Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Embroidery & Travel – The Cat and the Clump


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As I mentioned last week and shortly before I took off on my little vacation, I did some traveling recently. And of course I took some embroidery with me!

After all, the plan during my sisters’ reunion was relaxation, and I always figure embroidery is a terrific tonic for relaxation.

And I knew a few of my sisters were bringing knitting along, so it made sense to bring some stitching, too.

And since I was driving, I had plenty of room to tote stuff! Yay!

Tote bag with embroidery supplies for travel

My first mode of business, then, was to pack up a subtle, nondescript tote bag with some embroidery supplies.

I contemplated several different projects that I have going, but I decided that the key to actually stitching during the break would be to take some very simple embroidery – the kind that doesn’t take much thought, planning, or attention. After all, I’d be more likely to pull out a project if I didn’t have to pull out too much of a project.

So, looking ahead to a summer kids’ class I have in mind, I stuck with some basic flour sack towels with simple designs.

Reasonably, one towel would have been enough. But you know how it is: what if I finish one, and want to do another? What if I finish several and want to do several more? And I have all that room in the car. What could it hurt?

So I set up something like ten flour sack towels to take along.

I filled up my tote bag with the towels; with a large collection of random threads that would work for casual embroidery; a box with all kinds of suitable needles in it and other tools; a couple pairs of inexpensive little scissors; and a few hoops.

And then I thought about hotel rooms along the way, and considered that I might want to stitch in one of them. And we all know that hotel room lighting pretty much stinks, right? So – since I had room in my car – I packed up my Stella Two light, which boxes up easily for travel.

And then I thought…What if I didn’t want to hand-hold a hoop? Ok, I’ll throw in a floor stand. After all, I’m driving, and I have room!

And I’m going to use it all, right?

Uh huh.

Tote bag with embroidery supplies for travel

The first opportunity I had to take out any stitching was my first morning at my sister’s house in Pennsylvania. I was up early, and alone, and while all the roosters and sheep had settled back down after their initial morning salute, this fellow above was up and alert.

Now, I know that many people stitch with their cats. And many stitchers love cats.

I like cats, but I like them from a distance, being highly allergic to them. I love to watch them, and I think I might even like to cuddle them, if it weren’t for the fact that they’re cats, and 1. they only cuddle on their own terms; and 2. they interrupt my ability to breathe.

So, early one morning – my second morning away from home – out came my stitching.

I established myself in a comfortable chair. The house was quiet. There was a bit of morning sunrise going on, and it really was the perfect situation – until I became the object of scrutiny of a cat.

We considered each seriously for several minutes, each saying nothing, neither moving, each wondering what the other intended.

Tote bag with embroidery supplies for travel

In the blink of an eye, intentions were clarified.

The little beast landed on my lap, right on top of all my stuff, before I knew what was happening. And then he proceeded to poke and prod his face into mine. I have a hands-off policy when it comes to cats due to the allergy situation, and I couldn’t get the recliner down to jump up.

“Shoo,” incidentally, means nothing to a cat.

After a minute or so of curiosity, during which I tried to snap a reasonable photo so that I could prove to my sister that I was assaulted by her cat, the thing turned around, tail in my face, and enthroned himself on top of all of my embroidery supplies, covering them up completely with his inky black bulk.

Good golly.

Since vocal commands mean absolutely nothing to a cat, we had to come to a different sort of understanding.

Tote bag with embroidery supplies for travel

After a good scrub down with soap and water, I re-established myself to stitch, with our respective territories now established.

With several hours of solitude-aside-from-cat before me, and a good plan laid out for stitching, it promised to be a perfect morning!

I opened up a new skein of coton a broder #25, so that I could start my first towel.

I pulled the wrong end from the skein.

So I pulled the other end.

And I ended up with a massive clump of thread.

You know how it is with pull skeins! I’ve written about their secrets before. But even when you know the secret of how to conquer the pull skein, you can still mess one up right heartily with very little effort!

I spent the next hour or so separating that clump and cutting stitchable lengths, which I braided to keep under control. Then I had the bright idea to open up all my other skeins of coton a broder, separate them, and braid them.

That way, I was guaranteed to have Absolutely No Problem with thread the rest of my vacation.

And it worked!

I didn’t have One Single Problem with thread from then onwards!

And you know why, don’t you? Because that was the last time I touched my embroidery supplies the entire time I was gone.

Tote bag with embroidery supplies for travel

But you know how it is – the pace picks up, your attention is pulled this way and that, and the next thing you know, you’re overlooking the ocean on a sunny morning, with a cup of tea…

It was tough, but I survived!


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(39) Comments

  1. Thank you for a lovely chuckle this morning! I had forgotten what it was like to try and stitch with cats about! Dogs are so much better behaved!

    1. LOL! The funny thing about me and cats is that, when there’s a cat around, it will automatically come to me before anyone else in a crowd and proceed to do the whole leg-rubbing thing. If I’m sitting on my front porch, sure enough, the neighbor’s cats comes trundling over. When anyone else is on the front porch, do they show up? Nooooo! But when it’s me, there they are. I think they sense my standoffishness, which pretty much matches their own, and they figure we must must be kindred spirits somehow. Either that, or they know I don’t want them touching me, and being what they are, they do it anyway!

  2. Cats *know* when you are allergic to them and will bee-line right to the allergic person to be as friendly as possible. I had a friends cat who ignored me when I visited till the moment the allergy hit (pregnancy hormones changed me from not allergic to highly allergic) after which I was suddenly the cat’s new best friend. *sigh*

  3. Wow! Why did you need a light? You must have really good vision if you could see the ocean from Pennsylvania? (Just kidding!)

    1. LOL! The stopover in PA was long enough for three of us to converge and make our way to the coast, to meet our other three sisters, who were coming in from other parts of the country.

  4. Dear Mary

    I’ve done that often pulled the wrong end and like you ended up with a mass of thread. I had to laugh as I can sympathise with you I’m not fond of cats especially when they want to be friendly towards you and you just want to get on with your stitching. I’m glad you were able to meet up with your sisters and be near the ocean on a sunny day it looks lovely, the children’s class looks like it’s going be fun. Thanks for sharing with us your holiday experiences and for the photos. I hope you able to prepare the bags for your class.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  5. Oh my gosh Mary, this was funny beyond measure! You described me perfectly haha! All those visions of great productive sewing….packing more and more. But then never actually getting it accomplished. I drive my husband crazy. Loved reading your vacation experience because you have a wonderful ability to share your stories in such a creative, amusing way! Another Mary…

  6. Something that may help the next time you visit your family. Ask them if they would consider using a damp wash cloth to gently wipe the cat down once daily. No soap, just damp. Go with the fur, against the fur and with the fur. Helps a lot for most people.
    It also helps if they do not was the wash cloths in with your sheets or clothes as they will have concentrated dander on them.

  7. Just love cats and their specific character. But I don‘t have one because of traveling – It is so funny to read your text. Lovely!

  8. That story put a smile on my face!

    As far as not doing any stitching, it never fails. I pack for every eventuality, as you did, and always ruefully repack everything untouched. I guess it’s a universal vacation inevitability! Hope you’re wonderfully restored and refreshed.

  9. That’s a funny story, Mary! It reminded me of a project that I ALWAYS toss in just “in case” I have all that imagined time-to-stitch. This piece has more “frequent flyer” miles on it than I care to add up! Still a long way from being finished, but poised to travel with me on my next expedition!!

  10. Hilarious! I vividly remember how interested my cat used to be in embroidery, beadwork and such, only in a different way than I. He died after a long cat life, and I still miss him. However, sometimes I catch myself thinking of him when my table is full of fun play things which I can leave out – unguarded – as long as I like. Maybe one can’t have it all at the same time – a beloved cat PLUS worryfree handcrafting.

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making me laugh! I love embroidery and I love cats so this little tale was perfect for me on a rainy morning. Safe travels!

  12. LOL. As a fellow sufferer of ‘cat allergy’, I think that they know when you don’t dare touch them and that just makes them all the more prone to want to love on you. Now if you WANTED to pet them, they would be miles away. That’s just the way cats are.

    Glad you had a nice vacation. (I also overpack my needlework/knitting when I go on vacation.)

  13. I can relate to the need to pack way more stitching work than I need. We’ll probably never learn, but at least we won’t have to worry about running out of stitching when we need it.

    Even without allergies stitching with a friendly cat nearby can be quite a challenge. I hope the allergies didn’t get too bad after the inspection.

  14. You mean, you created a perfect cat-toy, and then withheld it?? Cats have SO much fun with skeins of embroidery thread! (Almost as much as balls of yarn!)
    DH is allergic to cats, too – and my sister’s is a 100% indoor-cat, so her house is full of allergens. Fortunately, it’s “just” (ha!) breathing the dander, no skin issues, so as soon as he gets outside/away from the cat, he’s OK – and, also fortunately, this cat likes no-one but Sis, so there’s no problem with the cat wanting to sit on him.
    That cat *knew* you had thread. I can tell by the look on its face.

  15. I LOVE this story! Laughing! Poor you, Mary! I know how you feel- cats can be bossy and aggressive in ways a dog just won’t! Glad you had a nice time though, on your vacation.

  16. What is it about yarn that makes cats treat it like catnip? Every cat I have seen seems to be obsessed with yarn balls or threads. One little kitty I saw recently had stashed a bunch of yarn (in various lengths) under a bed along with small balls of yarn too.

  17. *grins* reminds me of when I go to visit my friends in Louisiana. I always pack some stitching and a book – our sleep schedules are different from each other, so I know I’ll have some time to stitch, right? Never. Ever. Happens. 🙂

    -Monika in Mobile

  18. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in a long time. You had me in stitches Glad you survived the perils of your vacation and welcome back!

  19. I do know that cat allergies are real and can be very unpleasant, so you have my sympathy, but I had to giggle. I’m a Cat Lady. When I first got my magnifying lamp my cats couldn’t resist the gap between lamp and lap. As for packing for your holiday – what if you hadn’t taken all your stitching supplies and had had nothing to do? That would have been far, far worse! Oh, and he’s a very handsome cat with those deep gold eyes.

  20. If it’s any consolation, I packed some embroidery for a long weekend with family. Our niece graduated with her Bachelors degree at age 22! I had full intentions of relaxing and stitching a bit while my husband drove or in the evenings when things were quiet. But it never got taken out of my tote! Well once I had it out…lol
    But you know if we left our projects at home we would most likely have the time to do it and then we would be mad at ourselves for not bringing it!
    Your view from the porch is amazing! Lucky to have been able to enjoy that for a few mornings! My view was Lake Superior, very pretty but nothing’s like the ocean!
    Shhhhh, it’s quiet so I’m pulling my stitching out as I speak!

    1. Oh wow! Lake Superior is pretty much like looking at the ocean, at least where we were located. I thought we’d get a little more ocean activity, but mostly it was just softly rolling small waves. I kept hoping for a good storm – nothing like seeing the ocean crash up on rocky headlands! But we didn’t! Instead, we just enjoyed the beautiful weather!

    1. I found it at World Market last year, Madeleine. It caught my eye because my sister has a sheep farm and she knits, so I picked it up for her. And then, just before I left the store, after looking at it over and over again as I walked around and liking more and more, I got one for myself, too! 🙂 They were $9.95 at the time. I don’t know if they still carry them or not, as I haven’t been back since.

  21. I can totally relate – and the next vacation I go on will find me packing similar supplies with similar plans….. because alas, what IF I actually do want to pull out my sewing and actually do have uninterrupted time to sew?

  22. Your departure made me laugh : it looks so much like mine two weeks ago when I left for my annual 1-week bobbin lace course. I need a pillow for the lessons, OK. And a second one to do lace “at home” (after a 7-hours lesson day, I seldom do lace in the evening, and I know it !), but there’s room in the car… And why not take the 3rd pillow, if… And the same with thread… And if I don’t want to do lace in the evening, why not take that small embroidery project ? Plus clothes and some things I wasn’t sure to find in the rented flat, plus… the car was full ! And, of course, I hardly used half of what I had brought ! I know it, but it seems to be worse each year !

  23. I have two cats and one of which recently turned 1. So for many months I had this wild kitten attacking my projects. His eyes would light up when I would get my embroidery out, it was both adorable and infuriating! He still definitely steals skeins but I can actually get a piece done now. I have a picture of him sitting in a pile of DMC floss haha (I’m very careful about anything he might get into and swallow, I keep all my embroidery things packed up.)

  24. Loved this article! I don’t have any cats right now but when I did, they always wanted to be on my lap when I was trying to stitch. And of course your description of packing for a car trip was spot on; why not bring everything along? But vacations are for enjoying a different experience besides stitching. Looks like you enjoyed your non-stitching time, too!

  25. I so love your little stories, Mary, you have such a skillful and humorous way of writing, and I’m sure a lot of people enjoy them as much as I do. I recall some followers suggesting years ago, that you should write a book, and you said no, what could I write about …
    Precisely that! You’ve written a good many such little funny stories from your embroidery life already – you just need to collect them all and pack them up in a book! Call it The Somewhat Different Embroidery Book – I’m sure it’s a market niche, and I’m also sure, lots of folks would happily buy and read it.
    And when you do, I promise to find you a German publisher, and I would translate it. Wouldn’t that be a deal? :))
    Of course, you never know, but I feel it would sell – people are crazy for little entertaining stories. Germans too. 🙂

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