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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Jacobean Whitework: Rethinking & a New Start


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I loved the blue linen that I used when I first set up this Jacobean “whitework” embroidery project.

But since it is a discontinued fabric, and since I had some design tweaking I wanted to do, I decided to start over.

I couldn’t find a blue linen I liked well enough that is suitable for surface embroidery like this, so I’ve opted for a natural colored linen. I still intend to incorporate some blue – but we will see how that plan pans out a little further down the road!

Now, it’s not unusual that I start a project and then re-think it pretty soon after the start. I prefer it when this doesn’t happen, but sometimes, it just does. And while starting over may seem like a waste of time and resources, I always learn something useful in that process. Plus, the materials from the first attempt come in handy for testing theories for the next attempt.

Combine those positive benefits with the fact that I don’t like to put a lot of time into something that I already know is dissatisfactory, and those provide me with my excuses (they’re good enough!) to start over.

Jacobean whitework embroidery on blue linen

After the last time we spoke about this project, this is more or less as far as I got on the opening attempt at this project. The embroidery is pretty straightforward – nothing complicated! – and it was working up quickly enough.

It was right about then that I got the confirmation that the blue linen is discontinued. And, in fact, a couple parts of the design were bugging me already.

Many of you encouraged me to stitch the project on the blue, anyway, regardless of its discontinued status. But for me, this doesn’t make sense. The project will be here on the website in time to come, and keeping up with repeat inquiries on where to get the fabric, and having to disappoint folks repeatedly with the news that the fabric is no longer available, just isn’t worth it! Plus, if I want to turn this into a stitch along or an ebook or anything of that sort, it really makes no sense to use a discontinued fabric.

Jacobean whitework embroidery on blue linen

My favorite part of the first attempt is the chunky and textured outlining on these larger leaves. It’s amazing what a little addition like a whipped stitch can do to a line of chain stitches. It binds the line up, smoothing it out to a degree, while adding an extra texture and lift to it. I like that tight ropiness!

Jacobean Whitework on Natural Colored Linen

After much consideration, I decided to go with a natural colored linen. This is a 45 count linen – high count, and good for surface work and for drawn thread options, in case I decide to incorporate any drawn thread or pulled thread techniques.

The linen is called Woven Sedge, available in the US & Canada at any local needlework shop that carries fine hand embroidery linens from Access Commodities. It’s a Graziano linen, so if you’re not in North America and you’re looking for something similar, look for the 45 count Graziano linen in a somewhat dark natural.

I’ve backed the linen with a fine white cotton batiste, to give some extra support for the stitching. Like I mentioned when I started with the blue linen, I’m toying with some ideas in the back of my mind about exposing the backing fabric, and I want the contrast of the white. This approach might not materialize, but just in case, better to start with a backing than to wish I had used one later on!

Batiste is a very light, finely woven cotton, and it makes a good backing fabric for finer embroidery techniques, when you want a little extra support behind your ground fabric, but nothing that is hefty in any way.

Jacobean Whitework on Natural Colored Linen

Once I made my final (I hope) fabric and design decisions, it was just a matter of the set up work. The fabric is now framed up on some Evertite stretcher bars (I love these frames – you can read about them here), and pretty much ready to go!

I’m going to go over my thread choices again (various weights of whitework threads) and experiment with the possibility of adding in some blue elements. We’ll see about that!

So that’s where I am on this project. Even though I’ve been a little distracted with the Wheat Field motifs that I wrote about Monday, I’m still moving ahead!

Interested in Exploring Whitework?

I’ve reviewed several whitework (and related) books here on Needle ‘n Thread. These are the ones that may come in handy for this type of embroidery project:

Monograms: The Art of Embroidered Letters
RSN Stitch Guide: Whitework
A-Z of Whitework
Whitework with Color

You can find all of these books available on my Amazon Recommendations page, here, right at the top of the page. Each book has its merits, and if you’re exploring whitework, too, it’s always good to have at least one reference on hand. Of those listed, the first two are my favorites for this type of work.

In the Background…

Today, it’s studio cleaning & organization (sorting threads – a never-ending project!), fabric cutting, paper template cutting, and some plain sewing on the machine. It to be a busy day!

I’ve also been designing a new kit. It’ll be a while before it’s launched, but there’s a lot of work that goes into kit preparation well before the kit can be made available. Maybe we should talk about that some day?

Speaking of Kits

I have only a few more materials kits for A Thousand Flowers still available. If you’ve been thinking about the kit, now might be the best time to get it. I don’t plan to keep those kits in regular stock, so it will be a while before (if) they’re available again.

You can read about the kit and the e-book here. You can find the kit and e-book both available here in my shop (as a bundle).

If you purchased the ebook individually already and you are just deciding you want the kit after all, go ahead and purchase the bundle and then drop me a line and I’ll refund the portion of the discounted ebook.

Hope your Monday is going well! Friday, we’ll take a look at some figure embroidery, and then I’ll be taking a short break for Easter. When I come back, I’ll have some exciting news to share with you!

This article contains an affiliate link to my Amazon Recommendations page, where I list my favorite books and some embroidery supplies that are conveniently available on Amazon. Purchases made through this link result in a small commission for Needle ‘n Thread at no extra expense to you. Thanks!


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(16) Comments

  1. Though I liked the blue, I think the contrast with the natural will look terrific too. I look forward to seeing more.

    And a comment about kits and pre-printed fabrics…thank you for pursuing these. I remember when you first threw the idea out there. I, for one, do not have a steady enough hand it seems to make a nice enough print onto the material. I may keep trying. But I appreciate that you have expanded this offering.

  2. Well I, for one, am very glad you changed linens. I usually love blue and white, it’s one of my favorite color combinations, but I just didn’t care for this blue. Of course, I wasn’t going to say anything while it was your fabric of choice (and I’m sure the project would have been very lovely on the blue) but it is going to be absolutely STUNNING in the natural!

  3. Dear Mary

    It’s a shame the blue has been discontinued but I’m glad you have found another fabric for the project and I look forward to your progress on this. I’m really looking forward to the figure embroidery and I can’t wait for the exciting news I can’t imagine what it will be. You have been busy with your cleaning and organising I hope it’s going well and I wonder what the new kit is can’t wait until after Easter. I do hope you have a good break over Easter and get some rest and stitching done. Thanks for sharing with us your re-thinking and for all the news above. Happy Wednesday.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. Dear Mary……how about a mini-contest for the blue whitework? Betcha’ many of those who inquired about the (discontinued) fabric would love a chance to complete the project.

    1. I’m actually using the piece still – I’ve done some practice areas on it (messed up a couple!), and I plan to mess around with a few stitching ideas for the project on the blue piece.

  5. The fabulous evertite stretcher bars are near impossible to get these days. I’ve been calling shops all over and many will order for you but quote a 6 week to 4 month wait. Apparently everyone is having an issue getting them, they are quite back ordered. The one shop I found them at in the Midwest wanted $34 for shipping the 12 inch size!!!! (Thats absurd.) Anyway, heads up that they are hard to get hold of these days.

  6. Oh my goodness, I am learning so much from you! I am a retired middle school art teacher and have started using thread in my work. Each piece teaches me what not to do and often I wish I can take all my work out and start again as I gain more knowledge. Thank you so my much for sharing your brilliance!

  7. I’m sure that if you stitched it this would have looked great on the blue, but I do much prefer the natural linen colour. It should give enough contrast so the white stands out beautifully without having to compete with the background.

  8. Mary, I just love the white work on the blue linen. But, I also love on the beige. Beautiful on both.
    All the best, Jeannette

  9. I thought the whitework on blue linen was wonderful. I would be grateful if you could tell me the best way of trasferring your designs onto the linen. I have been using coloured carbon paper but it is not really accurate. Look forward to hearing fro you. Kind regards, rosemary

  10. Do you have a source for the cotton batiste? I want some to line a linen garment, but my usual source no longer carries it. Your new linen is divine!

  11. Hi ! Lovely pattern. Is it possible for you to share the full picture / trace as I would like to do it with hands for myself. Best regards.

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