Talking about bad stitching habits seems like such a negative approach to things, doesn’t it?
But I’m all for presenting a negative lesson, if it can achieve a positive outcome. And don’t worry – I’m not pointing the finger at anyone here. Well, at anyone but me, anyway.
I’ve developed all kinds of bad stitching habits over the years. Some, I’ve overcome; some, I still cling to. I know they’re bad habits, and I know I need to overcome them. But my Will Power and I haven’t come to terms on them yet.
With this in mind, I’ll Bare All and tell you about some of my bad stitching habits over the years so that you can learn vicariously through me and avoid them. Or maybe you have the same habits? In that case, we can work on overcoming them together!
Bad Stitching Habit #1
Not everyone has this habit, but most likely everyone can relate to it.
It’s the habit of disorganization.
An organized approach to anything results in increased efficiency, a clearer outlook, and, in general, a better mood when approaching work or pleasure.
By organization, I don’t necessarily mean obsessive organization that can kill the life of a thing. Instead, I’m talking about fairly basic organization.
For example, do I know where my scissors are, before I start stitching?
Do I keep my materials organized enough during a session, so that I don’t have to dig around for those strands of floss I already separated or that #7 crewel needle I was just using?
Do I end a stitching session by putting everything in order, so that the next time I pick up my needle and thread, I know what’s what?
I still suffer a bit from disorganization, especially when I’m stuck into a bunch of work during busy times.
But I’ve overcome the bad habit a little bit by following some simple rules:
1. Always return my tools to the same spot during a stitching session.
2. Keep my threads organized, either on thread cards like the ones I wrote about here, or with little baggies, like the ones I wrote about in this article on organizing a miniature embroidery project.
3. Keep projects organized in separate bags, folders, or boxes. I explain how I organize multiple embroidery projects in this article.
4. Straighten up at the end of a stitching session so that things don’t get muddled with other projects or jostled about by household happenings.
Bad Stitching Habit #2
For those who have lots of stitching time or who like to “binge stitch,” this bad habit may apply.
I tend to binge stitch during my chunks of what I call studio time on my daily calendar. This chunk of time can stretch anywhere from one hour to four hours, depending on the day of the week.
Sitting still and stitching for one hour isn’t such a big deal.
Sitting still and stitching for four hours, though, can be detrimental to health, posture, back, shoulders, and eyes! It’s a bad habit to get accustomed to, and one that can ultimately lead to serious regrets after years of stitching.
I’m guilty of it. And my shoulders can attest to it!
It’s essential to break up long stitching sessions by moving around at least every hour. Some folks even say every half hour, but for me, that’s too short to get into a rhythm in stitching.
But at least every hour, I know I need to Move!
To overcome this bad habit, I’ve gotten into the better habit of setting a timer for an hour. When it goes off, I get up and do something – doesn’t matter what. It could be laundry, prepping part of a meal, fixing a cup of tea, jumping on the trampoline, doing cartwheels in the front yard…
If I’m really pressured for stitching time, I take at least a few minutes to stretch and move my bones.
Since I started doing this, my shoulders are less inclined to droop at the end of the day.
Bad Stitching Habit #3
Where do you put your needles? If I’m stitching inside my house – on the couch or in a comfy chair – my needles used to end up in the arms of said furnishings.
After all, they’re just oversized pincushions.
You know what the obvious problems are: inadvertently causing pain to a person or a pet who might encounter stray needles left in furniture; the lost needles that become forever embedded in your furniture.
But did you know that sticking needles repeatedly into upholstery can also rapidly diminish the life of your upholstery? I always sit on the same side of my sofa. The arm next to where I sit, after years of pincushion treatment, is riddled with holes and small splits in the upholstery. The other side of the couch, where non-stitchers sit, is perfectly fine.
The remedy: I’ve developed the habit of using a real pincushion.
I have a large pincushion with a wooden base that holds a ton of needles and pins and sits on my work table.
I also have some smaller pincushions or similar solutions for quick access.
For example, I often use a tiny pincushion that’s backed with a magnet and that sticks ferociously to my embroidery frame or stand. It’s the quick receptacle of needles during stitching. This mini pincushion from Nordic Needle is what I have, but it’s got a magnet on the back, so it can rest securely on my framed fabric.
I also use my little Rapunzel pincushion quite a bit.
And when I travel or stitch elsewhere, I use one of the small embroidered needlebooks I made from Lavender & Honey & Other Little Things. I have a couple that I sewed little magnets into, so they can stick on my frame while I’m stitching. Easy in, easy out!
Another option for the latter scenario is a magnetic needle minder. The concept is the same, but I like a pincushion better.
I’ve found that keeping a larger pincushion on hand to accommodate the variety of needles I need while working through a project is the best guard against turning my furnishings into pincushions.
Bad Stitching Habit #4
Thread – it’s almost as good as fried chicken, isn’t it? It’s almost finger-lickin’ good.
It must be, because people like to lick it.
I used to lick my threads all the time. I just thought that was how you threaded a needle – lick the thread, stick it in!
And I’m not one to say “Oh, tsk tsk, shame on you” if you lick your thread! If that’s the only way you can get a needle threaded, if it’s an ingrained habit you don’t care to shake – well, lick away!
But there are some good reasons to avoid licking thread. Here they are, in a nutshell:
1. Thread behaves differently when wet. Did you know that water actually weakens silk, for example? When silk is wet, it’s at its most vulnerable to stretching or breaking. And then there’s the whole overdyed thread thing, if you use overdyed threads. Will those colors run as the wet end of the thread passes through the fabric? It depends on the dye, really, and how wet it gets, but why risk it?
2. This, to me, deserves more consideration, as it applies when using any type of thread. The wet thread (or the wet eye of the needle – some people lick the eye instead of the thread) can have a bad effect on the needle’s eye and the needle itself. Dampness and water can cause burrs and rust in the eye of the needle – which you might never see, but you definitely would experience in threads that wear before their time, and in rough passages through fabric.
To overcome the habit of licking way back when, I practiced other methods of threading a needle, particularly the pinch and saw method.
Another option on this one: a needle threader! An inexpensive but handy tool!
If you’re curious about different methods of threading an embroidery needle – including helpful tips, information on needle size in relation to thread, and the like – you might enjoy this article On Threading Needles. Read the comments, too! Lots of tips in there from the wider stitching community!
Bad Stitching Habit #5
Bad Habit #5 is putting off the fix.
It’s a hard one to overcome, and I’m still struggling with it.
In my mind, a mistake on a piece of needlework often becomes a looming mountain, impossible to scale – or at least one that I’m too lazy to scale!
Often, I put off fixing a mistake. Instead of tackling the mistake right away, I’ll put the piece aside, convincing myself that I’ll get back to it later.
Sometimes, later never happens – or it happens in such a distant future that I’ve lost all interest in the project.
One way I’ve found to overcome this bad habit (though, like I said, I’m often still guilty of it!) is to do the hard part of fixing a mistake right away. That is, I do the un-stitching and the tedious picking out right after making the mistake.
With this part of the fix out of the way, if I put the work aside, I’m more likely to come back to it quickly.
Sometimes, I need a little time to mull over the problem that caused the mistake in the first place. But if I’ve done the hard part, when inspiration hits and I discover the solution for the mistake, it’s no big deal to face the fabric again.
Bad Stitching Habit #6
You might not be guilty of this one. Maybe I’m the only person in the Whole Wide Stitching World guilty of it. But I’ll tell you about it anyway.
Putting off a fix might seem pretty bad, if it causes a project to linger, unfinished, forever.
But I also tend to put off the finish, in two different ways.
Sometimes, I get thiiiiiiiiiiis close to the finish, and …. I don’t finish it.
Sometimes, I finish stitching a project, but then I never finish it for use or display. I take it off the frame and put it in a box.
I don’t have any idea at all why I do either of these.
My brain is blank when I start contemplating this bad habit. Part of me – the majority of me – doesn’t really see the rest of me overcoming this one.
But the other part of me – the guilty conscience part – wonders if it’s a waste. Am I wasting my time, materials, and so forth by not finishing? But that’s where Needle ‘n Thread comes in handy. It’s my excuse. “I did it for the website.”
Case in point: the hummingbirds. I found a frame for them. I even have a recipient in mind for them. But I’ve not framed them yet!
Another case in point: Late Harvest. I have two more stumpwork leaves to attach, and it’s finished. Have I attached them yet? No.
What About You?
Do any of my bad habits resonate with you? Do you see yourself overcoming them, or are they part of your stitchy make-up? If you can relate to them, what measures would you suggest taking to overcome them? What are some other bad stitching habits that you think are worth overcoming? Go ahead, share! We’re not judging here! Just working together to become better stitchers!
If you have any input, feel free to join the conversation below!
There’s a little technical change on the website right now. In the past, if anyone replied to your comment, or you replied to a comment, the original commenter would receive an email with the reply in it. This makes continuing a conversation through the comments easier. For the moment, the email reply feature has been disabled. If you leave a comment expecting a reply, be sure to check back. I hope to find a good solution to this problem soon…