Mary Corbet

writer and founder


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

Contact Mary

Connect with Mary



2024 (62) 2023 (125) 2022 (136) 2021 (130) 2020 (132) 2019 (147) 2018 (146) 2017 (169) 2016 (147) 2015 (246) 2014 (294) 2013 (294) 2012 (305) 2011 (306) 2010 (316) 2009 (367) 2008 (352) 2007 (225) 2006 (139)

Two Stitched Rows … and a Thing


Amazon Books

Last time we visited Stitch Fun 2021 – my yearly sampler that I am endeavoring to add a little to every singly day – I’d already laid the foundation for the composite stitch that makes up one of the decorative bands I’ll show you today.

There are a few things here I want to chat about. One is thread. We all like talking about thread, but today’s approach is more by way of a warning!

I need to branch off and get away from decorative bands for a while – and I started to do that the other day and then I lost my bearings.

So here’s where I am so far on this sampler. As we look at it, I’ll note a few thoughts, ideas, problems, and so forth.

Stitch Fun 2021 embroidered sampler

When last we met on this project, we discussed the sampler down to the Algerian Eye line in red – it looks like square sort of stars, and on each side, a line of running stitch in white.

In that article, I gave you a stitch layout of different decorative bands. In the photos today, the excess fabric is rolled up, held in place with these huggers that we’ve already talked about, and everything is cozily tucked inside a small fold of wool felt, with my hoop held happily in my Needlework System 4 frame clamp that you can read about here.

Hoop Talk

Note, I said hoop!

Back in this installment on the sampler, I had migrated to a q-snap frame. Here’s why that happened:

A round hoop that was big enough to stitch comfortably to the edge of the bands was too big for the fabric. And a round hoop that fit the band width was too small and cut off my ability to stitch to the edge comfortably and finish threads on the back.

I really wanted something more square than round.

Normally, in an embroidery situation, stretcher bars or roller bars or a slate frame would provide a nice square or rectangular stitching experience. But on something like this, which is very long and somewhat perpetually growing, those are not convenient options.

So I tried the q-snaps for a while, and while they worked ok, there was too much about them that was inconvenient – most notably these three points:

1. I don’t have a stand that holds them;
2. I find them bulky and awkward to hold by hand; and
3. Despite the wool felt additions under the snaps to help keep things from shifting while I stitched, I was having to adjust them far too often.

Many people like q-snaps, and that’s great! For me, I found they couldn’t be an every-day stitching solution. A small, quick solution, sure. But having to work with them every day was not satisfactory.

So I moved the sampler to a different hoop… and I do believe I’ve found the perfect solution! I’ll show it to you in-depth very soon! I’m so happy with it! It’s a beautiful hoop – one of those life-long tools that work for so many projects and that will withstand the test of time. I’ve been flipping it between projects. I’m loving it and can’t wait to show it to you!

Stitch Fun 2021 embroidered sampler

Now let’s talk about stitches!

The green and purple band in the photo above is a very interesting stitch combination that I enjoyed working. It’s somewhat time consuming, which is why I’ve not moved ahead very far. But I enjoyed working it!

It’s called step stitch, and I’ve added some variation to it. I’ll share it with you in detail, tutorial-wise, shortly. It’s a stitch that you’d most likely use for a decorative band. You could manage it on gentle curves, perhaps, and with a little manipulation, it might form corners to make a whole frame. But it’s mostly a decorative band.

Underneath the green and purple band is that … uh … wavy green line and some buds and bits.

The wavy green line is worked in Portuguese knotted stem stitch, using three strands of floss.

The larger buds are granitos in pink that have been stitched over diagonally across the lower half of them with red, to give the impression of a bud.

The other bits are French knots and little tiny cross stitches.

Thread Talk

So this is where we talk about thread.

See that wavy green line:

Stitch Fun 2021 embroidered sampler

I stitched the wavy green line with a stranded cotton that I knew, by feel, was not that great of a thread. It didn’t have a label. It feels exceptionally dry, and it fuzzes very quickly. I know it wasn’t DMC, because I have their current color card, and while they have some greens that are somewhat close, they don’t have this green.

It was a bad stitching experience. I was sorry I selected the thread, but in the spirit of using up threads rather than delving into new skeins and whatnot, I chose it. So I used it.

Some cotton threads have a dry and meager feel to them. They don’t shine well, they don’t “fill” the stitched area well. They are selfish and stingy with their coverage. And they pill and fuzz up fast. They also tend to break and knot and frustrate.

Craft threads (sold for things like friendship bracelets) and generic threads (like those found in very large bundles for cheap on Amazon or at craft stores) are generally these types of threads. They aren’t made to stand up to the repeated friction of passing through fabric. Keep that in mind when you’re acquiring thread. It’s worth paying a wee bit more for a good quality cotton thread!

I won’t use anymore of it, but since I started with it, I finished with it.

And the Thing

I have this unspoken (actually, I think I did say it or write it somewhere) that I won’t pick out anything on this sampler. And that’s one reason why the green yucky thread stayed.

But then I stitched that periwinkle colored Thing in the corner the other day.

I know my plan was something other than a decorative band.

It’s a Thing. But blimey. I have no idea what kind of thing!

I am ever-so-tempted just to pick it out.

I know I shouldn’t.

But I probably will.

Should I? Shouldn’t I?

This isn’t really a moral or ethical question, so I don’t know why I’m troubling over it.

That’s where we are!

We’ll get back to the strawberries on Thursday. And then we will move forward with a couple other delights! See you on Thursday!

(Oh, and happy Daylight Savings Time. Grrrrrrrrr.)

More Sampler

You can read all the articles about this sampler by perusing this list tagged Stitch Fun 2021.


Leave a Reply to Becky Rust Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(31) Comments

  1. I’ve had better luck with Q-Snaps as a quilting hoop, where a bit if looseness in the fabrics is actually desired, than as embroidery hoops. Yet, I don’t recall that it was the need to keep adjusting the fabric that bothered me, maybe I need to try them again.

    I think it’s a thing because it’s all alone. I’d probably add 3 more making frame corners of a sort for that row. Then I’d decide yay or nay.

    You made me rip out and redo a few hours of 1 over 1 on 32 count linen on my current stitching project. Perhaps gave me the courage is more accurate. The wording was bothering me and I kept hearing your words about regretting it forever if something really bothers you while stitching. I tried to plug on with it as charted, no joy in that. I was almost done with the section, then picked out half the words, recharted, restitched and now I’m much happier with it. It’s odd, the restitching went much faster and with fewer errors than the first time when I has having doubts.

  2. If you don’t want to pick it out, you could make a row of them and call it a band or intersperse them with another motif to make a band/row.

  3. I like the periwinkle Thing. Why not put one on other side then work between th3m.
    Totally agree with you about quality with DMC yarns. I purchased a wonderful assortment at a resale shop and found that anything not labeled or not DMC wasn’t worth using.
    I am looking forward to hearing more about your different hoop usage.

  4. I kind of like that little periwinkle Thing! What about an unconnected row of periwinkle thingies?!

    I am enjoying working on the strawberry embroidery.
    Thanks, Ms. Mary!

  5. Dear Mary

    I can’t wait for you to show us the hoop you are using for your sampler and I’m looking forward to you showing us Step Stitch I can’t find it on the internet anywhere. The sampler looks lovely and the line above periwinkle colored Thing is lovely with the green and the Portuguese knotted stem stitch and the other threads and stitches used. I would leave the Periwinkle stitch thing and finish the line as it adds and blends to the overall design of the sampler. Thank you for sharing with us the latest progress on the samplar and for the different problems and solutions you have faced with it.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  6. Mary, I am so enjoying watching your progress on this project and tool lover that I am, the discussion of hoops has me on the edge of my seat waiting to be introduced to this new variation you mention. I actually like the Q-snaps and I use the moments that I stop to adjust the tension to my liking as opportunities to take a breath and evaluate my next stitching move and I find that they sometimes fit more comfortably in my hand than hoops. It all seems to depend on nature of the design I’m working. I do enjoy my Hardwicke Manor hoops as well. It’s nice to have options.

    In answer to your burning question at the end of the post, I say that every time I make any rules for myself going in to a large project I know at the outset that I’m going to break one or more of them eventually. Can’t help myself. So I think of them as Pirate Rules…more like guidelines. 🙂

  7. No matter the plan — I’d take out that purple thing too! I think the color is not right yet and how do you make it go across the row and not look like clumps of something.
    Sampler is beautiful!

  8. What’s so happy about Daylight Savings Time?

    Leave the perwinkle thing. Make a mirror of it on the other side and write:
    Happy Daylight Savings Time. Or switch to Green and write Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
    It breaks up all the bands.

    Or make a couple of Perwinkle things write an ode to sleep.

  9. Double Grrrrrr on Daylight Savings…and hey, take out the Thing if it bugs you! Imagine looking at the sampler when it’s all finished, and there’s a row of pesky blue Things rambling across your work that you wished you’d dealt with right in the beginning. (That’s experience talking…lol)

  10. Your ‘thing’ looks like Wessex embroidery pictured in the great book on 20thc embroidery by Gail Marsh. Composites of long-tailed chain stitches, the ‘tails’ forming a square array and one corner of the square a cluster of chains. Squares in rows as fill. Would look good in a row of squares.

  11. For what it’s worth, I think the “Thing” has a bit of a butterfly wing shape. Perhaps you could add a body and other details to salvage it in that way. I can also see it transformed into a flower-seen-sideways by adding a stem, leaves, etc. Since embroidery is often so stylized, I think either of these options could work. Of course, you’re so creative, I’m sure you could come up with something even better. 🙂

  12. I’d unpick the thing if it makes you happier. Maybe give yourself a nonzero number of times you’re allowed to unpick things. Say three or five. If you want to unpick this, that’s fine, just choose wisely for your remaining choices to unpick.

    As for a hoop, I’d probably be inclined to use a square hoop. I really like my Edmunds square hoops. (I use both the 6″ and 8″ versions.)

  13. The Periwinkle Thing looks to me like a flower or perhaps splashing water. I’d keep it, and see if you can make it into something. Or just create a section of whimsy on the sampler. Or a collection of Things, by adding more unknown objects to this one. I think it’s pretty, whatever it is, but then periwinkle is my favorite color.

  14. I can understand not wanting to break your own rule – mainly because it can lead to other unpickings which can lead to a huge faff! But… if you really don’t like it I would do it quick! Otherwise it will annoy you the whole time. I know I need to like what I am stitching – not look at it and go blah don’t like that bit.

  15. Haha: The Thing! Use that as a challenge to turn it into something unplanned!! You certainly have enough creativity!! When I was in 6th grade, for fun the teacher would draw 5 different letters — very large — on the chalkboard. Then 5 students would have to go up and turn their letter into a picture of some sort! Your “Thing” reminds me of that!
    Good luck!

  16. I really despise Q snaps. I think it’s a love it or hate it kinda thing. I CAN BARELY WAIT to find out what you’re using. Your “thing” is sort of pretty but if it bothers you when you start stitching again I think you should pluck it out. Maybe you’ll feel differently by the time you start stitching on it again. I too vote they stop the insane changing of the time twice a year.

  17. I like the periwinkle thing. If it was my sampler, I would leave it in. In my old age, I’m getting frisky that way. But its not my sampler. Its yours. So …. you should do what you want.

  18. I say you stick to it and make that thing a THING! You have such skill and imagination and it could be a favorite creation you just haven’t created yet! You got this!

  19. Prudentially, you shouldn’t if you don’t want to pick other future things out and, like me, you find one exception undermines the rule!

    I never really know what you mean by ‘dry’. Some threads feel silkier and softer and some shine more, but they all feel dry to me (and I have a pretty wide variety, quality-wise, so it isn’t that I’ve not got any contrast). I find the worst thread I’ve got actually covers better than anything else, but it is awful in every other way. I wish there were nice threads which were *not* shiny. They’re useful.

  20. Hi Mary,
    I Loge this colourfull Sampler. Being a relativ novice to handembroidery, I have read many posts about different stitches on your page.
    Would you mind sharing the kind of stitches you have used so far on your sampler and which you are using in the following patterns? I would like to try some of them an a short row I can hopefully manage.
    Love your Website and your beautiful designs and works of Art!

    1. Hi, Silke – if you read the past articles on this project, you’ll see that I often mention that stitches being used and link to tutorials for them or describe them. I also interlink to the previous installment on the project, so that you can go back to it. There’s also a “archives” category in the left column (when viewing on a computer or laptop) or in the “hamburger” menu in the top right when viewing on a mobile device – just scroll down to “Archives”. If you click on 2021, you’ll get a whole list of this year’s articles so far, and you can browse through the ones on the sampler. Additionally, I linked to the tag “Stitch Fun 2021” in the article you’ve commented on here (at the end), and that will also take you to all the articles on this project, where you will find information on the stitches. Hope that helps!

  21. Serendipity is a wonderful thing so—Rock Your Periwinkle Mary! Put on your CQ hat & decorate, decorate, decorate until you love it. When in doubt, add beads!

  22. Dear Mary!! I LIKE THAT THING!!!!!! I think I would make it into a circle–like a fancy flower??? and make a row of them with leaves in between!! Maybe add some french knots or beads or ???? But a row of round flowers!! What DO YOU think? Doing great like normal!! I LOVE your stuff! Hugs! Linda in NC

  23. I like the “thing”. It looks a bit like chicory growing along the roadside and in fields. It has a little wild & free look. Add some more with some darker green scroll work for the stems. The color is definitely spring and the first day of spring is just a few days away! (We don’t have Daylight Savings Time in Arizona except on the Navajo Tribal Lands because their land is also in New Mexico. Just think you will get an extra hour of sleep in the fall. I have lived in other states and never liked it either.)

  24. I like the color but it needs a compliment or contrasting color to make it work. I would take it out or part of it and redo with different colors. Monochrome is not your usual on a complicated stitch. That’s my 2 cents. Thanks for what you do!

  25. I’d unpick the thing. To me it looks like a blob and takes study to make it into anything else. Wrong thread for that stitch. It would hit me in the face every time I saw it. Don’t be a slave to even self-made rules. There is a limit.

  26. Thank you for your blog Mary. I’m not a very inventive stitcher, but reading through your musings on what stitch to do where, why do it certain way or not, colours, threads, needles, all the the little things that go into a design choice, gives me hope that one day I will be able to cast off the shackles of my accountant confined mind and just do it.
    For now, I will continue to follow instructions, deviating a little here and a little there, and ponder my options with thoughts of “What would Mary do?”

    I”m very curios to know where you went with your hoop – I seem to have many options and while Q-snaps are in there, I’m not a huge fan for surface embroidery.

    You’re an inspiration. Thank you

More Comments