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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Needlework Adventures for 2016: My List


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Do you have an embroidery wish list? Those things you want to do, that keep adding up in a long, never-ending list of Stitching Adventures?

I do. If I look at it as a whole, I realize that life is probably too short to fit it all in. So I like to break it down a bit.

Before January struck and the year turned over, I made a list of Embroidery (and other needlework-related) Adventures for 2016.

In the last few weeks, I’ve mapped out my Plan of Attack for 2016. Now that I’ve done that, I can share with you my official 2016 list with greater confidence that we might actually see most of it!

The funny thing is, even my yearly list is a bit much. In reality, I know I won’t complete everything on it, but I’ll at least get it started.

I figure if I aim high, then when I land at the end of the year, I’ll be further along than otherwise.

Needlework Adventures for 2016 on Needle 'n Thread

Just so you know, this article contains affiliate links for a couple Craftsy classes that are available to help you with different techniques I mention below. This means I get a small kickback from Craftsy if anyone signs up for a class using my link.

So, here’s my round-up of things I want to accomplish and things I want to play with in 2016. They’re in no particular order of importance. Taken as a whole, they’ll give you an idea of at least some of the topics we’ll delve into this year.

1. Goldwork and silk – bespoke work

I’ve been asked to take on a couple small pieces of bespoke work (commissions) this year, and I have to admit, it was such an honor to be asked, that I couldn’t say no! I’ve been given a lot of leeway in the design and execution and a very flexible deadline.

At least one of these pieces will be in goldwork and silk.

Although ecclesiastical in design, the techniques apply to any design style, so I’ll be sharing my adventures with both pieces as the year progresses. I’m really looking forward to getting them underway.

Learning goldwork

If you want to follow along with them and learn, but you’ve never done goldwork before, I highly recommend Lucy Barter’s Goldwork class on Craftsy. You can read my full review of it here.

I’ll be using many of the techniques that she covers in that class. The class is So Worth It, even if you’re already pretty proficient in goldwork. If you haven’t delved into the marvels of goldwork yet, but you’re intrigued, now’s a good time to get in on this class, as it’s on sale for less than $20.

2. Pattern development

Speaking of goldwork and silk and ecclesiastical stuff, I have a folio of full sized ecclesiastical patterns from 1900 that needs my attention.

I plan to clean up some of those patterns and adapt some of the designs for secular use. It has some great borders in it! I’ll be sharing some of those patterns with you throughout this year.

3. Felt

Not necessarily figures like this doll I made last year, but similar in size!

I’ve been playing with some little things embroidered on felt. I want to perfect them, and then write up some tutorials and the like.

Felt is fun and user-friendly. While it’s a great place for beginners to start with embroidery, it’s also a good reminder to proficient embroiderers that embroidery is supposed to be fun!

4. Figure embroidery

And particularly, embroidered faces. This was on my list last year, but I was never able focus on it. I plan to this year.

5. Stumpwork!

I’m afraid I’ve got the stumpwork bug, especially after enjoying Celeste Chalasani’s Stumpwork Essentials class on Craftsy. You can read my full review of the class here.

Remember when I reviewed the book Stumpwork Flowers a while ago? Well, I’ve been re-reading it lately, and I’ve come up with a simple little design of my own that I want to work through that this year on Needle ‘n Thread.

So, I’ll be combining techniques from Celeste’s class and from Stumpwork Flowers, but putting my own spin on it. Think of this as an experimental adventure that we can undertake together.

If want to follow along with this adventure when it starts, do take Celeste’s class! This, and the goldwork class mentioned above, are both excellent ways to advance in your knowledge of embroidery techniques.

6. Yes, Cross Stitch!

Last autumn, I set up an Extreme Cross Stitch project. It is a huge piece. I organized everything including the threads (200 colors and blends) and set up the fabric. Now it’s time to start putting some stitches in.

This is not a project that will be finished this year or next (or the next, or the next). I suspect it will be a five-year project at the least. Probably a crazy-nutty idea. It’s a challenge for me on several different levels. And we all need a personal challenge now and then!

7. OPKs – that is, Other People’s Kits

First, I want to finish Late Harvest. That’s this kit I’ve been puttering with. It’s great fun!

I also have two other kits by other designers that I’d like to get going on, but whether or not I get to both this year is another question.

8. Learning to knit?

I’m toying with the idea of learning to knit. This is totally tentative.

If I go through with it, it won’t show up here on Needle ‘n Thread, because this is solely an embroidery website. But I like the idea of knitting, I like the portability of it, and I like the fact that I could make my own knitted hats to cover my bald chemo head!

So, to that end, I’ve been toying with knitting. I know how to do the simple knit stitch, but that’s the extent of my knowledge.

Now I’m contemplating two Craftsy classes (they’re just so dang convenient and economical!) – Learn to Knit: My First Scarf, followed by Learn to Knit: My First Hat. If any of you have taken either of these classes, I’d love to know how it went and what you thought.

To tell you the truth, deep down, I’d rather jump immediately from barely knowing how to do the knit stitch, to being able to knit Fair Isle tams, lace berets, cable knit sweaters, mittens, and the like. But I suppose it doesn’t work that way.

The pros: It would be nice to know how to knit and to add it to my repertoire of needlework-related things; it could be a good side hobby, away from my hobby-work.

The cons: It could take time away from my embroidery; I don’t want to build up an extensive knitting stash; and it could end up being a whim that passes with winter.

If you knit and embroider, what are your thoughts? Worth it?

9. A little design of my own

I have one independent little goldwork and silk design – small, like this Tudor Rose from eons ago – that I want to complete this year.

10. The inaugural sampler

I’ve been brewing an idea for surface embroidery samplers for a long time, and this is the year I’m working on the inaugural sampler in a series.

I don’t want to reveal too much about it just yet, but my goal was to create something perfectly suitable for the beginner just getting into embroidery, but enticing enough for beyond-beginners. I think I’ve done it! You’ll hear more about this project later in 2016. I’m excited about it!

And, you know…the Real Work

Between all this, I still have to do the real work of Needle ‘n Thread – all the other content that shows up here, too.

It’ll all unfold as the year progresses, but now that I have my list narrowed and a plan of attack in place, I feel pretty confident we’ll get to touch on all of the points above throughout 2016, and some of them, we might even see to completion.

Don’t you just love getting your lists and calendars organized? It always gives me a great feeling of accomplishment – even when I haven’t accomplished one thing on the list yet!

Any feedback? If you have suggestions, comments, ideas, questions, I have ears to hear them! Feel free to chat below!


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(87) Comments

  1. I have been doing embroidery since childhood. I learned to knit and crochet in Girl Scouts in the 1970s. My mother taught me all needlework techniques. I continued with cross stitch and needlepoint. Then about 10 years ago decided to start knitting and crocheting again. I love to switch projects . Knitting is vey portable and great waiting room activity. Give it a try and good luck. Lots of great you tube videos to help you.

  2. I am so thankful I learned to knit on circular needles. It was a passing hobby that gave me beautiful scarves and hats to match all my winter clothes. This skill helped me release stress while sitting in the hospital and doctors offices while my husband was cared for. Now four years later I have learned three crochet stitches to use on the edge of fleece blankets for Foster Care Kids and Cancer Patience’s. My embroidery is still a priority but Having skills to make gifts for others brings joy to my heart.

  3. I love lists! Especially the things to do lists that involve FUN things rather than boring stuff like “clean out the basement” LOL

    On my needlework list this year are two very large pieces, one for each of my sons. They are twins so we have to keep things even 😀 One is a prince riding a dragon and the other is the Wizard of Oz. The theme for our family gift exchange for Christmas 2016 is “handmade” so I will be stitching something for that, maybe smaller monthly designs. A retirement gift for my sister. A baby gift for a nephew (already done, just has to be finished). Another baby gift. Jeannette Douglas’ Isle of Hope Sampler for my husband to honor his 4 grandparents who came through Ellis Island. Another large piece with a celtic blessing we read at my mom’s funeral. And finishing a crazy quilt piece commemorating our wedding (we’ve been married 16 years, it’s time I finished it). I’d like to take a few classes too if some good ones come up.

    I know I won’t finish it all, but even if I make a good start I’ll be happy.

    1. I knit and embroider and find they complement each other well. I recommend that you learn Continental, rather than English. It is faster and I find it easier on my wrists. It is really not any harder to learn and in many places outside of the US, it is the more common style. Knittinghelp.com has truly excellent free videos that can both help you get started and with more complicated conundrums (I have no affiliation with them) and The Knitter’s Handbook is still my go-to book when have a brain lapse and cannot for the life of me remember something that I have done a million times. Since you are an experienced needlewoman, I do not recommend starting with the classic basic scarf. It will feel endlessly boring. You might want to start with a cowl and quickly move on to more complicated pieces. Good luck and enjoy!

  4. Mary,
    Thanks for sharing your goals. They are very ambitious but like you, I think you have to set them high and go for it. My experience is that you create a lot of unfinished projects with a bit list but the variety is wonderful and the projects do (eventually) get done. And the joy is in the learning.
    I am also a knitter, but a basic one. I have made sweaters and vests and hats but not very complicated ones. Last year I took up sock knitting. It is great fun and so rewarding cause you can finish a pair rather quickly and wear them or give them away. Sock yarns are wonderful and you don’t need much to knit a pair – one 100 gm ball of yarn will do it. And the yarns are wonderful these days with many color dyed so that you get the effect of intarsia but none of the loose ends. There is a website that most knitters I know use – Ravelry. Check it out. It has lots of free patterns and wonderful projects.
    The thing about knitting is that you can do it anywhere. It doesn’t require special frames or stands or magnification. It is very portable and you can take it with you – a must for me. And if your project is small (hat, scarf or socks) you can finish it and use it and not worry about framing it or doing other complex finishing techniques. Anyway, do try it out. You’ll enjoy it.

    1. I teach knitting; so, obviously, I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Yes – it’s portable (and usually more portable than a lot of embroidery projects). Your knitting project can also be easy to work on when you only have a few minutes. (Sometimes, it takes a few minutes with embroidery projects to kind of figure out where you stopped; so you run out of time before you even start.). And, perhaps most significant, there are knitting projects/patterns that have a “rhythm” – so they can be extremely relaxing when you work on them.
      As it happens, lace knitting is my favorite type of knitting. Probably not a good idea for a first project – but it can certainly open up another whole world of creativity. In fact, I just happen to be teaching 2 lace knitting classes at the IOLI (International Organization of Lace, Inc.) Convention in Indianapolis in July.

  5. I’ve been trying to learn how to knit as well. I just find it so awkward using both hands. I always watch knitter with awe. Their hands always in sync. I tried out this class from Craftsy http://www.craftsy.com/class/knit-faster-with-continental-knitting/4912?_ct=sbqii-sqjuweho-dum&_ctp=1&rceId=1453215405752~yw5xqtbh

    The teacher shows you where your hands should be placed and how they should move. When I remember to do it, I find that the technique actually works.

    1. I do crochet and when I learned some basic knitting I did the continental style. You hold the yarn in a similar fashion. I tried “throwing” the yarn (I think it’s called English) and found it more difficult. If you don’t crochet already either way be easy to learn. Good luck to you both

  6. I knit a bunch and embroider less … the opposite of what you would be! I love knitting and you should totally go for it! That said, I have yet to figure out how to knit and embroider at the same time, so usually one or the other is not making the progress I would hope for 😉

  7. Hi Mary, I’m new to your site . What exactly is gold work? Embroidery with gold thread? And I don’t know what stump work.is. I do basically redwork. Thanks.

  8. Hi Mary,

    I learned to knit, crochet and embroider as a little girl. Though I never really liked crochet, I embroider daily and knit socks and the like for the house. Don’t be intimidated by it! If you can master stockinette stitch (which is just the knit stitch if you’re working in a circle, lines of knit and purl if you’re working from side to side, like on a scarf) you can totally handle Fair Isle colorwork. You just hold two strands of yarn instead of one on your finger and pick up the color you need at a time. Give it a go!


  9. Dear Mary

    A very extensive list for 2016 but fun as well. My yearly list is not half so long but there are a couple of things my Nieces’s wedding in August a fabric journal which I am just finishing up, and there is her sisters wedding six months later in Norway so I will have to research that I’m not sure what I will be doing but it will be something on the lines of a Victorian boot all decorated in lace and embroidery or a box containing an assortment of lace/embroidered things and then there is my sisters 70 birthday and she would like a poppy pillow so these will take a time to make and embroider. I can’t wait to see your projects develop and share your journey of different techniques that you will use along the way. Thanks for sharing your years embroidery calendar with us and I look forward to the adventures along the way.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  10. Hi Mary,

    You should check out Staci’s web site Verypink.com She has wonderful video tutorials on all things knitting. Simple projects and all the little techniques you need to know about knitting. I have learned a lot from watching her videos. When I am stuck she usually has a solution.

    You will love working with felt. I have just finished some cute reindeer ornaments for a friend out of felt. You are correct. Felt is easy to work with and takes embroidery beautifully.

    Barbara in Texas

  11. Knitting is a wonderful hobby, especially while waiting at doctor’s offices! I’ve done many a pair of socks that way 🙂 And I’ve knit with IVs stuck in my arms, too.

    Knitting is generally more portable than embroidery, easier to pick up and put down, IMO. I might take embroidery to my fiber guild meetings, but not elsewhere, while my knitting goes everywhere.

    What colors do you like to wear? I’ve done chemo caps for others, and since there’s the need, would love to do one for you. Guaranteed to be soft, warm, and pretty 🙂



  12. I have always knitted (and crocheted), at some times of my life a lot, and other times less. I have been planning to make 2016 a year where I focus much more on embroidery than knitting. I am easily bored, and I like learning new techniques, so I’ve always had lots and lots of different crafts on the go. I find knitting more relaxing – if you get to the stage where you can do it without thinking, or even looking at your work, it’s so soothing. I think it requires less effort than embroidery, too. In your situation, I would definitely recommend it.

    I was interested by your felt folk post. I’ve just bought a doll’s house and although my current focus is decorating and furnishing it, I would love to make some inhabitants for it too!

  13. Wow, that’s quite a list! Maybe that’s part of my downfall for not getting much needlework (or knitting, beading, drawing/painting, lacemaking, crocheting…..) done – I don’t have specifics written down, just materials stuffed in drawers giving me the stink eye. It certainly couldn’t be too many hobbies I want to pursue!?!?

    I can knit – barely. Months pass by between attempts, and I need to look up instructions each time. I advise avoiding acrylic yarn and aluminum needles when starting – very slippery combination! Go with a nice soft wool and bamboo or wood, you’ll not have nearly the problem of yarn sliding off the needles while learning to maneuver them.

    I do like the portability of knitting, esp. if staying with things like hats, scarves or socks. It seems most needlework has so much to keep track of, unless you are doing something simple.

    And it’s nice to have another hobby to take a break from the others. Especially when stumped by one of them. It seems the ideas on how to get past the block comes when working on something else.

  14. Wow! I got tired just reading the list. But it sounds like things are 1) interest you, 2) stretch you, 3) are fun for you, 4) short and long term, quick and involved projects. I’ve got my own list but it is much, much shorter.
    My grandmother tried to teach my sister Colleen and I to knit. Every year when she came to visit for Christmas. It never stuck. I did crochet, but then I got tendonitis in my wrist and had to quit. I also was totally unable to do anything but the largest crochet stitches, so nothing I made was very cute or pretty or delicate. I’ll stick with embroidery, but I will so very much enjoy reading about and seeing your journey.

  15. Hi Mary,
    Love your list for this year. I too have a multi-year project going, my stumpwork clock, that is 25% done, a cross stitch sampler that is a little over 50% complete, and a desire to stitch at least four other crewel projects for my house. It’s the curse of creative people….we see, we get inspired, we create! There aren’t enough hours in the day. Can’t wait to see your new creations.

  16. By all means, try knitting. If you don’t like it, no need to continue with it, if you do, well, as has already been pointed out it is very portable. Depending on what you are knitting it is also handy for something to do with your hands that doesn’t require a lot of light or visual attention. If you don’t need a lot of knitwear, there are always groups that welcome donations-chemo caps, hats or gloves for the homeless, etc.

    You have also given me a nudge to actually write down some of my projects for the year. I’m pretty good about doing that with weaving projects, but sometimes my thoughts about embroidery are less specific and get lost by the wayside.

  17. I’m sixty, have been sewing,crocheting since I was eight. Sew’d clothes, quilts, embroider hand and now mostly machine and digitizing my own design, I can knit made some pretty vests and sweaters, I just done like it as well as crochet.
    Crochet is my nerve pill, relaxes me,
    Now mostly make up my own fancy patterns. Crocheted everything from doilies,
    Tablecloths, tops, dresses, skirts. Still use more thread than yarn. I am trying to finish my second large table topper,saving. An old pattern. I have been very busy with workk. I do upholstery auto, marine, rvs,motorcycles,4 where’s, aircraft, and furniture I just finished two antique arm chairs and almost finished with a older fifths chair, just have to add more to the cushions to fill out the new covers.
    Well I got to get back to work have a happy day.

  18. Hi Mary! I love your blog and I thank you for all the information and instruction you share with us!
    I taught myself to knit a while ago and struggled with intermixing purling and knitting stitches until I learned the Continental knitting technique! So, as a person who wants to learn to knit, I recommend learning to knit in the Continental style to save yourself from the struggles I had!


  19. Let’s talk about knitting first: Stefanie Japel’s Knit Lab-Knitting 101 is a very good beginner knitting class on Craftsy. I recommend it highly. Also, on the New Stitch a Day website are tons–and I means TONS–of videos for every stitch combination and technique you can think of. Johnny and Lacey explain what they’re doing and why they’re doing it much like you do in your videos. Also, hello, the videos are free! And then there’s Ravelry, which is to the knitting world what you are to the embroidery world, Mary. So.Much.Inspiration. Not so much classes and tutorials, although those are there, but lots and lots and LOTS of free patterns, projects, yarns, notes and links for specific knitted work.

    Okay, so, on to embroidery projects 2016:


    I’m embroidering on felt for some doll clothes for the Briar doll (from Big/Little) that I made for my niece. The current outfit is a hooded cape, dress, and long bloomers, replete with lots of Scandinavian-inspired stitching. This doll is going to end up with more clothes than I have!

    Biscornu’s on the list because I need an excuse to stitch up another–er, I mean new–pincushion.

    Second embroidered embroidery box, because the threads that aren’t six-stranded floss need their own home.

    Still working on a series of books I’m re-binding with embroidered covers.

    And I really, really, really need to get to the Ladies’ Magazine project, because I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who committed to the project who hasn’t yet picked up a needle and started to stitch. I’m still testing leather, dyes, and embossings, so I kind-of, sort-of have an excuse, but I feel like I’m slacking.

    And that’s just embroidery. Let’s not get into the sewing, quilting, non-embroidery book binding, or knitting projects right now…

  20. You should try knitting – – after all you can only wear so many hats, right? (We all know how that ends up!) 🙂 One piece of advice I would give you is that if you have chemo head, do not make your hats out of wool as they get very hot and will itch, but, of course, that’s just me! For a beginner the hardest part of making a hat is knitting on double-pointed needles in the round, but if you have an interest in it, you should try it. I’m sure that after you take a Craftsy class you’ll be fine. Reach for the Moon!!

  21. What a plan for 2016!!!!

    I must tell you that i’m working on another tudor rose project…another little box…. for my gdaughter’s birthday. I also sent you a pattern (it was a freebie on one of the knitting show’s wegsites) for a very easy fair isle hat. Don’t let the looks of the chart intimidate you, it really is very easy. If you can do the knit stitch you can make this hat. Guaranteed!!
    it was my first fair isle project and I’m NOT a fantastic knitter, i’d classify myself as an intermediate beginner….lol.

  22. Yes, Mary, learning to knit is so very worth it . . . and not at all difficult! My grandmother taught me when I was 4. If you know “knit,” “purl” is a simple opposite, and everything else rests on those two stitches. You’ll pick it up in no time! I wish I lived near enough to bop over to your house and be your knitting mentor. Knitting is very relaxing and zen-like. If what you’re working on isn’t too complicated, you can even do it in the dark, unlike embroidery.
    Your list is ambitious, but you’re a determined lady. I have no doubt you’ll get a good portion of it done. My list for this year is going to be mostly training a new puppy. Must puppy-proof the house right away, as he arrives Thursday‼️

    Best wishes with your health challenges. I hope that one day you’ll be able to say, as I do, that you’ve been a NERD (No Evidence of Recurrent Disease) for forty-some years.

  23. Hi Mary, I found Craftsy after you recommended the stumpwork class which I enrolled in but I have also been sidetracked by the knitting classes. I knew the basics of knitting but have learnt so much since enrolling in some (quite a few actually) of the Craftsy knitting classes. I haven’t done the ones you specifically mentioned but the ones I have done are fantastic. Like yourself I like the portability and the fact that when you are finished you have a very useful item. I have made my first pair of socks and my first beanie. I would like to do some lace knitting but am leading up to it. Knitting is GREAT.

  24. Dear Mary
    What a delightful list. I’m so excited to see what this year brings. I love to try new techniques so I embroider, knit, crochet, sew and weave. I wouldn’t say I am a master of any technique. But I love having a number of projects on the go to work on as time and space permits. Knitting is indeed more portable than a lot of needlework and can provide some (almost) instant gratification. Being able to start work on a hat in the evening and be wearing it the next day. With access to the internet, really, anything is possible. But I wish I could find a site like yours for each of my interests. You really set the standard, and I always know your posts will be informative and entertaining.
    Blessings to you

  25. Wow! What an ambitious list you have for 2016! I haven’t made a list yet, but I plan to. I’m in between homes, so most of my fabric, threads, and supplies are in storage. I did learn to knit years ago, and I would love to take it up again, especially sock knitting. My big project, aside from setting up a new sewing/embroidery/etc room, will be to inventory all of my projects, both unfinished and not yet started. Then I’ll be able to go from there.

  26. Olá, amo seu site (como faço para comprar seus livros?)espero aproveitar de todas as coisas de sua lista. Faço pouca coisa de crochê, trico, ponto de cruz, macramê e bordado livre que estou em uma aula, mas muita coisa aprendo com seus videos. Obrigada, paz e bem pra você.

  27. I learned to crochet way back in the 60s, and did many an embroidery kit then. Love embroidery, but don’t seem to have the patience for all the prep work!
    I recently took up knitting, and learned continental style just from the videos at knittinghelp.com. It is a bit awkward at first, but seemed to make more sense than English style. I do like the portability of it, and it’s easy to do just a few minutes at a time. And I do use circular needles usually.

  28. Get to your LYS, your best, priciest, most exclusive warm and cozy local yarn store and start shopping with your fingers. Tell the clerk, who is probably the owner, what you’re about. Get two balls of the softest most beautiful yarn in a medium weight. NOT acrylic! and NOT black! I’d get cherry red or pale teal, a springy color. Never mind if it doesn’t match everything you own. Forget the stupid classes. Get help to cast on. A good yarn store will sit down with you and help you. A knitted cast on is fine. You’ve measured your head. The yarn store lady will match you and your yarn up with a circular needle in size 3 to 7. Too small and you’ll scream. [And sock yarn is not soft enough!] Too big and you won’t be using the same muscles you’d need to click along on 3’s or 4’s. (That “It’s easy!” message for big needles is a mistake.) Your yarn should be maybe sportweight and a mix of (superwash?) merino, alpaca, angora, mohair, and/or silk. You can handwash this if it falls in the mud! Mainly the yarn has to be something that grabbed you with its beauty. Or ask about “Gina” which is well priced and changes color! Oh, wow! Noro’s “Kuryeon” also changes color but is scratchy. No, you need soft. And don’t think acrylic baby yarn will do the trick. So just cast on, say, 120 stitches for 6 st/in and a 20″ head. And just knit and knit and knit and knit — whee! The edge will roll up. When your knitted piece is deep enough, like 9″ or more, go back to the store and get some dpn’s (bamboo double point needles — bamboo won’t slip out) and divide the number of stitches into 6 segments and begin knitting around and decreasing (k2tog) each segment — plus some plain knitted rounds in between the decreases. Sit at a table and write down what you have to do and tick it off as you do it. When you get to 6 stitches, ask about I-cord or idiot cord, unvented by Elizabeth Zimmerman, a wonderful knitter whose teachings and books you might want to explore. Make an I-cord topknot and 2tog until you have one loop, cut yarn, pull through, and hide the tail. If the hat is too big or slips or doesn’t cooperate, wear a soft little hat under it. Or put a decorative pin on one side. You could do this in a week! You can also knit big wool things, wash in hot water, and EMBROIDER the felted results! I just ordered from Schoolhouse Press (Zimmerman’s daughter, Meg) the makings of Estonian mittens with lace cuffs and red flowers. P.S. Ann Budd wrote a book giving basic patterns for hats, mittens, gloves, etc. in many sizes of yarn and people!

    1. I second the advice to not start with acrylic yarn, or to start with black (or white, either). A very wise shop owner once told me that half of what makes your knitting good is the yarn you use.

      That said, good yarn can be pricey, and really good yarn is really pricey. So once you get hooked (because you will), don’t feel one bit bad about shopping sales at the LYS and online!

      You think you have a lot of needles now…wait ’til you start building your knitting needle collection, lol!

      I’ll also add that you can always turn to us here in the stitching community you built for any knitting help you might need.

  29. I always wanted to learn Silk Ribbon Embroidery and bought several books by Di Van Niekerk. I couldn’t find a stockist in the U.S.A. so never pursued it. I’m leery of ordering overseas but after her farewell message and stating she’ll be closing down in the near future, I now feel compelled to take the plunge. I can’t wait to receive my kit and extra ribbons I ordered. I feel confident I can learn it. After all, I can do a french knot when all my childhood friends jumped ship when they didn’t want to continue trying. I also have lots of crochet and quilt projects on my list.

    1. Hi Sandra,

      I also do silk ribbon embroidery. The one thing I have learned is to anchor my ribbon. Pull your ribbon slowly through to control how your petals look and hold them in place while you anchor the ribbon in the back with sewing thread. This keeps the leaves or petals in place on the front of your work.

      Barbara in Texas

    2. Yes, Barbara La Belle, I have watched Di’s videos I bought and taped the ladies that appeared on Martha Pullen’s tv shows. I just never actually did it yet but I will be when I receive my supplies. Thanks

  30. I do it all, have boxes of fabric, yarn, projects, patterns, and lists of projects and many, many books. I do find myself going to crochet first..for some reason I think it’s easier, faster, and more portable than knitting. Some patterns simply must be knit, but I have 100’s of really nice patterns of crocheted hats, scarves, cowls, baby stuff. Just a thought. Sometimes I wish I had only one hobby. I would certainly get more done and have less boxes of supplies.
    For inspiration, I suggest books and website of Kristen Nicholas. She does some beautiful work, especially combining embroidery and knitting. It’s easier than it looks! If there’s anything I can do or suggest, I’d be happy to help. Have fun, Barb

  31. I knit better than I embroider, as I’ve been knitting longer, and yes, totally worth it to do both as they are so different, at least for me. And once you master knit and purl, and learn how to do it in the round, you can make a simple hat. Really, you can do it with just a knit stitch, but that comes out more like a gnome hat–cute on my kid, but not sure how it would work for an adult. 🙂

    If you don’t want to build up a stash, you don’t have to–you can just purchase what you need for a specific project. If you find it’s a hobby that you stay with, you’ll find that you slowly build a collection of needles and other accoutrements (stitch markers, row counter, etc) over time as you need them. The yarn, well…I always swore I’d never have a yarn stash, but that happened as I had leftover bits and bobs from projects, or if I found a really good deal (our local thrift store had a ton of cotton yarn, which I use to make washcloths/dishcloths as gifts–easy project (and a good way to teach yourself new techniques or patterns on a small item), great gift). But my point is that you don’t have to have an expensive stash to be a successful knitter. 🙂

    Whenever I get stuck I turn to knittinghelp.com, as I have found their videos to be very helpful. I’ve even been known to pull them up on my phone if I’m out and about with my knitting and get stuck. 🙂

  32. Ok, I think you should try knitting, but don’t do what I did. I fell in love with the yarn…yes, head over heels. Can I knit, yes, do I like it? A big NO…I don’t enjoy it or crochet…did a lot, but as I Love embroidery, I prefer to do that. So my yarn sits in a box, projects unfinished…lots of money wasted. All our local yarn shops are gone. So even knitting is very easy to take along, I have my stitching bag with me all the time instead. I think you either love it or not, and I am in the not catalogue. Nothing against knitting or crocheting. I also tried tatting which I really wanted to do, but never “got it” and felt I was wasting my time struggling. Since I am rarely in a waiting room, I don’t care about that part. You will find me at our local Needlework shop cross stitching away every Friday night.

  33. I just wanted to add… circular needles are basically the same as the “sticks” You can knit anything on them- treat them as if they were separated- or go round and round without having a back side.
    One of the best things is you don’t poke people when sitting close like in an airplane, and you don’t lose one needle and have to search for it.
    also, when you have more experience, the metal needles are slippery, but that lets you go faster when you’re more confident. -Barb again

  34. Mary you say you are keen on stump work have you seen the latest book Alison Cole has out on the master class of stump work it is good for beginners and beyond and is very interesting

  35. Hi Mary,
    Knitting is definitely worth it! The BEST stress relief ever. It’s very relaxing, when you’ve practised a bit, and not nearly as taxing on the eyes as embroidery. You can still get a buzz out of the complicated things – the first successful cables are exciting; it doesn’t have to be boring. And curled up in front of the fire, with wool on your lap, is cosy and comforting.
    I’ve knitted since I could sit on my tiny 3 wheel bike – I have a photo to prove it – doing my first cotton face washer. I and the family now have too many jumpers, but I still love the challenge of facing complex designs. But since retirement, your wonderful daily missives, and the time to embroider all the things I couldn’t do earlier, the knitting has been sidelined a bit. I even reduced my stash the other day, and am succeeding to walk past balls of wool I adore! Amazing!
    Best wishes, Alison

  36. As a fiber art addict (I spin, weave, knit, crochet, make bobbin lace, needle lace, hardanger, blackwork, embroidery, tat, cross stitch, crazy quilt with an emphasis on the embroidered seams… I’m sure I’m missing something) I wholeheartedly advise you to take up knitting! If you buy yarn only as you need it for specific projects, the stash doesn’t get out of hand.

    Also, jumping in headfirst with “specialty” techniques is my trademark, pretty much. The first actual project I knit after learning and practicing garter and stockinette was a pair of entelac socks. I am totally self taught, there wasn’t any info on the internet back then, and I had no idea it was supposed to be “hard” 😀

  37. Hi Mary,
    Ooooh, it looks like a lovely list, can’t wait to see some of the goodies listed above. Being new to embroidery, I’m very excited about your sampler idea, I have been practicing some new stitches but my own sampler is very boring so I can’t wait to see yours, I’m sure it will be way more exciting than my boring straight lines 🙂 This year I want to learn some crewel work & stump work & finish my cross stitch WIPs before my tastes totally change.
    Sorry to hear about your bald chemo head, some funky knitted beanies would be great & cosy for you. Hope your feeling well & getting better. Big hugs from Australia.

  38. My goodness, Mary, I feel exhausted just reading your list! You’re always coming up with intriguing new ideas.
    I would encourage you to learn continental knitting – it’s just a case of getting the tension of the thread right. My mother was from Europe and I always think English knitting looks so tortuous to do. I find Fair Isle very difficult because of the tension but cables are surprisingly easy. If you want small projects, your local prem baby unit may want tiny hats and mitts.
    My list for the immediate future is stumpwork and Mountmellick, and I would like to study colour with EGAUSA, having completed a short course with them last year.
    Wishing you all the best for your projects this year.

  39. What a lovely list, Mary! I bought the Stumpwork book last year but am too intimidated to try it. I may take the Craftsy class and then I can follow along with your project.
    I made the Lavender Honey needlebook for my beekeeping mother-in-law for Christmas and she absolutely loved it.
    I am planning to cross stitch Needleprint’s “Hannah Westcombe” text sampler this year, but since it’s worked with one strand over one thread on 32-count linen, I’ve realized I might need a magnifying glass! What was I thinking?

  40. Dear Mary,

    you will not believe what I was doing while reading your post. Knitting a sweater. Well, it is quite simple, only knit and knit, and knit. But, of course, it takes some time to be able to knit and to read at the same (and it is impossible to do this while knitting lace or something really complicated). But it is good to be able to create clothes for yourself. You can use better materials and create something original. But, as yous said, it takes some time from stitching (especially when winter is coming).

    So good luck learning. It is really worth your time and efforts.

    But if this means that were will be less texts about embroidery here maybe think before buying your needles and wool (this was very egoistic thought 😀 )

    And if you will start learning knitting, maybe you could write at least some secret letters about your experience? It will be very interesting.

  41. If you really are just starting out knitting, I’d echo everyone who recommends continental style. After 50 years of my own very awkward variant of English style I haven’t been able to rewire my brain to the continental method, but I see people using it and it looks so much easier on the hands. Cables are easy and well worth trying – they’re essentially just a few stitches knitted out of order. That said, I much prefer embroidery to knitting; I knit a few rows each morning to get my hands working before starting work on the computer, but embroidery is what I do for fun. Embroidery projects for 2016? A large panel in Assissi work and cross-stitch for the Spouse’s 70th birthday in 2017, and whatever small projects I need to run in parallel so I don’t go (more) crazy. Knitting projects at present are beanies, scarves, gloves etc. for charity to reduce the stash of oddments and leftovers.

  42. Mary-
    Go for it. I have embroidered and knitted since my mother taught me at age 5 (afraid to admit that’s well over 50 years ago!). Knitting is much easier than it looks, even the hardest patterns are just one stitch at a time.
    I knit English but know that my friends who knit Continental are much faster than I.
    Learn the basics and you can tackle anything.

  43. I love seeing your upcoming list. I’m looking forward to it all. I think you will have fun with the knitting too. Enough to make a hat or two. You’re right to think you may not get as into it as say your embroidery, but you will still greatly enjoy it. ‘Sides it’s fun to try new things and different genres. It brings a sense of flexibility, and broadening horizons. You have such an artistic and critical trained eye that whatever you produce will be beautiful.

  44. I don’t do a whole lot of embroidery, though I do enjoy it. I knit quite a bit and find it very enjoyable. My sister started doing fair isle after only knitting for a few months and she loves it. I however prefer to knit lace, so I guess it just depends on the person. I bet you would be able to fit it in with your embroidery and I’d love to see anything you make if you do decide to give it a go 🙂

  45. Dear Mary, by the time you read everyone’s email to you today it will be December already!! (Just joking.) My list of to-do’s is to boldly go where I haven’t for a few months and sort out my stash and my priorities in my stitching world. Recently retired, I can now see the error of my ways in putting this and that aside for my retirement. I was really silly and thought that I’d have nothing to do!! Oh Mary, I guess we never stop learning. On the up side, I think the local charity store will be receiving some little goodies soon!!

  46. I both knit and embroider. I first learnt embroidery and hand sewing as a child then had embroidery as a class at school in Grade 8. I started knitting around age 10 and have done both ever since. They are very different!
    Most of the embroidery and sewing I do is not very portable and also requires me to look at it more. I find knitting is generally better suited to travel, watching TV with others, sports events, etc. as I don’t need good light and much of the time I don’t need to pay a huge amount of attention to it. I have ADHD – major fidgeter – and I have found knitting is a good activity to help manage this. Embroidery less so in part, in part because it attracts more attention and that is not what I am looking for when trying to watch my sons play soccer, basketball, etc.

    1. I forgot to mention another difference. I have had several severe illnesses with long recovery periods. At 19, I was very ill for several years and my knitting and embroidery were very important in passing the time when I was not able to do anything physical.

      In this context, it is easier and safer to knit in bed – no sharp objects you might fall onto or have to keep track of, knitting lying in your back is easier than embroidery or sewing and does not require as much precision. Also, knitting is something that you can keep handy and simply drop off the side of the bed with no worries about damage, dirt, etc. Also, knitting can be washed if some thing is spilt on it or body fluids get on it. This is far less true for embroidery.

      I hope you recover quickly and do not need to develop new hobbies or new ways to do existing ones due to your health!

  47. I both knit and embroider, as well as sew and hook rugs and make jewelry. In the past few years, my knitting has taken priority over my other hobbies. Just this week, I have taken two knitting classes, one of which I need to have mostly done in five weeks for the next class on the finishing. I have about seven knitting UFOs and three stitching UFOs sitting around staring at me.

  48. Hi Mary, I knit and embroider, and I sew and crochet, and even make lace. I have been knitting a lot lately because of the cold weather. I find it gives my hands a break from the stitching. I develop calluses on my wrists from too much repetitive movement so I switch fiber crafts all the time. It keeps me fresh, and keeps me interested. Keeping you in my prayers!

  49. I knit and stitch (only cross stitch so far) – and crochet as well. The main problem is only having 2 hands, but there are times when you can’t stitch and you can knit, and for public transport crochet is best (you don’t stick your elbows out so far…)
    Only one warning … beware Startitis, it quickly gets out of hand with 2/3 crafts ☺

  50. I can knit, well, I can do plain and purl, but find it rather boring. It also seems to take me a long time to complete anything! On the plus side, though, there are some fabulous yarns out there now. Also I think you can get patterns in a graph/diagram style which I suspect might be easier to follow than the traditional type.

    My one piece of advice to you, Mary, is to buy bamboo needles. They are really lightweight, and feel so smooth. A thousand times better than plastic or metal. The yarn slides off them when you want it to, and stays put when you don’t. Yarn seems to stick on plastic and slither on metal.

    I think you crochet – have you tried Tunisian crochet? It’s done on a hook that is long like a knitting needle. It strikes me as a cross between knitting and crochet.

    Hope your recovery is going well, and you’re not feeling too tired and sick.

  51. Hi Mary from a frosty morning in Coventry. Loved reading your list. Like me lots of projects and want tos. I stitch, knit,crochet (far more portable than knitting in my veiw), patchwork/quilting, felting, fimo, drawing… if it’s creative I’m in my element. I have a x stitch that’s been on the go over 21years, the age of my eldest. Plan to finish this year
    I look forward to reading and seeing your endeavours. now to look at that craftsy class on goldwork, doing a class with my stitch group later in year too.
    Take care, warm regards, Julia

  52. Dear Mary,

    Knitting is easy to learn. As others have said, it can be very relaxing if the pattern isn’t too complicated. And, you could knit yourself a hat, a scarf or a sweater and then embellish it with embroidery!
    Do you know about Garnstudio? Lots of free pattterns and tutorials. http://www.garnstudio.com


    1. Thank you, Anneke, for mentioning Garnstudio! I had heard about Drops but thought it was for young kids. The beautiful designs come in a huge size range; the yarn is beautiful and affordable. And as you say, they really want us to succeed. I feel like a little kid who doesn’t want to go to bed!

  53. I am SOOOOO glad you’ll be starting a cross stitch this year! As a lifelong x’er, I’m really excited to see how you approach it. I haven’t had the courage to pick up one of the major pieces it looks like you’re taking on, and I’m betting you’ll be parking and the like. Oooooh! I just can’t wait!

  54. Hi Mary,
    I took the scarf knitting class on Craftsy and I loved it! I hadn’t knitted before and I had some time on my hands so I took the plunge. It was so fun and really easy to learn. The scarf is super cute and I get compliments on it all the time. I have to say that I prefer embroidery. The repetitiveness of knitting isn’t for me. I love the variation of embroidery, and since there is only so much time in the day I’m focusing on that.

    Love your website, and I hope you’re doing well.

  55. Go for the knitting! I moved to a cool climate after many years in the tropics and found the need for woollies, well, I wasn’t going to buy them was I? No, I have to make them. I could do basic knitting and simple lace patterns but have found so many wonderful patterns and designers out there I have had trouble getting past scarves which I have found a great way to try out new techniques. I have learned so much from the internet and Ravelry (can I say that?) in particular and really have enjoyed the process. Yes, it does take some time away from embroidery but on the whole items come up a lot faster than embroidery and it’s easier on your eyes at night. Good luck with it!

  56. This sounds huge, all of it. But I will be very interested to the goldwork & silk. I played around with your Tudor Rose this past year, and also with the woman’s face. I will follow anything you do with those two very closely. My own 2016 Main Project is a blackwork piece based on the photo from an old National Geographic magazine called Risk Takers. I had sketched it a few years ago, and applied a pen & ink technique called hatching and it turned out well. So my first attempt at pattern making and design will be this project. I love blackwork, and the subtleties and complexities — But I really want to learn Goldwork and portraits. I am really pleased they are on your list, and I will sign up for the Crafty class for the Goldwork. I am looking forward to this year, doing my projects and following yours.
    All the best, Sally-Ann

  57. I picked up knitting again a couple of years ago after categorically NOT doing it for decades. I have to alternate tasks these days, so having a knitting project (or three) somewhere in reach works when I have to set aside the surface embroidery or goldwork or whatever else. Plus, hats and handwarmers!!! Both are crazy easy and fast and if you’re like me you’ll go from cold to hot to cold and find them invaluable.

    And yes, circular needles are the thing for /almost/ everything I do. Good DPNs take care of most of the rest.

  58. Hi Mary!
    First, although this isn’t ’embroidery’ I wanted to tell you about a wonderful place for ‘hats’ and covers for your head. I have a dermatological issue that causes permanent hair loss and discovered that headcovers.com has everything you could need. (no kickback to me, lol) They’re lovely people (small privately owned). My other personal pointer…your in a sunny-state like me, so don’t forget the sunscreen on top of your head, too. So love the postings this week and looking forward to your site this year! Take care, Cynthia

  59. One if the other big plus points of knitting is that when you’re more familiar (a few projects in) there are many sections of knitting that you can almost do with your eyes closed. So you can watch TV or knit on a bus without a worry. Something that embroidery would struggle to match. It is a bit of a rabbit warren with as many different kinds of yarn, stitch patterns and variety of products as embroidery.

    If a stash worries you then my biggest advice for a beginner would be to stick to buying yarn just for the project you’re doing and get rid of any leftovers when you finish that project. I, and lots of knitters I know, bought lots of yarn at the beginning that we know now that we’re not fond of using. Mine’s bagged up for someone to use for charity knitting.

    Not that this will stop you building a stash completely as once you know what you like it’s pretty hard to resist buying more of it!

  60. My plan for 2016;

    1. Southwestern Sampler — a counted needlepoint piece with some complexity in the stitches. Love complexity………..
    2. Aquamarine: for a class — another complex counted thread.

    3. Crewel-type embroidery piece from an old Classical Stitches magazzine.

    4. Hardanger piece which needs finishing. It’s been hard to get back to this one because I made a messy mistake and only partially corrected it before I put it away.

    5. An ‘in the air’ embroidery piece — another basket of flowers. “In the air” means I don’t bother with a pattern, just stitch. My most fun thing.

    And I have the usual array of planned projects and distractions. I am so happy to be retired, in good health, and doing needlework. Mary, your list is so ambitious. Can’t wait to ready your progress bulletins. Very best, Charlotte

  61. Do give knitting a go. The simple sensual pleasure of working with beautiful wool is very meditative and will give you much joy.

  62. I knit and crochet and tat and dabbled with bobbin lace making along with quilting and applique and embroidery and did a little needle lace once. Mostly I quilt and oil paint but I am just venturing into watercolor. I’ve found that all these interests overlap and interweave. I’ve yet to make a tam but I’ve collected ample patterns and watched YouTube videos on the how to’s. My year’s list is ambitious as well but we usually find at the end of the year that we’ve been directed in one way or other to achieve much of our goal list if it’s worthwhile. The years can over lap. That’s okay. “Live like today is your last day, but plan as though you are going to live forever!” Take joy in the journey!

  63. Is there any place where I can find needlepoint designs? I love to forget myself in the simple stitches…it’s almost a meditation for me. Thank you so much.

  64. I’m reading this article year & 3mos after your post & I pray that you had a full and speedy recovery. As you alluded to a serious malady above.

    “But I like the idea of knitting, I like the portability of it, and I like the fact that I could make my own knitted hats to cover my bald chemo head!”

    Anyway I hope all is well with you.

  65. Mary,

    Did you ever disclose what the Design/Pattern was for your “Extreme Cross Stitch project” was, The one you first mention is Autumn of 2015?

    1. Hi, Lena – It’s called “Madonna and Child” and is chart number 3360 from Golden Kite. I handed the project off to my nieces, who are working on it together, because I realized I could never make enough time to make good progress on that type of piece. As much as I’d like to finish a project like that, I just can’t devote the time to it!

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