Hand embroidered coral reef scene

Delectable Morsels – Coral Reef

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Working a Coral Reef

This was the third pack we received as part of the ‘Delectable Morsels‘ club run by Alison Cole. Since I’m so far behind, I’m not following in any particular order, I’m just pulling them out and working them in the order they come out of the box!

These little project kits are a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle when you aren’t sure what you are actually trying to create. I find some reasonably easy, and some more difficult. This one was probably on the easier side to come up with a design, but I did change a lot of things as I went along and realised what was and wasn’t going to work with the materials provided.

What we had to work with

In this ‘kit’, we were given the following materials to use. I’ve not used all of them on this piece. After completing the last couple, I’ve decided to just try and create something with the majority of the materials. My ideas seem to come to life much easier if I don’t try and use everything!

  • Felt padding (which I didn’t use). The good thing is that this is the ‘real’ felt – 100% wool felt. So I’ll be able to use it in other projects;
  • Rippled Metallic Organza;
  • Mulberry Bark (yes, real Mulberry bark!), which has been dyed;
  • Silk Carrier Rods;
  • Black Core rococo;
  • DMC Memory Thread;
  • Paua Shell Laminate;
  • Gilt Smooth Purl #6;
  • Gilt Rough Purl #8;
  • Cottage Garden Stranded cotton.

Designing a ‘Coral Reef’

One of the challenges of having materials to use, but no design, is the design stage! It is easier when I allow myself to not have to use everything, but I do want to use most of the contents. Part of the reason for getting these kits is to explore materials I wouldn’t have used otherwise!

After searching a few different ‘coral reef’ images, a design started to formulate. I was quite insistent on having a sea horse and a star fish. Anything else I wasn’t too worried about!

From sketch to stitch plan

For this ‘delectable morsels’ kit, I found it reasonably straight forward to be happy with my sketch and design.

The next part is to work out where I’m going to use the different materials. At the RSN, we are taught the importance of planning. I’ve come a long way on this, but this piece would suggest I still have a way to go!

I’m not sure if it’s that I just wasn’t sure how the materials would ‘react’ to the way I had planned on using them, or if I was just particularly short-sighted on the planning front. Either way, there were some reasonably continual changes to the original idea.

Adjusting first thoughts on stitches and materials

Using Paua Shell

Even though I could have achieved more definition on my seahorse had I used something other than the paua shell, it does give a lovely finish to the piece. Cutting the paua shell was straight forward enough, but it was a little difficult to cut tight angles. So some of the fish have a slightly odd shape!

You also can’t stitch through the shell without it shattering. I know Alison said this was the case, but I seemed to have to try! And yes, for the record – it does shatter! I was hoping I’d be able to stitch it on, as it’s currently just stuck on with the sticky back. This seems ok now, but I’m not sure about the longevity of the material.

I also decided to add one final fish at the end. There was something missing, and this seemed to do the trick!

coral reef seahorse using papa shell


Coral reef hand embroidery stitched using a variety of materials


Rippled metallic organza

My initial thoughts for using the organza were to have the two shells padded, and stitch over the top of them. However as I tried to work with the ribbon, it became obvious that this wasn’t going to work. At least, not easily.

So in the end, it has become the ‘sea bed’. I’m actually quite happy with how it worked out in the end!

hand embroidered coral reef sea bed using rippled organza ribbon


DMC Memory Thread

I’d never used DMC Memory Thread before. It has the ‘look’ of Japanese thread, however feels nothing like it. I’m not actually sure I’d use it again – it feels very much like plastic.

Though having said that, it is quite versatile in a lot of ways. I used it both in the more ‘traditional’ sense, of couching and plunging. and also by using it in a more ‘creative’ way. I wound it around my fingers a few times, and effectively created a bow to stitch down. In this piece it doesn’t look out of place, though I do feel it would have limited uses for me at least.

Black core rococo and purl

My use of these two metallic threads was more ‘traditional’. For bits of sea weed, I couched down the purl in a gentle ‘S’ shape. I followed the instructions for ‘S-ing’, though some worked better than others!

I also used the purl as the fish bubbles that they were blowing. I was probably a little too regimented in my placement of the bubbles, but I do like the effect it had!

My initial plan for the rococo was that it would be used on both the star fish and one other fish. But it’s quite a thick thread, and it didn’t really work on the shape of the fish. So it is just the star fish, which with the purl in the centre I was quite happy with!

Mulberry Bark and Silk Carrier Rod

To try and ‘frame’ the design, I’ve added some ‘coral’ to my ‘coral reef’ with these two materials. Alison suggested a number of different ways they could be used, but I was quite happy with my idea of framing it all together.

My big question on these types of materials is more the ‘how’ to attach it to the fabric. The Cottage Garden thread and it’s variegations worked quite well with both these materials, and I just couched it down with several long stitches. I did contemplate adding in needlelace, but I also thought this was supposed to be a quick and easy project, so I put that thought to the side!

star fish hand embroidered using black rococo


DMC memory thread shell and rippled organza sea bed


a hand dyed silk rod used to create coral


And the ‘coral reef’ is finished!

So whilst my initial plans may have changed somewhat, the finished result is similar to the original drawing. It’s just the execution of it which is a little different!

I really enjoyed working this piece. It was a nice mixture of straight forward, and needing to work other things out. Whilst also stretching my (limited) skills with the gold work.

Hand embroidered coral reef scene


Delectable Morsels

If you would like more information on what the ‘delectable morsels’ club is, you can find out about my previous ‘creations’ here. You can also find out more and sign up if you choose (though I’m not sure how many more kits Alison will be doing), on Alison’s s website.

16 thoughts on “Delectable Morsels – Coral Reef”

  1. Those packs look like so much fun! It is great to get to try out different materials without a set design, so you really get to play with it. Love the design you create with it!

    1. They are a great way to try out different materials and combinations of materials. I always have fun with them! Alison goes to a lot of effort in thinking about them, and it’s fun to play. It’s also nice having a bit more of an understanding of the ‘right’ way to use of the materials. But then also how to manipulate that to get the desired effect!

    1. Thanks Jessica, and that’s a great tip! I haven’t taken it off the hoop yet, so I think I will add a bit of nylon thread. That would make me feel a bit better about the longevity of it.

    1. Thanks Rachel, I do really enjoy these little packs – they are such a great way to explore both ‘new’ materials and stretch design skills within prescribed boundaries.
      I think my new favourite material is from one I realised I haven’t blogged about yet! And it’s silk cocoons dyed into a variety of colours. They also came from Stef Francis. I have a feeling there will be an order going into her in the near future with all these ‘new’ and interesting materials she has.

  2. I love the way this turned out Catherine, I think you captured “Under the Sea” quite well, and the different materials really add to it.

  3. That’s a lovely design. I must admit when I used one of my boxes I didn’t keep to the theme at all and didn’t use all the materials in it. I still have another one, wonder if I can do better.

    1. Thanks Dima. I have found I can work some of them a lot more easily than others. Taking away the ‘necessity’ to use everything also helps. I’m sure you will make a lovely piece from your next pack if/when you get time. Otherwise you could just remember you have them and use them on a number of projects as appropriate!

  4. These look interesting little projects (but I must stop myself as I already have quite a few stashed away in the wardrobe). One thought on attaching the objects – would it be possible to use the same method for attaching shisha mirrors?

    1. They are great little packs, but I know what you mean about the need to not add to the stash anymore. The thing I like about these are that they introduce me to new materials I wouldn’t usually/have ever used. Things like silk rods and mulberry bark are not something I would have thought to use before!
      Jessica has suggested using a nylon thread – so I think that combined with a shisha mirror technique will work quite nicely in securing them just a little more.

    1. I really enjoy these packs – they not introduce new materials to me, but really push my design and creativity skills. The other benefit is they are relatively small, so there’s no need to go out and design a massive piece with all these new materials. I enjoy the time creating with them! It’s just some are easier than others!

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