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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Weekend Embroidery: Filling Outside the Void


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Howdy-ho and a happy Monday from the (very warm and sticky) cornfields of Kansas! Summer is upon us in full force in the Midwest!

During the summer, I love embroidering with bright and sunny colors, and last weekend’s project fit the bill perfectly. If you’ve been hanging out with me at Needle ‘n Thread for a while, the project should look familiar, because I’ve done it before. Well… something similar, anyway.

I’m working on a voided monogram, much like this one. There are a few differences, though, and I’ll tell you about them below…

voided monogram m in embroidery

Voided embroidery is embroidery that consists of a filled background, while leaving the focal element blank. The main element is clearly visible because everything else around it ends up solidly embroidered.

Assisi embroidery is a form of voided embroidery, as is Colbert embroidery. Assisi embroidery relies on a background solidly filled with long-armed cross stitch, while Colbert embroidery relies on a background filled with more open, geometric patterns. In both Assisi embroidery and Colbert embroidery, the main voided elements are often outlined.

With this particular style of voided monogram, I like to leave the main element – in this case, the letter M – without an outline, relying on the densely stitched background to frame the letter.

voided monogram m in embroidery

I’m working up the M as a class sample, since we’ll be using the voided monogram for the older youth classes this summer. The students will stitch their own version and then finish it in the hoop, for a little piece of hoop art.

voided monogram m in embroidery

I chose the voided monogram because, of all the small things I’ve stitched, I think this was the most fun! It doesn’t require a lot of planning or thinking while stitching, and the freedom of color choice and stitch placement makes each letter unique.

Still, to give the kids a springboard for stitching their letters, I’ve worked up a background design for each letter, scattering the larger elements – vines, flowers, ribbed spider web rounds, and so forth – in a somewhat balanced way. Having a starting point will make it easier for them to get into the project.

Then, around the larger elements, they can randomly fill in with smaller floral and leaf elements, knots, seed stitches, and the like.

voided monogram m in embroidery

Besides starting with a loose design of sorts for the background, there are other ways this voided monogram sample differs from the first one I stitched a couple years ago.

For one thing, the thread is different. On these, we’re using regular stranded cotton (2 strands in the needle) instead of cotton floche.

And for another thing, we’re limiting the stitch choice on the sample to the stitches they’ll be learning in class. On the original A from a couple years ago, I threw in any old stitch that occurred to me. On this one, I’m sticking to a smaller assortment of basic stitches.

voided monogram m in embroidery

One thing I love about voided work like this is seeing the letter come into focus more clearly as the background fills up!

Another fun thing about voided work is that it certainly isn’t limited to monograms! You can “void” anything that has a clear outline. Oh, imagine the possibilities!

I’ll be finishing this piece up today, and then I have one more stitch sample to work for the classes. And then all the materials kits must be prepared. If that’s finished this week, then I’ll be in good form. The classes don’t start until mid-July, but once the prep work is finished, I’ll be free to tackle other exciting thing on the to-do list.

Hope you had a fantastic weekend, and that the week ahead is shaping up beautifully!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to chat them up in the comments below!

The letter M (without the background) comes from the Bold Letters alphabet in my e-book, Favorite Monograms, available here. If you like monograms and are looking for monogram patterns to stitch, you’ll find 16 full alphabets there, just waiting for your interpretation in needle and thread!


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(24) Comments

  1. Mary your students will be the most Fortunate of children to have you to guide them in Their first steps to a life time of Creating Beauty. Im a wee bit jealous. Hope you all have a wonderful time.

  2. I like the Voided “M” very much, think I need to do a similar piece as a “G”.
    I also enjoyed reading the articles on Assisi & Colbert embroidery.

    Gayle in Maine

  3. I had a question. Once you finish the decorative stitches around the letter do you go back and do like a stem stitch or similar on the blue line of the letter?

  4. This “void” project is stunning. I had not seen your previous info on the A, but did go back and take a look at it. Thanks so much for referring back to it. I am looking forward to seeing the finished projects from your students. This is exciting, even if I am not personally in the class.

  5. Seeing only a difference at the inside bend of the letter… Would you tell me what stitches your older students will be learning in your course next month? I recognize several, but a written list makes my mind flow more smoothly. Many thanks from Michigan.

  6. Dear Mary

    I really like the void embroidery such fun, it is lovely such a lovely way to learn embroidery with all those different stitches and colour threads, I wish I was joining the class it would be great to learn from such a expert and I would really enjoy creating these pieces. Good luck with all the other preparations for the classes and thanks for sharing the void embroidery with us and for the photos, lovely.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  7. Hi Mary,

    Love this pattern! Was just curious…how long does it take you to stitch something like this? Thanks!

  8. Mary

    This is beautiful and very interesting. The children in the class will have a piece to be proud of when they are finished. We need to pass on hand embroidery to the children.
    That’s wonderful you will be teaching these skills to them.

  9. This is looking so pretty & colorful! Your students will love it. Of, please, show us the sample when you’re finished!

  10. Hi Mary, this hoop work looks really beautiful! Interestingly, after finishing my cross stitch sampler, I intend to do something in Assisi embroidery and then in Colbert embroidery, so your hints come once more just in time, thanks a lot. I do like voided work, too.
    You’re such an experienced teacher, having taught a whole lot of needlework classes for kids before. I imagine you know exactly by now what you can expect of them to accomplish, don’t you? If I had to prepare something for a class of kids, even 13 years old, I would be totally unsure if such a work like this wouldn’t be beyond their capabilities.

    Angela from the Ore Mountains

    1. I’ll be making the designs available here on Needle ‘n Thread in the not too distant future, along with, perhaps, some pre-transferred kit / fabric options.

  11. Mary, I wonder if you would consider offering week-long courses for adults? I’d love to come for a week of embroidery with you!

  12. I hope you will make this design available for all of us – it seems like a perfect sample to get on started – for those of us new to embroidery picking out what stitch to use is very intimidating…Thanks you again for this web site and your artistic talent so generously given to us.

  13. Hi Mary,

    As you are a very high level embroiderer, you are also a very happy colorist. Happiness burst of your sampler ! You remind me of the happy days of the sixtees with the Beattles and their Yellow submarine. I hope that your students and you will pass the classes in joy and fun.

    Best regards
    Florence (Brittany)

  14. It’s almost like a compendium of ‘stitches I can do’. I can do ‘lots’! I was not aware this embroidery existed; thanks for showing it to us.

  15. Do you pre-plan or just whimsy chose the stitches that fill in the hoop? I think I’m stuck on following a pattern instead of trusting my itty*bitty* embroidery knowledge.

    1. I just do it by whim – whatever I think will look or work right. But for the kids’ classes, I’ll map out all the major elements for them, so that they can see what works and how. And then, as they stitch the design, they can start filling in and playing with stitches as they come to mind.

  16. Me parece una fantástica idea acercar a los jóvenes a esta artesanía. Eso hará que se diviertan y que colaboren en su difusión.
    Un abrazo desde España!

  17. Whilst searching for some inspiration for an 80th birthday cushion I have stumbled across your void work monogram .
    Wow is all I can say, just what I was hoping to achieve .
    Any suggestions or places to go to see more work would be appreciated .

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