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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Past Blasting: What the Bin Revealed


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Some of the standard products that I’ve offered here on Needle ‘n Thread over the years are ready-to-stitch towel sets that I designed and stitched samples of, and then prepared as pre-printed cotton towels that you can stitch, too.

The idea behind them was to give you a variety of embroidery projects that you can let loose on, choosing your own colors and stitches to create something unique for you – but with the design part already taken care of.

We’ve been working here in the studio on some related projects – for example, we’re preparing a couple all-inclusive kits with some of the designs – so we’ve had bins out that we’ve been foraging through for past examples of these stitched goods. While we’re putting together stitch guides and instructional material, it’s helpful to have a stitched sample front and center.

The weird thing is, I never realized just how many stitched samples I have floating around this place. We opened one bin…

Hand embroidered flour sack towels

…and pulled out about 10 embroidered towels.

They were neatly folded and put away. They actually looked pretty darned good – nice and white and clean and smooth and even neatly stitched! I was surprised!

It’s funny, because I don’t recall them looking All That Great when I originally stitched them and then put them away.

I think part of the reason for my surprise is that, when I finish embroidering something, I’ve seen a lot of it, and I haven’t stepped away from it to get a fresh perspective. These things get boxed up and I don’t necessarily see them again for sometimes quite a while.

Hand embroidered flour sack towels

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do do things with these now and then.

Many a time, a Saturday or Sunday rolls around and I find myself saying, Well, shoot. I’ve got a wedding shower to go to today. Why didn’t I remember this sooner?”

Or a birthday party. Or a dinner. Or something that it’s nice (or expected) to take a gift to. And I’ve gifted many a set of towels – or even just used a single towel as gift wrap or as a basket or platter liner – over the years.

It’s so easy to trip along to the studio and fetch out something hand-stitched that makes it look like I really thought ahead!

Yep, that’s me. Thoughtful to a Tee. Yesterday, I didn’t even remember you were getting married. And I still don’t know your fiancĂ©’s last name. But boy oh boy, am I ever thoughtful. I made this thing just for you.

Heh heh. Well. Maybe it’s cheating a little, but …

Hand embroidered flour sack towels

There is, of course, the off-chance that your recipients at particular events won’t really “get it” with the hand embroidery stuff. I’m sure we’ve all had people respond with something akin to, “Oh, that’s nice! Thank you!” but you can tell they’re thinking, “What will I ever do with This Thing?”

I am pretty selective when I give any stitched goods as gifts, even these simple little towels. Normally, I have to know the person is at least semi-in-tune with hand crafted goods and what they represent. But wonderfully enough, I’ve noticed that many more people today (compared to, say, 15 years ago) are in tune with the hand-crafting world. So having a stash of ready-to-give stuff works pretty well in my favor!

Hand embroidered flour sack towels

It was fun to see what the bin revealed. I remember giving a set of these autumn towels as a shower gift several years ago. Sometimes, I stitch two sets as I work through ideas for designs. I had completely forgotten about the second set.

Or was this the first set?

Hand embroidered flour sack towels

Oh, bright cheery flowers!

These were so fun. This was one of those stash-busting projects, where I was just using up half-used skeins of thread that had built up in a box.

Hand embroidered flour sack towels

Occasionally in the bin, I came across partially stitched towels. These were towels I tested ideas on, but didn’t necessarily finish. As the design morphed, I started over.

Stitching & Good Memories

I have great memories of stitching the samples for the Christmas towel sets! I remember I started playing with the ideas pretty early in the autumn, before it got chilly. But then I started gathering threads to stitch samples, and we had a cold snap with blowing rain and wind – one of those surprise bursts of cold and miserable outdoor weather that foreshadow the changing season – and it was perfect stitching weather for these. I hunkered down with a good audiobook and made some serious headway on stitching the samples that weekend. It was very pleasant.

Sometimes, embroidered pieces affect me the same way a smell does. Does that sound weird? Smells give me strong associations with past events, people, or eras in my life. When I smell the ocean, for example, it takes me straight back to a vacation we took as a family off the coast of Virginia, when I was about 12. I can picture the place we stayed, remember all the things we did, the places we went, what we ate, the clothes I wore. And the seashell I bought (yes, bought – didn’t find!) for sixty cents.

When I see certain embroidery pieces I worked, they take me right back to the time, place, and happenings when I stitched the thing. Those Christmas towels were, for some reason, a particularly delightful weekend.

What’s Coming!

So that’s what the bin revealed this week as we foraged for samples to photograph and reference while we work on putting together new kits.

And now, it’s time to stitch! I’ve got some other fun things in the works, and I can’t wait to share them with you. I just need a really productive stitching weekend or two – one of those pleasant ones wouldn’t go amiss right now! – and I’ll be able to give you a glimpse of the latest projects.

As long as the electricity stays on over this stormy weekend (and no trees topple on my house), it should be a great weekend for handwork.

Charge up those battery powered lights, my Midwest friends! And keep an eye on the weather!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Hand Embroidery Hoops


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(1) Comments

  1. Great post thank you. I only give my embroidery or quilts to family or friends that I think will enjoy them.
    Your joy of embroidery and stitching shine through your post!

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