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 Thing 1 and Thing 2: Stitching Progress


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It’s time for a little embroidery project progress report!

Usually, on Friday afternoons and Tuesday mornings, Anna and I get a chance to work on our Jacobean-ish embroidery projects. By the time Wednesday rolls around, we finally have something to share. You’d think that we’d make faster progress, but lately, we’ve both been taking out as many stitches as we put in!

Right now, for lack of anything better, we’ve turned Dr. Seuss-ish, and we are calling the projects Thing 1 and Thing 2.

If you’re just joining in on our coverage, you can read more of the back story in the progress report from last week, which you’ll find here.

Today, I’ll show you progress on both Jacobean projects, and I’ll share some insights, thoughts, foibles, and whatnot that we’ve had along the way.

Jacobean embroidery design - project progress

Thing 1 is slowly (slowly) coming along.

I’m having some qualms about the front “leaves” on the main design element (a stylized, paisley-like flower). The leaf designs are open and airy, but I’m thinking there’s just too much white space, given how filled the background elements are.

This is something I need to think about further.

Jacobean embroidery design - project progress

Anna was the one who started adding beads just about everywhere as she worked through her project. I was jealous of all the fun she was having, so I jumped on the bead bandwagon.

Unfortunately – and I’m ruing this more and more as each day goes by – we are super duper limited in coral colored beads. We only have two types of coral colored beads on hand. I may have to bite the bullet and buy some more, because although the beads are ok, I think the project would benefit by at least one more style of bead in a coral color. I’m thinking a silver-lined 15/0 seed bead or something to that effect. Something with a bit of sparkle and color.

One of the difficult things about bead shopping online – a lot like thread shopping, but worse! – is that you don’t really know what you’re going to get, until you get it. Shape and size, fine. But color, effect, and finish? It’s really hard to tell when you’re looking at beads online.

Jacobean embroidery design - project progress

On Thing 1, I’m using silk. I’m using a variety of silk – Soie d’Alger (which is a 7-strand spun silk) and Soie Perlee (a fine buttonhole style silk) have both figured into the project so far.

I’ve also pulled some coordinating colors in Soie de Paris, which is a very fine, softly twisted stranded filament silk. It has a high sheen and it’s wonderful for shading and for fine details. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.

In addition to these threads, I’ve pulled some coordinating silk gimps and other specialty threads made by Au Ver a Soie. We’ll see if any of them will work into the design.

Stitch-wise, so far I’ve used familiar stitches: battlement couching for the large filled area, raised stem stitch, stem stitch and stem stitch filling, satin stitch, whipped chain stitch, granitos, ribbed stitch, and Palestrina stitch.

I plan to incorporate other stitches and fillings as I go. That’s the fun of it, right?

Still, I’m a little hesitant to go overboard on stitch selection. I really want all my stitches to play well together. Sometimes, when dabbling with this type of design, it’s easy to go hog-wild with stitches, incorporating every kind of possible stitch and stitch combination you can imagine! But then the piece ends up looking like a hodgepodge more than a coherent whole, and I don’t want that to happen.

I think it’s important to keep the Whole in mind, when developing the Parts, don’t you?

Jacobean embroidery design - project progress

And here is Thing 2.

Anna is farther along than I am, still. I’m not sure how she does that, but she always manages to be a step ahead.

She’s still on the Bead Thing. I don’t think I’ll be able to curtail that.

She’s working in cotton, on Sunflower Seed linen, which is a 30 count linen. It has a close weave, so it supports the surface embroidery well enough. I meant to suggest backing the fabric with batiste or muslin, but I forgot to tell her, so her fabric has no backing. It’s still holding up well. It’s a great linen!

Jacobean embroidery design - project progress

Beads! Beads everywhere!

Yep. I’d give my right arm for some 15/0 seed beads in a good coral color! I think the delicas (Miyuki delicas, which are 11/0, so larger than a 15/0 seed bead) look fine. And I like them on these leaves. But I think 15/0 might work better in smaller spaces. And there are some smaller leaves coming up. What will she do?

Jacobean embroidery design - project progress

We have three different blues and blue-green beads to choose from, that work well with the colors we’ve chosen.

Another oversight: I forgot to show her how to run her thread back through a line of beads, to pull them all into alignment and order. You can see a little burble in one of the beads on the line. That will correct itself once the thread is run back through the whole line.

Anna’s approach to embroidery is much more free and easy, compared to mine. I tend to be an uptight stitcher and rather formulaic. I don’t do “sketchy” very well. Anna does, though.

And while I absolutely hate taking out and restitching an area (though I do it when I need to), she has absolutely no qualms taking a section out that she doesn’t like and working it again. And again. And again! – until she gets it the way she likes it. She will test and remove and replace and test again and remove and replace, with no hesitation. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all. That’s a good thing.

So that’s where we are on our projects! Hopefully, we’ll have a huge leap in progress next time we visit Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Previous Articles

If you’re interested seeing this embroidery project develop, the links below will take you to previous articles in chronological order:

Jacobean Whitework on Blue

Trying Different Threads and Fabric

Small Progress.

The Trunk Again

Changing the color palette, ground fabric, and threads

Troubleshooting the Stem

Progress: Stem Complete & Battlement Couching

Introducing Anna’s Version, with cotton threads on natural linen

Jacobean Progress: Embroidery, Beads, and Mistakes


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(24) Comments

  1. If it was me, I’d leave the more white leaves until the very end, then decide. Given how condensed the filled in elements are filling in the forward leaves might make things look even heavier. You might find you need that whiteness as a relief for the eye.

    I buy my Toho beads from beadbeada.com. Huge selection and best prices anywhere.

  2. Hi Mary,
    I am not sure if you realize this, Miyuki also makes the Delica beads in the 15/0 size. They sell bead cards (like a thread card) that you can get reasonably priced from FireMountain Gem, especially if you have a larger order or can pool your order with some friends. It makes it so much easier to choose the right colors. I prefer to work with the Delica beads as opposed to other seed beads because they are perfectly regular in shape, have the larger hole, and seem to fit against each other so much better. Regular seed beads I always seem to have a problem with the holes not always fitting the needle or being rough and damaging the thread and such.

    1. 🙂 Yes, I have some, and I like them for the same reasons. They unfortunately only have two beads in this orange-ish range. And a lot of the 15/0 delicas are metal finishes, it seems. I’ve put in a nice supply of the sea colors, in both delicas and round, but I haven’t found any decent coral-oranges, except the two I already have, one of which won’t work well on the white fabric. It works better on the natural linen.

  3. Speaking of bead shortage, where do you get your Japanese beads? The nearest shop closed and I have not found an online shop that doesn’t run out of beads frequently. Thank you. Your work is gorgeous.

    1. Hi, Sarah – I get beads from a variety of sources. Here are some of them, off the top of my head: Caravan beads, Aura Crystals, Fire Mountain Gems, Artbeads, and I’m sure there are others. I have to sometimes compare websites to find the better prices and who has the most of what I want in stock. I wish there were a good bead store within reasonable driving distance, but alas..!

  4. Hi, Mary! It is fascinating to see the progress you and Anna are making on your projects. This is one of the articles I like best on your site – the display of your ongoing work on a design. Your thread and stitch choices are illuminating.

    Now I’m inserting my opinion, so feel free to stop reading if I’m overstepping my bounds! In your second photograph where you show the focal in it’s stitched glory, I think you need to change your bead choice on the left smaller leaf. That coral looks absolutely dead against the bright aqua/turquoise vein. Using a matte or flat color bead would be great, but that obviously shiny bead has lost color and luster. It’s blah and does not flatter your stitching. No doubt this is due to your current limited choice of beads.

    I realize we all see things differently. As a long time beader and bead user in stitching, I would replace it with a slightly more intense color of bead. I believe it would be more visually appealing. Please forgive my temerity in making this criticism. I wish good progress to you and Anna on Thing 1 and Thing 2.


    1. Hi, Katherine – Thanks for your comment! I would love to find a more intensely colored coral-orange bead, but unfortunately, there is a dearth of this color of bead out there.

      You’re right about photography changing the look. This bead actually looks pretty good next to the colors. And it has a nice little sparkle to it, thanks to being a color-lined crystal bead, rather than a plain, flat color. I am not a huge fan of matte beads in embroidery. I like them within all-bead projects, but when they’re used as an accent to a fully embroidered piece, they don’t accent too well. They provide texture ok, but they tend not to add any of the sparkle that I like to see in beads accenting embroidery.

      I’m still on a quest to find the perfect coral-orange beads. Something orange sherbet-ish, without being too orange-orange, would be delightful. But I’ve gone through all of Miyuki’s possibilities and only found two beads that sort-of work. I’ve also explored TOHO’s color range to no avail. So we shall see how it works out!

      Thanks again for the input! I appreciate it!

  5. Whoops! I forgot to acknowledge that photography can change the appearance of any element in a composition. If that’s the case, throw my previous comment in the trash. Have a good day.

  6. I’m really enjoying your projects and the updates. This is a fabulous story. You both are very talented. I can’t wait to see more.

  7. Just lovely! Both of them! Your 4-color shaded leaf is perfect. I tried shading a leaf on my current project with 4 shades of green in chain stitch fill and it ended up looking for all the world like a green skunk! Hmmm. I’m at a standstill trying to figure out what to do to remedy that little situation since I don’t think it would be at all easy and might even be impossible to pull out all that tightly packed chain stitching without ruining the ground fabric. Currently I’m leaning toward stacking more layers of chain stitch on top in a simplified color scheme and pretending I always planned a padded chain stitch fill for that leaf. Only I will know about the skunk lurking beneath if all goes well.

    Good luck with your coral seed bead search, it’s so hard to judge colors on the internet and coral is a shifty color at the best of times. I am inspired by you and Anna to consider adding some beads to the current project. Maybe on the edge of that skunky leaf. Deflect and distract…

  8. I have some peacock blue, greens and purple delicata beads. I’m really enjoying yours and a sashiko youtube channel. I would be happy to share some beads.

    1. Hi, Holly – Thanks so much! I actually put in an order last week for some beads, and was very lucky to score some really good ocean blues and greens and the like, and a very few coral-orange colors, because there just aren’t that many of the latter available. But wow! There’s a huge variety of blues / greens out there. Thank you again!

  9. I am loving Anna’s take on a happy design! I think it is delightful. It has been fun seeing the two pieces develop together. Thank you for all you do to share your work. I like the peek behind the scenes at all the things you consider when designing. Makes one appreciate the work all the more.

  10. Great article! While the 2 styles are different they both have interesting features about them. First off, clearly Anna doesn’t torment herself as you do, and so her work flows more easily through her “confident” fingers and she definitely has a truly sophisticated color palette. But yours, Mary, has the masterful deliberation combined with a joyful palette. It’s nice to see both Things side-by-side. In my own humble opinion, Mary, allow the white space to be, in light of the penciled-in leaf-lets that are awaiting their floss yet. Then re-evaluate it at that point.

  11. I have so enjoyed reading your blog and looking at the work you’ve done. I have never in my life seen embroidery like yours. Been embroidering since I was a child but NOTHING like what I’ve seen with your work. A zillion questions come to mind that would prove, even tho I’m a practitioner (lol) for over 50 years, that I know nothing about what you do.

    Thank you for the beauty you are bringing me.


  12. Oh, colours! Oh silk! I have been sitting doing écru stitching in lace thread on écru linen for weeks. I am craving silk and colour and surface stitches! Scrunch and chunky and with bits of glitziness. Maybe I will find I end up doing something else instead, if i get thumped on the head by an inspiration, but right now I am looking at your, and Anna’s, work and DROOLING!

  13. They’re both beautiful! I love the colors so much. I can’t wait to see the whole pieces when they’re done.

  14. I enjoy Jacobean design for its freedom and playfulness. It is abstract, modern, historic, delightfully fussy and seductively beautiful, all of these depending on the choice of materials. I still tend to design with fewest types of stitches just because I like the clean lines that let small works tell their stories without confusion, but the pull-out-all-the-stops lushness of Jacobean design is so much fun! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Hi Mary! Hope you had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. You have probably resolved your leaf question by now. I keep thinking about a tiny bit of seed stitch in the open areas, just for texture? I am really enjoying your progress reports on this project! Best to you and your family.

  16. That is sooooo lovely. I’ve been considering experimenting with a Jacobean element or two recently, and this is such great inspiration. I was staring at it trying to reverse engineer what your stitch choices were — then found it in the post.

    The whipped chain stitch looks spectacular, and the couching! Is the ribbed stitch what I’m seeing in the right leaf? I was trying to figure that one out because I love the effect.

    1. Hmmm. Not ribbed stitch on the right leaf. Do you mean the large right leaf, in the blues and greens? Nope, no ribbed stitch there. I’m working with silk perlee, so the nature of the thread might make it look a bit ribbed….?

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