Tools of the Trade

This month’s Tools of the Trade is a bit different, instead of looking at one specific type of equipment I’m giving you my best nine. There are some tools that are invaluable to my practice and tend to travel with me when I’m taking my work in progress in the car or on the train.

Good to Know… As you become a more experienced maker you will find tools and equipment that work well for you and your craft. The best needles for you might not be what people would recommend and this is okay as it works for you.

Quilting Clips

I bought my first bag of quilting clips on a whim, I wasn’t sure what I would use them for but they are now a handy tool to have around. I have the smaller size from Clover and Sewline and the jumbo Clover ones. I use them to hold together seams and binding when I’m hand sewing and for making mixed media work as they hold things securely when a pin isn’t an option.

Needle Roll

I was scrolling through Instagram when I saw a picture of a needle roll on the Textile Artist feed. I’d been using a handmade needle book for a few years but it was bulky and didn’t fit in my project box easily. I decided to make a needle roll using a piece of wool fabric and some fun cotton. It’s great for organising my needles by size and type, it’s compact and just rolls up when I’m done.

Top Tip: You can find a fantastic needle guide on the John James website. When printed at A4, the needles are actual size so you can find out what they are.

Embroidery Scissors

I love my curved embroidery scissors, they are great for trimming loose threads on my digital embroidery and unpicking stitches. They are great for getting right on the surface of the fabric and cutting away loose threads as the blades are sharp right to the end. These are my go to scissors for any hand or machine embroidery project.

Top Tip: Be careful when handling these scissors, the pointed blades can stab you if you leave them in the bottom of a box or bag.

Turning Tool

This simple looking piece of plastic was free with a quilting magazine many years ago. It’s great for turning through the corners of patchwork pincushions and any 3D work I’m making. It’s also used for creasing seams when you don’t have access to an iron.

Marking Pens

I’m often asked about the best way to transfer designs onto fabric ready to embroider, I use a variety of different pens for my work. The air erasable pen is my go to for speedy projects, it disappears at different rates depending on the fabric you use. I’m fairly new to the water erasable pen but they are great for projects that you pick up and put down for a week or so. Make sure you check that the pen will wash away by testing a small piece. I also use a fabric pencil with white leads for marking dark fabrics, the pencil rubs away easily.

Glue Pen

I’m a big fan of the Sewline glue pen, it’s really handy for temporary fixing of seams before you sew them and I use mine to secure paper hexagons to the fabric when I’m doing English paper piecing. The refills come in a variety of colours but dries clear. I use the fluorescent yellow as it’s easily visible on both light and dark fabrics.

Cotton Perle Thread

Cotton Perle No 8 thread is 100% cotton, it has a distinctive twist and a slight sheen which gives it a lovely finish. This thread doesn’t get fluffy easily and is suitable for many types of hand embroidery. The heavier weight of this thread will give your project a raised texture and great definition. I started using this thread when I was given a ball in a mixed bag of vintage threads. I love to use it to add texture to my hand embroidered pieces and recently I’ve been experimenting with the different colours to build up layers.

Hand Quilting Thread

Gutermann Hand Quilting thread is a fine but strong 40 weight cotton . The thread has a special waxed finish which gives it added strength and it’s not prone to tangling like some other threads. I use this thread for all my tacking and utility sewing because if it’s durability. It’s also great for adding details like beading to a project. I recently started using it to stitch the maps from my daily exercise too and it’s becoming my thread of choice for lots of projects.

Embroidery Hoops

Embroidery hoops come in different sizes and materials, I prefer the wooden type. These embroidery hoops are often made from beech and have a solid brass screw to tighten the hoop. I use this kind of hoop for most of my projects, it’s great for both cotton and wool fabrics. There are also bamboo alternatives that have a steel crew on them, be careful with the bamboo variety as some of the cheaper frames are warped and wont be a perfect circle.