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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Tapestry Small, A Grinning Deer & Stitching on the Go


Amazon Books

When I put together my collection of four Tapestry Smalls called A Thousand Flowers which I released before Christmas, I had in mind other animals I wanted to chart to go with the series, and one of those animals was a deer.

I suppose I wanted the deer for a couple reasons. It’s medieval (the hart shows up in many a medieval piece of art). It’s also somewhat a seasonal thing, depending on what your deer looks like. I like winter deer – the folky little deer that show up on sweaters and in Nordic designs and things like that. They spark notions of coziness and homey things during the colder winter months. I like them as a design element!

Tapestry Small - Deer

And so I charted a deer.

I still need to make an adjustment or two on the chart. From afar, the deer seems to be grinning. I might touch the shading up on that a little bit! Not that I mind a grinning deer – at least he’s happy! – but once you see the grin, he tends to look a bit goofy.

I have a very special finishing plan for this Tapestry Small, and I’m looking forward to sharing that with you when I get it (finally) finished.

Stitching Counted Work on the Go

I’ve been spending most hours of the day at the hospital lately, after my mom’s cardiac arrest a couple weeks ago. (She is in a rehab hospital closer to home now, but things are still a bit iffy, and without a doubt, there are some major changes ahead when it comes to taking care of her at home.)

To keep projects moving ahead and to still be able to focus a little bit on Needle ‘n Thread plans for 2019, I wanted to take this deer with me to work on. The difficulty is that it’s easy for me to make mistakes on this type of tiny counted work, even when my mind is more focused than it is right now.

To remedy the situation and still work forward on this project, I’ve used my “time off” here and there to concentrate on stitching all the elements in the design – the different flowers, stems, leaves, and the deer. Once those are stitched, all the background can be done without the chart.

With the counted elements, it’s just a matter of working around each of them with the darker red. Then, I just fill the background with the brighter red silk.

I find this to be a great way to work counted stuff on the go, especially if you’re in a situation where it’s hard to concentrate (like a busy hospital waiting room). When you can, do the counted stuff or the parts that require more concentration at home, in a quiet place. Then, when you’re on the go, work the backgrounds and the fill areas that don’t need as much concentration.


I’m working this Tapestry Small on 40 count silk gauze. The original four designs for A Thousand Flowers were charted for 48 count, but they can be worked on any count gauze or even-weave fabric.

It’s easier to see the 40-count silk gauze, but good lighting is a huge help.

Mighty Bright book light for embroidery

If you’ve waited around in hospitals or other places, you know that lighting is hit-and-miss. So to remedy the lighting problem without having to tote a large light (which is impossible in such situations), my favorite quick-fix that inexpensive, easily transportable, and easy to take out and stow again in a hurry, is a clip-on book light. I like the Mighty Bright Ultraflex lights – I reviewed them here, if you want to see what they’re about. You might read through the comments, too, for more tips from other stitchers.

I’ve added the two Mighty Bright lights that I like best to my Amazon recommendations page here. You’ll find them right at the top of the page. The hammerhead will give you more lighting coverage, but it’s just a little heavier. And the two-bulb version provides a smaller coverage area, but if you’re working on smaller things, it’s just right.

Easy Clean Up Tip

Finally, here’s an easy clean-up tip, for stitching on the go…

Wool Felt for thread scraps when stitching on the go

In your grab and go bag, roll up a small piece of wool (or acrylic) felt. You can unroll this and place it on the arm of a chair or a waiting room table, and it is a perfect receptacle for scraps of thread. It can also serve as a place to stick your needle in a pinch. Primarily, through, I lay all my scraps of thread on it and they stick like the dickens, so I don’t have to worry about leaving a trail of little thread scraps behind when I leave. I just roll the felt back up, stuff it into my bag, and go.

When I have a chance at home, I scrape all the scraps off so I have a clean catch-all for the next session.

The needle book there, by the way, is from Lavender Honey and Other Little Things. Those small needle books are my best friends when I’m traveling with needlework. They can hold a pretty vast array of needles, and when they’re open, they serve as a pincushion. They’re small and they tuck into a work bag or small tool tin very easily. They’re also great conversation starters when you’re in a sitting room!

So that’s what I’m up to, embroidery-wise. I’ll keep you posted on how things fare. and I’ll definitely share the finish with you on the deer as soon as I get to that point!

If you have any stitching-on-the-go tips to share with other folks, why not join in the conversation below and tell us your favorite tips to keep your stitchery organized, neat, and ready to roll when you’re out and about?

This article contains an affiliate link to my Amazon Recommendation page, where you’ll find my recommended needlework books and some tools that make stitching easier. Purchases made through that link result in a small commission for Needle ‘n Thread, without any extra cost to you.


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(45) Comments

  1. Hi Mary,
    My thoughts are with you while you continue to care for your mother at this time.

    Your tapestry smalls are typing my list of 2019 projects (I was lucky enough to snag a kit, but haven’t had a chance to start yet). This hart is wonderful too – will you be releasing a pattern in your shop to complement the first four?

    Thanks for sharing another beautiful piece of your stitching with us!

  2. Hi, Mary! I love the felt idea for stitching on-the-go! Simple, yet effective.

    My favorite on-the-go stitching accessory is my lighted reading glasses. They have little headlights built into the frames on either side of the lenses, so the light points wherever I am looking. I love being able to combine two needed accessories into one item to carry; the fewer I have to keep track of, the better! Two brands I like are Brite Eyes and PS Designs, but many other brands are available.

    My best wishes to your mother & your family, & my prayers for all of you.

  3. I lived out of a suitcase all of my working life. Needlework was just right for long
    evenings in hotel rooms. The best about needlework and travel is that it will not freeze or spill and it is light weight.
    However, good lighting in hotel rooms is not the norm. I swear there is a place on this planet where they make light bulbs exclusively for hotel rooms. Nothing over 8 watts.
    I started to carry a goose-neck lamp that clamps on a table. Not all tables are the same. There must be something in hotel rooms that can accommodate the clamp.
    There is. The Gideon Bible. Works like a charm. However, do unclamp the lamp
    in the morning as this may offend the housekeeping staff.
    Thank you, Gideon Bible.

  4. Hi Mary and happy new year. I hope your mom is improving. I just wondered if you were able to have your recommendations / affiliate links on the Canadian amazon site?

  5. My husband and I have been lucky enough to travel the world so I have done a fair bit of stitching in airports and on airplanes. Even though I have a collection of ort boxes none of them have lids. I have resorted to using an empty cream cheese container complete with a tight fitting lid. It is small, lightweight and keeps my thread scraps under control.

  6. Hi, I am a quilt pattern designer but I also love to cross stitch, create surface design and embroider. I have a very special needle holder. My dad fought in the Korean War and he brought home a beautiful enameled cigarette case which he gave to me years ago. I used magnetic sheets (the kind you can run through a printer), cut them to size and glued them inside. It gives me joy to have it sit out next to my current stitching project and every time I need to get out a needle I can’t help but smile.

  7. I always make sure I have a pair of drug-store magnifying glasses (2.5 or 3.0) to put on over my progressive lenses. Very transportable magnification! And very necessary!

  8. Mary, I do hope your Mom feels better soon, and, being a caregiver for my own mother, I wish you strength both physical and mental.
    As for stitching on the go, I do find it helpful to make sure I have a set of reading glasses in my purse, in the car, in my stitch bag. I get them from the dollar store and always have a pair on hand. My other solution is zip lock baggies. What did we ever do without them? They come in several sizes, and keep your work clean and waterproof. You can pick up any odds and ends in a hurry and toss them in and seal the bag, no worry about anything falling out.

  9. Morning from Montana…..I am still looking for the best (sharpest, small and pointy) scissors. In your picture with the yellow felt, what is the make of the scissors ?

  10. Prayers and healing thoughts fir your mom and your family. When my parents were in this situation I kept pick up needlework with me but quickly learned that it couldn’t be counted work. Too much confusion and too many mistakes. Wish I had thought of your solution. Love that there will be a deer design. I love my little lavender needle book. I’ve also adapted the design to a wool applique and it is equally delightful. Great tip on the clip on light and the thread catcher.

  11. I use one of the zippered vinyl bags that sheets are sold in. It’s not terribly pretty but it’s sturdy and I like that it is clear so I can see everything that is in it and I don’t have to go digging down inside a bag. The zipper provides secure storage. Some have a handle stitched on one end although my current one does not. Ive been cautioned against using those bags for long term storage of textiles but I do like to use it for my work when I travel.

  12. I put each project, to include instructions, threads, needles, scissors, and any notions, in it’s own project bag (usually one I’ve made that’s about 9”x12”). It’s the right size to grab n’ go, fits into a carry one perfectly. I just grab the bag and start stitching with no searching through any other bag to find scissors or laying tool: very efficient!

  13. Mary, I took my Lavender and Honey book and made it twice as long. On one flap I made a pocket for my scissors to go in. I put the scissors on a long cord, so I can’t lose them. I use another safety pin to hold a needle threader in.

    On the other flap, I put a piece of felt to catch strings, and under it a pocket to hold flat bobbins. I also sewed an antique mother of pearl circle on it, to loop long leftover threads on.

    I use this kit everywhere, at classes, and at home. I don’t embroider in the car. I knit. Because I can knit without looking. I haven’t figured out how to do this with sewing or embroidering!

    Before I leave on a trip, I do simple things like sew around my fabric, mark the center with a few silk basting stitches, and this the MOST important thing: make a copy of my chart and leave the original at HOME.

    Projects without charts become UFO’s. Never to be finished. I lost one on a plane, one on a train and one I left behind in a classroom. Only one person was kind enough to send me another chart. The other two are still haunting me from drawers.
    Another reason to love surface embroidery with no rules.

    Hey Mary….What kind of scissors are those?

  14. So glad to hear that your mother is in recovery. Rejoice in every little improvement. If you are the “sibling in residence” it can be an extra burden. Speaking from experience, don’t hesitate to call on others when you need a break. Stress builds up and we all need help sometimes.

    Your miniatures are beautiful. Not sure I am ready for silk gauze but I do intend to do one. It is intense stitching. I always keep a simple piece of stitching going for when I want to be busy/productive but am not concentrating well.

    My prayers are with your family,
    Darcy Walker

  15. Thank you for your needlework blog! I so appreciate seeing your needlework involvement – projects, ideas, explorations, frustrations and suggestions. I do believe there is a connection between hand and heart and you certainly seem to embody that! Thank you for sharing your personal challenges. I am hopeful that your mother will improve, but illness of a parent redefines one’s life. This is a difficult road many of us have charted before. It is a well traveled path, you are not alone on it. I am grateful you have the needlework practice to support and engage you while on it. Thank you for sharing your love of needlework. Know, there are those who are also aware of your own life events, and have sincere concern for your well being and the well being of those you care for.


  16. I have the instruction for a folding paper ort box, which can be made out of any type of paper. It folds down flat in your carryall, but opens up to a 2″ cube for catching all of those orts. By increasing the size of the squares, you can make it even larger. I have one in every carryall for every project.

  17. In my grab and go bag along with the project I want to work on I have the following: a padded needle work covered Altoids tin (acting as a pin cushion) containing a mini pair of scissors, a variety of needles on a magnet in the lid, a needle threader and a laying tool. In addition to the threads and instructions there is a small orts container made from two half inch rounds cut from a card board potato chip container covered with a cotton print that can be twisted to open and close. I don’t remember where the instructions to make it came from but it is a clever little object. BUT I like your idea of a piece of felt that can be rolled up much better since it turns out to be more convenient requiring less space and if the right size could be rolled up and put into the tin.

  18. Dear Mary, reading this post took me on a tour of your site. We have just weathered a major windstorm, our power was out for 3 days but we do have a wood stove and stayed warm. On your recommendation, last year I bought myself a Dublin craft light and magnifier. I’m so glad I did. Not only has it made my needle work easier to ply, but during the outage my daughter reminded me that it was also battery powered. Oh joy, a scramble round the house with a flashlight unearthed the batteries I needed to stitch away to my heart’s content in our nice warm house, the dog in his bed dreaming of something that needed to chased and my daughter lounging on the couch reading.
    Also, I ended up reading about the trip you took in 2009. I live about a 20 minute drive from Threadneedle Street and you’re so right. It is a wonderful little store. I had to drive up and down Front Street at least four times and still didn’t see it. Finally ended up parked at the end of that little row of stores and walked back. I knew it was in there somewhere. The store hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years, maybe there are more things to discover. Still only one shopkeeper in attendance and probably the same person that you encountered on your visit.
    You remain in our thoughts during this difficult time, but it would seem you and your family are dealing with this with the strength that can only come from a close knit family and your relationship with God. Bless you all.

  19. I like the idea of a grinning deer :o) Will continue praying for your mom, you, and your family – thanks for keeping us up to date on the situation.

  20. What a lovely little piece. Love the felt “scrap thread keeper” idea. You and your family continue to be kept in my prayers. Hugs from Ark.

  21. Sorry to hear about your mom. Times such as this make us even more thankful for our love of needlework! Sending prayers your way.

  22. I love your felt tip, I’ll have to try that in future! Easy to wrap up you floss in too, in a pinch. I’m sorry your mother is so unwell, but I hope that she will recover. Critical illness is a day by day struggle. I love this tapestry series and I’m really looking forward to seeing how you finish your deer!

  23. Mary, first, I am so sad to hear about your mom. My best wishes for her quick and complete recovery.

    I travel on the go in 3 different types of situations which need 3 different set ups

    1 – Stitching at EGA chapter meetings – I have a tote bag which has a small plastic box in it with all the things I need to stitch – needles, scissors, 6 inch ruler, pencil, etc – even a very small hoop. There is also a large sectioned plastic box with my shorter cotton floss pieces (less than 3/4 of a skein, I would guess) for when we are learning stitches etc. at meetings. Larger hoops and other items needed are kept in the bag from meeting to meeting as needed.

    2 – Stitching on trips – I have sewn a holder for traveling projects. It is just larger than 12″ x 12″ in size. It was originally designed to fit in a suitcase, although we no longer pack in same as we travel in very small RV – where it has an assigned location in the largest storage section we have. In the 3 large sections in it I can put up to 3 project or split one project’s supplies into the sections as needed. While working on 2 projects for awhile – each had a section and the hoops were in the third. On the front it has a longer, short height covered for needle packages, threaders, etc. and one taller, narrower covered pocket for scissors. Both pockets stay closed with Velcro as does a flap that covers the entire holder.

    3 – Reenactments – As mentioned in prior posts, I demonstrate period type embroidery at 1770s reenactment and cannot have anything not period in appearance showing. I have a round box around 9 inches in diameter which holds what I need while working. I have repro thread winder bobbins which I set up ahead of time with the threads I anticipate using for the day. To label them for the kit I am using I cut small squares of white paper and put the designation (letter or number) on it and then pin it the threads with a period appropriate straight pin. I use a wooden hoop which fits into the box. There is a small pencil in the box – just in case. I take the diagram for the section of the piece I plan to work on and make an enlarged photocopy of that section – and then cut it just that section so that it is not obvious when I take it out to refer to – this and a list of the codes for the stitches are also in the box. When I pack the needlework items that I will hang from my apron string is also in this box – generally scissors, thimble in thimble box, and pin ball. (Non sewing items I also hang from my apron string generally are not in the box. but might be.) The complete instructions, including cover photo and the threads that I am not planning to use for the day, are in a clear plastic zip bag in one of the box benches that we use at events – if it is a small event and we will not be bringing the box benches, I will hide the plastic bag in a drawstring bag – drawstring bags of various sizes are used to hide many, many things at reenactments. I am able to sit on one of the box benches with the round box beside me and work without a table. If I only have a folding stool to sit on, I will put the round box under it on the ground as I work and pick it up to my lap when I need it and the drawstring bag will also go under or else next to the folding stool.

  24. Hi Mary,
    Sorry to hear about your mum, fingers crossed all goes well.
    I just have a quick question, what happened to the miniature tree if life that you were stitching, did it get finished?

  25. Hi Mary
    I’m sorry to hear of your mothers’ health issues. Not the way to start off a new year.
    You are amazing! You keep on with all your wonderful stitchery and tips for your followers notwithstanding all that life throws at you.
    May this year improve for your mother and you and thanks so much for your fabulous site.

  26. No tips, just enthusiasm for your newest Small and continued good wishes for you, your mother and the rest of your family.

  27. I like to use my small “snip” scissors on a laynard when traveling. I use the scissors that come with an attached cover/sheath.

  28. I love your tip for using a square of felt to contain thread snips. Thank you. Please know that I am praying for your mom and you.

  29. A microfiber washcloth/dishcloth is a good scrap catcher.
    Thread clippers/scissors are handiest when worn on a cord around your neck – about to the waist should be long enough. They may poke your stomach on occasion, but better that, than getting bent falling to a tile floor.

  30. Dear Mary

    I’m pleased to hear that your mother is out of ICU and I hope and pray that she will make a full recovery. I really like the a thousand flowers dear and hope that you will be selling this as part of the designs in A Thousand Flowers, a great project to take your mind off the difficult times you are facing at the moment. Thanks for sharing A Thousand Flowers dear with us and the ultraflex light and the felt tip on collecting needlework scraps great idea. I hope your week is more peaceful you are in my prayers.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  31. I agree with you about the lights! They’re the best and provide a lot of light for more than just reading. They can be battery-operated or you can buy a cord to plug them in. I have one question that is off the subject. Mary, do you have a recommendation for pillowcases that I can buy in a pack, similar to your flour-sack kitchen towels? I want to make pillowcases for all my granddaughters. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge! Beth

    1. Go to Mary’s Amazon recommendation site. I think they’re called “Mary’s kitchen Flour Sack Towels”.

  32. Hi Mary,
    first, best wishes to your mum.

    My tip for doing counted cross stitch on the go.
    If you do half stitches at home , you can fill in the other half of the stitch
    on the go, no need to count or to look at the pattern:).
    I also use a small nailclipper to cut the treads, works fine.

  33. To keep my surroundings neat while stitching on the go and at home, I use « Lint Removal Sheets » by Hollywood Fashing Secrets (Hollywoodfashion secrets.com). This inexpensive product is available where travel accessories are sold.

    Thank you for your excellent newsletter.

  34. Walgreens carries magnifying reader glasses with built in LED lights that focus on whatever you are looking at. They are wonderful l for low light settings, meetings when they turn out the lights , car rides , hotel rooms etc. They are made by foster grant and are called Lightspecs .
    If you like to work with beads and can’t take them places due to the chance of spilling them, the “tacky BOB ” box for beads is amazing. acid free adhesive inside the box holds the beads gently , making it easy to pick them up with a needle or crochet hook without having to chase then and if the box tips over they don’t spill. The box has a non skid backing on the bottom to lower the chance of it sliding and there is a magnetic strip inside for your needles.

  35. I think your just-completed “leafy tree” in glowing golds, greens and related is breathtaking! The colors you chose are perfect, and your workmanship, of course, beautiful, with varied stitches producing textural intracies throughout. I love it; it’s a work of art. I’m an amateur painter myself, who plays at embroidery occasionally. Working with color in any way, including with thread and yarn, is my passion, and in my genes. Thanks for sharing your expertise and thought process along the way of your projects.

  36. Continuing to send prayers.
    When my father was in the hospital for a VERY long time, I had hours where I needed something to do that was small, portable, quickly set aside and easy to follow. I wasn’t able to focus very well (duh) and started doing hardanger. I embroidered a 3″ by 20′ strip that could be used later as edging for a table cloth or blouse, etc… It was repetitive… kloster blocks & doves eyes forever… but it was something I could do to soothe myself and keep my hands busy without a pattern or multiple colors, needles, hoop, etc… to deal with. I already had the 36-count fabric in a coil that I got at some point in my travels. So all I needed to find was some white 8 & 12 pearl cotton & I was good to go. That was easy to find at the local crafts store that sold floss, even tho it isn’t regular floss white & ecru 5, 8 & 12 pearl are usually sold with DMC stuff. When I got home at night I could do the days cutouts before going to sleep.
    Since then I have kept an eye out for simple one color projects I could slam together with my travel embroidery kit for emergency stitching/waiting.
    I bought a metal box that was meant to hold a gift card (about 3″x6″x3/4″) and I can keep scissors, threader, ripper, needles & pins in a piece of felt, a magnet & a tiny ziploc as an ort container. That & a pair of magnifying glasses that light up (with extra coin batteries tucked into the eyeglasses case in a little pocket just made for them.. thank you Foster Grant!) and I am good to go.
    I also have a pair of snips that look like a fat ink pen. The “blades” are only 1/2″ long & they aren’t good for precision work BUT they cut thread. The blades come together & a cap goes on top so they look exactly like a regular pen when closed & will go thru airport x-ray machines so I never loose my good scissors when I have to fly but I have a way to cut thread enroute.

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