Artist’s Toolkit

When I give a talk about my practice or teach a workshop, people always ask about the materials and equipment I use. Over the years as my practice has developed I have used a variety of different products but here are a few staples that stay with me in the studio.

Item 1 – Strawberry Pin Cushion

Strawberry Pincushion
Strawberry Pincushion

How do you use this item in your practice? This beautiful handmade pin cushion is always on my wrist when I’m in the studio, sometimes I forget it’s there and wander to the shop with it on too! I use this to keep track of my needles for different threads when I’m hand stitching and to store my pins for quilting and pinning samples to my boards.

Why do you use this specific item? The shop owner where I bought the pincushion from recommended a wrist one rather than a table top one as it would always be there when I needed it, she was right.

Where did you buy it from? I bought it from a shop in the Manchester Craft & Design Centre called &made. Andrea sells wonderful handmade accessories for the home.

Item 2 – Aquasol

Embroidery on Aquasol
Embroidery on Aquasol

How do you use this item in your practice? I’ve been using this since I started working with machine embroidery in 2014. The fabric provides a stable surface for machine embroidery which is then washed away with warm water leaving the densely stitched areas behind.

You can also use it to trap fluffy or loosely woven fabrics to stitch into on the machine which prevents threads from getting stuck around the embroidery foot on your machine.

Why do you use this specific item? I’ve tried different types of wash away stabiliser and I find Aquasol suits the way I work the best. It’s easy to hoop up and works well with my embroidery machine.

Where did you buy it from? I buy my Aquasol from Barnyarns in Ripon which has a great online shop. They do a bulk buy discount for the product which is great as I use a lot of it.

Item 3 – Rayon Thread

Madeira Rayon 40
Madeira Rayon 40

How do you use this item in your practice? I use this for all my machine embroidery and some hand stitching. I started using this type of thread during my MA when I began to explore machine embroidery. It’s designed to work well on a machine and you can get a huge array of colours including variegated threads. I use Madeira Rayon 40 and Gütermann Sulky. I’ve built up a pretty big collection but there’s always room for more!

Why do you use this specific item? It was recommended to me by the embroidery technicians at Manchester Metropolitan University during my MA. At first I didn’t like the finish of the thread but as I’ve refined my techniques I find this thread invaluable.

Where did you buy it from? I buy most of my thread from Barnyarns in Ripon, I have shade card to help with selecting colours but it’s great to visit them to select groups of colours for new projects.

Item 4 – Pfaff Creative 3.0 & 6D Software

Pfaff Creative 3.0
Pfaff Creative 3.0

How do you use this item in your practice? I use this machine to produce my embroidery designs that I created with the 6D software. I’ve never been good at free machine embroidery so I use digital embroidery instead. I was introduced to digital embroidery during my MA; it gave me a new outlook on my practice which was much needed at the time.

Why do you use this specific item? I used the 5D software when I was studying at MMU so it was natural to progress to the latest version when I bought it in 2015. The machine was recommended by the shop as the best suited to my needs and they were right.

Where did you buy it from? I bought my machine and software from SA Sewing Machines in Rochdale. They have a shop in Oldham too. Their aftercare service is great; I recommend them for any big purchase like a new machine.

Item 5 – Janome Soft ‘n’ Sharp 4 inch curved scissors

Soft ‘n’ Sharp Scissors
Soft ‘n’ Sharp Scissors


How do you use this item in your practice? I use this to trim away loose threads when I’m stitching out a design, the curved blades are ideal for getting right into the fabric. I usually have these scissors in my bag when I’m embroidering on the train or over a hot chocolate when I’m out and about.

They’re also really useful for cutting out detailed images when I’m fussy cutting for appliquéd designs.

Why do you use this specific item? They have a softer grip handle which mean that they are easier to use. I don’t have very dainty hands and they are comfy to use when I’m doing lots of cutting.

Where did you buy it from? Fred Aldous in Leeds, they have a wide variety of scissors online and in store.