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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Half: Embroidery, Pessimism, and Optimism


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I was going to title today’s article “The Pessimist’s View of Reaching the Half Way Point on a Beloved Embroidery Project.”

I didn’t, for obvious reasons.

Usually, I’m a pretty optimistic sorta gal, but I’ve got seriously conflicting feelings, now that I’ve finished the whole right half of Late Harvest.

Half of me sees the embroidery project half empty; half of me sees it half full. And half of me (yes, there is enough of me to have three halves) can’t decide if it’s half empty or half full.

The only way to settle my thoughts and re-affirm my normal positive state, I’ve decided, is to talk about it. And who better to talk about it with than you?

Late Harvest Embroidery Project - Crewel Intentions - Half Way

The evening that I finished the very last stitch on the right half of Late Harvest, I experienced a brief flash of supreme satisfaction. A Whole Half was Finished!

Late Harvest Embroidery Project - Crewel Intentions - Half Way

You’re Half Way there! the Optimist in me exclaimed.

Yep, I felt pretty good!

I almost felt…accomplished. Like I had achieved Something Significant.

But then…


Late Harvest Embroidery Project - Crewel Intentions - Half Way

…the Pessimist in me piped up.

I tried not to listen, I swear I did!

But there it was – that little nasty pessimistic voice.

Oh, you little Evil Thing, you! I cried. Creeping into my thoughts. Shattering my sunshine!

Late Harvest Embroidery Project - Crewel Intentions - Half Way

While the Optimist in me was crying Yippee!, the Pessimist responded with…

Yep. The fun’s almost over. One more half, and no more Late Harvest.

Oh no.

Oh NO!

It’s happening.

It’s the End-of-the-Project Blues. And I haven’t even gotten to the end of the project!

I’ve talked about them before, these particular Blues. They always strike me right at the end of the projects that I really enjoy. The projects that are pure fun, a little challenging, and no strings attached.

All I can say is, I must really like Late Harvest. I can’t believe I’m already feeling sad it’s over, when it’s really only half way over.

So, the Pessimist in me is cuing the Blues.

The Optimist in me, however, is rejoicing that I have a whole half to go.

And on that half, there are quite a few fun elements just waiting for me.

Ooooooooooo – I can’t wait!

Yes. I’ll stick with the Optimist!

There. I’m back to normal. Thank you so much for listening. You’ve helped me more than you’ll ever know.


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(38) Comments

  1. As sad as it is to finish a beloved project, you do have the consolation of being able to move onto other exciting projects.

  2. I get like that as well when i’m working on a big project, but especially on those where there is duplication of work. To get over that I always work on both sides, that way the overall project is at the same stage no matter which side. The carrot and stick approach also works very well 🙂

  3. That third half of you is called the Realist, and is waiting for the Optimist and the Pessimist to shut up and quit arguing with each other, because the Realist knows that once Late Harvest is finished and displayed, you’ll have it to look at, with pride and a smile, forever. The Realist also knows that you are going to fall in love with another project that will give you as much joy as this one has. After all, reminds the Realist, you don’t love the hummingbirds or the table runner any less just because you also love Late Harvest, right?


  4. Dear Mary

    Oh it looks beautiful and only one more side to do. I know what you mean I have just completed the fabric journal (I sent you photos) for my Niece’s wedding in August and I already feel bereft what to do now although I have other things to start, it is the starting that is always the difficult part, i.e. what colours/techniques/stitches shall I incorporate into the project. I’ve got another fabric journal for another great niece this time who is 18 in May that I’m starting but waiting for photos and her colour preferences from her mother, I’m unsure how to put it together at the moment, so onwards we go. I’m glad the optimist persisted in you, you should be optimistic as it’s a lovely piece of work and I’m sure you already have in mind your next project. Thanks for sharing your feelings on nearly completed projects I understand and can relate to this.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  5. I am new at embroidery. I am affraid that I didn’t achieve.
    I am Brazilian and my English is not so good.

    Thanks for your help!


  6. Mary the project is stunning. I look at it and think that the embroidery looks like appliques that are bejeweled and weighty, meant for velvet or very heavy satin. Do you plan to transfer any of it or keep it to use for -?

    1. The sadness comes from the joy of working on a project you love, that will come to an end soon. The remedy might be that you immediately start planning on starting another one just like it. Please do the new one on velvet as an elaborate gown or garment! Pretty please!!

  7. Hi Mary,

    So glad that the Optimist inside you has asserted herself! I have seen your joy for life reflected in your work time and time again. Thankfully that old Pessimist voice fell to its inevitable demise. And now you can enjoy your beautiful project again! Can’t wait to see and hear about it.

    Sunshine today in Illinois. I hope you have some in Kansas, too. : )


  8. Dear Mary,
    I fall heavily on the Optimist side. Half done, half full, half frustated! It’s only half, so that means if you like what you are doing then you still have half to look forward to. If you’ve drunk half the pot of tea, there is still a half to go. Great! Don’t have to put the kettle on quite yet. And if we are only half frustrated with the piece, well we only feel half guilty for stowing it away for awhile.

    Enjoy your day, Spring has sprung here in British Columbia.

    Cynthia, Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada

  9. The obvious solution to your dilemma is to order another of Hazel’s kits now so that you have something to look forward to when you are finished. I started one of the Talliaferro designs. It is so nice to just sit and stitch with someone else telling you what to do. I like stitching without thinking about what to do next.

  10. Hi Mary
    Have just been thinking along the same lines. I love to start a new project and its full steam ahead andthen when I’m about half way through I start to drag my heels. Is it because I don’t actually want to finish it? But then once I do I would have that excitement of another new project…heaven knows I have plenty waiting in the wings. So is this a disease particular to embroideres??
    Take care, you make the early hours of the morning so much fun. Roma

  11. Just remember that Hazel has another book with other designs… You may find something equally wonderful or even BETTER to do next. Personally, I think you should cut yourself some slack and give yourself a big pat on the back. It is quite an accomplishment to have gotten this far and while you are doing the second half, perhaps something will show up that you JUST HAVE TO DO! 😉

  12. I have often felt this way about a book I was enjoying, or a play. At least you have the supreme satisfaction of being able to look at the final results again and again. I do hope you put this on display in your house. Maybe you could tuck it away until the fall then pull it out and get a new rush of excitement over seeing it again. We are all certainly enjoying watching it unfold. It is stunning.

  13. This is a beautiful piece of work. Look forward to working on the rest of it and feel the excitement when you start getting near the end. You can go slow to make it last longer if you want to.

  14. Well, that sounds just as it should be to me, Mary. You’re half way and you’re pleased you’ve come this far, and you’ve had so much fun and learnt so much in the process that you’re sort of disappointed that you’ve only got that last stretch to go. I reckon that you’ll be feeling very satisfied by the time you get to the very end. Not disappointed that it is all done, not glad it’s over after struggling through tedious last stages – because it’s been too interesting to be boring for long. But by the time you’re through, you’ll be ready to do something else, maybe taking some stitch or idea or technique from this project off a tangent, maybe going for a complete change while your brain absorbs what you’ve gained from Late Harvest.
    If you were already bored, it would be a big slog to finish (remember that endless red runner?). If you couldn’t see enough evidence of your progress so far, however interesting, you might also be feeling a bit fed up. But to see good progress and still feel really keen to carry on is as good as it gets. By the time you are done, there will be some other project you’ll be itching to get started on, trust me! Meanwhile, there’s plenty of the left side left.

  15. Mary, anent your pessimistic inner voice: I would like to remind you there are lots of wonderful Hazel Blomkampf projects and the next one would always be more exciting and interesting. You could make a bed cover of her designs Elizabethan fashion and you might take years to get to the danger point. Ridiculous but just sayin’. Can’t wait to see what you are doing next. Blessings.

  16. Hi Mary,
    Your piece is looking stunning 🙂 I start to get the project blues nearing the finish of a beloved project & sometimes I find myself purposely getting distracted by a new project to get that new project thrill again before finishing off the first one. I have a few 90% completed projects in my WIP basket that I guess I’m not ready to finish yet., I just thought it was my short attention span getting easily distracted but reflecting on it, I am avoiding saying goodbye & getting the post project blues on my much loved projects.

  17. This is looking so beautiful! Just stitch that pessimist into silence – when you are 3/4 done your optimist will be leaping ahead with joy to planning the next project.

  18. Hi Mary, I have a friend that gave me excellent advice years ago – don’t let anyone steal your joy. Not even yourself!

  19. Mary,
    After reading the other posts, it started sounding familiar — especially the remark about books. The bittersweet feeling of enjoying it/not wanting it to end.

    Sounds like you’ve mastered the challenges you see in this project, and part of you is ready for a new challenge.

    My pile of UFOs keep growing because I give in to that feeling. Sometimes I “take a break” with a small piece, just to have a change of pace.

    Decide what helps you keep your “mojo”, and go with it.


  20. I think I know what you mean, especially the pessimist bit since apparently (according to my family including my husband) I am The Original Pessimist. My answer is that I am never disappointed.

    The good thing about feeling a bit pessimistic is exactly that: you will never feel disappointed and often, very often, you will feel fantastic because something good has happened. Like yes, you have finished this great wonderful beloved project, and doesn’t it look fantastic! And now you can move on to another fabulous, beautiful etc project which will not only inspire you but all of us too.

  21. I agree with cmt, it’s like finishing a good book, you rush to the end, addicted to those last few pages/stitches then BAM it’s gone and there come the blues. I manage to counter them with the though of gifting the finished piece to someone, that always works, and then you have a huge reason to immediately start again on something new. Love the littles stories you tell Mary.

  22. Dear Mary,

    the finished half is absolutely perfect! It is such a joy to follow your work from beginning to end – what an inspiration! …And then the best happens: what is going to be Mary’s next project?



    1. 🙂 I already have the next one brewing, Jakica! The design is done, the supplies are gathered. I’m just not quite mentally ready to take on the whole set-up process and so forth, as it’s going to be a little more intense. Well, it involves silk and goldwork, and it’s on a finer scale, so I really have to shift gears once I’m ready to go on it. Perhaps that’s also part of the problem. The set-up on a new project always stalls me. Once I get it set up, I’m happy as a clam, but in the meantime, the set-up looms like a mountain!

  23. So this is why I have so many 3/4 finished projects. I get to that stage when I start dreaming over the next. I must stay very disciplined to be able to finish. The fun is in the new fibers, and in the designing how things go together.

    ps. Stay upbeat, stitching helps get through the treatments. Takes your mind off other things. This is what I found these past 2 years as I travelled the same path as you are going down.

  24. Mary, Thanks so much for your help when I asked about how much Alba Maxima Linen to buy. I did purchase a full yard and am looking forward to receiving it. How so you recommend storing your linen? Also, having done Hardanger for years I am not sure how to approach using this linen. In Hardanger you do not split your thread. I have studied your work for 3or 4 years now and need some clarification. Do you split your threads or do you stitch in the small spaces between the threads? I have spent hours looking at your photos, but am uncertain about this. I would appreciate any insight you might be willing to share. Sincerely, Louisa

    1. Hi, Louisa –

      With surface embroidery, you split the threads of the linen. You’ll find that the weave on Alba Maxima is very close and filled. While you can see the individual threads of the fabric, it’s woven in such a way that you can easily split the threads of the fabric as you stitch. You’ll need to use embroidery needles (crewel needles) as opposed to tapestry needles (which are normally used in Hardanger). You can also use the fabric the same way you’d use fabric for counted work, but chances are, you’d want magnification (it’s a high thread count), and you’d have to use a pretty fine thread if you were working over one thread at a time. But it’s ideal for surface stitches, so yes, you split the fabric threads as you stitch.

  25. The way I get through it is to always mentally start another project. You can’t think of the next one too early, though, as you’ll want to just stick the current one in the closet and start the next. That’s how we get all those UFO’s in the closet. From the looks of my closet, I’m starting the mental switch between projects too early.

  26. I know exactly how you feel, particularly when it’s a project you love. The ones that are not-so-loved just need to be plowed through and gotten out the door, but the ones you love….ah, how you want to keep feeling that love!

  27. Do you ever save your favourite chocolate in the box until last? I try to pick out a special element that I can look forward to embroidering right at the end of the project – the largest flower, that special sparkly bit, the really sexy colour….. That way my pessimist gets shouted down.

  28. I know that feeling. You are excited to get done and when you get there it is now what?
    You project is extrodinary! You have taken it over the top with all the lovely bead work and colors. You must be enjoying the process.
    I am sure that you will have a wonderful “what’s next”.

  29. I know the “End of the project Blues” well, sometimes I find myself slowing down in order to make it last just that little bit longer.

    Then I realise how pretty it will be when completed and speed up again in order to finish it. Once done I get to see the joy on the other person’s face when given the gift or I smile every time I use the piece and think “I did this”.

  30. I’ve only just joined the site and it’s interesting to read. I’ve experienced that same feeling in a number of handwork creations. That nasty little voice that steals away joy every chance it gets. I have experienced it as a hurdle in the beginning and in the middle and it even likes to come in some way at the end but I share with my friends and it banishes the little so and so.
    Once begun is soon half done,
    Half done and on the run,
    Goal in sight and cheers of your friends at the finish line and nothing but sunshine.
    Your work is gorgeous and I’d love to follow along and learn if I can. Where do I click to do that?

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