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 Stitching: Thinking through Whitework and Not Getting Far


Amazon Books

I didn’t get much stitching done this weekend.

I take that back. I got a lot of stitching done this weekend, but I got even more unstitching done. It was one of those this-is-going-nowhere sorts of weekends, as far as stitching goes.

I’ll tell you about it, share some of the reasons why things went amuck, and talk about some ideas and resources on this Jacobean whitework-on-blue project that I’m working on right now (and that I introduced to you here).

Jacobean whitework embroidery project - little progress

First, I’ll start with the apology for the bad photography. I didn’t have a decent camera alongside me, and the lighting was bad, anyway. I didn’t take any real progress pictures, but I did snap a few photos with my phone after many trials and errors, when I finally decided enough was enough.

So what you see here is a small element worked in very padded satin stitch using floche. To the left of that, I started working in a couple rows of stem stitch in coton a broder.

And that’s all well and fine.

It was the element below the lattice work in the photo above – the element that looks like it was stitched about ten times and ripped out again, because it was – that was the problem.

Jacobean whitework embroidery project - little progress

Right in here is what I’m talking about.

If I could eye roll for you right now, I would! Looking at that area at this point makes me cringe.

This is the thing: I got ahead of myself when I first start stitching on this project, because I was excited to start. I started with the area that I wanted to do first, that stood out in my mind as “fun.”This was the lattice on the central stylized element of the design.

I wanted to work a very crisp lattice filling there, anchored with tiny detached chain stitches. So I did.

I didn’t give any thought to what was going to go around that area.

Well, it’s very difficult to get a nice, smooth edge on anything solid, if you’re having to stitch around a bunch of lattice stitches and tiny chain stitches. It all gets in the way. That lattice work should have gone in last.

I knew it, but I didn’t heed my own head’s warnings when I jumped in, because I was eager.

Lesson learned.

I will probably take the lattice work out, work everything around that area, and then put it back in.

There’s a good chance I might even start this whole piece over again. It turns out that the blue fabric I’m using is no longer available. I don’t want to stitch something on a fabric that you can’t get, if you want to stitch the thing, too. We shall see! I’m contemplating…

Good Books to Have on Hand

I dug out a few books to set on my table next to me while I’m working this project.

Having some good resources at hand is a good way to glean inspiration while working through a project like this. It’s also nice to have some reference material close by, if I want some help deciding on stitches, techniques, placement, and so forth.

The three books I have on hand – all three of which I’ve reviewed here on Needle ‘n Thread – are listed below. The links will take you to my reviews.

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters

RSN Essential Stitch Guide: Whitework

A-Z of Whitework – this isn’t as thorough a review of the book, but it will give you an idea of what it’s about.

All three books are excellent books to have on hand for whitework embroidery.

The monogram book is more specific to monogramming, but the techniques involved – especially the various methods of padding, of achieving smooth results in satin stitching, deciding on stitch slant and so forth – are all relevant to any kind of whitework. It’s a gem of a book, and it’s one that I can’t recommend enough. I think it’s “running out” on its current print run, so if you haven’t invested in it yet and you have a penchant for this kind of stitching, I’d definitely get it now.

Between the other two, I’d think I’d go for the RSN Stitch Guide over the A-Z book, if I had to make a choice. They both have excellent instruction in them. For some reasons, I like the RSN one a little better. It’s hard to make a choice between those two, actually.

All three books are listed on my Amazon Recommendations page right now, right at the top, if you’re in the market for some good whitework instructional books.

I have a two hour slot in my schedule today for stitching. Keep your fingers crossed that I can make good use of it and make up time after this weekend’s debacle!

Hope your week is off to a great start!

This article includes an affiliate link to my Amazon Recommendations page, which means that any purchases made through that link will result in a small commission for Needle ‘n Thread at no added cost to you. Every little bit helps keep the website going! Thanks!


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(8) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    I hope you are able to achieve success at some stitching today, I know what it’s like to have to keep undoing stitching when you are not happy with the result very frustrating. I like the satin element could you not keep that in. I have the A-Z of Whitework and it’s a great resource to have at hand for inspiration. I hope you have more success today. Thanks for sharing with us your whitework project with us and for the dilemma’s of stitching good luck.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. Hi Mary,

    You have my sympathy for a frustrating session of stitching! That’s always a hard thing.

    I like the blue fabric you’re using and would love to see the piece completed on that fabric! For me it’s easy enough to imagine the whitework on other solid colored fabric; so it wouldn’t get in the way of my tackling the project if I wanted to do it eventually, even though that fabric is no longer available.

    Just my two cents…


  3. I wouldn’t worry about the fabric being available. It would be nice but I saw this start to your new project and thought chambray or lightweight denim. I always find blues very hard to match in home decor. I have been struggling with navy and dark denim that I am using in my kitchen. Trying to find the right colors for accessories has been a lot of trouble, so much so that I keep my wallpaper samples and paint chips in my purse at all times.
    I was considering chambray for guest towels in my bath. Your white work embroidery would be so nice for that. I am looking forward to see how you combine stitches and threads.

  4. Dear Miss Corbet,

    Oh, what a shame it didn’t work out, but the lattice work does look lovely, especially on the blue fabric. I hope you’ll consider using this fabric regardless of the fact it’s no longer available. Perhaps it would be possible for stitchers to dye their own? 🙂

    With kindest regards,

  5. Hello,
    Before undoing your pretty lattice work, have you considered something more ground covering for the border like hungarian chain stich, or laced chain stich? this way the stiches would go over the base of the lattice stich without having to pierce ?

  6. Hi Mary,
    I’ve been stitching for 35 years and I’m also guilty of getting excited and stitching the fun stuff first! No self control!
    I love the blue fabric and the white stitching on it is as fresh as a summer day!
    Thanks for all you do for the stitch8ng community… best Betsy

  7. Just to let you know that I read you articles every time I receive one. You are a wonderful person to share all of your knowledge with others. I do more than just embroidery, needlepoint. hardanger and smocking.. However I find a lot of the information can be used on other projects. Happy for you in your new studio and that your health is better. I am thankful for all of your knowledge.

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