Work-in-Progress Girl

My Embroidery Toolkit (Such as it is…)


[Gah! Where have my pictures gone? In the meantime, feel free to click through to flickr, but I’m going to try to fix it. Fixed, I hope.]

& Stitches blog is running a little contest where people can write a post about their embroidery toolkits and get entered to win a pretty awesome prize. I think I’ll probably be too late uploading this – I cared less about the opportunity to win than about my opportunity to sleep after work this morning (still tired – why’d I have to wake up at all?) – but it’s an interesting enough idea that I’m going to post about my embroidery stuff anyway. Maybe I’ll get it done in time, maybe I won’t (the clock is tick tick ticking), but it’s all good either way!

&Stitches tool kit competition

One of my greatest irritations in life is just how very different I am at home from how I am at work. At work I’m a hyper-organized, oft-accused of being OCD neatnik and everything has a place and if it’s not in its place, I get fiercely, intensely, anger-inducingly annoyed. I work with someone who is a bit of a don’t-give-a-crap slob. There is a small mountain in the corner of our office where if he wants to store something, he stores in on top of everything else he’s already storing. It seems to grow every week. If he ever gets transferred, 90% of it will go in the recycling or the garbage, but he’s my boss, so I can’t do it so long as he’s in charge! He teases me that if I annoy him, he’ll turn half my channel locks (bits of plastic with notches sticking out one side) the opposite direction from the rest in the stack. (That WILL stop me in my tracks and make me stand around sorting them back out so that they’re all facing the same direction.) There is a running joke that I will punch in the throat whoever doesn’t return my department’s handheld computer TO MY DESK, INSIDE THE COMPARTMENT, TOP RIGHT CORNER before I ever have need of it again. I’ve been having a running “conversation” with one of my co-workers, via notes in red pen, about how her not having enough time to write me a note rather than leave a box of plants, dirt containing plants, ON MY DESK (DIRT!) is kind of bullshit because I don’t have time to clean dirt off my desk either, but I still did it anyway, because it’s courteous not to leave piles of dirt on people’s desk. I’ve framed coffee-spills people have left on my desk with cut out cardboard and put notes about modern art displays on it until the a-hole who did it finally had the sense to clean it up. (Seriously, who spills coffee on someone else’s desk and walks away?)

Anyway… I like knowing where things are. It makes everything easier. I get things done faster because I don’t have to go searching for anything. It’s just right there. In the top right corner of the upper compartment of my desk. For random example.

But when I’m at home… somehow all of that disappears. It’s like I walk out the door of the building and my boss’s general don’t-give-a-crap slobbishness descends on me like a heavy fog that just won’t lift. In theory, I have three drawers in a rolling cart devoted to embroidery supplies. Everything SHOULD be in there, but should and is are two very different things.

These are the three drawers:

003 005 004

In practise, they seem to contain Stuff I’m Not Currently Using And Have Probably Not Ever Used, though one should be the thread drawer, one the cloth and tools drawer, and the other the patterns drawer.

Assorted Embroidery Threads/Kits

This first drawer, the thread drawer, does in fact contain a fair bit of thread, mostly crewel wool, but it’s also got a project (Taliaferro pattern, with thread pack), a Wool and Hoop project pack containing thread, fabric, pattern, and probably needles. There are thread packs from Sublime Stitching. Under the heap of crewel wool is a bag containing some crewel wool I bought online, which turned out to have an odour and which I haven’t decided what to do about (in the photo above, it’s the green threads – super musty smelling). The Singer needles really belong with my general sewing stuff, since few of them are special needles for embroidery. The folded up bit of paper is an iron-on embroidery pattern for a table cloth I’d like to make, but probably never will. (I was looking for that, two months ago, and couldn’t find it! Why ever would I have thought to look in a drawer full of embroidery stuff, as clearly I did not!)

Assorted Embroidery Tools

The second drawer contains a pack of zippers which should be with my general sewing stuff. (Anyone need 24 zipper pulls with octopuses on them? Apparently I did!) My original pack of stuff from Sublime Stitching, still with the project inside (a tea towel, if I recall) and probably my iron-ons and I think the only thing I took out of the bag was the first bit of thread they sent out and my scissors, which move from place to place and are never where I want them to be. (They were on the floor in my bedroom, with a second pair of embroidery scissors, Fiscars ones, that my Grandma gave me when she saw something I was working on. You’ll see those somewhere below, along with all the stuff that’s “stored” in my bedroom.) There are iron-on patterns from Wool and Hoop, a pile of needles from Wool and Hoop (on loose cards in the middle of the photo), chenille needles (what? I don’t even know what you use those for), thread and needles and fabric for sashiko, as well as a quilted sashiko project my mom bought me in Hawaii. Gold thread. Scroll frame knobs for a scroll frame I don’t use. (I should put them in the box of scroll frames, which is downstairs. My sister does use them for cross-stitch projects, but we didn’t have enough knobs for two people to use the frames – we have multiple sets and various sizes – at the same time, so I bought them and then realized I despise scroll frames.) And tacks, which I use with my Evertite frames, which I do love. Also, a set of Needle ID cards, which are very useful if you’ve got loose needles and no idea what type of needle they are.

The third drawer actually does contain fabric:


A yard of rather nice linen, and some assorted bits and bobs of thread, which were sent to me by someone online.

So that’s all the stuff I don’t actually seem to use much. If at all. The rest of it is mixed in with in-progress projects, most of which aren’t currently being worked on, but which were stashed in four different places – the heap of crap on my floor of my bedroom, the heap of crap on my bedroom desk, a plastic bin in my sewing room, and the sewing table in my sewing room.

This is most of it:

Embroidery Projects/Tools

(Oh god, why didn’t I at least smooth the wrinkles out of the sheet on my bed before I took this photo?)

The only currently on-the-go project in that mess is a Super Secret Project, which is part of the only just announced Doctor Who Stitch-Along. I’m doing two different patterns for the project, and that’s all you’re going to see of it until… sometime in the future.


Doctor Who Stitch-along

Why yes, everything IS strategically placed so as to hide the relevant bits. Okay, pattern on the far left. Black with shiny threads was my first two practise runs with one of the patterns, including multiple attempts at one particular part of it. I’m not going to be using the shiny rayon thread, so the Essex linen is what I’m GOING to be stitching on. Underneath it is a gorgeous Hardwicke Manor hoop, which I so love working with. So smooth and nice to touch! The tic-tac container gets filled with the little bits of threads I trim off while I’m stitching, so they don’t migrate around the house on my clothing. I don’t tend to use a needle threader, but I had to when I was working with the rayon thread, so it’s attached to the fabric along with my needle.

I was slightly appalled by my fabric scissors sitting on top of the pile like that, which is exactly where it was in my bedroom when I gathered everything up. That’s just a snip-in-the-middle-of-a-project waiting to happen. Normally I use my little pink handled scissors from Sublime Stitching, but I couldn’t find them and had been using the fabric scissors instead. Now that I know where the pink ones are, I better swap them out. Those at least I keep in the sheathe when they’re not in use!

It’s not particularly visible, but in there is the Sewline chalk pencil I use to transfer patterns. (I do sometimes use a water-soluble pen, but I tend to default more often to the chalk pencil. I also sometimes use a very fine-tipped Micron pen for pattern transfer, but my current one is out of ink, so.) And oh, yes, the painter’s tape. This is not my usual solution for keeping fraying threads in check, but I’d used the window as a light box and all that tape was already on all four sides, so I just turned it over and sealed off the edges. Most of that will get trimmed away before it gets sewn into its final quilt, so I’m not too worried about it leaving residue. (Though maybe I’ll un-lazy myself soon and stitch a proper edge on that instead.)

There is so much more to show, but I wound up posting this so that I could squeak it into the & Stitches Show and Tell, and this is as far as I got! I think it is the most relevant bits, since it includes the thing I’m actually working on with the tools I’m actually using, everything else below this will be added after-the-fact.

Okay, more from my messy bedroom:

Tulip slip kit

This project is mostly finished, I just need to actually stitch the tulip stitch to the fabric. I’ve never used real metal thread, though, or done much appliquΓ© and I’m scared! What if I ruin it? That bitty little stitch took AGES and was hard on my eyes! And it’s made with the most gorgeous of threads!

You’ll notice that I tend to keep everything (except scissors) for each project all clumped together. Each project has a needle woven through it somewhere (the needle for this is inside the pack of threads, woven through one of the plastic bags inside the main plastic bag). And everything has its own hoop – this one a cheapie plastic one.

Daisychain ABC sampler

This is my Nearly Done alphabet sampler. You’ll note the needle woven through the fabric, also the hoop underneath. This is another Hardwicke Manor hoop, but I think it’s a 4-in one. (The one with the Doctor Who stuff is 8-inch.) I was skimming other people’s posts earlier and noticed that some people put twill tape around the outside ring of the hoop, but I’ve always done the inside hoop. I don’t know why, it just seemed like the way to go when I did it, but nobody ever told me which to do, just that it should be done. Now I’m questioning my very existence! Or not, but I am curious if it matters which gets twill taped? Why the inside one or why the outside one? Does it actually matter?

The tulip slip project wasn’t shown with a zip bag, but everything gets stored in zip bags by the project, I just kept the bag out of the photo that time. (Everything’s back inside it now though!) They don’t photograph well, though, with all that light bouncing off of them.

The one project I have that’s not stored in a zip bag is this future-project, which has many, many specialty tools (needles, anyway…):

Crewel Twists project-to-be

This project is being stored in a box that contained pre-wrapped chocolates. It was the right size and had a see-through lid, which was convenient while I was collecting threads and wanted everything where I could see it so that I could order needles from place A, threads from places B and C, and the pre-printed fabric (silk!) and beads direct from Hazel Blomkamp, who is the author of that book. Which, if you’re at all interested in Jacobean patterns, or crewel embroidery, or adding beads to your embroidery projects… definitely check it out. Everything in that book is beyond gorgeous, though some of it feels very beyond me (I think of the stitches that make a lace-like fill). Hazel does everything with embroidery threads, rather than crewel wool, so if you don’t like working with wool, it could be a good fit for you. Even if you don’t like Jacobean design (which I do), I think it’s a gorgeous book to look through and there’s a lot to be absorbed, even if you don’t love the patterns themselves.

Anyway, I haven’t started this project yet because I don’t want to start it until I finish the ABC Sampler, so it’s just sitting around waiting, waiting, waiting. Anyway, I include this because… can you tell I really love Bohin needles? I started out with some of their needles for crewel embroidery and every time I’ve needed a different needle type since, I’ve gone on the hunt for a Bohin version of it. The Crewel Twists project will need several needle types (because it includes beading, etc), so I had to source four different needle types – I think the furthest flung ones came from Florida – but they’re such high quality needles that I don’t regret it at all. LOVE the Bohin needles. (In fact, all the needles threaded through all my projects are Bohin needles. Once I found them, I never went back to anything else. They just feel good in your fingers.)

I should skip these because they’re not tool-related at all, but they got gathered up in the Great Embroidery Tool Treasure Hunt of April 2013:

Canevas Folies Topiary kit Future embroidery patterns?

A couple more future projects from my bedroom floor. On the left is a kit I recently picked up. It’s this very pretty, kind of intense looking little sampler using stitches I’ve never used before and some hand-dyed threads. On the right are two projects I never quite got around to – the Edward Gorey picture I wanted to stitch (someday, someday!) and a fandom pattern I was creating for a challenge that finished in January. If you don’t recognize it, that’s Maurice Moss from The IT Crowd, with a quote of his from one of the episodes. Love Moss! I never quite figured out how to integrate the words with the picture.

And finally, after all of that (and, oh, I forgot all my needlebooks, I used to have none and now I have three!), there’s just one more heap of crap to go through.

Assorted Embroidery Stuff

All of this was in a plastic bin in my sewing room, under various heaps of fabric, also unsorted, and some unfinished quilting projects. The Wool and Hoop stuff, top left, is actually a finished project – well, the project is long gone in the mail – and just the thread scraps left from that. I should really get rid of all of it (except for the threads – I might use them someday). Below that is a collection of threads I bought for a project I haven’t quite got around to yet, which comes from New Crewel: The Motif Collection by Katherine Shaughnessy. (Seriously! So many projects! I SWORE I wasn’t going to collected so many Works-in-progress with stitching as I’ve got with quilting!) All the stuff on the right belongs to the same project, a needlebook with birds on it that I’ve never finished. I was doing the class at Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘N Thread, but crapped out when I had problems with the second bird.

You can’t really see it, but the stitch is on one of my sets of Evertite frames, which are FANTASTIC. The yellow t-bar tool on top of the stitch is what you use to tighten the frame (and create the tension). There is a needle threaded through the project at the very bottom right corner of the stitch, but all the rest of the needles for the project are in some luscious, lovely wool felt inside the bag on the right.

I should really make a plan to finish all these projects, maybe work on consolidating some of these tools into just one place…

I think the big lesson here is that
1. I talk too much – what a ridiculously long entry!
1. I don’t really have a tool-kit, so much as a tool-dumping ground and a tool–or-three-for-every project

My god, how do I generate so many unfinished projects? How do I generate so many piles of crap? Why can’t I bring my super-organized work-self home with me? It’s ridiculous! Maybe I need to be on the clock to ‘waste’ time on organizing. Maybe I should charge myself $25 an hour to organize and donate the money to charity, so that the longer it takes to get things in order, the more it’ll cost me. (Of course, I’d need someone to make me be accountable…) Hmm, thoughts…


Author: clumsykristel

I'm a 30-ish quilter, and occasional sewist and embroiderer. I mostly talk about crafty things I'm working on, or wish I were working on.

17 thoughts on “My Embroidery Toolkit (Such as it is…)

  1. You are not the only one who is organized sometimes, and other times not. In my case, my embroidery things are super, duper, hyper awesomely organized, but my purse is, well, let’s just say it is where all the missing socks from the dryer appear………..
    About the musty smelling floss.
    I do this with old books that I buy online that arrive stinky. Smell is on reason I rarely buy things like floss online on ebay or similar, because I cannot exactly dump it in the washing machine with some baking soda and detergent.
    This is just my suggestion, put them in a ziplock bag with a few packets of silica gel. Those are the little bags of pellets that arrive in the mail with electronics and other things. The pellets are clear or white and designed to absorb moisture, and smells associated with the moisture. If the smell did not come from moisture (like cigarette stink) it will not work. It also will not work incredibly quickly, I have a book that has been in a bag for more than a year, and the musty mildewy smell is nearly gone. I doubt it will take so long for floss since it isn’t 1 and 1/2 inches thick. πŸ™‚ However, you can certainly add the packets while you take as long as you want to decide what to do with the floss. Anyhow, good luck with the floss stink.

    • Haha! It’s funny how it works, isn’t it? My purse is pretty organized, but maybe that’s because I don’t use it very often! I tend to pull my wallet out and forgo carrying the whole big thing.

      Thanks for the suggestion on the silica gel – I have a friend that collects those (for drawing water out of things that shouldn’t have been wet in the first place!), so I’ll have to see if he’ll give me a few packets to chuck in the bag. The thing that really frustrated me about that thread is that the seller swore up and down that it didn’t smell, but when it arrived, I didn’t open the zip bag it was in for a few weeks, after which point it felt too late to complain about the smell. (Which is definitely a damp musty smell, rather than a cigarette smoke smell.) I’ve been tempted at various times to try selling it (with a warning about the smell and a price reflecting the state its in), but wasn’t sure it was worth the bother trying, if there wasn’t a way to pull out the odour.

      • Yes, it is amazing how it works.

        As for the seller swearing that it didn’t smell. Did the seller know what floss was supposed to smell like? If not, who knows, if the person has never smelled floss, how would they know if it stinks or not. Also, sometimes if smells are “normal” someplace, the person who lives there will be to used to it to smell it. That is common with “hoarders”. Thier homes stink like a toilet or mold, but because they have smelled it so much and for so long, it no longer bothers them. I can say that with pizza, I worked in a pizza parlor for three years as a teen. I never noticed pizza smells after a year or so after being hired and after I left, it was about 5 years before I would smell pizza while passing pizza places with friends or wherever. I am not saying that it justifies your being sold smelly floss, I am just saying it may be that to the seller, it might not be smelly. Like Pig-Pen in the Snoopy comics, he probably could never be able to tell the difference between clean or dirty socks.

        Good luck with the stinky floss!

        • Thanks! I’m definitely going to try it because they were nice, usable colours, so I’d hate for them to wind up trash.

          It’s funny how easy it is to get used to smells, isn’t it? I used to be a baker and smelled of donuts all the time, but could never tell myself. (Never ate donuts, either, after all that time around them!)

  2. Oooooh, so much embroidery goodness! I love the Tic-Tac box idea! What a perfect solution! As for the twill tape, I’ve always wrapped my inner ring, too. I don’t have any idea what difference it would make, it just seemed to make more sense to wrap the inside ring.

    I loved getting a peek into all your stitchery ‘categories’ πŸ˜‰ And, I think you’ve probably sold me on the Evertites.

    • The tic-tac thing has worked out really well! From the challenge, I saw a lot of people with jars to collect them in, but this is more portable, which I appreciate, and until you pull the lid off, it’s really hard to get the thread back out, so even if it falls over while it’s open, you don’t tend to lose any of the thread bits.

      The Evertites are really fantastic. They’re more expensive than some frames, but they really hold square (unlike a lot of cheap stretcher bars) and hold the tension really well. When you’re not stitching you just loosen the corners a bit to release the tension and let the fabric relax, and then tighten them back up. Apparently they clamp into a lot of frame holder things too, like those frame holders you sit on or whatever.. I’ve never tried, but I can see where it’d be useful.

  3. Oh wow it’s really interesting to see what you have in your toolkit! And it is all together! My ‘toolkit’ is spread out all over the room in various places…it probably could do with a proper home in one place…it would certainly make my life much easier!

    • It’s only together because I fished it all up for doing this . My home organisation leaves a lot to be desired πŸ˜€ I do tend to have one of everything in each pile of stuff, though, so at least I rarely have to look for things!

  4. The little floss ends are sometimes called ORTS. I used to use a tic-tac box as well. You can also use metal mint tins, they come in a couple of sizes and do not crack. I do not care for the mints inside, but if you have a friend or relative that does, see if you can get them to give you the tin when it is empty. Or do what I did, buy the mints and keep the box, but give your friend the contents as a “refill”. πŸ™‚ That way the tins do not need to be tossed into the recycling bin. You could also use the mint containers store stray needles and anything else that tends to find itself lost in your embroidery stash. I have four of them in three sizes in my tool kit for various things. I also look at the &stitches blog, but did not want to enter the tool kit competition.

    • I always associate ‘orts’ with scraps of food because I do so many crossword puzzles and that’s frequently a clue, so even though I know people also use it for threads, I rarely think of them as orts πŸ˜€ What I like about the tic tac container is that even if you drop it while it’s open, the hole is small enough the threads don’t tend to fall out, though I often have little metal tins with attached lids that would also work (and as you say, don’t crack). I have another one in my sewing room that broken and bent needles and pins go in, so one day I can throw it out.

      • I prefer the metal tins, but we can agree to disagree. πŸ™‚ My tins are the ones (I do not know if I want to mention brands since I do not care what brand name is on them) that are hinged so that the lid does not go anywhere. I rarely have to worry about dropping it because I mostly use it in the car, and it just sits in my to-go box which is usually on the seat beside me, so it won’t make a huge mess anyhow. When it is full I poke the contents into a “do it yourself” craft Christmas ornament that are always for sale at Christmastime. It takes me a year to fill just one all the way up. I have two full ones already. It is a way to keep my lovely orts, but not have to buy a beer keg sized jar to put them in.

  5. Your “work-self” is kinda scary, lol, but I can relate. I did customer service and retail for years so most of the people I worked with understood a certain amount of tidy, and therefore, I never had to punch anyone in the throat or frame a coffee stain. BUT to this day, I make to-do lists with little square boxes beside them so that I can “check” off the task without scribbling over it. Tidy, “done”, and I can still read what’s been done and distnguish those tasks that haven’t very easily. However, the teacher I did my internship with would have driven you crazy mess-wise…. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the tour of your embroidery organization-style.

    • Haha… my coworkers drive me nuts. My office (and my boss’s) is a shared space and everyone comes in, drops paper (coffee and dirt) all over the place, and then goes “God, it’s such a mess in here, I don’t know how you can stand it!” as if they haven’t been the ones littering the place all day long. I swear, one day I’m going to sweep up all that paper garbage and distribute a small pile of it in the middle of each of the other department offices. I don’t know where the throat punching joke came from, but it’s been around a long time – I don’t even kill spiders, so there’s definitely no throat punching going on πŸ˜€ I think my produce guy thinks one day my mean glares will translate into a proper beatdown πŸ˜€

  6. Can’t wait for the DW SAL! I may have to join in! BTW – Was that an IT Crowd piece I see hiding there?

    • The DWSAL should be awesome πŸ˜€ I’m pretty excited about it.

      That is indeed an IT Crowd… pattern in progress. I was working on it for a fandom craft thing in the end part of last year, but I never could figure out how to integrate the quote I wanted to use with the picture of Moss, but I think I’ve got it figured out now. Maybe. Once I’m done with the Doctor Who stuff, I might have to come back to it.

  7. Pingback: Bias Binding & Other Assorted Nonsense | Work-in-Progress Girl

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