Embroidery is one of those hobbies that can be super cheap to start up. What do you need other than a bit of leftover fabric, a three dollar hoop and a few 40 cent skeins of thread? Not much, honestly. You can usually find hoops and bits of thread at garage and church sales, fabric remainders from fashion stores can make great statement pieces, and a pack of needles can last you forever if you take care of them.
But! Over the years, I have found some tools that are so invaluable to me and the way I stitch that they are worth every penny, and even then are really not that expensive. A friend of mine is into leather working and can pay upwards of a hundred dollars for a good piece of leather. I sometimes pay 10 for enough fabric to last me six months.
The first two items together are my preferred method of transferring patterns onto most everything I stitch. I use Mona Lisa Super Chacopaper in both white and blue and a tracing stylus from Sublime Stitching to trace it out. Both these tools have serious advantages over the alternatives. The chacopaper comes in large sheets, is slightly waxy and best of all, disappears under cold water. The waxiness helps keep your work clean when you trace out your pattern; tracing paper that is dust based tends to leave everything slightly tainted under the paper, especially where your hand rests.
The chacopaper is super clean and only leaves marks where you want it to. I have also never had any trouble getting it to fade completely away under a cold tap, unlike some pens and pencils which leave a faint trail, which is especially a problem if you accidently mark up your fabric somewhere you are not intending to stitch. The tracing stylus has two different round tips, one slightly bigger than the other, which means you can trace out very dainty designs or a quick outline that you can fill in later. It doesn’t tear through the paper and doesn’t use up ballpoint pen ink and get your designs all penned up.The above pattern is a Pomegranate in the Round by Mary Corbett of Needlenthread.com. I was stitching over coffee with a friend, so the stitches aren’t very good. But look how clear the pale blue lines are!
The best part of using this combo is that there is no tracing involved. Instead of needing a fabric that is thin enough to see your design through, I can use a heavier twill which holds up to all sorts of stitching types and which doesn’t tear when I tug at a stitch too much (I tend to be a bit tense – this is why I gave up learning to knit and crochet). You instead layer the fabric, the chacopaper (waxy side down) and your design, and draw on the design with the stylus. You can tape all these pieces down with a small piece of tape if the design is detailed and might take a while. I usually like to trace out a batch of stuff at a time and have three four different projects prepped and ready to go. It makes trips and lazy afternoons even better when I can just pick up a project and run with it.
All my little bits and pieces tend to live in my Namaste Buddy Case, a small teal vegan leather case with a secret: both inside surfaces are magnetic! That means that if you throw a few needles and a pair of scissors in there and throw it in your bag, you don’t have to worry about anything falling out and poking you. This has happened more often than I would like to mention before I got this little guy. The vegan leather feels really nice and the inside is suede-y and soft. My ferret, Whodini, loves to try and steal it, which is why it has a few toothy battle wounds. Sigh.
All these products make stitching easier for me. All of them have paid for themselves time and again, protecting my ferrets from loose needles or allowing me to trace out very difficult patterns on even more difficult fabrics. They aren’t strictly necessary, but I love them to bits nonetheless.
(None of the shops above have asked for these reviews/endorsements, they are just too cool to miss out on!)