Treasured Tools of the Trade

As I mentioned in Possibilities, a recent joy of mine has been collecting tools and oddments associated with needlework.

It is so much fun to come across these tools, used mostly if not exclusively by women, which were integral to their Making. I love the real materials they are made of – the heft of the metal, the solidness of their construction. And in so many there is a real beauty of design. I treasure them and have been using them with my own work; there is something special about using these tools that have been part of hand crafting for a nearly a hundred years or more.

A Susan Bates stitch and needle gauges for knitting and crochet, the ubiquitous standard. Same for the plastic stitch/row counter. I have had these for several years and they have served me very well:

But the gauge is made of very bendable, thin aluminum. And the plastic row counter always feels cheap to me when I have it next to my hand knits – so much work and such beautiful yarn seems to deserve better accompaniment.

Now look at some examples from years past:

A modern pine darner, unfinished:

It looks washed out and without character to me! Contrast with these two beautiful oak darners from my great-grandmother’s workbox:

A little rust and signs of wear that she actually used them to darn socks. I love that they are part of my collection and use.

One more:  a Jahncke’s Mitrailleuse knitting needle case:

This is likely from the 1880s; I am charmed by the brass end caps, beautiful enamelling, and the stylized printing on the case.

And there are even a few of the original “knitting pins” still within!


Do you have treasured tools for your crafts and making – be they old or new? I’d love to hear about them.



Although I haven’t mentioned it here yet, a few months ago I started offering some of my handspun and a few possibilities in a little shop on Etsy: MinkRoadMonkeys.

I haven’t done any promoting, just let the thing float. And along the way a thing or two has gone to a new forever home with much joy from me.

Well what do you know, but the wonderful CharmTopia selected this yarn, which I am now calling “Blue Berries”, to be featured in a Treasury List she created “Blueberry Surprise.”

How fun! Please check it out as a way to say ‘thanks’, and also because I’m sure you’ll want to see the pretty blueberry-ish things on her list up close, as well as the really beautiful jewelry in her shop.

Sweet Suprises

One of the greatest, unexpected joys of collecting my new generation of Possibilities is the excitement I feel when they arrive, and more than that, what I find as I open the boxes and packages and see my new treasures in person for the first time.

The standard was set for me by the lovely Kathi of 5gardenias when she sent my Favorite Cups last year.

Since then, many packages have arrived containing various things. Sometimes Possibilities, sometimes fiber, sometimes a gift for someone else… but they all have been an adventure.

The first time I received a package from England, I was beside myself with joyful glee. To have a little packet sent half-way around the world just for me, filled with little special things… and a cool international shipping label. Well, it’s hard to beat that.

Some things have arrived in shambles, or nearly so. There was an open wood crate of vintage “haberdashery” findings sold by a new mom, who was upside-down with her brand-new baby and had her husband package and ship my purchase. In his inexperience, he just wrapped a sheet of bubble wrap around the whole shebang and shoved it in a shipping box. Thankfully, other than some tangled threads and general jumble, everything survived the journey without damage.

The sweet new-mom seller and I both got a good laugh out of that one. (And I’m guessing that her husband got a “tutorial” on How To Ship Things.)

There was also a vintage wood sewing box that wasn’t wrapped well and was just shoved in a USPS flat-rate package. It arrived quickly, but because it was sliding loose in the shipping box it got a dented chip in the back of the lid. It is so sad when such things occur.


Yet even here there were surprises.

Needles hidden under a little lidded compartment, which weren’t shown in the listing pictures. What was a red blob in the listing pictures turned out to be an emery strawberry, quite on its last legs, but all-the-more treasured by me for it.

And the intricacies of this vintage embroidery hoop – lightly oxidized metal and the completely unexpected felt inlay on the inner hoop, which I’ve never seen before. I’m guessing it was intended to keep the fabric from slipping and also to protect it a little from creasing and the wear and tear that all hoop frames wreak upon the fabric.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Sweet Surprises. Little arrivals that soar far and away past anything else out there. These are particularly charming when you least expect them, and usually the outer wrapping is quite unassuming and no indication at all of the treasures that lie within.

One example of this is a gorgeous polwarth/silk roving, custom-dyed just for me (!) by of Three Waters Farm. I received a plain ‘ole box.

But inside….

Soft muted colors of a winter’s daybreak, wrapped in robin’s egg blue tissue with a ribbon and kind note.

There was another package from Kathi, this time of glass buttons that I will use on a stole or sweater that I’ve spun and knit myself from that polwarth and silk roving above. As usual, the whole experience was one of beauty and layers of discovery.

Most recently was an unassuming little package sent all the way from Wales.

I’d selected a few items from Sophie’s fun shop on etsy, Pratt’s Patch. As luck would have it, one of them was her 100th shop sale. This started a fun little exchange over email between us, but I was not expecting what I saw when I opened that little box. The very first thing I noticed was that it smelled like flowers.

And looked like them, too!

What a sweet woman – as a little extra gift for being her 100th purchaser, she sent me three vintage thimbles. Each is unique and beautiful.

A sweetly gorgeous collection of notions, one that I will always remember receiving.