Tools of the Trade

With getting back into embroidery and tiny knitting and other handwork this year, I’ve been doing some shopping to make my life easier. I figured I’d show some of the new toys I’ve gotten recently and some old favourites.

A couple caveats here in how my workspace is set up. I work at the dining room table. Yes, this does mean I have to clean up what I’m working on if we want to pretend that we’re civilized people and eat at the table, and I have to clean it all up every week when we have people over for dinner and D&D. (Why yes, I do let my nerd flag fly proudly.) This means by nature, my set up is very portable and transitory, I do not have a ‘set up all the time’ work area. I also prefer to work at a table, rather than curled up in the couch with my embroidery, sewing, knitting etc. I appreciate being able to have my charts, coffee, notes, notions etc sprawled out in reach rather than falling into the couch cushions, or having a cat laying on them. It’s perhaps not as comfortable, but it works for me.

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The first and most beloved of all is my Ott light. Acquired on killer sale at Jo Anns a few years ago, I have a small gooseneck LED lamp that just sits on the table. It is light weight, it travels well, it is brilliantly bright and it makes everything I do possible. I adore natural light most of all, but the mix of Canadian winters, full time jobs and being the short house between two taller houses ensures that I do not have much natural light in my home when I have time to do handwork. Take (nearly) everything else away, but pry my Ott light out of my cold dead hands.

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A very new addition to the workspace is my magnifier. Until very recently, the reality of my extremely nearsightedness meant that tiny was fine, I just held it closer with good light. (See the Ott light above. So much <3)  Now with progressive lenses, and that whole ‘aging’ thing that none of us really signed up for, that’s not working out as well for me as it once did. It clamps to the table edge and it’s a 3x magnifier, which I’m finding just about perfect for my embroidery work. It has a built in light, but I find it far too dim to be functional for me. I am spoiled by my Ott light. (I swear it’s not sponsored.) Even though my house is not noted for its direct sunlight, I am trying to keep good habits of leaving its cozy on when not in use.

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The next new toy is my snazzy light table. Acquired for a pittance off Amazon (bad me, support your local retailers etc etc), it’s a smidge larger than a standard piece of paper, plugs in via USB (helllooo battery pack at events / Pennsic), and has 3 brightness levels. It’s about the thickness and weight of a cutting mat, and indeed, I store it with my cutting mats, because it’s that damn convenient. While it will not be amazing to trace a whole jacket’s worth of blackwork pattern onto, it is brilliant for smaller pieces, and honestly, big pieces are just a whole lot of small pieces put together. I expect it will be fine. Also, I feel as if I should mention that I do own other mugs, but that IS a favourite one, painted for me by Dagmar, I’m not surprised that it shows up often in photos.

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The next piece of super important kit is a bit more seasonal, but I swear I seem to find myself working with silk most winters, and winter = dry hands. Silk loves dry hands. It loves to catch on the dry spots, and pull apart, and stick and generally make your life absolutely miserable, so hand cream is vital. This is a very personal preference, so my favourites might be another person’s worst misery, but I tend towards hand cream that is not suitable for putting on right before embroidery. Or much else really. The super goopy, super greasy, wait for it to soak in for a while sort. I’ve a couple of homemade hand creams (one by me, one given to me by a friend), one that’s commercially available sort of homemade (shown above) and they all work well. I cover my hands before bed, and while I’m drinking my first coffee, when I’m not about to be doing much for a little while anyhow and it seems to keep the worst at bay.

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The next bit are even more personal than hand cream choices. Needle choice. And here I could mean knitting needles, could mean sewing needles. I really could say tool choice, because I’m certain that it’s the same for paint brushes and chisels and whatever else people use. Get the good ones. You don’t have to get the best ones, I personally don’t buy tulip needles, cause while they are amazing, I lose embroidery needles far too quickly to justify spending the extra, but get up to good. Crappy points, burrs in the eyes, nasty finish.. it all makes for a miserable work experience. Yes, it does mean I spend 20 bucks (or more) on a set of dpns. (This is a lot for a set of double pointed knitting needles, not crazy, just a lot to casual knitters.) It means that my good embroidery needles are about a dollar each (goodness, phrased like that, I really need to stop losing the damnned things!), but with how much time you spend using them, and how much nicer it makes the experience, spend the money. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not even that much money. Ditto with thread. Please throw out the 3 / 99 cent threads. Please. They aren’t worth it. The environment will forgive you.

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What the 3/99 cents thread deserved and got.

Alright, I think that’s enough rambling for the moment about my new (and old toys), I promise I’m also using them and toddling my way through February’s blackwork, I should have an update on that for you soon!

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