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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Striped Shell, Stitching a Starfish & Getting Crusty


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Last time we visited my M monogram from A Sea to Stitch, I was contemplating the tulip shell – that conch type shell in the center of the M. I wanted to make it striped, remember?

And it ended up a bit wonky some five times, and I had to keep picking it out.

I finally quit picking it out, determined just to consider it an anomaly: a wonky seashell.

I call it an anomaly, because most seashells are pretty nigh-on perfect. They don’t all look the same, but within their own little construct, they usually reflect a marvelous perfection of coloring, pattern, shape, and structure. Golly, I love seashells! I could contemplate them all day and never grow bored.

Maybe not this one, admittedly… though I’m not unhappy with it. I can see clearly what the problem is, but I’ve moved on to my overzealous crusty starfish, and I’m not going back. No siree, Bob.

Embroidered monogram M with seashells

Here it is, on its side, and from here, it’s not so bad. I tried to wrap the bullions between the sections so that they skinnied out at one tip and fattened out at the other, but I didn’t quite get it.

I was also trying to wrap them in a more S-like manner down the seashell, to follow what I imagine the curve of the seashell to be.

Embroidered monogram M with seashells

It’s that center section. The stripes are going upwards instead of downwards. I really wanted them to wrap in a downward direction from upper left to lower right, but somehow, I kept getting it backwards.

Oh heck. I may have to revisit it. We shall see!

I tried various colors for the bullions between the layers, but none of them worked that great, so I stuck with coral. I like it! Nope, I’ve never seen a seashell with that feature, but hey! That’s ok. I think we can agree that it is a seashell in concept, right?

Sooooo…. moving on!!

Embroidered monogram M with seashells

The wee starfish on the right leg of the M is my current fascination.

What I wanted was a rusty red on this little invertebrate. And I wanted him to be really crusty and bumpy, because that’s how I remember the starfish from my seaside days of yore.

So I started with a base that’s an orangier rust.

Embroidered monogram M with seashells

I built up quite a bit of padding underneath to lift it off the M, and then I long-and-short stitched over the padding, to make sure that, if the base shows through, it looks somewhat like something.

Naked, it’s sort of hairy and fluffy and cute and happy.

(I almost added a face at this point!)

Embroidered monogram M with seashells

Then I started working tiny French knots in a rusty red, using one strand, with the intention of covering most of the surface with the knots. Towards the center, my plan was to mix the two colors – the rust-orange and the rust-red – in French knots.

Oh good grief. What was I thinking? A gazillion French knots over about six layers of padding worked in a very small space is a bit much. And if you don’t believe me, ask my fingers!

Still, I like the little creature.

I halfway wanted to stitch him upside-down, because I think the undersides of starfish are fascinating. But I thought that might be a bit intrusive.

So that’s where things are floating right now on the Sea-to-Stitch M. I want to finish up all the seashells today so that I can work the finishing touches – birds, ropes, and beads – which will probably stitch up quite a bit faster.

Looking for More?

This design comes from Elisabetta’s Sforza’s beautiful monogram book, A Sea to Stitch, which is available here in my shop. For my version, I selected my own color scheme and I’m working it in Au Ver a Soie silks. I’ll be adding some beads, too, for a sparkly, sandy touch.

If you’d like to follow along with this project from start to finish, here’s a list of all the articles so far, in chronological order:

My review of A Sea to Stitch

Selecting silk threads & beads for the monogram

You can see the beginnings of the monogram in this article.

Progress update – wherein I claim the monogram will be finished by the end of January. Ha ha.

Changing some colors on the monogram project

Seashells in Progress

The Striped Shell – stitching details

Happy Wednesday!


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(11) Comments

  1. Hi Mary, just my humble opinion, but I think I would like the troublesome shell to have a small triangular ivory bit above the last coral bullion at the narrow end. When I look at it it seems like a real shell would have that top piece. I love following this project!

  2. I like what you have done on the striped shell, but it looks unfinished to me. Could you add at the wide end, the end that would be where the critter entered/exited (depending on the critter) the flared opening? Or bring it to a point?

  3. That shell is a little tricky. I agree it feels a tiny bit off somehow, but I have no idea how you could adjust it. It’s still beautifully stitched and I love the stripes.

    And that little starfish is darling. The French knots are perfect for the texture, although it does seem like your fingers might end up a bit damaged.

  4. You are doing such a great job, I am very reticent to say anything — but, for the shell to have a spiral shape, imho the bullion lines need to be a bit more diagonal….. maybe? Just the last line, maybe?
    Actually, if you left it, most people would never notice it wasn’t uber-perfect!

  5. I don’t know what you padded with, but do you need to go through them all to anchor the knots? Sometimes, you can anchor them closer to the surface.

    1. Yeah, I don’t like doing surface French knots over padding – it always tends to look a little dumpy and loose. I want these to look fairly tight and compact.

  6. You pad the starfish, then long-and-short-stitch over that, and then work French knots at that?! Aside from your fingers, how did you get your needle through all that?? 😯 I had this problem several times that there’s no way to squeeze my needle through more than one layer of thread.

    As to the seashell in question … (my first thought was looks a bit like a chicken that tries to simulate a seashell ;D – hope you don’t take offence! I get very odd associations sometimes) … what bugs me the most, is the little angle protruding beyond the M at the top left. Without it, it seems to me, it would appear more rounded, more seashell-ish, and, yes, the stripes would look more appropriate in a more S-like manner, I think. But, hey! nothing is impossible for Mother Nature, right? And all those perfect seashells around wouldn’t stand out without an imperfect one next to them.

  7. Dear Mary

    I love the tulip shell and it’s stitched lovely as far as I can see. We are always critical of our own work. But the Star Fish I love it, the rusty red and rusty orange blend really well and using french knots is such a lovely idea, it coming along nicely. Thank you for sharing with us your progress on the Sea to Stitch project and for the difficult stitching you have had to cope with on the project. It’s really lovely.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  8. Ooh, I love that texture on the starfish from the French knots!

    I’ll bet you’re ready to turn that tulip shell into a big scallop by rounding off the right edge of it and forget there ever was such a thing as a tulip shell planned there in the design. 😉

    The scallops are all playing so nicely together.

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