Mary Corbet

writer and founder


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

Contact Mary

Connect with Mary



2024 (51) 2023 (125) 2022 (136) 2021 (130) 2020 (132) 2019 (147) 2018 (146) 2017 (169) 2016 (147) 2015 (246) 2014 (294) 2013 (294) 2012 (305) 2011 (306) 2010 (316) 2009 (367) 2008 (352) 2007 (225) 2006 (139)

Modern Crewel – Close to Finished & Handling Shortages


Amazon Books

Happy Monday!

Let’s start the week with progress on Modern Crewelthis kit that I reviewed here.

For those who have written asking for a pattern and materials list, you’ll find it in Inspirations Magazine issue 90, which you can order here in print form or here in digital form, if you don’t already subscribe to the magazine. Inspirations also offers a materials kit here.

I’m two steps away from finished on this project, and I’ve run into two snags in the form of materials shortage in the kit. So here’s my weekend progress and a little chat about how to overcome a materials shortage in a kit when the materials are not easily had.

Modern Crewel: embroidery project progress

Since last we met and discussed this project, I’ve finished the last of the elements on the foliage part of things here – the blossom on the right, the dragonfly, and the berries on the lower left.

While meandering along through those elements, I realized that the flower on the right requires one bead (like the beads in the center of the pomegranate) and that the dragonfly requires two.

There were no leftover beads after filling the pomegranate center. I was a little disappointed to be short of beads, especially in the case of the dragonfly eyes.

The flower was easily enough handed, though – I just worked a French knot at the base of the flower, where the two blue leaves converge.

Modern Crewel: embroidery project progress

But when it comes to the dragonfly, it’s the eyes that really bring the thing to life. While I could substitute French knots there as well, I’d rather have the sparkle of beads here.

So I’m going to scour my own bead collection for something similar enough to suit the dragonfly’s eyes. I need approximately the same size beads, but I don’t think there’s a problem if the color or the shape are a little varied.

Modern Crewel: embroidery project progress

When I started stitching the berries on the lower left side of the design, there was a part of me that wanted to change the approach on these. I thought about long & short stitch shading on more realistic looking berries.

But then I realized that would be taking a lot of the fun away on this type of somewhat-whimsical design. So I stuck with the original plan and ended up loving this satin stitch and alternating French knot combo. It was quick to stitch, fun, and satisfying!

Modern Crewel: embroidery project progress

I’ve started the hillocks, too, which moves me very close to the end of this piece. I plan to finish before February expires.

On the center hillock, I realized I didn’t have enough thread to finish it according to the directions. With only about 5″ of the 40 perle left, I couldn’t make the second pass of weaving the finer perle through the heavier lattice design. So, I decided instead to leave it. No substitutes, no alternate approach.

The vertical weaving lines of the finer perle are in place and they look fine. No one will ever know that there’s a layer of weaving missing.

I ran out of the finer perle for two reasons: I stitched the inside lattice on the pomegranate twice. And my stem stitching on the tendrils (in the brighter green) is a lot more compact than the stem stitching shown on the model.

If I had only worked the inside of the pomegranate area once, or if I had worked the stem stitched tendrils much more loosely, I would have had enough thread to finish the hillock as instructed.

Still, I’m a huge proponent of kits erring on the side of excess rather than privation. I would have liked, for example, a few extra beads thrown in for good measure and a little more thread on the more frequently used specialty skeins.

And yet, if you do run into situations where your kit is a wee bit short of this thing or that, think of how you can make a good substitution. French knots work for beads (sans sparkle, of course!) or you can substitute a different type of bead.

If you run short on thread, how can you change the stitching plan to use less thread? Or can you substitute a different, more abundant thread for the thread you’re running short on?

These are the types of small challenges that can make the design more interesting – and more unique to you!

And speaking of making changes in a kit design, the last two hillocks are getting a small make-over. I’m going to eliminate the needle lace stitches and go with something that’s a little more typical of crewel, even though the piece isn’t properly crewel work. While I like needle lace stitches in some types of stumpwork and in whitework, I’m not a huge fan of them in regular surface embroidery in color. I don’t know why – just a preference, I suppose! So all along, I’ve been toying with some other ideas for those hillocks. We shall see what develops!

Your Thoughts?

Any tips on how to overcome shortages in kits? If you have any ideas you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment below!

Also, don’t forget – I’m giving away three gorgeous books this week! If you haven’t joined in, you can find the article on the give-away here. The drawing is Wednesday morning, so jump in while you can!


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(44) Comments

  1. I’m fairly new to your blog, so I’m assuming you have answered this before… But, I can’t help wonder, what on earth do you do with all your finished projects?!?!

    1. Hi, Heidi – Most, I frame or finish in some way and give away to relatives or friends as gifts. Some – smaller, quicker projects – are sample projects I work up for the website, and those generally I keep in a file or a box, to use for reference later. But things like this – and dozens of other similar projects on Needle ‘n Thread – end up as gifts. Weddings, birthdays, house warming, hostess gifts, Christmas, mother’s day, and so forth. I really only have one embroidery project of my own hanging in my house. It’s just a tiny little needle painted bird that I worked some ages and ages ago, which I’ll probably replace some day if I ever get a round to it. You’d think my walls would be peppered with embroidery, but they’re not! I don’t have a big enough house to hang lots of things on walls or have lots of decorative household items. But on the other hand, I have a pretty extensive family, so it makes it easy to have things to give for gifts.

  2. If you are out of beads and must make eyes on a bug – use metallic thread for a french knot. It sparkles like a bead.

  3. Hmm, I suggest you write a blog about it :). I did with my thread shortage in a kit by Pascal Jaouen and was promptly offered left-over thread by one of my readers. Blog readers are the best!

  4. The stitchwork, the colors, the movement… what is there to NOT love about this piece!
    Thanks for sharing, Ms. Mary

  5. I understand how you came up short on thread, but in the case of the beads, that was an error on Inspiration’s part. I would contact them about the bead shortage. Of course, if time is a consideration, then your current plan is preferable.

  6. Shortages

    Is it not possible to contact the makers of the kit to request more of what you are short of. I certainly think they should be made aware of the problems you have encountered.

    1. Hi, Irene – yes, that wouldn’t be a problem, I’m sure! But for two or three seed beads, it’s not really worth it – they’d have to come all the way from Australia! Instead, I’ll just dig up some substitutes. I may have overdone the inside of the pomegranate, though I did try to match the sample in the magazine, as far as lattice lines and beads go. If I had counted out the beads at the beginning, I probably could have made adjustments on the inside of the pomegranate, but I’m not going to go back and rework it at this point. Better just to find a substitute. And really, any sparkly dragonfly-like little beads will do, as long as they match!

  7. If you do not have the same or similar thread from other kits – the issue becomes not a problem, but a challenge. If you have white thread, you can try dying to the color you want; you can try changing the design, using threads you have; you can take out what you are short of and see if a different color would work. Lastly, you can contact the company and see if they have extra in stock.

  8. Dear Mary

    This is a lovely design and your stitching is beautiful, my favourite is the pomegranate and the lattice stitch in the centre. I would not normally choose the colour scheme for this project but the colours blend in so well that the project is lovely. What a good idea to substitute a french knot in place of a bead and to substitute your own beads for the eyes of the dragonfly. Looking forward to see what you decide to do with the hillocks. I hope you finish the project on schedule can’t wait to see the final piece. Thanks for sharing with us your progress on the kit and how to overcome snags in embroidery.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  9. Dear Mary

    I didn’t purchase the kit, but followed the instructions and list of materials from the Inspirations magazine. Therefore I had to find the threads, beads etc on-line through various outlets. The beads are from Miyuki and are size 11 delica seed beads called lined lime. They didn’t cost too much and I have lots left over for other projects, especially dragonflies that I love to embroider.

    Best wishes


  10. My understanding is that Inspirations is trying to keep a lid on the spiralling costs of materials by giving the amount needed rather than, I suppose, entire skeins and so on. Laudable, for sure, but when difficulties arise — and I can see myself being short because I’ve not been satisfied and restitched a portion — one is left in a bit of a quandary. Thanks for the ideas. (Lots better than blind panic and consigning it to the UFO box!)

  11. French knots with a metallic thread might work for beads, if you are lucky enough to come close on color. Or adding a blending filament to the regular thread might also help to add some sparkle.

  12. I recently did a sampler that called for 2 skeins of a certain silk. I realized I -would run out and ordered another skein in the same dye lot (last one!) and as I stitched along I realized I was going to run out again :-(. So I changed the pattern and left out 2 bands and used the design outlining the 3 top sides to finish the bottom. Ended up with about 1 foot of silk. I’ve wondered if this particular silk comes in 2 sizes of skeins – if so the pattern maker needs to specify what size skein! Other times I’ve written to the kit maker and asked for more thread! Once I needed a bit of Kreinik thread and wrote to them and they sent me a batch of that thread. I used the 1 1/2 feet I needed and returned the rest to the company for the next stitcher in distress πŸ™‚

  13. Mary, I think they sent me all your extra beads! I have more than I can use with my kit. If you would like for me to send you some I would be glad to. Also, I am down to the Hillocks and have been dreading doing them. Think I will wait and see what you come up with before I do any more. Thank you for all your helpful hints on this project. I have really enjoyed doing it along as you have done yours. You’ve helped me to understand that it is okay to make mistakes or changes and just to go with the flow. I’ve learned so much from this project. It has definitely got me out of my box! Let me know if you would like these beads. Thanks again Mary!!

    1. Hi, Sabrina – Thanks so much for the offer! But that’s ok – I have a fairly good selection of seed beads in this color range, and really, any little ones will do! I’m planning on finishing the hillocks today, actually (once I get back from the dentist, assuming I’m not done in from any weird dental work), so I should be posting the finish by Friday. I’m planning to do long and short stitch (shaded) on one hillock, crisscrossed with some wider, open lattice lines. On the other hillock, I have an idea, but I definitely need to play with it first. It might be a wash!

  14. Love the progress on this project, Mary. The colors and shading are so pretty. Poor little dragonfly! hope you find the right beads.
    I have run out of thread on kits before. Only a couple of times – everyone is pretty good about including all you need. I have been able to fill in from my own supply or running out and getting a skein – whew!

  15. Please advise everyone to contact the designer or manufacturer if you run out of thread! I am convinced that the mean amount of thread in past kits have made customers wary of modern ones. The design is beautiful and Susan Porter should receive a crewel work Oscar for this one.

  16. I actually don’t do kits, but the “sans sparkle” made me think “use a special sparkley thread”. πŸ™‚ Voila, thread and sparkle. πŸ™‚ Perhaps a different sparkle, but sparkle none the less. Nice post Mary. I enjoy them all, whether they apply to my stuff or not. Never know what may pop into ones head from a totally different subject.

  17. I am loving your design, it is beautiful. As for shortages in kits, I really get aggravated when that happens. I have sent letters, email these days, to the kit maker. Sometimes they send me the thred or, fabric, that was short and sometimes I receive no reply. Sorry, not very helpful.

  18. I HATE even worrying about not have enough supplies, let alone running out! When knitting, I always buy an extra skein rather than having to worry. I think kits should err on excess, with a bit allowed for re-dos. If it were me, I would write and ask them to send me the beads and some extra thread. It would all fit nicely into a small envelope! Someday when we all have 3-D printers they will be able to send the materials digitally! πŸ™‚

  19. As much as the kit costs, you do have the option to contact the maker and request the additional materials, at no charge. A kit should take into consideration a stitchers tension and way of stitching. Adding twelve inches or so of the main thread color and a few extra beads can make the difference in whether or not you have a satisfied customer or one who will never order from you again. I love the ease of a kit, but I’m always leery of them because of the possible shortage of materials. Most good companies will say on their kits if you run short to notify them. I always make sure they use DMC, as I stock this. But specialty thread kits…they should be VERY generous!

  20. Write back to the people who made the kit because even if they do not replace the missing items or shortages they should know abut them to remedy for future kits. Many manufacturers will in fact make up shortfalls.

  21. I would definitely contact the company re: shortages. These kits arent cheap! They should include the materials needed to complete them. Even if you substitute something else due to time constraints, you can add what they send to your stash. Also, they should be made aware of shortages to help keep/improve the quality of their products.

  22. Twice I’ve ordered kits from Inspirations and twice the kits came up short on materials (the Goldwork Beetle and the Prancer Shades of Whitework Kit both from issue 88). It is super annoying but luckily I could substitute or easily source more.

  23. I remember running short on cross stitch kit with custom threads. I ended up using a similar DMC thread for the lower thread of the cross, and the kit thread for the top thread. It worked! In crewel you might use a different thread of similar fibre for any padding, and use the kit thread on top. You could probably even do that with slightly open threadwork like the trellis, as long as the top thread matches, slight variation peeking through may just add interest. In all likelihood, you’re the only one who will ever know! But sometimes, a creative solution makes it even better than the original. πŸ˜€

  24. My idea on shortagoes in kits is to learn your lesson and not buy from that source again. There is no excuse to cut a kit so close. I know they want to optimize their profits, but no one is perfect. I would be sure to write back to them and let them know and give them an opportunity to correct. In my case, it might be years after purchase before you make the kit and then you are kind of out of luck.

  25. Wow! your Modern Crewel looks terrific Mary. Well done! Regarding the shortages of beads and threads I think that really stinks. The kit suppliers should be made aware of this immediately. They should make up the additional supplies missing. You’ve been very creative in finding alternatives so you can complete the project, but it is heartbreaking to get so close to finishing and be stymied at the very end. I was thinking of purchasing this kit but given your experience I think I will give it a miss. However your work is stunning. Thanks for the journey.
    Still stinking hot and dry here in Oz. Uggh!!

  26. Here, here! To Phillipa Turnbill’s post. Mary, just relax a little, and enjoy the process. Embroidery is such great therapy!

  27. I have ordered kits from Inspirations before (three, in fact), and in every case, the kit was short on materials, especially thread. Now, if there is a Inspirations project I want to stitch, I use the pattern and instructions from the magazine and gather my own supplies, using substitutes where necessary. At least that way, I save myself frustration and disappointment after I’ve put so much work into it. I do not understand why they consistently short the supplies in their kits. And they assume no embroiderer is ever going to make a mistake that requires some thread to be wasted. It is not like their kits are inexpensive. They do use quality fabrics and threads, they just do not give you enough. So sorry you have also experienced this, Mary.

  28. I try to be as conservative as possible with threads when I use a kit which supplied them just in case. I have never had a problem and these are kits which are (generally were, as I buy few kits now) mass market ones and not of the caliber of kit you stitch. I would think that the higher caliber of kit, aimed at the higher caliber of stitcher and costing considerably more than my old kits, would be more likely to add a bit extra of the threads so that one will be happy with the kit and purchase more kits from the company.

    I anticipate being short of a color of cotton 6 ply for the kit I am working on now. This is the reproduction of a late 18th century chair cushion kit which I work on at reenactment events. While working at an event a young girl who is a member our unit insisted on being taught how to do embroidery. I had large muslin fabric scraps (I always have these at events as they are used for covering up things, if we need to wash tables or such, etc. – basically in place of paper towels which would be inappropriate.) and I had spare wooden hoop and plenty of needles – but thread? I looked at the kit’s threads and decided that if I came up short in the pink I could probably match it – or do all of the pink in a flower a slightly different pink if needed, as well as little girls love pink. So she learned to do the lazy daisy and chain stitches and went away happy – worth possibly being short some pink floss.

    I now have a drawstring bag filled with some of the large scraps cut into squares and rectangles, spare inexpensive wooden hoops, needles, scissors, and a bag of assorted cotton floss so that any member who wants to learn at events can -without using up my kit threads. (Drawstring bags- from very small to very large – are used extensively by reenactors, anything modern can be hidden in them or they can be used to carry anything with loose parts such as embroidery materials.

  29. I never know it the beads are counted out or weighed. What I do know is that if weighed there can be a shortage maybe just one or 2. I was informed by a bead maker that not all beads are equal. Maybe just a miniscule off but over a large amount it can amount up. That is why counting is best but of course can be fraught with human mistake. When I made jewellery I have a pearl counter and sizer. It is great for counting seed pearls. But I would not buy one these days if you REALLY don’t have a large amount of product to count.
    Mary with the shortage of eye beads and I would curse, I use a clear bead and sew it on with a tad darker cotton/thread. It gives an illusion of a coloured bead and it still has the shine.

  30. I have really enjoyed watching this piece come to life. Your work is impeccable and I love that about it. I have a huge stash, which I am sure you must too. I would just find something perfect from my stash and it makes the finished piece even better for it!

  31. When beads are in short demand in a kit. I get out my Kreinick (or other metalick) to make my french knots. If there is a specific color, I find a rayon thread and add two strands of blending fillament.
    Please, excuse my miss spells. I’m tired and don’t feel like correcting.

  32. What a timely topic. I bought 2 old kits, and one was started. Alas, they cut the whitework before finishing the entire project. I guess like me, they couldn’t wait to see what it was going to look like. It’s gorgeous Italian Linen and the design is very art deco calla lillies. Woe is me, DMC no longer makes Broder in that size, and I can’t pick it out because the cutwork is already done. You’ll never believe it, I was in a small town Goodwill and there was my thread. Not really a substitution, it’s the same thread! Will I have enough? I’m keeping my eyes open for any more!

    Which brings me to kit #2, a vintage 1930’s crewel kit. Alas, the wool is not enough to finish what was already started. So I picked out all the yellow, and ordered a nice skein from Chester Wool in England, and dyed it myself. The background linen is black! And the pattern is a bouquet of flowers. My yellow looks better than the original. And I have enough crewel embroidery thread left over that’s undyed for my next shortage!

    Patience and imagination to think outside of the “You can’t get it, because it doesn’t exist!” By the way, I just found out my DMC discontinued perle cotton colors and at Colonial Needle, in their Finca perle cotton. There’s even a handy dandy chart to migrate from DMC. So, kit #3 a vintage Assissi will also have a happy ending. πŸ™‚

    Your modern crewel is gorgeous. And I’m with Philippa! So cool that she reads your blog too.

  33. Hi, Mary! Yes, it is FRUSTRATING when a kit has insufficient supplies. The beads are not so expensive that including some extras would have been a major expense. What I did notice, in reading the comments, is that several stitchers have had problems with shortages in kits from INSPIRATIONS. Under these circumstances, I do think you should correspond with them, suggesting they read this post and the comments. This problem affects their business profitability. I have never purchased a kit from them (considered it!) and I am VERY unlikely to do so now. They need to know if their kit customers are dissatisfied and spreading that message through the stitching community. Amending the problem is the first step to increased customer satisfaction.

  34. Your work is beautiful and the dimension in the curved tendrils is very interesting. I RAVE about you often to both stitchers and non stitchers. Your passion for threadcraft is felt online, I have been inspired by you and have taken many ideas for stitches from your site to try. I was a cross stitcher years ago hwoever, I have picked up surface work over the past 9 months or so, it has become a great evening companion. I have enjoyed working with different threads but have to say that floche is my favorite; I love it’s hand and how it lays.
    Thank you for ALL that you do for handwork!

  35. I keep all the odds and ends of kits when they are finished, so there is always the option to dig through my collection and see if something is close in color & thickness.

  36. Dear Mary:

    As a returning stitcher – after the usual hiatus for raising children, job, etc. – I’ve become intrigued by needle painting, and a few kits later (Berlin, Burr) it’s time to break out a bit. So from my Inspirations subscription I downloaded the template and instructions for Modern Crewel in those luscious teals and blues – love it! I would like to put this on the back of a needle case as a gift for a friend. So I scaled the template to 74% and want to use just the left side.

    I’m comfortable with figuring out needed adjustments for the reduced size. But since I am working from the magazine instructions instead of the kit I’ve run into the problem of finding some of the threads. Specifically:

    Clarence River Rainbows
    N8 perle 10
    N34 stranded cotton
    P4 perle 40
    P4 stranded cotton

    Can you offer suggestions for substitution? Either the overdyed or a DMC of similar color? I can’t find Clarence River Rainbows online, just a FB page on which I cannot find a link to purchase.

    I love your work and your videos, Mary. Thank you so much for offering your expertise to us!

    1. Hi, Janet – I think your best bet is trying to match up colors from someone who supplies overdyed threads, using the DMC colors as a base of comparison. You might find something, for example, through Colour Complements. She has various weights of perle threads and stranded floss that would work.

  37. I love the look of Inspirations kits and have thought (dreamed) of ordering some. I am completely put off by other’s experiences here, not just with this kit.
    I don’t have a stash of beads, for example, and the advantage of a kit is supposed to be that material is supplied so that one doesn’t have to try to resource it. I work kits for relaxation and don’t find that resourcing is. If I wanted to resource I would not buy the kit.
    There are exemplary suppliers – Phillipa Turnbull to the fore. With her kits I think I have enough thread and better yet, that I can acquire more if need be so I approach them in a relaxed mood. That in itself leads to fewer mistakes.
    I accept that I may run short of thread if I make a mistake but I find it extremely frustrating when I have not made an error and still run out of thread. I have 3 unfinished kits because of this. Obviously I will never order a kit from these manufacturers.
    And I will not order an Inspirations kit until feedback indicates that this problem is solved.

More Comments