An embroidered bird in the hand …


BDN photo by Ardeana Hamlin
This early bird is easy to embroider.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the tree. Recently, I created The Early Bird, hoping to capture on paper what I saw in my mind. My idea was to make a series of drawings to offer to those who embroider to use as they like. The bird is the first of four drawings I hope to share in the coming months.

I believe my early bird is seeking something other than a worm. More likely she’s out for a morning stroll to sip dew from the folds of a peony, to revel in the feel of moist earth underfoot after a long, icy winter and to observe the play of light through the green leaves of the garden. She wants those of you who stitch to do your own interpretation with thread, colors and fabric of your choice.

The embroidery in my imagination is always more complicated in my mind’s eye because I clutter it up with far too many colors, details and story. I want the result to be simple, but my imagination is burdened with with a wealth of detail. So I keep refining my lines until I have something I like. Thus, The Early Bird.

In keeping with the lean approach, I had all the materials I needed at hand. I chose a square of white brocade that started out life as a large elegant tablecloth belonging to a friend who asked me to cut it down to fit a smaller table. She told me to keep the remnants and I was curious to see what embroidery would look like on the brocade.

I chose earthy colors — brown, dark green and gold — and used all six strands of the embroidery cotton, thinking the thickness of the thread would contrast nicely with the fineness of the brocade. But linen or wool also would work well.

My materials list amounted to two 10-inch squares of fabric, a 10-inch square of low-loft quilt batting, three skeins of embroidery floss and a length of cotton fabric for binding the edges.

I used a light box to transfer the design to the fabric, tracing over the lines with marking pen. I wasn’t all that happy with the results, though it was OK in the end. Next time, I’ll probably use a pencil, though I’m sure other options are available.

I chose stem stitch, French knots, back stitch and fishbone stitch for the embroidery, but using only stem stitch or back stitch would work well, too.

After the embroidery was done, I layered it atop the quilt batting and the backing, and made crude lines of running stitch around the design to hold the layers together. Then I added a band of fabric to bind the edge — I used a sewing machine for this, and used hand stitches to attach the edges on the reverse side.

And there is was: The Early Bird, reminding me that even though it’s January, the season is moving toward days when songbirds flit in the trees and flowers nod in the sun.


As part of its Children’s Programs Series, George Neptune will demonstrate how to make paper stars at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20; how to make a woven bookmark at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, and the art of folding and stitching a birchbark-inspired basket at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at the Abbe Museum, 26 Mount Desert St., Bar Harbor. The programs are free and open to the public. For information, call 288-3519 or email

Go to to access free instructions for a Civil War era shawl.

Mary Bird of the Friday Fiber Friends emailed this link: where readers will find an article about sheep and goats employed to eat obnoxious weeds on airport property in Atlanta, San Franciso and Seattle-Tacoma.

Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153 or email Visit her blog at