Mary Corbet

writer and founder


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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Behind the Scenes at Needle ‘n Thread


Amazon Books

Ooooh – a behind-the-scenes, personal post! You aren’t obliged to read on – there are no embroidery tips here, no how-to’s, no free hand embroidery patterns! Just answers to a few recurring questions that I get (practically daily!) in my e-mail! I’m going to come clean and tell you some of the nitty-gritty behind Needle ‘n Thread. That way, you’ll know, and for future inquiries, I can provide a link instead of typing out the morbid details!

The recurring questions I get about Needle ‘n Thread, me, my methods, my organization, and (yes, even this) my personal life – or what-have-you – can be summarized as follows:

1. What kind of camera (etc.) do you use? (equipment questions)
2. How do you organize your day? (This includes questions about working, blogging, stitching, and living)
3. Do you offer classes that we can travel to?
4. Do you sell stuff?
5. Will you review (promote, advertise, etc.) my designs, my products, etc.?
6. Sure, if you’re rich or you get things for free, you can afford to do what you do, but I’m not rich and I don’t get things for free, so how can I afford to do what you do? (Questions about spending money to buy supplies, why I promote “expensive” supplies and comments along those lines…)

Ok – here it goes.

1. What kind of camera (equipment, etc.) do you use?

This is the easiest question. I use an Olympus Stylus 800, which is a point and shoot digital camera with a super-macro mode. It is about four or so years old, outdated, but chugging along wonderfully. I have begun budgeting for a DSLR of some sort, which I will purchase towards the end of this year. I haven’t done all the research yet to know which one, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to start budgeting ahead of time for it, because I know it’s going to be a bit pricey.

For video, I use a Sanyo Xacti Full HD blahblahblah camera. (I really don’t know the precise name or the specs). I bought it last year and have not used it “much” for video, but intend to be using it more this spring – a lot, even. I bought it because it is s-m-a-l-l and fits between me and the embroidery without too much trouble.

For editing photos, I use Photoshop. For video, I use whatever happens to be on my Mac…. ? I don’t know – the typical Mac software. I’m still getting familiar with it.

For patterns and line drawings and so forth, I use Inkscape and Illustrator.

And for all things blogging, I use an iMac, which I loooooove. It was my Big Budgeted Purchase last year for my website work, and it took me over six months to save for it. I like it a lot.

To blog, I currently use Blogger, but I publish using FTP, which service Blogger is discontinuing on May 1st. Slightly before that time, you will see an all-new Needle ‘n Thread, and I will be using WordPress. (I think you’ll like the new website! I’m pretty excited about it!)

2. How do you organize your day?

Are you kidding? Organize? I would love to tell you that I am some sort of Organized Wonder who has all the secrets to Organized Living, but the fact of the matter is, I’m not! I do what I have to do.

It’s easier to say what I don’t do: I don’t watch television; I’m not a “go-shopping-for-fun” sort of person (I only shop for necessities); I rarely go “out” for entertainment (movies, bars, dining out, etc.), though I do visit with friends and family and socialize on the home front quite a bit; and I never sleep in – generally up before or by 6:00 am, including weekends.

By today’s standards, I think I can safely say I live pretty simply.

Specifically, for blogging, I work in advance of the blog. On weekends, I try to pre-write (or at least outline and get some thoughts down) my blog posts for the upcoming week. I check e-mail and moderate comments off and on throughout the day, when I have time. I try to catch up on e-mail during the weekend, but it doesn’t always happen. I spend several hours a week – grabbing an hour here and there – just editing photos in anticipation of upcoming blog posts. Basically, the key to the blogging thing is to work ahead as much as possible.

And, a final note on the subject (to keep my sister – a wife, mother of 10, and “business baker” – happy!): I’m not married and I don’t have kids. If you’re married and you have children, you know that your life is vastly different and that you have to spend your time in ways I don’t have to. Who has the better end of the deal? Children are a fantastic gift! I’d say you do. Be thankful for it!

3. Do you offer classes that we can travel to? Or do you travel to offer classes?

At this time, no. And no. I teach from the middle of August through the beginning of June. During the summers, I get up small embroidery classes with local children or local adults I know, if I can. These classes are super casual among people I know. If I had to prepare full-fledged seminars that I were charging money for, I couldn’t do it! There’s not time between the end of one school year and the beginning of another to do the planning and executing of that kind of workshop, and still get in my own planning for the next school year and my own vacation time. And believe me – teachers need vacation time!

4. Do you sell stuff?

At this time, no. (Though I do have a younger brother that I always thought might bring a decent price if I could market him correctly….)

5. Will you review (promote) my designs, my products, etc.?

I review products and promote them only if I find that I like them and would spend money on them. Occasionally, I do receive some freebies from needlework-related companies, but my “promotion policy” (listed under the FAQs) is simply that I only promote the things I would spend my own money on. I don’t promote things just because someone sends them to me. So if you want to risk sending me something, you’re free to do so, but it doesn’t guarantee that I’ll write about it. My readers (and my reputation with them) come first – I’m not going to sell them on things that I’m not sold on myself.

The vast majority of stuff you see on Needle ‘n Thread, I have paid for myself. The only exception would be occasional books and now and then a give-away item, and I use the term “courtesy of” if they are given to me from publishers. When I give away supplies or books “courtesy of,” I’ve often already bought the same things for myself.

6. Sure, if you’re rich or you get things for free, you can afford to do what you do, but I’m not rich and I don’t get things for free, so how can I afford to do what you do? (Questions about spending money to buy supplies and why I promote “expensive” supplies, comments about my website being “snobby” because I talk about supplies that are expensive, and things along those lines…)

Is it just me, or are these types of questions a little unfair? I do have a wee bit of a blunt streak in me, so I hope you don’t mind if I’m somewhat direct on this one!

Like I said, I live pretty simply. With the exception of that chunk of my income that pays taxes, and the money that I give to charity, my income is mine because I have no debt. I have had debt in the past – college loans, car loans, credit card bills, etc. – but, thanks to the “nagging” of my very good parents, I learned the hard way (several years of paying off debt and living without much at all) that I am happier when someone else doesn’t own me or my money. I budget my income so that I can afford things. And if the things are big and expensive, I save before I buy them. I don’t deserve everything as soon
as I want it, and if I want something badly enough, I will work to pay for it first. And part of my budget is my hobby money. You can read my post on Price Tags and Budgets for further information on this, if you like.

I purchase good supplies because I take my needlework seriously, and over the years, I have learned the value of using good supplies. And good supplies cost money. But I will deny myself some things (for example, I don’t pay a cable bill, I rarely dine out, I don’t buy new cars, I don’t impulse buy or shop just for fun…) so that I can afford what I do.

The people who produce good embroidery supplies are spending a lot of money to do so, by the way. They aren’t “taking us for a ride.” It costs money to produce quality goods…

BUT – all that being said – embroidery doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to do what I do, with the supplies I use! A needle, some cotton embroidery floss, and some fabric, and you can teach yourself to embroider and have a lot of fun doing it, for very little money. As your skill develops or you find techniques that you’d like to explore further, then you can determine whether or not it’s worth the investment! Some of the most fun things I’ve embroidered (example: this towel) cost me less than three dollars!

I hope I haven’t popped anyone’s bubble or disappointed you too much – you can pretty much see I’m fairly average and the nitty-gritty isn’t all that nitty or gritty, or even interesting! But I hope I’ve answered some of your questions. You’re welcome to contact me if you want clarification on anything in particular, or just leave a comment below. And what about you? Any feedback? How do you do things? Any agreement or disagreement? I’d love to hear your take on the questions above! If you have a blog and you’re game, you could always answer the same questions and put a link in the comments below, if you want!

Up tomorrow – the winner of this week’s give-away. If you haven’t signed up for the Renaissance Dyeing Threads give-away, don’t miss the opportunity to win a beautiful packet of embroidery wool!


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(53) Comments

  1. Well said, Mary! I like your style here and agree with many of your points – ie all the ones that are relevant to me!! In fact, a year or two back, I was asked similar questions about how I fitted embroidery into my busy schedule, to which I posted about a similarly simple life, i.e. not having kids, living in a simple, inexpensive home and thus not having to work much (DH's role anyway!!), not watching TV – don't even have one, not playing electronic games, being on social networking (time drain) sites, or being out every night like some seem to be, etc. It's no longer there as I stream-lined my blog to remove all personal stuff from it lsat year.

    I like the bit about debt as well. That's something that I wonder about with many folks – how they can even sleep at night knowing they manage their finances so appallingly as to have multiple debts and credit cards. We have £/$0 in zero in debt, no credit cards and even savings of a few thousand! I too was raised in a frugal manner and, when I married a guy with a GB£7000 student loan (about US$10K), I sorted us out with a savings plan that saw that paid off in full within about 3 years (which also meant that he could get about 50% off!) and still left enough to buy a nice 2nd hand car.=) Sure, I have a good thousand pounds worth of art and craft supplies, but I get most of them discount on-line, via e-bay and so on and I don't hoard what I won't use and sell on the stuff that I've changed my mind about, or used.

    I also think that some folk complain about not having money for certain things stitchwise when they have the most ENORMOUS stashes of stuff they're just not using and it could even be that husbands have seen this and put feet down….. I visited someone's (colossal) stash list recently as well as their WIP/UFO lists (40 items!) and was very tempted to leave a comment on the wishlist page saying, 'You dare have a wish list??' NOT that this lady laid claims to poverty, but I feel certain that there will be some who have a lot already, but just don't have some things that, say, you might.

    Something else I find that helps a lot with producing an interesting blog is to get on and finish things. I'm no shining example of that at the mo as I'm busy studying abroad, my health is nothing short of lousy at the mo and I seem to be in a (hopefully) temporary lack of interest in needlework period, but I have had one lady comment that she never finished anything in her life! If one wants to have something good to blog about, then one needs to get on and finish things and not have too many WIP project. I keep it to 3 at a max, usually 2 decent sized things and one small project (card, bookmark), so I have a choice of what to work on. Blog is varied, but readers don't lose track of 73 projects all going at once! Also, people like to see finishes and they're most satisfying to blog.

    And that's my NT$2 worth!!! The New Taiwan Dollar is too small to have cents….

  2. Mary, You are so loved by your fans…no need to "come clean"! I think a few pat answers and repetitive phrases should satisfy most questions. Follow it with links to more disclosure, but exclude personal details. But no one should feel the need to explain their income to nosybodies. A simple MYOB is a good enough reply, along with maybe a cost category for projects.
    Overall, anyone can see that you are a "real" person and not snooty or over-the-top. Don't bother trying to please everyone – no one in history has accomplished that goal. People who send those less-than-pleasant comments are not happy people, Even if you are giving away free kits, they will accuse you of sitting above the masses. You cannot win. I can almost guarantee that even these explanations will not deter the commenters from throwing stones. Accept that and gird yourself and protect yourself. Just don't bother to explain.

  3. Hi there Mary,

    I have to write and say that I appreciate receiving my daily email from you. Totally in awe of your work, your kindness and generosity of spirit in sharing your immense skill and talent.

    Oh dear, I also have to be honest……..I am rather shocked that people ask you such questions…….you know the one I am referring to!!

    How wonderful and refreshing to have someone who has the philosophy of saving and budgeting…..I am early retired, so I dont have a huge stash of fabrics etc, I buy for the projects I am working on, but I have built up a collection of threads for my smocking; however, nothing by others standards. However, I am happy working this way and its great to have my wishlist and save and build up the supplies I want for my pattern drafting, sewing, smocking etc.

    Interesting that your sister has such a wonderful large family; I have two daughters, my twinsister 8 fabulous boys!!

    Thank you for the daily bog; it is always inspirational.

    Oh, just to say Mary, showing that I am not 100 up on technology. When posting and entering my google account, never sure whether I should put a tick in the open 1d, name/url etc?
    That should make people smile!!

  4. Dear Mary, Thank you so much for sharing you life with me.You have that special rare gift when you are writing, it feels it is just meant for me.To me you are a very good friend but, that does not mean I automatically have the right to demand stuff from you. That is crossing the barrier of good manners. Keep up the good work.
    I sincerly hope we will share this special friendship for many a year to come and I am looking forward to your new website. Kind regards Elza Bester, Cape Town.

  5. Thank you for this post. I am one of those who really wants it now and now am getting those darn charge cards paid off. Believe it or not it is my 2 daughters who are pushing me to do just what you do and that is budget. I'm working towards it now and how to be in the black (as much as I can) very soon so I won't feel stressed when working on a project expensive or not. Thank You.

  6. Great post,Mary. I agree with you on all the points.Our life (pls note that I didn't say 'My life') is different coz there's a husband and a child involved. The expenses have to be prioritized and the hobby budget gets relegated to the lowest rung.Same applies to the time allotted for stitching.So at times you'll find me whining about lack of supplies,the expense ,lack of time and blah blah..
    By the way, I do have one more question – you said you use illustrator/inkscape for drawings. How do you draw with them ? – do u use a tablet? I find drawing with the mouse very tedious and am always surprised at how symmetric your drawings are.


  7. Though I do have a younger brother that I always thought might bring a decent price if I could market him correctly….

    I'm afraid the market is oversupplied, he's past his use-by date and out of warranty, there's not a lot of demand for them and you can't even sell them off for parts.

    Three of my own – why do you ask?

    Although I am having some luck selling the dog's kidneys on Ebay to put towards a house deposit. So far we're up to 23… no… wait… 24 now, and still going strong.

  8. Hi, all! Thanks very much for your input and your comments so far.

    Some specifics –

    Laura – yes, I see what you mean!

    Elizabeth – thank you for the input! You know, I totally agree on the finish work thing. I'm guilty of occasionally not finishing things, but actually, because of the blog here, I finish things up a lot more than I used to!

    Marysia – yes, 10. Yes, shocking what people will ask about – those who ask the last question are not usually people who stick around. I think if you have a blogger account or gmail account, you can just use the blogger account info rather than the open id. I think?!!

    Sue – glad to hear you're on your way there! It's such a relief when it's all done, and you'll be oh-so-glad that your kids pushed you in that direction! It makes all the difference in the world!

    Elza – Thank you so much for your kind words! You're always welcome to ask me anything you want to ask, really – that's what happens when people stick themselves out here on the internet for all the world to see, so I don't mind the questions! There are some questions I probably wouldn't answer 🙂 but I don't really have too many secrets in my life!

    Thanks, Kath! I always appreciate your early morning comments (or, uh…. that would be late evening comments, for you!)

    Hi, Deepa – yes, I understand your situation, and I believe that for most people with families, it is the case that the hobbies come in as the last consideration! But look at the trade-off! I am sure it is worth it. As for drawing – I primarily use the mouse with Inkscape. Occasionally, I'll haul out the tablet. With the mouse, I draw straight lines, and then turn them into curves, so I'm not actually drawing the curve node by node. I start with the straight line on the starting and stopping point of where a curve would be, and then I change it to a curved line and adjust it however I need to, to fit the curve. Much easier, when you're using a mouse, than trying to draw a curvy line!

    Thanks all!

    Incidentally, I have laryngitis today, and I'm heading off to teach. I wonder how one does that??! I suppose today, I will learn something new – how to communicate with my students without actually speaking. Should be fun! Wish me luck!

  9. Hey Mary,

    Great post! I read your blog because of the GREAT NeedleArt content that is published but I am also intrigued by the technology that lies behind it. Like you, I'm saving for a good digital camera with micro lenses to take (and post good pictures). Please comment on your journey to the right camera. I'm also about 9 months away.

    Question – what brought you to working with WordPress? I've heard for a long time that there is more flexibility within the software. Is it more of a Mac decision?

    Hope your teaching goes well, even with the laryngitis.

  10. Hi Mary,

    I agree with you on all your inputs in today's post. I am amazed that people are so intrusive. I agree that hobbies are expensive but the fact remains that they are so fulfilling. My husband and I have a son who will join college in a year's time and a younger child who is in school. So my embroidery budget requires a lot of juggling with other things getting priority. Not that I am complaining. So I have been slowly acquiring the A-Z series, the Hardwicke Manor hoops etc with careful budgeting. I for one am so glad that you recommend stuff that is good quality and I dont regret the money ( that is really a lot when you convert it to rupees)- I have spent on them. So thanks Mary for introducing me to so many new products.

  11. Mary,
    I just have to say again that I love Needle n Thread and look forward to it each and everyday. It has been therapy for me since the loss of my husband and I would never ever ask about your personal life just as you would never ask me. I too have whittled down my debt…luckily before my husbands passing, and live a simple life as well. Keep doing what you are doing!!!
    You are admired beyond words.

    Annie in "SPRING IS FINALLY HERE" Michigan

  12. Hi, Mary. I just had to post a comment. How I love your blog, and your openness about your life. No, you didn't have to do it, but because you did, it shows us more clearly who you are. And, I too, am appalled that people would ask some of these questions.

    I, too, feel like I have found a friend as I read your postings every day. I would love to meet you someday, though I doubt it will ever happen.

    My kids are no longer at home, and so I now have a lot of "free" time. I have never watched TV, and for years people have asked me how I got so many things done. That is the answer, along with choosing how you want to spend your free time. I found that reading cheap novels was also a time waster, as is sitting in front of the computer, surfing the Web. So we all choose what we want to do, and then blast those who are more successful than we are. That's my rant!

    Keep up the good work. I love it! And let us know how the non-verbal teaching goes today. Sandi Hersh

  13. Loved your post today. I'm an iMac user as well and can't imagine using a PC. Have to at work but it drives me bonkers. LOL

    Finances are always a matter of priorities. If stitching is important enough, we find ways to pinch the pennies to do what we love. Same with time.

    Just keep doing what you do. I may be a lowly cross stitcher but I love your blog, wouldn't miss it for the world.

  14. Dear Marymentor:

    I, for one, am incensed and take deep umbrage on your behalf, for anyone to ask questions about your finances and something that is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS! (Question 6) How Dare They ??!!

    I applaud your "grit" that you would even honor such an insult with an answer!!

    I started with a needle, cotton floss and a piece of cloth, and happened upon your blog to my continuing great delight and edification! Thanks to your kind tutelage, I've moved on, into goldwork, crewel, and now stumpwork. Regarding the cost of materials, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear"!

    On a personal note: What's going on? Is something in the air? My two loving brothers are at each others' throats full of insults, after 60 years of harmony!!! Let's get back to NEEDLEWORK and GOOD MANNERS !!

    Your continuing and devoted fan.

    Judy in Pittsburgh

  15. Thanks for providing the camera info, plus it prevents me from being the 200th person to ask you about it.

    I am curious about your use of the iMac vis a vis needlework — or is that not the main reason you chose it? Do you use it for your design work differently than you would a PC? I have vaguely thought a Mac might come in handy when trying to create designs, but I don't know enough about Macs to understand how.

    Finally, I was taken aback at the accusation that your preference for high quality materials constitutes snobbery! I also live simply, don't have cable, and shop only when absolutely necessary; needlework and beading are my only indulgences. I don't understand why anyone should having to justify preferring good quality, if more expensive, needlework materials over lower quality ones, even if one isn't wealthy. Wow!

  16. Hi Mary – thank you for your blog today! I totally agree with all of the above! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO JUSTIFY ANYTHING!!!!! Your life and how you arrange is up to you! You have a passion and you are so gracious to share with all of us. I have been so totally inspired by your blogs, and have again picked up many of the creative things I used to do and I am now using that to be freer and expanding on any kind of embroidery – all thanks to you!!!
    When our kids were small, my husband and I lived on crafts (mostly during the summer) and on the potatoes, carrots and onions we grew, the berries and fruit we picked and preserved. Like you we have NEVER bought anything (except our houses) without having the cash to pay for it. We live a good life and by prioritizing we are able to have the things we want/need and do the things we like to do!
    Never feel you have to explain!
    Love and hugs from

  17. Thanks for the informative post! I thought you had kids, and wondered how you made time for everything – that explains a lot. 🙂

    I really appreciate that you use high quality supplies and point us in the direction of people who supply them. It's beautiful and inspiring stuff, even if I can't afford it at the moment. It takes an effort to keep that sector of the market alive, and I think we'd lose something important if it failed.

    If I may ask one further personal question – what grade do you teach? High school? Elementary? I apologize if that's too nosy a question. 🙂


  18. Mary, I read you daily but seldom post a comment, but reading your blog today hit a sore spot with me regarding comments on the ability to afford quality needlework supplies.

    Didn’t everyone’s mom say; “If it worth doing, it is worth doing well.”? Needlework takes time. It is also a learned skill. So, with all the time invested in learning those skills and executing the work why would you not want to use the best materials you can find? In today’s world of “use it and throw it away” society we needle workers are very, very fortunate to have a few suppliers still dedicated to producing quality threads and fabric! Better to have a small box of really nice threads than to have a HUGE stash of threads and material you do not like and will never use!

    Who says a “stash” has to be built all at once? It takes time to plan and execute a expensive project so why not purchase your materials over time if dollars are short? Threads this month, foundation material next month, etc. While some kinds of embroidery are expensive, there are many types beautiful embroidery that are very inexpensive. With just a good piece of cotton fabric and some cotton thread you can do: huck, red work, white work, pulled thread, black work, cross stitch, hardanger, candlewick, and on and on and on. Not every stitch you take with a needle has to be in gold and silk on linen. They are only part of the whole world of embroidery. I am not a needlework snob either. I just sprinkle in a few of those expensive projects as my budget allows. After all, you can’t eat ice cream every day and still it to be a special treat!

  19. Mary,
    Enjoyed learning about the technology you use for your blog.

    It was evident to me from reading your first post that you are a real teacher. There is such clarity in your explanations.

    One of the things I most enjoy on your site is your detailed comparisons of materials – threads and fabrics. This has opened a world of possibilities.

    And it seems obvious to me that an individual would adjust the types of materials one buys according to their available budget – in a creative way! For example, just read in Jane Rainbow's book her suggestion to substitute linen union for crewel projects(at 50% the cost of linen twill)with good results.

    And of course, by prioritizing, to make time for embroidering – small projects can be just as satisfying as a more complicated one.

    Your blog is a course in every aspect of embroidery, in itself. Thank you for it and for sharing your knowledge with us.

    I call you the Julia Child of Embroidery (when is PBS going to pick up on this idea? 😉

  20. Hello Mary,

    It is just so surprising that people dare to ask you such questions. You do not have to justify what you do with your money. I love to read about all the beautiful supplies you work with, you share really interesting informations. And yes, I agree with you : good supplies make better results. Now I try to buy just a little each month, and not stock supplies which maybe – one day- I'll probably use. Less but better !

    Have a nice day (despite the illness)

    PS : If you manage to sell your brother I would be interested how you did it – I also have a brother 😉

  21. Whoops. Some more questions in the meantime…

    Janice – the Mac choice was primarily because of the blogging, but even at the time I decided on it, I did not know much about it. I am re-working and expanding the videos this year, and all recommendations pointed towards a Mac being more useful for video and for graphics, though in truth, PCs work fine for both as well. But I was in the market last year for a new computer – my PC was getting quirky and I knew it was just a matter of time. So I started looking into the iMac seriously. I was afraid there would be some kind of "learning curve", but I was incredibly mistaken on that! It is so easy to use, I wonder why I ever used a PC. There are a few things that you do differently, but overall, the machine (I call it my Mighty Mac Monster) is intuitive – simplicity itself, really. I was in MacHeaven when I got it – not an ounce of buyer's remorse! And I'm still just as thrilled with it. Ok, and another thing that sold me on it (I'm almost embarrassed to admit it!) Um…. I had just repainted my room periwinkle, with nickel hardware and all white furniture, shelves, etc. And this is the most difficult thing to admit, but …. the iMac matched. 🙂 Yes, I bought my computer because it matched the room. (Not the only reason! But it did have some swaying influence!) They're sleek machines!

    Anna – thank you! It sounds as if you have had a full and rich life! A good way to live!

    Melissa – I suppose I talk about kids a lot, but I don't have the responsibility of them. I have more nieces and nephews than most people can claim, that's for sure, and a gaggle of them are always around, or I'm always around over at their houses… so I have lots of contact with kids. The kids I photograph for different things (the temari ball, the First Communion dress) are nieces.

    Oh, I have two teaching jobs. I teach two high school English courses at a local high school five mornings a week, and I've been doing that for 17 years. About six years ago, not too long after finishing my postgraduate work in education, I took up teaching some college courses in a teacher prep program. Depending on the semester, I teach anywhere from three to nine hours a week there (one to three 3-credit hour courses). This happens to be a light semester. 🙂

    By the way, laryngitis and teaching don't mix….


  22. Whaddya mean, he has a wife? Sheesh. And I was so looking forward to someone to shovel manure… 🙂 !!

    Silliness aside, I have to admit, some of those questions have been itching me for a while. "How do you afford…" is more like, "How can *I* afford..", though. And the answer is, "I don't!"

    So I sigh over your materials and use my plebian cotton and spin my own crewel wool (or try to!) and still have a blast playing around–which to be honest, is about my depth of interest in this stuff. 🙂

    (Although thanks to a certain blogger whose initials are MC, it's getting deeper and deeper and…!!)

    "Organize" and "Finish" are two words that rarely show up in my life–I'm chronically frazzlepated and largely unfinished. Just the way it is, but a few words on how to keep your focus on something to GET it finished would be really helpful.

    The very best thing about your blog, Mary, is that it feels like I get to go see a friend every day. That alone is worth its weight in gold bullion!

    Keep up the good work and please do keep us informed as you search for another camera (and when you get it, I want the Stylus, okay?).

  23. Hi Mary!
    How I organize my day? Pretty simple too, I have MS. I used to be a teacher to 9, 10 an 11 year old kids, but the MS got in the way. Now I work at a tiny foundation that helps people with a mental disability to have a nice and useful day. I do this three mornings in the week. When I get home, first things first! I sit on my couch and embroider! When I'm rested I get to do the stuff like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, etc. (My husband is a big help, he does the windows and the cooking, but only because he thinks he's better at it, lol!) I found a very cheap DMC shop, only 35 eurocents a piece. And I saved up some money to buy the main thread pack from renaissance dying, after your email on the subject. I always save upfront if I'm going to buy something for my hobby. Right now, I'm saving up for a new sewingmachine, because I would like to make my own bags and… embroider on them! Would make some nice gifts for friends and family!
    Gwen Kok (28), from Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

  24. Hi, Mary. You don't need to comment or even post this but I just wanted to say hi. I'm shocked, as well, that some questions were asked but I guess I shouldn't be. You sound like a wonderful woman with a great sense of humor and I appreciate you. I hope your day is lovely.

  25. Mary,

    You are a go getter. I have been thinking about doing something what you are doing, but haven't had the nerve to start on full speed.

    I'm really glad you put this up because now I can show my husband that we should be doing other things instead of sleeping in and watching TV.

    I'm normally up by 6-6:30 anyway so I get plenty done before he gets up on the weekends. I don't usually have tv on and I have a plan going into the weekend. However, once he gets up my productivity goes down to nill.

    Thanks for the insite!

  26. Hi Mary. I would like to comment on question #6, which I also can't believe someone would say to anyone. Sounds more like a whine and an excuse to me. I also use the best supplies I can, and I am not 'rich' either. I learned a long time ago that if you are going to make something handmade, use the best supplies. I too, take what I do very seriously. It takes a lot of my time. And my time, and what I produce, are precious and valuable. And it shows in the finished product. Stitching (or any other form of textiles like weaving, knitting, spinning, etc.) is not just a hobby to me. I would like to pass these things on to my child's children as a legacy of who I am/was. The better supplies – like linen and silk and wool- will last longer. I will give an example I learned when I was weaving. A rug with a cotton warp will last 20 years, while a rug with a wool or linen warp will last a lifetime.

    I don't have any debt either, having learned the hard way, and I like being debt-free. I don't own a new car. I don't buy the latest techno gadgets so I can turn around in 6 months and buy the latest techno gadgets again. I look for sales, raher than paying full price. And I budget my money and save for what I really want so I can buy the better silks like Au ver a Soie, and linen. That is not to say that I don't use DMC or Anchor. I just prefer silks (and wool) because they will last longer than cotton. Plus, to be honest, I swear alot when using cotton or the cheaper silks.

    I would also like to say that it takes a lot of focus, time management, and preparation to write a blog such as yours, for which I thank you. And thank you for listening to my opinion. I can truthfully say, I am opinionated. Which is, to me, much better than having no opinion at all.

  27. How ignorant and ill mannered some people are !

    Mary, I read most of your post/emails, even though I'm not able to leave a comment on all of them.

    I'm very thankful of all the valuable time you give to others, to all of us, through your blog: tutorials,videos,patterns,advice,reviews,etc. . I'm truly thankful for what you do for us, since at the end we end up saving time from doing our own separate research as to where to find certain things, how to use them, what works and what don't , etc. .

    I'm very happy to be able to learn and work needlework using the best so I won't be sorry on the long run and like others, I too have to plan when and how I will get certain things.
    Like the NS4 , which I love (have the lap stand one and thinking in getting the floor stand, it helps me stitch faster and not strain my hands/wrists which can get painful when I'm having a fibromyalgia flare) and how did I knew about it…. Here, on your blog !!! ;-D

    As far as time, well, right now don't have much free time (work part-time, I'm a mom and wife and like to do volunteer work often) but very soon will have a bit more free time on my hands. So I'm hoping to use it wisely in things that are worth it , like getting my needlework skills to the next level ;-).

    So… once more… Mary, Thanks A Lot !!!

    (The following is for those ill mannered people out there)

    1) It is always good to learn to live according to one's means of life instead of comparing yourself(ves) with others. It helps you keep your sanity and happiness ! Stressing over other people business will not help you to live long.

    2) You don't have to be rich to get quality things, just be smarter : saving money by not eating out a lot and cooking more homemade meals, shop for necessary things with coupons and on sale if possible, healthy habits saves you money, planning your trips/errands/etc. save you gas and car maintenance money, and so on.

    PS = A 7" Hardwicke Manor hoop cost about the same as a fast food meal !!! … and it will last you a loooong time !!! That's what I call and investment !!!

  28. Thank you again for taking the time to share your comments on questions from the masses. I hope that you keep up what your are doing and that you are an inspiration to the many who follow you religiously.

    I feel that the person who made the comment regarding the purchase of "expensive" materials is from the new generation. I am 63 years old and was brought up to buy only what I could afford and save for things that I wanted. I have been hit with the economic times and have been laid off for the first time in 40 plus years of working. I was not ready for retirement so have started collecting unemployment while I look for a new job…a loosing proposition in Michigan. If I want to work on a lovely needlework project or quilt or knitting project, I now have to plan ahead more diligently and save the money necessary to get the materials. But it makes getting the materials and making the project just that much more special.

    You need to understand you buy the things that you NEED and budget and save for the things you want…you just need to have the patience to wait for them. They too will come….

    I enjoy your blog and all the wonderful things that you share on a daily basis. Please keep it up…you are definitely an inspiration to everyone. Thank you!!!

  29. Hi Mary,

    I am one who did ask you how you managed your time so you could stitch. I hope that wasn't taken as intrusive or rude. I didn't mean it that way. I always appreciate knowing tips and ways talented people do it because I try to get in as much stitching as I can but fail at it a lot of the time. I'm just so inspired by creative people and I'm interested in learning from them. I also enjoy seeing people's studios and where they work. Maybe that makes me nosy. I never thought of it that way. I just thought it was admiration for people more creative than myself.

    As for the money issue that is NOT something I would ask anyone. It is nobody's business and does not need to be addressed. I think people are just jealous of your talent.

    Thank you for your blog and all the wonderful information you offer your readers. It is much appreciated. I know when I go to your site there will always be something interesting or beautiful to see.

  30. Thanks again for ever-so-many interesting (and nice!) comments!!

    Oh, please don't be upset about the questions people ask! I should have tempered #6 so that it didn't sound quite so intrusive! Allow me to clarify:

    #6 usually comes from folks who unsubscribe from my newsletter, after subscribing around a give-away, hanging on for a couple weeks, and then unsubscribing with comments about expensive, snobby, etc. The question also shows up in e-mails, but I really don't take offense when they come this way. Basically, it boils down to something very natural that pops into people's heads: "Wow. How do they afford that?"

    Oh – the crack about my brother!! It was a just a crack! We get along famously – he's my favorite brother! (Of course, he's my only brother…) I suspect that was just some "family humor" slipping out – we really do get along well, and I hope no one thought that was indicative of some kind of family row. It's completely not. (Secretly, deep down, I think was hoping he really reads my blog, and this would smoke him out! Surely he'd have to respond! No luck on that yet, though…) And besides, he has a wife. I think she has property rights….

    Christa – WordPress: this is because of flexibility. I will be able to maintain a more complex website with a blog in it than I would using Blogger. I have been thinking about WordPress for a year or so, but sometimes, change is a bit daunting, and I knew my local ISP would not be able to support WordPress, so I'd have to change hosts and everything. But Blogger has forced it by discontinuing support, so, WordPress it is. And I'm excited about it! It's going to cost a bit more to maintain the site, but I think it'll be worth it for everyone in the long run!


  31. After reading all these comments I think my e-mail fits here at all, Mary! In the end it wasn't such long:)))
    Hope you are feeling better!

  32. I've recently started using silk and linen on some projects instead of cottons, and one thing that I realized about the cost of better materials, is that because a piece of work takes so many hours to complete, it's often not as high as it seems.

    What I mean is, I get hours and hours of entertainment from it, so compared to a movie, or a dinner out, or many other expensive uses of my time, better materials really aren't that expensive.

  33. Great post Mary! I really enjoyed reading through all the comments too and really can't add anything that someone else hasn't said (and more eloquently than I could). However, just wanted to say thanks for answering my question about your camera. I have admired your wonderful photos ever since I started reading your blog and one day hope to purchase a better camera. It's nice to know what someone else uses.
    Thank you, as always, for what you do!

  34. Thanks, Mary, for the info on your life.
    I have no children at home now and I can buy good sewing supplies at last,and it is so much better. Anyway, I love your web site so don't change it too much.
    I appreciate all your help when showing us how to do different stitches. You have me embroidering for the first time in years.


  35. Really well said. I had to smile at much of this and felt we had some things in common. I too do not watch TV but do have some family obligations.
    As for spending money on good quality supplies, I agree and interestingly Jerry and I chose to live debt free in a modest house so that we could follow our interests. We prioritised education etc but not much of the social climbing associated with consumerism. Also I am amazed that people ask or infer such things – I had someone ask a similar question – to be honest I ignored it.
    As for you being snooty – I have never sensed that at all

    Always enjoy and read you blog thanks!

  36. Thanks for an interesting post Mary! (although I must say, I haven`t wondered much about any of those questions except for the organizing and how you manage to find so much time for your blog and stitching)

    I love this blog, and always find something to interest me here, even if I am not tempted to do the technique myself. It`s always fun to watch you work a project…you make it interesting!

    I don`t find that you are a snob when it comes to needlework materials….there are some things that are simply worth the money, and some things that are luxuries…for myself, good tools and good quality fabrics are a must…silk theread isn`t if DMC will give me the same result. Sometimes I splurge on silk…it depends on the project.

    I also do not have children and watch very little TV.It gives me more stitching time…if I could learn to turn off the comp and stop reading so many stitching blogs, that is…*wink*

    Have a good day Mary, hope your throat gets better soon!

  37. Mary,

    I just joined your blog not very long ago and I LOVE IT and I LOVE YOUR STYLE AND YOUR HONESTY. AND I LOVE THE FACT THAT YOU SHARE YOUR TALENTS, LOVES AND LIFE (Which really is none of our business if you weren't so generous) WITH ALL OF US. Expensive hobbies, and expensive supplies for hobbies that is your choice and if others choose not to use those supplies, they should be happy that you share your talents and realize there are other less expensive options for supplies. So KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK and you know what, I have 3 Daughters and I would have loved to have you for one of their teachers. 🙂 AND AGAIN THANKS FOR SHARING!!!!!!

  38. Thank you so much for the insight Mary! I love the idea of preparing ahead for the week's blogs!

    Your blog is so interesting that you have inspired me to start one… I only hope that mine can be 1/4 as interesting as yours!

    I read you everyday, even if I don't comment much – you do a fantastic job!

    Jeanine in Canada

  39. Mary,
    This is definitely one of your more interesting and provocative posts. I'll comment on the parts that are relevant to me. 1. I wish I were more camera savvy! I still have an old film SLR that's 30 years old. But I love it. I find I can take so much better photos than with my husband's somewhat nice digital. But the time it takes to get film developed tends to make me not want to take any photos at all. I've never owned a video camera and probably never will. 2. Many weeks I go without stitching. I work 9 hours/day with a 3 hour round trip commute. My coworkers are absolutely amazed that I find the time to stitch at all. Luckily, the only son still at home loves to cook, and this does free up an amazing amount of time. I have every other Friday off, which I pretty much spend holed up in my sewing room, only leaving to start some laundry, eat, etc. 6. Luckily, I'm a software engineering manager with a large defense company so I make a pretty good salary. I can afford to buy lovely silk threads, silk fabrics, Ott-lites, and so on. I also do a lot of smocking, quilting and heirloom sewing, which are quite expensive hobbies. Sure, it's fun to use gold and silk threads on linen twill, but the embroiderers' skill will be no less evident with cotton floss on cotton fabric. Look at Ayrshire embroidery, done with cotton floss on cotton fabric. Amazing! I'm much more impressed by the skill in this as by the loveliest, most expensive goldwork. All that being said, I still have to agree that if you want something to last a very long time, always use the best materials that you can afford (without going into debt!) This is not snobbery, just good common sense.
    Keep up the good work, Mary. I love reading the blog of someone who can actually write well. Unfortunately, this is all too rare.

  40. Hello Mary,

    I am aghast that you have been asked some of these questions!!! Quite frankly, I am just so pleased to know you are just a mouse-click away. I don't comment often, but read your blog/site almost every day. I find you a most giving and talented embroiderer. How you do it, why you do it is absolutely none of my business. I am just thankful that you do it to such an extent. I have learnt so much from your notes. Thank you and may you always feel the need to continue with your embroidery and your notes. Well done!!!

  41. Hi Mary,

    Sorry to add yet another question for you to answer.

    I read that you have established an embroidery guild in your Church group. I have started teaching embroidery to fifth graders and above during vacation time. We dont have any embroidery guilds in India… So I want to start a guild. What I would like to know is what are the activities that your guild . Is it mostly work for charity? Is there is organisation tht your guild is affiliated to? Is there a structured format for your guild activities?

  42. Mary, glad to know it's not just me whose stitching activities are somewhat blog led! I sometimes even feel that I *only* stitch to keep the blog readers happy.

    Re the nasty questions etc, jealousy is as the bottom of all manner of things. I've been asked countless times how I stayed so slim (when I was slim enough to warrant the enquiry…) and, when I explained how, almost invariably got a mouthful or defensive and even offensive comments in return. It boils down to 'I want what you've got, but I don't want to have to make the sacrifices/develop the habits needed to get it, so I abuse you in order to excuse myself.' Sick!

    I'm glad it doesn't bother you too much anyway, but I can certainly see why you blogged this yesterday as it gets to the point where you need to say something – for your own peace of mind, to get indignant feelings off your chest and get moral support from nicer, more balanced people.

    Now, I need to follow your example and start some needlework again. I even felt a glimmer or two of interest this evening – hurrah! Will let you know when my goldwork is done in case you're no longer following along.=)

  43. Mary,

    Thank you. Thank you for your book reviews and your recommendations. I don't post often, but am an avid reader of your blog. One of the reasons I read is how accessible you make things.

    I recently bought my first batch of soie d'alger, based on your silk thread reviews. It is a most vibrant, beautiful thread. As for it being expensive, I made a choice to spend my money on quality over quantity. I now have fewer projects consisting of higher quality materials. I have no regrets and more closet space :).

    So please keep it up. You have ALOT of fans out here in cyberspace!

  44. Like many others, I was horrified to hear of some of the more impertinent questions you've been asked. None of their business!

    I'd also like to request that you blog about your camera search. I'll be taking notes…

    And a rather premature welcome to WordPress, by the way!

  45. Great post Mary. I have often wondered how you found time to not only embroider beautifully but to write daily and clearly for anyone who wishes to try your projects.
    To attend a class for this amount of detail would cost dearly.

    I had previously read the FAQs and thought then, how honest you were toward people who wished you to promote or review their product.

    I have also enjoyed reading the many comments.


  46. I think there is something in the air. A couple of days ago, someone asked on a sewing forum "how do so many of you afford the big fancy sewing machines" (most responses were "I don't have one, and I saved to get the one I have now"). On another blog, the question was "sewing – first or last in your life". Most were "last, due to family/work taking priority". No matter what the hobby being discussed is, we all make choices on how/where to spend our time and money.

    I will admit that right now, I really do envy your June-August time off Mary! It's been crazy-busy at work the last 2 months. On the other hand – the overtime has boosted the savings nicely!

  47. And something you'd never say for yourself – you are a wonderful and very giving person, who has helped me personally in several sticky needlepoint situations by giving wonderful advice – as well as the blog, which I enjoy reading every single day.

  48. Hi Mary!
    As probably one of the few "ahem" guys here…I can state the MYOB applies to any question about your hobby..afterall to some the justification of very very $$$ golf clubs that are used 1-2x a year hardly justifies the price… But true Saving is something I am working as I near the big 3-0…But working as a professional embroiderer, it IS necessary to use the best.. after all that what the clients(in this case it's you) expect something that they can treasure ans see the value of without thinking…"hey why WAS this so exp." And as for stockpiling..well sometimes for me it depends on the nature of the item.. vintage stock, then yes..new stock..ehhh not so much.

  49. I love to see your emails in my in box. I'm not much of an embroiderer, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying your work and learning about new materials that I may want to try someday. It makes me sad to think that you feel the need to justify the things you buy or the time you devote to your handwork. It's enough for me to know that somewhere, in a little corner of the world, you are creating lovely work and that you are generous to share a peek with all of us. Thank you for letting me share my morning tea with you, it always brightens my day.

  50. I, for one, am VERY thankful that you choose to lovingly and selflessly dedicate your time (and MONEY!) to make this wonderful website available to all of us out here that long to better our skills and broaden our embroidery knowledge. You have opened my mind to things I didn’t even know existed!
    As far as the ‘sour grapes’ (you have better than I do, poor me! ) I found that to be one of the rudest things I have heard in a very long time. ‘Nuff said!
    Thank You Mary. Even that doesn’t seem like enough. It really doesn’t even begin to express my gratitude.
    Abundant Blessings,

  51. Mary, please unsubscribe me from your mailing list. I find I much prefer reading your postings and comments directly from the website. Please keep me on your list to notify for the next online class.

    1. Hi, Antonia – thanks for your comment! You can find an unsubscribe link at the end of each daily email. For the online classes here on Needle ‘n Thread, they are always offered on a first-come, first-served basis, with the announcement placed here on the website. I’ll announce around a week in advance when the registration announcement will be, so that you can keep an eye on the website for it. Thanks again! -MC

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