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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I’m Guilty: 6 Bad Stitching Habits


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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!

6 bad Stitching Habits and how to overcome them

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.

Overcoming It

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!

Overcoming 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.

Overcoming It

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.

Overcoming It

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.

Overcoming It

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…


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(126) Comments

  1. Two comments
    1. On threading needles, I run the very tip of the thread over bees wax, scrape it with my nail and then thread up. This adheres all the fibre ends together and stiffens it just enough it will go thru the eye of the needle. I use #12 needles a lot And find this very helpful.
    2. On completing the projects. I find myself putting off completing the projects I really enjoy stitching. It’s like I don’t want them to end because they are so much fun or interesting. Weird right?

    1. Not too weird on #2, there, Melody! I’ve done the same thing. It’s kind of like coming to the end of a really good book – I tend to slow down and draw it out!

      I’m pretty sure another reason I tend to put off the finish is that I have to clean it all up, re-organize the leftovers, and then start a new project. And sometimes, the start of another project – even one I’m really keen to get going on – can seem like a hurdle. 🙂

      That should have been Bad Stitching Habit #7: Putting off the start of a project!

  2. Guilty on all six counts. One other: wearing out the end of the sofa where I stitch. I’ve found that sitting just a bit out of where I normally sit works as does flipping the cushions or swapping one end for the other–keeps the sofa wearing more evenly.
    Another: using the end of the sofa without the good lamp over my left shoulder. I’m right handed. Easily fixed!?

  3. Oh, I had to chuckle at the needles in the arms of chairs… I don’t know how many times I’ve stabbed myself with my own needle as I sat back down to stitch. Now, we have almost all leather furniture (we have two very active, messy, generally stinky growing boys and leather holds up so much better!) so I had to immediately break that habit! I use a needle minder mostly but as I love all things felt and fairy tales would love to make a Rapunzel pin cushion. Absolutely darlin’!!!!

  4. Hi Mary, Oh how your habits resonate with me. I am really bad about sticking my needles into the arm of the chair I most frequently use when stitching. My pincushions fall off the arm of the chair or the chair side stool is in the wrong place, or whatever other reason I can think up! Also, I often lick the thread end when threading my needles, though I do try not to!! Haha. Really, I am not as fussy as I should be but, so what! Whatever works for me is just fine. I enjoy the process too much to make these minor foibles spoil it for me. Its all about being productive and enjoying the process. Paddy Garrett

  5. As for #6….I have done the same thing many times. Sometimes because i just didnt have the money for frami g t he way i wanted, sometimes too busy to sit at my sewing machine to finish, etc. But I love to stitch and that, for me, is where the fun is. Having my worm displayed is nice but the fun is always in the doing. Except of course for gifts…this not finishing can interfere with the giving!

  6. I used to be guilty of number 1 but got out of the habit when another stitcher told me the acid from my saliva would ruin the threads.
    Used to use the arm of the chair as a pincushion also. Got out of the habit when we had a leather couch. Leather doesn’t make a good pincushion 🙂
    I still suffer from #6. I have projects that have been sitting and sitting. Some even years. Every so often I pull them out and see what needs to be done and then end up putting them away thinking to myself soon i will finish them. Just have to make time for it. I probably have 10 finished projects sitting in a drawer waiting to be framed.
    Happy to see I am not the only one!!!

  7. Oh man, do I hear you when you talk about unfinished projects! Right now I’m working on that. I bought a set of plastic boxes for my UFOs. I gathered up everything I need to finish each project and put it in a box. My goal is alternating one SMALL new project then finish a project. After all, projects usually get left behind because something else, very exciting, catches my eye. So I have to be realistic and know I have to have the reward of a new project for completing an old one. Right now, I have my eye on some Christmas ornaments for my next new project.

    As for organizing my projects, I use the small, plastic, thread boxes and wind the threads on bobbins. I keep a piece of felt in it for a needle minder. It holds small scissors. For cross stitch, I tape the thread legend inside the lid.

    1. Debbie, that’s what I do – even to taping the legend to the inside lid of the box! – and it really works for me. I keep all my hand-dyed threads in snack bags on large rings, and then use a smaller ring to keep just those threads I’ll be using with my stitching set-up.

  8. Guilty X 6+ ! Sometimes, I get so ready to finally finish (the end is in sight), and I’ll start to get in a hurry and get sloppy — lack of patience.

    Years ago, I read (“somewhere on the internet”) a story about a woman who’s beautiful finished project started developing orange spots all over her stitched work! Turned out that she licked her thread to thread the needle — and, over time, the prescription medication in her saliva reacted with the cotton & air and turned orange. (That medication disperses throughout the body, including saliva.)

    1. That is very interesting, Phoebe – I will have to check into that! I hadn’t heard of it actually changing the color of threads over time, but it makes sense.

      I remember when I was student teaching, I had a science practicum with middle school students, and we did the whole petri dish / hair brush thing. That was surprising! I should suggest the same thing to a local science class, or perhaps a niece or nephew’s science project – only with licked threads! :-0

    2. I’ve got to say, it doesn’t make sense to me – unless these stitchers are licking the entire length of thread. It’s the end you thread through the needle which often gets cut off when it’s been woven into the back…

  9. Yeah,I have all these bad habits.I taught I was weird because I stitch happily and make great progress, but when I am close to finish I slow down.I have to force myself to finish the piece. I have like 300 stitches left to finish my project, but I search on the net instead. I made needleminders for my needles.

  10. I have three bad habits that aren’t listed and (1) that is working on a project without the proper lighting (2) working while I am tired or not feeling well (which seems to be more often these days) and (3) not putting my threads back as I use them – this is a bit different than staying organized, in so much that all my other stuff is organized but as I work, I just start curling my threads together in a pile. This is bad for two reasons, I can’t always tell the colors apart later and it is rough on the threads to have them all jumbled up like that. As far as your list goes, I am especially guilty of #6. Many times I just can’t seem to finish a project. I have found no pattern to this behavior but have found that keeping these unfinished projects handy improves the odds of me actually completing them. I used to have another bad habit of keeping every scrap of left over thread. I stopped doing that when I realized that I would never go back to use these bits up (doesn’t apply to specialty threads, tho, just my regular floss). I just quit collecting them one day. I enjoy all of your articles and look forward to the emails.

  11. Mary, your six bad habits are all part of my life. None of which have I mastered or given up. Well maybe needles in couches..my late husband was the correction officer there..he could find a pin, needle in a split second of entering the room. So my armchair hussif is my friend most days. I have to add the seventh bad habit in my life: TOO many put away projects from yesteryear [yes 35 years or more!] that I can not bring myself to toss or to finish,..because the 7,5 version is all the new ones started. Every New year or new school year I vow to not start new until I finish one old. [STOP laughing] and so the boxes are stacked. [including cross stitch–original addiction; embroidery — second; knitting–first learned at 5yo; sewing [machine] –since 8 yo?; and then there is lace making, smocking and beading!! Anyone want something to do…I can offer many half done things!! Thank you so much for your blog and more. I save all!!

    1. LOL, Karin! I think you will have plenty to keep you busy all the rest of your days! I always make a resolution at the beginning of each year to finish all incomplete projects before starting a new one. But by January 2nd, I’m over it!

  12. Wow. This article really hit home with me. I, too, am guilty of all these bad habits.
    The worst is the not finishing a project when it is almost complete. In fact, there is a large storage box, in my workroom, labeled “UFO”. ( “UFO” for unfinished objects.) As a joke, too, so if I am ever asked if I have seen a “UFO”, I can honestly say “Yes”.
    Thank you for your suggestions for overcoming these bad habits, to better go on happily with handwork. Maybe, I’ll get that Christmas red work out and finish my Christmas quilt this year.

  13. Oh, yes, I have been guilty of all of those, but I am trying to be better. I just put wood floors through my house so the pins & needles would not be able to hide (as they do in carpet). That has helped. I also keep my glass of water on a woven mug rug and when I get ready to change thread, I stick my needle in the rug. I did not know about water weakening silk thread (which I am using now for applique), so will get myself one of my bees wax and use that instead. As for UFOs, well, I pledged this year to finish more and I am getting a few done, but the pile isn’t as low as I had hoped. Life happens and I just keep working on “old” and “new” projects – all are fun. I have decided I will need to live to 500 years old to finish all the projects I want to do. Love all fiber art!

  14. “Bad Stitching Habits” are indicative of creative minds and fingers at work. All stitchers are inventive..as we concentrate on our projects, our brain wanders here and there and enables new or different ways of doing things. Needles floating around in the upholstery or carpet are another thing. No one should get hurt in the process.
    I particularly annoy myself by borrowing thread from one project bag to another. I have encountered the situation where a color or dye lot changes, and there are two projects vying for the same precious strands of thread. Trying not to do it!

  15. My biggest bad habit is I tend to use really long strands of thread when I stitch to avoid finishing off a thread and starting a new one. Especially in whitework embroidery where I have a long line of satin stitch.

    When I make a mistake, I don’t unpick straight away. I put the piece aside and come back to it. Sometimes it’s an hour later and sometimes next day, but never more than that. Half the time the mistake doesn’t bother me as much as I thought or I can’t find it. When that happens I leave it in and move on. If it still bothers me, I undo it.

  16. Hi Mary
    Yes, one of your so-called ‘bad’ habits really resonated with me: the last one. I’ve been stitching for quite a few years now after knitting gave me a cranky shoulder and I LOVE it! But only a few of my finished pieces (and I do manage to finish them) ever make it to display. Most of them end up in a special drawer just for stuff that’s done. I have two explanations for this. Firstly, I don’t feel they are good enough to display, even if I had sufficient wall space, and secondly (as my daughter wisely quotes on many occasions) ‘it’s all about the journey’. I think that once finished, the new adventure ahead is more interesting!

  17. My bad habit is making a mistake and setting it aside. Just need to work on taking out before setting it aside. I think when I pick it up again, I’ll think, “Oh, this is ready to go! Didn’t really have that big ‘ol mistake in it!” Thanks for the tip!

  18. Dear Mary

    My bad habit is licking my threads its the only way I know to easily thread my needles. I know its a bad habit and I shouldn’t do it but I can’t help myself and binge stitching is another bad habit I gotten into, I must get up every hour and move around I will try and remember that, good suggestion. Great blog and full of useful suggestions. Thanks for sharing with us you tips on bad habits. I will try and lick less and move more.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. Dear Mary

      You will be pleased to know I have just invested in a needle threader so hopefully I will get out of this habit soon.

      Regards Anita Simmance

  19. Another reason to avoid “Bad Habit #4” – – during my working career I taught Dental Hygiene – every year I showed incoming students a video called “What if Saliva Were Red?” – – now whenever you “lick” your thread or saturate it with saliva ask yourself that question – – no your work isn’t going to turn red but whatever that needle, thread, & even your fingers touch will be “teaming” with mouth bacteria!! Think twice before you lick your thread or bite your fingernail or just in general put your fingers in your mouth – – it’s cold and flu season – avoiding this habit can protect your health and the health of others around you. (It seems my “life mission” has been to teach this lesson to not only students but the general public – I’ve been known to ask THE QUESTION to food handlers & store clerks (after they lick their finger to open the plastic bag my merchandise is going into – – just think what they are introducing into their mouth – handling all that money and “licking” their fingers every time they open a plastic bag). Okay, okay, I’ll get off my “soap box” – I haven’t been there for a while – – it felt pretty good!

    1. Dear Irene

      Thanks for your warning I will think twice from now on before licking my thread or fingers or anything else come to that.

      Regards Anita Simmance

    2. I always despair when I can’t get plastic bags to open. Especially produce bags. I seem to have really dry fingers and I cannot for the life of me open one of those darn bags!

      So in the produce section, I’ll touch the outside of a bag of carrots or other “pre-bagged” produce to get some moisture and not contaminate the produce.

      Unfortunately that trick doesn’t work with the register bags. (Didn’t clerks use to have a small damp sponge to get friction to open the bags with? I could see how that was a hygiene issue on it’s own, but it stopped finger licking…)

  20. I am so relieved to know I’m not the only one!
    It’s so hard to get the thread into the needle sometimes that I resort to licking the thread.

    Finishing the project is the hardest part for me, but why! For me I leave the least desirable part of the embroidery to the end, usually a gift and there it sits waiting.

    Thanks Mary for all the excellent information, you’ve really helped me learn my way through embroidery.

  21. Habit #2- Cartwheels? Really Mary! Haven’t laughed that hard in a while…Thank you.

    I do the same thing. Not necessarily every hour. I generally set a goal of a certain amount of stitching (or after each episode of the show I’m currently binge watching on Netflix) then I have to do a chore and I “reward” myself with more stitching. It helps with the stiffness from sitting but, I have to admit, I do it more so the chores actually get done. ‘Cause who doesn’t prefer stitching to cleaning! Doing cartwheels has never crossed my mind.

  22. I do tend to lick….at least floss. Other threads no,I have several types of needle threaders. I always have pincushions and occasionally have to tidy them.
    But my biggest problem is starting (and finishing) projects with no idea of what to do with them. My walls are full enough. My kids will only tolerate so much ( and they will inherit ). Ditto friends. Not all my pillows need to be embriodered( and I’m short enough that I always use one). Not every box can support an embroidered top etc. so , many projects sit there finished but unmounted.
    But then I see something I just need to do ….and I hate to be without a project!

    1. So happy to know I am not alone in the ‘Bad Habits’ Department. My poor sofa is festooned with all kinds of needles, pins, knitting cable pins and the like. I have lots of lovely pin cushions but the end of the sofa is just so inviting!

      With regard to the licking thread, I am a licker, but I have started to lick just the very end and once through the eye of the needle snip off the soggy bit. OK, I lose some thread and probably have damaged the inside of the eye of the needle, but at least I do not risk wetting the rest of the thread or work.

      Love all the confessions of everyone here. So therapeutic. Now where did I put that crewel # 9 needle????!!!

  23. Oh Lord, just slap me now. I have a bad habit that wasn’t mentioned in your blog. I have a pile (and I mean a big pile) of threads that are sitting in bags because I finished the projects and didn’t put the threads back where they belong. From Hardanger to silk to floss, blending filaments to other Kreinik threads, gold work threads and you get the picture. Once a year (maybe) I will sort through and replace into these threads their proper places. In the meantime, rather than check to see if a thread is in one of the bags I’ll just go buy new. So, I end up having 8 of one color that I’ll probably never use again. It’s a bad habit and I should change my ways but I’m always so eager to move on to the next project my good intentions never happen.

    1. I volunteer at an arts non-profit and my favorite task is keeping the embroider floss donation drawer in order. I get some messed up bags of floss and pull them apart to get each color on a cardboard floss saver card. Cheap “therapy” and others can come along and get almost a full skein for 10 cents a card. FUN (for me)

  24. Have you ever heard the expression “ the gift of clutter Is discovery”
    Or add surprise or a positive word. That will make the bad feelings more palitable???

  25. Yup, I do the binge stitching thing and the do not want to finish thing. It gotten so bad that I sometimes didn’t even go to the bathroom allthough I really, really needed to pee. And my shoulders, neck amd hands really suffer. So I now do the timer thing as well. It sort of works, but when I am in the zone, it is so hard to take a break. Since I want to stitch until at least 120, I keep reminding myself that I should take better care of me!

  26. The hurting shoulders and neck is what resonates with me. I have learned, whether hand stitching or machine sewing, if I know I am going to be doing sitting there for more than a couple of hours, I place a warm towel around my neck. I have learned to sit up straight so I don’t have the sloping shoulders or lump on my back, but just taking a few minutes to throw a towel in the micro and laying it around my neck loosely sure helps to keep things right. Since I am in my studio 8 to 10 hours per day, the towel gets warmed up several times.

    Another of my bad habits is not drinking anything while sewing or stitching. I have to play games with myself on this one. Every time I get up, which is quite often now a days, I have to take a sip of water. I even went as far as buying a pretty child’s play set that offers small amounts — it’s more fun to drink from a pretty glass than from a plain water bottle or plain glass. Just a child at heart!

  27. My absolute worst habit is not finishing. I am always so inspired to start a new exciting project. I have many UFOs (Unfinished Objects) in various stages of progress. Several years ago I decided to organize them by labels and plastic containers. I should have bought stock in Rubbermaid! Even that project though fell by the wayside as I began even more projects. I have just retired after 30 years of teaching, and my #1 goal is to finish things, while starting only necessary projects needed for gifts or holidays. I can only say my motives are pure, but I am weak!

  28. It was wonderful to read that someone else puts off finishing projects! What a relief to know that others are guilty of the same thing! I sew a lot but have had little to show for it.

    So, I have started forcing myself to finish my current projects and going back through my ufo’s. It’s a great feeling to have something finished to show for my work.

  29. Yep, I’m guilty off most of those but the one I’d really like to overcome is finishing projects for display. I have a whole drawer full of projects I’ve finished stitching but have not Finished. I tell myself it doesn’t matter because for me the joy is in the stitching but really, it would be nice to see them in use or on display. Part of my issue is that I’m put off by the expense of getting things professionally finished but think I lack the skills to do it myself. This isn’t entirely true though because I have finished a few things here and there. It’s just not something I enjoy doing as much as stitching.

  30. I have a small wooden box ,which holds needles in the magnetized top, and small scissors thimble,laying tool,needle threader. I very seldom see such boxes any more,and would be utterly lost without mine!

  31. My bad habit is licking the thread. I had not thought of the dye running! I will have to read your tips on threading a needle! I must admit I do finish every project I make and normally have some purpose for it when it is finished. So maybe that’s why.

    If I do make a mistake, I always unpick it straightaway as I don’t tend to go back to the project.

  32. Good morning Mary and and thank you for this. Having just finished two intense projects on a tight deadline many of these resonated with me strongly. Having worked over 5 hours for over a month, daily, to get these projects finished by deadline have done in my neck, shoulder, upper arm, and fingers. I see a hot tub in my future along with heating pad and a large bottle of aleve.
    Being an embroiderer who specializes in historical embroidery I find myself using many different thicknesses of floss from larger hand spun wool to tiny, fine, silk. One of my biggest mistakes is choosing the wrong Size of needle for the job I am doing. A shorter, smaller, needle with a large eye will NOT work when I must stitch on a thick, or tightly fulled piece of wool or silk. Thinner and sharper does not work as well if there is not the length and strength of the needle behind it to help pull and grip the needle through the ground fabric. Needle choice has become my bane and I will feel it after hours of work if I choose poorly.
    As for the pin cushion issue. I have converted an altoids tin into a pin cushion by hot gluing a pin cushion to size inside of it and then gluing a strip of fabric under it with weight on either side. This allows the tin to stay positioned over the arm of a chair or couch and not to fall off. A small magnet on the open lid holds the needles which I will need for the project. When I finish I snap the lid closed and wrap the cloth arms around it and boom its ready for travel. Thanks again for the wonderful article.

  33. I had no idea licking the thread could be so detrimental! I’ll have to change that one. I have used thread products, like “Stitch Heaven” and “Thread Magic” to name two. What do yo think of those? Any opinion on them? Thanks for all these helpful hints! You’re great! Beth

    1. Hi, Beth – the only time I ever coat thread with anything is when I’m doing goldwork. I use beeswax to coat goldwork threads, because it strengthens the thread against the abrasion of the metal threads. I’m not too keen on coating other threads for regular embroidery with anything. I just don’t think it’s necessary. If you’ve got cranky threads, often the cause is the needle or the fabric, or a combination of both. There are also some stitching tricks that can help overcome cranky threads that knot or twist a lot when you stitch. I’ll be talking about those in the nearish future. But overall, I don’t think coating threads for regular stitching is a great idea. It tends to change the way a thread naturally works with the stitches. It affects “spread” (the fullness you can get from the threads) and, with some products, I’ve noticed it can just slightly change the shade, compared to the same thread, uncoated. Just my two cents’ worth, though – I know there are plenty of stitchers out there who swear by the stuff! And that’s ok – if it works for them and makes stitching more pleasurable, then who am I to argue the point?! 🙂

  34. I see something new that I want to do and go ahead preparing for it and then don’t go back to what I have not finished thus I have ended up with a lot of U.F.O.’s. I have determined that I will not start something new until I have finished what I am currently doing and that is working fine on new stuff but I still have a ton of U.F.O.’s from before I made this decision. At the moment I have the excuse of poor eye sight due to chemo. medication but a time will come when I can see clearly again – lets hope I can also “see” to complete my U.F.O.’s

    1. Hi, Joyce – I’ve gone through the eyesight fluctuation due to chemo, too. It’s rather frustrating! It does improve, though! In fact, I jumped a little too quickly, after about 5 months off chemo, to getting my eyes checked and getting new specs. And over time, they’ve proven to be off slightly. My old prescription works better for me, for everything but distance. Moral of the story: do take your time, before jumping into a new prescription. I should have waited a good six to eight months, I was told. Interestingly, the problem is apparently not so much the chemo as it is the steroids that go along with it. They tend to affect the eyes pretty strongly. I hope your eyes are resolved soon and that you’re well on your way to a good recovery!

  35. When a working thread runs out, instead of threading a sharp needle to end the stitching, instead just poke the needle around and end my thread. Bad idea as this sometimes distorts the stitches on the right side of the needlework. Faster is not always the better way to do stitching.

  36. I am mostly guilty of the last – I have a box of pieces that need some sort of finishing. Part of it is that I try to stay away from framing pieces because I have no place to hang or display them, my walls being full, and another part is that I so enjoy the process of a project, the stitching, that when it is done, I lose drive and interest and am ready to move on to the next one. I also dislike the cleanup and organizing of leftover materials!

    1. Hi, Terry – I think this is me to a T, too! Once the project is finished, I tend to lose the drive! As for wall space, though, it’s funny – I only have on piece of my own embroidery on my walls. But I have a tiny house, with not-a-lot of walls! So that one piece will have to do. 🙂

  37. I have found over the years that there were some projects I also used to just pack away and not finish. Lately I have discovered that if I do that, it is because there is some flaw in the piece I am working on that I may think I have not noticed, but my subconscious brain has seen the problem. For example I was embroidering on a beautiful piece of German damask, and one day I put it down and never went back to it. Years later, I unpacked it, and found a small mark of blue ink. It can’t be removed without damaging the cloth, nor can I hide it with stitches. What a waste!

  38. I’m terrible at finishing things too. I find joy in the creation but quickly loose it when trying to get it ready for display. I have solved this by sending off the finished embroidery project and letting the recipient frame it or use it however they wish. This is not the best but works for me. Sure do wish I could find someone who loves to do the finishing.

  39. My husband says I “don’t like the emotional letdown that comes with the completion of a project.” Darn, I think he’s right. Starting something new is always exciting.

  40. Oh you are definitely not on your own with bad habit number 6, I have finished sooooo many things that I’m really quite proud of, but are they in a frame? No, they are not, two reasons, “done that, moving on!” And finding a framer who “gets” needlework framing, I found one but she is really expensive, so they stay in their box. And as for half finished projects…… too many, but there is always the siren call of that next project, which is irresistible and you just have to start, now! I blame that Mary Corbet, for dangling tasty morsels before my eyes, which I just can’t say no to!

  41. Oh – you have caught all our bad habits! But you have inspired me to become more organized with your various storage recommendations. I love using a pincushion . Needleminders are great but I always seem to brush my needle off of them. I am of an age where needle threaders are a must, even licking doesn’t help.
    UFO’s are a universal problem as well as taking classes and having too many projects in process. I have sworn off new projects for the rest of the year!

    Good luck with improvement, but remember the pleasure is in the process.
    If you are too neat you definitely are not stitching enough.

  42. I believe I am as guilty as you are in all of the above. I am always loosing my needles, my threads are everywhere and as for mistakes, it seems that when it is not so large an error, and if I have a good bit of time, I will take the time to correct the error or errors. But if I see it, and I realize that sit I am tired after working for an extended period of time, it gets put down, and then I am very hesitant to pick it up again.

  43. I’m guilty of most of your Bad Habits at least part of the time, except the one about sticking needles and pins in the furniture. Just never did that. I have a pin cushion, needle books and magnet close by. A simple pin cushion can be made by cutting a small square from a dry regular kitchen sponge or use the whole thing. By the way, I’ve found that the various storage boxes beaders use are quite handy for minding my various threads as I stitch. Even floss can be stuffed into the little compartments without much fuss. Works really well for balls of pearl cotton.


  44. Oh, I’m guilty of not taking that final step in getting my finished projects framed and hung up for display. I recently moved and found a box of about 5 finished projects (some made as gifts and never given and some made for myself). The oldest one was a tapestry kit given to me by my husband over 40 yrs ago! It’s finished but lives in a box. I get stuck on how to get them framed. Which frame to choose? What colour? Mat or no mat? Do it myself or get it professionally done? How much do I want to spend? So many questions/decisions to make that it’s just easier to put everything in a box and deal with it later. Of course, we all know that later never comes because we find something else to entertain us and keep our fingers happy! 🙂 I LOVE starting a new project and always do so with good intentions of getting it completely finished…maybe when I retire!

  45. Regarding stitching habit #3, needles and pin cushions. I also used the arm of the couch for my needles – I mean it’s really convenient right?!

    I solved the problem by purchasing a tube of magnets that come in various sizes. You know – those magnets that are so strong that they are hard to separate. I attach the magnets to the pole of my magnifying light.

    I work in both yarn and thread depending on my mood. I use different magnets for the yarn and for the thread needles – that way I know which one is which — big needle = big magnet, etc. The magnet also holds my needle threader so I have both in one place. Very convenient to see and to reach. I also no longer have lost needles.

    Another trick a lady taught me was to attach your needle threader to the handle of your scissors with a little jump ring – no lost threaders and it’s where you need it when you cut the thread.

  46. Hi, Mary,

    What a great commiseration post.

    For #6, I use the long Thanksgiving weekend for finishing items. Depending on how your family celebrates, this may not be an option. But I like having a long weekend where I can pull out all the supplies and tools & finish a bunch of items in one fell swoop.

    I am also toying with the idea of making fabric “scrapbooks” with some of my finished pieces, instead of pillows, framed pictures, or other typical items. I’m still working on the logistics of that idea.


    1. This is a lovely creative idea. And quite honestly, perhaps an answer for UFOs that have become irretrievably separated from the rest of the project.

      I see a common ‘thread’ (see what I did there lol) among the finished-but-not-displayed crowd. I no longer stitch anything that is for display only. It has to have some kind of useful life outside a picture frame. It might be a pillow cover or used in an upcycling/embellishing project for clothing, towels, Christmas ornaments, or just about anything else. I’m also doing embroidery over mended clothing just to have the option of using the embroidery. But framing and wall hanging are just not an option. Having an idea for a genuine use for the finished items after has been a great incentive to finish.

  47. Thanks, Mary! I, too, have been guilty of all these problems. My organization is the least of all. I also quilt, knit, bead etc. and found that if I don’t at least have the media together according to project or method, I can get really down and not want to do anything except take to my bed and read. So I have quite a collection of storage containers to help with keeping things together and less overwhelming! My biggest problem is not finishing whether it’s a sweater or quilt or embroidery. I think the solution is to actually set aside blocks of time for each type of craft. I rotate projects and concentrate on only that project for that allotted time. I will be picking one time per week to take an assessment of things that need finishing and putting those items in a “queue” to be completed and then storing those together with similar projects (i.e. line up and store sweaters needing finishing). And if I find myself overwhelmed and stressed I will do a “short and sweet” project such as socks, small embroidery, or small quilt. No sense getting anxious about something that should be fun!

  48. Yes, Mary, definitely 1 & 2! If I don’t return things to their ‘home’ there’s no chance I’ll find them again! And I need to move at least every half hour these days.
    Maybe another one is to make sure the light is good, and don’t put off rearranging things to get the best light you can.

  49. Hurray! I’m not guilty of ALL six! But I am guilty of #2 and #6, big time. I binge stitch especially on “good” TV nights, where I’ll sit for three or four hours at a time. Network TV isn’t too bad, as I try to get up during the commercials, but PBS is awful. I just sit through one into another of the programs. I have sore shoulders too and should know better. Now that I’ve seen it in writing, I’ll remember to do better….thanks, Mary, I needed that reminder. As for #6, I’m heading to the store to buy some frames for a few of my pieces this afternoon. No use putting my beautiful pieces in the drawer when I can enjoy them on the wall.

    But my very worst stitching habit is stash. I know I know, the subject of stash is very controversial. I have far more projects in waiting than I have years of being able to stitch. And my stitch stash is compounded by my fabric and yarn stashes, and decades of photos waiting to be organized. I need more arms, more years and possibly a few clones.

    1. I was going to mention stash, Wendy, but it’s a rather broad subject and one that’s hard to tackle. And if it’s a bad habit, I’m not sure it’s one I want badly to break! But… there are some restrictions I keep, that help me from going overboard.

  50. Since I made my lavender and honey needle book, I have a place for everything. I actually put a cord on the scissors, so they can’t come out of the book! (My book is a little larger than 2 inches). I even sewed the needle threader in, so I can’t misplace it. I also made a mini pincushion that rides inside. When I come downstairs to stitch, I bring it with me. This helps with the up down up down up down…..the stairs sheesh!

    I lick my thread, and then cut off 1/2 inch. I only do this for certain threads! The ones that won’t fit through the needle with a threader. I mostly have this problem with quilting thread/needles.

    I went to a class with Rita Buchanan, author of “A Weaver’s Garden”. She told a story about spinning and then weaving and everything turning into a rug. She explained that before you start to spin or dye, you should already know what your piece is going to be. This helps you chose the right colors, the right weight to spin and what weaving technique you’re going to use.

    Rita’s talk really stuck with me. So now, before I break out the threads and needles and fabric, I have to decide what something is going to be. One can only use so many pillows/wall accoutrements. So now I keep on hand a stack of linen towels and another of linen napkins. When I want to try something, that I don’t know what I might use it for, I go with the towel/napkin. Because, I always need these! And when you finish stitching, they’re done. Today I’m finishing a linen shirt that I embroidered the pockets on. This is my stitching break. Alas, this has helped me finish my Christmas pillow. But this post has inspired me to get it out of the drawer.

    Mistakes happen, ink, blood, a stray pencil line, a small hole made by overzealous picking….embrace them. No one has one like it. If someone points out the ink, the pencil line, the small hole, the blood spot, just give them a good stare and go on with your life.

    I have another problem that no amount of pin cushions or forethought can fix. My list of projects that I want to do, now officially exceed my expected life time. And now I have to add a Rapunzel!

    I’m still imagining you doing cartwheels. My normal break is to go water pots, and pick some weeds.

  51. I also stick my needles in my shirt collar and it pants leg thinking to hold them in place til I get back to them. Then I get distracted etc an forget. I have even fallen asleep with them in. I have been lucky so far lol

    1. LOL! I used to do that when stitching at night – stick them in my flannel PJ’s, but I learned my lesson. What’s surprising is that the needle scratched an arch on my throat, and I never felt it. But it was definitely there in the morning! I looked like someone had tried to slit my throat. When I went to work the next day, it was the subject of many a jest, and I haven’t attached needles to my clothing since then!

  52. Thank you for this article Mary. It is nice to know I am not alone in some bad habits, particularly threading the needle. I have been trying to overcome a very clumsy method of reading patterns, in particular cross stitch. I mark off what I have done as I go…but I still lose my place, and spend ages relocating it.

    1. Hi, Melanie – Have you tried using the magnetic strips, with your pattern on a magnetic board? My mom uses that method and swears by it. Might be worth trying, if it’s frustrating you!

  53. All your solutions remind me of what my mother said a million (at least) times while I was growing up and my children heard it from me: “It is easier to keep up than to catch up.” Applies equally to housework, laundry, needlework projects. Thank you for jogging that memory for me.

  54. Dear Mary,

    I must admit that I am guilty of bad habit #5, I leave it and hope that by the time I get back to my project it has correct itself by magic, you see although I do stitch with linen I am always worry that I will ruin it and have to junk the whole thing.
    I found out that if I really really take my time plucking out the bad stitches it helps calm me down, I focus on one thread at a time and take deep breath.
    Now, as I make a stitch that I know isn’t going to pass the test for me I no longer wait I unstitch right away! When it’s good it is good but when it’s bad it’s horrible
    Enjoy your week!

  55. Dear Mary I forgot to say that I have been wondering about the Humming bird and the late harvest projects. Those are sublime pooooooor things having to rest unfinished!

  56. I have a needle threading tip that has helped me enormously. Use a sharp pair of scissors and cut thread on an angle. It slips through easily!
    Even works for several tame threads. By that I mean not silk or metallic that fly apart. A needle threader is better for those.
    My bad habit is not finishing some completed projects. That is not framing or making up the needle case I’ve spent hours on? Or those lovely embroidered coat hangers that have been ‘resting’ in my sewing room waiting for completion for three years. Oh dear. I must complete for Xmas presses. This year?!?

  57. I can totally relate to all of those – especially the pincushion and the “not finishing”… I have one thing that I seem to do that nobody else does seem to do. It’s not a habit, per se, but it’s a problem that I have and nobody else seems to have it, so I haven’t had any luck in finding a solution. When I’m stitching, I’ll often pierce the thread with my needle. I don’t mean the thread in the ground fabric, I mean the thread in my needle. When it’s at the back of my work, and I can’t see where the needle is going into the fabric, somehow I often catch the thread I’m stitching with at the back right where my needle comes through the fabric. Now, I’ve got a thread that I can’t get off the needle, which would be okay if I never have to untangle any knots and if I can slide the place where it’s pierced so as to come up to the needle and allow me to stitch for some time. But that’s seldom the case – so I’m stuck trying to “unpierce” the thread by finding the hole I’ve made in the thread and putting my needle back through it. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it seems impossible to find.

    What I need to learn how to do is not have my thread in the way when I come up from the back of my work with my needle. People have told me to let my needle dangle often, which I do, and that untwists it but hasn’t seemed to make any difference. Short of turning my work over constantly to make sure where I’m placing my needle, I can’t figure out how to fix this. Or why it happens to me and nobody else! I feel I must have a bad habit in the way I bring my needle back up through the fabric… but what?

    1. Julie, you are not alone. When I started using a frame or hoop I was forever piercing my working thread on the underside. The longer the working thread, the more likely I am to pierce it. I’m gradually retraining myself in how I hold the underside thread, but I do still pierce it on occasion.

  58. Oh yes, I have had all of these bad habits at one time or another. Habit # 4 I am working hard on learning how to use a needle threader. When I first tried to use one, I felt so clumsy. It is getting better all the time.
    Habit # 6 is my worst by far. The fun part of a project is the stitching. Framing, finishing edges seem like work to me. Part of that stems from not knowing how to do some of the finishing techniques or feeling comfortable with them. Maybe I need to look for a class on these techniques. Any suggestions would be wonderful.
    Thanks for letting us know we are not alone working on improving our stitching habits.

  59. #7. I think I have you beat. When I stop stitching for any reason except drinking or eating…I hold the needle in my mouth . I have done it for as long as I cac remember. I think my Grandmother also did it so I’ll blame it on her. I can remember my Mom saying, “ you’re going to swallow that needle some day!” I haven’t yet and I’m 67. I can even talk while holding it between two teeth. I don’t see ever stopping unless I swallow it and it kills me! I’d rather die sewing then any other way I can think of. Just beware if you ask to borrow a needle…if it is in my pincushion, it may have been in my mouth!

    1. Oh golly – I read an article on this within the last year or so, about a seamstress, couture embroiderer or costumer …? She held her needles in her mouth when hand sewing, and inhaled one. Ended up almost dying, having emergency surgery to have the thing removed from her lung! So…. be careful! I used to hold my needles in my mouth, too, until I read that. I could just see myself having a sudden sneeze or cough come on, and …whoops! Down the hatch!

  60. I tend to organize my stitching tools, threads and fabrics because I have too many stitching projects on the go. I do rotate among my projects. An hour with one, a few mins with another, two hours on third, etc. I am careful with needles due to children and grandchildren running around. I tend to lick my threads but I use crewel needle threader since it is impossible for me to see the eye of the needle. I am guilty of not finishing when done with the stitching. I don’t have enough room on the wall to framed them and I ran out of ideas for the finishing so my pile of stitched projects tend to grow bigger in my drawer.

  61. As to your bad habit #6 – I finish pieces which I have not necessarily done because I love the piece or have a use or plan for it. This includes pieces I have done to learn a technique or pieces made with my chapter of EGA.

    I tend to put these pieces aside in a drawer. I use these pieces when I am demonstrating needlework while “I am in the 21st century” (meaning not at a reenactment). It is easy to store the pieces this way. It is easy to carry them to where I want to show them – and lighter too than if it was framed or less bulky than a pillow.

    I also sometimes will put a fabric back on some of these pieces – sort of like a like a mini quilt, but no quilting and sometimes no batting. If I put in batting it will be very thin.

    Just because one has finished a piece does not mean that one intends to display it.

    Then again, I stitched a biscornu with my EGA chapter. When it came time to put it together I thought – “Hmmm, all this work.” (I don’t really like counted work) “And I am going to hide half of it on the back of the piece.” So I set it aside until I was able to purchase a piece of matching fabric while on a trip. I then picked out part of the design from one side and stitched that on the new fabric. Ditto the second side. So I now had two biscornus. But – I then decided they would make great Christmas ornaments and spent a couple of years finding the perfect tassel and roping to make them into ornaments.

  62. My bad habit impacts everyone in the house because I spread. I have a craft room, but the overflow is in the second bedroom, the linen cupboard, in the hall closet and in various baskets creatively placed around the house. When I’m getting ready for a binge – like planning and starting all the Christmas craft – I bring out a second table and spread over it, the dining table any unused beds and the lounge chairs. My husband is planning our next house as a pair of attached townhouses – one for us and one for my craft!

  63. I identify with the last bad habit, but in reverse. I get everything ready (and I mean everything!) for my project, whether stitching, sewing, quilting or even the dreaded ironing, and I find it soooo hard to get started! I’m self-taught in all aspects of thread, fabric and stitching, and when I see the amazing things people do, I’m intimidated… To the point I won’t try unless I make a mistake, which I inevitably will! Arghh. I know it’s just perfectionism raising its ugly head, and I need to get over it, but then its ugly twin sister procrastination takes over and compounds the problem. (Wistful sigh..)

  64. on the “not finishing” problem… I read an article years ago (and wish I had saved it) that talked about 2 types of people: “product” people who want to have the finished “thing” and the work is just what has to be done to get the final product. Then there are “process” people who enjoy the journey of the work and that journey is more important to them that actually having the final project. It sounds like you are a “process” person and once the enjoyment of stitching is done, you lose interest. I am a “product” person and I don’t generally start something unless I really want the completed article. I have very few UFOs at my house!!

  65. Hi! As to not finishing a project? A finished project means that I have to finish-finish it. I don’t like ‘finishing’, meaning turning a project that has been stitched into something (i.e. pillow, framed picture, etc.). I like to stitch. Period.

  66. I definitely am a #6! I have come to the conclusion that I simply hate to let go of what I make, so I don’t finish it! The only way I truly get around this is by making sure there is a definite goal in mind for the project, whether it’s a gift or for selling.

  67. Dear Mary

    Oh dear! Guilty as charged to all of the above!!

    I can’t tell you how many pincushions I have bought or made, but popping the needle into the sofa arm is just so convenient. It’s pretty painful, too, if you manage to put your hand on the offending object by mistake!

    As for licking threads, I used to do this but now use a needle threader, as my eyes are not as good as they once were, and the eyes of the needles that I use (28s) are just a bit too small to thread even with the finest yarn by hand.

    Unfinished or unframed objects are another thing. I spend all that time beavering away with needle and thread, then the project lies untouched, awaiting a suitable frame which I always mean to buy when I go into town.

    Last year, I bagged a real bargain of a full set of genuine DMC threads on eBay from a trusted Seller for £55! Nobody else bid on the lot, and I waited until the last few seconds to bid and win it. However, since then, they’ve lain in the box in which they came and I always mean to wind them onto plastic bobbins (another eBay buy), but there just doesn’t seem to be the time! Too many charts to stitch, or play on the internet, plus the need to eat and sleep.

    Anyway, I have decided to get my act together and tackle the shortcomings mentioned above, and will do my very best to achieve them before the end of the month if possible.

    Thank you for spurring me on with the task in hand, and good luck in your quest for stitching perfection!

    Best wishes

    Hazel (Sunderland, north-east England)

  68. I’m terribly guilty of the “one more stitch” syndrome but I would add a huge “do NOT ever ever pick out and start stitching a new thread color at night if you’re changing things around or just trying a new color or over dye. Never ever do this even if you’re sure you have natural, full spectrum lighting. Nope, it isn’t. Not like true sunlight. I cannot tell you how much I’ve frogged over the years because I was just SURE I had the right color, LOL. I think I’ve finally learned.

  69. I think my name must be Mary
    Thank you for your declarations makes me feel better AND thank you sooooo much for your knowledge, generosity and accessibility
    Good Luck with your Goals

  70. Hi Mary unfortunately can’t help with all of the others, but scissors on a ribbon around my neck is
    the one thing I do, otherwise we are practically twins – lots of UFO’s for whatever strange reason, bits
    not unpicked a shemozzle of threads etc 🙁
    Still love the stitching bit though. Don’t be too hard on yourself, we aren’t machines that is why we produce unique
    All the best and take care
    Regards Sandy

  71. My all time biggest bad habit is carrying threads across the back of my work on cross stitch and needlepoint. I never do it across open unstitched spaces but that still does not make it right. In know the fix: just end the threads properly. I start out a project properly but I always seem to regress to my bad habit.
    As far as #6 Unfinished Projects goes, I have a box of completed items, too. I also have many UFO’s in the closet. I think it is because I simply enjoy the process of making something, particularly if there is something knew to learn in it, and I never really had any purpose for the item in mind. I guess the purpose is to entertain myself with stitching. Sometimes I think it is also because of a change in tastes, the holiday it was for passed or the situation it was for has passed (you don’t give a baby blanket to a 10 year old).

    1. N0? My then 10 year old granddaughter was highly upset when the blanket I had made for her when she was born finally disintergrated (after being in constant use for those 10 years). I had to make her another one. Perhaps not exactly a ‘baby blanket’, but still….

  72. Number 6 is my biggest problem. I justify it by saying to myself, “It’s the journey that matters not the destination.” I have boxes of finished, nearly finished,and just started projects. My family calls me a magpie because any shiny object or interesting color will set me off in a different direction.

  73. Mary…I am SOOOO guilty of all of these habits…but especially #5 about fixing things! When I really mess up, I do remember my Grandma telling me, “Really, there are no sewing police who will arrest you because you made a mistake!” While that memory helps me for a few minutes, I still put the piece aside with the intent of pulling the “bad” stitches in a day or so. Reality is that I move on to another new project and forget the old one for days, weeks, and even years! Thanks for the ideas on how to overcome this procrastination!

  74. Well. Try again…Like you I am guilty of #6 and I don’t know why. I have a bag of projects finished and yet there they sit unframed or unused. If anyone has an answer to this please share! I thought I was the only one

  75. I’m not gonna lie, the only baddish habit I have from this list is postponing the error fixing but I usually force myself to fix it the next day. My bad habit is to wait till last minute to start a project then rush through. In all fairness, sometimes inspiration strikes while I’m decorating my house and I look at an area and I’m like, “hmm maybe I can embroider something for that spot”. I haven’t gotten to that point where I have multiple projects laying around. I make myself finish one before I move on because I know myself SO well. Not sure about your unfinished (but almost finished) projects. Maybe you’ll open that box and finish them all. That would make a great post!

  76. Like always, your postings are so interesting and educational, what would we do without you? I learned not to lick the thread many years ago when I lived in Spain. Where I learned about the wax , which I still have a bitty bit on a very empty tiny box, and had to order some. And # 6 is something I do often. I get stuck in a project due to an interruption or not being aboe to solve some problem with it. Can’t seem to shake that habit, as I cleaned about my embroidery and quilting areas with UfO’s, decided that since I was not about to tackle those anymore, they went into the Goodwill bag.

  77. Dear Mary, I have just found your site in Pinterest and it is exactly what I need. I am making a crossword for my sister as a piece of patchwork so I need to embroider a lot of patches with letters. Your site is informative and I am working through your sampler stitches. I love your written honest style and Your post about organisation strikes a lot of notes. I am looking forward to reading more on your site. Thank you
    Best wishes Jenny

  78. I never have trouble finishing a project, eventually, because it’s always so nice to put in that last stitch and see how it all came together. However, unless the project is a gift, I am definitely guilty of almost never finishing a project for display. I even have the frames and everything purchased and ready for several projects, but they just sit there. I don’t know why I do it either, it’s not like I think they’re not presentable! You’d think I’d want to show them off…?

  79. #3. When interrupted my mother put her threaded needle through her blouse at about collar bone level and I do the same. When my boys were small and in danger of being pierced by ‘blouse needles’ I used the nearest curtain way above small boy level.

    #6. Want to see my candy tin with two embroidered Day of the Dead skulls or the other tin with the block pieced and embroidered for a hexagon challenge? How about the bag with lichen-dyed wool and a hank of black horsehair cut and ready to be sewn into a case for a muzzleloader? I’m not ready to confess anything about quilt bindings.

  80. On #6 – I’ll admit I’m totally guilty of finishing something and then hiding it away for a while, sometimes for a long time! And I finally figured out why.

    It’s because, after I’ve been working on a project for X number of weeks (or months), I am so darned sick and tired of looking at them I can’t stand them anymore! I see every little “mistake” (design element) I’ve made. And I’ve been looking at them up close and in sections for so long, I can’t “See” the full completed piece for a while. I just need a break from them!

    I have a giant peacock hanging on a wall in my parent’s house that took me a year to finish. After only seeing it when I go to visit them, after 20+ years, I finally like it again!

  81. Hi Mary,
    Would you consider using the framing of those beautiful hummingbirds as a way to show us all how to properly block and frame a piece of needlework? Maybe as a small series of articles? This is my biggest fault, now that I live very far from the needlework shop that did all my framing for me.

  82. Mary, your website is a delight and a wonderful resource for we who love embroidery… My Question is on DMC Color Variations Pearl Cotton. I love their colors, but the only size of Pearl cotton I can find is #5. I’m a wool quilt embellishing enthusiast and use the larger size for my stitches. I would love to have a Pearl cotton #8. My question is does DMC Color Variations make a #8 pearl cotton? And where could I find it? Thanks for the help.
    Kathy D.

    1. Hi, Kathy – They do make the variegated in perle #8, but I don’t know if it’s the same line as the variations. I imagine it is. 0092, for example, is the variegated green in #8. I would check Herrschner’s online. I think they carry the full line of the perle cottons…

  83. Maybe we can help you finish the unfinished. What if we pledge to finish some UFO during January and share pictures at the end of the month. I have a few. Maybe your hummingbird project. (I also will get a needlethreader and stop licking my fingers to wet the thread!)

  84. I’m a failure to “finish” it too! Bet you I have at least 10 or 12 pieces completely done, waiting for some kind of finishing! My biggest delight is in just doing the work, the fun part, not in owning (or sharing) a “completely finished” piece. Need to take a page from you and start being sure I do finish my projects, some how. Shame not to!

  85. I have an “I need to fix” that I put down in 1993! Hopefully, this will give me the motivation to pick it back up and finish it.

  86. There are two things I promise myself I will do but don’t get round to it:
    I keep telling myself to keep like colours together…not done, all mixed together in a plastic bag.
    I keep meaning to make an index, example and name of stitch, for quick reminder…not done, I have a doodle piece of fabric but no stitch names!

  87. My New Year’s resolution was to keep my sewing area more organised. I’m afraid, though, I am guilty of all six of these bad habits… So off to find some pincushions to save my chair arms and now considering adding to my 2019 sewing resolutions!

  88. I am fortunate that Bad Habit #2 is impossible for me, partly because I rarely get that much stitching time but mostly because I NEED a mug of tea at least every hour anyway 🙂

    My solution to Bad Habit #6 is to deal with the feeling of guilt rather than the stitching… Seriously, I have a lot of projects which I stitch, then store, and I used to worry about that (although I did have a similar excuse to you in that I could say they were stitched models for my chart packs). But then I realised that what I really enjoy is the process of designing and stitching, and that as long as the project gives me that enjoyment, it’s fine. If it gets framed or finished in some other way, that’s a bonus, but if it doesn’t, it has given me joy.

    No-one ever wonders what you “do” with a round of golf or a game of ten-pin bowling after you’ve finished it – you’ve spent money on an activity you enjoyed, and it’s given you that enjoyment (usually a lot shorter than an embroidery project, by the way!), and that’s it! But just because at the end of stitching you have a physical object left, that seems to change the rules. I refuse to let them 🙂 and just enjoy my stitching.

  89. I have lots of finished stitching and put them in my drawer afterward. I don’t have enough wall space to hang all my works. I don’t want too many pillows or turn them into ornaments. What I would like to do is to learn how to sew to make some into bags, curtains, etc. I don’t think I have the patience to make quilts. I need ideas to make my finishing into something more practical.

  90. Here’s a tip to help with #2 plus another goal many have: drink lots of water. You’ll stay hydrated, and every hour or so you’ll be prompted to get up for a walk…to the restroom.

  91. I have done probably all of these, as much as I attempt not to. Right now, though, I took a book from my shelf to reference for a project last summer, and I can not find it ANYWHERE.
    It’s so irritating.
    A good reminder to always be on guard, even when you think you have a bad habit licked.

  92. I’m guilty of number six, in all degrees of the problem. I’ve gone so far as to completely finish a project and then never mail it to its intended recipient. Sometimes, I wait until a group of things-to-mail are ready together, but sometimes I just quit right there. I have no idea why, and haven’t been able to shake this outcome completely.

  93. Hi Mary
    In reference to 6 Bad Stitching Habits.
    Yes, of course I have some of the same habits, and a few more!
    But, I think I know why I am guilty of Habit #6- Putting off finishing a project. I have come to the conclusion that in my mind I can’t be judged if it’s not finished. So if someone criticizes my work, I can say, “Well, that”s OK, I’m not finished yet.”
    That’s my armchair analysis.
    Judy Ries

  94. Hi Mary, Many of us are given candles in a jar – what to do with them. They smell nice but in my case I will not burn a candle in the house – there was a house fire years ago on my street from an untended lit candle. Instead I use the candle in a jar as a pincushion. Just like your sofa arm, over the years some needles have gone down into the wax and disappeared. Time to use another gift candle and start a new pincushion.

  95. My needle threading solution is to put a tiny tiny bit of beeswax on the last eighth inch of the thread. It stays pointed for a much longer time if I ever have to rethread the needle fixing a mistake, and it doesn’t get on the fabric or the rest of the length of thread.

  96. Oh my gosh I’m guilty of ALL these LOL and no you’re NOT the only one guilty of #6. Thank you for sharing and making me aware that I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE !!!

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