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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My Workroom, Organization, and Labor


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Where do you do most of your needlework? Do you sit in a comfortable chair in your living room, stitching in front of the TV? A sunny corner next to a window? Outside in the garden?

There are lots of places I’d like to embroider, but in fact, there’s only one place where I really get a lot of needlework and associated tasks done, and that’s in my workroom. Sometimes, I call it a studio (by definition, it is – classes go on there, I do art-related work there); sometimes, I call it the garage. It really is a garage, but it’s revamped into a workroom and storage area.

My garage-gone-studio/workroom (there must be a way to combine those into a clever name) is not part of the house. It shares a joining wall on the back of the house, but I have to go outside to get into the place. While this may seem inconvenient, especially in inclement weather, it’s nice to be separated from the rest of the house. That way, when I do go to “work” out there, I actually feel as if I’m going somewhere to work!

(Why am I calling it work?! It’s fun!)

In case you haven’t seen it before, I thought I’d show you my workroom on a good day! I took most of these photos on Memorial Day at the beginning of this summer, when I cleaned up the workroom.

Embroidery Workroom

The size of the room is approximately the size of a single car garage, except along both long walls, there are 24″ deep floor-to-ceiling cabinets, making the center of the room about 5 feet narrower than a typical single-car garage. The little window you see in the photo above shares that west wall with a door, which is to the left out of the picture. In the middle of the room, I have a standard 6-foot table, where I do most of my work. Under the window, there’s another small table, where I stack stuff and where I usually have some kind of photography equipment set up for taking blog photos. It was all put away that day. I was feeling organized! (Briefly.)

It’s always a bad idea, by the way, to have extra little tables about the place, where you can “stack stuff.” These become “hot spots” where Disorganized Mess tends to accumulate. This box I just rummaged through, that stack of books, this bolt of fabric, these bags of thread…. I’ll put that away later… Not a good idea!

Embroidery Workroom

Looking east in the room, there’s a good-sized window, under which I have a drafting table, which ends up serving as a desk. It also serves as another place where I tend to stack stuff. (Did I mention this is a bad idea?) To the left of that table, is my ancient sewing machine, which I love to death. They don’t make them like they used to! To the right, you can see my ironing board and a step ladder. There’s a door farther to the right (out of the picture), on the south wall, right where it joins the east wall. This leads to the back yard and a walkway to the house. (There’s also a freezer on that south wall. But we’ll just keep that between you and me. I don’t really like telling people that I share my workroom with a freezer!)

Embroidery Workroom

With the exception of the freezer and door on the south wall, both the north and the south walls are made up of floor-to-ceiling cabinets full of shelves, where (incidentally) I stack stuff. The inside of the cabinets do have some organizational structure to them.

Embroidery Workroom

I keep needlework books & magazines all in one place, for example, loosely organized according to type.

Embroidery Workroom

It does not take long for things to get a bit cluttered. This is stuff I pulled out of the cabinets in order to make a decision on one aspect of one project.

When I was growing up, when Memorial Day weekend rolled around (heralding the summer vacation), or Labor Day Weekend regretfully arrived (ending the summer vacation!), we pretty much had one thing to look forward to on the holiday. While most people enjoyed a three-day respite from work, with beginning or end-of-summer bar-b-ques and whatnot, we …. cleaned the garage.

Old habits die hard. After a summer of working out in the garworkrudio, here it is, Labor Day. And what better way to celebrate than … to labor? Today, I’m doing it again – I’m cleaning the garage!

But I pretty much figure that work is what you make of it. When we were kids, one of my mom’s favorite statements was “Work is fun!” There was an age when I didn’t buy that, no matter how many times she said it. But as I got older and wiser, I realized what she really meant. Work is fun – if you make it fun. And this kind of work really IS fun!

So I’m going to go have some fun! I hope, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing today, you’re having fun, too!


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(35) Comments

    1. Hi, Lee – I wondered if anyone would ask that question!

      I do all my computer work inside my house. I have a connection out there for my laptop when I need it, but the major technical stuff, I do in my home… near the tea kettle.


  1. Je suis jalouse. I am envious.
    Quelle agréable salle de travail! What a nice workroom.
    En janvier, il ne doit pas y avoir un banc de neige de 6 pieds entre la maison et le garage! In January, do you have to pass over a 6 feet snow to enter in your workroom?
    You are lucky.
    Best regards, Louise from Québec

    1. Thanks for your comments, everyone!

      Louise – That’s a very good question! The walkway is covered, as it runs along the back porch of my house, so although the snow blows in, it doesn’t blow deep. And although the walkway gets wet when it rains, I don’t actually get drenched. The worst thing is the mud, when we get torrential rain, because it washes onto the walk! Now, keep in mind, we don’t get six feet of snow in winter (sometimes, I wish!!). If we did, it would be much more difficult to trek back and forth between house and workroom! 🙂

      Karen – your workroom sounds great. I don’t have running water nearby in mine! And windows – you can’t have enough windows! (unless you’re facing west at 110 degrees in the summer in Kansas. Then you can have too many windows…) I laughed at your Piler thoughts!

      Patricia! Looks are deceiving! Right now, I have so photography equipment set up everywhere, including an area for video, so the place is crammed and a mess. By the end of the day, I hope to be back to peace and serenity!

      Lee – I finally figured out that I can’t work with my computer in clear sight, because my computer constantly beckons me! I do have a mobile device that I use for moderating comments and checking e-mail during the day when I’m out there. Otherwise, I couldn’t keep up with the website. So I generally stop every hour or so to check in on the site, take care of comments, and make sure there are no emergency e-mails!

      France – I figured out my little “hot spot” trick a while ago, that’s helped with the accumulation of stacks of stuff. I identified the areas that are “hot spots” – those areas that tend towards clutter – and at the end of every work session, I pay attention to the hot spots. I take about 5 or 10 minutes just to straighten them up and put things away. Even if I can’t put everything away at that moment, I can at least put the stuff that’s there is some order. And it’s only five or ten minutes – usually less, if it’s done daily. If I do that, then I always approach the room in a good frame of mind!


  2. When I saw that first picture, I thought, where is all her ‘stuff’?

    I am also a ‘piler’. Any empty surface is liable to covered with a pile of anything. Why else is it empty? I keep trying to clean up and organize and that is a sure fire way to lose something. I think I’m going to stop that.

    I do most of my work in my sewing room/studio/office/ or otherwise known as Karen’s Room. 🙂 I have everything in here, sewing machine, serger, fabric, patterns, books, TV, bathroom, computer, tables, thread, magazines, yarn and more stuff upstairs. 🙂

    I do take some projects out into the living room when I want to watch TV with my husband, otherwise, you can pretty much find me in here! Lots of windows, lots of spot lamps for close up work… I love it.

  3. What a strange coincidence Mary. I’ve been struggling with getting myself into my next project and have been thinking that what I need to do is clear up my cluttered art room. You’re right. Those extra tables and such are great places for stacks of clutter, and it’s so easy to create. Your work room looks so peaceful and organized. Hoping mine will look a little better once I clean things up a bit. It does help one to think better.

  4. What a workroom…. I am blue with envy specially
    the wonderful shelves you have. I use a small bedroom with a very small closet and all my books are stacked there and as you so say, the tables ALWAYS get ton of stuff on it, I clean after finishing a quilt but it lasts, maybe half a day,and everything is back a mess. I like the light in your workroom it is inviting and I am glad you shared with us.
    Good Labour Day to you Mary.

  5. Hi Mary,
    I think a freezer in your workroom sounds lovely – really wonderful, in fact! In Berlin our home isn’t large enough for a good old fashioned mid-western sized freezer. The kind that you can store enough food inside in case there is a blizzard or tornado and you can’t get food for weeks on end… Seriously, I miss my freezer! The little one we have just really isn’t a proper freezer and I would gladly give up some embroidery space if I could have a big chest freezer.Have fun cleaning up your space – I love doing that when I have the time. I feel quite virtuous afterwards and usually find things I’d forgotten about so it’s a little like Christmas.
    Liebe Grusse,

  6. I do virtually all of my fun, not work, in my sewing room (daughter’s former bedroom). Why on earth do I call it that? I do mostly embroidery, but it does have a sewing machine. I’m terrible at accumulating clutter, and I tend to clean up just enough to make space for the next project. Once in a great while it gets so darn bad that I have to do a major clean up job. I have one fairly large window that faces north east, so I have absolutely lovely light.

    Today is a good day for labor, so if I wash the ironing pad, I will have to clean up the clutter on it. And it’s early enough so I can dry it in the sunshine.

    Have a good Labor day!

  7. I confess that I envy you, with that nice room and all those cabinets! My “studio” area is a 6″x6″ corner of the living room, with a worktable and a desk arranged back-to-back, and bookshelves on either end for some of my stuff. I do have two big windows in my corner, which makes it nice and sunny. Most of my supplies and such are in a hall closet, part of a bedroom closet, two drawers in the dresser in the bedroom, plus many boxes that have been in storage since we moved into this place. I would so love to have a room that’s big enough to have all my stuff in one place.

    I do most of my stitching at the worktable in my corner. The exception is knitting, which I do on the couch while watching TV.

  8. I’ve been wanting to get a work table exactly like the one you use. Are you at liberty to tell who made it and where you found it?

    Great post, as always.

  9. Great to see pictures of your space Mary. I do envy your large cupboards. My space/studio is known as the ‘cave’ as it is long and narrow – 2.5m x 11m or 8′ x 33′.

    Oh btw Frances, I’m sorry but I did have a little giggle at your 6″ x 6″ space, which I am sure was a typo. Still the image of miniature desks and tables etc tickled my imagination.

    My Dearly Beloved built in furniture along the two long sides, so there is a floor to ceiling cupboard, book shelves with a work surface under and under that are spaces to hold my fabric bins – 12 of them; a sewing bench with 4 machines; another work bench with storage under and shelves above; a wet area with 2 small sinks; a bathroom and a cutting table. I only have one window, facing south so it gives good light. There are however 3 east-facing roof windows. The reason for this was that I needed the wall space for storage and one long wall faces west (much too hot), the east looks onto the neighbour about 2m away and the bathroom is on the north end.

    I am running on a bit here, sorry, but what I am trying to say is, as usual Mary is right! All those surfaces are just covered with stuff, especially now when I only have a week left to finish off the things for my exhibition. What a clean-up will have to happen then!

  10. I love your room, Mary. It looks so peaceful. And bright.

    I too have the flat surface and “for now” problem, so I got rid of the 6′ table. I still pile, but I am forced to put away more often. I have open shelves on 2 walls, stuffed with books and some other items. That’s one thing I notice when looking at photos of other people’s setups – how much more relaxed it looks when they’ve left open areas on the walls for art and inspiration pieces. The other thing I did wrong is the lighting – lack of it acutally.

    I’ve seen collections of sewing and quilting area photos, has anyone seen similar for needleworkers? Or any other types of fiber lovers like knitters, weavers, crocheters, spinners, etc?

  11. Hi Mary:

    What a treat it is to see your studio!!

    Like so many of us, I’m sure, I tend to load up any horizontal surface in my “Sewing Room,” and when the pile finally reaches it’s “Angle of Repose” and can no longer support the addition of even a tiny thimble, it’s time to move the pile to the floor… This proclivity of mine makes my husband, from time to time, threaten to make every surface in my sewing room have some degree of slant!! Then, I just close the door.

    I think you need to give your workspace an elevated name like, “Studio G.”

    Carolyn in SoCal.

  12. Hola Maria!!!!!
    Que mararilla, cuantos quisieramos tener la mitad de espacio que el tuyo, pero gracias por compartilo,y lo de “Studio G” de Carolyn me pare una buene idea.
    No creo que sea posible pero me gustaria tener contacto con bordadoras que hagan cortinas o estores para canviar impresiones. BESOS

  13. Mary,
    What a great space. I love your floor to ceiling cabinet space with closed doors. I have often chided when I get too many things spread out that I just need a “white room” to space out in. Of course, then I’ll add, and maybe a tall green plant. And that’s all I need. LOL. I even love your cluttered room. If it was mine I know there would be UFO’s taped to those doors in no time, and another table so that I could spin my chair and have another space. LOL. You have done a wonderful job creating a space to call your own and organized storage. Thank you for sharing. Even your “space” is inspirational. A Blank canvas to create!

  14. Paula Nadelstern, a published quilter, started out at her kitchen table in a tiny NYC apartment. She still works out of her kitchen.

    No matter how space I have or will ever have, it’s never enough. LOL I’m still a messy and clutterer.

    I love seeing how others handle their space.

  15. I’m behind, but I’m glad I read this. LOL I have been trying to get a picture of my studio since Memorial Day, but as soon as one area is cleaned, another is messed up again. This is partly because I share my space with my Mom (who paints) and a dog and three cats. Don’t ask about the garage. It’s worse. I love that yours is so tidy in the photos, but I’m also glad that I’m not the only one who makes a mess with piles “I’ll take care of later.”

  16. I would like to ask you a question if I may. I would like to know what size needle for cross stitch and needle work. Should the point of the needle be dull or sharp? I enjoy all the things you have made and your articles.

    1. Normally, for surface embroidery, a sharp tipped needle (crewel needle) is used, and for cross stitch, a blunt tipped (tapestry) needle is used…MC

  17. Hello Mary !

    Wonderful to have this space! How often do you dust around places with lots of stuff on them? Do dust in corners, under furniture and under piles of stuff is a general no no for needlework? I know it sounds logical is a no no but just to ask again; thank you!

    How do you keep your table clean ?

    1. I pretty much just treat it like any room! Put stuff away, dust, dust mop, wet mop when necessary, wipe down surfaces, vacuum out windows, blinds, etc. and wipe them down with a damp cloth.

  18. Hi Mary,
    Wow….thats all I can say lol…..you do have a lot of books…so Iam going to tell you what I did to not have this in my room….about 2 yrs ago I looked in my closet where I had all my books like you and thought ok this is really crazy….so I decided to go out and buy some plastic containers and went thru all my books and labeled on each container what books were in there…such as my favorites,projects etc…and then I had this awful headache….but I love all of them…and then I did everything as planned…..I couldnt keep all of these I also HAD doubles not realizing it…omg I was laughing so hard that day cuz my loving husband said hmmmm I told you this would happen lol.
    So now there in these containers the ones I kept and its working out really good there protected and sometimes I will go into the room and just sit there and say wow this is like shopping to me again lol

    The best part now is that large cabinet I had them in is now being used for my fabrics and other necessities for my beloved crafts…that I can get to much faster then I had set up before…..I hope you have lots of fun doing this Mary I sure did…and now when I shop and find this book I just have to have I will go online and check to see if I can find what was in that book that I wanted to buy……and just print out the one or 2 things I liked…thanks to my pc the clutter has become so much nicer……good luck sweet lady…and I cant wait to hear more about you adventure….Trisha

  19. Mary storage problems has been the bane of my life.
    The solution for my book storage that I used at one time was shelves that you winch up to or through the ceiling.
    My room was 12′. I used a pulley system. I also found that cupboards were a waste of space.
    Realising that books get dusty I put a calico curtain over the exposed areas and as the shelves were up high out of the way it never looked out of place.
    I had a manual winch system and I thought it was better than an electric one.
    If the power went off I could still get to the books. It was really easy.
    You probably could find something like it on Google.
    As I had to down size I left the system in the old house.

    Cheers MM

  20. I have taken a couple of months from working so I can get my house in order along with having the roof put in, painting and ect… I am also having fun organizing my sewing room and pantries. I am also organizing my kitchen as well. I like your approach of making it fun. Well I have a lot of fun to be had. Have a good day.


  21. And I thought I had lots of books and I do but you beat me lady. I saw some wonderful old books. Do you go to the old book stores and about finding them? I used to love looking through old books and my husband does as well. Both of us have found many treasures on these jaunts around MD and VA.

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