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 Box, sans Embroidery


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I have a box. It is a Beautiful Box. It’s wood. Its finish is smooth as glass. It opens on elegant hinges to a finished, cavernous interior.

Its outside is paneled, made to display embroidery. Not just on top, mind you, but All Around the Sides, too.

But my box is without embroidery. It’s still beautiful, but it isn’t complete.

I keep my box on an old sideboard in the entrance of my house. And when people see my box, they say, “What is this?” And I say, “It is a box.” They open it, they look inside, and they say, “Hm. A box.” Though the workmanship is exquisite, though the box itself is attractive, they wonder what it is. Why do they wonder? Because they recognize that it is incomplete.

Wooden Box to Display Embroidery

I bought the box from Bloom Woodworks. I met Mr. Bloom and his wife and daughter at an EGA merchandise night. He is a wonderful elderly gentleman – a master craftsman who turned his skills to making cradles for his children and grandchildren. Then, his daughter, who is a needlework enthusiast, paired up with her dad to make needlework accessories from wood. I just thought that was the nicest story of a real home-grown, skill-oriented, family business!

And that’s one of the reasons I bought the box.

Wooden Box to Display Embroidery

Then there was the screwdriver. The panels that back the embroidery (so that the inside of the box remains finished with wood walls and lid) require the a screwdriver in order to remove them for mounting needlework. And each box has the screwdriver inside. So I bought box and I ended up with a tool, too.

Wooden Box to Display Embroidery

The wood is beautiful. I love the grain.

So I have a box. But it is without embroidery and incomplete. It Needs, and I needs must do something with it.

Of course, with a box, anything goes.

My reasoning at this point: counted work would be easiest, crewel work would be fastest, stumpwork would be grandest.

But what do you think? What should I do with it?

If you’re looking for some beautiful wooden accessories for your embroidery needs – from a small box to a large, thread keeps, spool & tool holders, feel free to check out Bloom Woodworks. I’m not at all affiliated – I just think Mr. Bloom makes beautiful stuff! And when I met him, I thought, “He is a really nice man.”


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(45) Comments

  1. It’s a beautiful box, Mary. But you’re right; it’s missing something.

    If it were MY box, I’d do stumpwork. But I think crewel would be fine, depending on the design. My instinct would be to stay away from counted work, unless you’re doing something like Hardanger or Schwalm. The box needs something elegant, and counted work isn’t going to cut it, in my opinion.

    What are the dimensions? How big are the panels? If they are huge, crewel might be your best bet, as it will stitch up faster than other options. It looks as though they aren’t too big, though, judging by the size of the screwdriver, so you probably have more options than you think.

    Carol S.

  2. I just can see it with some stumpwork The box is superb and it needs the grandest thing to set it off… Looking forward to what you do with it. I loved the story of Bloom woodworks….

  3. Mary, you can combine counted work, crewel, and stumpwork all in crazy quilted panels.
    Counted work can either be done on aida and then pieced into a block as one of the patches, or done using waste canvas on satin or silk or cotton and used as a patch. Crewel can be worked on patches, and stumpwork can be added to patches. AND you can embellish every seam with herringbone, cretan, feather, chain, or any combination you can think up. The box would be magnificent!

  4. Hi Mary – The box! How wonderful.

    I would put Brazilian embroidery (which includes stumpwork, of course). The sides would be filled with flowers – one for each season. The top would be an array of my favorite flowers.

    The rayon threads are so beautiful that they would just “pop.”


  5. The Box is beautiful. Such simple, elegant lines. It would be a shame to hide that gorgeous wood, but it does look incomplete. Maybe some lacey drawn-thread work so that the grain could peek through. All white or ivory, maybe with silk thread for a bit of shine.

  6. Re: this beautiful box! Some of Jane Nicholas’s stumpwork dragonflies would be lovely flitting around….no? LC

  7. Mary, I think you know the answer: it was in your column. Such a beautiful box, one that is sparking your enthusiasm to such a degree that it is constantly in your mind, as this one seems to be, deserves more than the “easist” or “fastest.” It deserves the “grandest.” Think what fun it will be to search for (and create) such a worthy design!

  8. Definitely stumpwork! Not necessarily traditional motifs from the bible, etc., but more modern ones – flowers, fruit, insects, etc.

  9. I love this post: 1) You’re introducing us to a Master Craftsman, and we might never have known about him. 2)I loved hearing that “He is a really nice man.” Niceness is too often unrewarded. We need nice people in the world. I think you’re pretty nice too, Mary. It takes one to know one. 3)If it was me, I’d likely try my hand at Stumpwork, because it’s an historical nod to the caskets I’ve seen so far. But you know, you – well, I’ve seen you start to break out of the expected, and design some really interesting things. I think it would be fun to see you incorporate an idea that intrigues you to push your skill in some area. How about the Hungarian designs that you’ve been translating? Or an incorporated technique sampler that covers all the different things you’ve been teaching us all these years? You’re amazingly skilled at all kinds of embroidery. And if you think about it as an heirloom piece that functions as a teaching piece that represents where modern embroidery (I think of your blackwork fish) meets your ecclesiastical work (personal) and the ethnic specialties, I’d be willing to place a bet that you’ll design something fantastic. Happy daydreaming and designing. I bet you’re going to have a lot of fun!

  10. Mary: What about a gorgeous crewel embroidery but stitched with silk threads instead of wool? With different motifs on each side and the top? Maybe accented here and there with a little bit of gold metal? It would be so beautiful AND be easier to stitch the small size needed for the panels. And now I will want one of the beautiful thread keepers everytime I cut a piece of cardboard off an old box and cut notches along the side to hold my threads!

  11. It could have been a Fish box, but I have the Fish now. The Fish will soon be a bag, but what should become of the box? Maybe a pretty Jacobean crewel piece, or something like your pomegranate stitchery…or the piece you are doing for your online class. Whatever you put in your box will make it even prettier!


  12. I love that box! What to do would for me depend on what I want that box to represent for me. One of my favorite pieces that you did was the free style embroidery on the red wool. I think the Persian Flower or something similar would look really nice. Have fun deciding!

  13. What should you do???? TAKE YOUR TIME & do the type of embroidery that YOU think would enhance the beauty of the box the most !!!!!!!!!!!!! (It IS a BEAUTIFUL box!)

  14. Mary, you do such beautiful work, must you limit yourself to just one type of embroidery? Four sides and a top, it might take longer but it sure would showcase your talents. I, for one, would love to see the results.

  15. Stumpwork also would be great. The box doesn’t need to have embroidery on each panel, stumpwork of the top would be enough.

  16. The box, and whatever you put on it, will be sitting on that “old sideboard in the entrance of my house”. Therefore, everyone who enters will see it first. It makes a statement of who you are. You should consider what you want to say, and how that box would help get the message to those who enter your home.

  17. Hi Marymentor:

    Last Christmas I gave such a box to my brother as a gift. I covered the top with light padding, then did a combination of stump, and embroidery on the fabric cover. I used a chain stitch to do his first name across the center, then surrounded it with a man golfing, a guitar, musical notes, and a two arguing faces of him and Freud. (My brother is a psychologist ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Everything that’s important in his life. I edged the entire perimeter with tiny brass headed tacks for a masculine touch to cover the edges of the fabric. Finally, I painted my name (to and from) on the bottom, with a date as a memento for after they put ME into a box ! ! ! <3 He said he will treasure it !
    Judy in Pittsburgh

  18. This is a magnificent piece! I would definitely want this box to commemorate my needlework skills to pass down from gen to gen. Therefore I would design the four sides and the top to showcase all the wonderful types of needlework you know and then some.

  19. Whatever you decide on, a little goldwork would not go amiss.
    Personally, I think The Box is beautiful and elegant in its naked glory. The grain and finish just glow.

  20. Mary,
    As the seasons change, so might what is on the box! Maybe have a set, or two, or even three different things that could be changed. Something simple or fast for now might work while the grandest awaits completion. It would be a shame for the box to wait too long for something……….After all, how many of us use the same talbecloth or linens for all occasions?

  21. It depends on what you want the box for (display or heavy use), and how well ‘preserved’ the stitchery will be (i.e. is it likely to get knocked at all?). I think it would look terrific with some shiny and spectacular, such as piece in metallics and something like shiny rayon threads, but stumpwork would also be great. If there’s the least danger of it getting knocked or being in constant use though, I would stick to flatwork. Of course, you know that already!!=)

  22. Hmmm – I envision an elegant combination of goldwork and stumpwork on the top and leave the sides alone to showcase the gorgeous wood. No matter what, it’s an elegant box!

  23. My husband has started doing woodwork, just a beginner but he has created some wonderful things. This box of yours is exquisite. So much depends on the type of wood used. I’m happy to see you aren’t planning on gluing something onto the top. I think I’d cry. If it was mine, I would just do some colorful needlework for the top, leave the beautiful wood showing on the sides. I do counted type work but I agree; it isn’t delicate or detailed enough for something this size. I love Brazilian work and stump work. Go for that – texture, color, details. Ahhhh. . . .

  24. Hi Mary,
    You were obviously very taken with Mr Bloom and his daughter working together to create these beautiful woodwork pieces. You could embroider their story . . . just another idea!
    Regards Sarah

  25. I like a lot of the ideas already suggested. How about stumpwork for the top only, and then gold and silk crewel for the sides? I like the idea of having additional panels for different occasions, seasons, etc. How about having each side panel represent one season? Then you could have extras for holidays. The one in the back probably wouldn’t be seen as much, so you could leave it blank or put a spare there. If you have another sideboard in your dining room, you could use it to hold napkins for guests or something like that… Or samples of your needlework that you like to show people; or some of the vintage linens you’ve collected; or silver… So many possibilities!

  26. The box is absolutely beautiful. I almost swooned when I saw it, as I love beautiful woodwork. What I think you should do is put one of each type of needlework in each frame … one of cross-stitch, one of crewel, one of stump work, goldwork, etc. to showcase each one. That would make the box just magnificent!

  27. I agree with Kathy that the box is beautiful as is. Maybe it is located in the wrong place. Moreover, there is no need to justify to the world why the box is where it is and why it is not embelished and why not, why, why? It is your box, your house and your private place. Someday YOU will know what to do with your beautiful box.
    How heart warming to see the work of Mr. Bloom!! He must be indeed a nice man and it shows!!!
    Thank you Mary

  28. Thanks Mary for posting the link to Mr. Bloom’s site. What a fine selection of threadkeepers–any of which would make a lovely gift for a special stitching friend! As to your casket–several years ago two friends purchased kits for boxes with the Mary Queen of Scots theme. Also, within the past 10yrs Marsha Papay-Gomola designed & executed a stumpwork casket as a fundraiser for the Stitchery Showcase at Stan Hywet (Akron, OH). So–bottom line, I think there are some commercial designs/patterns out there that you could consider as a starting point. Can’t hurt, might help.

  29. My husband is a fine woodworker/wood artist and as this box looks like one he might make I cringe at the thought of covering up that beautiful timber and all the work that the ‘nice’ Mr Bloom put into it. My husband makes gorgeous albeit plain boxes for another man who puts his handmade Irish flutes in them. But along the way his wife lines the boxes with shaped polystyrene to hold the parts of the flutes. She then covers this with that horrible cheap and nasty stretchy panne velvet fabric. I hate it, and I hate the degradation of the beautiful boxes, but it does pay some bills so I shut up and put up.

    Does it matter that your box isn’t covered in embroidery? Who said it had to be? It doesn’t look unfinished to me, it looks wonderful. I’d be more interested in exploring the question of why rather than what before I went haring off doing something. Sorry, I’ll get off the soap box now.

    However before I leave completely, I really want to congratulate you, Mary, on your use of apostrophes especially in the word ‘it’s’. Obviously the correct use of the apostrophe is no longer being taught in schools anywhere in the English-speaking world since the vast majority of people are unable to use it properly. You and I must be a dying breed I think.

  30. What a beautiful box! Stumpwork would be nice but I think nice rich, colourful crewel embroidery would be perfect. Whatever you do would be nice … you are so creative.

  31. I think it’s about time for you to picture your beautiful pet, Mary. It would certainly fill that nice box with color, and would be a great welcome item to your home! ๐Ÿ™‚ And I’d choose needle painting for it.
    Please! ๐Ÿ˜€

  32. Mary, as one who has done several needlework boxes, because a gal can never have to many embroidered boxes ya know, I believe it should be done in something very personal to you. After all, a shoe box can hold the same things, it is the handwork on the box that makes it special. From having read your blog for a few years, I see you often turn to ecclesiastical embroidery for inspiration. The box would be a wonderful place to keep family religious records, family rosaries, death and christening announcements, old photos – you get the idea. So often those things are kept in a drawer and get lost throughout time.

    I just think embroidered boxes have a good chance of being passed down in families. They take so very much work so they need to say something about the person who did the embroidery. Your box could say “I love ecclesiastical needlework with lots of gold threads!”

  33. A beauty like this calls for something very special and makes me imagine an historical stumpwork, also a Jacobean crewel in old colours will be great !

  34. Dear Mary,

    I enjoyed your story about your box immensely. In fact, I read it out loud to my husband, who also thought it was a lovely write-up. It reminded me of the Rosamunde Pilcher short stories I love so much. She writes about everyday things in a way that makes them transcend time and space.

    Admiring your box, I thought of the Maker of the tree, the ones who planted it, the ones who tended it, the creatures who enjoyed it while it stood tall, the ones who felled it, the one who prepared the wood for the craftsman, Mr. Bloom who lovingly crafted it, and you who saw in it a thing of inspiration for your craft. It stands unfinished until you decide how to honor its beauty.

    There are many suggestions for the kind of embroidery you should use on it. I hesitate to suggest anything further, except to say that, however you decide to adorn it, the embroidery should be an expression of all you love about needleworkโ€”however that translates for you.
    Thank you for showing us your box and telling us about the Blooms.



  35. I like the idea of mixing techniques. And if you are really bothered by the box as it is now, maybe putting in a temporary piece of fabric that catches your eye, perhaps a brocade or something? But the box as it is now is beautiful also.

  36. That box is just flat GORGEOUS, as is, no embroidery needed. ๐Ÿ™‚

    But if you were to embroider panels…I’m seeing incredible silk, some gold, maybe some of the finest of wools…and a pattern to make YOUR heart melt. Not ours, yours.

    And yes, I have to admit…a stumpwork pollinator or two which makes you smile would be a nice touch up top. ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. G’day there Mary,
    Beaut Box (note the capital!) I’d go for one of 2 ideas. Very ornate, but not over busy so you’d have to keep the colours, or whatever, co-ordinated I suppose. My personal preference would be autumn colours with some stronger tones included and also the woad blue colours of those wools. I’d like to see motifs from nature, including flowering plants (as in Mr BLOOM) and grasses/weeds, insects, birds etc but not ultra traditional. Sort of contemporary-ish. Probably thread painting but not in wool.
    The other idea is simple but elegant such as a fairly close all over repeat pattern on the lid and borders of same in the sides with maybe just a scattering of the pattern inside the border.
    I’d use a cream fabric for the ornate idea and a very rich colour for the simple, elegant option. Perhaps a royal blue with silver work and a touch of other colour. Or emerald green with…? I wonder though if the timber is a rich enough colour to take this strong fabric colour idea?

  38. Oh… stumpwork on top, crewel on the sides. I agree with that. Or, I love Paula’s suggestion of making it a religious keepsake box and doing some sumptuous religious embroidery. Like some of the lovely opus angelicum style work you shared earlier. Though that would mean a LOT of work.

  39. I tried to access the website for Bloom Woodworks and found all sorts of shipping materials and boxes but nowhere did I find needlework boxes, and nothing like the one shown in this blog/article. I would really love to buy one, but I need more specifics to get this box from Bloom Woodworks. Could you please direct me to the specific place on the website so I can purchase at least 1 of these boxes, and truly I would like to get 2 or 3. Thank you so much, Kristin Bleamaster,

    1. Looks like a link farm, Kristin, so I think the original website is defunct. This post was written years ago, and I don’t know if the Mr. Bloom is still making boxes or not – which is too bad, because it really is a beautiful box!

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