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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Clean Hands = Clean Embroidery & Traveling


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Just a really tiny embroidery tip today! It’s tiny. But important!

You know those dirty hoop rings that develop (especially on lighter colored fabric) around the edge of your hoop? Or the soiled look that might develop over time on embroidery that you’re working in hand, without a hoop? Much of the dirt, grime, and soiling that subtly develops on an embroidery project comes initially from your hands.

Clean Hands, Clean Embroidery

When you’re at home, you can always high-ho-hither yourself to the sink to wash your hands now and then. But if you’re traveling (as I was recently), you don’t always have the opportunity to wash your hands regularly.

Even if your hands aren’t soiled with dirt, they can still be a problem. The oil that builds up on your skin is certainly necessary for healthy skin, but it can also transfer to your fabric, and although you might not see it right away, it can become a magnet for dust and dirt, especially in the area around your hoop or frame.

When I travel – and even when I’m not traveling – I keep a small travel pack of wipes like the ones above into a zip lock bag, inside my project bag. That way, I always have something on hand to wipe my hands with. I don’t get the kind with lotion additives and the like – just plain old hand wipes will do the job.

You can also throw in a small package of tissues (Kleenex) to dry your hands on after using the wipes – though the moisture from the wipes will generally dissipate after a minute.

So, that’s my embroidery travel tip for you! Probably nothing new to veteran stitchers, but for those who haven’t thought about it, there it is!


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(21) Comments

  1. There is no substitute for clean hands but I’ll add to that my tip for avoiding grubby marks around the hoop area. When you insert your fabric into the hoop insert a layer of cling film (food wrap) on top of your fabric but trapped between the inner and outer ring. Gently tear the cling film away from your working area but leave the rest intact. This will protect areas you are not working on from grease and dust.

    As a bonus tip – us a shower cap to cover your hooped embroidery while you are not working on it. (others will say that you should ALWAYS remove your work from the hoop when you are not working on it but I am a bit lazy about doing that!)

    1. Good tips, Carol-Anne! I’ll be covering the cling wrap one next week. I’ve been using it with hoops lately, too, just to test the theory. I’ve never used the shower cap one, but that’s a good idea! Yes, I get lazy about taking my work out of the hoop, too. If it’s just overnight, I usually don’t. But if it’s going to be a few days before I get back to something, I’ll take it out of the hoop…

  2. I have a box that I use for my embroidery all the time. You know, a grab and go when needed, and all the rest of the time just to keep my projects organized since I do not have a specific space or room for embroidery. I already keep wipes like those in my box, I use the unscented kind though. I also keep kleenex and a travel sized bottle of lotion in the box. Most people are amazed at how many things I can fit in my box.

    Here are a couple of more tips.

    You know those small metal boxes that breathmints are sold in? I keep one of those in my box full of those round spot shaped bandages, a couple of larger ones, and an alcohol wipe as an embroidery box sized first-aid kit. Great for those times when you stick yourself (especially in the car and the driver hits that pothole, yes THAT pothole) and can’t believe that you can bleed that much from a needle stab. Since, if the icky hoop circles are annoying, a blood spot is worse. I am sure I do not have to tell anyone how I know that. 🙂

    You know those magnets that companies (like the plumbers)give you occasionally as a free gift after you have used thier services? Or maybe the dentists office will have them on the counter with thier phone numbers on them. Perhaps the pizza parlor (or other) you order from now and then gave you one with thier information on it when they deliver the food just before the Super Bowl? You know, the flat, sort of floppy 2 x 4? inch magnets to put on the refrigerator, so you always have the correct number available? I keep one of those in my box for use in the car. If you have never been in the car and dropped a needle onto the floor and couldn’t pick it up due to where it landed, you don’t embroider in the car as much as I do. I use the magnet to pick needles up off of the carpet, and from under the seat etc, and most of the time don’t have to even unbuckle my seatbelt.

    1. Hmm, the last tip kind of disagrees with the point of today’s discussion. Picking up needles off of the car carpet… Better not to forget to clean the needle afterwards. AND the magnet.

    2. Yep, but that is why I have a large emery in my box. 🙂 As for the magnet, the wipes do that job. Sorry I was not more complete.

    3. Oh, I also have an emery board in there for those annoying instances when you discover your nail has become “snaggy”.

  3. Excellent advice concerning a #1 priority to me when it comes to delicate crafts (like embroidery). Somehow women so often seem to forget that stitching materials should be protected!.. and you hear of them stitching anywhere,.. accessories lying about everywhere… pets playing with things… and so on and so on… which can be cute, but… come on! :}
    I could never do it and I try not to criticize what does not concern me, but I’m glad you bring this up. It means that this nonchalant approach can cause very obvious problems

  4. Dear Mary,
    Thanks for the tip, I’ve actually noticed something like that before and then I realized it was my hands I even gave a little gasp. A little bottle of hand sanitizer would be just as good as the wipes too, I love using the sanitizer. Then you wouldn’t have the little wipes to throw away and the bottles last too but it can’t go with you on a plane I know they made me toss it. Keep up the good work Mary!

  5. Great idea, wish I would have thought of that! I usually keep waterless hand cleaner in my bag but wipes are so much cheaper and easier. I hate having to carry both the hand cleaner and napkins to clean it off.

  6. G’day Mary,
    Excellent clean advice, and another motto for us stitchers,
    ‘Stitch clean, stitch serene’ or maybe ‘Stitch clean and serene’.
    Cheers, Kath.

  7. I’m a total beginner at this embroidery stuff, and all these tips are the absolute best. The lone project I’m working on gets put away in a cabinet every time I’m not working on it, but I hadn’t stopped to think about my grimy little hands being a problem.

    Mary, I’ve heard of people placing a piece of muslin over their work, cutting it away from the working area and using the edges of the muslin to hold the hoop so their hands never actually touch the hoop or most of their work. Does this work? Is it cumbersome or a waste of muslin?

    1. I’ve heard that too. And I think keeping it clean is better than wasting muslin… You know many things benefit from occasional washing, stitching supplies aren’t exception

  8. Hi Mary, For these blood spots, your own saliva will take out your own blood. Don’t know the why’s or how’s but it works.ji

  9. Dear Mary

    Thanks Mary for the tip next time I go travelling I will definitely use the wipes good idea. Thanks Carol-Anne for the tip on cling film sounds like a good solution to the hoop stain dilemma. While working on a frame I cover my embroidery with a white cloth to protect it from dust and grease.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  10. Regarding needle punctures — Yes! How can so much blood pass through such a tiny hole!! I have discovered a product called “New Skin” — it is kind of a liquid bandage and looks like it is in a nail polish bottle. It is great for the needle wounds. Seals them right up and protects them from infection at the same time! Modern technology…..

  11. I always carry these in my tote bag/purse for cleaning my hands before eating out (not just sanitizing.) But I never thought to grab them before stitching on the road (or plane, etc). Duh! Thanks!

  12. Mary, Thank you for your clean hands reminder. Often it’s too late when we discover we’ve soiled an embroidery piece. And this reminded me of a lesson along these lines…one I learned the hard way.

    After a little piece of mascara fell from my eye an onto an embroidery piece, I always make sure to check my eye make-up. A tiny black speck of mascara can be very hard if not impossible to remove from fabric…and now I wear a very good brand of mascara, or none at all when I’m stitching at home.

  13. Another tip to help avoid the dreaded ring mark. I fold an edge of the fabric over the edge of the hoop in my hand as I stitch. Think of sandwiching the hoop between the hooped fabric and an edge with wrong side up and hold the “sandwich. As soon as you let go of the hoop the fabric goes back to normal be ause there are no pins or stitching to hold it there This way you avoid marks on the right side of the fabric. This sounds complicated but Iits not in practice. I’ve stitched this way for a long time and rarely have problems.

  14. Hello Mary
    Have you ever heard of the use of French chalk to keep hands degreased. I am about to embroider on white silk with bright colours and wondering whether it might be an idea to buy some.
    Hope you are keeping well and safe x

    1. Hi, Bobbie – No, I haven’t. I wash my hands pretty regularly and, with embroidery projects that require it, I use a scrap fabric over the stitching area – you can read about that here: https://needlenthread.wpengine.com/2011/11/the-big-needlework-cover-up.html You can mount an extra piece of scrap cotton over ground fabric in a hoop and cut away the area for the design, or you can baste fabric over the framed piece and cut away areas to reveal the design. It works well to keep fabric extra clean. Hope that helps!

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