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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Embroidery Books: I Have a Problem.


Amazon Books

I mentioned at some point last week that I’ll be doing some organizing and cleaning up in my workroom over the next couple weeks.

Just mentioning “organizing the workroom” sparked a lot of interest. You asked if I’d share before and after pictures, if I’d share tips on organizing and so forth.

Organizing can be a real bear! And I’m probably the last one in the world to offer tips on how to do it efficiently, on what storage solutions to use and all that kind of stuff. Because right now, I’m completely disorganized.

My Biggest Problem right now is a Book Problem.

Here’s a question for you: Can you have Too Many Embroidery Books?

My answer: a resounding YES.

To give you a better understanding of my Embroidery Book Problem, let’s take a little peek in my book cabinet:

Embroidery Book Cabinet - too many books!

My workroom is a finished garage. You can read about it and see pictures of it here. When things are in order, it’s a great place to work!

When things are out of order, it’s hard to face. And right now, things are Definitely Out of Order.

Unfortunately, it’s the book section that’s completely Out of Order.

(Ok, so are several other areas, but this is one that I need to tackle first – you’ll see why!)

So, I have these floor-to-ceiling cabinets (that close – thank goodness!), one of which is devoted almost entirely to books, and you can see in the photo above that this particular cabinet is pretty well stuffed.

Embroidery Book Cabinet - too many books!

The front of the eye-level shelf holds most of the books that I frequently grab for reference. Makes sense. They’re the books I use most.

You’ll also find additional stacks of books I just couldn’t fit anywhere else and didn’t have time to fiddle with – so the whole stack got stacked on top of the books already stacked there.

(This is how problems develop!)

Embroidery Book Cabinet - too many books!

Above that, I have magazines, some old books, and pamphlets, which I try to keep in handy magazine holders. All the Inspirations Magazines are up there somewhere, as well as quite a few Sampler and Antique Quarterly magazines (no longer in publication), and others.

On that shelf, you’ll also find reproductions of old books, bound with combs. And any pamphlet type books that are in good shape and relatively new.

Embroidery Book Cabinet - too many books!

Below the eye level shelf, you’ll find more reference books, project books, and some other larger reprints bound with combs.

You’ll also find additional stacks of books slid in wherever they fit.

(The problem continues to develop!)

The black folders in the front are my Silk Mill silk set – you can read all about those threads and organizing them here and here.

Embroidery Book Cabinet - too many books!

Way down below, just before ground level, you’ll find…more books – project books, books I don’t access as frequently…

…and more random stacks slid in, just because there was room!

Embroidery Book Cabinet - too many books!

What you might not notice right away on all of these shelves – and indicated by the red arrow in the photo above – is that they are all double-stacked with books already.

The shelves are 24″ deep, so there is plenty of room for two lines of books. To lift the back line up enough to see the books, I used an additional narrow board supported by two covered bricks under each end.

How Does this Happen?

If you haven’t noticed, I like books. And I like needlework books especially.

But it’s more than just a liking of books that has gotten me to this point of Absolute Book Overload.

People send me books that they come across – often at estate sales or in thrift stores or used books stores – that they know I’ll like (and I always appreciate that – I love books and many of you know me well enough to know exactly what I love!), publishers send me books in the hopes of a review, authors send me books, and, over the years, I’ve bought a lot of books, many to review here on the website.

And now my book cabinet is at the point of bursting.

They take up a lot of space.

I’d like to be using some of this space for something else. But in order to do that, I have to discover another way of storing at least some of these books in a way that they’re still accessible.

Why Keep Them?

You might ask why I keep them all.

Surely, you say, you could never use all those books! Why not sell them or donate them to libraries?

It’s true, I will never be able to use them all.

But one of my dreams for the future (if I can ever build the capital to do it) is a local art center / learning studio where locals can come to learn arts and crafts, to work on projects, and so forth. Not a school, but more of a community place for different types of arts and crafts. And part of that dream includes a well-stocked needlework library with books that range from old and rare to brand new.

So I do see a place for all these books somewhere in the future. And that’s why I keep them.

But in the meantime, I have to get them under control!

Whoops…There’s More

Now, if I could just close the cabinet doors, all would be well enough, right? At least I wouldn’t see them. I could still work in peace, right?

Embroidery Book Cabinet - too many books!

But see – there’s this stack of books, too. And it’s not in the cabinet!

Embroidery Book Cabinet - too many books!

And this stack isn’t in the cabinet!

Embroidery Book Cabinet - too many books!

And neither is this stack!

All over my workroom, I have stacks of books right now that range from small to large.

And that is the problem.

I’m contemplating the problem. I’m trying to develop a solution that’s financially reasonable and that keeps the books at least semi-accessible.

When I finally arrive at the answer, I’ll share it with you. I’ll even share the before and after pictures, which means we must be really good friends!

Ten Years

Incidentally, ten years ago today – back when I didn’t own a digital camera (let alone a mobile phone or even a decent computer) – I wrote my first blog post on Needle ‘n Thread.

Where does time go?


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(92) Comments

  1. Green eyed with jealousy here – how I wish I could come and just sit on your floor and look through all those books! I thought my collection was bad but I see I have a long way to go to catch up with you (btw – if your bed happens to be up from the floor it’s a good place to store books – just sayin’). Looking forward to seeing how you tackle organizing your collection – I need help with that too.

  2. Ah, Mary, I just love you! You make me feel so normal when I see those pictures of your book shelves. I have double rows too. And stacks on stacks. And stacks in front of orderly rows. I even found out that you CAN break the very sturdy wooden magazine holders from Ikea when you over-stuff them with magazines…

  3. I want to visit your bookshelves. I’ve been stitching for the past 7 years and have slowly started accumulating embroidery books. When I travel I always pick up a book and there are still so many out there that I want. And like you I’ve already run out of whatever small space I have in my room. I think I will have to pack up some of my novels to make more space for my embroidery books 😛

    1. While you travel, instead of silly souvenirs, pick up embroidery books or magazines instead and threads that you can’t source at home. I have always (even when traveling over seas as a college kid) tried to make what I bring home count as home decor or towards my hobbies.

  4. I think you just need another bookcase… or two! You have a good reason for holding on to your books and many (if not most)are irreplaceable. Maybe one with shelves that are not so deep. Once you spread them out you will be more likely to be able to keep them organized and usable.

  5. Happy Blog Anniversary, Mary! Thanks so much for all that you have been sharing. I’ve certainly learned a lot.

    And, I thought I had too many books, LOL! Good luck!

  6. Oh, I so enjoyed your post today. I am very pleased that I am not the only person with such a book problem. I hope you find a solution to your problem soon.

  7. I once had to organize massive numbers of books for a company that I was working for. I catalogued them into a spreadsheet and arranged them using the Library of Congress catalogue system. I included search terms so books on a topic were easy to find. For example, one of your book entries might include fields for silk ribbon embroidery, embroidery, smalls, and floral designs. When you need a particular book or topic, you do a search and find what the LOC numbers are for books that might be useful. You then go to those books on your shelves. I am interested in hearing what suggestions others might have as well!

    1. I tried to organize mine by putting the LOC code on a sticker on the back of the book, but most of them didn’t want to stay on 🙁

  8. Mary,
    10 years!! Congratulations!!! Thank you for this wonderful website and for the work that you put in to make it the best embroidery site of all. From 10 comments in the first post to hundreds now, you’ve managed to build a community that eagerly looks forward to every post you make here.Here’s wishing better health and several years of embroidery:)


  9. Whoa Mary!!! for some reason I thought I was the only one who double and quadruple stacked books on book cases….of course not all of mine are on embroidery, although some are. I have BOXES, TOTES and SHELVING full of books, that I’ve kept over the years. a couple of years ago, I started going through them…lol..and periodically go through them now. however, I also started giving them away…paperbacks…I NEVER give away a hard back. a lady that works at the YMCA reads so every now and then I haul in a large trash bag full of books to her. she reads and keeps what she wants and passes the rest on. this is SLOWLY, SLOWLY, weeding out some of them. I also don’t buy any hard copy books anymore, with the exception of needlework books…so I am gradually getting rid of them. I read over your first blog and found it amusing in hind sight….how many times have I read through your archives? don’t know, couldn’t count the times. not that i’m an organized person but I keep trying and I do have a small tip on organizing. a couple of months back I bought a Rotavision system… http://www.rotavision.com/ . i’m slowly filling it up whenever I root through my drawers, boxes, etc., looking for that one particular thing I need to have use of during a project or when I buy something like two packages of teeny tiny hinges that would normally disappear, I put it in one of the Rotavision cups. The system is hanging on the wall over my main sewing table and so easily accessible.

  10. Dear Mary,
    I love all your posts; they are the highight of my day, when you are able to post. This one rings true; I also love books, and have too many. I have only been embroidering for six months, but before I started, I ordered book, on materials and technique and on the history of needlework and textiles. I am now up to an 18 inch shelf completed, with half of another shelf for the oversize ones (of which there are many). Most of what I have, I read your reviews, first, so you do us a great service, in that regard, and also by conveying to us so much of your knowledge, that has clearly come from a great variety of sources, including your fine collection of books !
    I have an actual question: I am interested in doing embroidery with icons, and so figure embroidery, especialy with icons; but perhaps more specifically embrodery of early Christian iconography in the European west. I am a medievalist by training, in art history and religion, and many of the early images in manuscript illumination, sculpture, glass, and early painting would be lovely. Can you recommend some BOOKs ! on this? Especailly technique, threads, fabric, and figure (fases). I have read over what you have posted in your blogs, but I wonder if you could give me an updated response on possible titles? thanks so much. Ann

    1. Hi, Ann – Ahhhh. There are not very many books, to my knowledge, on embroidered iconography. I know there was one angel icon embroidery book that is available online for free here: https://needlenthread.wpengine.com/2012/07/icon-embroidery-book-free-online.html It’s relatively new, and the stitching is all done in perle cotton, but the concept can be applied to working with other fibers. Anything else in this line, I think you’d have to find through Russia or the Ukraine. Possibly Greece. But I haven’t had much luck finding books specifically dedicated to the embroidery of icons, aside from this one. When it comes to embroidered faces, there aren’t a lot of books, either. Some projects specific to a designer might touch on the embroidery of the face – and there is a bit of stuff online that you can find about embroidered faces in opus anglicanum, but it’s slightly different from the icon approach. I know there used to be classes for embroidered icons, somewhere in Kentucky, I believe, but I can’t remember the details on that. I’ll have to dig a bit and see if that’s still going on. But I hope that gets you started!

  11. Dear Mary

    Wow you certainly do have a book problem, not that there is anything wrong collecting books I love books but unfortunately do have the room for them, I love browsing through books especially old books and I love the smell of old books or books in general, they are so comforting, you discover a whole new world when you browse through books that expand your horizons, so go ahead and continue your book habit. I hope you do find a way to organise your books and what a good idea a community centre for arts and crafts I would love that. Thanks for sharing your work space with us and your wonderful collection of books. I hope you are well.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  12. Mary, I share your problem with books. Your blog today really helped me feel that I was not alone. Thank you. And thank you for your blog. I am so glad you are in my life on a daily basis.

  13. The answer is no. You cannot have too many needlework books. I suffer from a book addiction so that is my answer.

  14. I have the same book problem..only mine are mostly quilting books..with other odd topics thrown/stacked in. I’ve worked on organizing them over the years..the problem is the spines are so thin, you can’t read some of them. Currently I have them sorted by Author and or type..stitchery, applique, quick, holiday, etc but it doesn’t work very well..I’d like to have a better system..any ideas? I’m anxious to see what you come up with.. good luck!!

  15. WOW! Looks like you could use some floor to ceiling shelving with an old library ladder that would hook on a header rail and have wheels on the part that touched the floor. I could lend you a book on care of books, but then I’d be afraid you’d never find it again. 🙂
    Do watch out for mold and bugs though.
    I absolutely l-o-v-e and look forward to building up a much smaller collection of favorites myself. Mary, if you were thinking of getting rid of some of your doubles, my shelves are available. 😉
    Love your blog! Keep well! God bless!

  16. Congrats on 10 years!! As a bibliophile, I can relate to your problem. I can give you advice from my perspective, but you probably won’t like it.
    I have had to downsize. I’ll spare you the particular details, but suffice to say I had to get rid of 7 bookshelves worth of books. These are books that had been lovingly collected and read (over and over) and had been displayed and looked at and admired for years. That I literally had no more room for. I had to get rid of them. I sold a few (a very few!), and I did find homes for some others with people who appreciated them. The rest I had to pack in boxes and take to my local second hand shop. Many boxes, many trips. I had to close my eyes, harden my heart, and do it. It was hard and I didn’t like it, but that was the reality. You just have to do it.
    But you have something I didn’t have — you have this blog and an audience who no doubt (like me) is peering at those pictures thinking “Ooo!! I’d like that one!” Have give aways, Mary. Everyone wins. You get more space and less clutter. Your readers and fans get books they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford, or even books they didn’t know existed, or — this is good — books that will set them down paths of needlework they never thought of before. They can learn some new skills! They can delight themselves and friends and family! You can post their work here! You can have more room! Where is the downside??
    That is my two cents.

    1. Hi, Maureen – Thanks! That is a great idea, and one I’ve thought of and done a few times. I like to do book give-aways. The biggest problem for me is that, if the winner lives outside the US (and sometimes even in the US), the postage can be problematic. I mailed a book to the UK last year and the cost of shipping was almost twice the cost of the book. And the same thing happened when I had to mail a book to South Africa – only the book going to SA got lost in the post and never showed up! Almost $60 down the drain, in shipping alone. Right now, I just can’t do that. But in the future, I hope to be able to again. So I’ll definitely be sorting out some good give-away books for down the road!

    2. One of the lace makers on the Arachne list downsized by selling most of her textile library to others on the list. She had so many books on lace, braiding, quilting, embroidery etc. that I forwarded her price list to IOLI, EGA & ANG friends. Everyone was happy & no one paid $200 for an OOP item from a book seller! She charged a flat fee for postage within the US. Not sure what happened for outside the US. First come, first served to reserve the book via email, followed by a check/money order by a certain date. I’m sure your readers would be delighted to pay a reasonable price for most of the titles you choose to discard. I know I would. Just a thought…

  17. Hi Mary!

    Oh my! Your workroom and mine are close cousins! I have the same issues! Disorganized and way too many books! I’m not lucky enough to have cabinets with doors that close, but I do have lots of book shelves, which are all stuffed to the gills! I also have the ‘piles of books everywhere’ problem. I’ve been trying to figure out how to solve my issues, also without getting rid of too many of the books. I am aware that I do need to do a ‘purge’. I KNOW there are some books here that should be donated or sold, duplicates (no, that NEVER happens!!), ones that just aren’t very good, and some that are for techniques that I don’t intend to pursue – ever!

    I bought a couple of the tall, strong, commercial wire shelving units. I think I’d like to try setting them up in another room nearby and maybe use clear plastic bins to organize, protect, and keep the dust off the books I use less frequently. I’ll be following your progress, and promise to share any ideas that I come up with. Good Luck!


  18. I love this post! I also have this problem with homeschool books and…well any kind of art book! We love books and it is a fabulous problem to have – thank you for sharing! I love your art center / community center for the arts idea – go for it! 🙂

  19. Dear Mary I wish I had your problem.:) I also have accumulated a fair amount of books and they come in so handy when I am faced with a problem on a piece of embroidery. Mostly my of embroidery pieces are not kits so I have to rely on my own imagination and my books.I somehow can’t warm to e-books yet, as I sometimes have 5 books going at a time. Books in my mind is mobile and don’t need any power, be it batteries or electricity.
    Then there is your blog which is ever so handy and the internet. Without these three things, I would be totally lost. Thanks for your blog and your daily news letters. I trust you are getting better each day. I have a suspicion you do, why else are your books suddenly a problem :). Must be more energy.
    Lots of love Elza Bester Cape Town xxx

  20. Oh Mary, I have the same problem!! My apartment is small so there’s not a whole lot of room for book shelves. I now have some books placed on top of the bookcase, and the stack is almost to the ceiling. I am trying to control my purchases, but then I see another book that looks like a “must have”!!

  21. Oh my. Definitely a lot of embroidery books. But they’re so much fun to thumb through right? I did find one thing about your post very distressing. You said your Inspirations magazines are “up there somewhere”. I value my IM’s so much that I keep them in their own book case and I often readjust them so they’re lined up perfectly!! I think I might subconsciously dust them as well. And needless to say, my husband can’t touch them. If you need to get rid of any, I’d be happy to make room in my bookcase!! (-:

    1. I value my Inspirations (& Sew Beautiful, now out of print) magazines so much that they’re in bookcase in my dining room. And early on, my husband discovered buying us antique bookcases for my ever expanding art, calligraphy, needlework books would be more appreciated than fancy clothes & jewelry.

    2. I love Inspirations as well, but when my B&N stopped carrying them that was it for me. I can’t afford a subscription. I did manage to get some at a yard sale, but that isn’t a frequent thing. GOOD embroidery books and magazines usually aren’t for sale until the owner dies or get sent to a nursing home so that is sad for sure.

  22. Thank you for all your information. I too have a collection of books. Many I had to get rid of when we downsized. Are there many of these books that are available in digital form? E-Books. ? Digitizing them would make them easily searchable and indexed. Of course for those of us of a certain age…nothing can take the place of holding them and flipping through the pages.

  23. Oh, honey, I have the same problem. Not too many books. Not enough space! It’s time for us to look at our homes and be creative. What is the space over your doorways doing? Probably nothing. Lazy space! This space needs to pull its weight! You can get many linear feet of bookshelf if you put up one over every doorway.

    How far is your bed off the ground? Under-the-bed space is wasted space! Haven’t you always wanted a loft bed? More books can go underneath! Ditto for coffee and end tables.

    Don’t know about you, but I have a fireplace I never use. I should clean it out and fill it with books!

    Hahahaha–it’s hard to let them go, isn’t it?

  24. Congratulations on ten years of excellence! I am pretty sure I’ve read you from the very beginning, and I’ve really enjoyed following your projects and learning from what you’ve posted. Here’s to many more decades!

  25. There’s never too many books, specially since you have in mind this amazing project. You may find ways to do it without relying on your capital only… there’s crowfunding options that will help you get money from interested people, letting you conserving your independence on the decision making.

    10 years! It takes constancy and passion to perdure over time

  26. Congratulations, Mary, on your 10 year anniversary! What a huge amount of help and inspiratin to have given to so many people in that time! Thank you!
    I’d love to camp out in your workroom for a week and browse through all those books!

  27. No, Mary, you cannot have too many books!! Not possible. Unless you’re like me and accidentally buy two the same (which I do rather frequently). Then you have too many. Only duplicates count as too many.

    What you have is insufficient space. Solution – extend your garage!! No, not really. Not possible. Instead, dedicate another cupboard to books, and find somewhere else to store whatever was in that cupboard – under your bed, in the larder, behind the sideboard, maybe have a fake wall built at the end of your lounge and hide the stuff in there … The possibilities are endless (rather like your stacks of books) Good luck with your organising and thank you so much for your wonderful blog.

  28. I can so identify with your problem. Since moving and downsizing, I have a duel purpose room, bedroom/ studio. I have installed as many bookshelves as physically possible, but I, like you, now have piles of homeless books. I am even running out of space for those, plus it is difficult to find what I am wanting! I shall watch with great interest to see if you manage to find a solution!

  29. I’ve never left a comment before even though I adore your blog and think of you as the embroidery guru (gura?). But I have thousands of books and used to live in a 750 sq ft house. I, too, refused to get rid of any because I dreamed of having a library with enough space. (I do now but since I keep acquiring more, there are still teetering stacks). I created a computerized database using the categories I was most likely to use– author, title, subject– and assigned each entry a box number as I packed the books in movers’ book boxes with the number prominently written on both a short and long end. Because I could use the database to track a book’s location, I did not have to pack similar books together. This meant I could squeeze as many books as possible into each box. It did take time to enter each book in the database, but I enjoyed it because it was like meeting old friends again and also gave me a good sense of what I had. Now I have a commercial program that allows me to enter enormous amounts of info with just the ISBN.

  30. Congrats on the last 10 years!

    In many ways you have already developed a center, world-wide rather than local, with each of your posts filled with all sorts of good information that you share with us. You have opened our eyes to far more than we could ever hope to find locally, even IF we had a local embroidery shop less than 100 miles away.

    You have also helped us feel that our work does not need to be perfect, and that taking things out and replacing them with other choices is OK. With the Hummingbird project you also changed the focus several times with dramatic results, and you were not afraid to show us the changes.

    Books are always a problem for those who love them, or their subjects. And you have shown us that there are good books as well as GREAT books. On your recommendation I have purchased more than I could have found in any stores.

    I will never actually use them all in this lifetime, but there are a number of family members who are already interested in needlework who will get them, and my tools along with my supplies, when I am gone. They will also get to pick from my UFO’s, and finished work. My executor will have his hands full of a bunch of anxious women who are hoping that their number will be drawn to be first so that they can get the “best” ones, along with those who are interested in only one aspect of needlework.

    When a book enters my home I sit down with it for a while while I absorb it’s information to get a sense of the book. And like you I like to keep the most often used books at about eye level.

    I am taking advantage of moving to get organized, but once everything is put away from the second half of the move the next organizing session will be quite a while off.

    My suggestion to you is to take things slowly until you have rebuilt your strength.

    Thank you so very much for all that you have given each of us in so many areas of life.

    Love and Hugs, PJ

  31. Wow-that’s alotta books Mary! I’m a collector too but now, in my old age, I actually started, tearing out the pages I want and throwing out the rest of the book! It’s an effective way to weed out the unwanted, and free up some precious work room. I know that it’s practically a sin to defile these treasures, but I need the info, and the books are so worn that even the used book store doesn’t want them!
    PS I had to laugh when reading your first blog post, where you wrote, this site isn’t to examine every nuance of embroidery!…but boy does it and so badly needed too! Where would we be if we couldn’t see that multi-magnified out of place stitch in a field of perfect satin execution! Keep it up, Mary! We need you!

  32. Happy Anniversary, Mary!!! You have accomplished so very much, and there are thousands and thousands of us out here that appreciate all your hard work and dedication more than you can know. God bless you and keep you in the palm of His hand always!

  33. Happy 10th Anniversary! Please keep writing. I read your blog daily any enjoy it very much. Good luck with your book problem. Maybe you will help me with mine.

  34. HA! I feel so much better now! I have books in every room in my house. When my husband’s family asked his sister what our house was like, she replied, “They decorate with books.” SO funny (and hey! one of my home magazines had an article on decorating with books, so it must be de rigueur). But I have been organizing my craft books lately and it feels so good to at least have them organized by subject (do I really need six books each on every type of embroidery, quilting, and rug hooking??). The problem is, I keep adding new crafts to my repertoire, so the bookshelves continue to bulge. Someday, I’ll part with some of them for a cause. Then I’ll have to figure out which magazine subscriptions to get rid of…ha! Back to embroidery (I discovered Sulky Fabrisolve this week and am having a ball with some of Yumiko Higuchi’s wonderful designs from one of her books that has yet to be translated into English–lovely!!).

    1. One of the books in Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time is “Books Do Furnish a Room”. The title intrigued me so I bought it at a charity book sale. I also bought as well – how could I resist at the prices asked- more of the sequence. I couldn’t resist reading it first. You might enjoy it.
      In our first house we had double-stacked shelves around all the walls in one room. We asked the estate agent to point out that the room was 2 feet larger in length and breadth than it appeared. In this house, we have shelves in the living room, the hallways and in bedrooms and books in boxes. But I can think of it as deliberate decoration.

      Helen Hicks

  35. Mary, have you cataloged your books? I’m guessing not. May I suggest http://www.LibraryThing.com . (NAYY, just a very happy member/user/customer.) It’s free for the first 200 books, which gives you a chance to see if it works for you. Then you can choose between an annual membership ($5) or a lifetime membership ($25) which will allow you to enter as many books as you like.

    It’s easy to enter your books.

    You can use your smart phone to scan barcodes on books that have them. Or enter ISBN numbers from books that have those. For others, you can search the existing LibraryThing database for author/title. Or the Amazon database, or the WorldCat database–you choose. Or simply entery the book details yourself.

    You can create tags for your books. Tags can be anything. Where the book is located, what kind of book it is (you create the categories that work for you.) Whether you’ve loaned the book (or borrowed the book). Whether you’ve read it or have it on your list to read.

    Wonder which book had something you want to see now, but can’t remember? If your tags are specific enough, you can use LibraryThing to ID the book you want, and where it is in your library.

    You want specific tags, but not so many that it isn’t useful. Each book can multiple tags, but you should start with a list which you think will cover your collection. You can always add more later.

    Libraries are a wonderful thing. But so are catalogs!

    If you have questions about LibraryThing, I’d be glad to answer what I can.



    1. I was going to suggest that you have a project for a library science student, but Library Thing might work just as well.

      Congrats on the 10 year anniversary! You have THE BEST embroidery blog out there…

      Carol S.

  36. 10 years today! That is a big anniversary, congratulations! Maybe you can celebrate with some new bookcases. 😀

    I have a growing problem with my quilt books, but I will say yours is much worse! Part of my problem is how to organize them. I have been sorting everything by author’s name, but that relies on my ability to remember who wrote what book. My memory is pretty good, but I think I’ve found the limit of what it can do! Some books make sense by author/designer, some by topic, even some by publisher.

    I think I have to clear out a lot of my old fiction, and then I will have room for all the sewing! You probably have books that are only for that future library, that could be put into storage boxes. It’s a daunting task, but I know it will be a relief to sort it out!

  37. Dear Mary,
    The problem is not too many books, but not enough bookshelves. Too many books is like too much embroidery thread — not a possibility.
    I wish I could be at your house, looking at books and drooling over your vast collection of thread.
    Hope you are feeling better.

  38. Mary, I don’t see a problem at all. I see a special person who has a FABULOUS library that anyone one of us would love to visit!

    I used to attend a tatting retreat in Montana offered by Bobbie Demmer. She had a huge room with wonderful windows letting in a ton of natural light, long worktables set up in the middle, and a library off to the side. Perhaps there are Mary Corbet Embroidery Retreats in your future?

    Happy Anniversary and Congratulations!!! Thank you for all you have given us. You’ve brought much joy in my life.

  39. Congratulations on your 10th anniversary! A relative newcomer to your site, I have been following your posts for about a year, now, and haven’t yet read one that didn’t interest or inform me. The links to other sites, and your very organized links throughout your own site, have afforded many hours of pleasure and introduced me to new artists I would not otherwise have encountered. Your generosity in sharing your knowledge and experiences is so very much appreciated. I wish you well, and hope that you may continue to inspire us for a long time to come.

  40. Oh, my. May I offer a suggestion? Perhaps a lot of them should move out of the studio and into your living room, or wherever you sit to read for enjoyment. (If, of course, you have room for more bookcases there . . . .) I have “only” a couple dozen cookbooks, but virtually no shelves in my last kitchen. I finally admitted that I only use about 2 cookbooks to make specific recipes from. They stayed in the kitchen. The others moved into the living room as “light reading,” because they are used more for reference/inspiration. Of course, they had to fight for space with my needlework books, and history books, which my husband and I both collect, but at least there was room for a few shallow bookcases in the living room.

  41. Hi Mary,

    While I envy your problem in some ways (I do love books) I can see why this is a problem. I think it’s great to save them for a future studio. What about packing the ones you rarely use into some plastic bins. Those could stack in a basement or spare room or family member’s garage or basement.

    Good luck with the problem.

  42. Hi Mary, congratulations on your ten years of blogging. I think just about every embroiderer in the world knows you and how wonderful your blog is. When I started embroidering with a group at our local community centre. The first thing they said to me was “go to Needlenthread.com, that’s needle n thread not needle and thread, for advice on anything to do with embroidery”. The first thing I do in the morning is read your blog, I haven’t missed one. When I need to see how a particular stitch is done I look at your video tutorials. I also tell every new embroiderer who comes along have you heard of …..

    As for books they are like photo albums, when you try to tidy them up you find one you haven’t seen for a while you just have to look at it again. I can’t bear to get rid of any of our books so I just find another place to put them.

    Heather Bryant

  43. Books are our personal friends, because we chose them.
    Some of them are very old friends, some of them exciting new ones and some, a very few, no longer exactly what we can see in our future.
    Still it is my view, that if we can identify these few, and then organise the rest, it is SOOOO much fun to pick up one of these friends, just like a loved novel, and read them again.

  44. Congratulations on 10 fabulous years Mary!! You have truly been a “force” in the world of needlework! As for books — I have “plenty” as well! And I love them all. And I love when I sit myself down and just grab a random pile and go through them. Everything else in the world just melts away as I rediscover some aspect of my passion that I haven’t thought about for a while. I do have book shelves stashed all over the place. I have tried to organize them between Techniques (and then sort from there), Inspirations (pictures of beautiful stuff), History (samplers and ethnic), Designs (just patterns to trace and use — lotsa of Dover books here), Clothing (mostly historic costume), and so on. (and then the final “miscellaneous” category!!) But it is hard to keep a mental knowledge of everything that I have — and it is hard to find the time to go through them ALL at one time, do a Big Organization (writing yourself a bibliography of all you have), and live to tell! In other words: I sympathize! Love your idea for an “Arts & Crafts” sort of center that includes needlework. I am currently involved with a “Folk School” in Olympia, WA (Arbutus Folk School) that includes woodworking, metal smithing, ceramics, folk music, and fiber arts. I am trying to get the needlework aspect going. The idea of such a community just feels very “right”. Where people can come, learn, share, inspire, and socialize with like minded people. I hope you can realize your dream on this front. AND have a good place to store all those books!!

  45. I would love to visit your house and take a few months to read and go through all those books! I love them as well and perhaps you might feel better if I sent you photos of MY bookshelves. I collect not only embroidery books, but quilting ones, and sewing, actually any needlecraft of any kind. And magazines on the same subjects as well. Most of my efforts at decluttering my sewing space has been mostly with the books and magazines so far but I have a long way to go!

    I love my books, and I’m sure people could ak all the same questions as to why I ‘need’ so many. Well technically I don’t, but I have gotten many at library sales, thrift stores, as gifts (I have a 5-6 page wish lit on Amazon). I think in the back of my mind that some day the internet might be gone and libraries burned and when people come to their senses, they will need and I will have instructions on learning these crafts all over again. Or better yet donate to a library what would be thrilled to get these sorts of resources.

    When my arthritis flares up really bad and I can’t actually do anything I go through my magazines gathering ideas and osing myself in them, just like a sick child will use a picture book.

    At this point I don’t make apologies. I went through 2 boxes of magazines in the last couple of days trying to find the perfect design to use the Colour Complements Thread Sampler that I got.

    BTW, it looks like most of your threads aren’t in a snarled tangled mess. How do you do that? I wind regular embroidery floss on those little cards to store in a plastic container (up to 4 of them now), but how to handle perle cotton and fancy threads is a question of what is best for the thread, how to not get them tanlged and how to find what you are looking for quickly?

  46. Congratulations on 10 years. You started with such a clear idea and have stuck to it so very well. It’s wonderful.

    Hope you figure out the book problem. I know how hard it is to organise too much stuff that you want to both keep and have access to.

  47. How about a shelf mounted near the ceiling that goes around the perimeter of your room. You could arrange the infrequently accessed books on it in a pleasing manner. Good luck with your solution!

  48. I understand the book problem (not as huge) but still a problem. I have divided my books into ‘To Keep’ and ‘To Sell’ however, the ‘to sell’ pile still hasn’t made it to market as I just can’t seem to part with them now. *sigh*

    Happy 10th anniversary Mary and thank you for Needle ‘n Thread, I have learned so much and enjoy being a part of this community. hugs

  49. Congratulations on your ten-year anniversary. I haven’t been with you all that time, but i have been with you for several years. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for what you do – through you, I feel I know about all sorts of embroidery I’ve never tried, I’m inspired to try new things and I have a fantastic reference resource to remind me of stitches I know but may have forgotten. Thank you, and here’s to the next ten years. (and another bookcase?)

  50. Congratulations on your 10th Blogaversary.

    Have you considered applying for a grant or doing crowd source funding for your art center idea?

  51. Based on the pictures of your workroom, I think the “easiest” solution is to put heavy duty shelving up along the ceiling to store the less used books. Depending on how brave you are, you could also put a storage unit that hangs from the ceiling (google “garage ceiling storage” for ideas).

    You could almost just have a bunch of “under the bed” tubs sitting up there with your fabric, to open up one of your cupboards for more books…I think having the deep tubs up there would make the room feel a lot smaller than it is already.

    Another thought is from the Sept 5, 2011 post, you have a picture of 2 tables under a large window…instead of the drafting table, have some sort of deep bookshelves where you can put whatever is on top of those tables on top of the shelves for books, and have your most frequently used books at your fingertips.

    Or how about moving your clock onto one of the cupboard doors and making tall shelves between the door and window?

  52. Congratulations on 10 years! I wish I had a solution to your problem because I have the same problem. I had a room dedicated to my crafts until a relative needed a place to live. Alas, they are here to stay. I have so many books on embroidery, X-stitch,calligraphy, quilting, woodworking, crochet,sewing, knitting, etc. All my passions. So not only do I need space for the books I would love to have them grouped by subject. I have downsized my reading books and only buy kindle versions now although I prefer “real” books. When it comes to books on crafting I want real books only. I drool over Inspirations magazines online (newsletter, etc) but never found a local source. I’m envious. I wish you the best in your organization efforts.

  53. Well, I thought I had a problem with books but after reading your message, seeing pictures or your books and reading some of the comments I now feel absolutely frugal and virtuous! I have limited my library space purposefully and generously in the past. I tried to impose some limits. Buy one, give one away. Only keep a few treasures on each technique. Embroidery books, quilt books, beading books, art technique books – there are so many wonderful books to treasure.
    As a caution, I have given away many books only to feel regret later. And I have subsequently hunted down and repurchased some of my lost treasures when missing them became too much to bear. So sad.
    I look forward to your solutions.
    And Congratulations on your 10th Anniversary!!!! I love your blog. It is such a great resource and your writing is so personal. I consider you a friend and mentor even though I am only one of your thousands of admirers. Keep it coming. 🙂

  54. I think we all reach a time when our houses are full and we have to decide whether a book justifies the space it occupies. Obviously you would have your go-to books and magazines, ones that justify their space because they are beautiful and/or useful, but you must have some redundant books and magazines in your library. Books that you haven’t looked at for years. Books on techniques that are better covered in other books in your collection. Books of designs that make you grit your teeth. Get rid of them. Do the sort first, and then decide how to dispose of them – eBay, thrift shop or whatever will not cost you money.

  55. As a librarian, let me assure you: you do not have a problem with books. You have a problem with organizing them. There have been several suggestions on how to catalog (which is nothing more than listing them in some format). LibraryThing is a great option; a spreadsheet is ok (though not very transportable). My favorite in the middle options is MyStuff2, a smartphone app.

    Why I like it is that my collections (needlework books, leaflets, videos, fiction…my personal categories) are always with me. I can easily look to see if I already own something. Plus it’s easy to add multiple tags for items, search by the tags, and create different categories.

    Regardless of what use, be sure to give the item a location (in library lingo that would be a call number). For example: “Second bookshelf, third shelf, rear” or a code 2bs 3s R. It’s your code, so you can make it what you want. This way you don’t have to wonder where you shelved it or where it goes when it’s time to put it back.

    Good luck.

  56. Hi Mary,
    I could not imagine living in a home without books. An overabundance……. it’s not a bad thing. Congratulations on your ten year anniversary. Your blog is always a must read with my morning cup of tea. I’m looking forward to your next big project.

  57. There is one word for your collection – tsundoku – meaning “buying books and not reading them; letting books pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands”. I suffer the same problem, even where I am sitting there is a pile of books 27 inches high. Oh, the joy of books. 🙂

    1. Just as afterthought: the backdrop on my computer at the moment says “Books: your reward for having an attention span.”

  58. Dear Mary,

    NO, No no you can NEVER have toooo many books!

    I even believe our house is built of books!

    I have one 3ft floor to ceiling bookcase just for embroidery books and another 3 the same size for my spinning, weaving, dyeing, Knit/crochet, quilting books, my floristry and beading books are still packed away since our move awaiting the building of my new studio. There are no double stacking on the shelves, I can’t abide that, I need to be able to see exactly what I have. And these don’t include my magazines!
    Some years ago my dear husband built me 2 purpose built bookcases to hold 40 magazine holders each, you know those cardboard ones you buy flat and and fold into 3D and they are still not enough to hold all my embroidery/craft magazines, so there will be a couple more being built for my studio.

    Congratulations on your anniversary. Your site is a wonderful resource for all embroiderers. Thankyou so much for all you do for us.

    Cheers Judy

  59. Mary — you are a gem ! I loved the “too many books” pictures you posted – made my book “issue” look good – so thank you : ) I was going to suggest taking the books you don’t regularly use and putting them in totes and cataloging where they are so you can still reference them. But what I really wanted to suggest was that you think about a kickstarter or gofundme fund raising effort for your “maker studio” idea which I think is fantastic! You could count me in for a donation for sure. congrats on 10 years – I read everyone of your posts.

  60. I also have a problem with books. My “spare bedroom” is set up as a library, with two large bookcases (double deep) on one wall, one tall and one short along a second wall. The third wall has one large bookcase, and the fourth wall has a medium bookcase between the doors. There is room under the window for a small couch that folds out for a single bed.

    But all my craft books are upstairs in my workroom, and there is a pile of books on the floor in front of it. I now have four cardboard boxes of books and a few magazines in the living room floor. I don’t even have a place to put them.

    Please let us know what solution you come up with. I’m thinking of buying some of my magazines on CD, but they are hard to read that way.

  61. Wow, that is both impressive and overwhelming. It’s giving me anxiety just looking at it, and I can imagine you feel worse when you’re looking at it in person!!

    First thought is definitely get a cabinet with skinnier shelves. The books behind other books ramp up my anxiety, LOL. I think you probably need at least 2 cabinets with skinnier shelves and doors that shut…maybe 3.

    White cabinets are probably a good choice, so that you don’t wind up with a dark wall of cabinets…

    For visual continuity, you probably need to go with just one style and color of magazine holders/folders/binders. That will also calm some of the visual busy-ness.

    Just some thoughts. I have a similar problem with cabinets full of fabrics. Once they get pulled out and reshuffled, it is a MESS. Which makes me not want to pull anything out…sigh…

  62. I feel your pain, Mary. I looove books; all books. Big, small, old, new, literature, instructional, it doesn’t matter. Plus, we homeschool our kids; more books! Our whole house looked like your cabinet. My husband finally put a moratorium on books. I still have many I need to part with. Fortunately, homeschoolers in general love books, so I know many of them will go to good homes and continue to bless other families. I also gave many to charity, and will do so again. But ohh, the pain of letting go…good luck with your project. I look forward to updates.

  63. Mary, I to suffer from book addiction. The advent of e-books has helped somewhat, but let’s face it, some books are either not available electronically, or have a format that does not lend itself to being viewed that way. One solution for the storage of “real” books that has helped me: shelves over doors and windows. This is space that is usually “free” (it sounds as if you have no more wall space left for new storage units)and even if the ceiling is a bit low, there is almost certainly room for a shelf of your shorter books. Please don’t give up on your dream of a local arts center. My wonderful mother-in-law spearheaded one in her small town, and it’s still going strong.

  64. I see no book problem, only a lack of space problem to hold all that knowledge. My shelves are also stuffed, with books on top of books, but only 1 row deep. And include sewing, quilting, knitting, crochet and a few weaving & spinning books. And yes, it gets overwhelming trying to find what I’m looking for sometimes. I was able to go thru cookbooks (fiction left the house long ago) and take to the reseller with not much problem, but the books in the sewing room….not so much! And with all that, I’d love to peruse your shelves, even though my wish list is already quite long thanks to you 🙂

    Do you keep an inventory of the books you have? If so, what do you use? The art center/studio sounds lovely! And it would “only” be a (long!) days drive each way…..

  65. My husband and I are both craft artists and we each work in a variety of media – sometimes even overlapping. Between us we do embroidery, miniature punchneedle, quilting, reproduction 1770’s clothing (we are reenactors), needlepoint, craft sewing (hand and machine), textile dollmaking,woodworking, wood turning, wood burning, overlapping two media – husband makes lucets and also makes items with lucets, heddle loom weaving, picture framing (making the item, frame, cutting mat, assembling), papercutting (silhouettes and scherenscnitten), occasion/note card making, leatherworking – reproduction and modern, jewelry making and others I have forgotten.

    We have what was intended to be a family room (right off the kitchen – one of the reasons we bought this house) which we use as our main studio. The wood shop is our garage (in its entirety). The finished part of the basement stores fabric on the bolt, hides, shipping materials and a table for fabric & mat cutting. A bedroom upstairs serves as an office for us personally and our businesses as well as a general library – where books are definitely stacked 2 deep.

    We have 2 bookcases – floor to ceiling – in the studio filled with all sorts of crafts books – a big section of it devote to needlework.

    When we had bed bugs (in 2009) anything in the house which was fabric and not hanging had to be heated in the clothes dryer on high for 50 minutes and then sealed in a clear plastic bags (and pins that held notes to fabric had to be removed so that no holes formed in the bag). I filled over 60 bags.

    Even worse afterwards it all had to be put back. Today the fabric organization is better than before as I made the swatch book I always wanted to while putting the fabric away. The room is still not finished being organized as we had mice in the kitchen in between and stuff from the kitchen was temporarily stored in the studio – blocking access to finishing organizing.
    I am at back at work on it. Husband insisted we had a weaving book which had instructions for a small loom he wanted to make and much of the books were unreachable due to stuff being tossed in corners when I stopped working on the room. I finally had enough of hearing about this “magic” book and at 3 am one day last week I pulled out everything in front of the bookcase and found the book – it did not have the instructions he remembered being in it, but it did start me working on the room again.

    It is even further delayed and waylayed by the fact that he never knows where he left stuff and I am suppose to know.

    The job will never be finished but next is my work table so I can use it again!

  66. No kidding, ten years? Time flies when you’re having fun! Happy Blogiversary, Ms. Corbet. I don’t even remember what I was doing ten years ago….. probably because I was only three 😉
    I spotted Tangle Wood by Jessica Palmer in one of those stacks; I don’t actually own it but I love her illustrations! She released a second coloring book in March called Tangle Bay.
    I wish you luck with your organizing. We all know it’s very daunting before hand and during the process, but you’ll feel better after it’s over and done with.

  67. My problem is wool, I have boxes of the stuff for my scrumble pictures. I tried to tidy them and get rid of some but I could see a use for every ball and tiny bit so I bought more boxes. ha ha

  68. Dear Mary, What a wonderful collection and what a wonderful resource they are. And you have great taste!! I have a number of the same titles!!

  69. Dear Mary, Congratulations on your marvellous on-line resource that you began 10 years ago!! It is a credit to you to see so many people being brought together from around the world to enjoy needlenthread and your fresh-as-ever sense of humour and professionalism. Wishing you marvellous possibilities ahead!! Catherine K.

  70. Wow Mary, your library is awesome. In every sense of that word.
    We had a professor here in Joburg, Philip Tobias, whose library was a second flat. I don’t think that’s a practical solution, though 🙂
    Wow ten years. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for embroidery, especially for us beginners. Your blog is so important.
    I hope your health is improving.
    Thank you.

  71. Hi Mary,
    Congratulations on 10 years! I, too have been sorting my books. I’ve given up on my dream community studio space and have reorganized my book shelves. I collect magazines as well as books, and I have every issue of American Patchwork and Quilting Magazine. Then of course the text books from years of teaching home economics and now quilting, embroidery and craft books. We could open a library, but we have organized them by where they get used to keep them handy. Wall shelves in the family room, the office space and the kitchen, but at least now we have enough shelves to put them all away. once finished, the best part is I know where every thing is and can put my hands on it without making piles all over the house. Now if I could just sort my fabrics and threads!

  72. I follow your blog and enjoy your art, writing and creativity. My suggestion for your book problem is to contact the special collections department at the library of your favorite university or college. I suspect you have excellent reference works and out of print resources that might be useful for research and use by both the public and faculty. University libraries won’t take everything. That said, you could continue to access your collection without the responsibility and shelf space. Additionally, some of your most exquisite handwork might be displayed with the book collection. Also, local libraries sometimes have room for special collections. Another alternative is the consumer/home economics department at a college.

  73. Gracias María!!
    Por compartir su espacio !!
    Ojalá pueda ir algún día a ese Centro comunitario que seguramente será todo un éxito!!
    Gracias también por aliviar mi angustia en cuanto a libros y material para crear y crear….eso me llena de paz !!
    Felicidades por estos 10 años de tu blog !! deseo que sean muchísimos más compartiendo tus conocimientos y tu vida tan real!!
    Besos y abrazos desde Puebla en México !

  74. Congratulations on a fabulous ten years. Although I only discovered you recently, I wander through your archives and have purchased most of your books. Your postings are a constant inspiration and encouragement to try something new or return to something forgotten. Recently, I was asked to make a handwork 4.5 inch wool square for someone going through a tough time. I was reminded of Joan River’s story of the miracle if the bee and its unexplained ability to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. Your design in Lavender and Honey was perfect. I adapted it to the size and wool applique. While not perfect it was a joy to stitch. Thank you so much for your newsletters and sharing. Many more happy years of success.

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