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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Embroidering Dragonflies – An Introduction


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This year, we’ve enjoyed a few different series of embroidery tutorials covering a range of stylized botanical subjects, including wheat, strawberries, daisies, and grapes. You can find all these tutorials listed here, in the How to Embroider (Blank) index.

The last series of tutorials for this year is going to focus on something not-so-botanical, but garden-related nonetheless: the dragonfly.

Reaching back into the dark recesses of my memory, I’m pretty sure the reason for exploring this particular wingéd creature was related more to the materials rather than the subject. Don’t get me wrong – I love dragonflies. They’re such curiously different bugs.

But really, it was more about the materials when I thought of this particular project.

embroidering dragonflies

Dragonflies present the opportunity to stitch with some different materials, and in this case, besides regular floss, we used two different types of metallics and some beads.

Some metallics can be a real source of frustration for the stitcher. With the techniques used on the dragonfly, the point was to decrease the frustration level for the stitcher while allowing the satisfactory sparkle of metallics to play center stage.

When pulling supplies at the beginning of this type of project, it’s a matter of selecting from supplies that I’ve got on hand. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always translate into supplies that you’ve got on hand.

With this particular project series, then, please keep in mind that I’m offering ideas and tips. You don’t have to use the exact supplies. You can use what you have on hand, or what you can find easily available. I’ll list the supplies used in the two examples in this series when I can. I think some of the beads are random and un-labeled, but I’ll describe them as best as I can so that you can find something similar if you want to.

embroidering dragonflies

But the best approach, I think, is to use what you have on hand, or what you come across that you think will work for you.

Admittedly, I’m saying all of this in advance to “cover my six” (as my dad would put it!) because I won’t necessarily be able to tell you the exact name, color, size of every bead. I’ll be able to tell you what threads, but they might not be easily available (though some are). So please feel free, if you want to stitch a dragonfly with me, to use whatever materials you want to that will yield similar results!

Speaking of supplies and whatnot, what do you think of a tutorial series here on the website, with a supply kit you can purchase so that stitching along is a lot easier? I often wonder if folks would be interested in having the option of a supply kit on hand. Let me know what you think! You can comment here if you want.

embroidering dragonflies

The supplies in the photo above are initial “pulls” from my thread drawers and bead trays. They aren’t necessarily the final choices.

But the fabric is! Many of you have purchased the white linen fabric sample pack available in my shop. I used the Glass Linen from that collection for the ground fabric for the dragonfly designs that we’ll walk through together.

I wanted to show you that you can actually stitch on it, despite the delicate look of it. And it doesn’t have to be used only for whitework or very delicate pulled work and the like, even though it’s perfect for those applications.

My idea when choosing this very lightweight, semi-transparent linen was to put a color behind it when framing it. I think it would be neat to use a colored fabric behind the linen, and then to frame the piece.

I haven’t actually tried it yet, but we shall see.

I like the airiness of this particular linen. And dragonflies being the airy creatures that they are, I thought they worked well together.

embroidering dragonflies

You can see the openness of the linen weave in the photo above, but alas, I don’t have a good colored fabric to put behind the linen yet. It’s on my hunting list for the next time I’m out and about.

In the meantime, though, we’ll get started on these tutorials together. There are two projects with the dragonflies. The first works through a single isolated dragonfly. The second brings in a very “muted” background with a dragonfly in a different color scheme.

In the first installment, we’ll go over the materials list and I’ll supply the design for the isolated dragonfly. I’ll also chat a bit about tools and design transfer.

As we work through the series, the installments will also be available as downloadable PDFs for members of our Needle ‘n Thread community on Patreon. If you’re a member over there, you’ll also find the last installments of the grapes going up this week, too.

I hope you enjoy the series! I’ll see you on Friday with designs and more!


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(90) Comments

  1. I read your email newsletter all the time. I’m not a fancy embroiderer, mostly 1940-50 Martha’s stamped stuff, but love the process of drawing with needle and thread. Your thought of a kit is intriguing. My mother did lots of beading and embellishing on the gowns and costumes she did for the movie studios back in the 40-50s.

  2. Hi Mary,
    First of all thank you for all the information you provide. I have followed you for a long time and before that I knew that I could go to your website and learn how to do a stitch.
    I also love your column.

    I think having a supply kit to go along with a tutorial is a great and fun idea.
    Rae Fuller

  3. Hi Mary,
    Yes, I would be interested in getting a kit for this project, especially as it includes beads. I can get DMC floss so if the project uses just floss I will not order a kit. I hope this helps you decide.

  4. Hi I love the idea of a supply kit that corresponds to your tutorials. I cant wait to start this dragonfly.
    Thank you

  5. Hi, Mary.
    Yes, please! Offering a supply kit, especially for the tutorials that use other than stranded cotton floss, is a great idea! Please do it if you can.
    Thanks, Beth F

  6. Would love kits for Tutorials. While plenty of stash, not enough experience to enjoy “shopping” it so appreciate Materials Lists and/or Kits

  7. Hi Mary,
    I like the idea of a kit to stitch along with a tutorial, so you can count me in if and when you do it. The dragonfly looks like fun to stitch. You come up with great ideas.

    1. Thanks, Pat! You’ll still be able to stitch along. You’ll probably just need to find the supplies locally. Even if shipping lines open up between now and next year (here’s hoping!), it would still be quiet cost prohibitive to order small kits from the US, as the cost of shipping would be rather steep.

  8. Bonjour Mary,
    J’adore les libellules ! Et j’aimerais bien les broder avec vous.
    Je suis donc intéressée par un kit mais, hélas, j’habite en France…..

    Merci encore.

    1. Bonjour, Pascale –

      Ces libellules sont très simples. Je pense que vous avez des … supplies??… pour eux en France. Les fils utilisés viennent de France. 🙂


  9. I would love some ideas for using a lovely collection of Piper Floss Silk that I own. I have never really learned how to use floss silk and would like to learn more about its use.

  10. YES, please. I am a needlepointer but get your emails because I love what you do. I don’t have a local shop so receiving a kit with a tutorial is a great way to learn from you. I have completed several of your towels and appreciate the kits.

  11. Absolutely Mary….
    It’s so much easier to buy from one place than to shop around at five different ones and then you have to wait for them all to arrive! I would also recommend having beginners projects; as well as, intermediate and advanced. I know it’s a lot but you catch more butterflies that way!

  12. Hi! I am sure that your compatriots are going to vote for kit, very tempting !! Amatrice embroiderer in France, it is difficult to me to subscribe to Patreon, therefore I use it to comment on the installation of your ‘ how to ‘. I would have wished that you put every drawing and explanations for sale in file pdf via freight forwarding, so that the whole world can use your educations while remunerating you of the huge job of distribution
    In the meantime accept my most sincere gratitude for all these distributions!!. Chantal

  13. Mary,
    Yes, supply kits would be wonderful! Extra work for you, though. Alas, no helper!
    Would you please explain about the square frame in your photo, and where to get one. My Fanny Frame just arrived!
    Hope your eyes are continuing to heal. Hope your “fix it” procedure worked well.
    Loved your interview with SFSNAD!
    Sandy Lane
    Kansas City, MO

  14. Yes good idea! Would you be able to post out to UK though?
    Would save buying larger supply than was needed e.g. beads for the dragonfly in the present example.

    1. Hi, Sue – Unfortunately, as a Very Small business in the US, posting the UK is not really possible at the moment. With the exorbitant shipping, I don’t get enough business from the UK and EU for it to make sense to restructure for the current tax laws in both places. We’ll see what next year brings – things may change. One never knows!

  15. Yes, I like the idea of tutorials paired with a supply kit, especially for threads and embellishments, not necessarily including the base fabric, unless it’s something specific (like tea towels). I usually purchase large pieces and then cut to desired size when needed. Maybe the ground could be a separate item?
    Also, while I’m commenting 🙂 will you be doing any tutorials for embroidery on wool? I’m interested in that.

  16. I see sewing kits and sewing tutorials all of the time for heirloom sewing. You could do the tutorials so that the students could watch as time permits. I love this way of learning. I have purchased several tutorials and patterns/kits for sewing and I think it would be great for embroidery as well. Check out Gail Doane, Connie Palmer, Sarah Classic Sewing and Blue Ribbon Heirloom Designs. They all do a similar type of thing. All of the people mentioned above seem to love to share their craft and talents as you do.

  17. I like the idea of stitching along – I have never done it.
    what holds me back is the schedule – so if I can’t make it that day will I have access to the tutorial? Love all your ideas…Barb

  18. I would definitely be interested in a kit to follow along. Love dragonflies, but am also interested in more tips on using beads and metallic threads and my supply of those is somewhat limited.

  19. Hi Mary,
    So glad your sight is getting better. And also congrats on the five year milestone. We have been sending those healing messages all along.

    Well, I have to admit it. Some people love doing beading, including our daughter. But for me, I just don’t want to use them. I know they add that beautiful glimmer that threads cannot. But nevertheless, I’m not going to do this project.

    Besides, I have LOTS of your other projects in the works…including those sweet Christmas mini-stockings. My two granddaughters will LOVE those in December.


  20. I would love a supply kit since I have to order all of my bead supplies online and am never quite sure of the correct color or size bead. I tend to use kits for any number of my projects, including quilts, when I want to save time and get right to the project. Realizing this is more work for you, I am quite sure you would have to hire someone to assist in assembling kits. Any ideas you put forth are well worth it. Thanks for all you do for the embroidery community. Love your work and your ideas. Mary

  21. Thank you for all the great information you provide, lots of wonderful ideas.

    I think the idea of a tutorial kit is a good idea, hopefully you would be able to ship to Canada.

  22. Yes, I like the idea of a kit, sometimes I have part of the things needed as I stitch slot and sometimes not the right items. I’m very much looking forward to the dragonfly project.

  23. I’ve often thought looked at your projects and said I can’t start another one right now, I’ve too many WIPs right now…then you bring up Dragonflies, an insect I find more interesting than butterflies because of their sheer, gossamer wings, and iridescent colors.
    Would I want such a project fully kited? Oh, yes, for two basic reasons there is no local needlework store except Joann’s and Michaels. They offer minimal material choices but never items such as silk floss or linen fabrics; secondly, while under COVID-19 restrictions needlework materials have been bought up and production is slow returning to stores. If I were to get into this dragonfly I’d want to be able to start right away and not worry about having all the items to complete it.

  24. I love kits for stitch alongs. That was a real deal maker for the Leafy Tree project. Yes, I have lots of threads, but often don’t have the time to do the pulling from my stash.

  25. I am really looking forward to the upcoming dragonfly tutorial. Having a kit available might be great for many people, however I have a large collection of threads and embellishments, so that isn’t something I would use. Great idea.

    Mary, keep healthy and stitching

  26. Mary,
    I think offering a tutorial kit is brilliant! Your tutorials are always quite lovely, and I for one, would love to have the same materials as you are using, so I can pretend my project looks remotely as lovely as yours! 😉

  27. I like the idea of being able to purchase a supple kit. While i think I have alot of threads, and variations of threads, a supply kit for one of your projects would be great! Especially for the Dragonfly project as I do not have but a few metallics.
    Thanks for thinking of this.

  28. Hi Mary I think a tutorial section and kit would be wonderful. It would be very helpful for those of us who need help in following especially. Love what you share on your blog.


  29. Oh, Mary, having a kit available during times when sourcing materials is difficult would help so many. I am in an area in Virginia where many shops have closed actually before the current pandemic. Thank you for considering this.

  30. An enthusiastic “yes” for a stitch-along supply kit here! I’m really excited for this one because I am starting to get really into embroidering arthropods (spiders, right now). And the wings look really neat!

  31. That’s a resounding “yes, please” to the supply kit for a tutorial series, Mary. I’m in Canada, so I know the delivery times are lengthy, based on my last order. So, it would be wonderful to be able to order the kit well ahead of the tutorial, but I could always catch up later if you record the session and upload to YouTube or your website.

  32. I always like to order a kit when I do a project. This way, I have the option of copying the pattern, or switching items out. The items I don’t use for the project, I add to my stash.

  33. Hi Mary, Yes, I would happily purchase kits for these tutorials, such as the dragonflies (this is going to be fun!). I have a suggestion for future tutorials, too: I really want to learn to work with silk threads. To this end I have purchased more than one of the Au Ver au Soie products designed to introduce one to their silks, such as: Ensenble de Soie (quite a few different kinds of silk threads in the same color), and/or Discovery packs (coordinated colors) and/or the 3-packs of color-coordinated light-medium-dark Soie Perlee. But then I get them, and say to myself, “What do I do next?” Some small projects with your expert guidance that revolved around these products, i.e. used each thread in them to develop a design, but also learn what each kind of thread was for would be wonderful!!!

  34. I am very interested in a kit for any of your projects. If you offer one for the dragonfly, please add my name to the list. Thanks.

  35. Can’t wait to see the dragonflies. Your tutorials are packed with fabulous information. I always learn so much from your posts

  36. Yes, I’d be very interested in purchasing kits. Although I have a large variety of threads for embroidery as well as sewing, and beads as well, kits really make it simple to be able to stitch along with you! I hope that you have many positive responses to this suggestion and that kitting doesn’t become s0 time consuming that it interferes with your designing and embroidering.
    Thank you!!!

  37. A kit for the tutorials would be great … it can be hard to get various threads here in Australia and it takes time to gather all the different ones together from different suppliers so having them all in kit would be wonderful!

    While I am at it … thank you for your wonderful newsletters! I really enjoy reading them and have learnt so much!


    Jenny Rees
    Canberra, Australia

  38. Mary: Love your idea of kits to follow along with you as it sure would save us the headache of trying to locate the fabrics ect you use. They are so very pretty and the ones I have completed make excellent gifts! I would also love to purchase your dragonfly kit. Are you able to ship to Canada?
    Thank you

  39. First, I am sooo excited about the dragonfly project. They rank in my top three fave bugs.
    Second, I love the idea of a sample kit we can all stitch together. Put me on that list, please!

    Happy stitching:)

  40. Dear Mary

    This looks a really interesting project and great that you will be showing two variables of the dragonfly and with all the various threads and beads involved it would be great to follow you while learning new techniques that you always amaze me with. I have quite an extensive array of beads and the quite a few threads that I could use, so would be easy to follow you. I really like good linen there is nothing like it, but alas it is so expensive and so hard to get hold of in the UK but worth every penny. A tutorial would be a great idea with the kit, but I suppose the kit would be only for stitchers in the US. But it’s a great idea. Thank you for sharing with us the new How to Stitch Dragonfly and for the description of the linen you are using and offering a tutorial with us.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  41. Yes, It would be great if you could provide material kits for purchase. Not having the appropriate supplies takes a lot of the pleasure out of a project for me or can be the deciding factor on wether or not to do a project.
    I buy books or pdf patterns for my stitching. I only buy kits when it’s a complex stitch-a-long with hard to source materials – felt, beads, specialty threads, watercolor paints…

  42. While I do have a ridiculously large stash of needlework supplies, sometimes it would be nice to have the same things that the teacher is using for the project. It would be very lovely to start the project off from the get-go with everything in hand so that the tutorials could be followed and worked in ‘real’ time. Not being close to a needlework shop, it is sometimes difficult to quickly get the missing supply item(s). I think my husband believes that I must own every needlework supply in the world, but I actually don’t come close!! Besides, substituting an at-hand supply is not always the best way to go in a specific project. My two-cents worth.
    Thanks for your amazing blog, your inspiring needlework and your incredibly sweet demeanor! I look forward to your emails whenever they come to me and I am blessed by them every time! Hugs, Connie :0)

  43. I would love a kit. I love your choices and usually only find half of what I need. Sometimes that stops me from doing the project.

  44. A kit of supplies is the only way I can commit to a class!
    I live in the middle of nowhere (actually not bad). My driving days are done, and I find jumping around the internet exhausting. So good on you if you can pull this off!

  45. I think a kit with all of the supplies is an excellent idea. I for one, have never worked with metalic thread so I would need to go purchase…and it is so confusing! I love the idea of a kit with everything included!

  46. Hi Mary,

    I would like a tutorial series here on the website, with a supply kit because sometimes the particular items can be difficult to find where I live. I know I can substitute but I am picky about getting just the right look.


  47. Hi Mary,
    Perhaps a shade of pond green colored fabric to put behind the linen would give it a natural setting look.

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