Top ten stitching tools: what a professional designer uses

Top ten stitching tools: what a professional designer uses

with 35 Comments

It can be so tricky when you first start stitching — there are so many options for materials and supplies, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know what might work best for you. Of course, any stitcher would tell you to just try things out and see what you like best, as there definitely isn’t a “one size fits all” solution for every stitcher. But I’ve been asked over the years what I use personally when stitching up projects (whether my own designs or projects just for fun), so I’ve come up with a roundup of my top ten stitching tools. I hope you get inspired to try some new things, and maybe you’ll find a new “must have” stitching tool that will make your stitching so much more fun and enjoyable. 🙂

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission (such as from Amazon). Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality, and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. I would never recommend something I wouldn’t use myself. 🙂

 

Needles

Everyone has different tastes in cross stitch and embroidery needles, and sometimes you need different needles for different tasks. For example, I often use a size 22 or 24 tapestry needle when working with metallic threads. The extra width from the needle means there’s less friction between the fabric and the threads (so less fraying, shredding, tension, etc). But for my workhorse needles that I consistently use, here’s what I use:

1. Tapestry: Easy Guide needle

easy-guide-needle

I love these needles, they are now being sold by Sullivan’s. The slender shaft means there is far less friction between your needle and fabric, and the German steel doesn’t tarnish nearly as easily as every other tapestry needle I’ve tried (I’ve used the same needle daily for about 3 months, and it barely is showing any wear from where I hold it, compared to within a week for other needles). The combination of the ball tip and the slender shaft is almost like a tapestry needle and a sewing needle had a baby, the ball tip pushes aside the fabric and floss just like a regular tapestry needle does. Do note the eye of these needles is more similar to an embroidery needle than a chunky tapestry needle.

 

2. Embroidery: Clover embroidery needles sizes 3-9

 

I have a huge variety of embroidery needles I’ve collected over the years, from John James to Bohin. I do like these Clover needles though, the gold eye seems to be easier for me to thread, and they’re just pretty. 🙂 I’ve also reviewed some other types of cross stitch needles here (such as a super cool needle I use for beading).

 

Needle Threader

3. LoRan needle threader

 

I don’t often use a needle threader these days (as I usually thread by hand), but this was my favourite threader I trialed in this needle threader review post. You can thread most tapestry needles (and many embroidery needles) with the double ended LoRan threader (and it’s super sturdy), so it’s good bang for your buck.

 

Embroidery Threads

4. DMC Collectors Tin with 35 colours of floss

 

I was soooo excited when DMC introduced the new 35 colours to their range (and I was actually sent a set to design with even before they were announced to the public, I was super pumped). They are such lovely colours and filled in some gaps in DMC’s range up to that point, such as a gorgeous range of rich purples and plums, and some really beautiful shades of lime green and lemon yellows. Plus the collectors tin is just stunning, it’s like stitchy treasure. 😍

 

Cross Stitch Fabric

Ah fabric… so many stitchers end up with a massive stash of fabric over the years, and many end up with several favourites. I have a couple of favourites depending on what I’m working on.

 

5. Aida: Fiddler’s Cloth (oatmeal Aida)

 

For Aida, I really like Fiddler’s Cloth (an oatmeal Aida that sometimes has little flecks in it). For me it gets nice and soft in my hands as I’m working with it, and it has a lovely rustic feel to it. It goes with most patterns as it’s a nice neutral colour, but gives the finished project a bit of a vintage vibe.

 

6. Linen: Zweigart 28 count Cashel linen (Antique White)

 

For linen, I’ve been using a lot of Zweigart’s 28 count Cashel linen in Antique White. I find this white slightly “softer” than regular white, and it stitches up beautifully. Zweigart has amazing fabrics that are very high quality, and they’re very soft in your hands to stitch with.

 

Scissors

7. Gingher embroidery scissors

 

If you’re anything like me, you likely have quite the collection of embroidery scissors. I have probably about six pairs of various sizes (including a new pair I just got for goldwork embroidery), and I love them all. Some I bought purely for their looks as they’re so pretty and elegant, but if you’re looking for a pair of elegant yet awesome scissors I would highly recommend Gingher scissors. They’re super pretty with the often-seen stork design, but they’re also very functional and very sharp. These are on my wish list for the next time I “need” to buy a new pair, but I’m recommending them as I’ve seen over and over again whenever someone in a stitchy group asks for scissor recommendations, you can see people screaming GINGHERRRRRR over and over and over. 🙂

 

Stitching Stand

8. Lowery stand

As many of my readers know, I was hurt in the military years ago and still suffer with chronic pain and some mobility issues in my upper body. I’ve trialed so many stitching stands and frames, and they were ok, but still not quite right for me as I have to stitch reclined with heat on my neck. And then I discovered the Lowery stand, and I was in love. 😍 Not only is this stand really low profile (meaning you can just swing it out of the way when you’re not using it), you can also get an extra-wide L bar (pictured below) in case the arm of your chair or couch is quite wide, or you just want to have options. There are also all sorts of little gadgets you can hook onto your Lowery stand, such as a pattern holder. They are very well made and sturdy, and ideal if you have mobility issues and have a hard time with gigantic heavy floor stands, or clunky lap stands that take up a lot of space. The clamp can hang onto anything from a hoop to a Q-snap style frame, to even a scroll bar frame. If you’re using a large longer scroll bar frame with it, you may need to put weights on the base so the stand doesn’t tip from being too off-balance, and maybe prop up the other end of the scroll frame (like with a sewing box sitting next to you). The Lowery stand has made it so much easier for me to work in almost any position as you can adjust the angle the clamp is holding at and the height of the L-bar, I love it. It’s also super easy to flip your project over to get at the back, you just flip the locking lever (super simple to do, even I have no problems with it). I purchased my Lowery stand from Sew & So in the UK, but they’ve recently shut down so you can also get the same stand from Charting Creations. 🙂 Also note if you are going to buy the extra wide L bar as well, make sure the frame and the bar are the same finish (like I got the powder coated silver grey) — I’ve heard that the different finishes for the extra wide bar will only fit the same finish of Lowery stand (so get the silver grey with the silver grey, etc). 🙂

Lowery extra wide L bar

 

Stitching accessories

9. Embroidery floss bobbin box

 

There are lots of ways of storing your embroidery floss, but for me I loooove bobbins and these plastic bobbin boxes by Darice. I can squeeze over 80 colours into each box, and I find this to be the most compact and efficient way of storing my floss as I can see through the lids and see all my colours at once. For those who are scared to put their floss onto bobbins because it can eventually get creases if left on for a while, pshaw, nothing to worry about. Simply running your floss across a slightly damp clean sponge before stitching will pull those kinks out (and this tip also works really well for Kreinik floss that is coiled from being wound around the small spools). 🙂

 

10. DMC real floss color card 

 

Obviously, as a designer I’m constantly needing to compare floss colours to each other, so I use this real floss card constantly. This is the newest edition of the DMC color card, it does contain the newest 35 colours as well. But even if you’re not a designer, this color card is ridiculously handy if you need to substitute a colour in a pattern (if you just can’t be bothered to go to the store for one colour), or if you want to substitute out a section of colours for another (like make the three-toned red bow in a girl’s hair blue). If you want more info on substituting out colours (and see my DMC color card in action), you can check out this blog post on how to substitute colours in cross stitch patterns.

 

Bonus tool: Lighting

11. OTT floor lamp

Lighting is sooo important when stitching, and I adore this OTT floor lamp I got several years ago. It wasn’t expensive at all, and the light is perfect and even, and it can swing away from you or bend a little if you really need it to get closer to your stitchy project. OTT lights are fantastic in general, and this one is no exception. 🙂

 

I hope you enjoyed this top ten! Were any of the items new to you, or what’s your favourite? Leave a comment below! 🙂

 

Summary
Top ten stitching tools: what a professional designer uses
Article Name
Top ten stitching tools: what a professional designer uses
Description
A roundup of my top ten stitching tools for cross stitch and hand embroidery, including needles, fabrics, stitching stands and more.
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Peacock & Fig
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35 Responses

  1. Steph
    | Reply

    I have a similar tool to your Star Detailer, but I have a hard time getting it to fit under my stitches, so I just end up using the needle to thread tail ends under my stitches if I can’t use the waste knot method. My detailer has since turned into a needle threader for my size 22-24 needles when I’m stitching on 14ct with 4+ strands as it can hold up to the extra bulk better than my Dritz LED threader.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Yeah that’s a good idea, it does seem sturdier than some threaders, that’s for sure. 🙂

  2. Glenna Sharratt
    | Reply

    Thanks so much for the information! You are a great teacher of our craft💕. I’ll definitely order some of your favourite tools soon Amazon and hopefully you get a little referral credit. I also live in Victoria, on Bear Mountain.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Awesome, that’s a beautiful location Glenna! I’m smack downtown diagonally opposite the Empress, I adore where I live. 🙂 I’m glad you found the article helpful, I hope you have fun playing with your new toys when you get them! 🙂

  3. Jackie
    | Reply

    I recently purchased the Lowery stand and I love it. I ordered the DMC collectors tin a few days ago, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      I think you’re really going to like it Jackie, the colours are just so luscious and pretty! Glad you like the Lowery stand too, it’s been a game changer for me. 🙂

  4. Steph
    | Reply

    I’ve been stitching off and on for the last 4 years and just recently purchased my first set of good quality tapestry needles after watching your “Cross stitch needles: choosing the best needle for you” video on YouTube. I opted for the Bohin brand, and I must say, I will never go back to using cheap needles ever again! Not only am I no longer suffering from hand fatigue, but my floss lasts longer (i.e., little to no fraying), I’m enjoying stitching more than ever, and a 6-pack is only $1-2 more than the DMC needles I had been using.

    I would also recommend the Clover brand embroidery hoop, the Dritz LED needle threader, and a Snag Nab-It, all of which can be found on Amazon if not in your local craft or needlework store. The hoop has a special enclosure over the tightening mechanism to prevent your floss from getting tangled around it as well as offering a more ergonomic hand hold, so it’s a must have in my book! I love the Dritz LED needle threader as it gives an extra boost of light where you need it, though I wouldn’t recommend using it to thread more than to strands at a time, and the Snag Nab-It (mine is a Dritz) is a wonderful tool for tucking stray floss bulk to the back of your piece.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      That’s a good tip about the Clover hoop Steph, I’ve never used one of theirs before. 🙂 I have something called a Star Detailer, it allows you to thread loose threads through it and pull them to the back (or thread them under other stitches at the back), I love little fun stitchy tools like that. 🙂

  5. Amber
    | Reply

    I’m a novice, I used to use readers but have new glasses that integrated readers with blue light protection which helps with glare from my light. I use a hoop but just bought my first q-snap. I love using highlighter tape on my patterns to mark completed areas separate from the color I am working. I want to know how to pick just the right size of needle for a “regular “ cross stitch project.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      There isn’t really a “right” size Amber, it’s all what you’re most comfortable stitching with. For 14 count fabric, you might use a size 24 or 26 tapestry needle, but some people prefer stitching with a finer size 28 needle. You could always see if you can find an assortment of various sizes of tapestry needle, and see which one you prefer best. 🙂 And that’s a great idea about the highlighter tape and the blue light protection on your readers. 🙂

  6. Dolores
    | Reply

    What a kind soul you are. I appreciate your tip on painters tape and will follow your advise. You have mentioned several things today that I hope to put into practice. Many thanks.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      You’re welcome Dolores, glad it helped! 🙂

  7. Dolores
    | Reply

    I am a novice at Cross stitching but I use masking tape on my edges to prevent fraying.. It works like a charm. Also, since I have a problem seeing the pattern, I go to Staples and have it enlarged to 129%. Works for me and is inexpensive. As for magnifying products, I went to Michaels and bought an Ott lite than hangs from your neck and allows you greater visibility.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Those are all great tips Dolores! I never worry about the edges of my fabric fraying, I find for me it’s usually just one or two strands then it stops on its own, so it doesn’t bother me. If you’re using masking tape, I’d cut it off rather than pull it off later (which means your margins have to be a bit bigger), simply because the tape residue isn’t acid free and eventually will accelerate deterioration of the edges of the fabric. What you can do instead is use painter’s tape — that has no residue left behind as it’s meant to be peeled cleanly off walls, so that’s another option too. 🙂 And I’m jealous you can use one of those hanging magnifying lights, with my neck injury that would be brutally painful for me. Which sucks, as that’s such a handy tool. I hope you’re enjoying your cross stitching journey, keep on stitching! 🙂

  8. Renée
    | Reply

    Nice list!
    When working on larger projects, I like having the PAKO Needle Organizer so that I can pre-cut & pre-separate several strands of floss, then pre-thread several needles so that I can continue stitching for a longer period of time.

    Also needle minders (I found mine on Etsy-you can find a design to suit any taste!) are helpful if you need to step away before you’re ready to cut your thread–you can leave your threaded needle resting securely on the needle minder, as it’s a magnet. Also, I use them to “pin”/secure excess fabric outside the hoop/frame to an area of fabric in the hoop that you’re not stitching. Why? To keep it out the way 1) to reduce the chance of your hands’ oils and sweat from staining your piece and 2) to prevent inadvertently stitching it to the back of the area of fabric in the hoop/frame you’re working.

    I also love the Peacock and Fig Stitching Planner, especially the Pattern Tracker sheets, the Floss Inventory, Owned Patterns List, & Wish List Patterns sheet-check it out!

    Hopefully, these 3 extra items might prove helpful to someone!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Thanks so much for your comment and feedback Renée, appreciate it! I do have some great needle minders (one is very sweary but it just cracks me up every time I look at it). They’re also super handy for holding threads you’re couching (like goldwork) down so you’re not trying to hold them in place with one hand and stitch with the other. 🙂 Happy stitching, and glad you like the Stitching Planner! 🙂

  9. Karen Williamson
    | Reply

    A tip I have is when your chart leaves a few spaces for example say 6 clear spaces before your next stitch to make sure my placement of the next stitch is correct I insert false stitches. So what I do is I find a single strand of thread of a colour not in my pattern loosely stitch the next 6stitches then do my correct stitch and pull out the false ones, perfect placement every time and no need for counting pins. Hope this helps a few folks .

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      That’s a good idea, never thought of doing that. Thanks Karen! 🙂

  10. Charmaine
    | Reply

    I recently got myself a tresle table. Set up a desk lamp. But keen to have a floor lamp as well. I stitch between the table and my lazy boy in the lounge depending on the time of day, mood.
    I have a stand as well for big projects. I love the idea of the lowery stand, I have also been wanting to get a staning lamp. Something that can stand behind me either at my table or my stand whilst working. Dana, when talking about the needles I use between 24 john deere make, as I am only using 14ct. I was told when you use 16ct you need to 26. SA does not have a great variety, but I make do with what I can. Or I outsource from DMC.
    I am crazy about scissors, just about every project I do I want a new pair. Crazy, yes for sure. Bobbins and boxes I use all the time.
    Thank you for all the tips. Charmaine.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha yes, it can be tricky getting all set up when you have various places you want to stitch in, eh. 🙂 For the needles, just stitch with whatever works best for you. Some people find they prefer a slightly bigger needle than is “recommended” for a particular thread count, some people like to use a smaller needle to reduce friction. And sometimes you’ll use different sizes for different things, like my comment about using a size 22 needle for stitching metallics. And I feel you on the scissor front, there are so many neat styles, and they’re all soooo pretty. 🙂

  11. Rebecca
    | Reply

    I guess in some respects I tend to be somewhat old, old school. I generally work my cross stitch in hand without a hoop, stretcher bars, or stand. If I’m working on needlepoint, however, I generally use stretcher bars and my Lowery stand. My tapestry needles are whatever brand I pick up from my needle case; size-wise I tend to use 26 or 28 tapestry needles most since I use a lot of 25 count Zweigert Lugana and stitch over one thread. There are a great many different kinds of threads available these days, but good old DMC embroidery floss works for me. Like you I have the DMC thread book(s) for both wool and cotton threads; I’ve also kept the old editions of the color books to cross reference old color numbers to new and new colors that have come out over time. I bought them direct from DMC as you can’t get the books with thread samples at retailers. My ego being what it is, I very seldom ever use a needle threader; if I can thread a 28 tapestry needle I consider my eyesight as pretty good. Not bad at 66 and stitching without glasses; I do put them back on to review balls and strikes in baseball games, however.

    I’m picky on my scissors; For the threads in the project I have curved blade scissors to cut closely to the fabric. On the fabric itself, I use fabric shears; I also pull two threads in each direction on the fabric and then cut in the trough. Light is another thing important to me; bad lighting leads to bad eyes. My father had eye problems all of my lifetime and I don’t want to go through that again. I made sure my landlord used good quality bulbs in the overhead ceiling fan, but I still use separate lighting behind my chair. Actually, I’ve been procrastinating about getting out the second lamp for behind my chair, but this will encourage me to do it. My lamp(s) are adjustable goose-necked with long-lasting clear white bulbs.

    My other two favorites are Fray Check for the fabric and Thread Heaven for the floss. I’ve learned how much I hate a single strand of DMC splitting when I’m frog stitching. I guess I’m just a profligate procrastinating perfectionist!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Ahahaha sounds like you’ve got your whole stitchy system sorted out Rebecca! That’s awesome, it’s always so interesting to hear how other stitchers do their setup. 🙂

  12. Lisa Gittleman
    | Reply

    Any thoughts about magnification? I wear “cheaters” when I stitch but sometimes I feel like I need more. I’ve tried a couple of magnifying glasses that clip on my frame but (maybe I’m just a weirdo) I can’t quite focus and end up closing one eye.

    Also, a Snag Nabbit is one of my favorite tools to grab an errant thread that pushes its way to the front of my work.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      I did used to have a magnifying lamp Lisa, I got it at Staples. It was good, but for me with the way I have to work around my injury, I found it was more in my way than anything else. I know lots of stitchers do use magnifying lights, so I’m sure in any stitchy cross stitch group online you’ll be able to get some good recommendations. Often you can see what might work for you too from Amazon reviews, stitchers are usually pretty honest about what’s worked for them, and what hasn’t. And I like those little catcher things, they can be handy little suckers… 🙂

    • SandyToes
      | Reply

      I use 3.0 drugstore readers for aida up to 18 count and for 28 count linen, but recently bought MagEyes for finer work. I worried about headaches from the pressure on my head, but they’re incredibly lightweight and just rest lightly on the head. I initially bought the 5x and 7x magnification, set, but found that my stitching needs to be 8-12 inches from my eyes for them to focus. The 2x and 4x set are much better for me, focusing at a greater distance, and providing plenty of magnification. I found the best price on Amazon.

      • Dana Batho
        |

        Thanks for the tips, those are awesome! 🙂

  13. Karyn Arden
    | Reply

    My favourite stitching supply is a q-snap frame, padded with felt strips, for holding my fabric while I stitch. I really disliked the way a hoop left a ring on my fabric and it never felt like it was holding the fabric taut enough while I worked. With a felt strip padded q-snap, I don’t feel like I’m tightening my fabric constantly and it doesn’t leave a massive dent/ring in my fabric.

    My second fave is FrayCheck. Every time I cut a piece of Aida or evenweave for a new piece, I gladly spend a few extra minutes running FrayCheck around the cut edges to make sure the fabric doesn’t unravel as I’m working.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Both are great tips Karyn! 🙂 I tried a Q-snap and found it way too heavy for me, but I also have an upper body injury so I don’t even carry a purse due to the weight. And I have FrayCheck and so rarely use it, I usually just cut my fabric with a 3″ margin or so, so I don’t have a lot of issues with fraying. Maybe it’s just the way I work, but I find the fabric only loses one or two strands on the edges at most, then it stops. 🙂

  14. Liz
    | Reply

    My fave is a trolley needle (a type of laying tool) to get stubborn threads to behave. I don’t always use it for regular cross stitches with cotton floss, but as soon as I do different stitches or use different specialty threads, that baby comes out and saves me!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Yeah I haven’t used a trolley needle, but I do use a porcupine quill when I’m doing goldwork or silk shading and need the threads to lie accurately. The quill is great, it’s got a bit of flex in it which can be handy. 🙂

    • Cheryl Kinkaid
      | Reply

      I love my trolley needle for canvas work.

  15. Elsie
    | Reply

    Great article! I haven’t stitched anything since I was 10… Now 72 and surfing the WWW to see what I need to start again. This was very helpful.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      So glad it was helpful for you Elsie! I hope you have fun trialing new stitchy stuff out. 🙂

  16. sue kay
    | Reply

    My latest favorite tool is a headlamp I purchased at Lowe’s. The light is exactly where I need it to be as it follows my head/eyes. And it’s LED so very light weight and doesn’t get hot.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Yeah they’re fantastic aren’t they Sue, I should have kept mine I had in the military… I have this great OTT light, I actually just added it as a “bonus” to the top ten, it can swing into various positions over me and the light is perfectly bright. Headlamps are a great idea, especially if you don’t have any space for another lamp, or don’t want to light the whole room (aka your spouse is sleeping next to you on the couch)… 🙂

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