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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Shelving a Needlework Project


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Do you ever get to the point where you decide to shelf a needlework project indefinitely? Here’s one I just shelved…

This is a spring tea cloth from Anchor (a Fleur de Lys kit), worked in a variety of surface embroidery stitches. On its own, when considering the various recommended stitches, it’s not anything too elaborate – the stitches are simple, and the interpretation of the individual motifs is equally simple.

Anchor Embroidery Kit: Spring Tea Cloth - a Project Shelved

The garden image goes all around all four sides. And I think it’s pretty enough, but every time I sit down to work on it, I am not particularly “grabbed” (as in, enchanted, delighted, interested, and so forth!).

I’m having a heck of a time deciding on how to stitch those blue bell thingies. The pattern calls for satin stitch, using three strands of floss. Well, that just looks ridiculous! So I tried all different kinds of stitches, from split stitch filling (I think that’s what’s on there right now) to long and short stitch (I’ll probably revisit that one – it was a bit too poofy with three strands, but I’ll take Margaret’s advice and try it with two), to satin stitch with three threads, then two threads, then even padded and the top worked with one thread. None of the latter satisfied!

Anchor Embroidery Kit: Spring Tea Cloth - a Project Shelved

I’ve had this kit, actually, for about two or three years, and I took it out for the first time about a year ago. I worked the round pink things in the front and some of the stems at the time, but then put it away. The next time I took it out, I worked the yellow flowers and then put it away.

So here I am, putting it away again. I thought, about a month ago, that I might be able to finish the piece up for a Christmas present. So I took it out and worked a few stitches.

I’m not sure why this project doesn’t grab me. It should be a rather relaxing embroidery project, simply because it’s relatively simple. I picture it being fun to work on. Yet every time I take it out, I barely manage a few stitches before I toss it aside for something else! Why?

By the way, Margaret’s stitching the same project, only she’s almost finished with hers, and she made Vast Improvements on the kit as she went, shading and adding different colors and stitch types, etc. I can’t wait to see her finished version – maybe it will inspire some determination in me to take this up again and really finish it!

Do you have any ongoing projects that you regularly set aside for other things? If so, why do you shelf them? And is there any “trigger” that causes you to take them out again and determine to finish them?


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(10) Comments

  1. I am very familiar with shelving projects, Mary. In fact, I have a huge drawer full of them! The current one that I can’t get inspired to finished is the embroidered skirt for a christening gown for my youngest child (newly married and childless for now). I started this 12 years ago — yep. You heard me. 12 years ago! As there was no compelling reason to hurry back then I just picked it up from time to time, stitched on it a while, then put it away. It has 12 teardrop panels — and I was almost finished with #12 when my dog found it. She completely demolished 5 of the panels. Since then I simply haven’t had the heart to go back to it. I am thinking I’ll just alternate panels — one embroidered and one plain, but that isn’t what I wanted to do. So . . . here it sits! And yes, the dog is still alive. Barely.


  2. I was working on a kit called “White Rose Sampler” which was mainly composed of DMC thread of varying shades of cream, and green, along with copious amounts of white, on a brownish piece of linen. Let’s just say that I am now working on something that calls for many shades of red, orange, blue, and purple.

  3. Hello, My name is Heidi and I too am a shelver. (I think of this as like an AA confession) I think most of us would agree that there are projects that are shelved at one time or another. Currently, I have several shelved for various reasons. One reason is that the type of thread (needlepoint yarn) doesn’t excite me right now. Another is shelved because I need to have quiet unlimited alone time to focus and right now I have too much else to focus on. I need to be undistracted for the complexity of the project. Another is shelved because I simply hate the design. I have tried to jazz it up by adding interesting fibers, addtional stitches, but the design just isn’t exciting me at the moment. Another is just too much cross stitch and nothing else! Don’t get me wrong, I do love cross stitch, but I would rather focus on something with more different stitches right now. For these and other projects to come off the shelf will take effort and dedicated time. I will have to force them on myself and offer a reward for tackling the task at hand, by allowing time to dedicate to a ‘fun’ project. Most of the shelved stuff was started by someone else or someone else wants it or picked it out. My tastes change, but I don’t get bored as easily with projects that I have planned for myself. I guess I am just a selfish person.

    For some reason, Mary this project, while very lovely, just doesn’t scream your name at me. I guess I can see why you might shelve it for a while. Give yourself a break. You do such beautiful and challenging work. This just may not be the project for you right now. This seems mindless compared to what you normally tackle. I might think of this as a take along project that you could do on a trip, in a car, away from home, at the lake, in a lodge, in a plane. Something that only requires floss, needle and scissors. You can use what ever colors you wish where ever and whatever stitches you desire on the fly. Don’t sweat it. It will find it’s rightful place in your schedual, eventually.

  4. If I were you, I wouldn’t give up. What you have already done is very nice. Why don’t you start with one group of flowers and go around and finish those first. Then select another and so forth. Then you would pretty much have everything done except for those pesky Bluebells. By then, you can take in the overall look and it would then give you some ideas (I hope?) of how to finish the flowers.

  5. I think we shelve things that aren’t quite in sync with our “inner needlewoman” spirit! We’ve each got our loves and strong suites and that’s just how it is. BUT…we needlepeople almost never throw out or give up on a bad choice of work to the point where we put it away hoping that someday some mystical inspiration will seize us to conclude that which we know is inconclusive!

  6. Yep. This summer I had the bright idea of embroidering some tea towels to give as Christmas gifts. I was going to do a floral motif using a wildflower coloring book. I finished one and started another. It was so incredibly boring I had to stop.
    Do I have plans to finish that towel? No way! Life is too short to work on something that doesn’t thrill!
    Mary, I suggest you give this ufo to Margaret. She obviously is enjoying hers. You should move on to bigger and brighter things!

  7. as a beginner, there is a lot of terminology i dont understand. So i am asking what doe sit mean when a pattern calls for you to use 3 strands of floss? do you thread 3 strings of floss on a needle? cause usually the eye of needle is small. And i use a regular sewing needle with regular sewing thread. trying to move onto floss but scared, since i dont know alot about it.

  8. Jules –

    Most floss comes in 6 strands… if you look at the floss closely (assuming you’re using DMC) you’ll see that it divides into 6 strands. Hold only the tip of one strand in your finger, and while holding the rest of the bundle, pull the one strand out. This is called “Stripping your floss” – pull each strand out of the bunch individually, then put as many strands as you want back together. Stripping the floss helps keep your threads smooth and makes them lie better when you stitch.

    When patterns call for three strands, they mean three from one piece of floss, and they expect you to pull them out by stripping them, then put them back together to start stitching.

    Do check out the tips and tricks for hand embroidery page – you’ll find a few articles on there for beginners!

    Good luck….


  9. Oh there is plenty of projects that go unfinished or shelved for a short period of time. Most of the time, like right now, I have a needle book project going. Put it down after getting a third of the way through due to joining up in a stitching challenge. Basically, was more thrilled to make a collection of stitches than stitching up a needle book to hold my needles.

    Then there was my mother’s birthday present that just bored the tar out of me. I am not a lover of nothing but backstitches… this is one of those that is ALL backstitches so needless to say, got burnt on the whole thing and can’t get motivated to pick it up. It is about 7 or 8 yrs going now.

    Then there is the cross stitch one I have been working on for ages… just plum burnt on the cross stitch too. So I end up trying to make something for myself and end up in a stitching challenge. hehee

  10. Hello.I am Elizabeth from Greece . VERY NICE floral pattern. WHERE CAN I WOULD take MODEL embroidery ,color and number THREAD AND WHAT I NEED TO sew stitches? Thank you.

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