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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Goldwork Thread Organization & Other Cabinet Resources


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I love it when a plan comes together!

Last week, I showed you the new thread cabinets in my workroom, with various threads getting sorted and stowed in them. Over the weekend, I tackled the last group of threads – goldwork threads! – and I’m so glad to have them sorted, because I have some exciting projects looming!

It’ll be nice to know what I have and what I don’t have.

Goldwork Thread Organization

Here they are – three drawers of metal threads. One drawer is devoted to Japanese threads, smooth passing threads, twists, and pretty much any couched gold thread aside from pearl purl.

The second drawer houses purls of all kinds, including pearl purl, and spangles.

And the third drawer contains all colored metal threads, including colored purls, passing threads, silk wrapped purl, gilt sylke twist, and the like.

I was so happy to fit everything into three drawers… until… until…

I found a stray box. And inside that stray box was…


Why does that always happen? I’m convinced that “miscellaneous” drawers – in fact, practically anything under the title of “miscellaneous” – exist only to defy our self-righteous sense of organization! Just when we think we’ve got everything honed down to a specific category, along comes Miscellaneous!

And so now I have a Miscellaneous Goldwork Drawer. (Why fight the inevitable?)

In it are several packages of beautiful beetle wings (not quite metal threads, but I use them in conjunction), some tubes of Sadi threads (which are not a fave, but can come in handy for demos), various felt boards for cutting goldwork threads, all the silk threads I use for couching gold threads, several cubes of beeswax, and, for good measure, to make the drawer feel important, I’ve decided to stow my goldwork tools in there, and most especially my silver mellore.

Goldwork Thread Organization

Here’s the residue after I cleaned out all my goldwork boxes, just so you understand exactly how disorganized my threads were. In a box marked “Goldwork Threads,” I found a rather motley collection of silks of all types, of cottons (I use that bright yellow floche for padding now and then), and three scraps of paper.

One scrap of paper was devoted to detailed directions… to a grocery store. Because we all know that goldwork and groceries have much in common, right?

On the other scrap, my Christmas idea list for gift giving. I could have used that at Christmas…

The third scrap was a last name and a phone number of someone whose name I do not recognize. No clue. If you called, and I didn’t return your call, it’s because you were stowed away among my goldwork threads. I’m so sorry.

Cabinet Resources

I really like my Bisley cabinets. But I know that they are a luxury. I’ve scrimped and saved for them for a year, just waiting for them to go on sale again.

Here are a few less expensive alternatives recommended by readers:

1. The Helmer drawer unit on casters, by IKEA. It runs about $40, plus shipping. It arrives flat and it requires assembly.

2. IKEA also makes another cabinet – the Alex drawer unit – but it’s decidedly more expensive (at $119), requires assembly, and the drawers are not fully enclosed, so light and dust can be a problem with thread storage. Additionally, the manufacturer recommends that it is strapped to a wall to prevent tipping (strap included). If you are creating a work space away from walls, this could be problematic.

I’ve not tried either of those, but in case you’re looking, they were recommended by readers who have them.

And now, with a little order restored to yonder workspace, I can move forward on some pending projects, which I can’t wait to share with you! As with everything in the hand embroidery world, these will unfold slowly – preliminary work and planning still in progress – but I’m excited and itching to move forward.

So, what are you up to with your needle and thread these days? How about with organization? Have you conquered your workspace lately? Share your recent adventures – I’m all ears!


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(21) Comments

  1. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for sharing your organizational tips. It’s an inspiration. I’ve just moved to a new house and I’m organizationally challenged in a big way. I am trying to get all of my yarn, thread, canvases, fabric, patterns and various projects all put away and organized in some fashion. Ugh… But I’ve discovered several of my mother’s old needlepoint canvases that remain unstitched. They are more than 3o years old and have a center floral pattern. Mom used to just stitch the background and then use them for a cushion, chair or bench. I’m not interested in completing them, so I wonder how to handle them. I’d like to press or stretch them (they’ve been rolled up all these years) and then maybe sell them. Any ideas?

  2. Hi Mary, the threads and drawers are both mouth watering – but I must say I was heartened to see your ‘residue’. It gives me hope that I might get organised one day! In the UK Storage4crafts (no affiliation here, but I have one of their cabinets!) does cabinets with boxes inside so that you can take out a box (with lid) and take it with you to a workshop or whatever. It’s great – I love it – but I’m still somewhat disorganised.

  3. It occurs to me that you have a better stock of threads and metals than some needlework stores I’ve been in. Certainly better than the chain store needlework departments. And as far as the stray box. at least all was contained to 1 box, not items stuffed here and there all over. Not that I have done that. Ahem.

  4. Dear Mary, I still want to be adopted please and I am now jealous up to the point of self destruction. Those beetle wings are something else. The colours are just magnificent! Another reason to live in the States, everything is available there! Oh I know I can get on the internet and order stuff, but only at a price and not always sure the parcel will arrive! . At the moment our currency is so weak against the $, I can just but look 🙂 Thanks for sharing you are deservedly blessed
    Lots of love, Elza Bester Cape Town.

    1. Never be jealous of anything.
      You’ve got to be content with what you’ve got. Whatever income you have I’m sure you can afford basic things you need for embroidery, even if you get all you need gradually… there’s still pleasure and anticipation… So many stashers admit that they don’t get to use half of what they buy… you just don’t need so much. Mary might, she has classes and so on, but most of us just have to be simpler. The less you have the more free you are.

    2. Hi Lily, I really am satisfied of what I have and like you said, you might never use all your stash. What I meant was more in appreciation than actual jealousy. I make do of what I have big time and just at times when I browse the internet of what is available, it makes one a wish the the same stuff were available locally as well, as there is not a big market for specialty shops selling embroidery stuff . Regards xx

  5. Dear Mary

    Oh my goodness such gold, if only!!! I’m so envious and yes with all that stock it must be confusing unless organised. At present all my needlework supplies are in cardboard boxes on my shelves I do need a Bisley I’ve just looked on the UK website and the 10 drawer is currently £99.99 I would really like one must save up. I’m currently embroidering eggs and really enjoying it. After Easter I must get back to my Guardian Angel project as this is being neglected due to my fascination with you guess eggsembroidery!!! can’t wait to see your up and coming projects.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  6. Oh, I am so jealous of all your organization! And that you have a room in which to put your…. you know…. organization.
    I’ve been trying to finish the tablecloth I’ve been working on, but it does not look like it will be done by Easter. Ah, well.

  7. I wish organization was a problem for me (that would indicate that I have enough stuff that it needs to be organized.) Oh well. I’m working on an embroidered table cloth for my brother’s wedding present. I’ve never embroidered before and it is entierly based on what I learned from your site. Thanks!

  8. Hi Mary,
    My husband very, very generously bought me two antique oak thread cabinets that housed Coats & Clark sewing threads in 1890’s retail stores. I use those for everything except stranded cottons. Each drawer contains threads by fiber type – silk, metal, linen, specialty cotton threads.

    I use the thread cabinets as bedside tables in the guest bedroom. Nice when one does not have space for a studio. The wooden thread cabinets pop up on EBay and antique stores occasionally.

    For DMC stranded cotton/floss, I use snack size zip top plastic bags. These are labeled with the floss number in one corner, then stored numerically in a large man’s shoe box (well three). Are food storage bags archivally correct? Probably not. But floss is very inexpensive and I needed a system where I could quickly pull out the colors specified in a pattern. Works great when I am smocking or following a counted cross stitch pattern. It is very inexpensive and keeps multiple skeins of the same color together.

  9. I usually include LoL to indicate that something I’m saying is not serious. But today, when I ready “Because we all know that goldwork and groceries have much in common, right,” I did LoL. You’re a riot. Well, yes, they do both begin with “G” – the other two, I’m not sure either, but it happens to me too!

  10. Hi Mary,
    My sewing room which was neat and clean in October is so needing your hands to organize it. One project gets superceeded(sp) by another more urgent and first thing you know, there are 3 or 4 out with all the accompanying bits and pieces. Where is that magic wand? Oh, hidden under the bits and pieces, of course.

  11. I’m so glad to hear that more goldwork is coming up. I’m new to it, but enjoying it so much. I’ve just bought the Persian flower pattern from talliafero and am planning to use it for a silk and goldwork pattern rather than the crewel work. I feel it’s a bit ambitious but I’m dying to give it a go. So bring on more goldwork. Have you ever considered creating videos on some goldwork techniques?

  12. The look of things organized is such a fresh and good feeling. Unfortunately most of us know exactly where things are in our sewing room without tearing through each box or cabnet. Lol! The embarasing thing is if someone happens to see it, we sure end up looking BAD! 🙁
    You are to be envied, really!! Congratulations!! 🙂

  13. Well, if you buy and eat the right types of groceries, you’ll have the health and strength to do more goldwork, right?? (You can find links between everything if you’re creative enough!!!)

    My organization posts are here:

    I might do a new post soon, but not much has changed, so it’s probably not worth it yet.

    As for what I’m working on, another small stumpwork piece, which I doubt will take very long.=) Need to begin posting on that too….

  14. Hi Mary, I just love your cabinets for all your threads.
    I live in Australia so I thought I would check out the cost of the cabinet from Ikea. In the USA it costs $39.99. If I want to purchase it here in Australia the cost is $129. That is far too expensive for me. My daughter lives in the USA and I know that just about everything from IKEA in Australia is 3 times the cost in the USA. We are getting ripped off and I have heard that IKEA are being looked into on their pricing in Australia.

    It’s the same here for a lot of embroidery supplies I can purchase them on line from the USA and including shipping they are far cheaper than here at home which is a great pity. Sorry for having a bit of a whinge but I just felt bad about it. I look forward to your wonderful email tomorrow.
    Warm regards,

  15. Love the pictures of the eggs, even the just drilled ones are pretty, but the whole idea is sort of insane and not for me, LOL.

    I was blessed 25-30 years ago to get 3 DMC cabinets, when a LNS owner decided to get the square ones and she let me buy the rectangle ones. I have them in a line across the top of 2 bureaus in my guest bedroom/aka stitch central. They give me a lift every time I walk past and see the colors peeking at me. I’m an addicted cross stitcher and I’m also addicted to DMC 🙂

    I’ve organized other types of threads into snack bags and have them hanging on large rings in a closet.

  16. @Elza
    Hi 🙂
    Ok, I understand; then don’t use word “jealous”, I’ve seen so much of it lately, and I’m sure Mary wouldn’t want us to feel like that…
    I just think there’s a good reason for why we have or have not…
    I live in Europe and have to order online quite often,(from European store) … and just after a year or so of stashing I can say I have more than I expected… to afford :}
    Cape Town seems like far away from everywhere, but the same thing Mary said about Kansas… 😀 so…

    1. Hi Lily,
      You are right Cape Town is far away from everywhere. The BIG problem of ordering on line is exactly that distance. The postage is ridiculously high because you have to insure the parcel in order to have it arrive here safely, secondly our currency is very weak against the Euro and the dollar. At the end all these factors together makes it very expensive to buy anything and we are pensioners to boot. Forgive me then for looking at longing eyes at the beautiful embroidery stuff out there. 🙂 xxx

    2. Sorry,of course I don’t know how much is available in Africa… (and I don’t know what type of materials we’re talking about; *I* was just glad to get nice hoops, silk ribbons and aida 🙂 ) but it can’t be too bad – you are in a big port city… I used to live in a “poor” country and even there a LOT could be found…

      It just seemed wrong to say you would move to America just because there’s stuff available there. But it’s not about country, it’s about living in a big city or capital where anything can be bought… But there are downsides to everything…
      And there’s such variety of products that we can hardly expect to buy everything.

      I too care about shipping costs. I once ordered from Utah in USA, which is very far away & overseas and it wasn’t expensive…

      At any rate I don’t mind learning new things 🙂
      Thanks for responding.

  17. I’ve tried both the Helmer and the Alex from IKEA. The Helmer got returned immediately and I purchased the Alex instead. The Helmer assembly involved bending metal, and even when done exactly right, the drawers still had problems sliding into the unit. The other problem was some sharp edges. Nothing bad enough to cut yourself, but I could just see threads or something delicate getting caught and snagging or ripping.

    I love my Alex unit. Definitely a lot heavier, but nice and sturdy and will last for years. There is also a low, broad matching size, that reminded me of a map chest – perfect for storing my cross stitch linens.

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