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 (73) 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)

Weekend Stitching: My Leafy Tree Sampler of Sorts


Amazon Books

Good morning, and a happy Monday all around! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and were able to spend some quality time with your needle and thread!

I got in quite a few hours of stitching this weekend, as I made haste to finish my Leafy Tree, which is a sampler of sorts, though not in the traditional sense. It involves many different stitches that I’m using to fill in a lot of leaves, using a lot of greens and yellow-greens.

It’s fun!

When I talked about this project a couple weeks ago, I was getting ready to re-start it. The first attempt was on an oatmeal / natural linen, and I regretted that initial choice. I switched to a white background for a couple reasons. I think it was a good decision, under the circumstances.

So far, there are a couple things that surprise me about this project, and a couple things that still need tweaking before I can make it ready for others to stitch, too!

Leafy Tree Embroidery Sampler - stitches and leaves

One big surprise was that there are more leaves on it than I realized!

Variety & Quantity – They Don’t Always Agree

Despite this list of sixteen different ways to embroidery leaves and leaf-like elements that I put together for you a while ago, not all of those approaches (and the others I had in mind originally) work on this particular tree.

Although the quantity of leaves seems to beg for a similar quantity of interpretations in stitches, I found that, when I strayed into anything particularly textured or particularly unusual as a stitch for a leaf, I didn’t like the results. It was too much.

So, while my original intention was to go hog-wild on stitches, in fact, as I work through it, I find that the result is more pleasing and more unified without too wide of a variety.

And that’s ok! There’s no real room to get bored with repetitive fillings for the leaves, because there’s still plenty of variety.

Leafy Tree Embroidery Sampler - stitches and leaves

I’m also surprised at the sheer quantity of greens available in DMC threads. This shouldn’t be surprising – natural elements are so frequently embroidered, and green is one of the most dominant colors in nature.

The Limitations of Limiting the Number of Shades

But when you try to manipulate greens and yellow-greens into a varied but somewhat limited palette (not too many people want to stitch a project that calls for 75 shades of green…), it’s challenging! Fun, but challenging!

I tried to combine both cool and warm values in the piece, too, and for the most part, I think it’s working. There are some leaves I plan to pick out and re-stitch, though, due to color placement or just all around bad stitching.

One limitation I’m running into is blending shade values upwards on the tree, to make it progress from dark to light in a coherent way. Perhaps this could be done more easily if I weren’t trying to limit the number of shades I’m using to something a little more reasonable. Again, who wants to invest in 75 shades of green for one little project?

On a fun note, I’m using several of the new shades of DMC yellow-greens, and they’re working out splendidly. I like them!

As I work along in the project, I also forgot one of my original approaches, which was to use a single strand of floss on the tiniest leaves, so in some groupings, the tiny leaves are quite fine and light; in other groupings, they’re heavy and chunky, because I used two strands of floss.

I’m not sure if that warrants tweaking yet – there are still plenty of tiny fill in leaves that I can scatter about with a single strand of floss, to balance things.

The Deadline, What’s Next, and What About You?

I plan to have this tree finished in the next few days, and then I’m moving on to another project that I just finished re-designing this weekend. It’s a resurrection of an old instructional project from the early days of Needle ‘n Thread, re-imagined, and I can’t wait to get on to that!

So, that was my weekend stitching! Altogether, I devoted about 8 hours to plying my needle over the past couple days.

And that reminds me, I’m plying a new brand of needle right now, and it’s been a revelation. I’ll tell you about that in the days to come!

What are you working on? Did you manage to get in any weekend stitching? Did you run into any snags? Did you start something new? Finish something old? Run into any exciting discoveries along the way? Feel free to tell us about your recent stitching adventures! We’d love to hear them – chime in the conversation below!


Leave A Comment

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


(71) Comments

  1. Morning Mary ~ what a lovely post to wake up to this morning. And yes, I did get to ply my needle this weekend. I’ve found a pattern to make a pillow top for TAST. However, the first element is tiny, worked in one or two threads (DMC) and all my efforts so far with the camera on small stitching have not worked so well.
    How do you get such wonderful pictures, up close, great detail, wonderful light. I’d really like to know.
    Looking forward to seeing the rest of the tree and your new and updated rendition of an older project. Also your article about the new needle. I was going to go to my local embroidery dedicated shop (Threadneedle Street) this week for some brand new needles but I thinks I’ll delay that until I’ve read what you have to say. Your advice is always so very good and it seems you use the best products.
    Happy stitching til next time,

  2. Good morning Mary
    Yes, I was lucky to get in a vast amount of stitching this weekend. Just finishing a Double Running Stitch Sampler – a challenge for me. Hem Stitching it next – another challenge for me.
    I am very interested in your leaves. Please keep us informed and will it be in kit form?

  3. Love it, really wondrous choice of colour, stitches and design. Your photos have given me loads of ideas too, thank you.

  4. I started a new heart picture and am using “The Left-handed Embroiderer’s Companion” book and learning how to do some of my old stitches the “right” way! Love it!

    1. I love that book! It has opened a whole world of stitches for me. It is so nice not to have to translate directions.

  5. Hi Mary, I suspect this tree to be a Wish Tree! Every leaf is surely enough a good wish you’ve stitched in. 🙂

    As for my part, besides finishing the kaleidoscope, I’ve spent hours in the internet in search for a free cross stitch sampler containing all types of cross stitch, but couldn’t really make a find. DMC has a whole variety of free patterns, including a number of Thérèse de Dillmont samplers, but any one that would contain all the stitch types. Especially the long-armed cross stitch seems to play hard to get. Perhaps I should try and design one myself?

  6. I am enjoying doing your alphabet project using the sticky water soluble paper. I’m afraid that I am a bit slow, being a novice! I love your tutorials, you explain everything so clearly, including videos! Thank you for your help. Michele.

  7. I am moving on from the Charles Lenox book 4 into book 5 with book 6 waiting in the Kindle. I’ve not moved on to audio yet, so it is cutting into my stitching time considerably. We have snow coming again tomorrow which will put me in the comfy couch in the bay window reading Lenox again. It is such a wonderful book series to read during gray, snowy weather.

  8. Mary,
    I just have a question re DMCs Floche thread. When using this thread do you consider it to be equal to 1 or 2 strands of DMC floss?


  9. Dear Mary

    Your leaf delight is wonderful all those different leaves and shades of green thread I didn’t know there were so many shades of green available it looks so interesting and beautifully stitched. I’m still working on the quiet book for my niece which is such a challenging project but I’m learning a lot while I am creating it, I can’t believe how long it is taking but what with all the different felt activities and making the fabric book and having to pause and think about how to stitch it together as opposed to using glue has taken x amount of hours, but getting there. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos of the tree with us and I’m looking forward to seeing the instructional project and the brand new needles.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  10. I have been wanting to design my own crewel design based on Jacobean themes. I have never drawn before on a linen canvas . They I was thinking of doing just a sampler of stitches to further practice. A tree could be a combination of both. This article was inspiring.

  11. The leaves project is terrific! I am so close to finishing a project and spent the weekend in a familiar trap, in other words, not finishing that project but picking up something else. I am making myself spend at least ten minutes a day on the close-to-finished project to make sure it really does get completed. Anyone else with a bunch of almost-done projects?

    1. I don’t call them unfinished projects, they are maturing until ready for the next stage. And yes there are many in my sewing room that are maturing quite nicely.

  12. I got a surprising amount of stitching done this weekend. I am using your tricks of only working on one project and trying to do at least one length of thread a day. I worked on the “Party in P” kaleidoscope. I have a knitting project that needs to be finished but my pretty, pretty threads keep calling to me.

  13. Hi Mary- I am infatuated with this tree! How big is the overall design and did you free hand the trunk or did you have a pattern to use? Do you plan to make the pattern available? It is just delightful and I love all of the colors of green!

  14. I just started reading your blog. AWESOME!! I want to sit down and start from your beginning post. I learn so much from your writings. I’m anxious to buy the Leafy Tree Pattern. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise!
    Patricia from Texas

    1. Hi, Annie – there are lots of ways you can transfer a design to fabric. If I’m doing a project where all my design lines will be covered, and I want a really quick and accurate transfer method, then I’d use Sublime Stitching’s fine tipped iron on transfer pen in blue. It works really well. I also like to trace designs if the fabric is sheer enough, using spray starch first on the fabric, and then tracing lightly with a regular pencil. If you are looking for a variety of ways to transfer patterns for different stitch scenarios, you might find this article helpful: https://needlenthread.wpengine.com/2010/09/beginning-embroidery-design-transfer.html Read the comments, too!

  15. Since October I have Stitched three sampler models for two different designers. I let it be known I was taking the next few months to stitch from my stash! I started last week with Merry Wind Farms Ellen Ford, a new realise in nashville a couple weeks ago. I stitched her in the called for wool threads. she took six days and now to frame her. I put off the framing untill I need a break from stitching, I started Jane Bostock on Saturday. This is alot different from anything I have ever stitched, most of this is reading where to place the motif or alphabet. I read and re-read the instructions several times to be sure I was starting Jane right. This if fun once you get started and I think the best part is the original was stitched in 1598.

  16. I am making coasters as a gift for my nephews upcoming wedding. So, I spent the weekend stitching celtic knot card suit patterns (heart, diamond, spade and club) with floche. Well, I spent half my weekend looking for DMC floche locally because my order from Needle In a Haystack got lost in the mail. Two left to stitch then I’ll be doing their monogram on a kitchen towel. It’s the same monogram that will be on their wedding invitations.

    It’s my first experience with floche and I have to say, everything you have said about floche in your posts has been spot on. It is wonderful. Especially for split stitch. I’ve been using about 12″ pieces of thread and it never twists or knots…It is a joy.

    Whenever I need info I always start with you blog. Thanks for all you do Mary.

  17. This is a really lovely piece Mary! I do think experiments with tone and texture are fascinating. I love how this is working up and hearing your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. I can see how ‘theoretically’ you would imagine more stitch texture might work with the limited colour palette, so it’s interesting that you have to be more selective than originally planned. I can see it must be taking quite a bit of thought to create the right balance and I look forward to seeing your conclusion. As for me, I have been preparing my frame ready to start on the Home Sweet Home project. I have traced a couple of the accessories and am poised and ready to go! It’s going to be a long … but enjoyable … haul! 🙂

  18. I love the green tree, and would love one with 75 shades of green! Just think how beautiful that could be. I’m wondering if you drew this design yourself, or found it? If you drew it, your sketching talents are as amazing as your stitching.
    I’m embroidering the front of a baby gown, a gift to a new niece. I’m using just green for the stems and leaves, and white for the flowers, on a pale pink batiste. It is turning out really nice. I drew the outline of the dress on the fabric and am embroidering it before cutting it out to avoid having to work in tiny spaces or stretching the fabric.

  19. Hi Mary, are we able to get a pattern/instructions for your leaf tree sampler? Thanks, I love it!! Katie x

  20. Mary, this thing with leaves is right down my alley. I love trees also. I hope to join in on this one. I can’t imagine that many greens, how about oranges, reds, and browns.

  21. I have been trying crewel embroidery this month and I’ve been stitching on an Erica Wilson pattern called “dragonfly”. I got new magnifiers delivered today from Amazon. They work well so far!

    I wear them over my glasses and they still fit. But I can really see where hair got woven into the crewel stitches. Man, that wool is like a magnet for hair! 😀

  22. I am here in Detroit, Michigan at the National Academy of Needlearts meeting(NAN). I have been minding the exhibit called the Exemplary. So I have been sitting and stitching and watching. Haven’t gotten as much done as I had planned-then again do we ever? I have almost finished one of the four projects I brought with me, with luck I will tomorrow

  23. I really, really love this project, Mary. Did you say you are planning on making the pattern (and more importantly, the color pallette) available for us in your online shop? Once you have worked out the issues as you explain them, i would love to be able to work this as well.

  24. Your tree is growing beautifully! I love the new DMC colours too, and have made inroads into my skein of #26, very pale lavender. How did I manage without it? As for stitching, I’m switching between three largish projects: two cross-stitch samplers/panels that I’m making up as I go along and a vintage stamped linen tablecloth with heaps of satin stitch. It’s going to take me most of the year to finish all these so I expect I’ll sidetrack myself into some smaller projects along the way. Again.

  25. Hello Mary,
    It is afternoon and Autumn. Not that we can really tell but the trees tend to get it right even so it does throw one out. 28c and the trees are turner gold etc.
    I have two responses as I have different subjects.
    Waxing, great for the legs etc but like you have said it is not needed with the threads. Shoemakers have used it on the cord when stitching shoes. It helps to stave off the rotting of the thread and stopping moisture getting into the shoe. Saddlers, fine whip makers some. The was will turn the leather dark but it stops the sweat from the seat getting into the leather. My old Uncle uses to use pig fat. Rendered down and liberally applied. All his old saddles that were to be stored would be dressed with lard.
    Not recommended for embroidery per se.
    I have used bees wax on the tails of thread in preference to licking the end so I could thread the needle. Then I snip the end off. Spit/ saliva will rot fibre, just like sweat.

    I have used the bees wax on my hands and gloved up and gone to bed. It does help a little but my skin is a curse handed down to me by my Mother. Her side of family were really crackers. the slightest drop in humidity. You can read that as you like!

    Colours, I think we humans will go on mixing and finding a plethora of colours. Then delete some and that is a whole new subject.

    Did you ever find a use for the orange skein you had? Still looking for a place?
    I have quite a few oranges. Love them all. I am not a blue liker and use only if it cannot be replaced.

    Beware of wax. Great for bees, and saddlers but not embroidery.

  26. I hope this pattern comes available
    soon. I love the tree design and opportunity to practice some new
    stitches. Is it REALLY 71 shades of DMC floss? Inquiring minds want to know

  27. I do adore your articles and have learned a good deal from your notes and tips tutorials and recommendations. I am a less than a minor novice in regarding to thread and ribbon embroidery. I am a soft sculpture art doll and whimzees designer and instructor. I am a bead weaver and embroiderer and do a bit of needlepoint and some thread work using A-Z embroidery book series and stump work by Jane Nichols and Di Van NiKirk who I met while I was teaching in Aussie some years back. Your article on conditioning threads was so educational and useful for me. A big thank you. I look forward to hearing about sewing needles you have recently used and may recommend. Marcia Acker-Missall here in USA

  28. Hi Mary I’ve been working on some leaves to. Mine are cut from wool felt and stitched to a door stopper I’m making. I created the leaf pattern shapes from some skeletal gum leaves I had saved some time ago. I have added stitched gum nuts and also made some bugs for interest. Love your tree, look forward to seeing the whole piece.
    I will be interested to read your comments on the needles.
    Cheers! from down under Chris

  29. Yes, Mary, I did get some stitching in this weekend. I am working on a 24 x 24 inch wall hanging quilt.

    The center, which is 8 x 8, is the Trish Burr’s thread painted “Cardinal” that I stitched before Christmas. I have framed all four sides in 2 inches of white quilt fabric.

    Now I am hand stitching four strips of crazy quilting: two 4 inch wide x 12 long and two 4 inches wide by 20 inches long. I am using various colors/patterns of quilting fabric from my stash. Once I choose a bit of fabric and attach it to the muslin backing, I am stitching “crazily” in DMC thread. Mary, your “Thread Stitch Sampler Alphabet” book is a great inspiration for using stitches and stitch variations on connecting … and for making centers … of the blocks. I am using thread colors that complement or enhance the colors that are in the center of the quilt in the Trish Burr’s cardinal picture (multiple reds, multiple greens, whites, pinks, etc.). I am enhancing the crazy quilting with buttons, beads, and treasures that fit my mood for each patch. Once I attach the four crazy quilt lengths to the inside white frame, I will then attach 2 inch wide outside white frame. I believe that by framing the crazy blocks with white on the inside and white on the outside that it will not make the viewer as “dizzy” as if the whole 24 x 24 were one giant crazy patch!

    Once the whole quilt is assembled, it will be offset with a thin red quilt fabric border to match the color of the stitched cardinal in the center. I should get this completed by this weekend and I hope to give this to my 93 year old Mom for Mother’s Day in May! Then next week I am on to a new project!

    Regards, Bonnie

  30. Your tree is exciting. I did not have a chance to stitch this weekend, but I am looking for ideas on how to cope with an eye issue. I have developed a mini hole in the center of one eye and am having a difficult time lining up my stitches. Such as doing an outline stitch. When I get done with a line they are not moving evenly from one stitch to the next. Any suggestions?
    Thank you.

  31. Hello Mary,
    I just love your tree, I think it is a perfect way to learn stitches. Will you be photographing the finished piece?

    I have been asked to teach a beginner’s embroidery class and I am about to design the sampler. After seeing this, I decided, I would “borrow” your tree idea, but not have it quite so elaborate or some of the more advances stitches. I think it would be far more interesting than the usual row by row samplers usually used to teach stitches. Thank you for your continued great ideas and for keeping people interested in stitching.

    Happy Stitching,

    1. Hi, Sue – I’ll be making the project available most likely as an e-book and pattern, and, yes, I will eventually show the finished piece on the website.

  32. Hello Mary,
    I just received your email of the leafy tree sampler. It came at the right time. I’m working on a project for the Pomegranate Guild in Toronto Ontario for they’re 36th anniversary and the leaves were looking boring. I will use some of you examples and if you like I can send you a picture of the completed project.

    Thanks again and Happy Monday.

    Sherry Naiman

  33. I am anxious to hear how you did the tree bark. I’ve always loved trees and when I was into photography I could never capture their true beauty and essence. I just finished making a throw pillow with a jelly fish embroidered on the front. It turned out well and I was able to get it in the priority mail just in time for my daughter’s birthday. I had been sick with a cold for over two weeks which put me behind schedule. Priority mail is soooooo expensive. Thank you for all the effort and expertise you put into your web site. I’ve found treasures of information to help me in this new craft I’ve just recently delved into.

    1. Hi, Lyn – I’ll be making that available down the road a little bit. I have to work out some kinks in the pattern – it needs some tweaking in the layout, which I didn’t really notice until I had stitched it, and I need to stitch one more sample with a different approach. I’m figuring June for a deadline on this one!

  34. Very creative and innovative idea, I never thought of using the leaves of the tree for different types of stitches.Love it. May be I will try to stitch one too and this way learn new types of stitches.Thank you for the ideea.

  35. Hi Mary,
    I just purchased slate frame fro Mythic Crafts. I am having trouble understanding how to load it on. It doesn’t have twill to latch onto. Any suggestions?

  36. Your leaves are lovely. The 1891 embroidery book is marvelous. Thanks for sharing it.

  37. I love this…. I love the exercise of different stitches – keeps one from repeat boredom. I love trees – hence my love a the “Tree of Life” motif. Thank you Mary for sharing all your talents. Cheers Frantoria

  38. Concerning the leafy tree project. I think I would consider it a “learning” project and use it as a reference piece to use when considering using the stitch in another piece. You could then look at it to see what it looks like as you did it and to get an idea of using it again trying different colors and threads. I think it really looks nice the way you have done it although the two leaves do appear to stand out more than the others. As I said above, I would use it as a reference piece when considering another project.
    I do very much enjoy your articles as all are very much a learning project for me even
    though I have been stitching for 25 plus years. I feel that one can always learn something new no matter how much you already know.

  39. Love the tree and embroidered floral corners projects. Would like patterns and instructions for these. Hope to see them on your website soon.

  40. I’m interested in learning different ways to stitch leaves. When I saw this wonderful tree I thought it would be perfect. Is there a pattern available somewhere?
    Thank you,

  41. Hello, I love this multi color tree. Is the pattern still under development? When do you think it will be available for purchase?

    1. Hi, Janet – Later this month (July – hopefully about half way through the month!), the kit, etc., for this will be released. Thanks for asking!

  42. I am working the Green Tree sampler and some of the colors do not have designs by them to tell me where they are to be stitched. The company I ordered it from does not have one in stock so they can’t help me. Hoping you have the Green Tree sampler for assistance.

    1. Hi, Judy – Just checked to see if you’re talking about my Leafy Tree project. It looks like this isn’t the same project, as I have no order history from you. You’ll have to give a little more information about the “Green Tree Sampler” that you’re stitching, as I don’t think it’s the same one I designed. For example, who designed it, where’d you buy it, and similar information, in case anyone out there working on the same project or at least owning it can perhaps help you. Just doing a quick Google search, it looks like there’s a Green Tree Sampler by Moira Blackburn that’s counted cross stitch. I don’t have any information on that, but if you are on Facebook, you might try posting your question in any of the numerous counted cross stitch or sampler groups on Facebook – you’d probably have better luck finding someone to help you.

  43. I love your blog. My grandmother taught me some of the basics of of embroidery. Her mother taught her. I must have have had a needle in my christening gown somewhere as I have always had the love for it. My mom never did nor my sister. I am currently working on linen kitchen towels with botanical embroidery painting on them. Each has something different. Raspberries, lemons, and so on. They are Christmas gifts. I did finish a linen hand towel with H letter monogram with Christmas greenery filling in the circle around the monogram. You’re a great resource and inspiration.

More Comments