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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Hungarian Redwork Runner: Red Tape and a Fix (or, Why I Don’t Watch Movies While I Stitch)


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I was creeping ever-so-steadily towards the halfway point on the Hungarian Redwork Runner this past Sunday. It was an indoor day, quiet, gloomy and cloudy outside with threatening storms, and perfect for some simple stitching. And I thought to myself, “Today will be the day I hit the halfway point!”

And I really thought it would be!

I found myself starting to nod. I don’t normally nod off over my stitching. But the weather, the silence, the perfect peace of the day, a late night the night before… you see how it can happen, right?

Then a Brilliant Idea struck me! I would do something I rarely (as in, pretty much never) do. I would watch a movie while I stitched! Imagine that! A quiet day, no interruptions, rain outside, a really good movie (I’m a sucker for BBC dramas). Doesn’t that sound ideal?

And it worked! I hit the halfway point on the runner! And I was pleased.

And I looked at it.

And I thought a bit.

And then I realized….

Hungarian Redwork Runner

… I had made a mistake.

The very last element that I stitched was all wrong – the wrong thread, the wrong stitch. Where I should have used perle cotton #8 and Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch, I had used coton a broder and regular chain stitch.

I didn’t have my camera with me (one reason I rarely watch movies and stitch – I tend to forget important things!), so I didn’t get a photo of how very obvious the mistake was.

Hungarian Redwork Runner

When you’re working with red thread on white linen and you have to pick out a a good bit of it, it’s not unusual to end up with Residue of Red tarnishing that pristine, white surface.

I don’t like stitching over an area that has thread residue on it, like this one does. The little fuzzies tend to cling to the new thread and give it a fuzzy appearance. So I always make sure I’ve cleaned up the linen as much as possible before re-stitching an area like this.

Now, there are actually tools made to help you do this. There’s a tool called Judy’s Boo-Boo Stick, for example, which I wrote about some six years ago.

But in fact, you don’t really need to invest in a real “tool” for this type of clean-up job.

Hungarian Redwork Runner

I think many embroiderers are familiar with this tool. It’s the Finger & Tape tool. And it’s normally free.

If you take a bit of regular transparent adhesive tape – any mild tape (this isn’t one of those Duct Tape Fix It Jobs!) – and roll it around your finger so the sticky part is on the outside, you can tap the tape all over the fuzzy surface and very effectively remove the residue.

Hungarian Redwork Runner

And voilá! The surface is pretty well cleaned up. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was, and ready for stitching again.

And now you know why I generally don’t watch movies while I embroider. Most people probably do, but I tend to get too involved in the movie and not pay as much attention to the stitching. Audio books are different – I have a good collection of them and listen to them all the time, and some several times over. And I like music or silence. But movies? I get too sucked into them, and precision and accuracy tend to go out the window.

On the bright side, I get to relish that sense of accomplishment One More Time when I reach that elusive halfway point on this project!

What about you? Are you a movie (or TV) watcher while you stitch? Do you prefer listening to something – music, books – or do you prefer silence? Or the general hubbub of the household? Do you prefer a specific atmosphere? What’s your ideal stitching situation? Would love to hear it – maybe to try it myself, maybe just to daydream about it! Have your say below!


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(53) Comments

  1. I pretty much always have music on in the background when I’m in my sewing room (streaming over the ‘net). At night I generally sit in the living room (only because my husband probably feels a bit lonely!) and the tv is on. I have become pretty adept at ignoring the tube and still manage to get some crafting time in. Generally I reserve my knitting for tv time, but that’s only because the light isn’t as good.

  2. Hi Mary,

    My preferred stitching environment is in a room with other stitchers who are working quietly but every once in a while have something interesting to say. I really love getting up for a break and seeing what everyone else is doing and talking about our stitching. However, since that’s not possible for the most part, then I often watch the BBC or listen to music. Some days, after school though, I just crave silence and stitching to the general quiet household sounds is perfect.

    Liebe Grusse,

  3. During the day, I relish the quiet that comes when my 6-year-old is in school. I might listen to the radio or a podcast. During the evening, my husband and I will usually watch something on Netflix. It can’t be anything too engrossing, though, or I’ll run into the same problem!

  4. Congrats on the halfway mark. Can we see a full photo of the piece so far? I am always watching tv or movies while sewing and stitching. Rather, that’s listening and glancing up. But, I am not able to watch anything without also stitching or sewing (or eating.)

  5. I’ve always been one to sit and ‘watch’ tv while stitching. Although I have to say that there are movies I’ve only heard and not really seen. If I get focused, I do not look up at all.

  6. I have an ipad and netflix in the studio. It is almost always on, but I hardly ever hear it. I can usually tell you the gist of whatever I’m watching, but can’t tell you what the actors look like. 🙂

  7. I think we’ve all done that – got totally engrossed in something while stitching and gone a long way in the wrong direction before spotting the mistake. Just be glad it could be corrected easily. I have sometimes let myself get distracted while cutting Hardanger – now, that’s a great way to learn the art of darning threads back in invisibly, but not a lesson I want to repeat too often! I keep simple, unimportant projects for occasions when I am likely to be distracted. If I’m doing something complex, even the radio can be too much.

  8. I usually have the TV running when I stitch. It drives my family crazy because if I have control of the clicker it is always something that everyone has seen before. I love the weekends where they are having marathons of hour long shows. The reason I like watching the old stuff is that I’m not really watching as much as I am listening. I also will occasionally listen to audio books, but I usually keep these for driving back and forth to work. If I lose control of the clicker and end up watching something I haven’t seen before, I am then forced to stop stitching, unless of course there are commercials and then I at least get the occasional 2 minutes in.

  9. Eu, normalmente, ouço palestras enquanto trabalho na minha oficina ou então fico no silêncio(?) ouvindo só os passarinhos que ficam nas árvores e arbustos em torno. Quando estou na frente da TV faço pequenas coisas que não requerem muita atenção, gestos automáticos como, por exemplo, barradinhos simples de crochê. Bordar na frende da TV? Nunca!
    Um abraço!

  10. If the work is at all complex, I need to have quiet. My other calling is as a musician, so I find that I listen too hard to music if it is on, and lose the concentration I need for stitching. Sometimes, even thinking too hard about a topic unrelated to stitching breaks my concentration and causes errors. However, I can get a lot done in a relatively quiet classroom with other stitchers, while keeping an ear open for what the teacher is saying as she works with each individual.

  11. Oh, audiobooks, hands down. Audible is the best gift to myself ever.

    If you like Brit dramas, for $39/year, you can get all kinds of British TV dramas on Acorn TV. I watch on my laptop or iPad, but if you’re smarter than me, you can stream it directly to your big screen tv.

  12. Dear Mary

    I do like noise while I’m embroidering I have the telly on while I’m stitching but not really listening to it, it’s just background noise. I also love listening to BBC radio 4 dramas on my computer sometimes they have classics like Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters and other classics which I love. Thanks for the tip on how to remove residue very useful.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  13. I prefer to have either a movie or audiobook going when I stitch. Dr Who marathons on TV (or watching them on Amazon Streaming)or some other program I have seen many times are my favorites.

    As for stitch residue, I LOVE my Mr Sticky. It is a reusable lint roller and they have a small travel size that fits perfectly in my stitching box. When it gets full, just run it under hot water and boom, ready to use again. When the “sticky” is no longer sticky, a drop of soap along with the hot water and you are ready to rock again.

  14. I usually choose a composer to go with the piece I am working on. Right now I am working on an Iris and listening to Schubert. My 3 year old grand daughter thinks of Swan Lake when she looks at my little bee eater piece (I played Tchaikovsky).
    I like to listen to the old singers also, Billy Eckstein,Mahalia Jackson are some. I think my next piece with be with Allison Krauss’s music. So many wonderful genres. Since I am a novice I am working one piece at a time, but tying beautiful music in with the experience gives it more depth for my “crazy imaginative spirit”:)

  15. I usually listen to audio books, or the radio. Quite often I prefer the silence and then my thoughts start to wander. If I have a problem quite often I have solved it when I have finished the stitching! Sometimes I set myself a philosophical question and try to look at it from as many sides as possible.

  16. I did not realize that tape was now free in this day and age of higher prices – lol. Being on a fixed budget of disability income, this is nce to know.

    Now on to a different subject – my television is always accompanying me when I am stitiching – be it hand or machine stitching. I am very intent on my project at every stage from planning to completion. As a child in a one-room school, I learned to block out other activities and noises. Most of the time, I don’t even realize what the televison program is. I focus on my project so intently that the television is just background noise. I can follow a story line of a movie but I don’t watch the tv program, I listen to it. It’s sort of multi-tasking. I have never learned to emjoy books on tape yet. I enjoy reading books and I like having a book in my hand. I do not enjoy my Kindle. I want the book in my hand. I know that’s sounds strage for someone who worked on computers for over 30 years.

    1. LOL! Ah yes, Susan! I thought about the term “free” this morning after the article was published. I should have been more precise. I really meant that it’s “free” in the sense that, if tape is a normal household item, you don’t have to go out and buy a special tool. I wondered if anyone would comment on that – you get the prize! 🙂

  17. What a pain- and yes! done it too. I keep boring knitting for watching the TV or films- it gets it done painlessly and no mistakes to rip out!
    Ta dah! problem solved…but a lot of swearing was done before that solution was reached!

  18. Mary, When I’m sewing or stitching I always have a masking tape-type lint roller by my side. It works great for getting little bits of reamaining thread out in places where I’ve had to remove a seam or embroidery stitches. I love my lint roller…it’s a mainstay in my sewing room.

    I use a lint roller for other things too…like giving my ironing board a swipe before pressing white fabric, and it’s a place to park bits of thread I’ve cut when I’m done stitching. Lint rollers come with various kinds of tape…some are stronger (masking) and others have a weaker tack (for use on sweaters). Would this have worked for you?

    1. Hi, Linda – Yes! I have lint rollers, too. I actually use mine on my carpet in my bedroom, which is (gasp, horror) a partial shag carpet (“Frieze” carpet, actually). It works great for getting up those stray bits of thread that trail behind me all over the house and that are a bear to get up with a vacuum cleaner from that kind of carpet. For this piece, though, the area is very small, and a lint roller would be overkill – plus, I wouldn’t want it running over any of the close-by stitching. Now, if they made lint rollers about an inch or two wide…? But the tape works exactly the same way, and it’s always on hand! ~MC

  19. I find it best to put aside everything when I’m watching a movie. One of the great joys of a movie is the “suspension of disbelief” aspect–getting lost in the story, being transported to the time and place. Visuals are a bit part of that experience. Couple that with the situation you just described, and there’s no point. I love listening to books on tape. But, again, if the story (or non-fiction account) is too complicated, I find I can’t multi-task well. It has to be something I can drift away from and not lose too much of the story line. Really, I love listening to books on tape while I do dishes or some other totally mindless job. Music is really the best accompaniment with crafting activities. I’ve read that there are some types of music that are good background noise for studying to, while others are distracting. I think a study is in order for music that is good for crafting to; something to get the creative juices flowing, put you in a good mood, but not distract you.

  20. I always watch something on TV, but it has to be something I don’t have to pay complete attention to. Nothing with subtitles or my very favorite shows.

    This week I have been smocking like a madwoman to finish a birthday present for Friday. I have watched a lot of Poirot and re-watched some Doctor Who.

    It does bug my husband sometimes, when I miss something on the TV because I’m looking at the embroidery, and I ask for a little rewind!

  21. My seam ripper and my tiny tweezers and I got to know each other very well during the BBC airing of Pride and Prejudice. Which is why I no longer watch *any*thing with Colin Firth in it whist needle is in hand. BTW, Colin always wins.

  22. I usually have the TV or music on. Not sure if I ever really hear it, it’s just background noise.
    When I have to do the FROG stitch..(ripit ripit
    ripit) when finished I use one of those sticky lint rollers on both the front and back of the piece it picks everything up off the piece and leaves a clean surface.

  23. Glad your mistake was fixable. I also love books on tape (CD) while I’m stitching but I also love to watch movies I’ve seen already so I don’t have to look at the screen – I can just listen. My husband likes it when I sit with him in the TV room and there is no way I can sit there without some stitching in my hand.

  24. I generally like to settle into my ‘nest’ with a good movie, my stitching and a warm or cold drink, depending on the weather. I do love rainy or snowy days for atmosphere. But here in Missouri, the hot humid summer days are for Staying Indoors and doing much the same. Just no ‘atmosphere’ except for the AC running!

  25. I stitch during the evening news programs. BBC America and PBS Newshour. After I’ve seen what Katy, Judy and Gwen are wearing there really isn’t much to look at so I stitch and listen.

  26. Fave spot: in the Morris style comfy chair in our library, with a glass of wine. If I’m lucky, the husband will be reading out loud; otherwise the TV is on a non-obtrusive show, usually a documentary (the only explosions I stitch to are on MythBusters). Or sometimes I fire up the iPod with lectures or early music and listen. It also has to be evening. I just can’t sit still and stitch during the day, even on vacation days. Go figure… -K.

  27. This looks really nice. I have came to your blog after a long time and I’m happy to see such a wonderful piece of art.

  28. Does the BBC know how well it is keeping us occupied while we stitch. I flit between Radio 3 (BBC again) and Ancient Faith Radio (an American station). I can’t watch anything. My brain is too small to concentrate on two things at once.

  29. I watch TV when I stitch…but only those shows that are really fluffy! I also can’t watch a movie on TV — or many British shows — since that captures too much of my attention. My hubby and I are currently watching “Foyle’s War” and there are so many clues in that series of shows that I enjoy concentrating on them!

  30. I nearly always have the TV on when doing embroidery. It’s rarely been a problem.

    For over five years I had a rule that I wasn’t allowed to watch TV unless I was working on a project. But last year I got frustrated working on a project that i don’t like very much and I’ve barely worked on anything. Time to reinstate that rule (but with a different project, at least at first).

  31. I always have either (eclectic) music playing, or something on the television. I do not WATCH the TV, just listen to it. Also, it is almost always something on public TV or an educational DVD so I can just listen and do not have to watch to “get it”. I can also stitch when something other people prefer in on the television, because I can easily tune it out, or put my headphones on. Maybe I am wierd, but I cannot even sleep if it is too quiet to be honest, so a ticking and bird sound clock is great in the middle of the night. I am convinced that it is because that we live (and I grew up) near a noisy air force base and there are always cargo planes for FEDEX and BIG BROWN etc coming and going. 🙂

  32. Dear Mary
    Oh, I can’t embroider and watch TV. I’m with you though with BBC programs though: Silk, The Hour, Spooks, The Paradise, The Midwives all fantastic but deserve my total attention (especially on matters of attire). My favourite time to embroider is at the weekends in the afternoon while outside in the garden, whipbirds, wrens, Eastern Rosellas and magpies are chirping and singing. I don’t need any other sound.

  33. Like you Mary I’m a sucker for BBC drama. Luckily I live in the UK. I’ve recently discovered Netflix too and it gives me access to loads of series I didn’t follow while on tv. I fund if I’m sewing at the same time I listen to them, rather than watch them – a bit like a radio drama. If you enjoy BBC tv you would probably love some of its radio play output too. Most is available free online too. I heartily recommend it. BBC radio 4 is excellent for that kind of output. Try it and let us know what you think. Thanks for such an interesting website and blog. You’ve become a daily treat.

  34. I used to watch movies/TV while stitching, but usually ones I had seen before and enjoyed. I liked listening to something familiar and enjoyable while I worked but it didn’t absorb my attention. Even now I can look at a finished piece and remember what I was watching (or listening to, rather).

    These days I tend to listen to podcasts (mostly science podcasts). I can shift my attention between my work and listening depending on which one is more interesting. Plus the discrete shows help me time my stitching so I don’t strain my hands.

  35. I love to stitch in my recliner with feet up and TV on… but old movies with lots of dialogue. I’m going to try your books on tape way of stitching… have a great day and thanks for doing such a great prolific job with your blog… I look forward to it everyday

  36. I can’t even listen to song while I stitch or knit–most of the songs I like have actual stories in the lyrics, and I get involved in them and I loose track of what I’m doing. Silence or instrumental music only for me!

  37. I usually have my computer with a BBC ( or other classic type) DVD playing in the background. Once I’ve seen the program through the first time, I play it over again, like an old familiar friend. One gets to know the lines by heart, so, I don’t really have to watch, just occasionally glance up, but listen. The kids come by and ask, “Are you watching that again?” Yes, some of those classic things get watched 5 or 10 times before the discs are changed.

    Then, there is Librivox with all of those great audio books. And it’s “free” to download.

    Both work well, especially when the house is quiet, late at night. It’s the next best thing to curling up with a good book – the book and sewing at the same time!

    Hope all goes well and you soon hit that milestone.

  38. I learned several years ago that I could check out audiobooks from the library from home an download them right to my computer. Now I listen to books while I stitch or work at my sewing machine. My other favorite is to listen to old radio programs downloaded from the internet.

  39. I quite often, that is every evening, watch TV while stitching. My husband gets very irritated as he keeps having to tell me what I missed.

    I don’t do much embroidery in my studio; it is mostly for machine sewing and cutting out and ‘wet’ stuff. There’s no space left for a comfortable chair for doing embroidery, which to my mind is a necessity.

  40. Hello Mary

    I am new to embroidery so I have yet to attempt watching a movie while stitching!

    I like to sit at my dining room table listening to classical or cafe style music.
    My cat Sigmund will often sit in his basket and nod off, which sometimes looking at him makes me feel sleepy.
    There is always a cup of tea nearby that ends up going cold!

    Winter is coming up here in Melbourne, perfect stitching weather!

  41. I worry about the residue from the tape, and Judy’s Boo boo stick, while nice…tends to get lost.

    I’ve been using disposable mascara wands ever since. Just a thought.

  42. Most of my stitching gets done on the living room couch, so the tv is usually on. I tench not to look at it though. Sometimes the tv is on, but the sound is off and I am actually listening to a book on tape. That is my favorite stitching experience. I feel for you having to take that out. I just finished a big project– cross stitch. Since it had many many elements created by one thread herringbone stitch or back stitch, I often lost count and had to rip out lots if I couldn’t hide the mistake in the business of the piece. The back has an awful lot of strange knots and whipped places where I tried to hold things together!

  43. I listen to the Radio while stitching. That is, once my project is under way. In the initial planing stages, any background noise is too distracting and I prefer quiet while I concentrate. CBC has some good programs most of which I find interesting and they do not distract me in the same way that TV would.

  44. My ideal stitching situation would be to NOT have a cat in my lap. Sometimes I like to lay back in my recliner, esp. when stitching in hand or with a small frame, and other times I like to sit up straight, when using a scroll frame. I’ve never tried framing a piece the way you do. I normally have the radio or the TV on. The noise in my ears is so bad, even with correction, that I need to have something else to “hear” so the noise doesn’t drive me nuts.

  45. I am so sorry, that you had to restitch some part of this embroidery.

    And about stitching background: first of all I had to knit till the end of the row before writing the answer. Yes, I was knitting, while reading. I read books if the pattern of my knitting project is not very difficult. Sometimes I can crochet. And I can listen to some films (yes, I am listening films) while stitching. If the film is really worth watching, I take some knitting. I stitch only at home and in the train. Knitting is easier, I can do it more different places and situations. But I do not listen music very often. The best background to me is silence and my thoughts.

  46. Mary:
    I am still having a problem but here goes. Maybe the fix is up.

    Wow and Wow! What a wonderful give-a-way. I am amazed at the Technique and would love to learn all about it. It looks so complicated but I have a feeling that even I can learn it. Thanks for all that you contribute to our world. And to Berlin for this.

  47. Hi Mary,
    I love to stitch, sew, knit with any kind of background noise, mainly music however when its TV – I prefer DVD’s that I’ve seen before so I can listen. One of my favourites is The long long Trailer with Lucile Ball or Doris Day or Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. I love the oldies – my mums influence I guess. Love the idea of red work – about to start one.

  48. Mrs. Corbet,
    I don’t really watch many things on the television. I do enjoy musicals, though. Usually if I’m watching something and stitching I completely forget that I’m stitching, and end up with no progress whatsoever! I do listen to music sometimes while I stitch; That works fine for me. Sometimes, if I am doing a lot of the same stitch and I’m getting bored, I actually NEED to listen to something just so that I’ll keep working on stitching. But if I want to get anything done,
    NO T.V. FOR ME!

    Sarah 🙂

  49. Mary,
    I am having a awfull time finding the coton a broder #25 and pearl #8 at the same company. Most places list the color as :red:. You know how many different reds there are. If I could find one store that had both I could ask the assistant to “eyeball” the thread to be sure they matched.
    Any suggestion or other threads I could use and get the same effect?
    At my wits end. Help
    Nelda Wagner

    1. Hi, Nelda – the color number is 321. You can probably find the #8 locally in that color – if you’re in the US, check Hobby Lobby and JoAnn’s. The #25 coton a broder is available online throug Hedgehog Handworks, and it’s also color 321. You probably won’t find that thread locally. Hope that helps! -MC

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