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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Something Fishy: Picking Colors & Stitches


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Our newest set of ready-to-stitch towels has proved to be quite popular!

Something Fishy is a cute, fun towel set for summer, great for vacation stitching and for adding a little touch of tropical sunshine to your life!

For those who would like some ideas on color choices and stitch choices, here’s my final line-up of colors and some information on the stitches I’m using on this set.

Something Fishy - Ready to Stitch tropical towels

What I like best about Something Fishy is that there’s really no color limitations for this set. You can go hog-wild with colors if you really want to!

But an overabundant choice of colors can be a problem for me. The more color choices I have, the more difficult it becomes for me to choose colors that work well together for each element and that look good across the whole towel.

I could throw caution to the wind and just close my eyes and reach for a color and stick with it, but … I do like to have a little more color control when I’m working on a project meant to be finished and used. Random can be fun for a sampler or the like, but on an actual project that I’m going to use, a little more control over color choice goes a long way towards a satisfactory finish.

Something Fishy - Ready to Stitch tropical towels

When I first started playing around with the fish, I pulled a whole bunch of colors from my thread cabinets.

Then, eventually, I whittled them down to the colors I kept repeatedly choosing as I was stitching. These colors are shown above. I decided that these colors work great for tropical fish, and that they give me enough vivid variety to keep me happy.

I threw in black as well, in case I want to use it, but so far, I haven’t used it.

The DMC color numbers for my version of Something Fishy are 891, 970, 972, 973, 16, 907, 909, 995, 3844, 3845, 3846, and 964. (There are two skeins of 3846 in the photo above).

Something Fishy - Ready to Stitch tropical towels

Once I decided on the bright blues I wanted (I thought the blues were important, since there’s a watery theme going on), I found it was the other colors that really bring the fish to life. The red, orange, and yellows end up being the dominant players in color-focus on this project.

The greens tend to fade into the blues or the yellows. They’re not the “popping” colors here, but they add a nice complement.

Something Fishy - Ready to Stitch tropical towels

After considering color choices, stitch choices are the only other hurdle to consider when working this kind of project.

What Stitch?

Once I have my colors chosen, I can pretty much pick any kind of stitch I like, as long as it does what I need it to do.

For these types of ready-to-stitch projects, I prefer line stitches that work up quickly, that I know I can keep consistent, and that provide enough variety to be interesting – but not so much variety that I’m stumped every time I switch to another area.

What stitch should I use? What stitch should I use? What stitch should I use?

If I have to ask myself that question every single time I start a new fish or every single time I start a new section on a fish, it could get tiresome. I don’t want to be stumped. And I don’t want to be forced into some notion that I have to pepper the whole towel with a massive variety of stitches.

A favorable outcome on a project like this doesn’t depend on huge variety, either in colors or in stitches. Sure, you can go hog-wild if you want! But you don’t need to, and you might find that the overall outcome is better if you don’t go overboard.

I prefer to use a small variety of stitches that work up quickly (I like a project like this to move along, not to drag out) and that don’t require a whole lot of clever, attentive manipulation. This is not a project for stitches like plaited braid stitch, for example!

And I like stitches that will give a consistent result across the whole piece. I don’t want chunks of areas that are very heavily stitched interspersed with twiggy, sparse looking areas with light stitches, resulting in a whole that comes across as out of balance.

So I stick with pretty basic stitches:

Stem stitch, backstitch, chain stitch, running stitch, detached chains, French knots, satin stitch, buttonhole stitch, and maybe, occasionally, a textured stitch like Palestrina stitch. I might use fly stitch here and there, and maybe a closed herringbone stitch if I want some filled small bands. And I might whip some of the stitches (like the backstitch, chain stitch, or running stitch).

But that’s about it.

I choose the stitches I’m going to use as I go, but they most likely will not stray out of that list.

You can find video tutorials for all of these stitches here.

Something Fishy - Ready to Stitch tropical towels

My fall-back stitch is always stem stitch, like on the little fellow above, with chain stitch and whipped backstitch as close seconds.

If you just wanted to choose one stitch, you could certainly work any project like this with just that one stitch – stem stitch, chain stitch, backstitch, whipped backstitch – and achieve a very pleasing result.

My Set-Up

I put all my threads, a needle book with a couple embroidery needles (I use #7 needles mostly for these projects) and a tapestry needle, and a pair of scissors into a small pouch or tin, which I slip into a small tote bag with whichever hooped-up towel I’m working on.

I can grab that tote bag any old time. It’s easy to carry it with me to places where I have to wait about, to visits with friends or family, or just back and forth from home to work.

It would be perfect to take on a road trip or on an airplane as I head towards some lovely remote vacation spot somewhere – but that only happens in my dreams!

My Carrot

Mostly, I’ve been working on the fish at home in the evenings. Right now, I’m listening to Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand from Audible. It’s gripping, so I’m using the book and the embroidery as my daily carrot. If I get all my work done like a good girl, then I can indulge in the book and some stitching!

Incidentally, Audible has a good incentive program for signing up right now. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can sign up for three months free. If you’re not, you can sign up for one month free (that’s one free credit towards an audiobook of your choice).

If you want to give it a try, you can explore the sign-up options for Audible here.

Audible is my favorite stitching companion when I’m alone, and I think it’s worth having if you love listening to audiobooks while you stitch.

My Audible trick is this: I sign up yearly for the the Audible Premium Plus Annual account, which you can switch to after the free trial. It’s a lot up front, but you get 24 credits right away that you can use whenever you want (I often listen to two or more books a month), and it ends up being about $9.55 / credit, rather than then monthly $14.95.

Because I’m an avid audiobook fiend, it’s worthwhile for me. I can easily gobble up 24 audiobooks in a year!

I also use my local library program for audiobooks, but their selection is a little more limited than I like, I can’t keep the books, and I only have a few downloads a month through the library. So I like using both options.

So that’s my current summer embroidery-for-fun set up. It’s been great for quiet summer evenings at home!

This article contains an affiliate link to Audible, which means that Needle ‘n Thread may receive a small commission if you sign up for Audible through that link, at no extra cost to you.


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(3) Comments

  1. Check to see what books your library system offers as audiobooks.
    My library system (in Northern Virginia) is fabulous, and I go through A LOT of audiobooks every year.

    Your fish are adorable.

  2. Mary, these fishes look like so much fun. I appreciate that you have them printed on towels, but would love to just have a pattern that I can transfer to make a pillow or other item. Is it possible to have an e-pattern?
    I enjoy seeing your wonderful ideas. Deborah

    1. Hi, Deborah – Thanks for asking! At this time, the pattern is not available. I plan to put together something in the future, but I’m not quite ready to do that just now.

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