A week or so ago, Mary Corbet at NeedlenThread talked about her needlework kit for travelling. She asked what kit her readers are using, and I’ll use this as an excuse to spill the beans. Also, I have gotten a shiny new purse for my needlework stuff and always like to show off ;-). However, writing this posting did make me think what I shlep along and why.
I have to say, I am not travelling that often or far, but when I do I take along some needlework projects to prevent boredom on rainy days. Exept when I’m going to music festivals of course ;-). But I spend 2 hours each day in trains on the commute, and do a lot of my needlework during this time. Also, I have no real workspace at home and just stitch or knit where I currently am for some reason. So it is important to have the stuff I need every day in a portable kit.
Having everything in one place is more important to me than keeping baggage to a minimum, I’m always dragging along too much stuff anyway so the needlework stuff makes no big difference. I don’t worry about flying because I rarely do that, and when I fly I happily put the needlework stuff into the checked in luggage and enjoy a a nice, long novel on my kindle.
Mary writes the most important things for her are visibillity, cleanliness and accomplishment. I don’t worry that much about visibillity. My eyesight is not stellar and has been even worse for long periods of time, so I tend to take along projects like knitting or coarse freestyle embroidery which won’t strain my eyes. I save the fiddly parts for the weekends at home when I get to work in daylight. I have a little LED pocket light on my key ring I can always use, and I don’t like magnifiers, they confuse me. For the sake of cleanliness I take along projects that can be washed most of the time. Hand wipes and hand disinfectant live in my day pack anyway. Accomplishment? Of course I make sure I have anything on me to do the intended work. And on top of that, a few things that make live easier or or allow me to start improvised projects when I feel like it. Also, I often change between projects on a whim and would hate to re-pack for specific projects. So for me, convenience is king.
Now here is my needlework kit. it is all in a little purse, 14 cm long, 7 cm high and when filled about 6 cm deep, with three separate openings/pockets. The other part of the kit is my notebook/sketchbook, a little moleskine clone. I do have a big, fancy studio journal at home but I don’t always carry this one with me. With all my stuff in it it is still small and light enough not only for totes or little backpacks, but also a handbag should I use one.
Now I have emptied it. Nice heap yes? Let’s have a closer look.
Now this is part of the stuff. I have two pairs of scissors, the ones with the plastic handles are japanese Kai’s, unfortunately not the leftie ones I would really need. They are as sharp and pointy as can be, and I strictly reserve them for snipping fine threads and precision cutting of fabric, such as drawn tread work or cut work. I keep them wrapped in paper, will have to get a proper sheath one day. The silver ones were really cheap, and are in fact semi-retired as embroidery scissors. I use them to cut thick knitting yarn, coarse fabric and pretty much any odd thing. I keep them around so I won’t dull the good scissors with such tasks. Also, they are dull enough that I can’t really hurt myself when the train moves in an unexpected way or I have to cut fabric in my lap. Then there is the small 6 cm spring frame. Of course I take an appropriate hoop with my project if I will need one, but the little one is so convenient for working on narrow samplers, or when I need to add just a few, say pulled work stitches to a project I work in hand for the most part. the little box holds a lot of security pins I use as row markers when knitting and instead of regular pins when an embroidery project needs basting. It also holds a few buttons, push buttons and similar stuff for clothing emergencies. When I really go travelling I also bring along a few small spools of sewing thread for that purpose. The round thing contains my needles, I use such a box instead of a needle book to save space. There is a really big tapestry needle as laying tool and for hiding loose ends in knitting, tapestry needles and chenille needles sizes 18, 20, 22, 24 and 26 two of each, a few darners for bullion knots and the smallest size crewel needles (no idea which) for beading and regular sewing. I prefer chenilles over crewels and crewels over sharps because of the bigger holes. I have yet to find a needle threader that works well for the smaller sizes, or coarser threads, so I don’t bother with those any more. With this selection I’m well equipped for most projects I can imagine. I don’t need a lot of each because I am not using a pin cushion.
Now to the next heap of stuff, the knitting paraphernalia. The white piece of plastic is used for measuring the knitting needle circumference. It is in here so I will know where to look for it when I need it. The pink cables are for screwing on exchangeable needle tips. It is always good to have a few extras of those, as stitch holders or when one breaks. The pink discs are stoppers to screw on these, in the zip lock bag also is the little key for fastening the needle tips. I have two cable needles, because I forget to include them in project bags and they also can be used as laying tools or ahls. The crochet hooks (size 1mm, 2,5mm, 3mm and 3,5mm) are there to catch lost knitting stitches, to slip beads on knitting stitches and to start crochet projects in case of terminal boredom. Their handles can be taken off so they fit in better. The reason I don’t carry knitting needle tips is that I prefer wooden ones which might easily get damaged from rough handling. I can always toss some in when I feel I might need them. the box of unwaxed dental floss is for putting lifelines into my knitting (I rarely bother but I always tell myself I will next time). For the non-knitters: that means at suitable points in the pattern, you lay an extra thread into your stitches so when you have to rip back because of mistakes the stitches are caught at this point and can be put back on knitting needles easily. All the knitting world agrees that unwaxed dental floss is the most convenient material for lifelines so I got me a box. I also have a little tape measure, you need that when knitting clothes.
Here is the remaining stuff. The little hair bands are used as stitch markers in knitting, I forgot to include them in the last pic. This is so not traditional, but they are soft so that they can’t get caught in the knitting or do other damage when you stuff a project in a bag recklessly, and are still stiff enough that you won’t knit over them when tired and not looking at your work. There is a little ball pen for writing I find cute and 2 fineliners for marking fabric and sketching. I will replace those with pigma microns because they are not 100% waterproof. Also, I have taken a leaf out of Mary’s book by including a few self care articles related to needlework. There is a glass nail file. The pocket knife on my key ring includes a mini nail clipper and emery board, but this one is so great for making nails really smooth. If you ever have knit with silk you’ll know why I like that. The lip balm stick is for my hands. I tend to have rough, dry skin, so that fatty stuff is good. It is much less likely to spill and cause a mess than a tube of lotion and works just as well. Of course I wipe or wash my hands after using it before stitching, it is not that important when knitting things that will go in the laundry later anyway. I had one before, but I never find it in the depths of my bag when I need it. The two big hair bands are for my long hair, when I have a bad hair day it keeps getting in the way of my work, and now I don’t have to use pencils or knitting needles to hold it together when I have forgotten my barrette. I already used all three things this week and am thankful to Mary for this idea.