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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Taking Embroidery Off the Frame


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It seems there are too many articles on Needle ‘n Thread about framing up embroidery for stitching. I talk about it practically every time I start a project!

Today it’s time for something different. Why not write about taking an embroidery project off the frame?

Removing Embroidery Project from Frame

I know what you’re thinking.

Hey, Mary! Pssst. Mary! You know, most people don’t do this until after the embroidery is finished!

Right? Isn’t that what you’re thinking?

Well, no worries!

This piece IS finished!

Removing Embroidery Project from Frame

Oh, I do so love starting and stopping and starting over again! It’s my favorite pastime.

But, sarcasm aside, it had to be done, and better to do it now than any farther down the road. You may be wondering why it had to be done, and I will tell you:

I already talked about cutting the fabric down to fit in a slate frame that was already too small for the piece. I knew I wasn’t getting the proper tension in the frame, but I couldn’t increase the tension or adjust the fabric in the frame, as it was. Things were just too tight. So I tried the trick of inserting chopsticks into the lacing on the side slats, which did provide more tension.

But I still wasn’t satisfied with working in those jammed surroundings, with fabric and slate frame that were both too small.

Removing Embroidery Project from Frame

What prompted me to take the piece off the frame was that I noticed a definite pull of the fabric towards the top left corner of the frame. No matter how I adjusted the frame, I could not eliminate that pulled feeling in the fabric. It wasn’t something actually visible – but if I ran my hand over the surface of the fabric in the frame, I could feel it.

So I took the fabric off to see if it was affecting the stitching. It had affected it, but not too noticeably. I could probably frame the piece up again, continue from where I was, and everything would work out ok. I wouldn’t say there was any high risk involved.

But if you add this point to my irritation with the frame and the small cramped size of the fabric, and you factor in a growing desire to change one of the shades of blue – these three points together offer me a perfect excuse for starting anew.

So that’s the decision I made, and the second go is already underway. This first stage will serve as a good practice cloth for a couple things I haven’t worked out yet. That way, this piece won’t go to waste, and, when all is said and done, I’ll have it as a reference.

I’m approaching a couple points differently on the redo, thanks to the clarification that comes once a decision is made, so I’ll show those to you down the road.

Hope you’re not thinking I’m crazy! I’ll tell you this much: it’s always better to make a decision like this early in the game, and I’m a Whole Lot Happier with the way things are going now. Peace of mind is definitely worth the price of starting over!

(Ok. Go ahead. If you think I’m nuts, you’re free to tell me! Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!)

If you’d like access to all the tips and techniques discussed in the Medallion Project, including complete step-by-step coverage of the Tudor-Style Rose, conveniently collected in one document, interlinked, referenced, and indexed, why not add the Marian Medallion Project e-book to your library? It’s packed full of all kinds of embroidery tips for undertaking a project like this, all in a convenient electronic format for easy searching.


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(58) Comments

  1. Well done Mary,
    I think you are so brave to make that decision and stick to it,
    My mother would do the same no matter where the small fault was she would undo the most intricate knitting and amke it right . You always see your problems even though others dont. ps love all your sharing

  2. Good morning Mary, I agree with you. When something is not at our satisfaction, is better to start over, other wise we will allways look at it.
    But for this you have to be patient,I undo 3 times my flowers when I was brushing it ( Bunka ) and also my 3 times my bouquet of heart of Japan ( nuido embroidery. ) the fondation of the bouquet wrapper. It is delicate but I was not satisfy with it. One question ? Do you use different frame for different embroidery ? Why not using the same type of frame all the time ?
    Every day I read your tips and new ideas, you are a real enciclopedia,
    Thanks Richard from Quebec

  3. No Mary,

    You’re not crazy. You’re awesome. In fact, I think this is one of the reasons I like checking your blog so often, because you show us all the real journey that happens on the way to the finished end. I really love that you share this behind the scenes part with us.

    It’s easy to see a finished project and think, “There’s no way I’d ever get to be that good.” You have no idea how much I appreciate seeing the real deal: how much hard work, willingness to start over, and practice, practice, practice goes into the final, finished, polished piece. It is the real reason your work really is so good.

    (I thought I might see something unpicked and threads everywhere, but not the framing! You totally surprised me.)

  4. I don’t blame you at all for restarting when you have more than one ‘minor’ issue. Better to do it now. I learned a long time ago to restart a project if I had more than one problem with it. Otherwise, I would reach a point where I would be unable to work on or complete the project for any reason.

  5. What do you do with all the discarded “starts?”
    Do you use them/make them/combine them into other projects somehow?

  6. No one thinks your crazy, Mary, we have all accepted your quest for total perfection in your work. That is what makes you so much of an expert, you learn as you go and you show us the why’s and why-not’s of embroidery. It may be frustrating to you, but not to your fans! Keep doing what you do, and we will continue to watch and follow you…

  7. I don’t think You’re nuts. It’s reasonable to change slate frame size.
    The piece is beautiful. I will be waiting for the next steps. I wonder the colour of Tudor roses: blue, red or raspberry?

  8. I had to smile at this daily treat today!! Reminds me a bit of myself – it seems that everything I tackle these days has to be done twice before I get it right! In my case, I think age has something to do with it – actually; everything, if I am honest with myself……

  9. I am so glad to hear other stitchers( very experienced ones at that) feel the need to clean the slate. In your case a slate frame. I start and start over many a project and I have felt a bit unsettled about it.
    Thanks for being my needlework therapist of sorts.

  10. Mary, I learned this at an early age……

    If a Task is once begun
    Never leave it til it’s done
    Be the labor great or small
    Do it well or not at all

    You would never have been happy with this
    project if you had not corrected it when you did. Kay in Mich.

  11. Thank you! And if you’re nuts, then I am, too. I did that this past summer. It wasn’t a tension or pulling problem, though. I didn’t like some of the colors and I wanted to try a different direction for some of the stitches. So off it went and I started over. All the silk part (the ‘start-over’ one) is finished and I’ve put it the beginnings of the gold and silver parts. I’m using the “cast-off” as the cloth to cover the one I’m working on. It may morph into a “try-out” piece later. Since it’s always there with the repeat version, I get to remind myself constantly that it was a very good idea to start over. It looks so much better in the re-try.

  12. Hi Mary, ((((hugs)))) for having to “scrap” it and start over but… as you said it’s not really a loss. You gained practice and knowledge. You also gained the satisfaction of knowing that you did the right thing.

  13. I think you are very smart to cut your losses and run now while you can. You know this would bother you forever and since it’s a piece done for your church you want it as perfect as possible.

    Good Job!! and better sails in the future.

  14. Nuts? I think not! Very smart to start over when you have just a small amount of time invested. Small being relative to the overall amount of work. So go for it- there’s noting worse than continuing to work on something you know isn’t right. I now rip out whatever I’m unhappy with- this makes me feel like I’m an “adult”.

  15. I don’t think you are crazy. I’ve done plenty of projects where I am not 100% satisfied with how something went, finished the project and then sat back and every single time I look at it, talk about it, think about it….I sigh….and say…”why didn’t I ????” insert whatever you want here…why didn’t I change that color? why didn’t I move that item to the left an inch? why? why? why?
    I’m sure you won’t be doing that whole why? why? why? issue when you finish your project!

  16. So glad I’m not the only “crazy” person to do things like you did! I can so relate to the 3 things you mentioned as “knowing” the weren’t quite right. Applauding you for doing what you knew was best!! Beautiful work.

  17. Are you NUTS? NOPE, just as sane as the rest of us. Can’t tell how many times I have ripped out stitches, whether it was embroidry or, crochet,knitting or even cross stitches. If it doesn’t feel right, why continue? We all have that gut feeling if something is ‘off’, even if it isn’t see-able. Can’t wait to see what changes you will implement on the seccond go-a-round. Good Luck!

  18. I definitely don’t think you’re nuts for doing this. Being happy with a piece is far more important than the hours ‘wasted’ in practice. (See? I’m trying to give you a way out by saying it was a practice piece).

  19. Mary–

    I started a complicated piece over recently, and was considerably further along, though not so much that it didn’t make sense to do it. There were tension issues, I didn’t like the color palette, and had increasing concerns about how tight the stitches were in the linen I was using, even though I knew I had to use 2 strands of silk because 1 didn’t cover well enough. I started over with an adjusted color palette, a looser stitch count and different color of linen. It feels so much better all around. Sometimes you just have to start over.

  20. Mary,It’s the most sensible thing to do because if you don’t correct it then you’ll always be worried about this problem subconsciously.I do remove the stretcher bars in my aari frame at the end of my day’s work just to keep the fabric in good condition ,since I use crepe & silk fabric often I worry about the fabric being stretched too much.
    If people think you are crazy then I’m already there πŸ™‚

  21. No you are not crazy. It is better to start over early in the process than struggle through. You would never be happy with the piece if you had not started over. I have done both things and starting over is definitely the best. Diane

  22. What a deliberate & gutsy move to make, Mary. Using the piece as a reference fills it worth not one more wonky/how did this happen?/throw it ??. Now I can see the point of all that work not being for nothing but part of the ever increasing learning curve. Now I feel more courageous about starting some needlework, why do I think it has to work out especially on new threads/stitches/material the first time. So now I can start on my REFERENCE material. Thanks again Mary for showing reality. Much love, Susan

  23. What courage! It is so hard to admit you made a mistake. It is so hard to start over again. Your sharing makes me realize how this is not easy. A great piece of art does not flow from your fingertips into a masterpiece. I usually quit and just go on to the next thing. Maybe….I will admit I was wrong the next time! Thanks!

  24. Hi Mary, I feel bad for the work you have already put into the piece. Ugh……..but I know what you’re saying. If you aren’t happy now, chances are that won’t change when your finished. Might as well invest your time in a piece that you love, when all is said and done. It was looking lovely though, in the photographs. Looking forward to seeing the progress of your new piece. Hugs, Colleen in Canada

  25. A very reasonable approach, considering the amount of work left to do on this piece. One question, though: why take it off the slate frame if you’re going to use it as a practice cloth?

  26. I definitely agree! I started some quilt blocks for a redwork quilt and after stitching two blocks, I did a 360 turn and changed my fabric, colors, etc. I call my unused blocks a “research project” and “future reference” for teaching. That’s how we all learn and share our do-overs with others.

    Thanks for sharing!

  27. This is the best advice I’ve ever seen. It should be printed on giant posters. I’m 71 & have only recently caught on to the wisdom that starting over is not a waste of time or material, just part of creating.

  28. Hi… I do not think you are crazy. I love your emails full of all your thoughts and projects. I have learned so much. Sometimes the best teaching tools are our mistakes. Thank you so much for being so open in your thoughts with us all. I am excited to see the new project.
    I have never used the stetcher bars so that has been very interesting.

  29. Mary,

    Okay – you are a perfectionist! That’s what makes your work so special and beautiful! I’m really enjoying your posts. I’ve never gone past plain and simple embroidery with regular old DMC embroidery on tea towels, etc., but I love seeing your beautiful techniques. I just may get inspired to try something more difficult eventually. In the meantime, I’m soaking up a lot of knowledge about the craft.

  30. Well…
    Because this is a commissioned piece, then yes, you need to do your best work. Even if it means starting over.
    However, if this were a piece done for learning or pleasure purposes, or a casual gift for a friend, then I think it would have been a bit fussy to scrap a piece because of a slight imperfection. It IS handmade.
    I am a perfectionist. That being said, I have set projects aside and never went back to them because it wasn’t ‘perfect’. Over the years I have had to learn that sometimes it is more important to finish what I started no matter what the end result (within reason).
    I can’t wait to see the finished piece! You always inspire me and I have learned more from your website than all other sources combined! It’s like having a personal tutor 24/7.
    Thank you for all of the hard work you put into this very valuable resource. When people ask me to teach them to embroider, I send them to your website first and then we go from there.
    Abundant Blessings,
    Sandi (Happy Stitcher in Florida)

  31. Good decision and I’m glad you told us. Now, I’ll be inspired to follow your example.

    What are you using for a frame for the new version. Did you find one to hold a larger piece of linen?

    For stitching this piece, are you backing the fabric and stitching through two layers or is the linen strong enough to support the embroidery.

    Thank for for all the tips.

  32. Mary, you said this was to be appliqued onto something
    else. What if you had kept going and when finished you took it off the frame and it pulled to one side. You
    couldn’t applique the “pull” out of it. Usually if it
    pulls at this point it will continue to pull more at the end. Even though its more work, you will be much happier
    in the end. Its good that you noticed it now! Bravo to you for showing us the problems too! Thanks!

  33. An admirable decision. It is making the decision NOT to start again that keeps my needlework in the almost good class. Sigh. My impatience gets me every time. So, good for you. I know the piece can only be made better by your choice.

  34. Mary,
    You will be so much happier. I always think the second go around (I often have to redo) goes so much faster and it is worth it in the end. Altho, the project looks beautiful.
    My mother always said she always sewed everything twice, with all the ripping/redoing.

  35. Hi Mary. I don’t think you are nuts; as a matter of fact, I guessed (to myself) that you were going to start over…and I guessed right. I’ve done the exact same thing, and trust me, you’ll be happier for doing so. And you won’t have to kick yourself every time you see the finished product, wishing you’d done ____ different.

  36. G’day Mary,
    There are good nuts and bad nuts… and then, thank goodness, there is Mary. Umm… I don’t mean you’re kinda in-between, but that you’re one amazing lady, dare I say, in a tree of your very own, who is always giving us something worth getting our embroidery teeth into. Thanks for this important post.
    Cheers, Kath

  37. MARY, I sincerely admire your determination for perfection and have done this many times, or else just walked away. I love the work you have done to date, and when you use the first one as a trial piece it will show what you want and can be a visual of your artwork.

  38. I think you are so brave, it is so hard to start over when you have come so far. But I know the feeling as I am making scarfs for Christmas and as I am having a slight health problem I have had to take it out 6 times. But at last I have gotten it right, see it does help to start over even when you are not sure you want to.
    Love your emails, they make my day

  39. So…my inclination is to say YES, you are absolutely bonkers, but that’s my lazy side chiming in, so ignore her. πŸ™‚

    Question, though–if you re-mounted this piece onto a better-sized frame, could you A) straighten out the slight pull and B) salvage a piece where something like this has happened?

    Uneven tension drives me nuts at the best of times, but since I’m just messing around more often than not, I just work around it….and do a lot of twitch/pull/poke!

  40. hehehe no Mary as others have pointed out your not crazy- just a perfectionist and theres many around I am finding. I am sure now you have taken it off the frame and re attached it you will be happier with the piece and will now finish it and be so much happier then you would have been had you not taken it off- U would have always known it was wrong!
    I am enjoying your blog thank you Mary – I am also learning much
    love n hugs bear xoxoxoxoxo

  41. Hi Mary,
    How courageous and what a perfectionist you are! Wish I could do the same. If it had been me, I would have chucked the whole thing in a corner and forgotten about it. I know that I’d never be happy with something that is not working out, but start all over again – not sure I’m that brave.

  42. The work looked beautiful to me, but like any true artist you know what you need to do! I love the blues and your choice of stitch – I would never have imagined it could look so rich. Looking forward to seeing the finished item in due course!!

  43. My!!! You are Brave.

    You know…I got the impression in your first post that you started this project in a rush…. you felt pressured to start as you have a deadline. You were not satisfied with the framing…good call. I’m sure you’ll work faster and the outcome will be better! πŸ™‚

  44. Mary,

    You are not nuts. It is so much better to start over or take things off the frame and check our work only to rehoop, than to finish the whole thing and then have it so stretched out of shape that it is unusable. Restretching on the frame is a small price to pay. Earlier this summer I ended up unstitching a twin size quilt because I thought I could fix a problem in my quilting that only got worse. By the time I got to the end I had a giant V stitched in because I did not have the proper tension on the quilt frame throughout my quilt.

    I wish I would have stopped and started over instead of having to tear out the whole quilted mess. Fortunately, I saved the top and requilted it, of course it was a memory quilt for a customer and not just a play piece for myself, but you are smart to restart now rather than be totally frustrated later. Happy stitching. Debbie

  45. When I’ve chosen to just go on, problems always seem to grow. I’ve finally wized up, and absolutely agree with your decision. Only way for peace of mind.

  46. Mary,

    I am sorry that you had to start over, but in a way it was good to know that someone like you who is so experienced in needlework can make a mistake and have to redo your work. I think it is heartening to know that.

    I have one question. I have never used the slate frames. Is the material on the sides, permanently affixed to the frame. I don’t quite understand how they work. Could you please explain in one of your blogs.

    Thank you,

    Belle Gallay

  47. Hi Mary, No, you are not nuts or crazy – in fact I think that you are very courageous!! It is so easy to keep going because it looks ok but not up to scratch and so that you don’t lose face.. you are right, it was good practice and you can continue to use the piece of material to do samples. Don’t get disheartened – you are an encouragement to us all…
    Thank you for being honest………Kathy Perth, WA

  48. Love your ‘thinking out loud’ as it gives me permission to put some of my earlier pieces in drawn thread aside for ‘learning’ pieces and use them to further develop my skill set without risking a finished product.

  49. MARIA:
    Ante mis ojos inespertos lo veo muy lindo, pero si estoy de acuerdo cuando una sabe que falle en algo deshacer y empezar de nuevo, queda la satifaccion de haber hecho las cosas bien,gracias por estos aportes tan GENEROSOS.

  50. There’s an old saying that goes “if a shirt’s dirty it’s dirty!” by this i mean if you’re not happy with a project it only makes good sense to start over no matter how painful it is and better sooner than later. Go Girl!

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