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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Stitching Commitments and How They Really Work


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Stitching commitments do work! Making a commitment with a specific plan is a great catalyst for finishing an embroidery project.

The other day, we talked about my new determination to finish the Secret Garden Hummingbirds by committing myself.

Er… by committing myself to stitching One Feather a Day.

Now I find myself super-duper motivated to finishing the hummingbirds altogether. I’m encouraged, because I know that One Feather a Day is manageable. And I’m encouraged because – well, let me tell you how the first few days went.

Secret Garden Hummingbirds Embroidery Project

On Monday, I embroidered a bird feather, as planned. There it is, above, finished.

And I was feeling mighty good about myself! I had accomplished the Day One Feather.

And not only that, but I had selected one of the larger feathers. It’s not the largest feather I could have embroidered, but it’s not the smallest, either.

I was off to a Good Start.

Back patting at this point.

And then Tuesday rolled around.

And on Tuesday, I had a slew of things to do, and on top of them, I had a five-hour airport run.

(One of the disadvantages of rural life is that the international airport is not next door.)

Early Tuesday morning, I awoke with a start. The sky was dark, with no promise of dawn in the immediate future. The birds were silently a-bed, and I figured I should be, too.

Feeling rebellious, determined to sleep another half hour, I smacked down my cheeky, intrusive alarm clock.

And then the Cold, Dead Fish of Reality struck, and one word wafted into my brain:


Now, if I didn’t know that it was impolite to say such a thing, I probably would have followed up with something utterly shocking, like Bloody Stupid Feather. But in some circles, that would be so rude!

So, instead, I grumbled something unintelligible, and heaved myself into Dreaded Wakefulness.

I really didn’t want to resent the Daily Feather. But you know how it is…

Secret Garden Hummingbirds Embroidery Project

When I got to my embroidery frame, an amazing thing happened!

Not only did I stitch Tuesday’s Feather (the long one on top of Monday’s feather), but I stitched all three little feathers, too – four feathers in one day!

And that’s why breaking down projects into doable, committed goals works. Once you face the doable portion and actually start doing it, it’s easy to do just a wee bit more.

Now, I could say I have three feathers in the bank, and I could forego feathers for three days, right? But that wouldn’t be a prudent investment of time, would it?

Instead, by sticking to my commitment of One Feather a Day despite getting ahead of myself, I’m now three days closer to my finishing goal.

Secret Garden Hummingbirds Embroidery Project

So here we are, six feathers down, counting Wednesday’s.

Having started and stuck to the commitment, even if for only three days, motivation is pretty high.

If I happen to be able to bank a few feathers here and there, that’s even better.

Whatever you’re plugging away on, I hope it’s going well! Don’t give up! Just chip away a little bit every day, and you’ll get there!

If you’d like to see the Secret Garden Hummingbirds develop step-by-step, you’ll find all the articles relating to this project arranged in chronological order in the Secret Garden Hummingbirds Index, which can be found under Tips & Techniques on Needle ‘n Thread. You’ll find information on the design and where you can find it, all the thread colors and stitch choices, as well as stitching tips and tricks along the way.


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(25) Comments

  1. Good for you, Mrs. Corbet! Keep going! The light’s at the end of the tunnel, and you’re getting closer to it!

    (pardon my asking, but, what were you doing with a five-hour airport run?)


  2. 🙂

    Now if *I* were on a feather a day plan, and woke up and forced myself to work on it, I’d probably use the foul language AND goofed up stitching the feathers wrong to boot.

  3. Mary did you wonder whether
    You would find the time to stitch a feather
    a day, just one not two or three or more.
    Just one a day will keep you happy.
    Don’t think how many, you know the score
    Before you know it they will have wings all flappy!!

    looking forward to seeing them in all their glory

  4. Good morning Mary…I have a question about your project..it looks like this project is fairly large so do you start when doing a feather for example that’s big at the top or bottom of the feather….Iam working on some flowers and I usually start in the middle first..Iam doing a tea cup which has all these flowers inside the cup and then theres all the green leaves which are spread out so I decided to do the green work first so I can see the print better of the flowers and it seems to be working out better for me but Iam getting anxious now to see a flower done lol..so when I do the leaves sometimes I start at the tip and then again I have done the bottom first because of the flower looking like it needs to have some green thru their petals…..thx for all your wonderful advice and taking the time to show your work….Bless you sweet lady….Trish

  5. Dear Mary

    I do admire you for getting up at the crack of dawn to embroider before you went on a 5 hour airport run, thats what I call commitment in capital letters and not only that but to do 4 feathers is truly a stitch commitment. Well done it looks lovely and I’m glad you have kept to your goal even if you did feel rebellious. I think I would definitely have used rude words if I got up at that time in the morning to feather stitch before a hectic day so don’t feel guilty. With your determination I can see this completed sooner then you expected. Great work and thanks for sharing your objectives with us its truly inspiring.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  6. I relate to the airport run… It’s 2-1/2 hours to the one closest to me. Thanks for the “little bit at a time” advice. My biggest issue with stitching is that I feel guilty for sitting when I “should” be doing something productive. But I can always justify stitching “just one thread’s worth” which of course turns into more than that. I remember how good it feels to settle in with my needle ‘n thread and create pretty things. The guilt disappears and I realize that stitching is good for my soul! Thanks!

  7. I’m not surprised that you stitched more than one feather. Getting started is usually the biggest obstacle to getting anything done but once you overcome that hurdle you find yourself off and running. I sometimes find this with chores that I don’t want to do, such as ironing. If I set up to iron something that HAS to be done I often go on to do the whole pile and surprise myself by enjoying it!

    well done and the feathers look great!

  8. Every time I see those colors I smile. You just can’t imagine how much I’m looking forward to seeing this all finished and beautiful. Maybe, almost, possibly as much as you are? 😀

  9. Hi Mary,
    You are so right!!!
    I have many stalled projects at present, so, after your post earlier this week, I decided to take things in hand a bit and set some small goals.
    OK, so the first on the list were placemats that had been sitting waiting to be backed and quilted since mid 2014. I decided one per week but after starting had all 4 finished by yesterday.

    Yeah!!! A mother’s day present finished – and there are still 6 weeks to go!
    Thank you for the encouragement

  10. Well Mary, I fell into bed early last night then woke at 3am. Got up at 4 and began to work on some book covers we’re doing as a fund raiser. It was great! I could put into action all the ideas swirling around in my head before I got up and could try thread colours, ribbons, fabric, felt, beads and gold thread – and I had a ball. Then I grabbed a cup of tea and some toast and got ready for work. It was a great start to my day.
    I’m sure that you will have those beautiful birds of yours finished, framed and up on the wall really soon. You should be really proud of your effort and achievement. Early mornings aren’t just for the birds!!

  11. It would be lovely if you could put together a video with the progress photos of your beautiful hummingbirds.
    I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now and I enjoy each and every post.
    Thank you ever so much!

  12. Mary, you are quite a motivator.

    After I read your article about committing to a feather a day I decided it was time to finish a few projects I had going. So….I finished my flannel rag quilt and then started back up on my pin weaving. I committed to weave at lease an inch a day. I’m three days and 3″ in and still committed! I have about 9 days to go then I can make the purse I have planned for the woven fabric. I hope to finished with that in time for your flower monogram ebook.

    Thanks so much for the motivation.

  13. And the best thing is – not only are you three days ahead, but also you’ve worked the largest two feathers so it’s all smaller feathers from now on! It’s been a huge project and must be a great feeling to see the end approaching. The result is glorious.

  14. Hi Mary & all,
    Have you seen Johanna Basford’s latest book, Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book? It is also quite nice, with several pages of full scenes in addition to standalone animals / characters that could make for a smaller project.

  15. Just wanted to say, I think this may be one of your very BEST ideas/posts yet (well, yesterday’s actually but my computer is going on the fritz and disconnects “whenever” so I’ll just “remark” here). I have to tell you – you’ve motivated me to get at something that I’ve needed to do for some time now – one of those “great” ideas, you get the “stuff”, and then it sits. Well, I thought “yes, Mary has the right idea, that’s what I’ll do to”. But arrrggghhh, would you believe, it’s been “put” somewhere and I can’t find it. LOL. Best laid plans of mice and men. I will persevere and find it. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend Mary (I’m behind because of this goll-darned computer.)

  16. I think that you have made this one of the prettiest projects that I have seen in a long time. Your eye for color and detail is what I long to have. Thank you for sharing.

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