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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Tulips & Tweets – Embroidered Folk Designs


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Earlier this week, I shared a few projects that occupied my embroidery hoop over recent weekends, especially a cheery variety of folk-inspired designs that I had prepared for some (now-cancelled) local classes this summer.

I begged you for input on names, and golly! Did you all come through! So Many Good Name Choices! Thank you!

Debbie offered “Tulips and Tweets” – and I have to admit, the name immediately twitterpated me because it is light, crisp, short, sweet, and fun, all rolled into one easy to remember, and easy to say, title. I like it. Thanks, Debbie! And everyone, for all your good suggestions!

Tulips & Tweets Folk-Inspired Embroidery Designs

On this particular design set, I used a bunch of stitches – whatever stitches occurred to me as I was embroidering.

For thread, I used DMC stranded cotton, mostly three strands at a time. On some elements, I used two – I’ll mention those below.

These are the DMC colors I used:

Reds to Orange: 321, 3801, 3340
Greens: 699, 700, 703
Blues: 3843, 3846
Yellow: 444
Black: 310

Tulips & Tweets Folk-Inspired Embroidery Designs

Stitches include chain stitch, whipped chain stitch, stem stitch, satin stitch, Palestrina stitch (couched with a contrasting color), fishbone stitch, fly stitch, herringbone stitch, buttonhole wheels (half wheels, as scallops), backstitch and whipped backstitch, and French knots.

Tulips & Tweets Folk-Inspired Embroidery Designs

There’s even a ring of oyster stitch on the inside of the lower flower in the photo above (in orange).

For the little filled swashes inside the tulips, I used herringbone stitch, which I outlined with stem stitch. I used two strands of floss for that, and I also two strands of floss for the scallops, which are worked in half buttonhole wheels.

On the satin stitch dots, I used two strands of floss, too. But on the satin stitched black dots for the birds’ eyes, I used just one strand. You can use two or three – it’ll fill faster – or you can use a different stitch altogether. Buttonhole wheels work great!

Other than that, all the rest of the stitching is three strands.

You can find tutorials for all the stitches I used on my towel set in the How-To section here on Needle ‘n Thread.

But Don’t Limit Yourself

But really, the best thing about designs like this is that you don’t have to go by someone else’s formula.

Whether you’re new to embroidery and you want something to practice different stitches on, or whether you’re an old hand at stitchery, you can embroider designs like this with any stitches that you want!

Therein lies the whole “relaxation” approach to embroidery like this. You just go with whatever occurs to you, or you go with whatever you are most comfortable with. You could stitch the whole towel in backstitch if you wanted. Stem stitch. Chain stitch. You don’t even have to fill anywhere – everything could be outlined with line stitches. Or maybe you want to fill dots and so forth, but you don’t like satin stitch. No problem! Use a buttonhole wheel.

You can even go true-folkish and work these types of folk designs in monochrome. Redwork, anyone? Or blue? You can work one solid color – all the same shade of blue, for example – or you can use three or four shades of blue.

Tulips & Tweets Folk-Inspired Embroidery Designs

When embroidering on ready-to-stitch goods like the towel sets I stock in my shop, you don’t need much in the way of supplies.

You need thread. I recommend a good quality cotton floss (stranded cotton) like DMC, Anchor, Cosmo, or the like.

You’ll need a good hoop that can keep your fabric drum-taut while you stitch. This makes all the difference in the finished outcome – especially when it comes to puckering. Your fabric should be drum taut in the hoop, meaning that, when you tap the surface lightly with your finger, it sounds like a drum. As you stitch, make sure that tautness is maintained. The better the hoop you have, the easier it is to maintain a good, taut surface during a stitching session.

You’ll need some needles – I use #7 crewel (also called “embroidery”) needles exclusively with this type of project.

And you’ll need a pair of small, sharp scissors for snipping your threads.

That’s it!

Tulips & Tweets Folk-Inspired Embroidery Designs

Ready to Stitch Towel Sets

For now, I’ve put Tulips & Tweets together as a ready-to-stitch towel set, available here in my shop. I plan on making them available another way in the future, especially for those who are overseas, but I wanted to get these out and in the shop since many of you have asked for them.

I can only do a limited supply at a time, but I’m trying to establish a reasonable workflow that allows me to keep things in stock and ready for you when you want it. I don’t like you to be disappointed when an item is sold out! I know there must be some sort of secret that I haven’t discovered yet, besides taking pre-orders for things that aren’t ready to ship. I don’t like doing that.

In any case, anything purchased today before 2:00 pm will go out in this afternoon’s post, which will get it to you within 3 days if there are no hold ups on the post office end of things.


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(15) Comments

  1. I hope some day you’ll be able to make this design available as a digital pattern. It’s so cheerful! As part of your international readership I’ve all but given up on getting things on the post from overseas.

    1. I’ve had such problems with mailing parcels overseas lately, Rita, that it seems risky to me to send products that would cost more for the shipping than it does for the product. I really am sorry. I would LOVE to ship internationally. But it’s very difficult to charge $36 in shipping for a product that costs $24, and then also to risk that it may not arrive, even when sent Priority, trackable mail. I’m working on a solution, though, for these particular design sets – a solution that I hope people will find is better than a digital product. Please be patient with me! :-/

  2. These are delightful! I missed the first round, but hopefully you’ll have more up soon. It seems like after the first rush on a new pattern, they tend to stay in stock for a few days or a week.

    I got your flower set (not the flower corners, the less-matching ones) and it has been really nice stitching on them. I plan to snag some more when they come up, including these delightful birds. It’s a good project to keep next to my work computer and stitch a little on when I can.

    1. I hope this becomes a digital pattern as well. I think this design would be darling on an apron for a doll, or even a “dolly and me” set for a little girl?

  3. What stitch did you use on the red twirls? I remember seeing something about this design on one of your posts. Can you name the stitch or name the date of the post.

    I have found the leaf instructions in my “Floral Corners” pattern very helpful for the leaves in “Tulips and Tweets.”



    1. Hi, Mary – The stems & twits are done with whipped chain stitch. I think I used two strands of floss for the chain, one for the whipped part.

  4. Hello Mary,

    I am looking for a book that covers an international selection of folk art embroidery and some instruction.
    It doesn’t seem like one exists. Do you know of one? Do you know someone who would like to compile such a book. Hard during Covid. Perhaps Search Press would be interested . I would attempt it myself but have no qualifications except that I love it all.

    Stay well,

  5. I wish the stitches you mention in this article were links to the stitch instructions. I also wish you were a little more detailed about which stitch you used where. (Like I’ve figured out you used all three greens for stems and leaves but I can’t figure out for the life of me what stitch they are!) I’m starting these and want to do them exactly as shown since I’m not experienced enough to make up my own decisions (unless it’s in my panting designing!). Embroidery is far from new for me but not reflexive either. I absolutely adore this project and am doing the set for my besties bday. She will LOVE it!

    1. Hi, Beth – I’ll see if I can write up more detailed instructions on these, once things slow down a bit. These are more of a “guideline” than an absolute – most people end up interpreting the designs with their own stitch choices. It’s a good way to learn! But as soon as I have more time, I will definitely work on a more precise stitch guide!

  6. Hello, Mary! I’m wondering if this lovely kit is still available only for shipping in the U.S. I live in Canada, but would love to purchase it. If necessary, I can probably get it sent to friends or family down south, but would, of course, rather not put anyone else to any trouble. Many thanks!

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