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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Are you a Sloppy Stitcher?


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Sometimes, I’m a sloppy stitcher. I admit it! And it’s kind of embarrassing! Of course, I go through phases of absolute determination not to be a sloppy stitcher. I organize and re-organize, I take oaths, make promises, I vow to correct the fault… but once in a while, I do slide into Sloppy Stitcher-ness (or stitching sloppiness…) Let me tell you (and worse yet, show you!) what I mean!

I embroider in one of three places: the living room, where things are pretty casual and where I’m probably most comfortable but I don’t always get the most done; my bedroom at my desk, right in front of my computer, where I get more done than I do in the living room; or out in the studio, where I work on larger projects that need dedicated space.

No matter where I am, though, I have a tendency to get engrossed in my stitching, and I generally always feel pressured when I stitch. This isn’t necessarily a good thing – I don’t advise you to feel pressured when you stitch – but for me, lately, it is the case, and this comes from balancing a full-time job with upkeep on the website here, while perpetually trying to make headway on stitching projects. So, when I sit down to stitch, I Just Want to Stitch and get something accomplished! And I don’t want anything delaying me from stitching.

And this brings me to the topic of organization. If I maintained perfect organization in my stitching supplies, I know I would get more accomplished! It’s true! I know it! And this is why I take oaths, make promises, and vow that I will be more organized.

But, oh. I get engrossed. And I pull what I need, and I leave the rest, and I burrow through, looking for this thing or that thing, and I forage about for this other thing….. until…. until…..

The Disorganized Stitcher

Yeeeesh. The insides of my pretty little needlebook kit box…..

Then, there comes a point where I can’t stand it. The mess drives me nuts! I can’t easily find what I’m looking for (yes, even in a 12″ square box!), my threads are on the road to complete knottiness, and my needles – forget it.

So I stop stitching and I clean up.

The Disorganized Stitcher

And once I clean up, I start making those vows and promises, while I delve back into my (organized) stitching.

Sometimes, we pay a price for being sloppy when stitching. Lost needles, thread ruined by knots…. these little items add up and detract from our hobby budgets! So that’s one reason I vow to be more careful about my organizational habits when I stitch, and to overthrow this tendency to get sloppy during my already-too-short stitching sessions. We not only save supplies (and therefore money) when we keep ourselves organized, but we save time as well – and really, this is more valuable!

For this particular case that prompted today’s post, there was a casualty:

The Disorganized Stitcher

There are supposed to be TWO of those buttons!

Are you a sloppy stitcher? What do you do to keep yourself organized while stitching a project? Have you had any breakthroughs in your vows to keep organized? Learned any good lessons? Are you habitually a neat-nick with enviable good habits? If so, how do you organize yourself?

Go ahead… confess.



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(26) Comments

  1. Oh My Gosh! I have the same trouble when I scrapbook! I get out all of my supplies, start adhering pictures to pages and I spend way too much time trying to find my tape runner, or a cutter, or worse yet…my scissors which ALWAYS get lost in the shuffle of paper and photots.

    I was at my mom's house this weekend. She has all of her embroidery work right at her fingertips. She keeps everything out that she needs for each block she's working on (she's making an embroidered quilt top) and nothing else.

    I'm learning to listen to her advice. If you don't need it right then, keep it put away until
    you do. She uses the DMC Stitch Bow system. Works for her anyway!

  2. I admit to being a sloppy stitcher till I saw your needlework box and the way you had organised the contents. So I went and got myself a box and have tried to stay organised. Now come what may I try and put away the stuff immediately after stitching. Even my kids and husband are barred from laying hands on the scissors and tools of my box.

  3. Oh yes, does this sound familiar. I embroider either in my sewing room so I can listen to audiobooks, or in my family room, where my laptop keeps eyeing me as I should be working instead of stitching. Either place is a disorganized array of scissors, needles, pins and threads. Every few weeks I spend an hour or two organizing and it works wonders for my productivity and invariably produces lost items such as your missing button.

  4. Dear Mary,

    I so enjoy your blog and website. Your thoughts about needlework are so interesting to read and most of the time, I am nodding in agreement. I can't believe you are every sloppy. Everything I have seen so far suggests otherwise.

    My fantasy is to have a room dedicated to my supplies with a cozy chair for working on my stitching. Right now, supplies are scattered and I stitch in various places around the house which means I can't really leave things 'as is' to 'pick up' at a later point. I feel this hinders my work and the time I have to work on things. Oh well. Something to dream about.

    Any further tips and suggestions for keeping organized would be greatly appreciated.

  5. I do so wish I didn't know what you're talking about!

    My pet peeve used to be the long strands of floss that, once separated, seemed to stick to everything, getting tangled, and ultimately getting lost or thrown away, either costing me precious thread or the time it took to untangle a big mess.

    Fortunately, I also do quite a bit of plain sewing (on the sewing machine), and I realized recently that all those empty thread spools could hold the bits and pieces of floss that would otherwise float around, making the worst of the mess.

    Now, when I start a project knowing I will use a good bit of a given color, I'll often pre-divide the strands, twining them around my spools so that I can snip just the desired amount, leaving the rest on the spool (which I have carefully marked with the brand, type and color number so any leftovers will be easily identified).

    Notions like buttons or other trims go into little baggies. The spools of thread may even go into baggies according to color or the order in which they are to be used.

    Now I feel quite smug about my tidiness, since it allows me to grab a project and go (for instance, to doctors appointments and other occasions when waiting will be inevitable).

    The only downfall to this system seems to be that, once a project is finished, I now often have substantial, well organized bits left over — enough at least to use on another project, if only I can manage to unpack my little kit and send the leftovers back to the stash!

    Karen from Arcadia

  6. Yes, I confess, I am usually a sloppy stitcher. My goal for this new year is to finally get some good advice on organizing my room, and my projects and I have some money to spend on it if I need something (not a lot, but enough) I have tried and tried to organize myself for years, and it usually only works for a few months and then I'm sloppy again.

    I don't mean to be, but I get too busy.

    Any ideas, tips … ANYTHING would be welcome in my room!

  7. Mary,
    I totally understand I spent 2 months last year getting totally organized. That was the time I sent you the package of stuff that I had double. I put all my threads on cards and numbered and put in plastic black boxes so no light could get through. I bought a huge craft armoire that holds all my supplies and plastic boxes for my fabric that sits on top. I even got a mini fridge for my linens.

    I bought the zippered bags and I pull only what I need and put back what I am finished with. So when I am done most of my items are already put away. For a kit like this I will go ahead and put all the threads on spools or loosely on cards. I usually have a plastic box that can hold all my items that has a lid. I try to clean up as I go but sometimes I cannot get it done. I will usually try to clean before I start again.

    With all this commitment to organization you would think I would have organization down. Nope I have to organize my armoire as it is now overflowing, hmmm maybe another package to you Mary.

    It is such a challenge to maintain a clean space.

    Thanks Mary for the post, your human, and nice to hear since your work is so amazing!

  8. Mary,
    I think we are all guilty of this in one way or another . I know when I am doing my Christmas sewing ,my sewing room looks worse than your little box does. I end up with fabric and thread and once in a while I have to stop and put things away to have a place to cut again and to sew more of what ever I am sewing. Like you I hand sew in front of my computer boy does the computer desk get full have to stop and clean it up also.

  9. Since I smock as well as do surface embroidery I just keep each project and supplies in a artbin box until I am finished with that project.
    I do not think there are any real answers to being the neatest stitcher on the block. As long as the items I need are together in the box I am in good shape. That said,"I had to go look for some overdyed Threadworx varigated floss this morning that somehow or other decided to move outside my box!"

  10. Hi Mary. Happy Holidays.
    When I was little my father always kept his work shop in the garage impeccably organized which helped me to come up with a great idea to keep my thread organized.

    When my thread supply increased I went to the hardware store and purchased a small utility cabinet with draws usually used to keep nuts and bolts in.

    Then printed out color coded labels with their numbers.

    For the threads I'm using for the current project I keep them in a strong plastic bag that zips the pillow cases I bought came in.

    That way if I am out an about and having to wait for what ever reason my project can neatly go with me.

    I now have to get another utility cabinet hopefully I can find a larger one. For now to store my new quantity of thread I'm using the same style bag but bigger that came with the sheets I bought.

    Years ago I would purchase small zip lock bags and use a hole puncher to make one hole. Then I put all the bags on key rings then labeled each bag with the color numbers. That way I could go right to the color and check the number. Just another idea.

    San Diego

  11. Think of it as "work in progress" and think of your stitching space as a "workshop" or "work area". Even though it's done for fun, it still is a job and work areas are always messy. People working outside of the home realize this the most, since most professional workshops ask the employees to clean only at the end of the day or before the weekend. As long as the work is getting done, just clean up at the end of the day, or clean up after the project is finished if it only lasts for 2 or 3 days. If you're main concern is wrapping up each thread before laying it down in its' allotted space, you will begin to dislike the hobby. After all, you don't see artists putting down their brushes mid-stroke to organize their creative space nor do you see chef's entirely cleaning in the midst of a dish. This is no different. My spouse and I just keep out of each others shop areas trusting that the stuff won't get tracked all over the house. And only if we invite each other in to lend a hand, we clean up for the guest appearance out of courtesy and safety. That is all! Other than that, I say, let the lint fly where it may during the process. Clean up later.

  12. As so many have said before "thank you!" It is a great comfort to know that someone as talented and productive as you are has a "guilty" secret. Makes me relax and accept that I am a stitching slob and that's OK. Like you, I "kit" my projects together in a box or ziplock bag. Yet somehow the house seems to have one of these things tucked in every corner because I have too many projects started and don't always clean up when I am finished. Which is also why I own more scissors than anyone needs and have so many duplicate floss colors. Sigh.

  13. Hi Mary, yes, I am a sloppy stitcher, and while all my scrapbooking stuff is together in one place, not so my sewing/embroidery stuff – all over the place! I am hoping by theend of January, I will have my dedicated work space sorted out and that I can stitch in organised peace.

    Of course, having 2 spare beds in your proposed peaceful stitching place isn't an ideal situation either. :{

  14. Mary- I use a project box with lid for each of my projects. Inside I include my design/photo I'm working from; a manilla folder with holes punched along the top, labelled with each color floss I'm using, and my "tool bag". The tool bag is a small zippered bag that includes a packet of needles, my embroidery scissors, a small pencil and an index card that includes my project information (fabric, floss colors, size of project, time spent). The manilla folder holds one length (6 or 12 strands, etc) of each color in the project, and the ends are protected within the folder so they don't get tangled. The full skeins are kept in their regular storage spot, so I have them for other projects (not that I'd ever start a new project before finishing that one, of course). The box has everything organized for that project, and the tool bag can be easily moved from project to project if needed.

  15. I must have in excess of 5,000 needles in this house — and I am embarassed to admit how often I use the most convenient (instead of the most correct) needle. But since we are all confessing…..:-)

  16. I sew regularly as well (I make costumes and clothing for myself and others), and since I still live with my parents when I'm not at school, I've had to make my sewing hobby as positively travel-friendly as humanly possible!

    I have a small clear box that contains most of my stuff that is both sewing and embroidery. Things like stitch witchery, machine needles, etc are kept in a separate box that is not very travel-nice (since when am I going to travel and need a machine?). The clear box has in it another smaller box, and I keep my thimbles, some needles, buttons etc in this box. Larger stuff (scissors etc) is kept in the larger box.

    Since I'm still pretty cheap at the moment…I only use one brand/type of embroidery floss cuz it's easy to find and pretty cheap. I keep it in the original loops until I'm ready to use it, and then I only unwrap one loop at a time, work everything I need to with that color. After that, I'll re-loop it and use the same little paper bits to keep it all together. All my floss goes into a little baggie when it's looped. When it's unlooped because I'm working with it, it gets wrapped and tucked into my travelling sewing bag =)

  17. Loose threads drive me wild! That's why I wind my floss on bobbins or put them in separate 3"x4" plastic baggies with a hold punched in the upper corner & connected with a hinged ring. Sure makes finding everything much easier!

  18. It's part of being creative, right? I have so many patterns screaming for my attention. So I start on one, get all my little bobbins of organized floss pulled and put into a smaller box, ready to use for project number 1. But then another project comes up that I need to work on (one my Mom can't finish now due to poor eyesight). Get another little box, pull the colors I need for that one. Oops, some of the colors are already pulled for project #1. I'll just borrow from them.

    And it's near Christmas. Want to make some ornaments so out comes more floss and cross flossing from projects 1 and 2. And don't forget that adorable little kit I bought with floss and beads. My little side table is a jumble of little boxes, bags and tupperware containers. But it's all organized, kind of. LOL

  19. I have to confess that I am a sloppy stitcher. Your lovely needlework sewing box looks hauntingly familiar.
    I sew in the living room in my little corner of the sofa. Next to it I have my end table covered with all I need for whatever project I am stitching. Believe me, it can get really ugly too. I have needles everywhere but can never seem to find one. What can I say? It takes me more time to organize than it does to get my projects done.

  20. I feel vindicated. My husband is always commenting on my mess – I call it my NEST. Nobody can sit next to me on the lounge as I am surrounded by thread, scissors, project boxes, the current book I am reading and last ??? magazines I have purchased. Like you Mar I vow to take control but I only end up finding something else to substitute in my nest. I just have to keep reminding him that when I'm happy, he's happy and my nest makes me happy!

  21. Yes I am a sloppy stitcher!
    I subscribe Laura Bullinger!

    But let me say I doubt you are a sloppy stitcher! I believe that a bag or box you are using for a project looks like your picture but everything around is clean and organized, I believe!

    You have a full-time work and do so many things about embroidery (writing, searching, stitching… and so on)at the same time – you HAVE to be the Queen of organization.
    But thank you for pacifying our minds 🙂

  22. I call myself a "messy" rather than sloppy stitcher. Works in progress require handling materials and only storing them neatly at a stopping place or if they are becoming difficult to use. I am reading a book called "A Perfect Mess" that talks about the cost in time (and storage materials) for being too neat — they use the term "moderately messy" and it's what I am aiming for. (Written by a person who has spread sheets of threads, stretcher bars, projects, etc. but still can be a messy stitcher.)

  23. I enjoy anything that has to do with embroidery, from choosing/shopping for supplies/materials to organizing them… love it all ! I may lack organization skills in other areas 😉 … but since I started my journey in hand embroidery my supplies are always organize. I may not remember my Dr. appointments unless I write them down or the name of new friends :-/ … but I can remember every single embroidery project/supplies I own and where it is when I need it 😀 .

    What helps me keep them this way is:
    1) Just love to see them organized, it just makes me happy … lol.

    2)They are ready to go when I need to start or continue with a project. So no wasting time.

    3) Having a little one around all the time… don't want her to get pricked by a needle or scissors or playing with my supplies. And when she wants to do some embroidery I got her a small box with some child friendly supplies !

  24. I admit I am sloppy whatever my current project. I have learned to accept it and to contain it somewhat. I keep whatever current project I am on in a box like yours or a plastic shoe box or basket or whatever so that at least the only tangled thread is form my current project! Then I always clean up after. I keep repeating Einstein's saying, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?” LOL!

  25. I have my threads on cards on hoops the hoops open if I need to take off the card. Each hoop is a single family of colors like just reds, or only blues .I put the hoops in their own ziplocks.When I stitch I take out one hoop,get what I want off it,put the hoop back in the ziplock,but leave the bag open.When I'm done I grab the color hoop stick the card back on put it in the ziplock,toss it in the bottom section of the box.

    To carry my supplies I use a tri folding makeup box.Cool thing about a makeup box is it has sections,shelves and dividers you can move around to suit your needs
    The upper part of the box holds needles,which are in a narrow box ,hoops and other tools. Buttons and the like,go in a bead cylinder box that is clear and screws together.
    The threads don't get messed up that way they aren't even around the tools.It all fits. Makeup boxes also have handles.If you got a bigger hoop than the box,I just get a ziplock that fits the project,punch a hole below the zipper with a paper punch,get a strip of velcro and velcro my project to the handle or use a carabeaner I have put on the handle that rests at the base.
    Than I can carry the whole thing.

    I have 3 make up boxes,to carry the stuff I need to do my projects, I can use them for beads,forleatherwork,
    sculpture, watercolors and drawing supplies,whatever I want.

    If I don't want to carry the box,
    The makeup boxes fit into a thing I rigged up to attach the box to my backpack .The basket like holder is made of webbing straps, it hooks in place with D rings on my backpack, and dog leash clips on the straps.That way I can take my projects wherever I go and not have to carry the box in my hands all the time. Hope this was useful.

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