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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Gertrude is Back, Better than Ever!


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Many moons ago, while I was beefing up my tambour embroidery skills, I stitched this bird as a practice piece with the tambour hook.

You can find the bird design here.

I officially called the bird Little Bird of Paradise – but in my head, she has always reminded me of Gertrude McFuzz – the silly, vain bird concocted by Dr. Seuss – so that’s what I affectionately call her.

In Anna’s version of the Jacobean design that we are stitching congruently, Gertrude is the star of the show, replacing the main element on my version. So, perched on top of the typical Jacobean nonsensical and stylized tree, you will find the Little Bird of Paradise mentioned above.

I don’t know exactly why Anna’s embroidery is progressing so much faster than mine. Either she’s spending more time at it (somewhat likely?) or I’m just a slow stitcher (likelier!). She has a certain stick-to-itiveness for any given task, whereas I’m more of a Distraction Magnet. Give me any opportunity to be distracted, and I’m off!

Both of us have had our frustrating moments, picking out parts and re-stitching them.

Jacobean Design with Bird for Hand Embroidery

When we started this particular venture, Anna and battlement couching didn’t get along at all. After her first foray into the battlement-couching field, she declared she hated it and would never do it again.

But then she did it again.

And then she did it again.

I like the tiny scale of the battlement couching on the top of Gertrude’s wing in the photo above. I think she’s going to pick up the green-blues again in the wing feathers, mixing them with coral. And I think she plans to accent a few areas on Gertrude with some of the sea-green beads we’ve been using.

I suspect Gertrude will come off as a fine bird, indeed.

Anna’s using stranded cotton (DMC) on her version of this design, and she’s making use of DMC’s Variations off and on throughout the design. You can read about Variations here. They’ve expanded the line a bit, so it’s really quite a nice collection of variegated colors. And if you’re looking for matching solids for the variegated colors, this chart will give you the solid color numbers of DMC to help you find matching threads.

Jacobean Design with Bird for Hand Embroidery

Here’s battlement couching again, in the center of this little pomegranate element.

This particular element has given us both pause. I’ve been working on it on my version of the design this week, and I’ve already taken it out twice. I’m testing a couple different approaches on the leaves.

We both treated the outside of the pomegranate the same way, with a padded buttonhole stitch filled between with straight stitch, but Anna had some problems with the placement of the leaves in her design. Completely my fault – I made some later adjustments in the design, simplifying it a bit, but she didn’t get the benefit of the corrections.


Jacobean Design with Bird for Hand Embroidery

That’s her original battlement couching, on the center leaf above. I like the treatment of these leaves. I’ll probably borrow a version of this idea.

And I really like her treatment of the little buds in the background. She finished the “neck” of those buds with a little line of beads, where I used a bullion stitch across the neck of mine.

(Why didn’t I think of beads?)

Different Stitching Approaches

Another major difference in our stitching approaches, which I really just noticed this morning when editing photos, is that, aside from the trunk (we both started with the trunk), Anna stitched her design from the base, progressively upwards.

Aside from the trunk, I began with the main element at the top, and worked progressively downwards.

I wonder what that says about us?

So that’s where we are on these Jacobean embroidery pieces.

Not Crewel

I just want to take a brief moment here to reiterate that these projects are not crewel embroidery. I’ve received a few emails about the pieces, commenting on the adding of beads to crewel work, asking why we are using stitches that don’t belong to traditional crewel work, and so forth.

This is just straightforward, regular surface embroidery with silk threads and cotton threads. The designs are small – they’re barely over 6″ tall. If this were crewel embroidery, they’d have to be quite large – at least 12″ tall or larger – to accommodate the same details worked in wool.

“Jacobean” does not necessarily mean crewel, and crewel does not necessarily mean Jacobean. One is a design style (Jacobean) and one is a type of embroidery (crewel). You can read more about the difference here.

The Back Story

You can pick up the last article on these projects here.

And, at the end of this article here, you’ll find a list of all the previous articles in this series covering these Jacobean-inspired embroidery projects.

Coming Up

Next week, some tool talk!

Also, we’re going to take a close look at a new book due out soon – you’ll want to see what it’s all about!

I’ll keep you updated on this project, and I’ll tell you about some exciting things going on in the studio.

Have a fabulous weekend!


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(7) Comments

  1. Congratulations to Anna! Anna, your palette, your choice of stitches, and your stitching are simply beautiful. Iā€™ll look forward to seeing the finished work.

  2. Anna’s canvas looks very much like chain stitching all over; very pretty with a consistent look to it! Question about the beads: why not use square or cube shape beads? Thank you for posting your progress !

    1. Squares and cubes don’t usually come as tiny as 15/0, which is the size I prefer for embroidery with beads, but I will go as large as 11/0. There’s not a lot of variety in bead shapes at that size, from what I can tell. Delicas and round are very common, and they have the larger color and finish choices.

  3. It’s so neat to see two different approaches to the same design, at the same time, with the same colour palette! Usually when I see variations, the colours are the main change. So happy to see that little bird again in Anna’s design, I loved your tambour version and I think the new Gertrude looks fabulous. I love sparkle too and I’m really enjoying the beads šŸ™‚

  4. I just started on your Little Bird of Paradise for my first attempt at a proper little embroidery piece so I’m excited to see its reappearance!

    I only came across your blog a couple of months ago or so, and I’m really enjoying following your posts on the Jacobean Things – they look wonderful.

  5. Coincidentally, it was your resplendent tambour bird which first brought me to your site. I had such a lot of trouble finding anything about tambour that wasn’t about tambour beading and your posts absolutely hit the spot. (Always happy to see more!)

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