Mary Corbet

writer and founder


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

Contact Mary

Connect with Mary



2024 (52) 2023 (125) 2022 (136) 2021 (130) 2020 (132) 2019 (147) 2018 (146) 2017 (169) 2016 (147) 2015 (246) 2014 (294) 2013 (294) 2012 (305) 2011 (306) 2010 (316) 2009 (367) 2008 (352) 2007 (225) 2006 (139)

Embroidery Work Space, or Where IS Waldo?


Amazon Books

Just in case you really think I’m some kind of maven of organization, some kind of neat-nik needleworker, it’s time to burst your bubble!

There are days when everything – and I mean everything – in my work space gets away from me.

When I walked away from my worktable the other day, I snapped this photo:

Embroidery Work Space

And right now, I am desperate to find my tweezers.

I know they exist, because I have photographic evidence.

But somehow, they’ve gone a-missing.

Is it any wonder? my Inner Voice nags. Look at that mess. You couldn’t find Waldo in there if you had to!

Sometimes, my Inner Voice and I are friends.

Sometimes, we aren’t.

Embroidery Work Space

Tambour embroidery tools… trimmed beetle wings… miscellaneous spools of silk, of goldwork threads, of metallics…

Embroidery Work Space

Tools of every sort…needles, pencils… cotton threads on thread drops. Drawing pens.

Embroidery Work Space

Rulers…tapes…paper pricking tools…tweezers! See? They were there at one point!

Several pairs of scissors. Three embroidery projects on frames. More cotton thread on thread drops…

Interesting fact: this table currently represents nine projects underway in some form or another.

Embroidery Work Space

Oh…and I missed these. A few Lurking Dangers.

These little guys sticking up everywhere are the result of having a tabletop that’s really a whole ironing surface. The table quickly morphs into a glorified pincushion.

But to return to the more immediate problem: have you seen my tweezers?

I’ll give you three guesses what I’m doing today…

And I have a feeling it’s going to take me All Day Long. Nary a stitch will be stitched!

But come tomorrow, I’ll have my tweezers.

And my Inner Voice will be silenced.

And life will be orderly again.

And all will be well.



Leave a Reply to elisabeth in CT Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(45) Comments

  1. What you need is a time-released monkey. Set it on a random timer so that whenever the timer goes off (and you never know when) the monkey is released into your workshop to play with whatever is out. This will force you to keep tidy.

  2. Dear Mary

    I saw them, I can see them in the photo lurking there waiting and ready to be used to unpick. Nine projects on the go incredible that is a lot of projects, how do you manage to organise them. Well at least your work table proves that you are busy as a bee and itching to stitch or itching to pick as the case maybe. I hope you have found them and the stitch was stitched or unpicked. Thanks for sharing your workroom with us now we can all relax and emphaise at the mess we embroiders get into when stitching.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. Whew! I thought I was the only one. I am guilty of buying a new pair of tweezers in order to avoid the day long organizing extravaganza.

  4. Buenos Dias, Mrs. Corbet! Mom and I are taking Spanish, so I need to practice my spelling. You didn’t burst any bubble of mine. I always assume you’re telling the absolute truth, and you have mentioned that sometimes you’re not quite organized. Still, NINE projects! I feel overwhelmed with my three! My suggestion is to befriend someone with OCD and set them loose in your workroom. I’d volunteer but I’m half a country away!

  5. Hahaah! That is wonderfully funny! Nothing compared to MY workspace, which borders on the apocalyptic. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Oh, where, where, where can one find that monkey??? In my case i think it would have to be a lion or tiger or bear!! something really mean and nasty enough to MAKE me clean up. i have a tendency to make stacks. you know, when i’m cutting fabric and i’m finished cutting what i need, i put the leftover in a stack. the bad part is i have two cutting tables. one for yardage (a door on saw horsese) in what used to be my daughter’s room, and another in my sewing triangle: table, ironing board and sewing machine table. so i’ve lots of stacks. but this carries over into other areas too, not just fabric. i have a thread spool holder on the wall for regular sewing threads, another one on my sewing table for embroidery machine threads but where do most of my threads reside you ask….you got it….on the table itself. i’m trying to find a cart that will fit under my sewing table with lots of little drawers that will hold my thread spools. found a scrap booking one that i think would be perfect but it’s $90 at joanne’s….for a plastic cart. i’m still looking. anyway, Mary, i’m glad to see i’m not the only one whose work table looks like that. thank you. you’ve made my day.

  7. I’m sooooo glad to know you are normal like the rest of us, and that I’m not the only one out there making piles of “stuff”. LOL. These are some of my favorite posts at times, they make you so REAL! Hahaha!

  8. Mary,

    Been there, done that, driven the whole family crazy while I’m searching. Sometimes I find what I’m looking for, and sometimes it remains on “walkabout”.

    Mostly it feels like wasted time. When I can, I put things away while I’m searching, so I feel there’s at least *some* positive result to all my stirring about.

    If nothing else, sometimes I find things I was looking for in the past, or at least am reminded where I’ve tucked away other items. Too many things, and not enough time & places to organize everything.

    Happy hunting!

  9. Oh Mary, I feel ever so much better about my work space now. We are birds of a feather. I like to think of it as creative clutter. The tweezers are in the last place you will look. :o)

  10. Three guesses huh? Lets see…..

    Ironing? (hehe)
    Sweeping up dead bugs? (snicker)
    Flossing? (haha snicker)

    In a few minor ways I wish I had a specific craft area, but mostly I am glad I do not. The more space a person has, the more space they need to clean up. I can say that because I do not have a craft area, my embroidery things are always organized. That way, I have more time to stitch. πŸ™‚ I have my extra floss stash (and some other items)in a Scandinavian sewing basket given to me by my grandmother. You know, one of the three tiered, two sided accordion baskets with legs. Then I have my fabric stash in a plastic, lidded tub and extra tools and needles etc in the drawers of my treadle sewing machine. Everything else, the tools I use regularly, my needle tube etc, is in my grab and go/ project box and if I do not keep it organized everything will be all over. My cousin (who does not embroider) was doing some mending (once a year thing for her) and her cat swallowed a needle and thread. The cost to get that taken care of was uncomfortable, so she learned the hard way not to leave needles lying around. I have known not to do that for years (We have never had any pets before the current cats), so I force myself to put things back into my box when I am not there. Perhaps you can “schedule” some clean up time each day to keep things tidier? You mentioned nine projects, suppose when you switch from one to the next you obligate yourself to tidy up the materials from one project before you allow yourself (a reward for tidiness) to work with another? You know, just a two minute (for example) “wipe down” before you move on? Then it will be 18 minutes each day for clean up, instead of an entire day when you misplace something important. Just a suggestion. πŸ™‚

    1. You are absolutely correct RMW. the more space the more stash and believe me with a lot of space those ribbons, yarns, fabrics, flosses, bred like rabbits. put two together and before you know it there are stacks and stacks of stuff! i will take an A for intent though. my intent is to always clean up after a session….but….the road to h*ll is paved with good intentions….lol

  11. Mary,
    I can sympathize with you. I have 2500 2″ squares on the dining room table and sewing and quilting projects scattered all over. Right now it’s a little overwhelming, but this morning I’m going to pick up and put some things away. Hopefully by the time my student arrives I will feel like I can be productive again. Of course it would help if I could clean as I go, but that doesn’t seem to work for me.

  12. Oh Mary!

    In a way your photo makes me feel better – I’m NOT the only one with a work table that morphs into a Waldo hideout on a regular basis. However, mine usually gets SO much worse! I’m an oboist and my music studio and needlework studio are the same wonderful room.

    I LOVE my studio, I practically live in my studio. But, lately I’ve been avoiding my studio. Why? Because I’m afraid my work table has become sentient! In addition to using my work table for needlework projects, it is also the place where I make my reeds . . . RIght now it is covered in needlework projects, supplies, beading projects, reed making tools, supplies, reeds in many stages of completion, pens and pencils, knife sharpening equipment (reed making requires VERY sharp knives), and overtop of all, a layer of frustration.

    The biggest problem is that the rest of my studio, desks, bookshelves, closets, display shelves, chairs, and even parts of the floor are also quite disordered. The frustration is because at this point I can’t do anything without doing a half dozen other things first. I can’t even do a quick clean up at this point. I must face the fact that I have to STOP my life and do a thorough cleaning in this room. Once I do that I can get back to work and be able to accomplish things without having to search for materials or tools, without having to “clear a space” in order to work on anything (and still be cramped and uncomfortable while I’m doing it), without spending much more time than I should be taking to do *everything* I need to do . . .

    Thank you for inspiring me to “set plans aside” and CLEAN MY STUDIO – NOW – before I do anything else out there!! I think I’ll go take a couple ‘before pictures’ – but I’m way to ashamed to share them! I may be willing to share the after ones, though. πŸ˜‰

  13. LOVE THIS! I do all of my stitching crafts in “my chair” in the living room. The arm of the chair, the storage ottoman I use for my supplies and my actual pincushion all have needles in them. My ottoman is full of “to do” projects, and so are the two large bags hidden behind it. And every available surface around me is covered with bits and pieces of projects.

    I pick up the area every couple of days, just to save my marriage. πŸ˜‰

    1. My space in the living room is a mess and there are always needles in he arm of the chair. My current cockatiel likes to drop my thread (and glasses) in the trash basket when I leave the room. Had a cockatiel a few years ago that would steal my threaded needles. I blamed the kids….until I found a nest lined with my threaded needles.

    2. I learned the hard way that the arm of your chair is a Very Bad Place for needles! Many years ago (early ’70s) I put down my needlework, threaded a new color, stuck the needle in the chair arm, got up for a bathroom break. Then I returned, backed up to the chair & put my hands on the arms to lower myself… You guessed it! Only the sharp end of the needle was visible in the palm of my hand; enough for the ER doc to grab with hemostats & extract. Lesson Learned!

  14. I read the time-release monkey comment, but thought it was a monkey that would come out and clean up for me. Ha! Could you come over to my studio when you’re done? My whole space looks like that. I’ve actually been trying to put away a few things each time I go in. “Wasting” a whole day cleaning… shudder. I have so few whole days that I could even be in my studio.

  15. Each time i start embroidering – almost every day – my working table rapidly looks like yours (less than 1 hour is enough …) BUT, but , but… That table is also the table we are having our breakfast and evening dinner on (my house is small). I convinced my husband that the days he is not working outside, lunch is MUCH better either outside in the garden (when not raining or not too cold – we live in rainy belgium) or on the small table in front of the tv in the living room – more i could not get …
    You can imagine what a sense of organisation you MUST have (hum…) to put everything away within a few minutes before the meal and start again after it.
    You really must be motivated to keep going on embroidering that way, believe me. Has anyone an idea how to solve MY problem please ?

    1. Hi Catherine, Just search on-line for something like: “organising work space”. I remember reading of one artist who began with just a small cupboard that had a drop-down shelf but it stopped the picking up and putting away you speak of.
      Also you might be able to find an olden-day drop-side table. Image a medium-sized round table with it’s opposite “sides” cut and reattached with small hinges. These sides can be raised to form a sturdy table to use and dropped to store against a wall or back of a lounge. When the “sides” are down the centre area is still wide enough to keep some important stuff on.

  16. Don’t feel alone. My work space probably makes yours look organized and clean by comparison. AND I have a helpful cockatiel too….and I haven’t seen my box of bobbins in two months.

  17. What a relief, Mary, to know that even a fine needle artist like yourself can get the workspace a little out of hand! I thought it was just me… That means there’s hope for me. Thank you!!!

  18. Hi Mary, I have heard it said that creative minds are seldom tidy. You are a very creative mind so don’t be too hard on yourself. πŸ™‚ I too can identify with messy work areas at times.
    Thank you for everything you share. You are a sweet and wonderful artist. πŸ™‚
    In Christ,
    Gail J.

  19. Help! I feel the same way. I am sorting my studio. And I can’t find my metal scissors! Where did I put them? Do you think I’ll find them in my shuffle? (probably not). I’m sorting out my stuff into 2 yes piles: yes, I will use this or I definitely want to complete it; yes, it will help me with design or as a resource. There are 3 no piles: no, if I live forever this is not useful or won’t ever be completed and will be donated to our EGA needlework stash sale or raffle; No, this is not useful to anyone and will go in the recycle bin.

    But it’s taking me forever to plow through it all.

    I also have many projects going at once… I’m usually better off with 2 to 4 of them.

    Good luck.

  20. Mrs. Corbet,
    Since I do my embroidering mainly in the family living room, a messy workspace is really no exception. My desk in my bedroom, however, is an entirely different story. Why, I’d be lucky if I could keep the thing completely cleared off for three days at a time!
    I hope Waldo shows up soon.

    Sarah πŸ™‚

  21. And here I thought Waldo had exclusive visitation rights at MY house! He and Mr. Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) are constantly having a dialogue and sometimes the picture just isn’t pretty!!

  22. Oh my, I am so happy that I am not the only one who loses items. Since I teach, it is even worse about keeping my class materials handy. If I put them away, I usually forget where…glad you found them!

  23. I’m forever losing things in my work space, although more often when I’m doing office type work as opposed to art/craft. Last night I couldn’t find a ruler. I had used it only a few minutes before but couldn’t find it anywhere. It finally turned up camouflaged against a binder!

    The time release monkey would be an interesting idea. I think it would find too much to play with even when I am organised (pots of pens, etc.)

  24. Dear Mary,
    Your hospitality has invited us into your home, into a room usually reserved for family and close friends. I have a room that looks just like yours. My room has only been seen by family and a few close friends. Guests have only been in my tidy living room or dining room. Mary you have done it again. You have made us feel like family.

  25. I need to show this to my husband! I knew I was not the only one with the same kind of issues! Good luck with your hunt for the tweezers!

  26. I am very tidy, sob, it is emotional constipation.
    I might lose the odd needle, occasionally. Then I grab broom-cum-dustpan to find it. This works.
    Or ask my husband to walk barefoot. This does not work -he refuses.
    An untidy worktable is to the embroiderer a floor full of toys to a kid, the fireworks finale after the fair.
    Promise, promise, pretty please: never ever tidy up.

  27. Tools jamming session: HOMAGE TO MESSY MARY

    No woman no tidyin’
    no woman no tidyin’
    No woman no tidyin’
    no woman no tidyin’ etc.
    Cause – ’cause – ’cause I remember when a we used to sit
    In a wooden basket in a roomy lounge,
    Oba – obaserving the spare ones – yeah! –
    Mingle with the good tools we meet, yeah!
    Good friends we have, oh, good friends we have lost
    Along the way, yeah!
    In this great future, you can’t forget your past;
    So sharp’n your tips, I seh. Yeah!

    No, woman, no tidyin’
    A little darlin’, don’t tidy up your tools,
    No, woman, no tidyn’. Eh!

    Said – said – said I remember when we used to sit
    In them gloomy baskets yeah!
    And then you would pick up and mix
    I seh, colourful threads o yeah!
    Then we would tangle and sew and cut I say,
    All which I’ll share with you, yeah!
    This fabric is iz my only carriage
    And so I’ve got to push on through.

    Oh, while I’m gone,
    Everything’s gonna be all dull
    Everything’s gonna be all dull
    Everything’s gonna be all dull, yeah!

    So no, woman, no tidyin’
    No, woman, no tidyin’
    I seh, O little – O little darlin’

    1. Mariolina, that is totally brilliant! Speaks to my inner rasta stitcher! Mind if I borrow the homage for the Cross Stitch Forum? I’ll credit you!

  28. well it seems I’m not the only one. I have to lose like 5 important things before I think “hey maybe I should clean up?” I keep S. Anthony pretty busy when I’m sewing lol.

    PS. I can’t wait to see how the hummingbirds are coming along (let me guess you tried a stich on them and was going to take it out when you couldn’t find the tweezers)God Bless!

  29. Hi Mary,

    I quite enjoyed this post – a bit like embroidery “Where’s Wally”. I found five pairs of scissors, did anybody find any more?


  30. Hi Mary, you don’t know how good this makes me feel. It looks just like my work space, well one of them and the other one is just as bad. But I have solved the problem, I have about 6 pairs of tweezers, scissors etc so that I can usually find one of them. I also have about 5 projects on the go and about 27 want to,start ASAP . Oh dear, I fear I will have to live another hundred years just to get through this lot, let alone the ones I come across every day that I just must have!

  31. LOL!!! So I’m not the only one who’s studio space descends into chaos! How does it happen?! There I am, deep into the creative mode – I work and work. It’s wonderful. Inevitably though, I have to nip out for a cup of coffee, or to visit the loo. Then lo and behold, on my return I find that my space resembles a post tornado zone. Ha! Only thing to do is stop and clean it up…So don’t feel like you’re alone…

  32. Mary, You could just get another pair of tweezers. I cleaned up last week and found 3 pairs! I think one may belong to my husband that he uses for pinning bugs, but don’t tell him I have them.

  33. Finally I get to read my emails and I find you doing exactly what I have been doing for the past week! But not only do I have a nagging husband to contend with, I do not have a special part of the room to call my own… I have just counted up the projects on the go and not counting the one that sits in the campervan, I have 7 – was 8 but I have just finished the crewel work cushion. Ah well it was my magnetic wand that is still missing – anyone seen it?

    1. Ah – the magnetic wand… Ask your husband!! I hear they like them, too. I got my space mostly cleaned up, but haven’t really had a chance to spend much quality time there in the past week! Hope to this weekend…. I’ll probably just mess it all up again!

More Comments