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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True Confessions: I’m a Messy Stitcher


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I wil tell you this unashamedly:

I am a Messy Stitcher.

And sometimes, just between you and me and the dog, I am a Very Messy Stitcher.

Being a Messy Stitcher can lead to some Problems, especially if you rely on embroidery for your livelihood (which I do).

The biggest problem has to do with Productivity.

As a Messy Stitcher, it’s very easy to lose track of things – from needles and threads to ideas and decisions.

I reconcile my Messy-Stitching-Habits with my Need-to-Be-Productive through one little object that I’m never without. And since it accidentally showed up in a photo, I thought I’d chat about it with you.

My Workstation for Hand Embroidery - it's a mess!

Here’s a typical session at my work station in my workroom where I do Work. It’s also where I do Fun, because my work is fun, and it also happens to be my main source of fun, because I always have to do it, so I might as well make it fun.

(Did you follow that at all? Me, neither.)

In any case, I make a jolly mess when I stitch. There’s part of me that wishes I didn’t. I would love to show you a pristinely organized workspace with projects underway and everything in its perfect little place.

Instead, I have threads strewn everywhere, needles lying about poking into this thing and that, tags from skeins of thread floating here and there among the mess, books stacked up in no particular order by this elbow and extra tools and trays and gadgets and gizmos stacked by that elbow.

In short, my work area is not – and never will be – the subject of a Perfect Pinterest Moment.

The realistic part of me recognizes that my work area tends towards entropy, so I might as well be honest about it. When I’m in the throes of a project, chugging along with satisfaction and really making progress, that’s when my work area is at its worst.

(And the photo above doesn’t represent The Worst, I assure you.)

But it’s also when I’m the most productive, when it comes to actual stitching. And I suppose that’s a good thing.

But there is a problem:

When things get messy, it’s very easy to lose track of what you’re doing and what you did. The embroiderer who creates a project for instruction – whether it be a simple tutorial or a full-fledged, all-out, major massive project – and has no idea what materials were used, what stitches were employed, what hurdles were overcome and how, finds herself in a pretty pickle, indeed.

To have to re-work something just to re-discover colors, thread choices, stitch placements, to find exact Teaching Moment Tips and so forth, in order to leverage the project for either sharing or income, is the greatest enemy of productivity. When you do this stuff for a living, it’s pretty important not to have to do the same thing twice, if it can be avoided. Time, resources, time, time, time and resources are wasted when that happens.

Enter this little lovely thing, which is one of many, and my current little companion:

Keeping a notebook of embroidery projects

Fishy, isn’t it?

This is my constant stitching (and everything else) companion. It’s not always dressed up like this. But the insides are always the same: blank lined paper.

I always stitch – and in fact, I always work at my desk, leave my house, go anywhere, do anything – with a small notebook on hand.

My notebook is the Recipient of Ideas. The Developer of Plans. The Keeper of Facts. The Guardian of Order. The Assurance of Productivity.

I fill notebooks like a dentist fills teeth. Sometimes, it’s quick and easy, jottings here and there in passing. Sometimes, it’s complicated, more painful and time consuming.

But whatever it is, if I have to keep track of it, if I have to make plans for it or think about it later, if I have to remember what I did and how I did it (and be precise about it), it goes in my current companion notebook.

Why Should You Keep a Notebook?

And I’d even go so far as to say that you should keep a notebook, too.

Not necessarily a notebook that goes with you everywhere, because you might not have to be quite as obsessive about your stitching life. But one that fits in with your project stuff, that has a place in your favorite stitching spot, that’s easily accessible.

Why? Two reasons:

1. It’s good to have one place to keep track of your projects, supplies, and whatnot – what you’ve done on current projects, what thread you ran out of and need to replace, what you thought of a particular fabric and a reminder of where you got it, why this stitch worked or that one didn’t, what book you used to find those particular instructions, and so forth.

2. When you stitch, there are times when you will experience great moments of clarity and creativity. Ideas will strike you – ideas that can develop into something significant later on. No matter how young you are, no matter how agile your memory, capturing those ideas when they happen is the best assurance that you’ll develop them further, later.

What kind of notebook?

Don’t break the bank on a notebook.

I buy small, flexible, easy-to-fit-anywhere notebooks, especially if I happen to come across them on sale. TJMaxx is a great place to find little notebooks like the one above. It came in a three pack, for less than a couple dollars.

But I also find them at office supply stores, occasionally at book stores (only when they’re on sale or clearing out – otherwise, they’re overpriced), and even at the grocery store now and then.

I never buy spiral bound notebooks, because the spiral gets in the way and it snags on things (problematic if you stuff it in a project bag).

I go for lined pages (lined or graph), because, even if I don’t keep my worktable neat while I’m working, I like to keep my penmanship and my ideas in some semblance of order. I find this easier to do on lined or graph paper.

My companion notebooks are small. I slide them into a wallet or wristlet, the side pocket of a purse, into project bags, or even (in a pinch) a pocket. I don’t want them to take up any real space or add any weight. While I use larger notebooks for other things, I keep my companion notebooks small.

I usually have more than one notebook going at once, but usually never more than two. Otherwise, it can become confusing. I always have one in my purse, so I don’t end up somewhere without one, and the other wherever I’m working.

Keeping a notebook of embroidery projects

Ah – proof! Even though my worktable gets a bit messy, I do make some stitching progress now and then. Right now, I’m growing this tree and working on the variation of the shisha project I showed you earlier. A few tutorial hoops are awaiting attention, too. And Late Harvest flits in and out now and then.

What About You?

So, tell me. Do you keep a notebook? Or do you have a different way you keep track of projects and ideas while you stitch? I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to chime in below!


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(89) Comments

  1. Oh yes! I love journaling…and mine is full of stitching ideas rather than thought about my day. I chart my CQ seams, doodle designs in roughly, and create many lists! It helps to make me feel a bit organized…in my stitching world! My work “areas” are all over the house…and each is in a bit of a mess. I have long-term projects and they always get pushed aside a bit for shorter term projects. These then manage to dance together and the result seems like a bowl or thread/lace/bead spagetti…so you are NOT alone. And, I’d dare say…probably NOT the most messy either. Hugs, Kathy

    1. Kathy, I used your thimble and alphabet designs to cover my notebook. They are so pretty.
      Next project is to embroider Mary’s “Cross” design on a new journal cover.

  2. OMG! I am the Notebook Queen! I have one large one that is divided into tabs, so that different genres don’t get mixed together…i.e., one for knitting, spinning, needlepoint, cross stitch, embroidery, beadwork, and on and on. I think there are 10 tabs altogether right now. I also keep one on projects finished in a year, which serves as incentive to get things done. Then there is one for ideas, things to buy, things to research. And finally there is one that is just a To Do list which incorporates everything in my life. This last one is the most daunting (and least fun) because it is focused on necessities and responsibilities, unlike the others which are focused on pure enjoyment. I also write in journal as often as I can, so I am ALWAYS a sucker for a nice notebook!!

  3. Great post,and I love the notebook idea. I, too, am a messy stitcher. Oh, I have all these visions of an organized, well kept work area but currently, it isn’t happening! I don’t even have a desk! My work space is the living room couch – yes, the WHOLE couch! Somehow, I manage to produce nice work, despite the work area! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Yes I, too keep a little notebook with me just about at all times. Michael’s has them too sometimes for about $1 each. AND I can actually make notes in them IF my grandchildren haven’t discovered them and written on every page, sometimes just a scribble. (They always tell me its a love note for me) So how can I complain??

  5. I can relate!!

    I keep a binder! I jot down ideas and clip/print off pictures to keep in there for inspiration. Have loose leaf paper in there.
    If I am doing multiple of 1 project I keep track of floss number, number of strands, etc…

    Photos of my finished projects go in there too. I love my binder and it is always by my side when I do my stitching too 🙂

  6. Dear Mary, I’m so glad to hear you are a messy stitcher! I stitch and quilt and I’m very messy. I dream of being neat and organized, but I know it will not happen. I keep several notebooks all over the place. It is confusing at times, but other times it’s fun to open an older notebook and see some of my ideas and designs. Thank you for sharing part of your life with all of us. I look forward to your email every day. Linda Pewaukee WI

  7. Thanks for the gentle prod. I need that. I’m good at keeping a notebook of ideas that might become orojects, but once a project is started I am so keen to get going that I optimistically plunge in. Later I find half finished work and wonder “what was I thinking here?” I will try to do better.

  8. Alas, I wish I had a notebook and one place where my projects and supplies were kept. I have boxes, baggies, paper bags, plastic bags, canvas bags and purses where “stuff” is stuffed. As a result, I now cannot find the threads for a Barbara Jackson project from 1997. The threads have surfaced from time to time, but never when I am looking for them. Every now and then, I will collect threads left in the bags when they were purchased and/or stored with a project that is seemingly never going to begin and store them all in one place…..one new place. So, why don’t I just go out and buy new threads? Because in 19 years, the dye lots have changed as I am sure the threads themselves have evolved. I would love to be organized, but I am messy too!

  9. My design/idea notebooks are binders filled with graph paper. I have four: one for bookbinding, one for quilting, one for sewing, and one for everything else (knitting, crochet, embroidery), with dividers for each subject.

    These binders are not the ones I use for purchased/downloaded/other peoples’ patterns, but for my own ideas, designs, and project journaling…if journaling is even a verb, which I now designate it to be.

    As for a messy workspace, well, there is always going to be some sort of mess when doing whatever craft one does, but I will admit that if my work surface looked like yours I would go insane. I like to have a place for everything, with everything in its place, at all times. So rigid!

  10. Mary, I can SOOOO relate to your messy stitching area. I start on a project with the possible threads tucked into a plastic box with a lid which never again closes as I’m adding more to the box or pulling things in and out of it. The box lives with me in my stitching “nest” on the couch along with patterns, scribbles, and stitching tools. I do jot notes, but not consistently in the same notebook (no discipline whatsoever, apparently.) I am going to try to adopt your system. It’s not for a lack of notebooks, I buy them everywhere because I like the cover, the colour, the design…and then find them too nice to use! I have to get over that and enjoy the using them, and practice journalling more at the same time. Oh to find the time. Thanks for your ongoing humour and inspiration.

  11. I am using a 10 1/2x 13 latching clear box. I have a thin 1/2″ styrofoam pad and foam cut to fit the box. I penned in six quadrants down and across the sheet-(large enough to hold the floss card). I am working on long and short embroidery (Trish Burr) so I have a section down the left side labeled A to F. A T” straight pin holds the card in place. I can rotate the floss cards easily. My extra floss is held by looping it over a straight pin. For me, this works because it is portable.
    Also, I’m using a small peanut can to catch my errant pieces of thread. I would be glad to send a picture. PS. I am a definite novice at this type of embroidery so I’m sure my organization will change with more difficult projects

  12. I have used notebooks for years and find them useful. I make notes on the the relative success of my choices in thread or fabric. My oldest is a collection of doodle cloths where I audition all sorts of things. This has been a great personal reference.
    I have started doing the same thing with recipes/variations. Now that the family can help in the kitchen they can make it just like Nana and I don’t have to remember the whats and hows on demand.

  13. I can relate to the messy workroom…The threads are everywhere…I also have notebooks, but alas, they become like my threads. the notebook becomes a catch all for thread, notes, recipes, favorite Bible scriptures, things to remember….Now if I can just find the notebook.

  14. I, for one, was thrilled to read your statement that you are a messy stitcher. I was thrilled because I really struggle to keep myself organized, but even with labeling things and buying organizing plastic items, I almost always end searching for a button, some thread, a pattern, something I know I have. My struggles in this regard really make me depressed at times. Yet, when I am stitching, making some progress, I really do experience freedom and joy. k Now that I have read your comments I feel a little better, knowing that you, an embroiderer extraordinaire,have had a similar problem. I will try the little notebook idea and thank you for the suggestion.

  15. Hi Mary!

    I can’t tolerate mess when I stitch. I’ve been told (and I agree) that I’m a highly productive stitcher, so it must work for me. Every skein or ball in tidy order, tools lined up, area neat and organized. Mess makes my brain itch and is a distraction when I’m stitching. I don’t even like sitting next to a messy stitcher in a class or retreat. My hands keep twitching to get into her stuff and organize- not a good way to keep friends!

    Yes, I keep ‘notebooks’, and store final notes, source lists, etc. in a large stitching journal. Snips of fabrics, threads and tracings are saved from each project with a photo of the finished piece. Notes and reminders about current projects along with deadlines are all digital. I set alarms in my iPhone for due dates, shopping reminders, etc. so one form of ‘notebook’ for me is digital.

    Different strokes for different folks!

    1. I totally relate to your work space. Mine is always set up to the point that I can reach for what I need without looking. I can’t work any other way without feeling stressed.

    2. oh my gosh I so admire you. How I would love to be so organized. You are just an wonder to those of us who are not

  16. Ah! notebooks, what would I do without them! Or maybe it’s my compulsive side that needs to write everything down. Either way they are and have been for a long time , my constant companion. I carry two, my sketchbook (a notebook by any other name) and a notebook. After last years move, and two weeks spent looking for some of my favorite Christmas decorations, I have added a third to remind me where I have stored stuff, ’cause as we all know, nothing EVER goes back in the way it came out.

  17. Good Morning Mary!

    I was just slipping some little scraps into my little working book. The times I forget to carry it with me, I reach for anything…receipts, gum wrappers, hotel notes…then stick them into my notebook. The little notebooks are tucked in my purse, glove box, my tool kits, all over my work spaces and sewing boxes, too. I couldn’t live without them! Yes, they are less than organized, too. Yet I usually can get what I need in short time. I find the clutter pretty inspiring sometimes!

  18. You are not messy, you’re creative! There has to be a critical mass of ‘stuff’ that is related to a project to be able to find inspiration and just the right needle, thread, etc.
    Your notebook idea is great! Until now I have made notes on the margins of images, but a book would be better, and probably encourage me to keep better notes. I always note the beginning and ending dates of each project…interesting how time flies!

  19. I have been creating quilt blocks with embroidery paintings.
    When I give the quilt (very special people only receive these~), I include a scrapbook with my sketches, drawings, notes, photos of the progress etc.

  20. I’ve got notebooks and pads of paper that I usually use when planning a project to (attempt to) figure out what supplies I need (I tend to end up with multiple skeins of colors since I’ve got 3-6 projects kitted up but not working on at any given time and somehow keep not realizing I already have a color).

    Occasionally I try to figure out if I can organize my project symbol cards in “areas” of a project instead of random, or order that the symbol chart gives so that I don’t need to have *everything* next to me all the time. (Didn’t really work, but I tried.)

    Sometimes I attempt to plan out where to start, and where I hope would make logical sense of where to go from there. (I usually end up changing my mind after the first 2-4 steps when I finally start stitching.)

    I’ve got graph paper to spell out names, dates, weights etc. for baby/wedding samplers.

    As far as step by step process, I post weekly update pics on social media, occasionally post about a goof I made, but I don’t write it down on paper.

  21. Hello Mary,
    I also love notebooks. The small ones are great. I also have a binder with graph paper for design ideas. My kids have also taught me to use the sticky notes on my cell phone . It is always with me so I always have my lists with me and ideas that I want to share with a friend. Next I need to learn to save sketches on there. I know its possible. Until I figure it out it’s old fashion pen and paper. As for being messy, I love it. LIFE is messy at its best. Keep having fun and thanks for sharing with is. You are a blessing.
    Victoria in VA

    1. Victoria, go to the Google App Store Android) or i-
      Tunes and do a search for sketch. There are lots of them, both free and paid. I always look at the user ratings and comments to decide what to use. You will need a stylus if you want to do precise drawings, otherwise, you can just draw using your finger.

  22. Thank you for the reminder. I’m going to the sewing room to find both of mind that are buried somewhere. I used to always carry one in my purse and sewing basket. When one was lost for a year, I was thrilled to review my old ideas for inspiration.

  23. I tend to lose track of notebooks. I keep a website blog. quick photos, quick notes about fabric, color and stitch choices, etc. It is available to the public, I could make it private but really, who would want to read my notes. I include website urls that are helpful. This is what works for me.

  24. OMG! I thought you had sneaked in and taken a picture of my work area!!! (just kidding). I try to be organized, but find it’s not always convenient (translation: waste of time) to put everything back where I got it and the snippings, etc., in the wastebasket beside my chair! As far as the notebook idea, you’re right. More than two just get confusing. Just ask me, I’ve been keeping notebooks for all my genealogy since the ’70’s. As long as we’re enjoying ourselves, who really cares what it looks like during the process? Have to tell you how much I love your articles AND your honesty! Thanks for all you do.

  25. I really should try the companion notebook method. Right now I have a lot of loose papers with ideas and notes sketched on them that I keep in an accordion file folder with dividers for different projects. I also keep a draft email to myself in gmail, so that I can jot in an idea from any computer/phone/tablet I happen to be using when inspiration hits.

  26. I keep a notebook with me at all times. I call it my journal and I keep info about ongoing projects, jot down ideas that later may be an embroidery or sewing project, and notes to send info to someone interested in a project. I record the steps I take on a project I am planning to share. My friends all know I have this journal and the one I am using now came from a dear friend. So it not only contains my notes, but it is a reminder of a wonderful friend each time I use it.

  27. I had a teacher in college that explained to us that there needs to be reality in ones life.
    You only have 24 hrs. in a day, so some things just don’t get done.
    1st. we all need 8 hrs. of sleep so that leaves 16 hrs.
    2nd. eating/ fixing food, will take up to 3 hrs. That leaves 13hrs.
    3rd. there is bathroom time, shower/tub, 30 min. to an hour. 12hrs. potty time, brushing teeth, brushing/fixing hair, an hr. 11hrs.
    4th. Working time 8hrs. min. 3hrs left.
    5th. Entertainment 2hr to 3 hrs.
    That leaves most of us with 0 time for house keeping. So if you can’t keep up with the house keeping, it’s not your fault it’s just that we don’t have enough hours in the day. LOL!

  28. I find when I am creating embroidery I need more notes in case I need to repeat the same thing twice. If I am following a pattern or kit I write on the directions page or in the margins of the book to note how I changed it. When I am designing quilt blocks, I use graph paper so I can see where the stitching lines need to be. And yes it all gets messed up and eventually I take a day just to sort fabrics, threads and notes so I can find them.

  29. Hi, Mary! Yes, you have to be so specific about what you did — and why, your whole rationale. Without writing it down, your constant refrain would be “What was I thinking?” For embroidery, I keep notes in with the project because I mostly follow the instructions and don’t leave the path as a more advanced stitcher might. But with knitting, watch out! I filled a tiny notebook when I was learning to make socks. It bulges with yarn samples hanging out. So now it’s full and I should have started another one for socks and everything else. I made a 1940’s doll dress in cherry red wool, then adapted it and made two more in mint green and sky blue. What was I thinking? Oh, here’s a tiny paper talking about Beatrice needs 1″ longer, Anne-Mildred needs waistline ribbon, and Toni . . . My beauteous haircut lady has a bun in the oven so I have to find that tiny notebook with the perfect baby socks pattern I developed so long ago. These notebooks are also fun to look in and realize how much we’ve actually brought to completion.

  30. LOL Mary, I too am a very messy stitcher! When we moved to our current home nine years ago, my husband promised to turn a former workshop in the centre of our new downstairs into my long-awaited studio. Now whenever my studio is mentioned he only half-jokingly quips, “What do you need a studio now for? You’ve got the whole danged house!!!”

    Unfortunately, he’s not far wrong! I have wool, quilting fabric, threads, needlework charts & kits, etc. stashed in just about every nook and cranny in our little home. Thanksfully, most of it is in well-labelled clear plastic totes with lids that keep out the dust and pet hair. I quilt and sew on the dining room table, knit whenever he drives, and have a stitching corner that seldom contains fewer than a dozen ongoing projects.

    How do I know what’s where? I use spreadsheets on my computer! There’s a spreadsheet just for threads, beads, and charms; one for quilting; one for needlework; one for crochet/knitting/tatting; and one for Projects. Each of these has a spot for ideas/notes/etc. Any new item has to be added to its respective spreadsheet(s); otherwise, it might just as well not be here because the likelihood of it every being found when needed is pretty slim! While I’d like to be able to brag that my electronic filing system is infallible, however, I must confess that it’s not. I’m currently stitching a Lizzie Kate sampler and need Gentle Art thread Old Blue Paint which is supposed to be in thread drawer … but isn’t. Looks like it’s off to my LNS again, LOL!!!

  31. Hi Mary,

    You call your work area messy? You should look at mine. I do keep a notebook and I jot down all ideas that came to mind. At the end of the day, I couldn’t find the relevant information about my project. Maybe I should start a note book that’s project based so by the end of the year I can see what I have done and also be able to find information such as material and technique used.

  32. When I design a project, I know it may be something I will teach in the future so I try to keep detailed notes. I usually start with one of more photos for inspiration and a collection of possible threads and these often come from shopping in my stash. I use a colored file folder and keep my paperwork, photos and other important items for the project in it. I record my stitching time and that includes doodle cloth time and ripping time. I record threads I used, the number of strands, and later if I decide I did not like that I mark through it. At the end of the work I know what went wrong and have some good detailed notes. When I have a major problem and know I am getting ready to rip out an area I will make a color copy or scan my work so I have a record of the not so good stuff. The think I really need to work on is an idea book.

  33. Being messy is the creative process in action and works best when unencumbered, in my humble opinion. But as we all know a little organization never hurt anybody, LOL. I don’t have quite the extent of projects in active process that I was using a notebook, but it’s pretty funny that I’ve been mulling it over in the back of my head that I really should pull together a “list” of what I’ve got going on. Like you I’m a messy artist. And I create my little messy piles where I work. In fact I’m in need of the “reorganization event” to take place in my main stash place which is half a small bedroom. It’s a beautiful antique desk and opposite of that is an antique credenza. Both suffering a load of neglect of things tossed on top “to be taken care of later.” That’s an inspiration killer for sure. “Time to make it pretty again” as Nicole would say on Rehab Addict. Besides didn’t I say my goal was to finish my projects started this last New Year? Hence the need for a list comeuppance, mais oui?. I’m liking the notebook idea, I can totally see the value, just have never pulled it together before. Time for the old dog to learn a new trick. Thanks for the peek at your desk, even the mundane for you seems like eye candy to me!

  34. Hi…I too keep a note book, Two in fact, one is called my “memory book” where I keep all sorts of info that I don’t use often and just know I will foget. The second is a record of my projects. I am also a quilter so tiny swatches of fabric, threads and their numbers and sketches of ideas all go in there for future reference!

  35. I have begun this year to keep a notebook about all my projects and I am finding it extremely useful.I am also taking pictures of the finished items as a record. Occasional pages have been printed etc too. Another thing I did this year was to try out a photo-book of my projects. I hope to do a more detailed one later

  36. I also carry a notebook, but have not kept one with my sewing/art things. That is a good idea, if I can remember to use it. LOL. I get so absorbed that I forget the world around me! I do like a spiral bound one tho, and I get nice “fat” ones that are my favorites at the $ store so they are cheap as well. For those who prefer a spiral bound, perhaps they could make a simple felt cover, similar to a needle book to fit the size they like. That would take care of any snaggy issues. I just keep mine in my purse so it’s never been a problem, but I do like it for making notes to myself, especially now that the ol’ brain memory ain’t what she used to be. Teehee.

  37. I have 3 things to keep me organized:
    –Extra large zip lock freezer bags. These are great for tossing you project into and can be easily tucked into a tote bag for stitching on the go. Plus, you can easily see what you have.

    –Clear storage boxes. I use these to corral fabric, threads, and needles. They come in a myriad of sizes so that they can be scaled according to their usage. I have a dedicated box for different brands so I don’t have to go looking very far.

    –Brother P-Touch Labelmaker. I use these to label those storage boxes so that I can see EXACTLY what I put in which box. It also makes it handy when your boxes are stacked on a shelf and you just want to pull out one box. I use it to make labels for those little plastic thread bobbins. I also purchased some very inexpensive tags with string. These can be looped through an opened skein and the labeled. (I got my label maker on sale at Staples for $10. It uses 1/2 inch wide tape which isn’t very expensive.)

    Years ago, someone published small notebook pages with all of the DMC numbers so you could check off what you have. I soon out grew that, but it was a good idea at the time. If you are tech savvy, you can create a spreadsheet or database to list all of your supplies. This can be done on a tablet or even a smart phone, making it easy to take with you.

  38. I do not carry a purse. Whatever I carry has to fit in my jeans pockets – and most of my jeans only have 2 pockets. Before I thought of the idea to follow (and before I had a cell phone) I carried a small memo book, such as one used for school assignments, with a top spiral. My husband would cut it shorter for me so that it fit in my pocket. I had some info that I carried over from book to book, which I saved in my computer and would print onto address labels when I had a new book. I would have a Xmas gift page for each person to keep track of ideas and what was bought. It had notes taken at museums and lectures and it had ideas that occurred to me for projects.

    I use a “dead” computer software for my calender, to dos, notes, contacts that I started using before I had a cell phone with a Palm. I then got a Palm cell phone and continued to use it. Since the phone was with me all the time I started using the notes/memos for what I used to use the notebook for. It is especially good to use as people speaking do not realize I am making notes on what they are saying, they just think I am annoyingly doing something on my cell phone. (I explain to those I don’t want to think this.) The notes from the phone are automatically transferred to my computer when I sync the two. I can then copy and paste it to another location if I want or just leave it safe in the Organizer program. When I had to stop using the Centro as we switched cell phone companies, we found out that the Blackberrys just before the new software could have their sync software forced to work with the Organizer and I got that. At some point DH says I will have to give up the Blackberry and I may then carry the old Centro as a PDA, but I am certain there is some app that has a memo or notes section that can be used the same way. I cannot make drawings in my phone, and bring one of the memo books when I go somewhere that might be needed, but I am guessing that there is an app for that for the rest of you.

    You may wonder what happened to the paper husband cut off the memo books when he shortened them – I used them as tiny notes to carry with me when I went out to run errands – they were perfect for that.

  39. Actually, Mary, I do keep a notebook. I named it my Portable Brain. I started keeping one while working on a wool appliqued quilt. I did not use the thread pack available with the kit and certain pieces had to be “finished” after the blocks were sewn together. This was the only way I could remember what color and type of thread I had chosen. Like you, I find myself jotting down ideas in this book also. It helps me embrace those senior moments and get through the next forgetful occasion.

  40. I try to keep a notebook when I am working on a project. Right now, my dilemma is finding a project somewhere in my house. The material and notebook with ideas in it are no where to be found. This is a challenge project and is suppose to be finished by November. What do you do when you lose a project?

  41. Yes Mary, I definitely keep a couple of notebooks. A steno book beside the computer mainly for taking notes from your daily emails. I find this invaluable as it is very difficult to remember which day you wrote about such & such that I now need to know about.
    Another notebook is a very small (4 x 6) three ring binder that fits neatly into my purse for things I need to pick up or ideas that pop into my head while I’m out. I have used this book for years and as refill pages are available it last forever.

  42. I work on a sofa, just pulling out what i THINK I need. It piles up on the sofa,one seat for me, one for my stuff and the cat has to share. Hubby gets his own sofa to mess up. The only notebooks I keep are of done projects, started because I made the same gift for a friend twice, two years apart! Now I note what I made, the source(s) , method and recipient if one and the completion date. I adapt, but don’t design so it suits me.

  43. I too keep a notebook. I’m a bit of a stationery junky (in addition to being an embroidery junkie) so my books tend not to be cheap (more fool me). My current favourite, in which I record everything colour coded by activity (purple for embroidery and other arty activities, green for thesis, blue for household and personal), are A5 Leuchtturm 1917 dot notebooks. Instead of lines or squares they have dots in a grid pattern which are very unobtrusive. what I like best is that the pages are numbered and there is a contents section at the front. They have some other neat features too.

    I would be lost without my notebook.

    In terms of tidiness, I try. It doesn’t always work… the biggest waste of time I find is the hunting around for the thing I had just a minute ago; it’s usually hidden under something else!?!

  44. I learned long ago from Stephen Covey not to keep more than one calendar going. All commitments need to be located together to stay accurate and organized. I have found the same to be true of notes about anything that need to be made “on the fly”. The one thing that is always with me is my iPhone. It has my calendar, address book, and all the usual goodies, but it also contains notes and lists where I keep everything I learn, think of, want to remember, books to check out, project info, etc, much like your little notebooks. They call them smart phones for a reason, and the more I use the features it provides, the better my life is. I’m getting older but this is one way I keep up with my life and not forget things.

  45. I have loved notebooks for years and years!
    At the moment I have two large unlined notebooks for designs and research I’m trying to nut out. These don’t actually fit into my normal handbag, but one sits on my table beside where I work and will travel with me if I think I will have some time to suss something out.
    I have another notebook in my hand bag, and really need to make more use of the “notes” app on my phone for listing supplies I run out of or just want.

    I have other notebooks around the place, partly filled.
    They always make the most excellent inner for an embroidered piece.

  46. I don’t keep a notebook as such, but I do make notes on larger projects as I work through them. As for mess – I would love to be able to spread out my work and threads so they were always at hand instead of having to extract each item from a bag or box as I needed it. But I have A Cat. (Well, three cats, actually.) Everyone who has A Cat knows that they like to sit on things, and in things, and knock things off things. So spreading things out, let alone leaving them spread out, is not an option.

  47. I can’t believe I missed it if you posted it but where do I get the pattern for the beautiful tree? I love the textures & the mix of colors. I have a notebook I bought for $1.99 that I really like. The cover is the color of a much-loved book tied with twine holding a postcard dated 1942 & a picture of a beautiful building. There’s a tag that has Journal written on it in script tied to the twine. The pages are parchment colored with lines & each page has a beautiful border. It’s a small journal so it’s easy to take with. I use it to keep track of the projects I want to do.

    1. I too would love to get the tree pattern like Linda..I don’t do a notebook,,maybe I should start 🙂

  48. I’ve kept notebooks for years. Currently I have 2 major ones, one for crazy quilting and one for general quilting. I do make notes about what I’m doing and write out instructions in my shorthand so I may write up class notes. There’s also ideas and sometimes descriptions of happenings. They’re wonderful for inspiration and rememberings. Barb W, MO

  49. Love your blog posts. Love also your comments about keeping a notebook with you everywhere you go because inspiration hits anywhere and everywhere. I absolutely LOVE May Books (www.maydesigns.com). These little notebooks are customizable with a variety of inside pages to choose from. They have canvas covers and are hand stitched. Fit in my purse, backpack, travel bag, etc. I have a huge stack of them. 🙂

  50. hello mary- i love your site and look forward to it every week. i amm a very messy cook and apparently a messy stitcher. i keep notes on my quilt projects, e.i. what needle length, width ect., but i do not with my embroidery. i do, however keep them separated into project bags with the certain threads with the embroidery item. that way i am not looking elsewhere for the same threads. i love the tree ( i am a big treehugger0 love anything to do with trees. is there a pattern?? thank you for all your time and great skills, and love of embroideries- that u sew selflessly share with us

  51. I started keeping a small retractable tape measure with me at all times. The Frazier Institute gave them away with the phrase “If it matters, measure it” on the casing. It has saved me in many different ways and times.
    susan in dallas

  52. What a great idea Mary I have done that with my quilt making even with a sample of each fabric used in the quiltbut never ever thought of that with my embroidery thanks for sharing

  53. Good morning Mary, Yes, I do use the same kind of little notebook that you do. Mine has everything in it. Pattern numbers, embroidery info, which episode of a binge watch series I’m on, phone conversations……….

    With that said, I’d like to know if you are going to give us a pattern of the tree you’re working on. I just love it and you might think it not necessary to provide such a simple drawing but I can barely draw a stick figure so would love to have a copy of the tree. It would be fun to use for the four seasons.
    Be well, Lora

  54. Thank you for this intriguing post! Some time, would you tell us about how you process all the notes you write in those little books? How do you organize them or put them into action? When/how often do you go back to them? I would so appreciate hearing about your method, as I keep notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals, but usually nothing goes beyond them.

  55. I have a lined composition book that I write in daily. Sometimes I put ideas for stitching in there. I also keep an art journal for playing with color. I keep samples of fibers and fabric in notebooks too.

  56. I use spreadsheets to keep track of my yarns: colour, quantity and source.
    I also use a spreadsheet to keep track of the kits I own with information: design size, hoop size, fabric size, needle, designer and kinds of stitches used. When a kit is entered the number of kinds of stitches and the number of colours are calculated. A sheet shows three tables: the kits bought in order of acquisition, number of kinds of stitches and colours. As kits are completed, the items on this sheet are coloured. I am working my way through kits in order of complexity.

  57. I like to track how much time I stitch on a project along with the date. So – when I lay it down for awhile and then come back to it I know when I started it and how much time I’ve already invested.

  58. HOLA, AMIGA DEL BORDADO, soy totalmente opuesta a tí. Todo está ordenado y bien limpio. Así ahorro tiempo cuando busco algo … o bien si alguien quiere ver el proyecto que estoy realizando, puedo presentarlo sin sentir verguenza …
    Me agradan tus trabajos!! Mi afecto desde Argentina!

    1. Evidently Ms. Braghieri disagrees with all this silliness about notebooks and inventory lists blah blah blah. I felt that way also. Pride in our systems instead of the finished work. She says HELLO, EMBROIDERY FRIEND, I am totally opposed to you. Everything is in order and very clean. Thus I save time when looking for something. Or if someone wants to see the project I’m working on, I can show it without feeling shame. I enjoy your work! Best wishes from Argentina! . . . KISS? [keep it simple, stupid!]

  59. Notebooks are good especially when the creative juices dry up and you can have a look through an earlier one and you realise my goodness Im not as useless as I thought!! Unfortunately I lost all & a nearly full one in a bushfire & by golly I miss them. Have to really use my brain extra hard. I love hearing someone with similar work habits and nothing like a bit of pressure to concentrate the thoughts and work processes. Thankyou Mary from the bottom of my heart Chris Australia

  60. I’m a notebook junkie too! What I would love to see from you sometime is a sample of your notes. What do typical pages look like for you? I suppose this is like asking to read a page from your diary, but if it’s really an idea notebook–some ideas of which turn up on the web site–I’d be curious what the early stages of your ideas look like!

    1. I use little notebook pens that have clip on caps. They’re small and they just attach to any notebook. They fit inside check books, wallets, and the like, too.

    2. I make a simple cover with a ribbon circle on the side to hook my pen on. Sometime I make a pocket to hold more colored pencils. A little embroidery and it becomes a great way to inspire women to try it. The Doctor’s waiting room and a business card with Embroidery Websites will open doors to pass on skills to the next generation.

  61. I use the Notes app on my iPhone to record all stitching information. It’s easy to update and easy to find. Some of my friends think I am a bit obsessive!

  62. To my great shame I do not keep notebooks or journals although just lately I have been trying to add design ideas for the bucket list into a (spiral bound) notebook. Usually even those are jotted quickly onto any old scrap of paper I can find laying around.

    You may just have nudged my conscience into action here: I know and understand all the reasons for having such information available but not the self-discipline to carry it through. Things must change though, it is just too difficult not to do it. Right, Mary?

    1. Not too difficult…but sometimes, I forget to jot, and have to go back and examine what I did and take notes. Depends on how intensely I’m concentrating on the actual stitching part of stitching, as opposed to the planning and documenting part. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to take copious notes, though, on a project, unless you have a good reason to document what you did – for examples, so you don’t forget and perhaps get it wrong when explaining it to others.

  63. my table is full of stuff, i work on more than five projects at a time. but i find that i get very productive this way, because the next step will be ‘shown’ to me by intuition. happy stitcher here, lol

  64. Mary, I do carry a notebook with me always. I also never leave home without a project…maybe 2! My husband is a talker, so as long as I have something too do, he can talk all he likes. As for being messy, I’m an expert! I have a sewing/ craft room but also stitch in the livingroom in the evening. My husband doesn’t mind as long as I can talk occasionally. LOL. My problem is that I seem to do too many crafts and KNOW that I have that tool, fiber, fabric…somewhere, only cannot find it. I was thinking today that I needed a larger” box” specifically for quilting tools so they’re all together. What a wish!!! Someday!

  65. You got me when you said .. “It’s good to have one place to keep track of your projects, supplies, and whatnot – what you’ve done on current projects, what thread you ran out of and need to replace, what you thought of a particular fabric and a reminder of where you got it, why this stitch worked or that one didn’t, what book you used to find those particular instructions, and so forth.” It would have been soo nice to know whether or not my vague inkling that I had some variegated blue stranded cotton was right when I’m in the shop … *sigh* … it wasn’t.

    What an excellent suggestion.

  66. Mary, you are too hard on yourself! My work area is also messy, but I can always find what I need on it – and I know which pile it is in. I’ll bet you do too!

    As for a notebook – well, I don’t keep one, because I don’t think my efforts are memorable enough – well, maybe I should at least note when they were done. However, for me, I would do it in the PC, not in a notebook. A sort of blog would be the way to go – even if it was not intended for publication. A blog – now, that’s what you do, isn’t it!?! Complete with photos. Just add the details of threads & materials & it’s all there. (You don’t have to publish all of it).

    Don’t be too hard on yourself!

  67. i took up stitching cause I thought it would require less space and less mess! Boy was i wrong! my work place (kitchen table) is covered in threads i finally resorted to a 3 drawer rolling plastic cabinet so i have room to eat. now the table is 2/3 full and so is the 3 drawers. it amazes me how quick i make the mess. but i love stitching so i put up with it.

  68. Thanks for letting us know you are very human, besides being the most wonderful and my personal favourite tutors to go to. And I’ll take your advise a get a note book tomorrow. I live in Adelaide South Australia.Am a novice stitcher,and have trouble putting my work away. Oh well there are worse addictions. Have a great 2018.

  69. I agree. Now that you’ve said it. I’ve given up on the problem of what I did for one I did for “someone”. I’d been good, I thought, and took care of (all but one) by taking a iPhone picture of the finished object. But a notebook? I just never thought of it. And, I don’t know why. I’ve kept notebooks for everything for ages and ages and I’m not kidding as I am pushing very hard ( and am lose) on 87 years. It’s the fault of this damned iPhone I really believe. Especially, as I’m not sure and never will be sure I’m using correctly as I continue to loose a page I’ve been working on not to discover it by accident sometime (a week, a month) later when I’ve recreated it. Blagh. Thanks for the hit over the head. I’ve now got a notebook in my bag.

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