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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The Disorganized Stitcher


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There are times when I try to be an organized stitcher. I actually make an effort to keep everything in its place while I’m working.

There’s a reason for this, and it’s very simple: organization saves time. I can work much more efficiently, in a much better frame of mind, if my workspace is neat and if I know where things are.

But just as there are times when I purposely work to keep myself organized while an embroidery project is underway, there are also times when I don’t.

Right now, I am suffering from PPMD – Post Project Mess Disorder. And unlike my embroidery thread addiction that I spoke about yesterday – which I don’t intend to fight – this is something I need to face and fix right away.

Embroidery Project Mess

Remember my Fiesta Fob I showed you on Monday?
Well, it came out looking like this:

Fiesta Fob Embroidery Project

And while it looks as if it were photographed in a serene, pristine environment, it wasn’t!

Embroidery Project Mess

That is my work table when the Fiesta Fob was finished. And that light in the top left of the photo? And the frame in the lower left? That’s where I took the photos of the finished fob, because there was literally no other space in the room to lay anything out neatly.

It was a lot like being in a tornado zone, trying to photograph a butterfly.

During a weekend of working under pressure, trying to meet deadlines in three directions, I let all my resolutions slip away. In two days, I went from having a place for everything and everything in its place, to this mess.

I finished the fob on time and I met my two writing deadlines. But did I do it efficiently? And was I happy when I finished it?

No, on both accounts. Now I have to spend time cleaning up the war zone, and that makes me grumpy because it takes time away from other things I want to do.

The moral of the story – and I know it’s true, even if I don’t always follow it! – is this: if I take time to stay organized during a project, I can work more efficiently (I don’t have to waste time looking for things), I eliminate the pressure of a building mess, and I save time after the project is finished, so that I can move on more quickly to my next project.

In short, maintaining some semblance of organization during a project makes you happier!

But all of this is a “do what I say, not what I do” situation.

And that, my friends, is the worst type of teaching.

Today, I organize and clean. And once the work table is in order, I’ll sit down with a much clearer conscience in a much lighter frame of mind to work on a fun project that I’ll share with you next week.

My challenge while I’m working on that project? To keep things organized. I’ll let you know how that pans out! (Wish me luck!)

Over to You…

So tell me, do you ever suffer from PPMD (Post Project Mess Disorder)? What steps do you take to keep yourself organized during a project, despite every inclination to throw organization out the window? I’d love to hear any organizational tips you’d like to share with the rest of us! Feel free to chime in below!



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(115) Comments

  1. Ha ha Mary – just love this post. I can absolutely empathise! I posted a similar account not that long ago. Thanks to your wonderful column I now have a mess of not just things to stitch, but screenprinting mess, goods to be packed for a show, as well as loads of orders, which are in the only pristine spot on the table! Like you I can only work in a mess for a short time then I HAVE to tidy up and so the process repeats itself… your end result though is fabulous – love the stitched piece.

  2. I’m sort of like that too. But after my project is complete, I make a clean sweep and put everything in its place (and it DOES have a place). Feels so good to start the next project with everything tidy!

  3. Mary,
    I love your REALITY of stitching. The creative process is messy! When you are cleaning and putting away, how many scraps of thread do you keep? Is there a certain length of thread that you save versus toss? Do you try to recycle anything?

    Love your column and look forward to it everyday!

  4. Loved your post, and the pictures!!!! I once lost a set of bias bars while making the project that required the bias bars. They had gotten trapped in the mess, and I had to go out and purchase a second set of bias bars to complete the project. I was under a deadline and the fur was flying! I found the first set of bias bars when I cleaned up. I vowed never again, and I am MOSTLY successful at returning objects to their happy homes…

  5. Oh, Mary! It’s SO good to know that someone who produces such beautiful embroidery can end up with the same kind of mess I usually end up with … you are human, even if your work is divine. *smile*
    I struggle with organization, am trying so hard to be better about it, but it’s a battle I rarely win.
    Thanks for sharing your “foibles” as well as your finished product. It makes me feel better; knowing even a pro like yourself can end up with chaos is heartening. BTW, I LOVE the fob, the mess was worth it!

  6. I’m standing in line, just a few fellow-stitchers behind you! So I’m checking the “see all the emails” so I can read all the tips!

    I really need some ideas for WIPs, work in progress, projects!


  7. Hi Mary:

    I unfortunately do not have the luxury of a work worm, let alone a work area. I have to keep my one big on going project folded up on it’s fram and put aside in a corner when I am not working on it with it’s supplies hanging in a bag on the frame. I have another bag that I have smaller ongoing projects like my Christmas projects that I keep in a ba. When I am ready to embroider I take everything out and set up in mu favourite chair in my living room or if I am not feeling well propped up in my bed with my suppplies arranged next to me. It’s a bit annoying sometimes having to set up and put things away all the time but alas that is the way it is and the most important thing is I get to do my beloved embroidery which I have been doing since I am 8 years old.

    I do have a question…Would those sitting on frams work sitting in bed? I would daarly love to get one.

    Many Blessings to Mary and to alll my fellow Embroiderers!!!

    1. Hi, Cathie – I think it depends on how firm your mattress is. I think it can work in bed – I haven tried it, though. If there’s a lot of squishy soft stuff around, though – like a very soft mattress, pillows, and the like, it might not stand up super straight, and the straight paddle might be uncomfortable.

    2. Cathie, I do not have a sit-on frame, but I stitch in/on my bed all the time. Actually almost all the time if I am home! (This is why I must be tidy with my work. I use a table top frame with bars wide enough to straddle my hips and it works great. I also use a floor frame when doing larger projects. I turn it so the support legs go under the bed and my work is in front of me. Plus I can swing it out of the way to get up easily.

  8. Relief and a name for the “disorder”!! I have spent a fortune on organizational books for my studio! The best tip for me is to arrange it like a Kindergarten room and not deter from that. For instance, the scissors are always in the cutting area and must be returned there. The books are in the reading area and must be returned there. Drawers are labeled and contents must be returned there. When I follow my “rules” it works! But mid-project….things go awry! At least I have a system to return to. For me, creative equals messy! Family members run when I call out “Wanna help me clean my studio?” Thanks for sharing!! Love your posts!

    1. As a former (now retired) teacher of ‘littlies’ I had to smile when I read your post. This is exactly how my classroom was organised. For the most part I carried this into my sewing area at home, too. But mid-projects, when creative juices were really flowing….Hmmm. So now I accept that there will be a few times that things must get a little messy but all must be set right before I allow myself to tackle any new projects

  9. Oh yes, I’m very familiar with PPMD. For me, it’s often followed by NWDIPTD (Now Where Did I Put That Disorder) that strikes when I do a mass cleanup/clean out and reorganization.

    1. I definitely suffer from NWDIPTD, much more than PPMD, mostly because I tend to tidy up at regular intervals. But, whether I’m working on embroidery, beading or writing I almost always have to go search for my pair of scissors/pen/etc. It’s often been covered by something else I’ve put down.

      I try, I REALLY try, to keep things organised, but the more absorbed I get in what I’m doing, the more my tools, etc. disappear!

    2. Yep – I’m familiar with both of these. Any time a lot of things get ‘re-homed’, it’s likely to happen. Eventually the new order makes sense, or another organizing idea comes along….

      I try not to be too concerned when I’m in the middle of a project or on deadline, unless something essential goes walk-about. And it does happen, more than I’d like.

      Someday I hope to be (more) organized, but not at the cost of actually stitching!

  10. Normally I work in semi-order, however certain projects get completely out of control, the secret garden for example. I didn’t make notes of exactly what colors I used for the first bird. The second bird involved searching and searching for exactly the same color. The result is a massive pile of messy threads, about 8 inches high is my guess.

  11. When I read the post title, I thought it was going to be about me! I would feel right at home with all the chaos. I do try and put things back in their proper place but somehow by the end of the project all good intentions have flown out the window. Clearing the mess and tidying up and ready to attack the next project!

  12. Oh yes, my work area looks like this all the time. But let’s call it a CPME-Continual Project Mess Events. Because really, is the passion of embroidery truly a disorder?


  13. Oh, yes I suffer from PPMD! And I’m glad to know the name of my affliction. :o) Right now my worktable in my craft room is a disaster, and as I was working this morning I was thinking I have to clean this mess up, which I will do either tonight or tomorrow. My current disaster is because I get up at 4 in the morning so I can have some good stitching time in the morning before I have to go to work, and I never want to waste those precious minutes putting my stuff up. In the interests of full disclosure, I may have to take a photo and put it on my blog. :o)

  14. I try to stay organized and for the most part I do. I have a couple of hand baskets that I put my working projects in as well as a couple of small wooden trays. These can be carried around to wherever I plan to stitch. I have a couple of plastic containers that I can also store a project for the ready. When I finish with a project, I have a small plastic basket in my work table cupboard that I can put my threads until I properly store them away. I like to be orderly….

  15. I can’t say that I’ve ever faced a post project mess like that one. Here and there I’ve had a few things to put away (sometimes stranded cottons have piled up a little whilst waiting to be put away in their bags), but nothing like this.

    Generally, I put things away once I finish with them. Failing that, they go back into the small project bag I have for each thing I work on so as to keep everything together and tidy.

    I tend to work in a systematic and tidy way (which would probably stun Mamma, remembering my chaotic bedroom as a teenager and leaving my stuff all over the place!), and I think that surprises many people as the usual preconception is that creative people are scatty and impractical. Just like women who are interested in their appearance not being intelligent (it’s seen as an ‘either or’ situation) etc. =) LOL!

  16. Mary – You are an inspiration to me! If I would only follow your lead and organize my closet where all of the threads, yarns, patterns and stuff reside! My only advice to others is to keep each project in a container of sorts….such as my baskets that I have made. I can easily pull one off the hook in my closet and start having fun. That works for me. But woe be to the stranger who enters that space! No visitors allowed. No sweet grandchildren who love to snoop! No husband searching for a scissor or a safety pin or a ….? Thank you Mary for your constant inspiration. I look forward every day to reading what you write to us. Happy Holidays to you and thank you again!

  17. Dear Mary,
    I usually work from my recliner chair and next to it, I have trolley with transparent boxes with my threads in it, all colour coded. Normally I get my threads ready beforehand and have an empty box to put them in. As I use them, they go straight back in the extra box until I am finished. After that it is just a matter to put back all the different colours of threads in their original place. The only thing I suffer from at the end of project, is that empty feeling as if you said farewell to a good friend. After all we spent many happy hours together 🙂
    Love Elza, Cape Town

    1. Baskets. I keep projects in baskets. Learned it from my Mother. When we were clearing her house after she passed, one room had about 20 baskets stacked up, all with projects in them. Each basket contained all the cloth, thread etc. needed to finish whatever project, a pair of scissors and a small pack of tissues. Always ready.

  18. Mary, I. Try very hard to keep my projects organized…because I have a tendency to lose things! My work room is not always straightened BUT myindividual projects are!

  19. Hi Mary,
    It’s funny you should mention PPMD. It is my biggest issue. You see, I rarely clean up the mess from a previous project before starting the next one. This has been a life-long bad habit, and I seem to have unfinished things lying around all over the place.

    So, I’m learning a new habit to replace bad one.
    What you suggest—keeping things neat as you go along—is the best way to nip the problem in the bud. However, the mess can so easily take over in the heat of creating. So it seems inevitable to often end up with a mess. The trick is to not let it make you “grumpy because it takes away from other things I want to do”.

    The habit of mind I’ve begun to practice is what I call “End-of-task”. Every task or project has a beginning and an end, and the end isn’t what I normally think of as the end—it’s not finishing the stitching, it’s not even getting the piece framed or whatever. The end of the task is to clear up everything and put all tools and supplies back in their homes. So when cleaning up, I try to keep in mind that I am still working on the project, the project isn’t done until everything is put away. This has been a hard one for me to learn (and I’m still learning!).

    Thanks for sharing so much of your stitching journey with us. You are an inspiration!

  20. Oh yes. And it’s worse as I usually have several projects of different types going. I usually manage to control the major aspects with copious use of big ziploc bags but….

  21. I try so hard to stay organized. Last year was a disaster. Someone recommended doing the Crazy 15 or whatever it was called. For the first 15 days of the new year, you start a new project. Then you work on those 15 for the rest of the year. I only started a few, maybe 5, and I had a terrible time keeping track of everything I needed for that many projects. Not to mention deciding what to work on each day and the frustration of everything taking so long to get finished.

    Now I only do one project at a time and keep all my supplies in little boxes next to my chair. 🙂 Sounds good, huh? Except all my magazines, patterns, fabrics, beads, threads are boxed and bagged and in various rooms around the house. Add to that, my husband now stitches and we fight over floss. “Hey, did you take my 598?” LOL

  22. Yes, (both hands raised!) I do suffer from the syndrome and I regularly resolve to clean up my act and do better next time. The latest wild adventure involved threading my loom on Tuesday for a demo in costume on Friday night even though I had three meetings and another project to finish for Thursday night deadline. But in completing my goal I found a tube of yarn that I’ve been searching for for months! I need it just exactly now to complete another project with an end of the year deadline. Bonus! Red faced, I once again resolve not to hide things from myself by piling instead of putting away.

  23. PPMD? Sort of. CMD more likely: Chronic Mess Disorder. I believe it stems in part from living in a tiny place where there isn’t a convenient place for everything.

    When I get tired of looking for the precise thing that I want, I substitute something else that is more readily available. Sometimes this forced creativity is fun.

    That said, I love a clean and organized workspace.

  24. Hi Mary:

    Thank you for getting back to me so fast!!! Sorry for the typos!! YIKES!! I think I need new glasses. I admi that when I do my embroidery sometimes I have on TWO even THREE pairs of glasses depending on how fine the stitching is. I tried one of those clip on magnifiers on my glasses and they just did not work for me.

    Anyways……getting bck to the standing hoop…I admit I do most of my embroiering in bed because I have to keep my legs elevated. I was thinking I could keep the paddle cushioned. I am throwing heavy hints to my husband that I would LOVE LOVE LOVE the sitting hoop as weell as a pair of embroidery scissors from England. 🙂

  25. Hi Mary, Thank you for sharing your PPMD cause I have a bad case of it and my dear sweet husband tries not to complain so I try to stay organized too. Good Luck and thank you for sharing your humanness with us. Debbie

  26. Ahhh, the important difference between ‘want’ and ‘must’. I love that time of post-project clean-up. It allows me to ponder my next project while moving toward the orderly space in which I will execute it. But then, I don’t have deadlines. I am in that privileged place of doing only the ‘want’ things and doing them at my own leisurely pace. But I do sympathize with your plight, Mary.

  27. I have found my own emergency solution….gather everything up which doesnt have a sharp point on it and gently ( with respect ) deposit everything into a pillowcase. Stage two…clean and tidy the workplace…sit down to a glass of wine whilst lifting a small handfull of leftovers back on to the table whilst planning the bext project and disposing of anything that has outlived its usefullness….BINGO!….Happy sorting.

  28. Oh, honey. It’s not just PPMD, it’s DPMD–DURING project mess disorder. The only space available to keep all the parts of a massive doll-dressing project laid out with each outfit’s fabric, ribbons, buttons, etc. is the sewing room floor. The results are cute! The cleanup, however, will probably involve a total re-sorting of the stash into boxes.

  29. I use extra large zip lock bags as project bags, but sometimes I wind up with a mess. I get annoyed with myself because it takes extra time to clean up. I keep my scissors, some needles, thread conditioner, rulers in a small clear zip pouch which I move from one project to another. I try to assemble all the threads pattern or chart when I plan a project so it is ready when I’m ready to start a new project

  30. Dear Mary – please don’t be so hard on yourself – this just proves that you are human after all! I think most all of us know exactly what you mean, and you will certainly get it cleaned up and organized – but while you are doing so, please pat yourself on the back from me – I admire all you accomplish with such beautiful results communicated to us so clearly each day in such a beautiful presentation, on such a varied amount of embroidery topics. And you do it with grace and a sense of humor that I truly admire.

  31. years ago I took all my embroidery thread of the little plastic thingys and put each thread in a Glad Snack Bag. I put a hole in the top, labeled the bags and put them on large rings by color. I often have thread left on my needle and if it’s useful, I just put it in the bag. When I have a project I just take the bags I need. They all go into a box when I’m finished with them and when the box is getting full, I re-ring them while watching TV. Now, if I could just do that with my fabric….

  32. I keep all of my threads in their own little baggy, snack or sandwich depending on the thread, then that bag goes into a larger zip lock bag. When I am finished with the project everything goes back into the big zip lock bag and put into a large wicker basket on the floor. When the basket is full, I put the threads away in their proper place , I have threads in their own bin by type.
    It kind of keeps my studio neat. Mary Ellen

  33. Ooooh, you make me feel so much better. Phew! I try to be organized but….well, I try. Thanks! Thanks for putting it all into reality. 🙂

  34. Mary, don’t sweat it! A “mess” like this is normal for a creative mind. When you get down to working on 6 square inches of space is when to clean up. I’m a crazy quilter so have fabric, threads, beads, laces, and trims out at one time. I have portable boxes and drawers that I can stack around me, mostly on the floor. That keeps part of the supplies in order. I have a tray on the work table that I throw the currently “in use” items on. Love doing the projects!
    Barb W, MO

  35. If a person is truly creative, their mind is devoted to their project. Hence the mess. If you’re thinking of standing up and putting everything away every time you use it, your not engrossed in the project. After I finish something, I’m always disgusted with the mess I’ve made and of course have to clean it up or I won’t be able to find anything for my next project. I try to be “neat” by keeping open containers around me when I’m working. That way I can keep all of the things separate and corralled otherwise I’d loose everything. I use baskets, empty cans and jars etc. Then when I’m finished, the basket of thread can go back to the thread area, crochet hooks from jar back to their case,scraps dealt with, scissors hung back on the wall etc.

  36. No, I do not suffer from Post Project Disorder. What I have is Before, During and After Project Disorder (BDAPD). It is much harder to overcome. Some days I can contain the Before, other days, the During and still other days, the After. However, I don’t seem to be able to contain BDAPD at all on most days.

  37. I know exactly what you mean. Being organized with your stash makes all the difference in the world. A few years ago I was completely befuddled because I didn’t know what I had in my stash. I developed an Excel spreadsheet with a worksheet for each thread. It took about a day or so, but I categorized all my threads. Now when I need a particular thread and color, I go to my Excel spreadsheet and see if I have it and where it is located. Part of the worksheets also show whether it’s in regular stash or in a particular kit. When I’m finished with a project I put the remaining threads back in stash and make a note in my spreadsheet. My life is so much easier.

    Another thing I did was organize my needles into a needlebook. I purchased a simple photo album and organized my needles by type and style. No more wondering what the needle is.

    Hope this helps someone else.


  38. Great post, Mary. It’s good (?) to see a work space that’s messier than mine.

    I have two things I’ve started to do that have kept my space a little cleaner. When I was finished with projects, I used to just toss the leftover thread and pattern on my desk, and just let the piles get bigger, until they entirely took over.

    I solved this by digging out a basket for the thread, and a folder for the patterns. Now at least they are “put away” before really being put away, are somewhat contained, and they don’t take over my work space.

    I have an organization question in return. I know you don’t often work from commercial patterns, but I would love to know what you do with the patterns you do stitch once you are done with them. For years, I’ve been putting them back with patterns of the same kind of needlework. I’ve been thinking, though, of starting a system where I file completed patterns by year. I would love to hear what you or others do with patterns you have completed.


    1. Carol, I use big three ring binders for everything. I started out with one for my needlepoint. I labeled it “Needlepoint,Ideas & Finished Work”. I divided the binder into two sections. Works to do and finished pieces. I place the completed patterns into a plastic sleeves along with a photo. Then if someone asks about the pattern I know right were to look for it.

  39. I suffer from PPMD, but in my case it usually ends up being PRE-project mess disorder.

    It’s when I’m pulling out all my project bags and floss boxes trying to figure out if A) I have a color I need B) do I have enough of said color.

    So I end up with the project book in front of me, 4 floss boxes around me, 2-8 ziplock bags of bobbins and/or other materials awaiting their turn to be stitched while I pull the floss out of each bag trying to determine if I have the color.

    Once I start the project, each color that I finish, the bobbin gets returned to the box very quickly (right away to about 4 hours after if I expect to finish a bunch of colors that session).

  40. I find it frustrating to work in chaos. That said, it’s so easy for things to get out of control. I make myself do one thing: spend just 5 minutes tidying up every time I’m in my work room. Just five minutes really does help a lot! Often it leads to more bu if it doesn’t that’s ok.

  41. Dear Mary

    I definitely suffer from PPMD and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. When I finish a project there is thread all around my small work table as well as all sorts of accessories, there are needle, pins thread on the floor and I have to use my telescopic magnet to find them so my feet don’t tread on them. cabinet draws are left open and my tray organiser, well, is not organised. I agree that organisation makes for a happy stitcher, I do try but alas very rarely achieve it. Thanks for sharing your PPMD with us it’s nice to know I’m not the only one, have a good weekend. P.S. Loved the post from yesterday I do like Golden Hinde it’s good to have a goldwork service in the UK.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. Dear Mary

      I forgot to compliment you on the beautiful embroidered fob and a great scissor decoration.

      Regards Anita Simmance

  42. Do I ever suffer from PPMD? (I love your little stitching “disorders” abbreviations!) Gosh! You should see the table right now! It’s covered with pieces of fabric, thread, and who-knows-what-else from when I was making a dress that needed to be done yesterday. (Yes, I did finish it)
    This mess will be fun cleaning up today. (NOT!)
    I feel the same way you do about situations such as these: Cleaning up the mess makes me grumpy because it takes time away from other things I want and/or need to do, but if I don’t clean it up I’ll just get grumpy from trying to do what I need to do in the mess!
    So clean up it is.
    “A place for everything and nothing in its place”.

    Good Luck on Keeping Organized,
    Sarah :l

  43. Mary,
    Who doesn’t end up with a mess after a stint of creativity? I have the same problem when I quilt. Right now I have to lay out my latest wool applique quilt (which I’m adding lots of embroidery to) ON THE DINING ROOM TABLE until I get everything stitched in place! It’s nice to look at every time I walk by but not nice when company comes for dinner.
    Can I ask a question back? Can you point us back to earlier posts that suggest how to keep organized? I think I need to take a look at your suggestions!

  44. I also suffer from PPMD, so what I do to help me stay organized: when I have several projects on the go, each has a separate bag or shoe tote where I keep the supplies for that project. Rule #1–the supplies stay in the tote, and I remove only the 1 thread/bead/fabric I need to use now. Rule #2– as soon as I’m finished using that 1 thread/bead etc., it all goes back into the tote, before I take the next one out. Rule #3– when the project is finished, I put away all the supplies in the tote, and then load it up with the next project. This allows me to keep my working surface neat and tidy, and creates a portable project, since all the supplies are in a shoe box tote.
    Most of the time, 😉 this works for me.

  45. Hello Mary,

    I use plastic boxes (the ones with small spaces for beads, threads etc) and tins, then I forget what I put where, but as long it is in some box or tin, it looks neat. It is a great way to delude myself that everything is under control while I am working on a project. I can work only at a table, tried sofas and armchairs and it did not work well, the tins and boxes have to be open around me to dig for what I need.


    1. Hi, Jakica – I only work at a table, too. I’d love to be able to sit on a sofa or in an arm chair and be all comfy cozy when stitching – it always sounds so nice! – but I can’t do it. I need to be able to lay things out, access whatever I need and so forth, and I can’t do that in my tiny living room. Besides, the only reason a project mess doesn’t drive me absolutely nuts is that I can close my workroom door on it, walk into the house, and not see the mess anymore! 🙂

  46. I keep a simple two handled plastic tub (in a bright cheerful color!) that I picked up at a dollar store at hand when I am working on a project. This becomes the location for all project parts that are ready to put away. After I finish using a color I toss it in there. The tub is about 8″ deep, 12″ x 8″ so it holds quite a bit. Putting the things I am finished with in there does three things. First, they are contained and ready for when I get back into the thread boxes to put them away. Second, if I change my mind on something and want that thread again, I have not been so tidy as to have to go back to thread boxes to get it back out. And third, my project feels like it going faster because the supplies left to use are dwindling!
    I like the plastic bin because it is smooth inside and nothing can get snagged.

    1. Great idea. My little butter tub isnt any way big enough. I shall get a tub on my next shopping expedition.

  47. Though I’m new at embroidery I tend to end up like that with any project I finish, so I know what you mean.
    One of the many reasons I like embroidery is that I can work on it sitting in a chair while my kids are playing in the same room, it’s a way of spendig time together. Each one of us playing on his own game. That’s why I keep my ongoing project in a tote bag, I also have there a small organizer bag full of pockets where I put all the threads I’m gonna need, the needles and scissors. So far it’s worked for me.
    Thank you for your column, I find it very useful. I love it!
    PS, sorry if my english isn’t the best, I’m from Argentina and I don’t use it since a long time.

  48. Consoles toi, je crois que toutes les brodeuses sont pareilles; moi je range quand vraiment je n’ai plus de place; c’est mon désordre à moi, et je m’y retrouve. Si je range trop je ne trouve plus rien!!!merci pour toutes les belles broderies….

  49. I do suffer from PPMD and not just in one space. I am fortunate to have a small studio for my paper arts, a sewing room in an extra bedroom and keep my needlework, felting, beading, knitting, and rug hooking in the master bedroom – all rooms are in so much disarray this year getting ready for art and craft shows and making Christmas presents, that I have moved some projects to the living room and dining room!! This Saturday will be my last show, then I can at least clean the downstairs and hope to work on the upstairs. My creativity gets stymied with the clutter and I can’t find supplies so I buy more which adds to the mess.
    I sometimes wish that I only had 1 passion but I love doing everything !!!
    Oh, and did I mention getting lost reading blogs and Pinterest !
    Carol B

    1. Oh Carol!

      I thought I was the only crazy person around. I also have multiple passions (tole painting, quilting, needlework, knitting, beading & weaving). Every time I think I will give something up to simplify my life I find a new project to start. I have finally just given up and accept my creative vibes.


  50. Oh my! I could have written this post! And I share my workspace with the laundry room, so you can just imagine my grumpiness when I have to clean up/do laundry before I can work on any project. lol

  51. Hi Mary, I was SO impressed that you let us see how even the most talented sometimes work in a mess!! I resolve every week to try and be neater, but my table always ends up looking like it had been hit by a tornado. So Thanks for showing me that you, too, get a bit untidy at times.
    I love the Scissors Fob. I shall definitely have a go.
    I have been following your page for some time now and get lots of pleasure seeing how you progress on projects. Thanks !

  52. Actually, I have that problem at my main residence. I have a very big sewing space and make a big mess while ‘working’ on projects. Now, I also have a small vacation home in another state. I have a small room there to sew and craft. Seems I only make ‘small’ messes!!! I always seem to put things back where they belong, clean as I go… So, I have deducted from this: we all want large areas dedicated to our sewing endeavors, when ?maybe? we should keep it small??? wellllllll, maybe not!! LOL LOL

  53. I use storage boxes of various sizes to try and keep organized. One is for needles (wool felt lined old Altoids tin), another for beads and specialty threads (gold, silk, metallic), another for cotton threads, another for wool and then a box for fabrics. Each thread skein is in its own plastic bag designed for that purpose. When working a project clutter always follows BUT having a spot designated to store the supplies does help because at least you aren’t wondering where to put your stuff!

  54. The fob is WONDERFUL – an inspiration project!

    My trouble isn’t “after” the project, but throughout as well. However, its on my goal list for 2015 – clean as I go. I finally mastered it in the kitchen surely it would work in the studio!! lol

    Thank you for sharing your talents.

  55. WOW ! The wreckage after the creative energy burst !
    That Fiesta Fob is gorgeous , and will help chase away the winter blues .
    As for that colourful mess ….put some nice music on ..you’ll soon have it all ship shape again : )

  56. I keep a container next to me for threads, scraps of cloth or yarn. I use them to stuff things I know won’t be washed.Just a plastic canister or even a coffee can, that can be decorated.It’s easy to carry where ever your working.

  57. Hey Mary, I was suffering from the same disorder and I found that the best solution was to START differently.

    I cut out “I” shaped cards from whatever kind of cardboard, cereal boxes etc were lying around and wound each thread around one.

    Most of the mess comes from unwinding those impractical figure-8 skeins of embroidery thread so when I can neatly roll it off the cards I have a much smaller thread-nest to tend to afterwards (I’m talking hummingbird vs. Bald eagle).

    I notched the boards so I could fasten the loose end of each thread in the notch. It takes LOTS of time to set up but I found I was much more motivated to organize *before* the project than I was to clean up after so I got through it.

    Has worked like a charm for me, hope it can work for someone here! 🙂

  58. Projects do have a way of generating a mess but I don’t like to let it get to the point that I can’t find things or the threads start getting tangled or otherwise damaged. Like others, I use baggies to keep things organized by color or type of thread and then each project get’s it’s own bag, basket, box or whatever. I’ve concluded that there’s something to the old saying “a place for everything and everything in it’s place.” Not that I’ve accomplished that but if you do have a determined place for things, it’s so much quicker and easier to get them straightened up.

  59. I think one cannot get away from the mess certain projects create. I myself, tend to keep a paper cup at my side for unwanted thread(s). I have a quilted arm rest holder tossed over the side of the chair arm. It holds needles, scissors, seam ripper, marking pen, thread and anything else I need while working on a project. I used to have everything all over the sofa, but got so tired of the aftermath. So, I clean up as I go along wrapping loose thread onto paper floss tabs. After years of living out of boxes I got tired of the “hunt”, so I am vigilant on keeping things tidy as I work. I am new to this site and just love receiving tidbits like this. Your work is lovely.

  60. I have a container that all my threads go into as I finish using them. When I’m done, I put them away. I don’t mind clutter when I get everything out to audition threads for a project, but after a while, it’s just time to put stuff away. I think part of it is like crossing things off a list. There’s the satisfaction that it’s done and I can move on to the next project which is always right there calling for attention.

  61. Lovely mess. 🙂 It is messes like yours that make me glad I do not have a craft room or space, it would only be a mess, since (like you) cleaning is not something I like to do. I often wonder why so many people like enormous homes, in my opinion, the more floor space, the more housework/chores a family has, but I digress. My embroidery space is wherever I sit, so I have my grab and go box that I always use, a (Scandinavian manufacture) accordion style craft box that I keep my floss stash in, and the drawers of my treadle sewing machine for spare tools. The grab and go box is where I keep my in progress projects and immediate need tools etc (over 40) in, and that takes about three or four minutes (depending on which tools I used) to organize at the end of a session. I have two curious cats, so cleaning up is not on my resolution list, it is on my “always do” list. Inside my grab and go is a multi-section box (purchased in the school supply section) for my tools and so forth, a floss bobbin box that holds bobbins with enough room for three projects is there. There is also a metal (m&m) tin for pens (the sulky iron on pens plus pencils for notes) plus a pad of paper, my hoop and three projects in a zip-lock to keep the fabric clean. There is also a clear plastic Christmas ornament to hold ORTS. 🙂
    I hope you get things cleaned up quick Mary! 🙂

    May I suggest getting a few baskets/boxes that you can use between project switches? I mean if you are really tight time-wise you can put the floss and other project specific items in while you change projects, then it won’t be in a multi-project tornado on the table. Then you can (a few seconds) just organize your table tools and open the next project box and release that tornado. 🙂

  62. Definitely, I start out all neat and tidy with my needlepoint and then as I start blending threads, things so south. But, before I allow myself to step away I put everything back where it started and mark my new thread combinations for the next time I sit and needlepoint.

  63. Dear Mary, When you are very busy, trying to do what you love and fit everything in life around it, a work area can become dishevelled. I’m sure you tidied it up quickly and found lots of new ideas of what you could do with them next. I especially liked a recent comment of yours, that your threads tell you what to do with them. I’ve had a couple of projects that have evolved themselves recently. Such a delight.

  64. I totally relate. And it stays that way until I can’t move around at all and then suddenly I get to work to clean it all up, stand back and admire and then get busy messing it up again! Ah, the joys of a creative person. Who creates in a pristine environment? lol

  65. My sewing room looks like that a lot, it is also my sometime office so there is that to contend with too.
    Mary would some small baskets lined up along the table help you could hurl the threads into one and other bits into others so that it might shorten the clean up time? At least it shows you have been doing something!
    Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year to you and yours and to all who contribute on Needle & Thread.
    Sandy Australia

  66. First of all, I love the way that the fob turned out – just lovely. And, yes, I also often have PPMD especially when doing a project with lots of different kinds of thread, picking what I use as I go. I’ve found that I like to see a lot of choices in front of me as I go. I also love all the comments here on the blog. It’s such a wonderful and creative community.

  67. We have two craftspeople in our household – husband and myself. In addition we had bedbugs about 5 years ago and had to take everything out that could burn, melt or explode (like paints and hot melt glues, etc, as well as household stuff) as well as heat any fabrics that were not hanging up in the dryer for 50 minutes and bag – 3 dressers of fabric in addition to the household stuff. I had figured it would all go back and we would be organized- hah!

    We waited for the 3 month all clear before starting to put stuff back. I had always wanted a swatch book of our fabrics and figured this was the time to make it, as well as put the fabrics back in a more organized manner and so I could see all of them in the drawer, but looking at it was overwhelming. I decided to put away 10 pieces of fabric a night – husband asked what good 10 pieces of fabric was, and I pointed out it was 10 more than was put away. I did this, cutting a swatch from each piece (which went on a half index card in clear baseball card holders in a notebook). Some nights it was more than 10, some less, occasionally none, but it all was done in less than 2 months.

    From there I went on to try to put away the rest of the supplies and was doing really well until I ran into the fact that a plastic drawer unit we had did not work right and decided we needed a new one. We eventually got one from Ikea, but I had lost my train of thought and have to get it back.

    We were much better organized than we had been – a small drawer each for projects in progress, room for a guillotine cutter and full size Ellison cutter to be out, a pot lid rack for sliding cutters, a dresser drawer of unstarted floss skeins and other embroidery threads, small drawer units on my side table for ongoing projects storage, a 2 shelf high unit next to husband’s table for storage, items sorted into boxes including findings in sectioned boxes and so on.

    Then we got mice in the kitchen. So all the nice room we had to walk around and my cleared off work table are now covered in items reclaimed from the kitchen until we get the kitchen cabinets sanitized and cleaned and relined. Husband’s work table is a vast wasteland of things he has bought and done nothing with and I have put there so I know they are there.

    Maybe by spring it will be done – and if you believe that, I have a bridge over in Brooklyn to sell….

  68. Oh Mary I love love love this! looks just like my kitchen table does at this moment in time….lol. i won’t even mention what the three tables downstairs in my “studio….lol” look like. but then we’re in mid production on all four tables….this link was posted on facebook this week http://elitedaily.com/money/entrepreneurship/psychology-behind-messy-rooms-messy-room-may-necessarily-bad-thing/708046/ . i sent it to my husband and children….lol. i can relate!

  69. Hi Mary!
    Hooray….I am not the only one who works like this. I start out neat, but once I get going on a project, the room ends up looking like yours. As one of the other readers said, I try to do a clean up between projects. That being said, on more than one occasion I purchased supplies I knew I had but just couldn’t locate….then I have two!

  70. Mary I know the feeling well and your post cheered my day. I no dedicated workspace. My husband says I’m taking over the house and there’ll be no room for us. However, he has a large garage with fishing stuff and car stuff in. A shed with lathe and ither tools for boat making in. A loft space with plane building,repair storage in. Models of both I shoulg add but still, lots if space i do not have. And, his suitcase for bowls in the bedroom. Men!

    Please keep us smiling.
    Julia, Coventry, England.

  71. I work in our sitting/TV room. I keep threads/tools on a large tray (covered with a white terry towel). Easy to pick up and remove when needed . Multiple trays keep different projects.

  72. I have no remedies for PPMD but I certainly suffer from it! I do crafts and the more creative I get the bigger the mess gets but I can’t stop and pick it up until I’m done. When my creativity lulls, I will put things away and I find that while doing this my mind wanders and dreams up new ideas for another creative mess cycle. Unfortunately, I don’t have a specific work area that I can close off so the rule is all guest invitations must be run by me first – whoever breaks that rule will rue the day!

  73. I only recently, ´bout 2 Months ago, discovered your page, and look forward to reading your page daily.
    Now, the best way to keep your workspace orderly, is to get at least one, better two cats. Two cats allow me to use their flat, but they will absolutely not tolerate anything lying around. I also like to sew, and have to put away everything every night. If I don´t, she will sit on my sewing -never mind the pins sticking out of it- and leave a nest of fur behind on it. And anything with threads sticking out of it, is a challenge for the tom, who will try to knit with his claws. so: night-time is tidying-time. I would sometimes dearly love to leave everything as it is overnight, or even just for taking a break, but the two of mine would have a ball on your desk. 😉

  74. LOL Looks like my office post project! Double LOL! Because I’m the sort of person who has several projects going at once, from stitching to knitting, I’ve been picking up those wonderful zippered see-through reinforced plastic (for lack of a better term) bags from Nordic Needle. They are awesome for keeping everything together and great for carrying “to go” projects with you along with magnifier glasses (I get cheap ones from the Dollar Store for travel bags) and one of the little cigarette case looking hinged little box from Nordic Needle with a small pair of scissors and spare needles in that. Also, since I am concerned about dye lots in the bigger projects they keep each floss/fiber with its respective project. For larger ones I get clear plastic shoe boxes (like the knitting stuff) or the scrap booking hinged clear boxes. If nothing else, then I’m just cleaning out the box or bag of the extra orts that are in there! Somehow tho, I have orts and threads from one end of my house to the other! PS Love the Fiesta Fob!!!

  75. I really understand where your coming from, I had plenty of those days myself. I am new at doing projects, but I have gone to a few sewing classes and made a few things. I taught myself a lot of embroidery stitches which I am pretty rusty at. My dream is to learn crewel embroidery with any luck I will one day be as great as you. Sorry it took me so long to get back with you, but I am new to computers.Louann Cermak

  76. Oh yeah – PPMD is a constant in my life, despite my best efforts to the contrary. I start every single project with the best of intentions to clean up as I go and a few hours later I look up and *someone* has been in my studio creating a huge mess behind my back. I certainly wish I could catch the rotten little mess-maker in the act and give him a stern talking to.

  77. I am always in a mess and fighting it. I never was a tidy person and think that stemmed from my mother’s obsessionality – I’m a rebeller. However I am much happier working in a tidy space but it s a losing battle as I take my projects out to various groups and work on several at one time.

  78. Hi Mary! Thanks for sharing! I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one with this dilemma! My dream (and one day it will come true) is to have a room completely to myself. It will be my sewing/craft/design/creation room and it will have a work table and drawers and cubicles and cabinets where everything will be organized, color coordinated. The fabrics will be nicely folded and easily visible and accessible. There will be a nice comfy chair in that room with lots of sunlight coming through the windows and it will be the happiest room in the house!!! I can’t wait.

  79. The best creative ideas and discoveries come out of chaos!!
    If things are too neatly ordered the left brain will resist opening or using ” stuff’
    Yes there are infrequent times when one MUST dispose and arrange…..( be aware however as soon as you do the need for that exact thing will arise.
    Muddling through is spontaneously intuitive . It will initiate your most treasured efforts!! Now coffee or paint spills are another matter entirely!!

  80. I don’t keep things neat during a project but I only make “smalls” so usually have a small mess. I do have several works in progress at the same time and so my table can get messy but I don’t put anything away until I am done with several projects and then I take an hour or so to put everything away at the same time.

  81. Sorry, I left out my tip for staying organized! I work on fairly small projects but I take the time to put the floss back into its baggie after pulling the strands that I want. Each project gets a zip lock bag and all the supplies for that project get put back into its baggie when I am done stitching. All the baggies go into a basket that I keep by my stitching seat. I have 6 pairs of glasses and 6 scissors so each baggie is complete and I can just pull which ever one I want to work on. I don’t put things back in their places until I have more than one finish and then I just put it all back at one time. I don’t mind messy and it doesn’t bother me to take an hour or so to put it all back.

  82. Perfect solution for staying organized: put your house up for sale, grin. It forces you into new neat freak habits.
    Love your scissor fob and thank you for the christmas tree pattern.

  83. Oh, yeah, my work space is always a mess when I am done with a project. And if I start immediately on another project, I just put my “left overs” in my sewing room. When the piles start falling over, I empty my sewing room and straighten it up. I find all kinds of “new” projects.

  84. A mess on my table – I can’t stand it but it creates itself as soon as I approach my working place. I use my arms to make space – but the spot is getting smaller and smaller – till I give in and reason is winning making an end of the chaos. Oh, how it feels good, then….

  85. I stitch in the living room, mostly, but cannot leave projects there. Every project has a fabric or plastic tote, and is bundled back into that and taken back to my “studio” for storage. Loose threads that I’ve cut off during the session, if pretty, go into the orts jar. But yes, after the project is done, the tote bag needs to be dealt with. Or if it was a whole garment, the sewing table must be blitzed. I find it easier to do if I can do it at the end of the final session, rather than coming back to it a different time. Like dirty dishes, the mess only seems worse the longer I leave it there!

  86. I don’t have any organizational skills – my work space looks like this all the time. I look forward to reading all the hints in the comments.

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