embroidery by some, but I think it’s lively and happy. And I like all the texture in the different stitches. I really like the wrapped outlines. I’m going to try that on something. Is that backstitch that’s wrapped with another color?

    1. Hi, Teresa! Thanks! I’m glad you like it! That wrapped stitch is actually whipped chain stitch. The chain stitch is worked with two strands of floss, and then I whipped it with one strand. Hope that helps!

  6. Mary the project is really progressing beautifully. It’s kind of like a burst of spring. If I may ask where did the pattern come from?

  7. Hi Mary. One polite inquiry, any chance of making an e-book for tulip festival and birthday bash. I think they go well together in terms of colors. They are both very colorful!

    1. Hi, Cie – there are many brands of linen that are made specifically for needlework. These are normally available through locally owned, small needlework shops – many of which can be found online. My favorite brand is Legacy Linen, from Access Commodities. It’s available online through Needle in a Haystack and other online small needlework shops.

  8. I am enjoying the progress of this design, Mary. Which stitch did you use for the yellow and coral fill? Your stitching is inspiring!

    1. Sorry! I didn’t mean to imply it was one fill. Wow the yellow is chainstitch – is it compacted together? You were right to guess I was talking about the pink fill.
      I will have to try that stitch! Thanks, that was very helpful.

  9. Dear Mary
    I am teaching Ethnick Embroidery in Israel
    Where are you teaching?
    I will be happy to hear from you

    Aviva yasour

  10. Just a quick note to say I love your emails and your website. Thank you for being our stitch guardian – keeping hand embroidery alive.

  11. Dear Mary, just to let you know how much I enjoy receiving your emails and the wonderful, colorful projects. Thank you for sharing them…

    1. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hi, Page – well, that is a very nice compliment! Thank you! I don’t normally sell my project prototypes, but if I ever change my mind on that, I will let you know!

More Comments