The best tools and accessories to take when you travel with needlepoint
Like many of you, I always take a needlepoint project with me when I travel (sometimes 2). It’s relatively easy when going by car to one destination. But when you take a plane, boat or train – well it’s a little more complicated. If you’re moving daily, you need to be organized. And don’t ask about International travel . . . . Customs officers treat sewing scissors like machetes, and they think you’re hiding explosives in a non-clear bag. Last time I flew they went through my entire carry-on case because of a small needlepoint scissor. We made our flight, but I felt like a criminal. And that was before I saw the look on my husband’s face.
And, if you’re like me – I always carry the needlepoint on the plane, not chancing it will get lost. I can always replace those undergarments, but my needlepoint project, that's important! Having learned the hard way, I thought I’d share my tips for an organized travel kit that will get you through any airport. Read on and find out what to take when you’re traveling with needlepoint.
The fIrst thing you need is a clear plastic project bag.
Two would be better: one for your tools, and one for your project/threads. Helenz needlepoint project bags are ideal. They’re bound in colorful polka dots or plaid, and they zip at the top. You can get Helenz bags in a variety of sizes. They don’t rip like glad lunch bags and they’re fairly inexpensive.
First, pick a small Helenz bag for your tools. 6" x 5" is the best size. I carry my thread cutter, needles, laying tools, eyeglasses, and when I'm not flying, my needlepoint scissors. And, don't tell anyone, but I take one for my liquids when going through customs as well.
The appropriate size for the larger bag depends on the size of your project. You should measure the project from tip to tip, not just the design (with the stretcher bars on if using them). Then ADD at least one inch all around so that it closes easily. So, for my 5" x 5" Alphabet letter by Beth Gantz framed on two pairs of 9" x 9" stretcher bars, I chose a 13” x 10” red plaid Helenz bag. I even had room to enclose my smaller tool bag. The 13" x 10" size Helenz Bag is also ideal to hold your threads for a larger project, and they can be reused every time you stitch a new project.
Also available are a Helenz bag that measures 10” x 13.5” or one that’s 15” x 15” for extra space. All of them come in a variety of polka dot colors, blue or red plaid. If you’re ordering a Helenz bag at the time you purchase your project, add 5" to the design size. If having trouble, just call or e-mail us, we’d be happy to help.
Now the tools:
First you'll need needles. Take several – more than you think you will need. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost a needle in the hotel chair, or on the floor. And, some destinations don’t have needlepoint shops available.
You can purchase DMC Tapestry needles on our site . They come in small packages in three sizes: #18 needle for 10 mesh canvas, #18 or #20 for 13 mesh canvas (use the larger needle #18 if stitching with wool, the smaller for silk & cotton) and #22 for 18 mesh canvas.
JJ Pebbles - needle holders
We also offer John James Pebbles. Pebbles are cute containers to store your needles so they don't get lost. Each Pebble comes with a variety of needle sizes #18-22 which are perfect for our needs. And, you can replace them when we send you more needles with your next project.
OR – if you like bling, bring along a needle keeper. They’re placed on your canvas and hold the needles in place with a magnet. Of course, you’ll have to have the canvas in a project bag, just in case they get bumped off. (Flower needle nanny; santa needle nanny; caravan needle nanny; pumpkin cupcake needle nanny). And, of course, I usually bring all three.
A needle threader is a perfect assistant for those difficult fibers to get through your needle. Just slip the thin side of the threader through your needle and thread the hole in the threader. Once the thread is in the threader, slip it off the needle. Needle Threaders come in packages of 2. And, we'll provide one threader for you with your purchase of a Needle Pebble or Needle Nanny.
Something to cut your thread is the biggest challenge when traveling, especially if you’re like me & take the needlepoint on the plane. And, those plastic knives they provide with a meal, if you're fortunate enough to get something to eat, don't work. The best solution for cutting threads when you can't take your scissors is a Thread cutter pendant or Yarn cutter pendant. These round discs are not menacing looking – they look like a piece of jewelry my daughter would wear. If you’re so inclined, you can wear them by using string, rope or beautiful chain. And they cut well-- the space between the metal is a cutting edge. They come in 2 sizes – one for the finer threads and one for yarn/wool. They’re flat, and once out of the packaging, small enough to fit just about anywhere.
No matter where I go it seems there’s not enough lighting for me to stitch. So, I take along a HammerHead led clip-on-light. These clip-on-lights come in black, blue or silver. They clip on a straight surface and are light enough use with your paperback, in case you’re tired of stitching – although unimaginable. They also bend in any direction and can easily fold into your bag. They use AAA batteries which are easy to replace.
If you’re using stranded thread – yes even DMC Cotton floss, you may be using a laying tool. We will discuss laying tools in another article, but here’s one that’s small, not very pointy, easy to travel with, and won’t get flagged. It fits on your finger and is called a Trolley Needle Thread Controller.
Don’t forget your reading glasses – I can’t help you with those as we don’t stock them at this time.