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

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Fantasia in Silk: An Embroidery Design Exploration


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Earlier this year, I shared some sneak peeks on a hand embroidery project I was working on, but hadn’t finished.

I finished it! And that was quite a while ago!

But then I never showed it to you, completely. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with it – maybe it’ll turn into a step-by-step project or something. We’ll see!

I thought I’d show it to you today and tell you a little bit about my thought processes while working on it, what my ideas were, why I named it what I did, and so forth.

If you’ve been hanging out with me a while on Needle ‘n Thread, you might already know I have a problem naming projects. It always amazes me how designers and stitchers come up with fantastic names for their needlework – names that just fit.

I’m not so good at that. But this particular project worked out ok, name wise. I think it fits.


When I started working on this particular design, it was just a doodle of a very stylized, fantastical sort of thingamabob, after the fashion of a similar thingamabob in a very old needlework book.

The picture in the older book (in black and white) featured a goldwork piece, I believe, but you couldn’t really tell it was goldwork, except for the fact that there was a bit of texture in it typical of metal threads.

I liked the design, but I didn’t like it in the goldwork, which made it look (especially in black and white), very heavy. So I set about doodling and altered it a bit, lightening the element up a little.

I don’t even know what you’d call this kind of design element. A friend suggested something akin to the palampore elements seen in Indian-influenced designs.

Palampores were printed textiles from 17th century (maybe earlier?) India, that were very influential in developing the European fabric and textile trade from the 17th century onwards. They featured stylized flora and fauna. The design elements had a huge influence on patterns in chintz fabric, and they can still be seen in fabrics today.

I suppose the design might be a little like the palampore design elements, but it lacks the layering I usually associate with the stylized flora in those designs.

In any case, my idea when I was doodling was to stitch something in a limited palette of silk threads (but perhaps more than one type of silk), using a variety of stitches and fillings, in a way that didn’t look heavy.

Once I was satisfied enough with the design, I transferred it to linen, selected the colors I had in mind (and shades thereof), and started playing with filling stitches.

I wanted the combination of the design and the choice of fillings and stitches to make the piece vibrant and lively – showing off the silk – without being heavy and bulky.

Well, that’s what I was thinking. Did I accomplish it? I don’t know. I think maybe I did. There are still some things I’d tweak if I were doing it again, or if I were making it available for others to stitch.

Even before I finished stitching this, I was calling it Fantasia in Silk.

Ok, wait! I’ll be honest and tell you a bit more about the name development! Before the name morphed into Fantasia in Silk, I was calling the piece Bella Fantasia, as a kind of play on words.

Bella Fantasia (pronounced fan-ta-see-a) ran in my head to the tune of a favorite song. The words took the place of the opening lyrics to “Nella Fantasia,” which was popularized by Sarah Brightman in the 1990’s, but the tune itself is an Ennio Morricone piece from the movie The Mission, titled “Gabriel’s Oboe.”

So, why that song?

Well, I grew up playing the oboe and the clarinet, and this particular piece from The Mission has been a favorite ever since the movie first aired way back in the late 1900’s (I love saying that!) – 1986, to be exact. I was in high school and playing the oboe at the time. It was my favorite tune. It was the first all-oboe tune I played that made me feel like I was a “real” oboe player.

Even though the tune and my new lyrics wafted through my head when I was stitching the thing, I still realized that Bella Fantasia (Beautiful Fantasy) might be a bit too aggrandizing.

It just seemed a bit much, to call my own piece “Beautiful Fantasy.” I cringed every time I thought about keeping that name!

So instead, I started calling it Fantasia (this time, pronounced like Disney’s movie) in Silk.

Better, I thought. It gets the fantastical sense of the design across, along with the vibrancy of the silk, without the overly grand sense evoked by Bella Fantasia.

So that’s the name that stuck – Fantasia in Silk.

This piece embodies much of what I love in hand embroidery: silk embroidery thread, shading, lots of stitches, a touch of subtle bling (the tiny beads), some texture and contrasts in texture, and an obviously stylized design.

I was able to incorporate six different filling techniques altogether, along with some variations in lattice fillings and a few different types of textured stitches.

I used two types of silk – Soie d’Alger and Soie Perlee. In retrospect, I would probably try to incorporate a little more of the Soie Perlee, especially in a more visible way. Much of it is used as foundations for stitches and covered with Soie d’Alger, so it isn’t seen too clearly.

And this is the finished fantasy.

It was an extremely satisfying piece to work! And while I can still see areas I’d tweak, I like the way the whole thing came off.

I may revisit this one. I’d probably play with the design a little bit, to ground it somewhat so it isn’t just a Thing, floating about alone on the vast expanse of otherwise blank fabric. And I’d probably toy with other thread weights, too, and perhaps alter some of the color choices.

I’m always open for input, of course! If you’d like to make suggestions or add some constructive criticism or what-have-you, you are most welcome to join the conversation below!


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(204) Comments

  1. Mary; this is exquisite. I am an EGA member and I always want to know if we will ever have Mary Corbet come to a seminar and teach! Have you considered proposing this piece for teaching at a seminar?
    Inquiring minds want to know……and take that class!!!!

    1. Thanks, Patty! Oh, I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to teach for the EGA. Who knows? Right now, I’m immersed in just keeping Needle ‘n Thread floating!

  2. I am loving your emails and am delighted by the gorgeous silk embroidery on the most recent one. Where is your studio? I come back to embroidery after years away and like a dieter in a bakery I want to consume every technique all at once. Among other things I was trained as a painter, and my learning about painterly composition has made me notice how much embroidery is a vignette, a centered motif or as you said, “an object floating in the middle of a space of fabric.” [paraphrased, sorry] Are we so preoccupied with our images, or is it that we do not, in beginning a design, have an idea of what use it will ultimately have, or are we responding to the format of a round hoop? Ultimately many of these centered images wind up framed in a square frame where they have no relationship to the square format. I find it an interesting challenge as I begin work on a new piece, asking myself, “What will I ultimately do with this piece.

    1. Sometimes, we just do them as a study in a certain technique, style, thread, color palette – just as a learning piece, with no specific end in mind, behind acquiring the skill or the understanding desired from working the piece.

  3. One of your best works yet! Absolutely beautiful, and 100% worthy of being called “Bella Fantasia”. I love how three-dimensional and floaty it is, like it’s tumbling through space.

  4. This is a stunning piece and I thank you for sharing.

    I am relatively new to needlework and have to tell you how helpful your online tutorials have been!

    Maybe one day I will be creating projects this lovely!

    Great job!!

  5. I love the beautiful balance of the colors. It’s vibrant without being over the top and in your face. Mary, your color sense always amazes me!

  6. Hi Mary

    Your embroidery work is absolutely beautiful. I love this piece. As always
    you did a beautiful job on it.

    I look forward to seeing your next project.

  7. Exquisite! This design is amazing. Thank you for sharing your work with us. You are very inspiring and keep the art of embroidery alive.

  8. What an uplifting piece! The design is light and floating, and the colours you’ve used are joyous. Don’t change a thing!

  9. It’s stunning! The shading is exquisite, and I like the asymmetrical design. Hogarth would be proud of that subtle S-curve.

    1. I’m intrigued. Is the S-curve from the top purple swirl to the black line on the red ring down through the two red pinwheels to the red teardrop shape?
      If not, could you please tell me where it is?
      Helen Hicks

  10. My first thought was “that would be beautiful on the back of my denim jacket in dmc cotton”. It has more technical challenges than my usual but not as challenging as Hazel Blotkamp (gosh, I hope I got the name right).
    I would love to see this as a step by step work and pdf of the design.

  11. Beautiful work! I don’t know how you endure the strain on you eyes and neck. That is my problem. I start a project, then after a few days, I have to take a break for a while. Any tips on how to keep going? Needlework can be strenuous.

  12. Lost for words to describe how the colors the stitch choice and the stitching
    And the design all came together to blow my mind. To think I have loved long
    Enough to see this ….. thank you for your workmanship and desire to share with
    Us who will never in our life reach this level of perfection.

    1. Right now, it’s on my list for future development, Joan. I’ve got two major projects I’m working on now for the website, and then once their done, I’ll be able to focus on getting this one put together and written up.

  13. Dear Mary

    How do you think of such lovely designs and thread selection this is truly beautiful piece of work I wish you would show us the process and stitches it is lovely. I could never think of such a lovely design or draw it. I didn’t know you were also musical as well so many talents. Thanks for sharing with us your project on the Fantasia in Silk and for the photos, lovely, I wonder what you will do with it, let us know.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. I’m afraid my musical talents are relegated to listening these days, Anita. I haven’t played an instrument (aside from occasionally plonking about messily on a piano) in a long time! I hope to write this project up in the future, once I finish getting a couple other things out. It’s on the list!

    2. Dear Mary

      Thanks for your reply. I’m sure with a bit of practice you would be really good. I can’t wait for the project to be written up especially the gold ribbed piece on the left of the picture which is my favourite I think I will try that on the piece I’m currently doing.

      Regards Anita Simmance

  14. Hi Mary!

    I KNEW there was more to why I “get” your writing and stitching so well. I’m an oboist! In 1986 I was just finishing a 4 year tour of duty in the US Marine field bands and at the very beginning of my true venture into the world of needlework. “Gabriel’s Oboe” is a luscious piece and so lyrical. If you put this up as a step-by-step “or something” I’ll HAVE to figure out a way to join in!

    Love it!


    1. Yay!!! It’s been ages since I’ve played, Sharlotte. I tell myself I should get back to it. Occasionally, I’ve picked it up, but it’s the whole mouth thing, you know. When you haven’t played an oboe in a while, embouchure is definitely problematic. It hurts! I guess my lips are just out of shape…kind of like the rest of me. :-/ LOL!!

    2. Yes! Getting back to playing oboe after considerable time off (or even a little time off sometimes!) can be painful. My recommendation, and what I do if I have to take a week or more off playing, is to use an easy reed and set up oboe and music in a place where I can play for a little while and then leave it and come back to it repeatedly. The best way to rebuild embouchure is to play for short time, take a break and then play for short time and take another break and keep repeating that. For someone ‘starting over’ that short time could be just 5 minutes with breaks of 15 minutes or more. You definitely don’t want to play to the point where you can’t control your mouth! That just teaches your embouchure bad habits! I do similar things if I don’t get to stitch for a while. I start with something easy and only stitch for short “bouts” and make myself get up and move often. 😉

  15. It was so difficult to see the small bits and pieces of the design and be patient enough to wait till the end to see the full picture. 🙂 It is wonderful. For me it has a bit of Mardi Gras feel to it, like a huge feathered mask. It’s all so delicate and flowing. Not sure what you would change in it. Since I’m seeing Mardi Gras, the one element that stands out as different is the tiny “ear of corn” dangling on the left side. LOL My imagination is a bit warped at times. Love the colors. And I see stitches that I could use in cross stitching as “specialty stitches”. The ribbed golden ribbon in the center: is that done the same way as the little red spider web thingies?

  16. Of all your wonderful pieces, this might just be my favorite. I love every detail about it. Thank you so very much for sharing it with us. I’d like to know the “bumpy road” stitch done in the gold colored stitch of the upward U sweep. I am working on a monogram that would be great to incorporate this stitch. Perhaps you have a tutorial on this stitch already?

  17. Perhaps its a butterfly/moth thing a ma bob! No matter what it appeals to my since of whimsy. Thanks for sharing it.

  18. Love your Fantasia, Mary. Specially the bright colors you chose and the beautiful stitching all over. Thank you for sharing, you are a real pro at this.

  19. It is absolutely stunning. I have goosebumps just looking at it and I love the name of the piece. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Wow, that’s gorgeous! I’m heavily into gold work right now, and would love the pattern. Please consider selling it to us? Regards from sunny Half Moon Bay, CA Roberta

    1. Soon as I can, Roberta! Right now I’m in the middle of a couple projects for the website that I really have to get finished and out. I’ve got this one on the list, but it will be a little ways down the road yet!

  21. While sipping my coffee I quietly enjoyed the closeups of your stitch choices. But when I got to the picture of the finished piece, I just smiled real big.

    Love it.

  22. Your work is outstanding. I look forward to reading your posts, your tutorials are fabulous. I just can’t say enough about your talent.

    1. Thanks, Caroline! I’m glad the tutorials come in handy, too – that’s always good news! Must get back to working up some new ones. It’s always something…!

  23. Hello Mary. Your Fantasy in Silk is so awesomely beautiful. I’m afraid I can’t think of words that would describe the emotions I feel whenever I look at something that is so beautiful it takes my breath away. You have to be the worlds most gifted of hand embroiderers and artists and Truly magnificent work. Thank you for sharing. Valerie

  24. Mary, this is my absolute favorite piece EVER!!! It is exquisite and free as a bird. Your love of color and the way you combine them brings this such vibrancy and life!!! All I can say is wow, just WOW!!!

  25. Mary, do you plan to develop this into a kit? If so, I would be first in line to buy it! A close look at the stitches used displays your perfect instincts. And as always, your choice of exuberant, joyful colors feeds the eye.

    1. Thanks, Kathleen! I’ll develop it into something, surely – but at this point, I’ve got a couple large projects I’m trying to finish for the website, so it’ll be a little ways down the road yet before I tackle preparing this one!

  26. Good morning Mary
    Yes, your favourite piece of music is mine too! I played the clarinet in high school (much before your time).
    This piece is beautiful. You did a fabulous job.
    Yes, we always tweak, don’t we? I am never 100% satisfied with any of my work.
    Good show!

  27. I say, Bellisimo! Isn’t just the way of things that no matter how much we like what we’ve created, there is always room for changes, the next time. A lovely piece. I always enjoy following what you are working on. Thanks!

  28. Mary,
    What a stunningly beautiful piece! What about kits or a downloadable pdf of the design with step by step directions? Either way I would buy it.

    1. Thanks, Jean! I’m not quite sure how I’ll handle this one yet. I’ve got a couple other large projects I have to finish up and get on the website, before I tackle writing this one up. But something will be available on it in the future, definitely!

  29. This is just awesomely beautiful. I love how the lower part is symmetrical and balanced, then morphs into an unsymmetrical design at the top. It makes the piece just exuberant and lovely.
    Well done, Mary, well done indeed.

  30. Hi Mary,
    I just adore this piece of embroidery as it is. I would love to replicate this as it has everything I love in surface embroidery and as your chosen name suggests it is fantastic. I am just new to surface embroidery and am finding the variety of stitches such a buzz.
    I have been an avid cross stitcher up to 6 months ago when a major crises in my life required a different direction for a while and I started on Whitework with Colour. It has progressed from there in all sorts if directions now.
    Please, please, do set this up as a project – exactly as it is. I would appreciate you advising the same colours as I have a caterach in one eye and have difficulty in discerning shades.
    Even if you don’t get a chance to present this as a NeedlenThread project would you be able to supply a copy of the pattern and the threads you used so that I could do this design. I would, of course, pay for it.
    Your email usually crosses my path as I am heading to bed (I’m in Brisbane, Australia) and I love your natural chatter and varied topics. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Lynne! I do plan to write it up eventually, but I’m in the middle of two large projects I just have to finish for the website first (there being only one of me on this end!), so it will be a ways down the road before this project is available. It’s on my list, though, and I’ll get to it as soon as I can! Thanks again!

  31. I think the piece is beautiful I like the colours and in Silks it would look Yummy.
    And I like the floating look. Its different and I love it.
    Your work is scrumptious.

  32. This is absolutely beautiful! I never comment on things but I love the colours and stitches.
    Always enjoy hearing from you.
    A great way to start my day.
    Thank you!

  33. I appreciate the dark stitches shading the lighter green on the largest leaves. The common shading looks much more like a photograph. These stitch collections reinforce the fact that your image truly is embroidered.

  34. Dear Mary, each piece you finish is lovely, but Fantasia seems to me to b the Most beautiful piece you have ever completed!

    I hope u will now have it framed, protected, and displayed where u can enjoy it, and others, too!

    Would u have time to discuss the stitches used in the leaves, especially. I am interested in how u stitched them to achieve the beautiful and interesting textures.

    Thank you!

  35. Stunner, Mary! I can’t wait for you to release it. I think part of its charm is that it IS a floaty piece and not grounded. Sometimes it’s nice to have that feeling to a piece because so many designs, especially crewelwork, always have the ubiquitous hillocks. But, it’s your design and, in my opinion, it couldn’t be lovelier. Kudos!

  36. Delightful design and colors, as always, Mary. What could possibly be tweaked? It would make a great journal cover…
    (Life-long oboist-wannabe! Not sure if more intrigued by project or dogged by oboe envy!)

  37. Mary,
    I think you nailed it. Just beautiful. Would love to know more about it, kinds of filling stitches, size of the finished piece…well, will you make the pattern available for purchase? Thinking of you and hope all is well with you and yours.

  38. Simply lovely…all you do conveys your talent and passion for needle & thread! Where do you purchase your linen? Do you offer any to buy?
    Take care and hope your recovering well,

  39. I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now. I have learned a lot, and it has given me a lot of interesting ideas for my own embroidery. That being said, *this* piece is by far my favorite out of everything I’ve seen you create thus far. Literally *everything* came together in an exceptional way … the design itself, the silk colors, and even more than those – the fill stitches which you chose were absolutely spectacular … they just *fit*. I love *everything* about this piece. Thank you for sharing!

  40. Plesse, please develop the pattern and stitch guide. I’m more excited about this than anything I’ve seen for a long time!

  41. This is such a beautiful piece Mary. Your skills with the needle set goals for us to achieve. There is nothing here that I would change, the colors and their placement, the stitches, the design itself.
    It has a wonderful Jacobean feel too it, always an attraction for me. I can see using this element in a pictorial panel as part of a tree of life sitting on some hillocks and just a few animals, and a bird or some butterflies. All worked in richly colored crewel yarn.

  42. I love it as it is. So unusual!! Guess you have my juices aflowing—
    to “I wanna do it too.” have not worked needlework in eons. That is just what it needed to entice me IS TO VIEW THIS WONDERFULLY DIFFERENT PIECE.

  43. What a superb work of art, your design sense is amazing! Have you considered letting Inspirations publish it as a complete design?

    1. Hi, Jeanette – it’ll be a little while before I write the piece up, at which point, I’ll probably just publish it myself here on Needle ‘n Thread. I have to finish a couple other projects before I get to writing this one up, though!

  44. It’s a stunning piece, Mary! I love the colors and the textures of the stitches! I think the piece is wonderful and slightly abstract, and I think the piece is complete as it is; I wouldn’t add any more to it!

  45. Mary, this is beautiful! Your embroidery is always perfect and your choice of colours is amazing in this work. I love the name!

  46. Dear Mary,

    This piece is a real winner, it has everything to win me over, I too will be on the look out for purchase! In my opinion, this is a work of art that could easily be published in Inspirations Magazine with a topo on the extremely talented designer. Bravo madame!

  47. Mary, I think it’s gorgeous, under both names! It feels Italianate to me, like an ornamental flourish in an old book or a tile in an old fountain. It’s exuberant and lovely! I really like the whipped wheel flowers and those two zigzag petals are amazing! I like the floating look, but my eye keeps going to the void circle in the center. Maybe if you filled that with a big crystal, or small beads, or gold purl it would anchor it more? And although it would make a beautiful teaching piece, or pattern release, sometimes it’s nice to just play around and make something for yourself 🙂

  48. The palampores did start coming in the 17th century to Britain. The elaborate designs on them were the inspiration for the British Jacobean embroidered designs of a tree of life in that period during the reign of King James I.

  49. I think your fantasia is beautiful. The colours have used look just right and I particulary like the different stitches you have used. Well done will be very interested in what you make out of the embroidery.

  50. I love it just as it is! A fantasy doesn’t need to be “grounded” – that defeats the concept of idealised beauty! It is wonderful, Mary!

  51. Beautiful name and what a beautiful piece of embroidery!!! Your stitches and color choices are stunning! And since you love that song, go to Utube and listen to Nathen Pacheco’s version: Heavenly!! Hugs, H in Healdsburg

  52. Mary, I don’t usually comment on things but I just had to say how absolutely wonderful this is. I love the design, colours and of course, it’s beautifully stitched as always. You’re an inspiration….thank you for sharing your lovely work.

  53. Hi Mary, Love silk fantasia. I am intrigued by the stitches in the leaves.
    The mustard stitches are spider stitch in a line which you have featured.
    I cannot distinguish the green stitches. Could you enlighten me please.-Mary

  54. What a joyous piece of embroidery, and… how exquisite. It reminds me of an Italian carnival complete with colourful masks, fun and intrigue. The textures are integral to the success of the design which draw the eye to different elements. I so wish I lived in your corner of the world so I could see more of your work and perhaps even meet you. But… for now I am content with listening to your thoughts and seeing your work on line. Take care Mary, you are an embroider’s treasure.

  55. Love this design. It definitely has something of the Jacobean about it. I don’t think it needs to be anything. Not everything needs to be something. The name says it all. It’s a fantasia.

  56. So beautiful… if I live to be a hundred, my stitching could never be as lovely and precise as yours. But, I love working on it daily.
    The name you chose is PERFECT.
    I wish this was a kit. It would be mine tomorrow.

  57. Oh Mary it’s a delight! Just so beautiful with the soft curves, glorious colours and stunning choice of stitches. Please, a kit??? I’ d be first to line up to purchase.
    I would call it “The Family Crest” due to its elegance of design and powerful effect.
    Glorious Spring weather here today in severely drought-ridden Australia. Have two families of magpies in my garden which have just fledged and quite a racket with exhausted adults keeping up the tucker! What a joy!

  58. You continue to amaze me with your talents. This is yet another of your designs that I love. The style and colors are just beautiful. I honestly can’t think of a thing to change ! Let venthe stitches you chose to use as well! I’d say it is definitely frameable!!!
    Thank you for your continued inspiration !
    Robin Farley

  59. Hello Mary,

    Fantasia in Silk is absolutely stunning and I’d love to do it as a group thing or even separate at some time next year. I truly love your design and colourings.

  60. The piece is undeniably beautiful, and I think the original name does it justice. It is a lovely design, beautifully stitched as usual and the addition of the small pearls running through the centre, lifts the design. It’s perfectly ok to call something beautiful if it is, although Fantasia in Silk is a good substitute if you are more comfortable with it.
    I too, love the piece of music “Gabriel’s Oboe”. It’s one of my all time, favourite pieces and I play it all the time in the car, much to the annoyance of my two sons. I’m hoping that one day, they might learn the piece and play it for me, as they are both musicians. I may have to wait a while, as despite them being classically trained, they were 18 last week (twins), and have started a rock band. With any luck, they’ll grow out of it and return to their classical roots.

  61. My goal is to stitch just half as good as you! When you share the fabric type and the thread type, you give me a world of information. Looking at the pics online, while beautiful, they all look like the same thread and fabric to me. I thank our lucky stars that we have you, Mary! You’ve taught me so much.

  62. Lovely! I do not understand how you think of those stitches – or even how to place them together. Suppose that is years of experience…. I like that the design is floating. Grounding it would be fine, but then it would be something different. My eye is drawn to the center void circle.

    Thank you for your wonderful site.

  63. Mary – it’s simply beautiful piece of work, and I do hope you “teach us” how you did it – as I’d love to do it. Any while I’m about it – your blogs are just the “best”, and I do look forward to them so much – as they are full of very useful information and tips. You are a wonder – and we out in Australia love you.
    A suggestion -why don’t you put a piece of your work in the beautiful “Inspirations” Magazine – and lots of people world wide could work it. I’d love to see a piece of your beautiful work in the magazine. Keep well.

  64. I love all the stitch variations! It is so much fun to do a piece with a huge variety of stitches —

    Please make this a kit of a design we can purchase from you!

  65. This is gorgeous. I hope you make the design available for purchase, together with a stitch guide. Best wishes Mary, Liz

  66. A very Beautiful piece –You are truly an Artist. Have looked at your amazing work over the years & I need to finish a few pieces — I have toooo many Crafts. PJ

  67. Wow! This is a beautiful piece. I hope someday you have a pattern and a supply list, to go with it. I would love to try this. Thank you for all the inspirations.

  68. Mary, it’s beautiful. I would love to do this. Do you have more like it planned?
    Your website conversation keeps me sane during my lunch times at work please keep going in the same way you are doing, I love the variety of your feed. Warm regards, Julia

  69. This was lovely as is all of your work. I find it much harder to come up with the actual design — names are much easier. By the way, whatever happened to that Natalia Frank super-petit-point you were working on last year? I don’t remember ever seeing the finished project.

  70. It’s beautiful! I love the colors. I would love it as a pillow on my bed. I don’t know how big it is, so I don’t know if it would work for that.

  71. a beautiful study in color and texture, design and movement! thank you Mary, for all that you share with us ~ this is just gorgeous and draws you in closer for a longer visit ~

  72. What a lovely piece, Mary! And I think it would have been just fine to keep the Bella Fantasia name. I think it actually fits the piece nicely. I do also understand the creator’s sense of not wanting to be unduly overblown (I write the occasional musical twiddle, which other people are more likely to call musical piece). Fantasia in Silk certainly works as a name too, but I’d say go for it and call it Bella Fantasia!

  73. Mary, I love the colors you chose. To me the design is beautiful. It reminds me of a ballet where a dancer is thrown into the air. There is such grace and beauty to this piece.

  74. Mary!
    This is gorgeous, the silk shading is sublime! I love the name as well…I would love to see this in a tutorial and or pattern with a stitch guide.
    Thanks so much for your work and sharing everything with us, I have learned so much!

  75. I love everything about it, I can’t see one thing that needs tweaking. The name is
    perfect for this piece. You do such beautiful exquisite embroidery. Always enjoy seeing your work. Have a great day.


  76. So beautiful! Many thanks for sharing, and many thanks too to you and your friend for introducing me to the word ‘palampore’. Jacobean on steroids – the links are obvious.

  77. That is simply gorgeous! The name fits perfectly. So fascinating it’s a work which begs to be examined over a course of time – drooled over, really!

  78. I love the color and stitch choices. The balance is perfect.It has movement and yet is tranquil, if that makes any sense. I hope you do this as a project that the rest of us can follow! Your work is stunning.

  79. Dear Mary,

    This is a beautiful design and work. There is something perfect about the curve on the left with the green leaves. I keep trying to analyse the reason – is it the curvature? Is it the fact that the curve is somewhat continued into the right leaf? This curve is beautiful to the side or upright.

    The whole design is beautiful whether upright or as is.

    Could you perhaps make the design available as a paid-for PDF as an initial step so that you could publish it before colour choices and stitch choices; that in turn could precede a stitch guide.

    I love the design and the colours and would love to work it, although I would probably do it in crewel. I realise that would lose the beautiful glints of the silk.

    You’ve given me so much to think about with seeing this project.

    Warm regards,

  80. Beautiful piece, Mary. Your skill always shines through, but your creativity outshines even your skills. I do have a question. The leaves below the blue and to the left of the red/yellow. I can’t see the detail as well as I like. Is it woven letting some of the fabric show, or is it beaded, or is it some other special stitch.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hmmm. I’m having a hard time placing exactly which leaves you’re referring to. The small leaves on the left vine? Those are different woven fillings, if those are the ones you mean?

  81. A beautiful piece.
    The stitching, colour and design a joy to see.
    Love the way you stitch like this is a piece of stitching just lying on your fabric.
    Amazing tension.
    The name is very apt.
    Your work is always so beautiful.
    Thankyou for sharing your work and thought process with us.

  82. Hello, I was just about thinking about foundations for embroidery, plain embroidery (not gold-work or tambour) using silk or..plain embroidery threads…

    Regarding the project you presented, I am wondering what are you going to use the project for, the foundation appears to be linen? or? Isn’t the silk thread too fine for this foundation?

    And I also wanted to ask what foundation would you suggest for fine embroidery to be used on fine dresses (silk or lace etc). My mother was an incredible talent, she made beautiful and perfect embroideries without using any hook, when I turned around her work it was just as perfect as the front… Thank you in advance.

    1. Linen is a fabric that comes in many “grades.” If you think linen isn’t a fine enough ground fabric for silk threads, you might not be familiar with really good linen. Good linen is an excellent ground fabric for silk embroidery. If you look at silk embroideries that have withstood the test of time (centuries old) in museums and the like, you will find that many of them are on linen.

      If you’re making dresses, I suppose you can embroider whatever fabric you want the dress to be made of. There’s no limit on where you can put embroidery. If you’re making a “fancy” dress, silk makes sense (as long as it’s real silk and not some polyester knock-off, which would be really hard to hand embroider with a good outcome).

    2. I know that linen comes in different varieties. I looked at the pictures you posted, and my eyes do not like the foundation with the fine silk thread… a question of taste. I would prefer something finer.

  83. Hi Mary,

    This is a magnificent piece. I absolutely love the colours and the design.
    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful piece of inspiration with us.

    Warm regards,


  84. Wow, this is gorgeous! Just FYI, I would love to have a go at this piece. It’s rare that designs are done specifically for silk, which makes me even more keen to have a go (sometimes trying to alter regular stranded cotton patterns for use with silk just doesn’t work… Though if I knew more about the different types of silk it might be easier!) so please release this as a pattern, ideally with your silk ideas to help people like me who are trying to learn to embroider in silk? Either as an e-book, or just a step by step on your blog. Thanks, you rock xxx

    1. Coincidentally, I’m just picking this project up from the framer today. It is then being shipped to France, where it will be featured in a book that comes out next year. I will definitely be sharing it here on the website at some point, too, but first, it’s off to France for a little sojourn! 🙂

  85. Howdy! I’m visiting from the future (August 2, 2019), following a link in the article you will write on that date.

    Some constructive criticism popped in my head, as it does… sorry… it is truly a lovely experiment in design and color and stitching! The only thing I would change would be the color of the fabric. Possibly, a different color background would keep this from seeming so floaty. Maybe an uneven, hand-dyed kind of fabric where each element has a chance to stand out on its own or play subtly against the featured element.

    I used to play the flute and I recall getting sheet music for the oboe on occasion. Typically when the piece failed to include the flute completely, or when the director wanted to feature less of the high notes. We didn’t have any actual oboe players in our band, though. Now I feel the need to go and look up the oboe, see what it looks and sounds like. My biggest regret, musically, is from selling my flute after I stopped playing. I bought the exact same model second-hand a few years back, but it just isn’t the same.

  86. Lusciously gorgeous, as is. An art piece to be enjoyed every day. This piece is priceless, you know, because beauty like this is a one-of-a-kind happening, the result of a creative process of discovery. It’s name of Fantasia in Silk is most appropriate. Your write-up is quite enjoyable, and I do agree with the idea of this being in the palampore design style–one of my most favorite, as it happens. Marvelous execution of stitchery.

  87. Absolutely beautiful! The colors and design are fantastic. As always, you do the most stunning work and inspire us all.
    A question for you. What do you do with all the samples of work that you show? Do you frame each one or turn into ornaments or do they sit in a stack somewhere? I ask this because I fiddled some on scrap fabric during the holidays and the pieces were too small to put in an embroidery hoop. I ended up tossing them but I kinda felt that I should have.

    1. I either finish mine – frame them or finish them into something – and usually end up giving them away to a family member. Some pieces, though, I file away as samples to use just for instructions. It really just depends….

  88. Dear Mary,

    Happy new year to you and yours! I showed my seven year old grandchild the gorgeous photos you posted of your Fantasia in Silk. We are both overwhelmed with the beauty of your needlework and your colour choices. Thank you so much for all your work and inspiration.

    With kindest regards,


  89. Hi Mary
    This is a lovely design and I like that it is just floating there. Does it have to be ‘a thing’ or can it just exist in its own space?
    I would probably change the colours but that is a personal preference – I like more muted tones.

  90. This is gorgeous. I love the stitch variety. What is the stitch on the large leaves that looks like it is “ribbed”? Always inspired by your work.

    1. Hmmmm… I’m not sure which stitch you mean. Do you mean the solid fill or the couched, lighter fill? The lighter fill on the outside is burden stitch, a couching technique over colored or gold threads, using different shades, lengths, or spacing of couching stitches.

  91. I would really really like it if you were to publish Fantasia in Silk as a pattern on your site. It is lovely.

  92. Will you ever do Fantasia in Silk as a class again? Also, how advanced is it..I would love to do it, but I’m concerned for my skill level.


    1. I plan to. Right now, I’m waiting for the project to come back home from France. I lent it to Au Ver a Soie as a display piece, but I’m having a hard time getting it home again! I’m hoping to kit it next year.

      I would say it’s intermediate. Some embroidery skills will be helpful. But it isn’t complicated embroidery – it’s a combination of fairly common surface techniques.

  93. I have embroidered off & on since Jr. high school. I would go long periods in between projects so I would get rusty. Stumbled across an article you wrote & was so hooked. I very seldom follow anyone’s blog but I am now a faithful reader & look for you in my email inbox. The way you write & teach feels like you are right here with me.
    Huge thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.
    I absolutely love this last piece… Beautiful!!
    Thank you for opening my eyes up to a whole new world of embroidery

  94. This piece is so beautiful and joyful to look at! It’s perfect as is! Honestly, I don’t think you should put anything with it to ground it–frankly, anything with it would just pale in comparison I think. It deserves to “float on its own.” I once told my husband that if he ever sent or brought me flowers, I’d prefer a single rose so I could see all of its beauty without the distraction of others crowding in. Don’t you think this is sort of like that? Let each segment, each color of the piece be like each petal of a single rose.

  95. I love this price! As you mentioned in todays email, I hope you revisit this design and make a project for us to master. Thank you for the link to this earlier article! Just beautiful!!

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