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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A Hodgepodge of Hand Embroidery Musings & Updates


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Good morning, and a happy Friday all around!

Oh, joy! It’s the end of the week! This week is going out with a bang here in Kansas. Gee whiz. We had severe storms all night. I hope all my Midwestern buddies in the area are safe and dry this morning!

Today, I’m going to share a hodgepodge of embroidery musings here, including what’s going on in my Needle ‘n Thread life, some information on the Leafy Tree kit availability, and some answers to few questions that have come in lately – it really is just a hodgepodge.

Hopefully, you’ll pick up some tips or garner an idea or two for your own needlework adventures.

Grab a cup of coffee or tea (it’s definitely a tea morning here) and sit back with me for a bit while we chat!

Pumpkin and leaves autumn embroidery project on linen

We’ll start with this. You know this pumpkin & leaves design I’ve been working on? Well, one idea that was brewing in my brain was to work the design on a pre-finished table runner or table cloth, preferably one made of linen.

It’s not so easy to find embroidery blanks these days that are 100% linen, with nicely finished edges, but that are not the typical white, hemstitched pieces. I wanted something a little more rustic, a little more fallish, not white-white and not hemstitched.

I managed to find a supplier of finished 100% linen linens that are made for household decor and not really as embroidery blanks. As I stitch a sample on a smaller table runner, the jury is still out on how it’ll work out.

Pumpkin and leaves autumn embroidery project on linen

Here’s a close-up, so you can get a sense of the fabric.

I like the finish of the table runner. The runner 14″ x 36″, with a 1″ hem all around, and the hem is very simple – just a well-finished hem with very finely mitered corners. Nothing fancy. And in the natural colored linen, it has a little rustic flavor to it, even though the linen is quite soft.

The linen is rather fine, weight-wise. It’s not the best linen in the world, and I have no idea how well it will hold up over time.

I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s holding up well to the stitching, though. I’ve had to be careful with stitch tension, but it’s working out well enough so far.

We shall see! I’ll let you know how it goes and whether or not this approach is worth pursuing.

Pumpkin and leaves autumn embroidery project on linen

I finished the larger version of my pumpkins, leaves, and wheat … and wheat … and wheat. It was fun! Washed it up and ironed it and all went well.

I’m somewhat regretting the darker brown swirly bits. But hey! A little variety in approach now and then might be a good thing, especially if you’re stitching the same design several times.

The wheat is abundant on this version, but it stitches up so quickly that I found I really liked it a lot. I was afraid I was going to hate it by the end of that particular design.

Incidentally, I’ve heard from a lot of bread bakers who are really enthused over the wheat addition. I’m glad!

Keeping Track of Colors

I was asked recently if I keep a notebook that I fill out as I stitch, to keep track of all the colors I use on a project like the one above.

In fact, I do keep a notebook (or ten) of my projects, where I jot things down that I need to remember as I’m working on something, just until I can put that information in some kind of solid form on the computer.

But that notebook isn’t necessarily a color-stitch-guide-every-project-detail-type-notebook.

I know there are folks who keep hand-written notebooks that document their needlework projects in the minutest detail – notebooks that rival those of the Most Fastidious Researchers of the World.

But in fact, I’m not one of them.

To keep track of the colors I use for various parts of a design while I’m stitching, I utilize one very simple (or complex, depending on how you look at it) tool that takes very little time to use. And that’s my smart phone camera.

Using smart phone camera to track colors for embroidery projects

I usually place the threads, color code side up, on my stitching stuff in the general vicinity of the area I’m going to stitch with those colors and I snap a photo of them.

Then, a little later, when I’m back at my computer and writing up details, I flip through my photos to find the exact colors that I used for this element or that element.

Before I start stitching a project – and after I’ve pulled all the colors for the project – I take a photo of the line-up of threads, with the color numbers visible. As soon as I’m back at my computer, I translate that photo into a color list for the whole project.

The only time I jot in a notebook these days is when I need to remember something that I can’t take “visual note” of, with my camera.

The fact is, keeping a written notebook of a project while I’m in the throes of actually stitching it takes a lot of time. Because most of my projects translate into photos that I use here on the website, I have my cameras at hand all the time. Taking photos is essential, and it takes a lot of time. If I had to do both (photos and a notebook), I wouldn’t get much stitching done!

That said, if you have time and you’re inclined that way (some people just love keeping written notebooks of things), go for it! I think it’s a great idea!

Fabric Galore & The Leafy Tree

There are more kits coming for The Leafy Tree project that you can read about here. If you want to grab that kit when it’s next available (I’m shooting for just after mid-September right now, but a lot depends on the thread order), please drop me an email and request advanced notice for the kit availability. If you’re on that list, you’ll get an email that the kits are available, before it is publicly announced on the website.

Fabric & Leafy Tree Kit

While waiting for kit components to arrive, there’s a lot of fabric preparation going on.

Fabric & Leafy Tree Kit

And there it is.

See that bolt of fabric? That’s the last of the Alba Maxima. The original manufacturer is apparently no longer weaving it. Sad me. Hopefully, a replacement will be found for this exquisite linen.

Needless to say, that’s not all being used for these kits! That’s a lot of fabric! But I will find other wondrous uses for it!

Ready to Stitch Towel Sets

Some of you have been waiting for these ready-to-stitch towel sets, and there are a limited number back in stock in my shop. You can find them here.

Holly & Evergreen Ready to Stitch Towel Sets

The holly & evergreen ready to stitch towel set includes three cotton flour sack towels. Each towel has one of the three designs (small, medium, and large) transferred on it, ready for you to stitch it.

If you want to read more about these designs and see the stitches and colors used, you can find information on them here.

If you want to purchase a set of ready-to-stitch holly & evergreen towels, you can find them here.

Floral Corners ready-to-stitch towel set

The Floral Corners ready-to-stitch towel set is available here.

For beginners, if you’re just getting into embroidery, you can learn the process of stitching the Floral Corners design (and other similar designs), including all kinds of beginner tips for hand embroidery, in the e-book that takes you step-by-step through stitching the Floral Corners designs. The Floral Corners e-book is available here.

Please read the product descriptions. There’s a maximum of two towel sets (of any kind) per order – although if you want to order more than two, you can place more than one order and I’ll do my best to combine shipping and issue a refund for the difference, if there is one.

That’s All, Folks!

This weekend, I’ll be finishing up with the pumpkins, photographing some beautiful new tools, testing some tambour work, reading a new book for review, testing some video equipment (again), and staying out of the weather.

I hope your weekend is a lovely one!


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(28) Comments

  1. Hi Mary. Last week you had asked for input on the pumpkin and wheat design, so here it is. I LOVE it. Including the brown swirls.

    If I were doing it myself, the only thing I would do differently is the pumpkin. It strikes me as the design centerpiece, but it kind of fades away into all the wheat and leaves. I would fill in Mr. Pumpkin, one way or another. Maybe rows of chain stitch? That’s my current favorite, but you know all the options.

    Anyway, we had a bunch of bad thunderstorms last night, too, here in upstate New York. It’s that time of year when they’re reminding everyone that hurricane season is just around the corner. Be safe and enjoy your weekend!

  2. Hello Miss Corbet,

    The pumpkin design turned out beautifully!
    I actually really like the darker swirls ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Mary I wish you’d do a stitch guide for the Holly & Evergreen, as well as the Wheat one. I want to do these towels, but for the work involved, I want do do them on linen. (My cotton towels just don’t last like the linen ones do.

    I really like the wheat design. If I can transfer it myself, I might skip the scrolls as well!
    Not because I don’t like them, but I would like to finish before Thanksgiving, which is tomorrow in the true sense of time.

  4. Dear Mary

    I really like the finished project of the pumpkin leaves and wheat embroidery, I love the wheat it really makes the whole design. I’m really disappointed that alma maxima linen won’t be available any more it was my all time favourite linen so easy to stitch with especially for those special projects, I’m so sad. Your holly and evergreen kits are really popular and happy I am for you I hope more people buy it. I can’t wait to see your new tools and tambour work. I hope you have a great weekend and enjoy lots of good stitching.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  5. Hi Mary. I, for one, am always a big fan of swirly bits in embroidery, and also think the darker brown is just the contrast called for in this engaging design! I say, “Bravo!”

  6. I could see right off that the linen you had in the hoop was a more open weave than you normally use. You can see the the inner hoop quite well. And the dark brown isn’t bad. It provides some contrast to the composition. I don’t know if you can do it with the thread selection, before you actually begin stitching, but I remember being advised in selecting quilting fabrics to make a black and white copy of the colors/prints under consideration to make sure there was enough contrast. If too many colors in a particular hue (light/medium/dark) the overall effect is flat or washed out looking. I also love the wheat elements you added to the pumpkin. Maybe you could sneak in one other autumnal element, like an apple? Love your work, Mary. You really inspire me to stretch myself.

  7. Hi Mary,

    I just wanted to let you know that your “brown swirly bits” add some contrast to your orange and golds and make our design stand out instead of just blend together. As usual you have done a great job of explaining your projects and showing us that the designer does not have all of the answers, but allows all stitches to have room to think for themselves. Hope you are all dried out, but it would be nice if you folks from KS would quit sending your storms to MO/IL border. We’re full of water with friends up to their basement stairs!

  8. I think it is fabulous that you are doing some kits. But where has the free designs gone? We haven’t had one for a very long time. Nice one I mean.
    Are you doing any more kits of the Floral Flour Sack Towels, please. I love the designs on these and would love to make them, even if we could buy the pattern by itself, would be great. I thought I could put it on some good quality hand bath towels or handkerchiefs.
    Thanks for your great designs, site and news every week. It is so looked forward to.

    1. Hi, Julie – I just posted a free embroidery design the other day! ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t realize it wasn’t a nice one – or even that I posted non-nice ones, but… to each his own, I guess! LOL!

      And yes, I will be doing more of the flour sack towels as soon as I have time to prepare another batch. If you’d like to be on an advanced notice list for those, you can drop me an email. The holly design is already on the website, here (speaking of free patterns): https://needlenthread.wpengine.com/2018/12/holly-evergreen-details-free-patterns-and-more.html

      The flour sack designs weren’t drawn to fit on a handkerchief, really – maybe the smallest of them would, but it would take up about a quarter of a hankie, as it’s not really the same scale.

  9. I’ve been doing the same thing taking pictures with my iPhone lately. I find I’m much more likely to actually do that than I am to write anything down.

  10. Hi Mary.
    I really like the way your pumpkin and leaves design turned out. I like the dark brown swirls – theyโ€™re a nice contrast to the wheat.
    I was sorry to hear that the Alba Maxima is no longer available. I had been meaning to get some for a long time, but never did.
    Hope the weather has calmed down in your part of the country!!
    Mary Z in NYC

  11. Good tips. I think we all have come to rely on iPhones to maintain records.

    I notice that Needle n a Haystack has a fabric it suggests as a substitute for Alba Maxima. Have you tried it and if so, any thoughts or other suggestions? None of the stores here sell linen for surface embroidery so I have to rely on purchase from online sources and have no way to judge the weight or hand of the fabric.

    1. I’m not sure what Cathe is offering as a substitute for Alba Maxima, but she has a great sense of fabric, so I’m sure it would make a good substitute. I just loved AM as an all-purpose linen and there’s nothing exactly like it on the market these days. I’ll test some substitutes at some point, once I can afford to buy linen again! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I was happy to see the Christmas pine towels back but, of course, they were already sold out again. Would it be possible to sell an iron on transfer pattern? I feel very discouraged of ever getting one of these sets. They’re so beautiful.

  13. I’m brand-new to your website. Hi! (waves from Lawrence, Kan.) Rather a sleepy couple of days because of those overnight storms. My sump pump is working so hard!

    Lovely website — I have SO MUCH to read and to learn! I’m a beginner to embroidery; I’ve only done counted cross stitch in the past, but I’m starting to branch out in other directions.

    My background is in archives and museums, and (not coincidentally) when stitching, I’m always especially interested in old designs and patterns, as well as ones that just have that old-fashioned look.

    Thank you for doing such a beautiful job. I am really taken by the wheat — I would love to stitch up something like that, maybe without the pumpkin — it would match my wheat-sheaf dishes that I like to use in the fall!

    1. Hi, Sarah – Oh, those storms were crazy, weren’t they?! Two nights interrupted for several hours. I still feel the need to catch up, despite a Sunday nap. :-/ You can find a few wheat-involved patterns here on Needle ‘n Thread. This one is a bunch of wheat: https://needlenthread.wpengine.com/2014/05/free-hand-embroidery-pattern-wheat.html It’s a bit stylized and formal, but it would look great on the corner of cloth napkins or a table runner.

      More storms later this week, I hear – after today and tomorrow being scorchers again. I could give the 100-degree-plus weather and the humidity a miss, that’s for sure! LOL!

  14. I’m really, really looking forward to seeing the pumpkin and leaves pattern soon. You do such gorgeous work Mary!

    1. Thanks, Sally – I’m shooting for the first weeks of September as a deadline on this. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a back problem right now, so too much computer work and too much sitting and stitching has become problematic. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get it together before mid-September! LOL! It’s always something!

  15. Oh Gosh, yes. Hasn’t the weather been just crazy here in Eastern Kansas lately?

    I was driving home right into that wall cloud mess last week wondering if I should have just camped out in the office in Overland Park instead! But I made it home just as the heavens opened in Topeka. Just as I hit the front porch, it was like a bucket challenge poured out!!! Glad you are safe and sound. Looks like we will be getting more this week – ugh.

    1. The humidity is pretty dank, Karla! But admittedly, I love a good thunderstorm! LOL! I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer for it, but I do love to watch a good storm system roll in…. We’re probably wet enough, though, so maybe I won’t long for one too badly!

  16. Wait… are DMC colors 782 and 781 the same color? Does that explain why I canโ€™t tell them apart? Can I stop driving myself crazy about it? Shall I do a happy dance?

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