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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Getting Back to Needlework


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After returning from vacation, it’s awfully hard to get back into the swing of things, and my needlework has been suffering because of my relative lethargy when it comes to picking up handwork! Admittedly, I’m in a bit of a slump!

So, how does one crawl out of a needlework slump? I’ll tell you what I do, and then you can give me your advice on how you get out of similar slumpy situations!

There are two things I do to work myself out of a needlework slump: First, I evaluate. Then, I anticipate.

To evaluate, I take a good look at my current situation. There are really only two projects that I was concentrating on with any intensity before vacation – the Floral Glove Project from Thistle Threads and the Blackwork Fish.

Floral Glove Needle Case Project

This is the last photo I took of the Floral Glove project, while trying out my new camera (which I’ve since gotten used to and love!) In evaluating the project and where it stands, I figure I don’t have a lot left on the embroidery, but I do have the whole finishing process to go through. While on vacation, I noticed that Thistle Threads sent out an addendum on the finishing, to clear up some problems with the embroidery design being a bit off compared to the components of the finishing kit. I didn’t read that in depth, but I know that before I launch into finish work, I’ve got to figure things out. And that’s always daunting. So I’ve decided that the glove is going on hold for a little while.

Blackwork Fish Embroidery Project

This is the last shot I took of the fish. He’s not getting very far, either, but the work that is left on him is relatively easy. I’m considering making a few changes on him, too, by adding another type of thread – Bijoux, which is a viscose thread wound with a gold metallic. I’m not sure yet where I’ll fit that in, but the idea intrigues me. We’ll see about that.

So the first step in getting back into the swing of needlework was to evaluate where my current projects stand. Fortunately, they are both still very “enticing” to me (I have not lost interest in either of them!), but I am leaning towards the fish for the first finish, rather than the glove. I’m following the path of least resistance here!

The “anticipation” part of working my way out of a slump is really the easy part! How many needlework addicts in the world don’t anticipate new projects? Probably not too many!

Right now, I have two immediate projects that I need to address within the next month. They are projects that require setting up, stitching, and finishing, and while the stitching part excites me, it’s the decision-making and the initial set-up that’s holding me back. I’m making two embroidered palls, a lot like this one and this one.

Hand Embroidered Whitework Linen Pall

Of the two, the one above is my favorite, but I don’t want to work the same design. I’m thinking about doing a Celtic cross on one, like the pattern below, only I’d take out those knotted “dots” in the pattern and eliminate the outside circle so that the cross design is a bit more pronounced.

Celtic Cross Hand Embroidery Pattern

I haven’t decided on the design for the other one!

Another project that I’m anticipating is the lilac-breasted roller by Trish Burr:

Needle Painting: Lilac Breasted Roller by Trish Burr

I’ve been wanting to get to this kit for a long time!

I also have plans to do some miniature embroidery, after being enchanted by Patricia Richards’s miniatures. I’m convinced that these tiny exquisite pieces – whether tapestry designs, pillows, footstool covers, or whatnot – can be used as needlebook covers or even framed for display. (They’d be a great conversation piece!) They would also make superb Christmas ornaments. So I am excitedly looking forward to trying out some miniature work.

And there are a lot of other things I’m anticipating in the Needlework World right now, that don’t have to do directly with stitching! Now that my studio is clean and tidy, I’m setting up the filming studio to record stitches, which I’ll be doing all next week. I’ll be recording them in high definition on a new camera so that they will be much clearer than the older stitch videos on the site. I’m very excited about that. I’m also working on some website alterations again, and hopefully, by the end of September, you will see another new section added to Needle ‘n Thread.

For me, Anticipation always works me out of a slump better than Evaluation does. Evaluation, though necessary, tends to create obstacles, while Anticipation makes all obstacles seem easily surmountable!

Well, wish me luck on my present state of determination to get things done! What do you do to get yourself out of a needlework slump? How do you motivate yourself to move forward? I’d love to hear your take on the subject!


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(24) Comments

  1. Inspiration gets me going again! I sit back with a stack of my needle-arts books or magazines and just browse. The inspiration of all those gorgeous projects makes me get up and start stitching again!

  2. Sounds like you have a handle on it, Mary!! I love the Glove shot from the side — the silks sparkle SO MUCH! I also love the idea of bijoux for the fish. Fish scales do glint in the sun (think rainbow trout). I, myself love anticipation — in fact, it is probably “anticipation” that is responsible for the embarassing stash of embroidery/textile related stuff all over my house! Oh well.

  3. Hi Mary, I follow you since a little time. I am very impressed by your work. I try to outwork gold thread, and i will even take some lessons in a special school in Bretagne (France) For the moment I am on holliday at my mothers near Vancouver. Can you tell me where are you bying your gold threads. Thak you very much for your answer. I continue with big plasure to follow your stisching. I am full of admiration.
    Best regards Brigitte

    1. Hi, all – thanks for your comments! I love hearing how other people deal with slumps and what gets them going again.

      Susan – regarding the camera, after a lot of research, and keeping my budget in mind, I settled on the Olympus PEN E-PL1 (that’s an amazon link to the camera). I bought it at Wolfe’s Camera in Topeka, KS (I prefer to shop local when I can), after going in and trying various cameras that I had on my research list. I love it! It does have some drawbacks (that are noted in some of the reviews on Amazon), but overall, I have found that it’s an amazing camera that takes great photos and stunning video in all kinds of modes, including micro shots, which is what I really like for photographing needlework. There were a couple others I had in mind, but they didn’t fit in my budget, and I didn’t really like them as well. I figured this one was the best for the buck, for me. It’s kind of a half-way between a DSLR (which I find too large and bulky) and a point and shoot. I can change the lenses, but it also has a good auto function for point-and-shoot mode. So that’s the one I settled on. Now, it was terrific for vacation, so I’m hoping that I’ve learned enough about it to take good shots for the website!

  4. I was in a serious slump for a few years while my Dad was in ill health and then going through the whole caregiver experience and then his death. Then came sorting through paperwork and taking care of my Mom. Not much time for leisure things like stitching but sewing probably would have helped my stress levels. 🙂

    I started back by looking at my old magazines and joining a forum. Watching everyone else work on their projects, reading about their progress energized me again. I started with a few tiny things and then got caught up with new and more challenging projects. Enthusiasm is contagious.

  5. Good luck, Mary. I’m working under a deadline that I’m afraid I can’t meet and it’s causing all sorts of anxiety. The pieces are more detailed that I anticipated (not even the same as your pieces just lots of satin stitches) and I didn’t even take into consideration my work around the house and garden when I agreed to the project. It has been a busy summer.

    I am anxious to finish this commitment so I can pick up my personal stitching again. It has been set aside for months now so that is my inspiration to get these pieces done…..to work on my own.

    Have fun with your fish.

  6. Mary
    Actually the way I do almost everything like cutting vegetables. I hat cutting celery so I do that first. Then everything after that is easier and I can look forward to the easier things. I even tell my grandkids to do the worse first. Then everything after that is easier.

  7. HI Mary…..so glad you’re back ! When I”m in a slump I follow my muse, i.e. what would afford me the Most Fun At This Time ?? Even if it means starting “another” piece. Go For the Fun!!
    ….Judy in Pittsburgh

  8. So Mary, is this Olympus the camera you’re using for your stitch guide videos? Because the quality on them is lovely! I’m curious how you get the closeup angle on them… the needlelace video I did for my site was, quite frankly a pain, and while I’d like to do more, I don’t want to do them with the camera wedged between me and my stand! 🙂

    1. Good advice all around – especially Karol’s, to do the worst first, so you look forward to the rest of it! That’s what I should do with the finishing on the floral glove, I suppose.

      Romilly, I’m afraid the camera wedge thing can’t be avoided, if you want the front-on approach to the work. On my earlier videos, I was using a point-and-shoot that had video capabilities, though not very good resolution (it’s an older digital camera, but it served me well!) On the last few I did – turkey stitch and long and short stitch – I was using a Sanyo Xacti (VPC-SH1) that I bought for the purpose, because it does HD, has a macro mode, and is very small. The Olympus I just bought was for pictures, not video, but it takes such good video that I think I might end up using it instead of the Xacti. It’s bigger, but with the right tripod and other set-up equipment, I think it will still work out well. I’ll know more on that next week, though, when I start filming again!

  9. heh Forgot how I get out of a slump! I go through my drawer of unfinished or in the middle of doing projects. Usually there is one of them myriad in that drawer that gets me pumped to stitch again.

    Truthfully, much as I love dancing, it’s the dancing slumps that are the hardest for me to get out of. Thank goodness for a troupe and rehearsals to force me to get moving again!

  10. Hi Mary. I have a few different ways to get out of a slump. If I’m in a slump because I’m at a difficult stage of an embroidery, I either kick myself in the pants and say get on with it, or I give myself a break and do a quick, simple project for a day or two. If I find myself getting bored with a project, I look back at the photo/book/example that got me excited in the first place, or I prepare the finishing materials (backing and trim for pillows, picking out the frame and mat, etc). Those both get me looking forward to the finished project. Finally, if I’m just looking for inspiration I go through my embroidery and textile books, photos I’ve taken for a future project, etc. The process may take a few days 😉 but I’ll usually end up with at least half a dozen new ideas.

    I can’t wait to see what you work on next.

  11. Hi Mary,

    Welcome back.It’s great to have you blogging again on “needle n thread”.
    Need a little help from you.Since your blog has visitors from all over the world,I think this is the best place to ask for help.I want to know shops in milan were I can buy hand embroidery supplies eg.fabrics,charms,cross stitch fabrics,printed cotton fabrics,iron on interfacing etc. I am planning to go to italy very soon so need your help.
    thanks a lot.


    1. Hi, Kirti – Well, I don’t think it’ll be too hard to find suppliers in Italy for needlework. You might want to check Jeanine’s blog Italian Needlework (http://italian-needlework.blogspot.com/) and see if maybe you can find some help there. She has contacts in Italy, I think. She might be able to direct you to some suppliers in the Milan area. Enjoy your trip to Italy! ~MC

  12. Mary,

    I am so glad that you are back. While I enjoyed your guests, I much prefer the way you write – it’s as if you are speaking to me. I wish you all the best with your slump which I have no doubt you will get out of shortly.

    I do have a question regarding those “knotted dots”. How did you make them? I think they are a great filler for white work and would love to know your secret.
    Thanks so much and, again, welcome home.

    1. Hi, Karen… Hmmm…. the knotted dots? I’m not quite sure which part of the white work you’re talking about, but I suspect you mean the tiny filling stitches inside the background of that piece. Those are just tiny seed stitches. Often, seed stitch is worked double (two tiny parallel stitches right next to each other) but I work it single – so those are little straight tiny stitches worked randomly and close together, to fill up the area. Truthfully, because it’s just a tiny straight stitch, it’s the “easiest” stitch in the world! But it can become kind of tedious when filling up a large space! Still, I, too, like the effect for filling and I use it often. Just keep the stitches really tiny and close together, but not touching, and try to work them in random directions, and you’ve got it! Hope that helps! ~MC

  13. Hello Mary and to all….
    I am new to embroidery and have just began taking classes. I sewed while growing up and have also started machine quilting. I took one embroidery class at a quilt shop here in Sacramento, CA and enjoyed the relaxed feeling while using my using my hands…I am hooked. While in the embroidery class your web site was mentioned and I’ve visit it since every week….Your stitch videos have been great and the information on your site has been so helpful…Thank you for such a wonderful site and also welcome back from your vacation.


    1. Hi, Fredi!

      Thanks so much for your note! It sounds as if you’re really enjoying taking up embroidery! It’s a great creative way to use your hands, that’s for sure! Glad you like the website!


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