Backside of the Hoop with Mary Corbet

Mary Corbet on Backside of the HoopI’m excited for each month’s Backside of the Hoop post, but, I have to admit, I’m feeling a little fangirl with this month’s! This month I bring you Mary Corbet of Needle ‘n Thread!! Mary is such a wonderful resource for needleworkers of all kinds. Whenever I want to learn a new embroidery stitch, I go to Mary’s YouTube channel first. I subscribe to her Needle ‘N Thread blog posts via email AND in my Feedly feed so that I’m certain I won’t miss anything. I have wanted to interview Mary for Backside for quite some time, but hadn’t worked up the courage to ask her. But then one day I thought to myself, “Why not just ask? The worse she could do is ignore my request or decline it. OR, she could say yes, but I’ll never know unless I ask.” So I did, and here you are…

needle n thread logo

Mary Corbet of Needle n Thread

Tell us about yourself

Needle ’n Thread began more or less by accident in 2006, when my brother suggested I write a blog about embroidery. I was teaching embroidery to children in my community during the summers, and he encouraged me to extend the classroom through blogging. Blogging in a structured, systematic way was just starting to explode back then, and I didn’t really know anything about it. But it sounded fun, so I figured why not? It struck me as a good way to spread the love of surface embroidery!

On Needle ’n Thread, I share tips, techniques and tutorials for hand embroidery, along with videos, lots of free patterns, information on resources, book reviews, thread talk, and more!

If you love surface embroidery, too, why not connect with me online? You can find me in the following spots:

When did you start doing embroidery?

I started stitching when I was about 10. I’m self-taught. When I began to get serious about embroidery after high school and through college, there wasn’t much information on surface embroidery available here in the States, and the internet had not come into its own yet. So I bought a lot of old, used, forgotten books at used book stores, for a dime here and a quarter there, and that’s where I started really exploring the art of embroidery.

I don’t have the first piece I embroidered as a kid. I can’t even remember what it was! Probably a Disney character or a Christmas ornament in cross stitch…

Where is your favorite place to embroider?

In my dreams, some day I will have the ideal studio / workroom for embroidery, and I’m sure it will be my favorite place to stitch. It will be light and airy, filled with natural light, and organized from the ceiling to the floor. It’ll include plenty of work space, clear table space, and even some comfy chairs for casual stitching. Yep! I can dream!

But in reality, right now, I do all my embroidery at a table in the middle of my garage, which was remodeled for household storage and provides a bit of a workspace. On a good day, it looks pretty much like this:

Mary Corbet of Needle 'n Thread workplace

When I’m really stuck into a project, though, my work surface looks like this:

Needle 'n Thread work top

Show us your backside…of you hoop!

The backside of my embroidery? Well, if you insist!

Here’s the back of a piece of my embroidery while it’s still in the hoop:

Backside of Mary Corbet's Hoop

Most of my embroidery gets finished in a frame, unless it’s on some sort of usable item, like a tablecloth, or a monogrammed hankie or something like that. My framed work is always covered with museum quality glass, to ensure that the threads and fabric are minimally affected by the environment. This helps the piece withstand the test of time. Since I work with a lot of real gold threads and silk, protecting the embroidery is important to me.

What is your favorite part of the embroidery process? Your least favorite part?

My favorite part of the embroidery process would be the embroidery. My least favorite part of any enjoyable project is coming to the end of the project. It’s like coming to the end of a really good book!

What are your top three favorite stitches?

Oh golly. I don’t know if I can narrow down just three favorite stitches. That’s a hard question! I love embroidery stitches in general. There are well over 400 documented embroidery stitches, and while I don’t use them all (by a long shot), I do love variety in stitching – which is why I love surface embroidery! You can never get bored with it!

But, if I had to narrow down three stitches that I love, based on their finished looks, I suppose I would say stem stitch (it’s versatile – it can be a line stitch, a filling, it can be shaded), satin stitch (when it’s done right, it’s so beautiful!) and long and short stitch (which is the perfect filling stitch for shaded, realistic embroidery).

Here’s a recent project that employs all three of them:

Needle N Thread embroidery

What is your favorite brand of floss? How do you organize your floss?

I admit unabashedly that I’m a thread junkie. My favorite threads? Au Ver a Soie silks, hands down. But I save those for special projects. For everyday stitching, tutorials, demos, and more casual projects, I like DMC coton a broder, floche, and regular floss.

My threads are organized in different ways, depending on the type of thread. My silk threads are organized by type and by number, in drawers in Bisley collector cabinets (which are terrific for archival storage, and which protect the threads from dust and light). Cotton threads are sorted by color families. And then I have special drawers for other threads, too, like wool, gold, and synthetics.

embroidery floss storage

Do you create your own patterns, or purchase patterns from other artists? If you purchase patterns, what are your favorite places to get them?

Sometimes, I create my own patterns. Sometimes, I stitch purchased patterns or kits. And sometimes, I like to embroider old designs from books that are now in the public domain. It just depends on which bug strikes hardest.

When I purchase patterns or kits, I like to buy them directly from the designer. Doing so helps support the designer. Also, commercial “industry” kits (like those found in Big Box stores) tend to lack the higher quality materials and instructions that can be found in embroidery kits assembled by individual designers.

What’s up next for you?

I’m really looking forward to 2016! I’ve got a new website design for Needle ’n Thread coming out that will improve functionality and organization, along with some exciting new features that will unfold as the year progresses. I’m working on a couple new instructional e-books, and I’m actively seeking a solution for offering classes locally, which I hope will come to fruition before the summer. I plan to get back to teaching kids during the summer, but I don’t have a space for it just yet. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I have a feeling 2016 is going to be a busy year!

Thank you so much, Mary! It’s fascinating to read about your embroidery story and process, and to see the backside of your hoop 🙂 You are an inspiration to many, and I am thankful for what you do, and how open you are to sharing your knowledge.

Next month I interview Kayla Dickens of Knotty Dickens, and that interview will be published on Friday, December 18, 2015.

If you’d like to read more Backside of the Hoop interviews, you can find there here.


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