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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Organizing Monograms with William Morris


Amazon Books

What does William Morris have to do with organizing monograms and stitching samples? Well, I’m sure we could draw some kind of deep, meaningful tie, just by virtue of the fact that it’s embroidery, it’s arts & crafts, threads, fibers, what-have-you.

But the connection between my organizational methods for my upcoming bout of stitching and William Morris is hardly deep or profound or even meaningful.

But it’s one of those things that makes me happy, and because it makes me happy, I thought I’d tell you about it. Maybe this will lead to some further ideas on organizational methods, too.

Monogram Organization & William Morris File Folders

Here’s the connection with William Morris and my organizational set-up for some current projects. They’re William Morris file folders, and I use them to sort and store the monogram designs I’m tackling.

Monogram Organization & William Morris File Folders

I love these folders! Every time I look at them, they make me cheery! But I’ve always been a sucker for organizational supplies that are functional and pretty, especially if they have anything remotely to do with textiles.

Monogram Organization & William Morris File Folders

When these were first given to me, I knew I would save them for something special. And when I started scanning, cleaning up, “vectorizing” my old monogram collections, the folders jumped off the shelf and straight into my hands and declared, “Use Us!”

And so I did.

Monogram Organization & William Morris File Folders

I’m using my LightPad (I reviewed it a couple weeks ago) to trace the monograms on different weights and types of linen. The linen (which I rinsed and shrank using a hot-cold soaking sequence) is pre-cut to about 8″ squares, the edges are neatened, and then I spray starched the linen before tracing the letters with pencil.

Monogram Organization & William Morris File Folders

The linen squares fit into the folders with the printed monogram patterns.

This set of transfers and monograms is not to be confused with this set of monogram projects already kitted up, which is hanging in my closet, also waiting for me to tackle.

The letters in the folders will be worked more or less in traditional techniques, with only a few types of stitches and very few colors, so I really don’t have to kit them up the same way that I kitted up the hanging kits. I don’t have to choose a whole color range for the letters, and I don’t intend to work every letter of each alphabet – just a few, in techniques that range from simple to more advanced. (Whew!)

As for embroidery design organization, I don’t organize all my designs in file folders like these. Normally, I use a letter size accordion file for letter-size designs and smaller that I’m currently working with (or plan to, in the near future). Some designs, I have in binders and some in larger, flat boxes. It just depends the types of designs, where I got them, how I intend to use them, how often I access them.

What about you? How do you organize your embroidery designs? Do you have a special system? File folders? Binders? Boxes? Sketchbook? I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to join in the discussion below!

And, by the way, if you are (like me!) a sucker for all things William Morris and you like pretty organizational supplies, the V&A webstore on Amazon stocks these William Morris folders. There are eight in a package, two of each design.


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(31) Comments

  1. OMG Mary – that is Beautiful! The only thing missing is the lavender scented liners! That working space is becoming a showstopper! I am so envious – compared to yours, my space looks like a dust bunny sweatshop at the end of a long workday!

  2. I just love any and all office supplies. My problem at home is spending time organizing myself which is my 2013 New Years Resolution. (I have to be so organized at work I just don’t want to spend the time at home doing the same thing even though I love my crafting more). If it is a printed pattern or “idea” I have seen on the computer and it can’t be saved in a computer file, I print it, and place it in a plastic sleeve and file it in a notebook with dividers for quilting, embrodiery, cross stitch, etc. When it comes to a magazine, I use Post It Flags to mark my pages and if it is the majority of the magazine, I don’t tear out (which just about kills me to do) and if it is one pattern I think about it a little bit first and check to see what makes it so special. Most of the time the pattern is a block that I already have printed, it is the material that makes it so attractive, so I give that magazine away.

  3. These are just gorgeous Mary – I am a sucker for pretty stationary like you. I store my embroidery patterns in colored plastic wallets with a sticky label for each but these are far far prettier, will be having a look online:)

  4. I have a wedding to go to and thought of making something with a monogram but what are the rules for making one and these days what if the bride doesn’t take the grooms last name!!! What does one do????

    This question has frozen my creativity. Can some one explain the proper modern way? As slow as I work I need to get started now!

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts on my quandary – quagmire

    1. I’m not sure if this is the answer you’re looking for but…
      If you give the gift to the bride, before the wedding, you use HER initials. So says Emily Post. Further back in history, when the bride brought the linens to the marriage, she embroidered HER initials on the linen when preparing her trouseau. If she left the marriage, the linens went with her.

      I should think the opposite would hold true if you’re giving the gift to the groom. In that case I’d lean towards HIS initials.

      Or if you want to be completely PC, do an entwined monogram with both their surname initials. That begs the next question: which should be the prominent initial?!??!!

  5. I do not have the storage space to sort designs and patterns in paper at all. When I see a design or pattern that I like I scan it, and sort it into digital folders on my computer. They are roughly by type, floral, animals, monograms, holiday etc, and then inside each of those is numerous other folders. Holiday for example has a Christmas folder and a Thanksgiving folder, St. Paddys, July 4th and so forth….

  6. If my patterns are downloaded, I tend to keep them on the computer until I need them. I am absolutely overwhelmed with paper as it is. Older patterns, and those I’ve printed and need to keep handy are in regular file folders in the small filing cabinet in my sewing room. Pattern boxes, the kind you get at the fabric store, fit perfectly in those cabinets. I can fit two in a drawer. I can place several file folders between them.

    I’m like you! I am always the first one down the aisle when the school supplies come out. I”m always looking for new organizing stuff!

    1. Hi, Cindy – Yes, I’m completely besotted with school supplies, too. I don’t know why…. But I’ve gotten better about it in recent years. I find I don’t really need four desk calendars, two different planners, three types of black ink pens….!

  7. Dear Mary

    Thanks for the review on these lovely file folders I love these they are so pretty and a great way to organise patterns I must have, I will order these because as well as being pretty, as you say they are functional and will cheer up my embroidery shelves. Thanks for the review.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  8. I am keeping my current embroidery project in a freezer bag. I shall not treat myself to something pretty until my satin stitch is as perfect as Mary’s!

    1. Dear Clarissa,
      This used to be my philosophy as well. Please allow me to tell you a short story.
      Years ago, a friend and I each thought we needed a cute little tennis skirt, but we decided we shouldn’t buy one until we “got good” at tennis. So we didn’t make the purchases.
      Fast forward through a few years in which we didn’t see each other as frequently.
      Then, during a visit in her home, I spied a cute, little red tennis skirt and exclaimed, “Oh, Karen, you got good at tennis without me!”
      To this she replied, “No, I decided I couldn’t get good at tennis until I had a cute little tennis skirt”
      And so, my philosophy has changed.
      Happy stitching!

  9. Beautiful file folders! They would make me happy, too!! I am such a design sucker that I have boxes and boxes of “paper” – designs I have collected for years and years. No single satisfactory method of organizing them, but I have done a few things. File folders, yes! I have also made notebooks using those plastic page sleeves — you can put a small group of paper in each one (such as an entire magazine project and its instructions or a whole set of related designs). When you want to tackle the project, you can take out the whole wad. Another thing I like is those clear plastic slightly accordioned envelopes (with the wrapped-string clasp). I guess one of the main things for me is to be able to see and identify the designs to remind me of what I have! Too many to categorize! And life too short!

  10. How’s this for kismet? While in Lowe’s yesterday I noted a book near the check out. “Victoria Classics Monograms. Of course I had to pick it up, as I was fresh from seeing your post regarding monograms. It’s loaded with beautiful pictures and great ideas.
    Worth the purchase.

    I have stuck with counted thread processes so far this year and really want to branch out to surface embroidery. I eagerly wait for your monogram posts. Think I’m ready!

  11. Organized? *giggle*
    Plastic shoeboxes for related materials, is as far as I’ve ever gotten. I used up all my organizational energy being a legal secretary and municipal clerk.
    OK, maybe those folders would be incentive enough . . . .

  12. Hi Mary, I’m always interested in how people organise their sewing and patterns. I have some lovely folders too. I notice that you seem to have two monogram patterns I haven’t seen on the site. One looks like its initials without embellishment, and the other has a vine wound round the initials. I wondered if you intended to share these patterns at some time? Hope that isn’t cheeky to ask? If you could point us to alternative sources I’m sure I’m not the only person who might be interested. Thanks for this fabulous website.

    1. Hello Evelyn:

      If you have Microsoft Word or a similar program, you can use the fonts included. You can also get free fonts on the internet. The fonts can be printed at any size. If you click on the font size box you can change the number to whatever size you want. You are not limited to the maximum size of 72 on MS Word. Just type in 150 200 etc. You may have to select landscape printing if the letters are very large and you want to use the system spacing and not line up the letters manually.

  13. LOL, I had to laugh when I saw the link to your previous, extremely similar, project that is kitted up and waiting in the wings. I am so guilty of that same thing!

    Why do we do it? I can only speak for myself, but my latest theory is that it wouldn’t happen if I had finished the first project in a timely manner, because then I would be done with it and on to something new.

    But then again, I also believe that projects become UFOs because there is something that doesn’t feel right about them, either the design or the technique. And I do often find a project can be transformed into something better when enough time has passed.

    In any case, it always fun to see other creative people dealing with the same issues. Maybe it is a little validating!

  14. Mary, you’re a girl after my own heart. I love love love stationary supplies. As a 10 yr old I bought stationary with pretty pictures, an embossed “S”, etc and some were scented. Back then I would take folders and draw & color on them as I still do. I bought binder clips with flowers, animal skin and words on them. I printed out your Lavender Honey e-book and since it’s too think to staple, it is adorned with a lovely flower design binder clip. I bought some beautiful file folders at the office supply store. I have regular hanging file folders in a plain old file cabinet for embroidery designs/ideals and calligraphy too. I use my pretty folders similar to yours for my desk. I slip important papers in them such as important phone numbers, etc in them. I do have some supplies in those “dvd/shoe boxes” that are decorated pretty from Michaels. One box I decorated myself with hummingbirds and fuchsias. I have enough pens and pencils to last until I die. I also love stickers-it’s for the kid in me, hahaha

  15. Hi Mary,
    Love the William Morris file folders! Oh, to be that organized! I had a quick question about preparing linen for a project. I am getting ready to start a crewel project on linen, to be upholstered on a dining chair (seat and back). Should I preshrink the linen before I start embroidering? I know I will have lots of hours into this project and I want to do it right.

  16. I use three ring binders that I have added plastic pocket folders. I am no perfectly organized. My tip is to load up on one inch 3-ring binders and plastic pocket folders during back-to-school sales. Usually someone offers them at 10-15 cents each for a week. I also use the plastic from folders for making applique template that I will reuse. You could do the same for simple embroidery shapes, like hearts.

    If I only have a page or two of a pattern, I put it in a related book.

  17. Hi Mary, I have Plumaria (Frangipani) decorated folders that are too large for my filing system, so they sit in a filing tray with my stitching ‘to do’ items in them. When I am bored something is removed and stitched and I can tick that off the list. The WM folders are lovely.

    Marian (NZ)

  18. Dear Mary, you are so disciplined! I would find it soooo hard to knuckle down and work on doing such an exemplary range of monogram-on-linen work while gazing at the William Morris designs. And I’m trying very hard not to look at the V&A link too!!!

  19. Mary I love the files. NOW my wife is going to love seeing me ordering one more thing. I have become attached, ok compulsive, to the “hatbox looking covered containers. My goal this year has been UnFinished Objects but you keep bringing in new things that can’t wait to be made. Thank you so very much Love your postings.

  20. Love the William Morris folders. I have a daughter living in Upper Walthamstow London, and last year I took a short bus ride to the William Morris house, you would love this place. Although the house was filled with the history of The Morris family it was wonderful, such a diverse family and gardens are a picture as well. Well worth the visit, will go again when in London. My home is Australia. Valda.

  21. Hi Mary,
    These are lovely and inviting. I am somewhat of a newbie and I wanted to ask why you put these on linen samples?

    1. Hi, Brenda – well, good question! The samples I’m working are for showing how to do the techniques, or how the finished designs will look – to show here on the website, to use for class demos, an e-book, etc. Imagine a designer working a kit that she wants to market, or that she’s doing to publish in a book or a magazine – she would work on the best ground fabric, the one intended for the finished product, so that it looks the best it can look, and it shows the final piece as it’s meant to look.

      But even when practicing (this isn’t really practice at this point), the better your ground fabric (and other materials), the better your results. It’s always worthwhile to invest in the best materials you can afford, because better materials produce better results. Not only are the finished results better but the whole experience of the embroidery is better. If you’ve ever embroidered with inferior thread, for example (say, the bulk packs of “craft” thread sold at craft stores, as opposed to DMC or Anchor), you’ll know what I mean. It makes a huge difference in the whole embroidery experience.

      Hope that helps explain it!


  22. Well I had to do it! Went on Amazon and ordered these folders! They make me happy when I’m filing. Thanks for sharing them with us!

  23. Those folders are gorgeous! I’d be tempted to frame them just to look at.

    My patterns and inspiration pictures are in either binders, accordion folders, or files on the computer. Unfortunately they are not very well organized in any of those places. Part of me thinks I should put all on computer, but….first there’s the time to do that, and then I think “you haven’t looked at those since you saved them (whether paper or digital) – why keep them at all?”. So they sit…

    It feels odd to not *have* to hit the school supplies this year, but I think I probably will anyway for things like school glue (for sewing/quilting) and organizing things.

    What is it called when you use something other than letters? I’m thinking of the bees, crowns, or other objects I’ve seen used for instead of letters. Maybe that could be an alternative for when bride and groom will not have the same last name?

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