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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Red, Red, Redwork – Slow Progress


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Last time we looked at the Hungarian Redwork Runner project that I started some serious eons ago, the second end section of the runner was underway.

Here’s a brief little update on the slow progress of this project, just to prove that it isn’t forgotten and hasn’t been shelved!

Hungarian Redwork Embroidery Runner

For new visitors who haven’t seen this particular embroidery project, it’s worked on linen with two weights of cotton thread. You can read about the embroidery thread and stitch choices here.

One half of the embroidery on the redwork runner is already finished. The other half is underway.

Right now, it’s just regular chain stitch going in. Once all the chain stitch is finished on this half, I’ll go back and fill in the remaining areas with Hungarian braided chain stitch.

Hungarian Redwork Embroidery Runner

This will give you a better idea of the size of the project, methinks!

In concept, the runner is not a difficult project at all. There are only two stitches on it: chain stitch and Hungarian braided chain stitch. But you can see that, in size, it isn’t a small thing. And all those curls and starts and stops take time!

Because the runner is more of a grab-and-go project – a project that can be toted around easily, stitched anywhere, picked up for 15 minutes of stitching now and then – it averages only a couple hours of attention on it each week.

But you can see that even a little bit of time now and then eventually turns into noticeable progress. Some day (this year, here’s hoping), it’ll be finished. I’m not setting a deadline on it.

Hungarian Redwork Embroidery Runner

This is the half under construction right now.

I’m looking forward to giving the whole thing a good rinse once the embroidery is done, and then damp stretching it. Pictures of wrinkled embroidery rankle me, but since this piece is worked in hand without a hoop or frame, the fabric does get abused. Good thing it’s linen!

So, here’s a question for you: Do you tend to get tired of a project that is drawn out over a long space of time? (This one, for example, has been on-going since October of 2012). Do you enjoy smaller, quicker projects? Or do you enjoy the meandering progress of slow work? What’s your take on long, drawn-out projects – what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages to them? Feel free to discuss below!

You can read more about the Hungarian Redwork Runner in the Index for this project, where you’ll find the pattern available and information on all the materials used. You can also find more Hungarian embroidery designs here on Needle ‘n Thread.


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(91) Comments

  1. I prefer the faster projects, which is probably why I love doing crazy quilt squares so much. I can pick up and go with them and each section is fairly fast. Except for those times I sit and stare at it thinking “what in the world can I do here?”.

    For me, the problem with longer projects is I get tired of working on it and I move on to something else. My mind is constantly jumping ahead to ‘what else’ can I make.

  2. I haven’t been stitching for very long, but found that medium to large projects give more satisfaction when they’re done. I tried cross stitching small patterns here and there but although they’re cute when they’re done, I never know what to do with them and it just didn’t give me that pleasure I get when I finish stitching a huge portion of my larger projects. But that’s just me.

  3. Good Morning, Mrs. Corbet! Forgive me if this is the stupidest question you’ve ever received but it’s been nagging at me for YEARS. I know that there’s Red-Work, Black-Work, Gold-Work, and White-work… but how come those have their own category unto themselves? Wouldn’t a piece stitched in blue be called Blue-Work? Or what about Hot Pink-Work, Tangerine-Work, Puce-work? Am I making sense? Why is it that they don’t just make a general category for all surface embroidery that uses one color?

    1. I love the idea of Hot Pink-Work and Tangerine Work. There are never any stupid questions and certainly not this one, it is very valid.

      Bizarrely, it is not the colour of the threads that distinguish these techniques but rather the stitches and styles used. Their names probably derived because they were most commonly worked in the relevant colour and no one could think of a better descriptive name. Much in the same way some stitches or techniques are named for the region or country were they originate from.

      To add to the confusion Black Work, for example, could be stitched in red, blue or even hot pink threads but it would still be Black work. Conversely, if you did another style of embroidery all in black thread, it would not necessarily be ‘Black Work’.

      And to confuse matters further, contemporary embroiderers are pushing the boundaries for techniques like Black Work, looking for a new, fresher approach to traditional techniques.

      I hope this helps (a little) and hasn’t confused you further.

    2. LOL! I don’t think the category “Puce work” would go over as well, thoughโ€ฆ just not quite as catchy.

      Well, throughout the ages, all-red embroidery has been somewhat typical in many cultures – the same with white embroidery, gold embroidery, black embroidery, and even blue embroidery! There is, actually, a category called “blue work” and a category “green work”. I think the categorization comes about when there is a definite trend (for lack of a better word off the top of my head), that results in a large body of work that fits under one umbrella term.

      But keep in mind, they are umbrella terms. Take whitework, for example. It’s an umbrella term for (usually) white-on-white embroidery (although “whitework” can also be done on natural colored linen, on colored fabrics, etc., and still be called whitework – or at least, it is sometimes done today). There are many, many different types of whitework embroidery, though, with all different types of names. Schwalm embroidery, Dresden lace, cutwork, Richelieu, Broderie Anglaise, Ayrshire embroidery, Hardanger, shadow work (though not always white work), Mountmellick embroidery, Sardinian knotted whitework, Ukrainian drawn threadโ€ฆ. And I’m sure the list can go on.

      There’s a large enough body of work there, that it ends up all categorized under “whitework” – and there’s a kind of “universality” about it. Many cultures, many countries have had their own “whitework” in their embroidery history.

      Blackwork is perhaps not as widely umbrella-ish as whitework, but again, there’s a large body of work over the ages and in different cultures, that fit into the category of “blackwork.” Incidentally, blackwork now is often done in color, and still called blackwork. And blackwork wasn’t always only the gridded designs we see today that are called blackwork – there have been other approaches to blackwork in different cultures in the history of needlework.

      Redwork is another umbrella term for embroidery done in red. Today, it is most often associated with the redwork style that developed when cotton was cheap and Turkish red was introduced as the first red colorfast thread. The contrast between the red and the cotton muslin made it perfect for quilt patches, and a style of simple embroidery developed around that hihg-contrast concept. And it was popular, too, because it was pretty cheap to do. The “penny patches” of the 1800’s were the forerunner of the redwork that is widely popular today and used a lot in quilting. But – redwork embroidery is certainly more than just this type of embroidery. Many cultures have their own specific types of redwork. Hungarian redwork is a good example of that. And incidentally, my runner is not really technically Hungarian redwork, which is usually made up of much thicker lines stitched with heavier, softer threads, in other stitches.

      In any case, there’s a large enough body of embroidery work around the world to have an umbrella term for these types of embroidery.

      There’s not really a large body of tangerine work out there. Or hot pink work. Or puce work (thank goodness)!

      But who knows? Maybe you could start a trend, and fifty or a hundred years down the road, “tangerine work” could be well-known embroidery term! But please, skip the puce… It just doesn’t the same ring to it! ๐Ÿ™‚


    3. THANK YOU! Ladies, you’ve both taken a nagging, annoying, and utterly pointless floating thought, and given me some peace! Both answers have made me a little more knowledgeable and now, if someone asks me I can answer!

      Let me assure you, Mrs. Corbet, I have NO intention of starting a “Pucework” trend. It is most certainly NOT my favorite shade of green. I just picked the most wild names I could think of to underline my confusion.

      I forgot to mention that I love this project! It is exquisitely beautiful. As for whether I prefer long, or short projects… Due to my health, and a good dose of laziness, all my projects take forever. Like others, sometimes I get bored, so I’m hoping to develop some greater discipline!

      Again thank you for the WONDERFUL answers!

    4. Say what? I’m an Italian/Irish/French American girl, born in NY now living in VA and I’ve always known Puce as a shade of green? Okay, I’m running an internet search immediately!

    5. Well, at least it explains why whatever the color it has such an awful name. They’re both hideous! Thanks again.

    6. That brings me to the question of monochrome designs. Would all the others (gold, blackwork, etc.) be lumped under monochrome? I see that category at times when looking at sites that sell patterns.

    7. I thought your explanation of labels based on technique rather than color quite good, and that’s what I’ve always thought the difference was. At my EGA meetings, this tends to be the distinction as well. However, to further confuse the issue, a recent copy of a certain cross stitch magazine features a Blackwork project, done in red, and labelled as (you guessed it) Redwork!

    8. On the topic of colour names, as a slight diversion, this is an article of Michael Quinion at World Wide Words. If you are a wordy like me, you would find his weekly emails very interesting. In this article he discusses the history of many words we use for colours. I enjoyed it. I hope you do, too!


    9. Oh, good comment! And Turquoise-Work! Did you see Mary’s face when she read about Puce-work? I was hoping she would answer about color-fast red thread — and she did! Red is SO pretty! [Does everybody know “puce” means “flea” in French?]

  4. I love to do big projects in small steps. I take stitching to my weekly quilt bee and find it amazing how much I get done while visiting with friends. I mean I know it is because I do it every Tuesday and the consistency provided is what works for me. Sometimes I like to also pick a weekly or daily tv show to stitch along with. But I also do small projects now and then, just because I want to try a techinique or make a gift. I love this redwork!

    1. That is exactly what I would love to find. Friends who like embroidery and meet once or twice, but no luck like you.

  5. I really prefer the larger projects! There are tons of books and magazine with small, quick projects. I love following one of your projects from start to finish no matter the time it takes. Thank you for all your inspiration.

    1. Oh, thanks so much, Norma! Sometimes, I worry that people grow (understandably) weary of projects that seem like they’ll never end!! But they do end – and that’s the key. Eventually, we get there…

    1. ๐Ÿ™‚ Isn’t it a great little coloring book?! And if you’re in Michigan, I imagine you really like the springy lushness of the designs inside it!

    2. I am still waiting on my book! It was backordered. I also ordered some great Gel markers to go with it!

    1. Hi, Sharon – I color tested the threads before I began, to make sure they wouldn’t run. But generally, these days, I trust DMC threads to be colorfast – even the reds. Still, doesn’t hurt to color test! I don’t plan to wash the piece in hot water, or ever to steam it with an iron. Ironing it damp (which is what I usually do when preparing linen) is a bad idea if you have any worries at all about the thread color running. So, with reds especially, I avoid damp ironing or steam and washing in very-warm to hot water. Lukewarm and cool water, though, should not be a problem with these threads. And damp stretching will take care of all the wrinklesโ€ฆ~MC

  6. It was nice to see our old friend the Redwork Runner once again, Mary. It looks like this is about three-quarters done now. I find this stage is always the one where I start looking longingly at other projects, thinking that the ‘grass is greener’ and all that! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have to keep reminding myself how much I’m looking forward to seeing my current embroidery finished.

    I do love the feeling of achievement that comes with completing a challenging embroidery goal, but I like to alternate that with the reward of a few smaller projects and then I have the satisfaction of quickly finishing something. I have recently completed a large cross-stitch picture and now I’m treating myself to a small whitework design from Lizzy Landsberry’s book, which I’m going to make up as a needlecase. My project list stretches about five (definite) designs ahead … and numerous vague ‘might-do-one-day’ ideas. That’s how I keep myself happy! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing your embroidery journey with us Mary. Have a nice day.

  7. Marie,
    Not an easy question you ask us there. Major projects excite me, because I think the finished result, I began happily and frankly I adjust to the length, inevitably follows dissatisfaction and guilt. So now I begin happily and quietly as I put to resume relaxed … And I am absorbed in projects much more humble but not necessarily easier. My big project? a sheet of white embroidery with towels, like my grandmother.
    Marie thank you for being here.

  8. Mary, I always have multiple projects in various stages of (non)completion. I attribute it to the fact that I have a short attention span! My mind is always working much faster than I can stitch. So I am always thinking about 2-3 projects down the road. I have projects for transporting when I travel, projects by my bed, by my chair…well, you get the picture. I also have rheumatoid arthritis so it depends from day to day on what and how much I can actually do. I have a dear friend who has faithfully promised me she will come immediately when I die and clean out my studio!

  9. I do a LOT of big projects that drag on for a year (or sometimes more, and I do tire of them midway through and have to struggle to keep stitching so they don’t end up in a UFO pile! I start them because I love the design, the colors, etc. but I find that all this pales with slow progress. But you are right, they do end eventually, and I get more and more enthusiastic about them as I near that completion point. By then, I seem to have forgotten how tedious the stitching had gotten, and I ache to start another big project! A vicious cycle!

  10. I love huge projects with tiny details that I can get lost in. I’m just finishing up an 18 month project, and get terribly bored with the little cross stitch ducks on tea towels thing, but I don’t have to go to work and parcel out my free time between family, laundry and some stitching.

  11. I really like a long, engaging project. I get a lot of satisfaction from completing a piece that I’ve put many hours into and I develop a relationship with the piece. To a certain extend I enjoy repetitiveness within the project. I like the rhythm of doing the same motion over and over and, like to feel my skill level improving. However, I like some variety within the project, something to break my stride now and them. I think that I might find the red runner a bit monotonous.

    That said, I also like to have another smaller, faster project on the go at the same time. They satisfy in a different way and I find it fun to have a mix of different styles or techniques on the go.

  12. I actually prefer long term projects. For me the shortest project I do is a couple of months, those are usually gifts, and I usually embroider a couple of hours an evening. The only exceptions are when someone in my family asks me to do something quick. Like before Christmas my pop asked me to embroider him a small, and very simple stylized wreath for an office decoration. That was about four hours of fern stitch in variegated green and a bit of chain stitch for the red bow. Normally my projects are six months to a year. I usually have three projects in my grab and go box at a time, so if I get tired of one, sick to death of two hours of a certain color for example, I have another choice to work on.

  13. Thank you, Mary, for this update on your daunting red work runner. I am encouraged when I see how far you’ve come. I tend to enjoy working on a big project but doing something small and impulsive when I have finished a large project, just to clear my brain.

  14. Hi Mary – I have a huge piece of work. Must be 1.5 meters wide and height a good 900cm. It has three Cape Dutch Houses painted on it, and I have embroidered the three gardens around the houses, with big trees as well, until they all sort of merge together. Freestyle surface work, and some ribbon work. This has been a project that has taken a good 12 years. I did get sidelined by teddy bears for perhaps 8/9 of those years. I am thrilled that it is finally done and now just needs to be framed.

    1. Linny,
      Congratulations, it must be very gratifying to contemplate a job 12 years and what determination!. It’s really amazing.
      Bravo (applause)

  15. Oh, I love this project! The design is so beautiful. I was wondering how it was coming along, or if it had been put aside and forgoten for a while.

  16. I enjoy seeing your progress on this project. I usually work on small projects although I have done some very complex counted cross stitch pictures. I sometimes have more than one project going at a time so when I do get bored with one project, I can switch. I always finish everything I start. Thank you for sharing your lovely embroideries. Judie

  17. I am currently working on a band sampler that was started in 2007. I put the piece in “time out” as it was white work on a neutral fabric and could not see what I should be doing. A year and a half, I again picked up the piece and put in my rotation. I am pleased with the results and hope to get it finished this year.

  18. I love the big projects and it makes me feel better when you take a long time to do things. I am a slow stitcher compared to a lot of people.

  19. It seems to me that all my projects are long and drawn out. I have a busy life and often stitch only one morning a week. Add to that that I always have several projects going and spend too much time dreaming about and planning my next projects. The advantage of drawing a project out is that it gives me time to sort out things I am not happy with so I can formulate a solution that suits me.
    Needlework is slow going in any event. I don’t think I have ever done a “fast” project unless it is knitting.
    I agree with Dima. The more difficult, which means it takes longer, the more satisfying the result is for me.

  20. If I really, really, really love the big project I’m working on, I go at a pace and seem to work on only it (not even dinner or sleeping). Even so, I think I get bored with any piece that is almost finished. Then my eyes begin to wander to something new and colorful or full of intriguing stitches and patterns. The only time I work a piece straight through is if I’m working it up for a class I will be facilitating.

  21. I think it is best to keep one of each going at all times. If I go where I will have to wait for a time, an ongoing job is good. If I need a gift or just something to keep my hands busy (keeps me from eating) a quick job does it for me.

    Thanks for showing the Red Work, I love doing it and have also done it in Black Work, it turned out very nice. Thanks for all you share. hc

  22. Dear Mary

    It’s nice to see the Red, Red, Red work table cloth in full view wonderful. Considering the length you haven’t got much left to do. I tend to do projects that last about 4-6 months The Little Things took about 6 months to complete and I was glad when they finished because I do get tired of projects towards the end but I always finish them I can’t bear not to complete them. I’m in the throws of starting Tambour work I’m making a silk evening beaded bag and collecting all the materials needed to start so this will take a lot of months to complete because it will be a slow progress but I’m looking forward to starting it and finishing it. I hope to finish by the end of September as I’m going to Turkey and would like to take it with me to show off ha! ha!. Thanks for showing us the Redwork tablecloth it will be lovely when you have completed it.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  23. I do get tired of projects that take a long time, yes. Even when I am enjoying them! I once had two flower groupings I was working on, and it took me about 3 years to finish. They are in oval frames in my bedroom and I love them, but oh how I hated how long it took me to finish! The tablecloth I finished recently took me just over a year, and my present project will take me at least that long. I have difficulty going back and forth between projects, though. I don’t know why — I much prefer to work on one project at a time. Thanks for the update, Mary.

  24. I am lucky but also in that I formed the group with some other quilt friends. I have 2 other friends that don’t choose to come to the regular meetings but we visit at each other’s homes about once a month. If you don’t have a group, organize one! It has kept me motivated and stitching much more than a large guild did.

  25. I prefer faster projects, too. The long drawn out ones seem to keep getting put on the back burner. I have one of those felt Christmas tree skirt that has embroidery on it, too and it’s been in it’s own project bag for at least 3 years. I pull it out every now and then, but it takes so long catching up with the instructions again that when I put it away, it stays away. I’m really enjoying the Long & Short Stitch project of yours and, so far, I’m doing a little bit each day. Thanks for the tutorials and print outs.

  26. I like instant gratification of the small project, but I have done a pair of massive projects that just about wore me out, but I am so pleased with the finished project. I have finished fairly recently and I am trying to get back to some small ones except Life(tm) is getting in the way.

  27. I adore the larger projects when they’re finished but getting there is a battle. Maybe my attention span isn’t what it used to be. Not sure. All I know is now I can only keep one large project going at a time and then I take breaks and make small items now and then. I need to feel that I’m accomplishing something. A small finish is encouraging. I had one large project that got so boring after a year, I put it away for a few years. Finally took it out and finished it. I had someone to give it to and that was motivation enough.

  28. Mary,
    I LOVE the Hungarian Redwork Runner and am excited to see it completed! I plan to do one for myself soon – it is exactly my style and I can picture adorning my Christmas table for years to come! Although I do own a few unfinished projects, for the most part I have a hard time putting something down until it is complete!

    Keep up the good work… I love your blog and all the helpful tips you offer!
    Warm regards,
    Ruth L

  29. Dear Mary,
    For me, it isn’t the size of a project or the length of time it takes to complete. Instead it is the excitement of watching it “grow” and the pleasure I have in stitching well. I have been stitching for 60 years and so far no Quantity Police have come to judge whether or not I have done enough pieces. My one might even be considered equal to twenty or more smaller projects, if those police existed. It isn’t the DONE that is exciting; but it is the DOING.


    1. Beautifully said, Paula! I, too, love the “doing.” Your phrase “watching it grow” captures the feeling perfectly. Thanks for the comment!

  30. Hi Mary,
    I do get tired of a particular project and that’s why I like to have more than one going at a time. I am working on a knotted Chickadee that’s done all in French and Colonial knots that cover the entire ground fabric. It’s so textured and looks great, but I get tired of doing nothing by knots over and over. So I put it away and switch to something else. Right now I want to try my hand at custom designing a counted canvas piece of a Vermont barn in winter. I’ll use the RSN book on canvas work as a reference/guide book as I take a photo I have and work out the canvas and stitching details. But I won’t give up on the Chickadee. After all, it’s almost spring and it would be nice to have that little bird all stitched up and hanging on my wall!

  31. I am not shy to begin a project with the end very far in the future. Take for example the SALs I’m working on: Papillon Creations Around the World in 80 Stitches (http://www.papillon-creations.com/gallery_sal_worked_models.php?model=004) or Blue Dogwood’s Shashiko Sampler SAL for 2014 (http://www.bluedogwooddesigns.com/sgom.php) and Soed Idee’s Randje per Week (a border sample each week for a year at http://randjeperweek.blogspot.nl/)

    What I want to know is how you prepare your red threads when you know you will be washing the piece after working on it for months and months? It is so discouraging when the color bleeds, even a tiny bit.

    As always, love your blog!

    1. Hi, Julie! I color tested the threads I’m using before starting. It’s important not to wash the linen in warm-to-hot water, but to use cool water, and to avoid ironing while it is even the slightest bit damp, and to avoid ironing with steam. With that in mind, I’ll be washing in cool water, avoid harsh soaps, and damp stretching to dry it. I’m confident that it will hold up. If it doesn’t, though – trust me! – you’ll all be the first to know!!

    2. Um – that being said (re: washing, etc.) you can soak threads before you use them. If you’re especially worried about red threads, you can run water over them until they quite releasing dye (if they release any dye, that is) and then let them dry before you use them. You can also use a tiny bit of white vinegar in a water bath and soak them, then rinse them really well and dry them. The vinegar will act as a fixative. You can do the same with a little salt, apparently, too, but I’ve not used salt to fix colors before. There are also different products on the market that you can buy, to fix colors on fabric, etc., to keep them from fading or running, and you can use these with thread, too, by diluting them in a bowl of water and soaking the threads, then rinsing them really well.

      But – I always figure better safe than sorry, and I color test the threads before I use them. If I come across a thread that drops dye, I’ll opt for a different thread.


  32. Hi Mary,
    I really prefer short/fast projects. I tend to lose interest on longer projects and they are left to one side while something else gets under way. I started the ‘Blackwork Journey’ which you introduced in January (Thanks for that). Surprisingly, I’m still enthusiastic about it. Hope it gets finished.

  33. I like to work BIG! I have acquired a reputation among my fellow EGA members. Little stuff is fun to do but the big ones look great on the wall.

    Elaine in New Mexico

  34. Mary:

    I will have to say that I have never thought about what I like, BUT I have one embroidery project that I have been working on for 12-14 years. Maybe it is because it is a blue colored thread and blue is not my favorite
    color or because it is in small six inch squares. I have just finished 12 10-inch appliqued squares that I have loved every minute on these for the past two years. Have done a little embroidery on some of these. Am I slow or just do not dedicate a specific
    time each day to this? I have other hobbies that I enjoy so maybe I multi-task and did not realize that I do that.

    Thank you for all that I learn from you and your inspiration is invaluable to me.


  35. I love big projects! I work smaller “instant gratification” projects when I hit the wall in a big project, but there’s nothing like picking up the “old friend” I’ve been working on for months or years. Also, as exciting as finishing is, there is a sadness at not having it to work on anymore for me because the big projects really become an old friend.

  36. As a fairly recent follower, this one is new to me, but just as interesting as the others, Mary.

    I usually have 1 long-time project on the go ( a Barn owl finished last year had taken 10 years!) while doing others that take a couple of days to a week for cards for a wildlife charity to sell.

    To me Puce is the colour rice pudding turns when you mix Strawberry jam into it!! (Childhood thing, of course!)

  37. First off I’d like to say I’d like to see Linny ‘a project, it sounds really interesting. How could we see that?
    I also like to do crazy quilt blocks , so I like working with smaller pieces that end up in a bigger piece. I make regular quilts also. My current CQ project is bigger than usual, and I’m trying to complete it. Your little embroidery project from yesterday has me excited. I want that on one of my blocks.
    I still hope to finish the hummingbird project someday, but with some stitches besides long and short.

  38. I tend to work on small projects. I am trying to teach myself as many techniques as possible and yes, I have found some favorites to date. Had a genuine urge to work with colors so my next “lesson/session” is moving into needle painting.

    If, when I come home, I don’t run immediately to my room to embroider that is telling me it’s time to grab up something that excites me again.

    As to the projects. I do not do embroidery for anyone other than myself. I work with 8″ square designs and when they’re done and cleaned I put them in a archival scrapbook. Keeps me happy.

  39. I like big projects but have learned that is okay to work on them and then take a break. That’ s where the small projects are so wonderful. They revitalize us. Diane

  40. Mary your work is beautiful as always. Could you recommend a beginner pattern for this type of needlework? Do you have a suitable pattern on your site that would work? I appreciate your help.

  41. Mary,
    I like to have one BIG project on-the-go, to pick up when I need to de-stress, but I also like to have several little projects started, that I can throw in the bag when I know I will have ‘waiting’ times – appointments and the like. Several of my friends are amused that I feel the need to stitch in those odd moments, but it is surprising how much you can accomplish in them!
    Back to the bigger projects: I love the encapsulated “history” of each piece – remembering that I stitched that bit in Scotland, or this border while I was sitting with my dying father.
    Janet from Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

  42. Well executed embroidery does take particular care and time to achieve. Embroidering for leisure – crazy patchwork, some canvas work – is less taxing. I think this is why we all really appreciate the skill and dedication it takes to finish a larger project, especially as we have so many demands on our time today. I think it all began with the wheel! We have been running around in circles ever since trying to catch up!!

  43. I enjoy creating a project and seeing it unfold overtime. Watching your patience with time and stitching is inspiring to me. The 15 minutes at a time until it’s done, is a mantra in my head!

  44. Mary,

    At this point, how much of each material have you used. At the mid-point, you mentioned you had used 4.5 skeins of coton a broder, but not the volume of perle cotton. How much more do you estimate you will need to finish? I’m thinking of doing this project and I would like to have an idea of how much thread to plan for.


    1. I’ve used a whole ball of the perle cotton and a little more, and almost 6 skeins of the cotton a broder. I guess 9 skeins of coton a broder would do it, and maximum 3 balls of perle cotton – although maybe only 2. Haven’t done much with the latter, lately, because the chain stitch is in coton a broder.

  45. Big projects are far more satisfying when they’re finished, but they are BIG. I manage only a few hours’ stitching a week, so my routine is a wee bit of a decade+ big project every day (the end is in sight!, and when I’ve done that I can stitch on whatever quicker small-medium project I have going as well. For me the trick to working on a big project is to work on something smaller in parallel.

  46. Hi Mary
    I have both long-term and quick projects on the go simultaneously. However, my problem is getting motivated with the former- they can only be done at home, the results are slow to see, so they get “forgotten”. And not being a blogger, there’s no pressure to show those results….
    I think I was too ambitious in starting a particular 4m tablecloth (whitework with LOTS of drawn threadwork)! Furthermore, the colour is not very interesting: maybe I should have gone for red!
    Looking forward to seeing your completed runner!

  47. I enjoy longer (larger!) projects that have a wow! factor of intricate designs. But…I do get disheartened sometimes because they take so long to complete (if ever!). That’s when I pick up a small piece that can be easily stitched in a couple of days. The satisfaction of a completion carries me over when I start up with the long project again.

  48. I just finished a project that had 20 small blocks- 8″ each. These are actually to be used in a quilt. I enjoyed being able to do one of these simple blocks each night. However, I can understand that lots of small embroidery projects would get to the point where you are wondering what to do with them.

    I think I prefer something that would take longer to finish but I am not sure I have patience to work on something for over a year. I would probably ended up getting tired and never finish it. I love your website and have learned SO much!

  49. I prefer shorter projects, although that’s not always what I do. I tend to lose interest in loooong projects and they become UFOs. I even get bored with doing the same craft and switch crafts from time to time. My three main vices are quilting, embroidery, and knitting. Even with knitting, I tend to knit dishcloths, chemo caps, and preemie hats – all small projects. I think it’s good to stretch myself and do larger projects from time to time.

  50. As far as following your projects, I really like to see BOTH long term and quicky projects. It was fun seeing your progress on this runner after such a long interval and I’m really enjoying watching your current secret garden piece. But throwing in those little one- or two-shot posts, like the monograms, makes for a great mix.

    I realized a while ago that I especially like your “progress” pictures on days when events conspire to keep me away from my own needlework. Vicarious satisfaction?

  51. I call it the theory of the Fifteen Minutes. I rarely have a couple of uninterrupted hours to work on needlework, but I often have 15 minutes. If it weren’t for those 15 minutes, I would never finish anything! So, I appreciate that a project can take a long time, be put down & picked up many times, can be put away in a drawer and forgotten for a year, but with 15 minutes here and there, it will get done. I love to get out a project that has “mellowed” for a while and I can be amazed at how much has been done. Then I get busy and work on it some more. Someday, it gets finished.

  52. Mary,

    I always have a combination of projects on the go. I currently have a large canvas project underway (not portable and not an easy one to do other things at the same time like talk or watch tv), a reasonably large cross-stitch project which I can take with me when I have a chunk of time to sit and wait (cancer clinic visits with my mom), and several small projects that are very portable and can quickly spend 10 or 15 minute increments on as I have time (these tend to be seasonal type ornaments that are hung in my windows or on doors – nothing that is out for long or part of my decor).
    I do have to stop myself from starting other new projects until at least one of my big projects is complete but that is half the fun. The anticipation.

  53. I definitely have you beat… I have been working on a cross stitch mermaid for over 17 years… how sad is that? She has lots of beads and metallic threads and I obviously start and stop a lot. I have finished a ton of other projects in the meantime but this one has my personal record as a UFO.

  54. This one has been a wip for quite a while, but as you aren’t working on it all the time it was bound to take ‘eons’.

    If I work on a project that is large and slow, I tend to get sick of it especially if, like this one, there are only one or two different stitches involved, eg, at the moment I am working on a piece of hand-dyed indigo cotton. I started out making gazillions of tiny stitches, just one thread of the fabric at a time. I wanted the texture, but it isn’t working as from a distance you can’t see any difference at all. I am sick of doing all those little stitches too, so now I have switched to making tiny French knots which create a better texture but still aren’t quite what I want. (BTW any suggestions will be gratefully received.)

    I am almost ready to switch to a different project for a while so I can have a break from the indigo. And that is the crux of it for me: I don’t mind the long meandering project if I can inject a bit of quick fun along the way. I have a round robin crazy quilt block waiting for my embellishing so that will probably be it.

  55. Dear Mary,
    I have many projects at the planning stage, some big and some small, that I hope to stitch someday (health and other commitments don’t make it possible just yet). So I’m not really qualified to speak on the subject of working or actually finishing a project (all should be awarded some sort of prize for that achievement). But to answer your question, I think it’s like reading novels. Long or short, big or small, some are so good you wish they would continue forever, the bigger the better. And then there are others that are just a bad choice from start to finish, and never get better, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself. I try to finish what I start even with reading books! It has to be REALLY bad to abort mission. Time and materials already invested etc would have me finish regardless. I think I’d commit to 15 mins a day, if that could be managed, to just it the project done. And have other projects to work on as a reward for doing my daily bit. If it took three or more years so be it. Glory be the day it was finally finished!

  56. I like to do a bit of both. I usually have one or two long tern projects that I will sometimes chug through, like the large black and gold work piece I finished in record time (3 months) and sometimes take my time with (like the beaded black work that’s been in my studio for over a year. The thing is, I like a little variety and will get a little burned out on a projects, so I’ll also have small projects that I start on a whim. Thus is also how I go about learning new techniques. I figure it’s a relatively small time commitment, so if I love it I win, and if its not for me I didn’t sink loads of time into it, and I learned something either way.

  57. I prefer big projects but have several on the go at once. Some I do only at home and others to groups and workshops. I admit to getting tired of some especially when there is a lot of change of shades but not much progress n the design. I rarely do little projects nowadays except the occasional card for someone special.

  58. Mrs. Corbet,
    I like medium-large projects. Something that will not only take two short sittings to finish, but will not take two years either. I don’t have a problem with mini projects, but on BIG projects I tend to get bored and lose all interest in finishing. That’s why I go for medium-size. I try to use simpler stitches, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good luck on the Runner!

    – Sarah

  59. It’s hard work to keep up the momentum. Some people see themselves as ancestors leaving an awesome legacy, sure their grandkids will care for this thing. I enjoy doing something that takes a couple of years if it’s really worth doing and an ongoing pleasure. It has to be for me — in this lifetime! Animal pictures give me joy. Doll clothes for quick pleasure. And the Secret Garden of course for the shared fun and learning. I did not like receiving my grandmother’s old punchwork peacock project — never started! It was a kit from the 1920’s and the lining fabric is faded. I off-loaded a sheet and pillowslips with a horrible turquoise and chartreuse design. That fiance went his merry way. I gave that to a neighbor who loved to embroider and loved the design. And needed sheets! Little kitchen mottoes have to be done quickly while they’re still funny!

  60. I love the red work runner and it’s nearing completion. Are you happy or sad? Silly, I know but it’s like a good book that you don’t want to end. Long projects are part of my 6 or 7 projects, needlework or knitting, going on at one time. Sometimes I’m finishing one so there is always another waiting in the wings.

  61. For your projects (other than liturgical) what do you and other readers do with the finished items? There is only so much space to store and display and after a while your friend duck and hide. The number of hours in a complex project far exceeds any possible remuneration.

  62. Hi!
    I’m new to your site…found it looking for Persian embroidery patterns…and it’s wonderful!
    In this post you mentioned that you were stitching the runner without a hoop or frame. How do you determine if one is necessary? Thanks

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