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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Fly Stitch Couching & Some News


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Goodness gracious sakes alive!

I have eyes, thank the Good Lord!

But they’re not quite working in sync right now. On Monday, I had cataract surgery and lens replacement in my right eye, due to rapidly declining vision over the past five years, post chemo. Wow! It will make a difference once it’s all finished, I have no doubt. But my eyes are going to be wacky for a few weeks. My blog posting may end up being irregular, because it’s pretty uncomfortable. So far, the most tedious thing for me is trying to see a screen.

Talk-to-text is a marvel on the phone, though. It doesn’t work so well with the computer, because it’s extra hard to make corrections – and you must correct talk-to-text copy for public blog posts, because you never know what the computer will spit out in place of your words!

Incidentally, verbal commands to my computer don’t work at all for photo editing. I tried. “Crop!” I yelled. But nothing happened.

I haven’t even tried to stitch yet. I’ll leave that for a couple days.

Last week, in anticipation of this week’s upheaval in regular scheduling, I started to put together an update on my Stitch Fun 2021 sampler, so I’ll share a portion of that with you today with a very simple tip.

Fly Stitch Couching

A little backstory on this sampler, for those who may not have heard of it before:

At the beginning of 2021, I had a somewhat overzealous idea that I would start a sampler for 2021, and stitch a little each day. Since one of my resolutions for 2021 was also to listen to the Bible in a Year podcast, I figured I would stitch on the sampler while listening to the podcast. That was my plan.

And it went pretty well for months, but I’ve fallen behind on it this summer. Sometimes, life just gets in the way!

I started catching up on it a couple weeks back, here and there, and I will continue to catch up as I can.

After my last update in April, I started playing with a bit of couching, which you can see in the photo above. The red and yellow lines are fly stitch couching – that is, I used fly stitches to secure long laid threads, achieving a colorful pattered strip.

The concept is pretty simple: lay two parallel of thread (in this case, the full six strands of DMC stranded cotton for each laid thread), and couch over them with vertical fly stitch, using the “arms” of the fly stitch to hold the threads in place. (I used three strands of DMC stranded cotton for the fly stitch.) The anchor of the fly stitch is situated between the two parallel long threads.

I switched up the colors for each strip, and changed the direction of the fly stitch.

Fly Stitch Couching

I like the result!

You could also do the same thing on curved lines. Manipulate your laid threads along the curves, while you fly stitch to hold them in place. I could see using this method in crewel work for a stem, trunk, or branch, using a few strands of wool for the laid threads and couching over them with fly stitch in a contrasting color. I think it would look great on gentle curves!

The Take-Away

Here’s a take-away: couching can be done with numerous embroidery stitches. We often think of the technique as a simple straight stitch perpendicularly placed over the laid thread. But you can use all kinds of stitches as couching stitches! Fly stitch is merely one example.

So … go forth and play with couching, and see what you can come up with! It would be a fun study for a section on a band sampler!


You can find other posts about this sampler on this list of articles tagged “sampler.” There are other sampler-related posts there – several of those from 2021 have to do with this project.

This article in particular clarifies a little more about the sampler and my approach to it.

Eventually, I will add a 2021 sampler index to the website for easy access, if people are interested.

Ta Ta For Now!

I may be back on Friday. Or I may not. It depends on how the eye goes today and tomorrow. I’ll plan on being here, but if I’m not, look for me Monday!

I regret not having planned ahead on this a little better, but it’s been a really chaotic summer for me. I finally realized that sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches. You can’t always get everything done that you want to, and that’s ok!

I’ll see you soon!


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(31) Comments

  1. Hi Mary
    All the best with your recovery from the cataract surgery – it can take a while but it’ll be great!
    Thank you for your beautiful designs!

  2. Will lift you up for quick healing and recovery! I’ve just started my second pumpkin tea towel almost a year after the first one and am excited to try a few more stitches and alter strand thicknesses, blend colors etc. I seem to be able to stitch neatly, more quickly, which is gratifying. I have learned so much and appreciate your archives of articles and tutorials!

  3. Hi Mary
    Just wanted to wish you luck with your eyes – I had cataract surgery a few months ago and I was eight weeks before I could see properly because I had to wait to get new glasses and they wouldn’t allow it/them until my eyes had fully healed. It was pure torture not to be able to do needlework during those 8 weeks!!! I have a weird form of astigmatism that means I couldn’t have my vision corrected with the surgery (unless I wanted to pay over three thousand PER eye) so all they did was take off the cataracts and I still have to rely on glasses to correct the astigmatism.
    Anyway – thoughts are with you on this one! Good luck

  4. I feel for you Mary, trying to cope with a screen with eyes that don’t want to work properly.
    Might it be an idea for you to repost some of your earliest posts? I am sure that there are lots of sewers like me who have missed them. I’d certainly find them interesting I’m sure.
    Hope the eyes sort themselves soon.

  5. I’ve done the cataract adventure too. It’s well worth it in the end but a nuisance in the middle. So it’s a great opportunity for podcast catch up and a nap or two. Wait until you see color after both eyes are done!

  6. You will really feel much better after the 2nd surgery – both eyes will work well. We had our Cataract surgeries done in 2019. I wore glasses all my life and now I only have to wear peep overs when doing hand work or reading. It is great. Hubby did fine, me, I ended up having to have the eye lids lifted due to Ptosis. Had that surgery done in July 2020. That was not a lot of fun but am glad I had it done because the drooping lids cut off my peripheral vision.

    Hoping that you sail through both surgeries very well. It is worth it. Hugs

  7. Dear Mary

    I do hope your vision returns soon and the treatment is successful and you will be able to see a lot better. I also have cataract in my eyes but they are not bad enough to have it removed, but I do feel my eyes are getting worse. Also I’ve heard they correct your eyesight when you the cataract removed so I’m looking forward to that, it will save a lot of money on new lenses which cost a fortune. Thank you for sharing with us the update on the 2021 sampler, I do like the couching technique with the cotton thread it’s great. I hope you get well soon, it must be so frustrating for you.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  8. Sending you good wishes for a speedy recovery from the cataract surgery. I was surprised at my recent eye exam to be told I’ve got them too–both eyes. Just one more “fun” part of growing older.

    The fly-stitch couching is a great effect. Visually, I think it “reads” the same way checkered chain stitch does.


  9. Thank you Mary for sharing about your cataract surgery. I just found out yesterday I need the surgery too. Please spare us no details, because I’ve heard you have to decide whether you want the surgery to correct close vision or far vision. I would be devastated, as I’m sure you would, to lose my close-up vision. Please let us know how it works out and speedy recovery!

    1. I kept my close vision. I wish they’d done both eyes to the same focal length. He didn’t want to do it as close as I wanted, but I was obnoxious and prevaled. I’m 68, and had worn glasses for 62 years. I’m used to wearing glasses, and used to taking my glasses off to see to stitch with. That was my normal, and I wanted to keep it. On the whole, I’m pretty satisfied with mine. Good luck!!

  10. Morning. You will love the improvement in vision and colour but it does take awhile. It is also a bit unnerving with one good eye and one yet to go. I took the lens out of my glasses on the good side and that helped some. Just don’t rush it as it takes up to 6 weeks to settle in.

  11. Congratulations and best wishes on your cataract surgery. I went thru it a good many years ago and it does take a few days but once everything clears up, you’ll be amazed at how well you can see.
    I love the fly stitch couching sample. Very interesting. The various choices of threads could make this especially striking.
    Relax, enjoy a few days of leisure.

  12. I hope all goes well with the healing. I suspect I’ll have similar in my future, in the mean time I just plod along wondering what I’ll think of some of my current color choices someday. Then again, I wonder about some color choices I made 20 years ago and I can’t blame those on cataracts 🙂

    I like the couching stitches. I normally think of those as being used in gold work.

  13. Eye surgery can be sooo much fun. (not). I had a vitrectomy a few years ago, which required cataract surgery a year later (normal progression), and now it looks as if I need to have gunk lasered off the back of the implant (also normal progression). My sympathies go out to you!

  14. Hi, Mary. Grateful to hear you are on the mend and “looking” for improvements soon.
    You have my prayers. Also, I would certainly enjoy an index for your stitch sampler sometime. Hope you can find a little relaxation time as you recover!

  15. Yeah. I understand why they don’t want to doth eyes at the same time, but that 4-6 weeks between eyes was pure misery! I was -10 in one eye and -2 in the other after the first surgery.
    I do love my new eyes!

    Do you see a noticeable color shift between your eyes? That was just wild.

    My cataracts actually developed *before* chemo started in May 2015 (they were crystalline … lots of bouncing light and double vision! 😛 ) … and that just made it worse. Wouldn’t do surgery until treatment was finished

  16. Very best wishes for a speedy recovery! Did you also get your vision corrected? I’ve always wondered if being made less short-sighted would make embroidery more difficult.

  17. Oh Mary, I sympathise with you. I had this surgery a few years ago and some days later I ran out of one of the post-op drops. My eye became extremely sore and red, my optician was out of town and his locum was not very confident so he sent me into the specialist hospital in Melbourne (3 hours away). They diagnosed the problem within minutes and all was well. At least I knew what to look out for when I had the second eye operated on. I hope all goes well for your recovery.

  18. Dear Mary, I am sorry about your post operative eye issues, it must be rather frustrating waiting for them to recover when you would love to be stitching. However, it is a very successful procedure and it will be a wonderful upgrade in your vision once your eyes have settled. I know, even temporarily losing something makes you appreciate it so much more. After a long spell on crutches following an injury, I am forever grateful that I have legs that work reasonably well! 🙂 Wishing you as speedy a recovery as possible and some rest in the meantime. Take care!

  19. I love your fly stitch couching! Gives me lots of ideas for different approaches to couching. Thanks! (I hope your eye issues resolve quickly. )

  20. Hi Mary,

    I am so glad to hear that your surgery went well and that you are doing okay!

    Please feel free to take as much time off as you need. Your blog posts are always such a treat, but we can wait until you are feeling better! Please look after yourself and your precious eyesight!

    I loved the couching tips – so clever and inspiring.


  21. You will be stitching again in no time. I had cataract surgery on each eye several years apart. I learned to stitch with the new and improved eye quite quickly. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful medical techniques available to us today!

  22. What a great idea to make a stitch sampler by doing one stitch everyday, it will make a nice sampler to make a project with it later.

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