With a wide variety of styles and an even bigger range of prices, many stitchers wonder how to buy a Laying Tool. You might a have bought one because someone told you it was “my favorite” only to find it languishing somewhere.
Your choice will depend greatly on your stitching habits. Even so, spending some time doing research will help you look at the laying tools that suit you best.
You’ll need to consider three factors: sharpness, length, and cost. Most of these aspects divide into two or three broad categories. If you know the categories that suit you, you will be able to narrow your choices considerably. The you can just consider those tools.
Let’s look at each category.
There are two kinds of laying tools, sharp and dull. Sharp tools have some benefits and problems dull ones do not. With a sharp laying tool it’s easier to isolate single strands to make them parallel to the other strands in your stitching bundle.
Often this is done by ‘combing’ the strands. This process is easier with a sharp tool. Having your strands always perfectly aligned makes for stunningly beautiful needlepoint, no matter the stitch.
That’s the good side. The bad side is that often these tools are quite sharp. You can poke your eyes or your hand and you need to be careful not to drop them. You will also need to have something to cover the point.
Dull laying tools don’t make combing easy but they can’t hurt you.
Because I am a very clumsy person and stitch without my glasses, I only use dull laying tools.
Laying tools also divide pretty clearly into two length groups. Long laying tools are 5″ or longer. Short laying tools are 4″ and under.
Within the short laying tools there is the trolley needle. This is a longish needle attached to either a bracelet or to a metal frame you wear like a thimble. The thimble one is about 2″ long, the bracelet one is between 3 and 4 inches.
Most of the short laying tools I’ve seen run around 4″. They can be fat or thin. If you have a poor grip, look for fatter laying tools. While wooden laying tools are fat, they are also dull. If you want a fat, sharp tool, look for a metal tool that has a handle attached. Rainbow Gallery makes these.
The tools pictured here are made from hairsticks or chopsticks. These are the longest tools. For many people this length is unwieldy. If you are considering buying a tool longer than 6″ find a skewer or chopstick that length and test drive it for length before you buy.
These days laying tools can be made from all kinds of things and they can be many prices. You’ll know your budget and what you can afford. Rather than create an exhaustive list, I’m going to point out two areas to consider: very expensive and free.
There are several artisans who specialize in making laying tools. You can get stunning ones made from glass (stronger than you might think), hand-forged iron, or exotic turned wood. While basic metal and turned wood tools can be reasonably priced, these items are small works of art and are proced to match.
If you want something inexpensive or want to try before you buy, there are many items that can be repurposed to be laying tools. Some to consider are:
- plastic canvas needles(#13)
- short bamboo skewers
- hair sticks
- chopsticks (especially short ones for children)
- thin swizzle sticks
- popsicle sticks
- collar stays
After thinking about how you stitch and your budget, go out and look for a great laying tool. Most shops carry some special ones in addition to the more common BLTs (Best Laying Tool) and trolley needle. Also look on Etsy and eBay where you will often find artisan tools.
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
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