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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Embroidery and Hobbies: Price Tags and Budgets


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If you take embroidery (or any hobby) seriously, chances are, you’ve noticed that the costs associated with hand embroidery can range from negligible (when you’re just starting out) to pretty darned expensive (when you get to the point when you want to invest in good tools and supplies).

Whether you’re buying linen or threads, frames, needles, hoops, or scissors, you know that the costs can add up! Even if you are a casual embroiderer who takes up a project now and then, chances are, you’ve spent money on your hobby.

This is a question that comes up often from readers. I receive a lot of e-mail from people who are looking for less expensive linen, cheaper silk, the place to get goldwork supplies “cheap.”

What it all boils down to is that we look for ways to save money on supplies because living is expensive. I’m all for saving a buck (many bucks, if possible!), but I realize that some things cost money. I also realize that, on some items, it’s not worth taking shortcuts and buying inferior goods.

Here’s an illustration: For the last several months, I’ve been looking for an ideal embroidery stand. I started hunting around, even driving two hours one way just to try an embroidery stand. I finally found the embroidery stand I want, but the price tag was out of my reach – almost $300 for the two components that would make it usable for me.

And yet, I bought the stand. And over the years, I’ve purchased many other somewhat pricy tools for my hobby. How did I manage it? I didn’t just charge it so I can pay for it later. If I had done so, I would have had it right when I first wanted it. Given human nature and the credit card mentality, it probably still wouldn’t be paid off, and I’d be paying interest on it, to boot. And that would make an already expensive product ridiculously pricey.

So what’s the key to being able to afford your hobby so that you can enjoy it with a free and easy mind, knowing that whatever you purchase for your hobby hasn’t become just one more debt to pay off sometime in the future, when the credit card has ballooned to extraordinary proportions?

The key is budgeting. If you spend money on your hobby, but it sets you back and puts you in debt, then it will eventually catch up with you. And you won’t enjoy your hobby as much, if it puts you in the hole – it’s difficult to enjoy things when a cloud of debt is hovering!

How do I know? Well, I’ve been there, and it was a hard lesson to learn.

But now, I live on a budget, and in that budget is figured my “fun” money – the money I spend on my hobby. When I want to make a major purchase, such as a $300 needlework stand, I don’t buy it right now simply because I want it right now. After all, it’s not a need. Hobby supplies are a luxury, a want. So they don’t get first priority in a budget.

I plan my hobby into my budget and I save towards expensive items. Budgeting isn’t hard – it’s not rigid or restricting if done the right way. On the contrary, on a budget, you’re much freer to do things, because you know exactly where you money is and what you’re doing with it.

So, to answer the inquiries I’ve received on affording needlework supplies, now you know how I do it. I’m not wealthy, but I don’t subscribe to credit card spending. I live on a budget. I don’t buy things unless I have the money to buy them. I’ve found that if I budget (and this concept works for money and time), I enjoy my embroidery a whole heck of a lot more!


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(22) Comments

  1. I agree with you 100%, Mary!! It’s all about budgeting and priorities. I recall one of my daughters saying to me not too long ago, “Mom, we never had a lot of fancy clothes growing up, but we sure had great craft supplies!”
    However, I’d like to add one more tidbit of food for thought. As a former needlework shop owner, I believe that the local needlework shop is the backbone of the needle craft industry. I have often thought how discouraging it is that so many stitchers seemed to balk at suggested retail prices. With the advent of the Internet, it is easy for stores to undercut their competition or for private parties to sell through on-line auction houses. My thought is that if we stitchers continue to refuse to support the industry (i.e. support the small independent needlework stores), it won’t be long before we no longer have all the wonderful supplies we might take for granted today. Something to think about; it’s all about priorities.

    1. I thoroughly agree that you should support local shops – of any kind. Having been unable to sell our business because of economic climate our retirement is without the pension its selling should have bought. However now I am really short of funds I do have to shop around and that is the answer. Many of the local shops do have websites now. Search amongst them – not the big A..n or E..y sites. And sometimes one “expensive” item can save pounds, against many cheap that do not work…

  2. Very good observation, Joey, and I absolutely agree with you! When local shops go under – the shops that carry quality supplies – we all suffer for it! Thank you!

  3. Hi, Mary. This is sound advice. My husband and I just got into Dave Ramsey a few years ago, after building up so much debt that it threatened to ruin everything – our marriage, our jobs, our house.

    Especially for the young people out there, you couldn’t help them better by directing them to this type of financial management. I always tell college students who are always swiping out credit cards they better shut up and listen to this guy or they’re going to be miserable.

    My hobbies didn’t help our financial situation!

    But now we’re doing fine. I don’t have to have a job and I have time and money for my hobbies. Better yet, I have time for my daughters. And I’m teaching them my hobbies thanks to your videos.

    Thanks for your sight.

  4. I agree about budgeting. I also think in terms of priorities. I choose to do needlework, but I don’t do other things like go out to eat a lot or go to movies or other things that require discretionary money. I honestly don’t believe you can have and do everything; there isn’t enough time or money in the world. For me it’s about choices and I choose to spend money on good quality embroidery supplies. Yes, they are expensive, but that’s the way it is. I also figure that if I am going to spend a lot of time doing a project I want to use the best supplies I possibly can. For me, the results are worth it!

    I want to comment about supporting local needlework shops. I live in San Diego, a large city. I buy almost all of my needlework supplies on-line because the local needlework shops look at me like I am sort of alien creature because I don’t do cross stitch or needlework. I want Appleton crewel wool, twill fabric, silk flosses, goldwork supplies, etc. I don’t really blame the needlework shops for not carrying any of these things, but I don’t feel guilty for not patronising them either because they don’t have anything I want.

  5. Margaet, yes, that is an issue – not having a local shop. Instead of “Local Needlework Shop”, I should have just said “small, independently owned needlework shop”. However, I still feel that if one has a like-minded LNS, one should do everything in one’s power to support it.

  6. What a sensible and useful article. Thank you. I used to splurge, but following an accident and enforced convalescense, it’s made me think about things like this. And yes, I get what I want. But eventually. And I think I enjoy it more when I do. Another thing I’ve discovered is that by sitting back, waiting, thinking and saving, I sometimes don’t want the item after all.

    I’d love to know what kind of craft stand you went for, but the link is broken! I ended up with a Lowery, and it really was a considered purchase. I love it but gave up other things to get it!

    Happy stitching!

  7. What a wonderful site this is! So very helpful for beginning embroiderists! I’m doing a lot of counted cross stitch right now, and I agree with everyone else that it is an expensive hobby. But it’s so worth it! I’m still working on the whole budgeting thing, but I’m trying to get better. But speaking of suppporting local needlework shops, if anyone is in the NVA area, there is a lovely little needlework shop in Great Falls called The Scarlet Thread. The website is http://www.scarletthread.com. The owner is very nice and even if she doesn’t have something in stock, she will most likely be able to order it for you. Just thought I’d share.

  8. I learned that you do have to spend some money. My husband got sick, we had to close our busines and was left with hugh medical & business debt with only my income to pay everything. Buying some embroidery supplies each month to make crazy quilts was my only splurge. Then I got my mother – embroidery was my only escape!

  9. hi
    i just read about budgeting . and yes i agree being on disabiltily pension, every thing get prepaid even gas elect rent what is left after our basic needs are meet i spend on my hobbys. with going to craft groups if any one has a bit of lace or material they know i love all little treasures it is good for learning skills and if i stuff up i know i did not pay alot for it god bless

  10. Hello: I've just discovered your site when I needed a demo for some simple stitches on tree ornaments-your videos are wonderful.

    I've read your post about budgeting and wholeheartedly agree; everything you said applies to the expensive hobby of quilting, too. I've lived my life as you describe and feel good for doing so.
    I am a quilter, patchworker and hand appliquer. I love the peacefulness of doing hand applique and hand quilting (tho lately have wanted to see things finished more quickly and have been using the sewing machine); I am drawn to your work for the same calm feeling that I get when doing needleturn applique.
    When I began quilting, I bought inexpensive fabric, then graduated to better quality.
    Now I may do the same with embroidery-start with DMC floss and plain fabric with simple designs.
    Thanks for your great site; I've subscribed to the feed.
    Kathleen C.

  11. Hi, Kathleen!

    Welcome aboard – I'm glad you found me! It sounds as if we think a lot alike!

    I'm also really glad you found the video library useful. I've got "plans" for it in the near future – well, it'll probably be the Christmas holidays before anything becomes noticeable, but … something to look forward to, anyway!

    Thanks for your comment! Happy stitching!


  12. Good sensible advice that far too few people today follow…

    As you teach classes as I do, I have found that having students pay a modest materials fee that is a little more than the cost of materials ($5 a student or so more) allows me to purchase resources that I keep but provide for the student’s use during the class (such as books, patterns, etc.). This helps me keep learning so I can keep teaching them well, and allows me to buy some of the things that I covet but cannot always justify buying.

    I am really enjoying your site!


  13. My mother is planning to stitch two chairbacks for my chairs, and was wondering where she might be able to buy the fabric and get a suitable pattern to embroider on them.
    Great website!

    (Cleveland, OH)

  14. Wow. Great post. I needed that reminder. I just love to purchase fabric, and then end up feeling guilty. I have been working on destashing to create money through my etsy shop w/out having to purchase more. Thanks for the reminder to stay on the straight and narrow.

  15. Budgeting would be great -if I could get my free-spirited hubby to buy in! But I came up with a back-up plan. A couple of times a year I teach an online class (I’m a geologist by trade). I keep that money in my own account, and use it for crafts, materials for crafts, books about crafts, etc. (you get the idea). I still have to spend carefully, but this way I actually have money to budget.

  16. Hi Mary,

    I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I do read and plan to read most of your articles posted. I seem to be a day late for everything! (In this case- YEARS) So, I don’t know if you see or read my comments or not.

    The greatest advice that received about budgeting and saving was from my grandmother. She told me “Pay yourself first.” When I get paid, she said, take 10% of what you earned (gross, not net) and put that in a savings account. Don’t touch it! Someday you might want to buy a house and you’ll need a large down payment. Don’t use credit cards, have maybe one for emergencies, but don’t rely on them and use them from frivolous spending. When you save for a bit for an item that you want, you’ll appreciate it more than if you whip out a credit card and pay for it right then and there. I was 13/14 at the time and did babysitting and I followed her advice. When, at the age of 30 I had my son, I had a nice little nest egg and was able to stay at home for the first 2 1/2 years of his life. Being a single mom, that is pretty unheard of now and days to be able to stay at home with no other financial assistance. Not to mention the saving and paying cash for items you really want. You save for it, and then you really do appreciate the item more. I have X amount of dollars every month that I can use for spending of my crafts (crochet, quilting and now embroidery) and I am thinking of selling/opening a business so that I can earn extra money to pay for my hobbies. I don’t want a lot, just the cost of materials. Right now I am saving for two items, a good lap-hoop and magnifier. Those are two things I want and will invest in quality tools and materials to work with so my products are not inferior.

    This was a great blog post, you should reference it again for those who only read the most current articles. You have such a wealth of information hidden here that everyone can use!

    Have a great day!

  17. As a formost expert in the needle work field and an influencer, you should be getting many many supplies free. The manufacturers want you to review and mention their products to all your readers. Send a press release to all the manufactures and craft book publishers about your website and include your mailing address. Products should start showing up for free. Your site should be making you a fortune in advertising, as well. (Please only ads on the side, no pop ups in the middle of an article.)

  18. Excellent advice and l do the same. If something goes out of stock before l have saved the money, l think l wasn’t meant to have it. I’m not poor either!

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