Mary Corbet

writer and founder


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

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Embroidery for Stitching & Thinking


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Earlier this month, we looked at these embroidered hollyhocks and this embroidered butterfly.

These little elements are part of a design I transferred to a flour sack towel a few months ago. I only started stitching on it because I needed something that was quick and easy to pick up, to work on now and then. It’s a no-stress project.

I really didn’t intend for it to be an all-consuming project, and it isn’t.

But it really works out well for a Stitching & Thinking Project.

Do you have a Stitching & Thinking Project?

Hand Embroidered Garden Border on Flour Sack Towel

For me, a Stitching & Thinking Project is the type of embroidery project I pick up to stitch on when things have gotten a bit out of hand, when I need to step back and take a look at where I am and what I need to do next.

It’s a project that allows me to gather my wits about me – a project I can turn to when I need to slow down in my head and re-orient myself.

Lately, I’ve been trying to balance a boatload of computer work with the designing stage and the stitching stage of a couple projects.

And at the same time, my mind is forever occupied with Needle ‘n Thread – writing articles, developing ideas for tutorials and patterns and so forth, reading the next book to review, figuring out the latest technology for different applications on the website…

Hand Embroidered Garden Border on Flour Sack Towel

At some points, I feel like my brain is going to short circuit! So everything comes, briefly, to a grinding halt. I freeze in place, contemplating what to do next.

And that’s where my Stitching & Thinking Project comes in handy!

When it’s time to have a good think, to take stock, to slow down and consider the next move, I go to the sunny window, pull up a chair, and pick this project up.

French knots on hydrangeas with variegated thread

You’d be surprised just how meditative and relaxing a bunch of French knots and randomly stitched greenery can be!

A “casual” project like this requires very little fussing. It’s easy to leave out and accessible – everything fits in a gallon ziplock. I’m not worried about rumpling it. It’s not a project I have to take much care of.

And when it comes to stitching on it, I just do anything that comes to mind as I’m stitching. There’s no pre-planning. I reach for whatever color strikes me at the moment; and I stitch whatever stitch makes sense at the time.

Embroidered budding branch

And while I stitch, I think.

This type of stitching calms me down and helps me gather my thoughts. While my hands are busy stitching, my mind can contemplate whatever it needs to contemplate.

Sometimes, it might just shut down for a bit. Sometimes, it might work out a problem I was stuck on.

And I don’t have to spend a lot of time at it. A half an hour or less usually suffices.

Embroidered flower garden border

Generally what happens is this:

About twenty or so minutes into a Stitching & Thinking session, there’s a Lightbulb Moment. Whatever was bothering me before – the writer’s block, the design problem, the technical glitch – is suddenly solved. If not completely solved, at least a path towards solving the problem becomes clear. An idea presents itself, along with a quick burst of motivation to pursue and test the idea.

It’s a lot like going to bed at night mulling over a problem and waking up the next morning with the answer, only it happens a lot faster!

And, because I’m stitching, the whole process calms me down. When I’m finished, there’s a sense of accomplishment, too.

Embroidered flower garden border

This is why I never consider embroidery a waste of time, even when I could be doing something more “productive.” Not only is it a process for creating beautiful things, but it is also a kind of remedy.

For some, it is just the right therapy for managing difficult times. For others, it answers the need for a creative outlet. For many, it is all about bringing a sense of calm and contemplation to hectic lives. For me, it often ends up being my best – and most productive – time for thinking and planning.

So, what about you?

Do you have a particular project you like to use as a Stitching & Thinking Project? Does your embroidery invite that feeling of calm contemplation, that allows you to think and plan and sort things out while you stitch? Or do you prefer a different type of activity when you’re in a thoughty mood?

If you have any insights, questions, suggestions, or you want to join in the conversation, feel free to leave a comment below!

Hope your week is going well so far – we’re halfway through! Gotta love Wednesdays!


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(97) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    Your stitching and thinking project is beautiful and I love the design and the threads. I don’t have a stitching and thinking project but at the moment I am stitching a practice piece on whitework/cutwork, as I never attempted this type of embroidery before I thought I would practice and get to know this type of needlework. It not easy as it is quite detailed but I’m learning a lot and while I am learning I can think about what my next project will be, perhaps stumpwork which I keep meaning to attempt and what kind of stumpwork would it be. These are my thoughts at the moment.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. Hi, Anita! Oh, that sounds like a very adventurous project! I often think ahead to the next project while I’m stitching – keeps me excited about needlework, because there’s always something new to try!

  2. This was my stitching and thinking project for about two years. More of a stitching and coping project, actually. All sorts of things happened during its run, including an extended hospitalization and then recuperation of my younger daughter. Through it all, I kept returning to my refuge and working away. Now when I look at this piece I remember what it saw, and that like the embroidery itself – how I and the family came together to cope. https://string-or-nothing.com/2012/01/29/finished/

  3. Stitching for you, knitting for me. I have knit over 50 pairs of mittens for the Christmas boxes while unwinding or thinking my way through my next needlework project. I enjoy reading your blog and being inspired to stitch more! Thanks.

  4. Loved reading your post on stitching and thinking! For me, knitting works wonders in times when you need to step back and contemplate.

  5. Embroidery has gotten me through extensive plane travel, car travel, hard moments, happy moments….just about everything, actually. It calms me, excites me, challenges me and when I look over what I have done I’m often amazed that I did so much. During all my travel to my daughter’s house I would stitch little samplers and after several years I now have enough to make into what I will call my “worry quilt” and give it to her.
    Thank you Mary for sharing that embroidery can smooth feathers, help you think and generally make life beautiful and better!

  6. Good Morning Mary:
    As usual, beautiful work. Stitching and thinking is a wondrous thing. I usually go back to my blackwork or cross stitch when I need to work things out in my head. At my age, I can only do repetitive things with my hands while seriously (or not seriously) thinking about things in my head. Your thinking project is just beautiful. That would most certainly be a good way for me to practice those knots. Mine “usually” come out okay, but every once in a while, they just fall apart. I will keep you in my prayers. You have lots and lots going on all the time. Love your words and your work. Thank you.

  7. Oh, yes, stitching is definitely meditative to me. I have several projects going usually, one of them being a pick-up-quick one. It helps me focus my mind after a busy day.

    Stitching also keeps me out of the kitchen; my hands are too busy to eat chips! Last night I went to my sewing room while my husband mindlessly surfed between baseball and the food channel while eating a bag of chips. Before I knew it, it was after 9 p.m. Project well underway–Snacks dodged!

  8. Mary – Just reading what you sent today made me feel as if I could make it through the ups and downs of the day! So thanks to you……and your amazing artistic needlework for making that happen!

    Now next question…..where can I buy the pattern for the piece you showed us today? On your web page? Hope so!


  9. Every stitching project for me is carefree as it is all free form. Denim jeans get covered in foliage and blooms. Occasionally graphic designs are the focus so that males might be willing to wear my stitching. Yes, embroidery allows for thinking, but mine is often about daily needs. Nothing troublesome or demanding. Meditation is used for problem solving.

  10. I have been stitching candle wicking blocks for a quilt for a number of years which I find very relaxing but I must admit Your piece in today’s newsletter is my type of embroidery.

  11. So that’s what has been missing!

    I have been on such a kick lately working on projects which are designed to improve my skills or teach me something new…which is wonderful. But it isn’t very relaxing or mentally recharging.

    Maybe I need to slow my project list and add a free-for-all project. I have been dying to try your voided monogram idea on a kitchen towel…..

  12. Mary, your comments today were right on for me. Embroidery, simple crochet are meditative and calming for me. In fact I was having an anxious moment in a restaurant no less and the first thing my family asked was Mom, do you have some needlework? I am so grateful to have learned and continue to learn the language and tools of stitching. I am grateful to you Mary and the many bloggers who not only share their work and talent but their hearts as well. Mauri

  13. I totally agree with you about the need to slow down periodically and do something a little different. I thought I was the only one who needed to do that.

  14. Hey Mary! Whenever “the world is too much with me”, to paraphrase Wordsworth, I enjoy working on something that doesn’t require too much attention, and that usually is a counted pattern, or something stamped. I am currently almost finished with a candle wicking kit that has incorporated some basic trapunto. It is almost all cream on cream, a scene with seashells, very calming. I stitch and let my mind wander, usually thinking about my next project!

  15. I like your thinking! It does calm me-but never thought about using it to solve a dilema or as a way of what to do next. THANK YOU for all you do!

  16. Pretty pretty pretty please provide that lovely design? It’s perfect! And I could use some distraction for some problems that all the thinking in the world won’t help! 🙂


  17. I find I can pick up a piece of Candlewicking, either already started, or new. I have several already sketched out in pale pencil. If it’s one I’d already worked, and remembered to take it out of the hoop, then away I go. Of course I actually do finish some, usually made into pillow tops, complete with crocheted lace and ruffles.
    I agree with you that we need some simple projects in which we don’t have to carefully follow instructions and maker’s color scheme.

    Love your column !!

  18. Loved this one. Some people don’t understand the need to “float” between your UFO’s.
    (UnFinished Objects.) Your “thoughts”, Mary, are always welcome. Right now I float between quilting and needlepoint but am also hearing the siren call of stump work. My work is best when I don’t try to force the project but move on to another UFO. I start with a pattern but let the piece of fiber art tell me what to do as I go along. My “real artist” friend grins at my attempts. Another friend, who was taught that you must ALWAYS finish before you move on, just swallows when I do this. It’s really great fun to color outside of the lines!

  19. Oh yes me too – and french knots do it for me every time – they are so relaxing and always beautiful thank you so much for your inspiration Lxxxx

    1. For those looking for the video, it’s the Jan Patek video on YouTube that demonstrates the appliqué stitch. You can search YouTube for “Jan Patek appliqué stitch.”

  20. For me, the ‘thinking’ project tends to be knitting rather than stitching. I’m primarily a counted thread stitcher, so I need to pay attention to a chart on even the easy projects.

    Knitting on a garter stitch blanket or a plain sock (except for the heel turn and gusset), on the other hand, is totally mindless. So those types of projects are perfect for mulling something over. I also use them for TV watching and reading (I learned how to knit without watching my hands when I was in college from a passage in one of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books or newsletters.)

    1. Same here! Only now I have a sock stuck at just before the heel, because I’ve been busy doing other things in my focussed handwork time! But oh, the serenity of a gently revolving sock…

  21. Perfect timing Mary! I have had health problems lately and started a few embroidery projects but am fussing too much over the design and colors. Then I just freeze up like you said. I just want to stitch. To feel the needle go through the soft linen or felt. To calm my nerves with the repetitive stitching. Without my mind having to make any decision. Do you have a print out of this stress-free, free-form embroidery pattern that we could stitch in times like these? Thanks for all you do for all of your readers.

  22. I live on a farm so anyfree time is usually around 2am, but my zen is my embroidery or spinning wheel. My go-to stitch is the backstitch, fast, & it’s easy to do while my brain wanders! And I love letting my brain go, temporarily, & hopefully not fall asleep & stab myself…
    Yesterday is history & won’t change, but today is a whole new day!!

  23. I always love and admire the things you’re working on. I have a small beginners project I’ve been working on. Although I set it down due to summer and lots do outside. But as things cool off I’ll pick it back up and hopefully finish it and start another. I’m still learning new stitches. I come her to your site to learn how to do them.

  24. While I don’t pull out an embroidery project, my stitching and thinking time happens when I grab my most recent magazine or book on quilting or embroidery and devour it and the world goes away. My other thinking time is cutting patches for quilts that are not even designed yet. I love to scrap quilts so cutting fabrics into set sizes that will go with the kinds of blocks that I like to make as it is amazing how different something will look depending on the color and print used. In many ways, I’m doing what you do. It calms me down from days that get too busy. I am currently in cleaning my sewing room mode and part of that is setting up packs of products that I can sell in my store, after two years + of acquisition of different sewing supplies, I now have what I needed and wanted plus lots of extras as well. I have so many skeins and bobbins of embroidery thread, I just love looking at the colors. If there was only some way to drink them in.

    Your project is beautiful but I do have a question. Were you using variegated thread or using two strands of different colors in your needle? It looks almost too perfectly placed for it to have been random. But I love what you are doing and especially that butterfly. I have learned so much from you and even though I have hands that are limited in how long they can embroider for, little by little I will be able to finish a project.

    1. Both – in some cases, it’s two strands of variegated, with one turned in the opposite direction. Sometimes,it’s one strand of variegated, one strand of solid. In some cases, it’s two strands of solid – it really just depends on what strikes me!

  25. I can relate! I usually try to say a tiny prayer with each stitch to keep me from going down any rabbit holes. I also realize that when I’m spending too much time trying to make something work, that I should step back a bit. I try to keep my projects in my actual ability so I don’t get frustrated and give up. It’s all a process! Thanks for your continued efforts in all you do!☮️❤️

  26. Mary,
    I have been looking for transfers like the dish towel designs you’re working on. Very tough to find. I would be happy to pay for pdf of those floral corner and the hollyhocks/butterfly design. My embroidery is thinking time, it calms me and lets me relax.

  27. Hello Mary,

    I absolutely love this design. Will you be making it available to buy? If it came with a stitch plan as well that would be ideal as I love stitching but I don’t have much creativity.


  28. Embroidery is quite calming for me. I did not realize that this is the same for others. I thought it is just me enjoying it. During my last project I told a family member how much I am happier and relax and she didn’t believe it. However, I – sometimes -do feel that I am wasting my time as other tasks are waiting to be finished. But the calming effect is rewarding by itself. Next time I am in that calm mood I will try the thinking process and see how far that thinking can be solving and creative in my life. And will let you know Mary. Thanks for your great insight.

  29. When I stitch I tend to concentrate on my work intently. If the stitch I’m using is a stitch that I use over and over then I’m more at ease, but if I’m using a stitch to create a special look I don’t like to think of anything else. I am not as accomplished as yourself and I’m a perfectionist. When I am cutting and piecing a quilt top then my thoughts turn to planning other projects. Once I have established the size of fabric needed, etc. it is easy to let my thoughts wander to things I must do, but primarily I tend to look around the room at the fabric and dream of the things I want to do.

    Your newsletter has inspired me to try things I’ve never done before and I thank you for that. Your book reviews are very much appreciated and the new one on Norwegian stitching is now in my library. What a fascinating skill to learn. It ties in with my newly acquired technique of darning with applique. Some of my favorite jeans had worn spots and by using applique they now look better and I’ll get some more use out of them. I can see using the Norwegian way to achieve the same results while building my skill at that new technique. If I mess up a pair of old jeans it isn’t as bad as a new piece of gorgeous linen.

  30. Mary, your stitch & thinking project is beautiful, your stitches are
    perfect (some day I hope to achive beautiful stitches)
    Usually after I complete a quilt, which takes me months, I go to my embroidery projects to wind down. You are such an inspiration to me. I have printed out and watch your stitiching tutorials and have learned so much. Now only if I can remember them next time I do a project. I always have your printed tutorials next to me as a reference. Thank you for all that you share with us.

  31. French knots are my go to, brainless embroidery. I do a lot of Teresa Layman projects and I crave knot projects at certain times. I am thinking about bringing one to EGA National next week for my relaxing night project.

  32. I hadn’t really thought about it until now, but it does help to have the hands busy so the mind can work things out. Usually for me that is something that I don’t have to pay too much attention to – wool “pennies” stitched together with blanket stitch or making yoyos out of scraps. These are good things to do while waiting for the kids at their activities too, when you want to work on something but still participate in conversation with other parents, pay attention to the action on the field, etc.

  33. I like to embroider, but I don’t like to think and embroider at the same time: when my mind wanders, I usually lose quality in my stitches.

    When I need to calm down, I practice the cello. I play Shostakovich when I’m angry, Fauré when I’m sad, Haydn when I’m ecstatic, and Bach when I need to think — and when I need to refine my technique, which gets sloppy far more often than I would like.

    Nevertheless, I find embroidery relaxing and fun. I don’t think I could live without either my cello or my embroidery.

    Your thinking project is gorgeous.

    -C. L. Fingristion

    1. I find the same thing. I need to play the piano. Can’t really relax when embroidering – unless it is gold and bead work, which seems to just grow under my fingers without any input on my part.

  34. We’ve been in the middle of a hands on house rebuild for almost two years now. Embroidery is keeping me sane. I’m terrible at it, and that doesn’t make any difference. Just handling the floss, sorting colors, and messing around with stitches is so soothing.
    I had to laugh after reading your post about how neat the back of an embroidery piece should be. My thread scribbles (several levels below doodles) may be bullet proof by the time I move on to another piece from the rag bag. It’s OK. I’m not making anything other than a calm mind.

    Love your garden!

  35. I agree with you. I drove school bus for 30 years, and I would do all kinds of needle work – Quilting, embroidery, smoking, it calmed me down from a hectic day. People that don’t do it, don’t understand how it works. But it’s a lot cheaper than going to a Dr for a pill or laying on a couch in some other Dr office. And when you get the project done, you’ve accomplished something for the time you’ve spent on it.
    Keep on stitching,

  36. It may be a “non thinking” little project to you but to me Isee such beauty in those flowers. It gives me so much inspiration. do you remember back in the 60’s and 70’s how we would put patches on our jeans and then embroider all over them? I know I did that as a teenager. Well, I am now a retired nurse and became a Master Gardener through our local cooperative extension. I volunteer with kids in the schools creating and educating them on gardening and food production. I have this one pair of jeans I always wear and the kids LOVE them because I keep getting holes in them from all the work we do together and I keep adding patches to them and then embroider flowers, vines, stems, etc. all over the patches! The kids not only get to see their garden growing but they get to see my embroidery flower garden growing. They now recite back to me that they know they are working hard and it has been a good productive time if my jeans get a hole and i need to patch them up!!! They will not let me wear any other pants when i come to their school!! Thank you for always showing us such beautiful work and helping me get more creative. Not only do I learn color work and combinations from you but you make me brave to try new stitches and combinations. Obviously, your flower and nature work is my absolute favorite!!
    Terry Barbanell

  37. Mary, do you have a pattern available for this gorgeous floral piece? I really love it, it’s so cheerful.
    Thank you! Hope you are recuperating well.

  38. I totally agree with the stitching as therapy concept. I took a mindless project with me to the hospital when a loved one was ill. It was not a good piece of embroidery at all, but it kept me busy and calmed me down during a stressful time.

  39. Mary, I think this is one of the prettiest pieces you’ve done! Maybe because it’s just pure fun when you sit down to it. I can see your joy in the stitching!

  40. Hi Mary

    I live in New Zealand and I “found” your website earlier in the year. I love it! It is always the first email to arrive when I wake up and it is such a joy to see your beautiful embroidery. I particularly love this one, your stitching and colours are gorgeous. Thank you for all the work and time and effort you put into these lovely emails especially when you have been so ill. I do hope you are feeling much better now.
    With very kind regards and best wishes

  41. Whilst I don’t have a specific stitching and thinking project I always have whatever embroidery I’m working on at the time in my bag as I’m still a full-time worker and at times my job can be extremely stressful. When I feel it is all getting too much, I grab my embroidery, find a quiet corner and sit and stitch for 10-15 minutes and my stress seems to melt away!

  42. Hello,
    Hello I’m just wondering if you have a pattern for this garden border? Thank you for your awesome work and helpful tips

    Gracie Hill

  43. Yes! Mary I find that when I am feeling overwhelmed with life I turn to cross stitch or crotchet as my default. Something about the regular, rhythmic stitching without each stitch being different is very calming. I returned to embroidery in my early 30’s having been dissuaded by my stage in history that was encouraging females to reach the glass ceiling (at least) and not doing “fancy work”!!! I took up cross stitch again and it was a wonderful salve to my busy mind. But I have moved on apace into stump work and many other techniques as well as my own designing. However I still very much enjoy counted work which is very soothing in it regularity and seems to still the busy mind. At the moment my “stress” is too many UFO’s (unfinished objects) which I am attempting to finish as many as I can this year ( and probably next year). Bags of stuff everywhere!!! UGGGH!
    Beautiful day here. Lovely Spring day with soooo much colour. Birds nesting. Just glorious Mary.

  44. That is so pretty! I particularly love the way you’ve combined the colours in those French-knot flowers. My thinking embroidery is always counted work – something where I don’t need to judge stitch length or where to place the needle but that takes just enough concentration not to be mindless. If I really want to turn my brain to idling mode I knit.

  45. I use a Heaven and Earth Design for my stitch and think project. It is all cross stitch, there are usually around 90 colours to work with and more with a special request. I work from the pdf patten on my iPad and can enlarge the pattern for easy reading. Once I became accustomed to reading HAED patterns this has become my pleasurable “go to”

  46. My stitch-and-think projects tend to be knitting a sock, because except for the heel and toe, they require No Thought At All. (I make rather plain socks.)

    I want that towel . . . no, I want that GARDEN. I want those flowers in my garden; I’m currently down to a few snapdragons, 3 zinnias and the last roses. You can call that a simple, think-about-other-things project, but it’s beautiful!

  47. Hell Mary,
    I love the random garden you’re embroidering, oh for a real life garden just like it! What happens to you as you stitch on it happens to me with all of my embroidery, I am lucky aren’t I. Mind you, I don’t have deadlines etc., as you do as I am long retired.
    Love our Facebook ‘club’ by the way.
    Best wishes, Judy.

    1. The funny thing about my random garden is that it is just about realistic for the flower beds here at home – totally random, with flowers popping up hither and yon. You can never tell what will be what until it blooms. Nothing is balanced. It’s just a mishmash of things that got planted because there was space at the moment and something to plant on hand. They’re not closely tended, aside from occasional weed pulling. They pretty much just grow, bloom, and die. By the time one flower or plant blooms and dies, the next one is growing up to take over the space. They’re all perennials. When winter hits and everything dies, the beds are cleaned out a little and trimmed back, and that’s it. Incredibly, it works. The beds are full of things flowering from early spring to late fall. But – a lot like my random garden embroidery – none of it make any sense, design wise! LOL!

  48. I’ve only recently taken up embroidery, I’m 68, however, I am very artistic, not self praise as it may sound but I have a lot of artistic pursuits, drawing, painting and sculpting, and, craft as well, sewing, knitting and crochet. My drawing, painting and sculpting I took up about 16 years ago as therapy, and now embroidery to be with other women my age and older, one lady in my group is 90, I have found all artistic pursuits to be therapeutic as one goes into another ‘zone’, a bit like mindfulness, where all my problems and stresses just evaporate for a time. I’ve only recently found your website as one of the ladies mentioned it, so I’m yet to really avail myself of it’s many resources. Because I’m creative I do my own patterns, just draw them freehand, but it’s very early days and I’ve only completed one large piece and one very small piece, just learning by mistakes at present. Anyway, thankyou for your website, it’s great, kind regards, Julie

  49. I enjoy you so much –
    I am not great at embroidery but I ve loved stitching since my grandmother taught me when I was about 8 years old.
    Embroidery, crocheting, knitting -needlepoint and cross stitch came later –
    Anyway, what it does for me, now that I am 82 years old and a caregiver for my ailing husband is that it keeps me going – it regenerates me for the next day.
    I feel as though looking at and creating something pretty gives me the strength to go on.
    I hope this makes sense –
    Thank you for your beautiful work – keep it going, as I m sure all your admirers would agree you should.
    Rae Berkowitz

  50. Mary, my mother taught me simple embroidery when I was 8 or 9. In my late teens and twenties, I did lots, mainly crewel. My little basket went with me everywhere. At 26 I went to work until I was in my sixties, and my leisure time was mostly reading and a tiny bit of painting.
    I’ve only recently discovered your blog (wonderful), and today’s about using the embroidery time to relax and collect thoughts really really spoke to me. It made me realize how very much I miss stitching in my life and just how much I miss doing it. At 71, I think I’m starting again, MANY thanks to YOU.

  51. I actually use embroidery as an anxiety-management tool. I have a handful of three inch hoops, and make sets of themed embroidered patches while doing my daily routine most days. The project I have that’s most like this though, is my Backup. If I run out of supplies to do my current main projects, or if I run out of project and the next isn’t ready yet, or if I just need to do something else for a while… I keep a little box of orts in my purse, and (currently) a floral design. I’m using up all my scrap thread that way. It’s actually pretty relaxing trying to figure out the most pleasing way to use limited resources to good effect. You can get an interesting effect if part of a flower is in normal cotton thread, and part is in satin of the same color. I’m learning a lot about making smooth transitions between slightly-off colors, too.

  52. Well said Mary. Most of my projects are stitching and thinking projects. I find that a design that requires me to pay attention occupies my mind enough to set aside the trials of the day. Counted thread designs, especially ones with repeated elements can be quite meditative. Stitching, (a labour of love) for me is sometimes a prayerful or a memoratio experience. Also I love the massed French knots.

  53. Hi there, you are so right. I have been quite stressed recently and the day before I read your article, I thought I would sit down and embroider some flowers. I love French knots, I find them very therapeutic too. I thought I would start stitching a long herbaceous border, It will have fox gloves, delphiniums and hollyhocks in, to name but a few. Thank you, I am relaxing already!! you must be telepathic.

  54. Your simple designs are so pretty and tempt me to want to take up a hoop, even though I’m reluctant to start any project that requires much sitting (bad back). Still, I wonder if there are many of us that for whatever reason would like to make something simple and pretty, but not too involved. Zen embroidery, not so much to make anything, but to just enjoy doing it. Maybe you could offer a book of such patterns?

    Even though I haven’t embroidered in about a year, I enjoy your work and your newsletter!

    1. Thanks, Colette!

      I know a few people who elevate their floor stands so that they can stand while stitching. I don’t know if you’re that keen to stitch, that you’d stand to do it, but it’s an idea, anyway. And I have a couple readers who swears by their “stressless” recliners. They both have bad backs, but they are apparently able to stitch for fairly long stretches in a stressless recliner. Sounds dreamy to me – a “stressless” chair – but I looked them up and they are way out of my league. Still, it’s another thought. I never stay sitting for longer than an hour while I stitch. If I’m working on something I know will engross me, where I’ll get so stuck into it that I won’t notice the passage of time, I set a timer for one hour to remind me to get up and move. It helps!

  55. What does the finished piece look like it is really beautiful. I am a beginner and it stresses me out all the rules and how to do each stitch.

    1. Hi, Denise – There really aren’t any set rules for embroidery. There are techniques and methods for working a stitch, for example, but there aren’t hard and fast rules. So don’t be afraid of doing things “wrong” – find what works for you, and pursue it! You don’t have to subscribe to any absolute set of rules with embroidery.

      I haven’t finished the whole thing yet, so no picture of the finished piece at this point, I’m afraid!

  56. Oh Mary, what a lovely piece! I love picking up any small piece when I just need a break from the world, it feels achievable and colourful and fun and that’s all you have to think about for a while.

  57. I look forward to all your posts. Your work is exquisite.

    Do you use a hoop to embroider, I don’t like to use a hoop and wonder if that’s a mistake.

    I use embroidery to embellish Appliqué Quilt blocks.

    1. Yes, I practically always use a hoop or a frame of some sort (like stretcher bars or a slate frame). There are very few exceptions, and when I do make an exception, it’s usually based on the type of fabric I’m using. But for most hand embroidery, yes, a hoop is extremely helpful in achieve a taut surface that aids in better tension and a better finished result.

  58. Your French knots in this article helped me realize how lovely Lantana (flower) would look using them. I love the little flower even though it doesn’t grow well in my area of Wa but certainly does in southern Calif – I’m on my way home from there, and look forward to recreating the colorful combinations that I saw there.

  59. I like your idea of just stitching. I like to make small things and embroider them and put beads and bits of lace etc. I do hearts and Decorations for Christmas, small bags etc. The latest heart I did was for the mother of a young boy who had just died. The mother was a work mate of my daughters and asked me to make something with the boys name on it. It was very well received.

  60. I like to work on little cross stitch items to “warm-up” before sitting down to actually stitch on an embroidery piece. I also like to color on adult coloring books at night in front of tv when I can’t quite have brains to stitch…it is calming and mind clearing and it drives my husband crazy(LOL). So anyway that’s my 2 cents worth a little late on the subject from a not professional stitcher who enjoys your website!!! Paige Davis

  61. Im looking for something like that, just to start me off on any embroidery project. I have just similar dark colours. Do you have the pattern and stiches plus background fabric as info?

    It woul be great, thank you in advance,


  62. It’s not exactly embroidery for stitching and thinking but I do believe it is related. I recently completed a huge embroidery project — 44 flowers on the back panel of my daughter’s wedding dress — in 24 days. Needless to say it, at times, felt pretty overwhelming and I could get myself into a real panic about being able to finish. However, as soon as I sat down and began working I immediately relaxed. There is something about the rhythm of the needle moving in and out that frees the mind and brings that sense of calm and contemplation that you spoke of.

    And by the way, I did get it done and she was very pleased.

    Thanks for your blog. I enjoy it a lot.

  63. I probably should just stitch sometimes. Most of the time, I have an audiobook going which does not allow for thinking.

    The next time I am in our sunroom surrounded by our forest I will try stitching without the audio.

    Thanks for the thought.

  64. Dear Mary
    You so often write what I am thinking! Today I was browsing for hydrangea inspiration as I would like a large cushion and I have chosen to start this now as I want it to be french knots so I can just pick this up and take half an hour to achieve something and clear my head. I have only found your website and blog recently and wanted to thank you for inspiring and encouraging all of us that just feel better when we stitch.
    With thanks

  65. hello
    Found your site while looking for iron on transfers for embroidery. Going through a bunch of the posts, love them. I do love this one with the hollyhocks and all the french knots. Also going to look into doing some flour sack embroidery, thanks!

  66. THIS post was EXACTLY the “thinking” I so needed tonight. Today marks a 6-mo journey of heartbreak, incredible research, appraisals, postings/sales etc for a huge estate of a very dear friend (antique collector/dealer) who passed away on 12/23 . Her home is now for sale as of tomorrow. No stitching and thinking these past busy days/weeks etc. But Lord I needed your comforting “on point” energy to help me rejuvenate, contemplate and allow my heart to baby steps to reminisce about all the joy she brought into my life for 50+ years. I hooped up a new kitchen cloth just now and will be celebrating Amy’s master garden flowers over the next several months in her honor. Thank you for allowing me to regroup to your lovely, heart healing sentiments

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