This week it is my great pleasure to talk to Mary Corbet of Needle N Thread. Not that Mary needs much introduction – if you are one of the +/- ten thousand subscribers you will be familiar with her daily postings in your inbox. Mary covers topics on all forms of embroidery from step by step project lessons, online classes, stitch techniques, free patterns, book reviews, information on materials and equipment etc, just too many topics to name. I believe she is soon to introduce a DVD of all the stitch techniques, we can’t wait. Mary is a household name in the embroidery world, she is the “Martha Stewart” of embroidery!
This feisty lady , I believe she is of Irish descent – that says it all :), is a minefield of information on embroidery, if you have a question on any topic Mary can answer it. Mary and I have developed a friendship over the years, grounded on our common love of embroidery but she is also the first person I contact when I need help and always receive a long detailed reply. She is knowledgeable, fun and the most selfless person I know when it comes to sharing her expertise.
In this interview with Mary I am going to take you behind the scenes for a look at what Mary Corbet is all about. I don’t think we have any idea of the work that’s involved to produce these daily postings – not only is she required to be well informed on the subject of embroidery, but also know a great deal about photography, video and computer technology. After my debacle with trying to create a video using my web cam I am in awe of her expertise!
When I needed to know how to take a picture of my computer screen, Mary was the one to tell me, when I needed help setting up my blog I asked Mary. Like all of us Mary does have another life outside of her website, in fact when I asked her to do this interview she was on the road taking her parents to Alabama for her Aunt’s 94th birthday, laptop in tow so she could stay connected and post her daily bloggings!
In this interview Mary humbly tells us more about herself for instance, did you know that Mary gave up a teaching post to devote more time to her website? You can read all about it below.
1. Mary please tell us about yourself and personal life briefly? Who is Mary Corbet?
I grew up in a large family (#7 of 8 children). My dad was a naval aviator, so we lived many different places while I was growing up. After high school, I moved to Kansas to go to college, and after finishing my undergraduate degree, I began teaching. Then I pursued post-graduate degrees while still teaching, and then continued to teach at various levels, from high school to university level. In fact, from the time I was five years old, I’ve never not been in school, on one side of the desk or the other!
2. When did you first become interested in embroidery and how?
I got involved in embroidery as a child and a teenager, primarily because my older sisters, my mom, and my aunt enjoyed an interest in counted cross stitch, which was the big thing in the US in the 80’s. At that time, surface embroidery information was pretty hard to come by here. I had one “old book” that I found at a garage sale – it was Erica Wilson’s Embroidery Book! Through that, I was able to dabble with stitches. It wasn’t until I was in college studying the history of art that I became acutely aware of the heritage of hand embroidery and its magnificent place in art history. These studies really sparked my interest in the history of embroidery, thanks, really, to one teacher, who loaned me a book on the history of ecclesiastical embroidery.
My interest grew from there, and I studied a lot and read a lot about embroidery as an art. But I still didn’t know how to acquire serious instructional information in surface embroidery. The Internet at that time was not what it is now! My sister started buying Inspirations Magazine about then and getting into heirloom embroidery, so during summer vacations, I pinched her copies of the magazine. I was able to learn a lot from those magazines – not only about technique, but also about where to find more information and how to find surface embroidery supplies.
3. Where did you train?
Does my dorm room count?! Seriously, though, I have no “formal training” in the needlearts. I’m self-taught. I suppose you could say I studied in the School of Trial and Error! I’ve attended some workshops in recent years, and I have plenty of formal training in the field of education, which helps quite a bit when it comes to teaching embroidery.
4. Did you inherit your love of embroidery from anyone in particular?
It’s hard to pin that down to any one person. I’d like to say it was my grandmother or my mom who gave me a love for embroidery, but it’s not really the case! It would be more accurate to say that my love of embroidery comes from the whole history of needlework in general.
5. You recently gave up teaching to devote yourself full time to the cause of needlework – can you tell us a bit more about this?
Well, I still teach one class, but that’s another story altogether! But yes, I’ve given up formal classroom teaching for a while, to “test the waters.” Let’s call it a sabbatical! This was the situation: I couldn’t give 100% both to my professional life and to Needle ‘n Thread, which had become large, expensive, and time-consuming. One of them had to go, and it was a tough decision – probably the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. And a scary one, too! It’s not easy to give up the security of a good profession and everything that comes along with it, to venture into the unknown. But shutting down Needle ‘n Thread would’ve been a lot like chopping off an arm or two (or three!). It’s become an important part of my life, and so have all the people with whom I’ve come into contact because of Needle ‘n Thread. I love teaching, but I like to think that I still manage a little bit of that through the website.
As you know, I took the plunge with Needle ‘n Thread. Was it the right decision? The jury is still out!
6. You post daily on embroidery topics. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere! When it comes to writing (perhaps too prolifically!) on the topic, my readers are my greatest inspiration. They are wonderful! I like to know what others want to know – what do they want to learn, what do they want to see? How can I show it to them? So that’s how I approach writing articles for Needle ‘n Thread.
7. You cover all forms of embroidery. Are there any in particular that you favour?
I love ecclesiastical embroidery, because it has such a profound purpose and it has been such a rich and strong force in the whole history and development of embroidery. But gosh, I haven’t met a technique I haven’t liked, for one reason or another. I love just fun and simple embroidery – it’s very relaxing! Embroidery for me – no matter what kind – is a constant learning experience. There’s great joy in achieving some level of mastery in the skills involved in different types of needlework, and then being able to pass that on to others.
8. Your website is very popular. I believe you have approx 10,000 of subscribers. Can you give us some of the highs and lows you experience as a result of being in the public eye?
The “public eye” sounds very daunting! Until you put it this way, I’ve never actually considered it. The most satisfying thing about creating Needle ‘n Thread is hearing from people who have learned something from the website, or have overcome a fear of a technique, or have developed a strong interest in embroidery, or have tried something they wouldn’t have tried – this is always very exciting!
I’m not sure about lows. There are not very many. As a teacher and as a blogger, you have to be fairly thick-skinned when it comes to criticism, and you have to be willing to take criticism and try to improve.
9. What do you love most about your job?
That I am doing what I love and I can share it with others – that’s what I like best about what I do.
10. What is your advice for people who would like to start embroidery?
Start! Find the technique that sparks your interest – that makes you sit up and say, “WOW!” – and learn how to do it. There’s nothing to be afraid of! What’s the worst that can happen when you try? You might fail and have to try again, right? But that’s what success is made of! As my Mom always says, “Think you can, think you can’t. Either way, you’re right.” Well, with embroidery, you CAN. Just jump on in – the water’s fine! And if you find yourself floundering, don’t worry! There are plenty of people out here to give you a hand!
Thanks Mary. This reminds me of the children’s book The Little Engine That Could. The Engine struggles up the hill saying “I Think I can , I think I can…… ” and then when he succeeds says, “I thought I could, I thought I could……..”!
On that note wherever you are have a wonderful weekend, happy stitching and remember YOU CAN AND YOU COULD! Trish
26 thoughts on “Mary Corbet”
Thank you Trish for interviewing Mary, I feel like a stalker when I open Mary’s blog every morning. Now Trish I can also follow you, I have admired your embroidery for a long time and have purchased your books, Thank you for sharing.
gracias:soy una persona muy fanatica de sus labores las sigo alas dos,las reenvio a mis amigas que les gusta el bordado en fin soy su fanatica y me gustan mucho sus paginas,gracias por sus apotes tan lindos y generosos.
Three cheers for Trish! Thank you for this wonderful interview. Ever since I discovered Mary’s site, I wondered and wanted to know who she was, however, I have been reluctant and embarrased to ask about her extensive knowledge.
I am a self taught needle worker, since I do all kinds of embroidery, for me not to have the greatest opportunity to learn more each day, without Mary’s assistance, I’d be so lost.
Thank you very much Trish for bringing us closer to one of the world’s leading teachers. Mary Corbet is one of embroideries’ Living Treasures.
Thanks for this interview. I follow Mary’s blog with great joy. I’m taking her online course which I enjoy very much. I’m frozen though. I read the instructions, I stroke the thread, I look at the picture but I don’t stitch. I read some of your earlier posts and took heart from them. Confidence is hard for many people I guess. Thanks for the inspiration and your generosity of spirit.
Nimue, the first stitch is always the hardest for me too! The fabric is so nice, sitting there, and the threads look so good if I arrange them like *so*, and it sounds so complicated….
And then I take that huge gulp of air and thread that needle. I focus on just the small area I’m to work on, and on that one little stitch set that gets me started. I focus on doing it the very best I can, so I can be pleased with it every time I look…because that’s what will keep me working on it.
Here’s a <<<<>>>> and lots of encouraging thoughts…..go for it! It doesn’t hurt, honest, and *you can always rip it out*. (I hate that part, but it’s true..)
There is no way I could ever explain the importance of Mary, yourself and the host of others who share their triumphs and disappointments in needlework. The amount I have learned and the resources you have given us are astounding. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.
That was nice, reading about Mary. She has absolutely become a modern day expert on ecclesiastical embroidery.
Always pleasant while serving up a delightful blog with stunning photographs; the Needle n’Thread site is a real day-brightener because of Mary’s unwavering love of her craft. And so it is good to meet the person behind the curtain of experience as she tells of the path she took.
Thank you, Trish, for this article.
Thanks for the interview Trish, If it wasn’t for needlenthread I doubt if I would have continued with embroidery. But I learnt such a lot from Mary. I hope Mary your new career takes off in a big way but not to big that you won’t beable to still chat to us beginners who aspire to your beautiful embroidery.
Regards Anita Simmance
Dear Trish, Thank you for the interview with Mary! You are both so very important to us. And you are right, I CAN & I COULD! Big hug from Jozi!
I so enjoy reading Mary’s posts every day in my emails. She is the first place I turn to with help doing a new stitch or in remembering how to do one. Thank you for sharing this post with us and I am glad to read Mary is wearing her pj’s when posting…just like me!
Awesome interview, I have been a follower for almost 3 years and learn something new everyday. Thank you
Dear Trish, Thanks for this interview with Mary. I stumbled across her website a few years ago and have been a firm follower of her blog ever since. One thing is for sure, teaching is in her blood, especially with embroidery. Her videos and photos are always simple and clear and easy to understand. I always look forward to her news letters each day. The Internet is one part of technology which I love. Ever since being able to surf I have learned so much more than I ever did before. Through Mary I also discovered your website and I am in awe of your embroidery. Best wishes to you both. 🙂 xx
I receive Mary’s newsletter every day, looking forward to the new and old books on needlework embroidery techniques, and lots of embroidery tips. I have purchased many books, Mary recommends, Thanks for the memories, Mary!!
Thank you Trish,
After I saw a beautiful gold work cape for our Blessed Mother and started searching for ways to learn this technique, I happened upon Mary’s site and since then she has been an incredible inspiration as have been your books and projects.
What great news to know that she is doing this full time and a DVD as well… I’ll be one of her first customers.
Thank you both for your generosity,
I rrad Mary Corbett every day I would not miss her daily writings she always has a great article of interest and her sense of humour is incredible….I look forward to her emails everyday in fact I save her email for the last one that I read of all my emails. I find her very inspirational and get me going on my embroidery that day…Love her..
Also Look forward to your emails to Trish two very fine people that love to share their inspirations…Thank You Thank You…
Aw, shucks, Trish! Thanks so much for your kind words! But now I have a dilemma – I have to live up to them!
Do you suppose we should’ve mentioned that I usually blog in my PJ’s, sitting in front of my computer with wet hair?
Thank you, Trish – and all… Now I will go deflate my head….
No need you already live up to them! The fact that you work in your pjs makes it easier for us all to relate to you! PS you can curse me privately by email:) Go well Mary. Trish
What a wonderful start to my day, hearing from 2 of my very favorite and inpirational embroidery teachers in one post. Trish, thanks for sharing this interview Mary. You both are my embroidery heros. I most likely wouldn’t have tried many of the embroidery forms if it weren’t for Mary; like goldwork and working with silks, or stitches beyond lazy daisy. I didn’t know that you were doing Needle-n-Thread full time. Congratulations and thank you for devoting so much of yourself to this wonderful art form. I wish I had a nickle for every time I recommended your site to someone. Trish, it’s the same with you. You both posess a personal excellence in what you do and are my role models. Thank you!
I believe that Mary Corbet should get an International Humanitarian Award for her dedication to sharing her knowledge and expertise of all things needle. I have no doubt, Mary, that you will continue to set our embroidery world on fire!! Keep up the great work and it was really nice to “get to know you” a bit. Thanks for the conversation Trish.
I second that award!
She is a great (online) teacher – I love her blog:-)
Ah hah, the internet comes across again, continuing to link our own little worlds to the embroidery centres. Well done both of you, and thank you.
Yes, you are so right Trish! Mary is a precious gem!
I’ve written a post linking to yours – hope you don’t mind.
Thanks for this
Trish, what a wonderful idea to interview Mary. I had no idea she had given up her teaching post to concentrate on her “blog”. I am a Cape Town student of you both. Best wishes for continued success.