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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Myth Busting: My Needlework Space


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Happy Last Day of 2010! May it pass in peace.

Today, I’d like to dispel a myth. When we were talking about keeping a Thread Log the other day, and I was mentioning keeping a notebook with thread lists and project details in it, I noticed in the comments that there was some underlying notion that I am … well. An Organized Person.

And as much as I’d like to say, “Certainly, I’m organized,” as if it were the most natural thing in the world for me to be organized, the fact of the matter is, I’m not. I’m not as organized as I would like to be, nor as organized as I should be. When it comes down to it, I’m disorganized. And right now, I’m Utterly and Completely Disorganized!

I’ll show you what I mean….

Needlework Work Room Organization

Several years ago, my garage was turned into a workroom, which I call “The Studio” – not out of any notion of snobbery or with any grandiose idea that I lead some kind of exclusive artistic lifestyle, but simply because a studio is, by definition, a workroom where one teaches or practices an art. And I do both in this space. Lately, though, the Studio is more of a storage area, where I happen to squeeze in some work.

Needlework Work Room Organization

When the garage was first remodeled, it looked pretty much like this. Not a huge room – several feet narrower than a small single-car garage – but a decent enough size, with windows on each end, and two doors – one going out to the driveway, and the other opening onto a walkway that leads to the house.

Needlework Work Room Organization

The best part about the space is that the long walls are actually floor-to-ceiling cabinets, which, once upon a time, were empty. Blissfully empty. Stark, clean, white… and empty!

During the summer, the room is perfect for small embroidery classes. When it’s all neat and tidy, that is…

Needlework Work Room Organization

Right now, the Studio is a cluttered mess. And boy oh boy, do I mean Mess! With a capital M!

I’ve been working out there for several days, gathering together elements of various projects, working around stacks of Christmas storage boxes that are shoved under tables and stacked on top of chairs, sorting through boxes of tools and threads…

Needlework Work Room Organization

…maneuvering around the area where I record video tutorials…

Needlework Work Room Organization

…and stepping over even more Christmas storage boxes stacked here and there on the floor.

And so you see – the myth dispelled! – I am not an Organized Person. And especially not right now!

Excuses are the first thing to pop up in my mind – a hectic first semester of school, preparing for Christmas, out of town visitors, and all the stuff that goes on in every day life. But really, putting excuses aside, it simply boils down to being disorganized and undisciplined.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to clean up the Studio and maintain an efficient and organized work space, following the maxim: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” I figure if I can do that for a year, then it should become a habit, right?! So that’s my “Workspace Resolution.”

What about you? Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? If so, do you write them down and make them specific? Have you made any needlework-related resolutions for 2011, that you’d like to inspire us with? Or do you think New Year’s resolutions are overrated? Do tell, do tell! I’d love to hear your take on resolutions for 2011.

And now – bright and early – I’m off to the Studio, to do some organizing. I hope the space heater’s working… after 70 degrees yesterday, we’re below 20 this morning, with icy rain. Perfect indoor cleaning weather. Or sleeping weather. I can’t decide which.

Don’t forget to sign up for my year-end giveaway before it’s too late. Have a terrific weekend! And of course, Happy New Year!


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(39) Comments

  1. Hi Mary
    Wellll, it was wonderful to see your ‘studio’! I have what I call my ‘craft room’ but has never been organised since I moved in here almost 16 months ago.
    I don’t usually make NY Resolutions, but I decided to make two this year!
    #1. was to organise my craft room & give away all the things that I’ll never use … &
    #2. to finish all my UFO’s!
    I refused to start anything new until I had finished my ‘UFO’s … but it just meant that it stopped me started doing anything else, but since I’ve been receiving your daily emails I’ve been encouraged to start new projects. So, I have no choice but to finish off all those other projects, even if it takes me all year! However, I’m also ‘saving’ all the things that spark my interest so that when I’ve achieved my goal, I know where to look for my next project! Mind you, I DO still have a number of kits that I’ve bought from Country Bumpkin over the years. I’ve collected them, ‘just in case’ something happens & I can’t get out to go shopping for myself. Mind you, I also began buying these before buying over the i’net was so easy! πŸ™‚
    I’m looking forward to hearing others NY resolutions! HAPPY NEW YEAR’s stitching!
    Cheers …

  2. My constant project is to see the top of my desk πŸ™‚ It’s always my New Year’s Resolution and my daily, weekly, monthly resolution to get it cleaned up and organized. I even hired one of those organizer people once! Then I get sidetracked by…..stitching, family, work, you name it and I’d rather do most anything than find the top of my desk LOL. Pat

  3. I think about making resolutions but not really sure where to start. I know I waste way too much time, if only I could use the minutes I have more wisely. I moved my sewing room from one bedroom to another this summer and it looked great for a few weeks. Now I have stacks of this project going and that project going. I am making progress on them, so that is what counts. I think if you are too organized, you definitely would have no time to be creative, so I try to keep my head above water by staying somewhere in the middle.

  4. My #1 resolution is to not listen to or watch any commercials. I hate them and they are a waste of time. Also not to listen to ANY news programs, they are repetitive and boring. I will get my news from the internet once a day.
    I feel this will add a lot of time to my life and declutter my mind so I will have more room for — what else — embroidery.

    As far as needlework goes I would like to do something really pretty and useful, with beading on it. Could be a bag to carry around embroidery paraphranalia (spelling) for my daughter, who has just gotten interested in needlework, and is better than i am already, really.

    Thanks Mary for all, you are my inspiration!


  5. Oddly enough, I made this same resolution yesterday when a naturally organized friend came over and I let her look at my studio. Seeing it through her eyes was an experience for me, and even though I’ve known for a long time that I needed to do something about it, now I am accountable to her. I am going to get it organized and show it to her again. And I’m counting on her to keep me honest throughout the year.

    You are a brave soul to show your space to the world! I think we all look forward to seeing the ‘after’ photos.

  6. Hi Mary,
    If you are like me you have made the right New Years resolution. One that you can’t possibly keep. Aren’t they made to be broken?
    I too am fortunate to have a craftroom. In our first little house it was just a corner in the basement, in the second cape cod it was in the peak of the front of the house. I was the only one who could walk in there without bumping my head. In the third house I finally got my own room. An unused fourth bedroom. Now that we are in our downsized house I have claimed the small third bedroom as my own. And in all of this I have never been able to keep organized. I guess I am too busy to be organized or whatever the saying is.
    Happy New Year to All.

  7. I can totally relate! My sewing room, as I call it, is a complete disaster! My New Years Resolution is the same as yours, clean it up, get it organized and keep it that way.

  8. Hi Mary! Happy and Peacefilled New Year to you!

    My “craft” resolution is to not only finish my projects that I have started but to resolve to continue learning new stitches at least once a week. I was doing well with this up until Thanksgiving! I WILL get back to learning new stitches this very week!


  9. Well, Mary, I have made, and kept for 15 years now, and still make only one new year’s resolution. I cannot start a new project until I finish at least one wip/ufo! I try to make it easy on myself knowing how difficult it is for me to keep resolutions and so I choose the one that is almost complete. I do continually work on other wip/ufo’s during the year as well as start new projects…just can’t help myself!

    BTW, I call my studio “the world of organised confusion”. At least I’m getting better at putting things back in their place…sometimes. Thank you for your encouraging daily email

    May your new year be filled with stitching projects.

  10. MaryMaryMary πŸ™‚
    God love you for your candor! My “workroom” (or so I choose to call it) is a “J” space leading to my bathroom and is all floor to ceiling shelves. Sorry I can’t reciprocate by including a photo here to compare to your “studio”. In the loop of the J is my swivel chair which serves me at 3 work surfaces. I think the word we’re both striving for is “Functional”. πŸ™‚ My Dad’s favorite word. He always said his workshop was “functional”. Don’t worry what it looks like ! πŸ™‚ Speaking of which: I’m in the market for a stand like the one on which you mounted the lamps in your photo. Can you stretch a piece of embroidery work on that? Do you mind sharing with me where you acquired it? Thanks and Szczensliwego Nowego Roku (Happy 2011-Polish) πŸ™‚

  11. My New Year’s resolution is to clean out my craft closet. My husband remodled our second floor where my sewing room is located. This craft closet goes half the length of the house.If you don’t hear from me, it means I’m lost in the midst of fabric, crochet thread, yarn and any other thing I deemed necessary for my creativity. Maybe I should take a compass with me!

  12. For 3 years I’ve been doing the “word of the year” (you can see the link to Christine Kane on my blog and my years)- it works great because it gives you a word to focus your energy around not one thing. So far I’ve really enjoyed it!
    I’ll let you know how “bloom” goes this year!
    Oh, and organization for anyone who does stitching is a massive challenge – don’t you think?

  13. I think you might be a little hard on yourself. I noticed your description did not use the word piles. If your mess is in a box or a stack, I call that half way there! I try to live by my often heard Grandmothers adage ” Don’t put it down. Put it away. ” And let me tell you, she was right. It keeps the mess manageable.

    I have kept only one News Years Resolution over the years. And to my credit I have been faithful to it. My resolution was… To dress better.
    Happy Stitching
    Shelley Mart

  14. Ok, ok, I give up! At long last, after looking at my sweetie’s finished stocking each year at this time, I have vowed to pull mine out from the pile of UFO’s and “get ‘er done”.
    I have made a conscious decision to finish one old project before I start a new one even if it means I have to decide to not finish it. Some projects just never made it beyond the first few stitches before I realized it was something I would never finish. But now I need to weed these items out and get rid of them.
    Happy New Year, Mary. Looking forward to spending the stitching year with you!

  15. Mary, I think that is a great resolution. I just finished up a few Christmas quilts actually in time for Christmas and I am trying to figure out what I would like to do next. There are so many things I want to try this year, stumpwork, drawn threads, etc., that I am kind of at a loss right now. I was thinking about starting a creative journal in the new year for all fiber related projects. Perhaps planning out my projects before I begin. I am also going to redo my sewing room this year by painting and some new storage in the way of cabinets and/or shelving. I have many ideas for the new year! Have a great New Years Eve and Day and try to stay warm! Nita

  16. Thank you for showing us the pictures of your studio. It makes me feel so much better knowing you, an excellent professional, loves to have boxes of goodies all over. In my case, boxes of goodies are spread throughout the house. I’m neat about it (books/mags in holders, sewing cabinet in the closet, threads organized) but they’re here and there and everywhere. (sigh)

    I tend to make one NY resolution. One year it was to become more sociable, another year: to try new things. Haven’t decided this year’s yet.

  17. Hi Mary- ooohhh, I have serious studio envy! I love your walls of cabinets… room for so much stash. As for disorganized, I think it’s pretty common to come out of the holiday season with a bit of a mess. Too many demands on your time for the month of December, especially for teachers. That’s why all of the stores put their storage/organizing goods on sale in January πŸ™‚ So you’ve not convinced me that you’re disorganized, just at the end of an overbooked season.

    As for needlework New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve never considered making one before, but what a great idea. Hmmm, how about learning (or at least trying out) 3 new techniques this year? Now, which ones to choose?

  18. I’m not usually a resolution maker, at least not at New Year’s. I usually make mine throughout the year as needed. So here are some changes I’ve made recently regarding my hobbies –
    1. I’ve decided to quit mentally beating myself up over what I *don’t* get done on projects. Most days I get home from work, and my brain says…Well let’s just say it’s not nice thoughts about being asked to think any more that day.
    2. Banish the non-sewing/needlework items from my hobby room. Too many items from the past have been cluttering my mind with cries of “work on ME!” I’ve mostly done that, now I need to get tough and remove those from the house entirely. I should also consider removing the computer from the room, but I have no where else to put it. Besides, it also serves as the TV for the room.

    I have a few more items to clean up, mostly file clippings and do a bit more organizing. I should make it a point to spend a few minutes in here every day doing something other than reading blogs on the computer, even if it’s “just” cleaning up and putting things away, or looking at what I do have, so maybe I don’t bring home more things just to be stuffed away unused.

  19. Accck! I forgot to say I love your room, Mary. It looks so nice and bright. I love the walls of cabinets, so much less cluttered-looking than my walls of open shelving stuffed with books.

    And Happy New Year!

  20. Well , I’ve always tried to loose weight and get organized, and not spend so much money. WHAT WAS I THINKIN???? Of course I’m not gonna loose weight( I love to eat) , I’m never gonna get organized ( I always make a mess and I’m comfortable that way) , besides, being organized takes away the fun of looking for what I need. Now, not spend so much money, well girls, retirement has fixed that. So what will I work on????? Beats me, there is so much I need to do. hehehe Eileene

  21. Mary, I think creative people are inherently unorganized. You have better things to do than clean. You create beautiful things!

    But one way that might help you is to use labels on all those beautiful shelves and then resolved to put things back where they belong when you complete a task. Oh, and be sure to utilize the inside of the doors. That’s often overlooked usable space.

    My resolution is to make no promises!!!

  22. No resolutions from this gal! I know better than to even begin to go there, because I know they’d be broken within the day. As for your creative space -looks pretty organized to me, especially when you consider it’s just after Christmas when we have no time to even THINK about what the studio looks like and after we’ve been on a creative binge making presents.

  23. OKay. I’ll try AGAIN! I am not great at getting organized (although I love it), and even worse at keeping it organized. But I figure with each time I try, I make a little progress and am better off than if I had done nothing… Resolution: to keep on tryin’!

    Happy New Year to Everyone in the Needle’N Thread family.

  24. No, your workroom is still very tidy by my standards. Mine started as a workroom and is now nothing but a storeroom, waiting for the new year purge and rearrange when it will somehow become a space in which I have room to turn around. I actually do most of my work in my bedroom.
    You are an organised person.

  25. Hahahaha – you are a stitch! Thanks for showing us your workroom/studio; I feel so much better now! No resolutions made – none broken. I am always trying to improve myself anyway so why make myself even more anxious? Perhaps that’s a little self-indulgent, but it definitely makes life a little less nerve wracking. Happy new year, Mary!

  26. Mary, Mary, Mary, artists are not supposed to be organized! We need all of our stuff around us for inspiration! Okay, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I, too, try to be organized, but I do know where everything is! My Studio, and I call it that, used to be my Son’s and Grandson’s bedroom, but is now my studio and I do not feel snooty calling it that. Maybe people roll their eyes behind my back when I say that, but, who cares!
    I don’t do resolutions, but I just finished four, yes four, quilts for Christmas gifts that were started long ago, and I feel very happy to get them done. I still have more to go, so that will be my plan for 2011. I want to learn more needlework from you and so I thank you for all of your time sharing your gift with all of us.
    Happy New Year!
    Connie in Ohio

  27. I have made 2 New Years resolutions. First is to refine my organizational skills in my sewing room. I have a small sewing room and I tend to have many things going on at onece. My supplies and tools end up all over the place sometimes. I get to feeling like I don’t even want to go in there. I like the idea of developing habits to stay organized throught the process. The second is, becuase I tend to take on too many projects and get to feeling pressured by my “workload”, to remember the reason I do needlework in the first place. That is because I love the process. In other words, It’s not how many projects I do, it’s how I enjoy the ones I do that is important.

    Linda Taylor

  28. I like that word “functional” to describe your sewing room. After all, it isn’t that disorganised because lots of floor still shows up in your photos.
    I stopped making resolutions and started setting goals. My two main sewing-related goals this year are to cut down the piles of unfinished projects, and to get all my supplies unpacked and shelved so I know what I have. This will be my third year with that goal. Three moves in 4 years has made it a little difficult to make much progress. (I have, however, resolved to NOT MOVE again for at least 10 years: should give me some time!)
    I so very much appreciate your blog, Mary. The fact that you share problems and sidetracks with us really encourages me to keep stitching. I’m in awe of the number of projects you manage to finish quickly, as well.
    Have a Happy and reasonably tidy New Year!

  29. Hi Mary,
    Some good news for you. My studio looks worse than yours right now. It WILL get better sooner or later, but right now . . .? No more resolutions for me. They tend to make me feel guilty when they’re broken. This year I’ve set two goals for myself:

    1.) To be a kinder person and to encourage kindness in people I meet.

    2.) To downsize. If I eliminate things I no longer use or need, I’ll have space to enjoy the things I do. To this end, I’m trying to spend a little time every day going through ONE drawer, or ONE box or ONE piece of a closet, and boxing up things which I immediately take to the Goodwill truck. I’m making progress, but it’s going to be a big job. Wish me luck.

    I wish you a kind and creative New Year.

  30. I hate to make resolutions because you end up disappointed and aggravated at yourself for not reaching your own expectations. I think it is a blessing just to make it to another year with all of those you love around you.
    I want to let you know that there is not an artist that I know of that is great at organization. It is that left brain right brain stuff. A very analytical person is not usually highly creative and very global creative person is not usually extremely organized. I am happy to belong to the later group.

  31. My resolution is to get my craft room/studio cleaned up & the storage totes organized so I can use it without having to “tear” it apart every time I want to get something out to use. I’ve had it in an unusable state for years (I have MS) so it’s hard for me to get it done. But the rest of my small house stays messy if my studio isn’t fixed up.

  32. Hi dear Marry!
    I’m pleased to be familiar with you. I’m an Iranian, thousands of miles far away from you. I’m an English teacher and I’m interested in making handicrafts such those which you made.This similarity between me and you is very nice for me.I try to send the pictures of things i have done . Thanks for sharing your precious experiences.kiss.bye

  33. I don’t make New Year resolutions – there’s no point, I’d never keep them! – but last year I also had a major tidy-out and reorganisation of my workroom, which at the time was a disaster zone. Everything was put away in cupboards and pretty baskets, and for the first time in years, the room really looked nice, and was a pleasure to be in.

    It was this that made the big difference – because it was now nice to be in, I didn’t want it to go back to being a mess again, so I was motivated to only get out what I needed when I needed it, and put it away again once I’d finished. After a surprisingly short time this became a habit, and (amazingly!) my workroom is still tidy.

    A couple of days of effort, and a couple of weeks of mental discipline, and you’ll feel the benefit for years. Go for it!

  34. Happy New Stitching Year, Mary!
    I think it is very normal that we sometime soon become disorganized. But if you get to the point where you canΒ΄t organize them on your own, I believe it is super-okay to ask for assistance. You can hire a part-timer, a student of yours, in exchange for threads and fabrics. I would help you with the organizing in exchange for books and stitching materials and tools. Unfortunately, I live on the other side of the world. ^_^
    good luck and have fun organizing for 2011!

  35. Hi Mary, well my NY resolution is to be more organised about my craft & embroidery stuff too, so I guess I am in good company. Happy New Year

  36. I’m one of those “organizer people” Pat mentions, and I think “functional” is a great goal. You’re getting organized to aid your work on your projects, right? So “organized enough” that you can find what you want, and have a place you enjoy working in, sounds good to me.

    And yes: Giving yourself permission to get rid of any old, unfinished project that no longer appeals to you – whether you’re 1% done or 99% done – is always a good idea. I’ve had good luck giving some of these away on Freecycle – so instead of being a weight on you, the project becomes a joy for someone else, and everyone wins. Some sort of “exchange party” with like-minded souls could be fun, too.

  37. Well, Mary I read your New Year’s resolutions and did not have enough time to enjoy reading everyone else’s comments. I do not have a studio or even a room that looks like a craft room. Just a corner in the living room,the end leaf of the family dining room table and three cupboards stuffed with supplies for sewing projects. So my New Year’s resolution will be to try to acquire a cluttered mess with a capital “M” Studio like yours. I’ll take it πŸ™‚ Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year Mary

    Maria in Kansas

  38. Those storage closets are awesome! I’m jealous.
    I’ve been able to keep things fairly tidy for over 30 years by putting stuff away when I’m done. I also go thru my stash once a year and purge. ANd if a pile gets too high I clean it up!
    I just got 6 Sterlite storage boxes to finally organize my regular fabrics. I use a tiny linen closet and I was buying duplicates of muslin, etc, because I couldn’t find anything!

  39. Well, I can relate to your frustration…but your studio is nowhere near a major disaster – it’s bright and functional, and you can still see the floor! I’m currently looking for a large cabinet of some kind to organize my mess and get all my various little storage boxes off the floor in my craft room/studio…However, after spending over an hour last week locating a particular yard of a well remembered ribbon, I realized my most acute need is to label everything, so I spend more time stitching!

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