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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Studio Life: Behind the Scenes!


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Occasionally, I like to share a dose of reality about life in the studio here at Needle ‘n Thread.

I met an online friend for the first time the other day. She declared that she was glad to see I was “normal” because my workspace was a bit of a mess!

I asked what she imagined studio life to be at Needle ‘n Thread. Her response cracked me up.

She imagined some kind of Pinterest-perfect studio, color coordinated, immaculately clean, everything organized in particular nooks and crannies and drawers and shelves and nothing out of place. Every thread, every tool on my work table laid out in order, like a surgeon’s tray. Soft music and silence, birds chirping, the sun shining in the windows and a tea kettle always ready (ok, fine, yes, it is). Matching china for tea at a particular time every day. (!!! I must visit this parallel universe some day !!!)

She went on and on, painting this strange fantasy world that is entirely not Needle ‘n Thread. I just kept laughing as she described the sheer unreality of what she imagined my work life to be.

And I wondered how she came to have these impressions. Surely that’s not what comes across here in my blog posts. But just in case it does…

Studio Life at Needle 'n Thread

The conversation encouraged me to give you a current behind-the-scenes view of how life is faring in studio at the moment.

I’m doing a lot of finishing right now, making piles of ornaments. At the end of a work session, this is what my work table ends up looking like.

And while it won’t stay this way, this is realistically what happens when I’m involved in this type of work.

Things accumulate. What started out orderly ends up disorderly. Entropy rules the table during this type of work session!

Studio Life at Needle 'n Thread

And you know what? I don’t always clean it up at the end of the day.

Sometimes, I walk away from it and leave it there until the next day, when I dive back into the same work in the very same mess.

I realize that I could work more efficiently and that I’d probably work with a clearer head if I started each work session with a pristinely organized table. But at the end of the day, I don’t always have time to address that particular hot spot that’s gone amuck. And at the beginning of the next day, I just need to get things done – so I jump right back into the same work.

By the way, what are all those bags on the table in the front of the photo above? I can’t even tell you…

Eventually, this will drive me nuts, this table. I’ll give it a quick going-over, just to get the extra I-don’t-know-what off the table and to give me some room to keep working.

But sometimes, I don’t address that kind of situation because I’m stuck into the work, working against a deadline, or putting out a proverbial fire so that things can come together as they should down the road.

That is the reality of life in the studio at the moment!

Studio Life at Needle 'n Thread

The other part of studio life is computer work.

Good grief, my desk is a mess right now. If I could count the number of post-it notes that are stuck all over my desk to remind me of this thing and that.

Oh look! There’s a reminder that I took care of two weeks ago, and the post-it is still there. Whew! One little spot cleared away…

Stacks of books that need reviewing; purchase orders that need filing; project notes that need translating into instructions. And ric-rac. And ribbon. And embroidery floss. Highlighters. Pens. And shipping labels. Two project prototypes. And an otter tape dispenser that makes me chuckle every time I see it.

My desk will get a work-over today, in fact. I’m getting ready to dig into about a week’s worth of solid computer work, and I can’t do that kind of work at a messy desk.

But it does happen, this kind of desk-mess. My studio world is not, you see, perpetually Pinterest-perfect.

Studio Life at Needle 'n Thread

Oh wait.

While I’m doing my thing, Anna is doing hers.

She’s cutting fabric for kits.

Check out those orderly, neat cutting tables.

Those tidy, counted stacks.

That fabric, perfectly laid out for the beginning of the next day’s work.

(Insert eye-roll.)

Well. It’s nice to have at least one corner of the studio in order!

The Take-Away

It’s good to share some behind the scenes mess now and then. It keeps things real.

Sometimes, in the blog-o-sphere and online world, we tend to develop unrealistic notions of the lives of people we only know online. The fact is, humans are human. None of us are perfect. And very few people live the picturesque, Pinterest-Instagram-Perfect Life that shows up in pristine, immaculately staged photos online.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of unrealistic “perfection” that is often reflected in the online world. While it may be inspirational in some respects, I think it compels people to worry after the wrong things in life. The externals just aren’t The Things that Matter.

This may sound like an excuse for Slobdome. It’s not. Reasonable organization, neatness, planning, and so forth are all necessary for a well-ordered life, both interior and exterior. How our exterior life is ordered often helps keep our interior life (spiritual, emotional, mental) ordered, too.

But we shouldn’t beat ourselves up, because we don’t live a life that we imagine other people live when we see their staged photos and videos online. That’s just a recipe for unhappiness.

And on that note, I’m going to get back to reality. Time to plow through some of these post-it notes and clean off that work table.

Coming Up

We’ll have some new kits for you next week, and a Stitch Snippet stitch-along starting not too long after that.

I’ll give you an update on those at the beginning of the week so that you can know what to expect!

Have a great weekend – and I’ll see you Monday!


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(15) Comments

  1. Oh, my, Mary. I think your work areas look like … someone works there. I think Anna’s looks like … she wants to be a doctor? There’s even a “pillow” at the end for the patient.

    Back when I was out in the working world, I would clean off my desk at the end of every Friday. I’d then discover that something that felt very important on Tuesday could easily be tossed on Friday. It really had no impact on keeping my department functional. Whatever was left was prioritized to be tackled the next week.

    Then I’d go home for the weekend and try to forget about it all.

    1. Oh My Gosh. I burst out laughing when I read this!! I will tell Anna she needs to go in for medicine after all.

      Yes, I used to do the same thing – the Friday clean up. One habit that I’ve tried to develop here in the studio that I practice at home is hitting the “hot spots” (those places that tend to gather clutter) at the end of each day, spending just 15 minutes tidying all of them. It makes a world of difference. I’ve pretty much reduced clutter in my home life, though. Not a whole lot extra there, for the most part. But the studio makes up for it! LOL. I’m the clutter queen lately in the studio. Good thing Dr Anna is here to put me in line once in a while!

  2. Your working spots are much neater than mine! I do have my breaking points where I have to put stuff away but it’s not very often. I dream of a place for everything and everything in it’s place but it’s not my working style so I accept that reality. Some people do have neat working areas….I call them neat freaks and I’m sure they call me a slob-LOL. I’ve been crafting since the 70’s and one thing I learned is to do whatever works for you because if you try to put a circle into a square you will become stressed out and leave you frustrated and crafting will no longer be fun! Only people that are “neat natured” can do it effortless and if they were told to become messy workers it would rob them of joy too. So just be yourself.

  3. What I usually do at the end of the day is put away anything that I won’t need the next day, but leave the other things out. This does not apply to the computer desk, which is lots worse than yours.

  4. Oh, Mary! I chuckled through this post, but when I got to the eye roll I laughed out loud! Thanks for the laugh and the honesty. And hooray for the real world where we all live, even the IG/blog/Facebook posters

  5. Thank you for showing the reality of your work space. I’ve often said that those are the photos that show how well a space *works* for someone while working on a project or three. Which is what I care about the most. Anybody can set up a space to look pretty, with everything placed just so. But if it doesn’t work well…meh. I’m glad to know your visitor was right about the tea kettle always ready.

    And the cutting station – keeping that in order is a safety issue. It’s not a pleasant feeling to realize I accidentally cut into fabric because it was too close or lost under the fabric being cut. And we’ll not discuss rotary cutter injuries caused by trying to work in a jumble. I haven’t cut myself (yet), but I have come close. Again, because I allowed the cutting space to become cluttered.

    Speaking of showing “messes”, I hope you’ll be continuing your I-spy photos again this year.

    1. We would like to continue the I-Spy photos! I know we won’t manage one for Thanksgiving, but we hopefully will have a little more leisure time right before Christmas, and the plan is to work up something perfectly fabulous in that regard! It takes a lot of collecting and thinking, but we will put something together!

  6. Join the club, Mary. My studio is the same. When people want to pop in to see where it all happens, I have to warn them. It’s not persian carpets, antiques and matching tea sets. It’s an office, a design and photographic studio, a factory, a warehouse and more recently an online studio, all rolled into one. Not a pretty place but a place where much work is done.

  7. I do not know what I would do if everything I have concerning embroidery was “in order”. Things are spread out over three (four?) rooms in my house. But I can locate what I want when I start work. Guess I just like the feel of being surrounded by a hobby that provides a great deal of confort and pleasure. Just do whatever floats your boat.

  8. Hi Mary,
    I don’t think I’ve been getting your mailings lately. What can I do to return to your lovely stitching and teaching? I miss you!

    Sandra Lane
    Kansas City, MO

    1. Hi, Sandra – Unfortunately, sometimes automated emails from subscription lists get filtered by email service providers. You might check your spam filter. If it’s not there, you may need to re-subscribe. Sometimes, if emails get filtered to spam repeatedly, the email list will automatically unsubscribe. It can be annoying, but your best bet is to resubscribe and to make sure that you add my email (mary(at)needlenthread(dot)com and web(at)needlenthread(dot)com to you contacts / address book / approved recipients list (how those things are named depends on your email service provider).

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