I bet you have always thought that as a needlepointer going to places like the drug store, hardware store or office supply store was a part of the rest of your life. A dreary necessity that had to be endured. I generally think so too, but in fact all these places hold lots of wonderful (and inexpensive) things you can use to make your needlepoint life easier, more organized, and more fun.
Office Supply Store
If you haven’t gone out and bought yourself a lever style staple remover go do it. For anyone who uses staples or tacks to attached canvas to a frame, this is an invaluable tool saving nails and manicures. The thin tip of the lever goes under the staple or tack and pressing down on the other end lifts it.
Finding places to store needles can always be a problem. You can make yourself an elegant needlecase by buying a lovely metal business care case. At the store, buy a package of business card size magnets. These are sticky on one side to put your card on, but don’t do that — stick it in the inside of the card case. This idea came to me from a friend who got one as a thank you gift from the EGA board. Safe secure and thin!
Always keep a pad of post-it notes in your toolbox. They peel on and off so you can use them to mark your place on a chart, or to cover part of a stitch diagram.
Buy a fine point highlighter too and use it to mark off the stitches you have done on a graph. This is about the only way I can keep myself straight when stitching from a chart.
Postal mailing tubes are a great way to store rolled canvas. I keep one for each kind and color of canvas, then I mark the end with the color and mesh so I can find them. These are in a corner of my studio.
And look for office containers to store your threads. Some stores have good-looking CD cases which are perfect for threads.
A label maker can be a wonderful, if somewhat expensive, tool for organization. I have all my boxes and drawers of thread storage labelled using one of these. Now I can ask my kids to go and get something from the drawer marked “velour” and they can actually find it.
Besides buying hand lotions (my local shop even sells an Udder Cream), think of the drugstore as a place to get other tools. Consider those popular “Bra strap” headbands as a flexible method for holding canvases on stretcher bars or for keeping canvas flat.
Pink hair tape (yes it’s still made) is a great tool for holding the ends of threads secure and out of your way on canvas.
In the housewares section, look for the smallest size of Rubbermaid containers. If you cut a large hole in the top, you have a great ORT container. If you cut a small hole (heat a skewer and poke it through), it becomes a perfect size to hold balls of pearl cotton. Pull the end of the thread through the hole.
If there is one place I would have bet wouldn’t have things for needlepoint it was here – but I was wrong. The sturdy canvas bags for sail makers or bricklayers are great totes for needlepoint. And since they are in natural canvas you can brighten them up with paint or stencils. I use a sailmakers bag which has an open top. Those new gardener’s totes would also work.
If you are looking for something to hold your needlepoint tools, look at tackle boxes or small tool boxes. These come in all kinds of sizes and are great. If you have space and money consider a large multi-drawer wooden chest to store canvas. The drawers are thin and flat (to find tools) and so they are perfect for canvas.
Another hardware store buy for storing canvas are those wire mesh basket stacks for closet organization. The drawers are relatively big and store lots of stuff with plenty of air and no exposure to acids from paper boxes. I know, this is how I stored my canvases this way for years.
You can buy masonite or sound board to use for a blocking board at the hardware store (though they may look at you a bit strangely).
Last, but not least, if you want to venture into new worlds of needlepoint buy some screening for stitching. There are two kinds metal (which is hard on threads) and fiberglass (which is easier to hold, stitch and cut). Remember though that the holes in screening are slightly more rectangular than on canvas, so your designs will be distorted. I’d go for geometrics here.
At supermarkets you can find many of the items mentioned above, but also look for chopsticks or bamboo skewers to serve as disposable laying tools.
Cooking oil and sugar make a great way to soften your hands before using silk. Take a teaspoon of sugar in your hand. Add oil to make a paste and rub it all over. Now wash well with soap and water. You wont believe how soft your hands are. My friend Elaine taught this trick to me.
Lunchboxes (wait until schooltime for this one) make great portable tool kits for needlepoint and make quite a statement as well.
Now that I know I can find needlepoint tools anywhere, I enjoy shopping even more!