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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My Little Pin Keep – and Keeping Things Going


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For many embroiderers, needleworkers, crafters, and hobbyists of all ilk, tools and accessories are a part of our lives. The right tools and accessories not only make it easier, more efficient, or simply more pleasant to master a skill, but if they go beyond functional to attractive, they also add a real aesthetic pleasure to our leisure time.

Recently, I received a really pretty (and functional) little pin keep, and I want to show that to you today, tell you what a pin keep is and how it can be serviceable, and then talk a bit about the needlework industry and share some ideas as things get a bit sticky in our current situation.

Pin keep from Needle in a Haystack

Here it is – a pretty little pin keep featuring one of my kaleidoscope designs engraved on the top of it!

Recently, Cathe at Needle in a Haystack has been developing a line of pin keeps, thread keeps, thread winders, and needle books out of laser cut and engraved acrylics or wood. While I haven’t seen other examples, if this little pin keep is anything to go by, they’re really nice! I think the pin keeps come as kits. You get all the components, and you assemble it yourself.

Mine came pre-assembled.

Pin keep from Needle in a Haystack

Sandwiched between the two outer layers of engraved acrylic (this particular acrylic has a mother-of-pearl-ish look to it, with a nice subtle glimmer throughout) are several layers of felt.

The outer layers and felt filling are sewn together with a sturdy matching thread. When I started examining the piece closely, I couldn’t help thinking that, if those holes were closer together (I don’t know if this is a possibility, but I’m going to ask!), you could feasibly sew the pieces together with a decorative stitch. Hmmmmmmmm….

Where to Find Them

You can see what Cathe offers in way of these new little accessories on the home page at Needle in a Haystack. Check them out!

You can find this particular pin keep and a matching thread keep available here. Cathe and I are now collaborating on some custom accessories using Needle ‘n Thread designs, and this is the first of them. I receive a small commission for each accessory sold in the Needle ‘n Thread line. So it’s a nice collaboration for both of us!

Pin keep from Needle in a Haystack

So, what’s the purpose of pin keep?

A pin keep does exactly what its name implies: it keeps pins. You insert pins into the felt center, with just the heads sticking out around the edge of the keep.

And you might be thinking this is a somewhat superfluous endeavor, if you already have a pin cushion. But for sewing kits and work boxes or pouches, a pin keep has two worthy advantages: they are small and they contain the working part of the pin in its entirety. There is no shaft sticking out, no pointy pin tip to poke into or get hung up on other things in your sewing box.

In short, pin keeps are a compact, sturdy way to keep a number of pins handy in their own specific holder, with no significant portion of the pin sticking out.

And, of course, they’re decorative! And who doesn’t like an accessory that is both beautiful and useful?

So that’s a pin keep. According to Cathe’s newsletter from Needle in a Haystack, she’s using some of the down time while the shop is closed to work on her series of laser crafted accessories at home.

Help Your Shops!

There is no doubt that the current health crisis is going to have a huge impact on small businesses, and needlework businesses at every level will feel the pinch without a doubt.

You might be wondering how you can help keep local needlework shops from facing calamity. There are several shops around the country that are still open, or at least open to ship orders, and perhaps your favorite is among them. But there are several that have had to close, either by government mandate or through concern for the health of employees.

Here are some ideas for helping to support small needlework businesses:

1. If the shop is still shipping, buy something. Maybe you have something on a wish list? Perhaps you could indulge in it now. A win-win!

2. Gift Certificates: Find out if your favorite shops offer gift certificates. Purchasing gift certificates now may help keep the cash flow going, so that shop overhead can be covered. (This goes for any kind of small, locally-owned business that you like to patronize – like locally owned restaurants, coffee shops, fabric stores, book stores, and the like.)

3. Order for Future Fulfillment: In the case of shops whose websites are still taking orders for future fulfillment, consider placing an order for items to be shipped when they re-open for business.

4. Plan Ahead: Make your list now of your “wants and needs,” and when your favorite shops re-open, place an order. This will give an influx of funds to help stabilize the shop once business starts up again. Just remember to be patient, as the supply chain will also need to “reboot.”

For Your Entertainment

If you are taking advantage of the extra stitching time that you might find on your hands these days, there are many ways you can entertain yourself while stitching, especially if you’re alone and feeling it. Here are two options that I’ve found really enjoyable and worth taking advantage of:

Audible Stories (for kids) – You can stream a large selection of audible’s children’s offerings for free right now, with no log-in required. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you spend hours listening to Dr. Seuss! There are many classic literary audiobooks on the list that are delightful for adults, too! Jane Eyre, My Antonia, Call of the Wild, Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, Jules Verne – lots of options that are great for adults, too.

Met Opera – The Metropolitan Opera is streaming various performances every night, and the performance remains available on their website for the following 23 hours. You can read about their nightly Met Opera stream and schedule here.

You can also tune into various needlework podcasts to listen to while you’re stitching.

The folks at FiberTalk have added a couple “quarantine stitch hours” each week, for example.

You might also enjoy Stitchery Stories – it’s a super fun podcast that will introduce you to a wide variety of stitching topics, techniques, and people. The latest podcast is on Jane Austen Embroidery. I’ll be reviewing that book soon.

Seems Random?

Well, there you have my seemingly random thoughts for the day.

Coming up: Stitching – and fixing a Big Big Mistake. Oh yeah! I love mistakes! (Or not.) I have a stack of books to share with you, but I’ll try not to overwhelm you with a gazillion reviews. I’m adding beads on an edge again, so I’m working that up into a tutorial for you. And oh-so-much more!

Hang in there, my friends!


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(13) Comments

    1. This particular pin keep isn’t on there right now, but it will be in the near-ish future. She made this one as a gift for me, but we talked about making them for a wider audience, so she will be making more of them soon, I think.

  1. Dear Mary

    It certainly is a pretty little pin keep and I like the mother of pearl look so attractive. A great idea to help your shops you have just reminded me that I need to order some felt for my next quiet book I’ve just finished one and ready for the next and with the felt ordering I will need other things that go with the quiet book for example accessories like buttons etc, so this will keep me busy at this unusual times. But I have to say that because of the stay-at-home rule people are getting in touch with each other by phone, text, skype and and all sorts of different communication apps. So I am busy keeping in touch. Stay safe and keep stitching and creating.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. That’s beautiful. It does look like pearl. I’m trying to post a pic of my pincushion but don’t know how! It’s wool roving purchased at a quilt show that my husband took me to as a surprise. We had a wonderful time there as they hung everything properly.

  3. Hi Mary, in keeping with the idea of helping shops during this crisis I tried emailing Needle in a Haystack with order instructions for some floche over a week ago and have not heard back from them. It says in their Covid-19 update that you can email them, but after waiting for a reply of some sort for over a week I’m giving up on them because you can’t call them so I have no other way to connect. I wonder if you know of another good source for floche that is responsive and quick? I’m finishing up a lengthy project and want to start another with floche and need colors asap!

    1. Update on the floche order: I finally decided to go ahead and make an attempt to choose a few hopefully harmonious colors of floche from Needle in a Haystack directly through their cart system and see if an order would be accepted that way. Once the order was processed through the cart I did finally get an email (auto-response) back from them saying if I needed anything in a hurry I should look for another supplier in a part of the country that isn’t as seriously affected as the California Bay Area because they just aren’t sure when and if they can ship under current conditions. I hope they can survive this crisis with their business intact.

    2. Hi, Kelly – I think they are still shipping, only slower. I think that’s the point of the email – if you’re not in a hurry for it, they will ship, but not with the same speed.

  4. Don’t underestimate Dr. Seuss. I’ve used Seuss to illustrate things in university classes. Really good children’s stories work for adults, too. Your suggestions for supporting needlework businesses are good, but you should mention that some of them are not without risk. Gift certificates will likely be worthless if a business doesn’t survive. Some people can afford to take that risk, but others may not be able to. There are ways of mitigating this. You could spread your future orders/gift certificate purchases among multiple shops, for instance. The risk is presumably lower for shops still operating online, but they are likely to be in less trouble than the ones which can’t do anything at all.

  5. That’s a really pretty pinkeep. If I lived in USA, I’d be tempted. If only our postage system didn’t charge so much for collecting the import taxes…
    Anyway, I think your mandala design fits really well, and together with the Pearlescent acrylic the overall effect is very elegant. It is quite different from the designs available as standard, and I think you did a good job in showing the possibilities using a custom design.
    I hope I’m not overstepping here, but have you considered collaborating with the shop to offer a mandala design as a standard option? The quotes are fun, but personally I prefer abstract decorations, and I doubt I’m the only one. Just food for thought.

    Thank you for your always entertaining posts 🙂

  6. I have recently seen the value of having the DMC color floss card which seems to be out of stock thru DMC. Do You know of a source to obtain one. Thanks.

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