Your Basic Workbox

Your Basic Workbox

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In Your Workbox - Part 1

One of the most common questions I am asked is "What sort of things should I have in my basic workbox"? Well, this series of articles will look at your needlework tools - for both a basic workbox, and a more specialised one.

Firstly - what sort of workbox should you have? Well - I actually have 3. I have a large one that holds fabrics, and some tools that lives permanently in 1 place, a "hobby box" that holds basic equipment and a basket that I keep what I need for the project I am working on in.

Tackle Boxes are great embroidery workboxes - they are inexpensive, and have lots of great compartments. In addition, the plastic is wonderfully durable. I also have a love for sewing workboxes from the 17th century onwards - those wonderful pieces of furniture that have layers of shallow boxes in them for your tools, and then a lovely deep compartment for your fabrics. One day, I will even be lucky enough to have one!

Most department stores also sell plastic sewing boxes, that work just as well.

The important thing is that you are happy with it, and when you buy it, you can see how you will store your equipment in it.

So what sort of equipment do you want in the basic workbox?

Well, I would suggest the following

  • Hoops in various sizes
  • Needles - 1 packet each of crewel and tapestry
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Ruler
  • Scrap fabric in both a calico and an evenweave for practicing stitches and patterns on (your samplers!)
  • Bias Binding

Of course - you will need your thread, and fabric - but that goes without saying!

So - let's look at each item!


I suggest that you have 3 hoops - in different sizes. One 6 inch, one 9 inch and one 12 inch. These will do most of your projects. Get good quality hoops - check them before you buy them for flaws in the wood. Don't buy a hoop with a chunk out of it, or where you can see a split in the wood.

Make sure that your hoop has a good quality brass screw at the top - preferably one that has a notch across it that you can use a screwdriver to tighten the screw.

I try not to use a plastic hoop, as the fabric tends to slip.

Before you use your hoop, cover the inner ring with the bias binding. Use a drop of craft glue to fasten the end of the binding to the hoop, and then cover it with a second wrap. Then bind the hoop, overlapping each winding of the bas binding until the whole hoop is covered. Cut the end of the binding, and then slip stitch the end to the binding underneath.

This will help the hoop not to mark the fabric.

It is important that when you have finished your stitching session that you remove your embroidery from the hoop. This will help prevent marks on the fabric.


Needles come in many different types, and the sizes are numbered. Usually the higher the number, the finer the needle.

In your basic kit, I suggest crewel and tapestry needles. Get ones that have an assortment of sizes in them.

Your crewel needles can be used for most embroidery, whilst the tapestry ones are good not only for canvaswork, but also stitching on aida or evenweave - the rounded ends will push the threads of the fabric aside, rather than piercing them.


You will need 2 pairs - a small pair with sharp points for snipping threads, and a larger pair that you can use for cutting your fabrics. You should only use these for cutting thread and fabrics.

Pencil & Pen

This can be used for marking both your fabrics and charts to keep your place. A ballpoint pen is best - gel ink pens can permanently mark fabric.


For making notes as to width of stitching, etc.


To measure fabric, stitch count, etc.

Spare Fabric

This is your real sampler. These 2 pieces of fabric - one in calico and one in an evenly woven fabric - is where you will practice new stitches or complex patterns before you actually stitch your piece. It is where you can get the hang of things, and learn. It will also be a handy stitch guide and reference as you go.

As you can see, your basic workbox is not big - but the pieces in it are the basics you will need as you embroider - and as your stitching becomes more adventurous, your box will grow with more specialised items.

Is there anything that you would particularly like to see an article on? If so, please e-mail me with your suggestions.

Happy Stitching

Happy Stitching from Megan

© 2001, 2002 Megan McConnell

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