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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What’s in my Embroidery Rotation – and What’s Not!


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With the summer trickling by here in Kansas – actually, I should say streaming by, as it’s moving at a rather rapid clip – I’ve given some thought to my current embroidery project rotation and have made some adjustments.

Now that Will Ewe Bee Mine? is officially out and available, I can concentrate on other projects. Thanks heaps to all those who have purchased my latest ebook – your support goes a long way towards keeping Needle ‘n Thread going! So I really appreciate it! (In fact, I downright love you for it!)

So, today, an update on what I’m working on now, my reasons for switching things in and out, my future project aspirations and plans, and a bit of a chat on my multi-project approach, what works about it and what doesn’t.

Party in Provence - Embroidered Kaleidoscope

This is my next finish! I’ve sneak-peeked this design a few times already and told you a bit about it. You can read about it here, here, and here!

Along with the “official” interpretation of Party in Provence, I’m working on this interpretation of a quarter of the same design, too, which is meant to be finished into the outside pocket of a tote bag.

My plan is to finish the embroidery on both of those before August 10th. So they’re my first priority – #1 in my Project Rotation scheme.

56 count miniature tapestry tree of life

This miniature tapestry tree of life design worked on 56-count silk gauze has been in my Project Rotation Box for a while now. I’ve written about it on several occasions. In the last update on this project, I included a list of links to the other articles I’ve written about it.

This particular project is currently out of my Project Rotation. It was originally intended as a 15 Minute Project – something I could keep out and going, for those moments when I had 15 minutes or so to spare, and wanted to stitch on something that didn’t require a whole lot of thinking or planning.

Lately, I haven’t had those kinds of 15 Minutes available! When I do have time like that, I pick up the tote bag pocket and add a few stitches!

Mellerstain Firescreen Crewel Embroidery

The Mellerstain Firescreen Project is back in my Project Rotation Box, for evening stitching on the couch! I updated you last on this project here.

Although I pretty much associate crewel embroidery with winter stitching, I’m picking it up now and then in the evenings. Crewel work is relatively quick embroidery, with slightly heavier wool threads that are easy to see, on twill that’s got very clear design lines on it, so it works well for evening stitching when the lighting is adequate but not necessarily stellar!

Chatelaine Embroidery Kit from Inspirations

Last year, I reviewed this rose chatelaine embroidery kit from Inspirations.

I’m itching to stitch this project and do the finish work on it, so, while it’s not in my Project Rotation Box at the moment, it is on my radar and my List! My plan is to have that set up by the end of August and in the box, ready to work on.

Two Other Projects

This summer, I’ve designed two other projects and worked on a whole series of designs. As soon as Party in Provence and the corresponding tote pocket are finished, I’m going to be All Over those two new designs. I can’t wait!

I like having designs drawn up well in advance of being able to stitch them, because while I’m finishing up one project, I can think about what’s coming up in the next. Planning ahead in my head motivates me to keep going on the current project, because it builds excitement for the next!

Outside the Box

Outside of the Project Rotation Box, I’m working on this piece of “embroidery archeology” that I’ve written about here and here.

Embroidered Vestment Repair - Figure Embroidery

I’ve gotten to the back of the vestment now, and we will be exploring that together quite soon.

Other work Outside the Box includes website work, plans for future articles and tutorials, photography, and, lately, some video work…which, incidentally, has not worked out so well so far, but I’ll keep trying!

The Project Rotation Box – What Works & What Doesn’t

So, I wrote a while ago about my project rotation box, and how I organize multiple embroidery projects that are going at the same time.

Embroidery Project Rotation Box

This method of a project box works well for me, but lately, I’ve been rotating things in and out of it pretty frequently, rather than finishing everything in the box.

And this approach also works pretty well for me, because it keeps my embroidery work interesting.

There are some drawbacks, though. The main one is that it seems to give me an excuse to stretch out any specific embroidery project into some Distant Future Neverland, where it may never be finished! That’s the thought that occurred to me when I rotated out the Tree of Life miniature project.

Still, right now, I have every intention of finishing that project. I love it and I want to finish it! I just don’t have time for all the projects right now, and, in the interest of keeping things interesting for you and me, I think I’m justified in mixing things up a bit.

In any case, my own designs – Party in Provence and the tote pocket, and the two new designs that will follow those – will be taking the front spots in the Project Rotation Box, because I plan to release them here on the website so that you can enjoy them, too. In order to do that, I have to stitch them!

The moral of the story: even with a Project Rotation Box, you still have to prioritize the projects. You can’t just randomly grab one that you’re in the mood to do, when you’re in the mood to stitch, if you have deadlines to meet.

The nice thing is: I enjoy everything I stitch on, so in the long run, it all works out well!

That’s It!

So that’s what’s happening on my side of the computer screen. What about you? What are you stitching on lately? I’d love to hear – feel free to chat about it below!

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Will Ewe Bee Mine – my latest collection of monograms with detailed instructions for stitching them – please do take a look! Maybe there’s something there that will tickle your fancy? The letters make perfect weekend projects!

There’s nothing quite like a little embroidery to make the world a brighter place, is there?

Enjoy your weekend!


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(32) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    You have so many projects on the go, I do like your rotation box very interesting but a good way to keep your on-the-go projects all in one place. I’m not exactly embroidering at the moment but making a quiet felt/cloth book for my Niece who is expecting her first child in October. But I will probably add some embroidery to it, it certainly is a learning curve as I’ve not attempted this kind of project before. But fortunately there is loads of help and ideas on the internet so I’ve been researching as well as cutting and shaping felt very interesting what is out there. Thanks for sharing your current projects and project rotation box with us very interesting. I hope you have a great weekend.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. Sounds like a fun and exciting project, Anita! Congratulations on your grand-niece/nephew coming up! That’s pretty exciting! Same niece you made the wedding book for?!?

    2. No that was her Sister who got married in Italy last year. Her twin sister got married in February this year and my youngest sisters Girl got married in April this year and is also pregnant due Dec this year. A bit family.

  2. At the moment I have had to give up the fine embroidery until the tendons in my hand settle down after a nasty winter attack of arthritis. Instead I have two tapestry projects on the go, one a babushka doll for one of my grandkids which I can stitch at work (it is only 7 inches tall) and the other is almost finished – a large roses and lilies cushion for my husband. After these 2 are done, I will be back to the autumn and summer longstitch projects and a needlepoint picture of roses and violets entwined with ribbons.

    I really do learn loads reading your emails and enjoy watching your own projects take shape.

    1. I hope the arthritis settles down soon, Susan!! It sounds like you have two good creative things to keep you going – variety is a good thing! 🙂

  3. Good Morning Mary,
    I was reading your related article “What’s Your Needlework Wish?” and I find that as my wish fairy you give me everything I could wish for without ever having an overload unless I go look for it. As for your rotation box, I love it. The problem for me is I’m more like a butterfly and with many different “flowers in the garden” I don’t land on any flower for very long. My flowers are varied and colorful, as I am recently retired I have created a bucket list of things to do, new things to learn and places to see. I then prioritized (as you have) my projects, first up is a neutral couch quilt, (to be quilted on a domestic sewing machine, a new skill), next up is the “Family Quilt”.
    I also have in the works a story crazy quilt for which I have written the story, and reworked many times, you know how that goes I’m sure. The story will be illustrated by a hexagon crazy quilt which is where your website and that of Sharon B come in as informative and inspiring moments. You are both artists using the same medium in different ways.
    Keep up on the much appreciated work you do, as far as I’m concerned, you feed us butterflies with wonderful, nectar laden flowers every day, while also setting a standard I can only hope to achieve.
    Best regards

    1. Hi, Brenda – that’s a good way to describe it, the flowers and the butterfly. Kind of reminds me of a song from King and I (the musical with Yul Brynner). I’d quote it, but I’d probably get it wrong! In any case, yes, I think many of us have that “butterfly” syndrome! 🙂

  4. Your superior organization, your consistency, your skill level, and most of all, your patience in reporting is so encouraging. You must eat and breathe embroidery. It shows.

  5. Completed projects

    I don’t want to frame everything I stitch. Sometimes I look through my completed work and it is like a photo. I remember myself as a beginner and later as a beginner with progress. I would like to know what you do with completed projects that are for personal use and shared at some point with others.
    Thank you all and have a great day. Mauri

    1. Hi, Mauri – I don’t frame all my work, either. Some of it, I just do for demonstration (samplers, little pieces like the tambour work bird and flower I did several years ago, stuff like that). I have a box that I keep those in, and when I have time, I slide the smaller ones that will fit into “preservation sleeves” that go in a binder – they’re clear “pockets” that you can slide stuff into, so you can see both sides. That way, if I need to use it for a demo or show it to people later, I have easy access to it. But that’s just me – maybe someone else has a better idea! I’d also love to hear what people do with sample pieces that they don’t intend to frame or display in any way!

  6. If your rotation, do you keep anything on a large frame that is always setup. I am thinking of investing in a nice sturdy frame, but not sure how or actually, where I will place it when not working on it. I do have a fairly large sewing studio, but just now sure if a prepared piece will stay nice for any length of time. What is your opinion?

    1. YES! If you have the space, there’s nothing at all wrong with leaving a project set up on a large frame. You’ll want to use something like a clean white pillow case or sheet to keep it covered when you aren’t working on it. Hope that helps!

  7. I just finished a challenge piece for the SF School of Needlework. I chose the “Whiter Shades of Pale” and I had a difficult time with it. I finally ended up stitching on black linen. Definitely a project I could only work on in the early afternoon.

    My guild is working on molas, and I’m just not feeling the love…so I’m working on a free hand Halloween house. Kim from “Retro Mama” posted some hand sewn Christmas Ornament Houses. Completely sick of Christmas ornaments, I decided to do some fall stitching instead. So I made one Halloween House in which I used quilting fabrics and did quick machine sewing. For the second one, I dyed a scrap of leftover linen from making pants. It’s so lovely and gruesome….sort of a sickly combo of colors…reminds me of when the cat hacks up a hairball. So, it’s perfect for my lovely little “Bruja – ha” House. I’m having fun playing with Inktense watercolors that are permanent on fabric when dry and embroidery! So much fun. No rules…just fun stitching.

    I like your rotation box. I have a binder set up with “Upcoming attractions”! This is the one in which the threads, linen and pattern are all set up.

    And then there’s a pile for finishing. Two pillows in that pile. There’s a lot to be said for embroidering on totebags, towels and curtains. At the end, no framing!

  8. At the moment I’m working on one project at a time, which means that at the moment I’m in between. So I’m doing a little experimenting with some new stitches, since I’m fairly new at this.

    I just finished a challah cover, and the logical next step is a headcovering for lighting the Shabbat candles, but I need to find a fabric I like and choose/create a design first. I may make another headband while I’m thinking, as those are pretty and quick.

  9. My stitching spot is inundated by more projects than I care to count. The current ones that are getting attention in rotation are: Victoria Sampler’s Christmas Sampler, an EGA chapter on going project; Barbara Jackson’s Tea Time Basket, nearly done; Stitch Specialists Seasons Sampler; Gay Ann Rodger’s Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Anniversary Sampler needle book and accessories, also close to being done and Snapper land’s Summer Series just begun. There is a stack of plastic scrapbooking containers with other projects to finish or start in my sewing room that I share with my daughter enough to keep me busy for a long time. Then there are the patterns and kits that are future projects in storage.
    Now, when I can get my cataracts taken care of I’ll be able to stitch more comfortably and accurately getting these projects FINISHED.

  10. Are you familiar with Nancy Eha’s beading? Your pretty Kaleidoscope embroidery would be perfect for her beaded Mandalas.
    I wish I could follow your method of sorting my work. it is so easy for embroidery but for those of us beaders, it is hard to keep our projects in bags. I keep the bakery plastic Croissant boxes for the unfinished work be it due to running out of the needed beads and crystals or…because of the feminine and animal figurines half embroidered are over 4″ and due to running out of beads, crystals, etc. Too bad I could not include a photo.

  11. Hi Mary,
    I’ve been stitching since my Gramma taught me to cross-stitch on gingham whe I was eight, and I’m now 65.
    My frustration is that only one person in my family is interested in receiving anything I make. I have no more room on my walls. Any ideas for an outlet for my creative skills?

  12. Hi, I’m so glad to have found your blog. It is fantastic! (I know nothing about embroidery or sewing). I purchased some floss and have practiced doing a few stitches while watching youtube and library books. Your blog has given me so much to think about. My goal is to be able to do embroidery on pillowcases and to learn how to put initials on anything. With that in mind, could you recommend (or have you written this already in a blog), a project that gives you nice pillowcase fabric, and maybe instructions?? I have a feeling the projects online will not have fabric that will be nice to work with?? Also I may try to transfer a pattern. I’m a bit shy about beginning. There are no classes in my area, or it seems, my state, (Connecticut),only private lessons. Thanks for your wonderful e-book. Love your work and writing. Both are a comfort. Thanks so much. Have a good weekend.

    1. Hi, Andrea – for pillow cases, I’d use a premium white cotton, sold with the muslin in quilting stores. You can find nice white cotton that would work great for pillow cases. Once you get the hang of it, if you really wanted to do something “high end” and super special for someone, you could always make linen pillowcases, but the amount of linen you would need – in a good linen – might be pretty pricy! But yes, I’d use a quality white cotton quilting fabric. And you should be able to find it locally. As for a project or instructions for a pillowcase project that comes with quality material, I’m not sure what’s out there. I’ve seen plenty of pre-stamped pillow cases in craft stores and whatnot – and I’ve bought a few of those kits for gifts for my nieces to work on – but the quality of the fabric is not really that great. Kind of itchy. You’d probably be better off working from scratch and making your own pillowcases. You can find plenty of pillowcase construction tutorials online for free, and then you’d just have to work out where and when to do the embroidery before (or after) constructing.

  13. Hi Mary!

    I also love your project rotation box. My system’s a bit messier, as I don’t usually give myself ‘deadlines’ for stitching. Right now, though, I’m working on cleaning up my ‘WIP’ pile of cross-stitch kits. So I’ve finished 3 things relatively quickly that I’d had on hold for some unknown reason. It was a good little break while I did some other things that needed to be done. I’m going back to my first stumpwork project next week. I’m pleased with how it’s going, but I had to move it from the side-table to the kitchen table to do the next steps. I’m lazy, so it took me a while to do that, lol. Stitching in front of the tv is one of my favorite things.

    happy summer!

    -Monika in Mobile

  14. I do want to see Party in Provence finished! Those colours are so beautiful. Current WIPs are my first attempt at punt’e nu for a needlebook cover, and a cross-stitch sampler. I need magnification for both – the punt’e nu is 28-count but it’s over 1, and the cross-stitch is 55-count over 2 – so in between I’ve been knitting. Currently switched out of rotation is a vintage satin-stitch and long-and-short stitch tablecloth: 2 projects at a time is enough for me, and I’m waiting on a better hoop because my cheapo one isn’t holding the fabric firmly.

  15. Hi Mary

    Like you I also have projects on rotation. At the moment I have two that take most of my time – panels for a quilt I hope to sew for my youngest granddaughter (before she is too old for the design) and your Latticework Jumble which is about 2/3 done. The Jumble needs to be finished by the end of August for a display by my embroidery group. Pressure!

    I also have a lovely embroidery that I am keen to commence but I bought your latest ebook the day it came out and I can’t get out of my mind all the uses I could put the designs to as cute little gifts, and Christmas is so close.

    What a dilemma!


  16. Wow! you have a pretty good system for your projects! I’m working on a needle paint bird designed by Trish Burr, and two stump work projects, one by Alison Cole and another by Susan O’Connor. Plus there are several little baby gowns that have embroidery on them. I’m also working on actual garment sewing, a fancy dress for me out of a lovely floral fabric that I will probably add some beads to. I’m also trying to learn about my serger by making T-shirts and shorts for my granddaughter (and jeans for me). So these projects are way too big to put in a filing system like you have.

  17. Your workload puts me to shame – I try to be organised and productive but the muse has deserted me and I have hit a dry spell. I have a couple of started pieces pinned up on my project board, but look as I might I just can’t see where I am going with them so they are awaiting further inspiration. Meanwhile I keep sane by stitching daily on my oneyearofstitches hoop, over 6 months in and I am still loving this challenge.

    1. That’s such a fun challenge, Marian! I know if I started stitching on something like that, I’d want to stitch ONLY on that. So it’s good you have that going – I bet it’s a lot of fun!!

  18. I love seeing what you are working on and I love your designs and use of color. The Tree of Life in miniture is just beautiful, I look forward to seeing it when it makes it back into the rotation. Traditionally I’ve focused on cross stitching more than embroidery, but over the last couple of years have switched my focus to embroidery. I like the dimensional look to it, and frankly it goes faster. I just purchased your ebook “Will Ewe Be Mine” and plan on using the designs to make various lines for holiday gifts. Love a pretty monogram.

  19. My newest project is starting to do crazy quilting hexagons with my sister. She’s an avid quilter while I am only a novice. I have a lot of beads and stash to work into it and it is a new experience for us both. While I’ve done cross stitch mainly lately I have a bit of experience over the years with embroidery and needlepoint so I’m trying to pull a lot of techniques together at once. I’m learning so much and I’m grateful to have resources such as your fine self to count on to help me work my way through this stuff. Last stitches I stitched were eggplant colored raised fishbone stitched leaves to embelish a fantasy flower made with sliced halved cowrie shells for flowers and cream colored freshwater pearls and purple seed beads for the winding stem. To the same block I also bead embroidered a lace rose motif with peach colored 15aught seed beads, so pretty. Would you believe the block fabric colors are golds and greens?

  20. I drafted up a slightly smaller scaled version of the chatelaine last fall and finally got the filament silks I think I will use.

    I’ve been doing two silk baby dresses with silk ribbon flowers, real pearls, plus bonnet, slips, garment bags and padded hangers. I’ve got around 200 hours into them and should finish this week.

    I picked up some amazing hand woven fabric in the Philippines and have a Prayer shawl planned for that, with Blessings embroidered along the edge.

    I will be doing several sets of Stoles… My beloved brother, His Grace, the Anglican Catholic Bishop of the Philippines (and all Asia) keeps acquiring new parishes and clergy.

    Then there is the dyeing, the random dressmaking, knitting, etc…

    That doesn’t begin to touch the estimated two year mixed media fine art project.

    Because of course I have time to do this now that I’m retired, right?

    1. LOL! Of course! That’s what retirement is all about, right? Only…it seems that most people find out they’re even busier when they’re retired, from what I’ve heard. Good luck with it all, Roberta! It sounds fun!

  21. Hi Mary,
    I am so happy to hear that you will be releasing Party In Provence soon. I love it and have been hoping you would make the design available for all your fans. Beautiful colors and design. Please keep them coming! They inspire me so much. Thanks for all you do for the embroidery world.
    Mary Ann, Cincinnati

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