How can an embroidery tool be controversial?
Well, controversial might be an exaggeration – it’s not as if the use of a specific tool for a hobby is a matter of serious debate or anything, and a tool’s use is hardly a matter of principle on which we’d stake our lives.
But surprisingly, there’s one little tool that I think is super-handy for embroidery, that weighs in on a love-hate scale.
There are lots of people who use these tiny tools all the time, whose stitching lives wouldn’t be complete with them, while others avoid them with vehemence.
I fall on the side of over-use of them. I love ’em. I use ’em. I rarely stitch without ’em.
I present to you My Case in Favor of the Magnet.
Probably the most obvious and common use of the magnet in the needlework world is as a needle holder. Stick a pair of magnets on your work surface – one above the fabric, one below – and you have a perfect place to temporarily hold needles that you’re using on your project.
For those who do counted work, magnets also make great chart holders, and they can double as place holders on a chart. Simple, useful, effective.
But the humble magnet is more than just a needle parker and more than just a chart holder.
When I’m stitching on a big frame, I always have at least one very small, very strong pair of neodymium magnets on my frame. And I mean strong – those flat little shiny ones that feel like they’ll pull your fingernails off when you try to separate them.
This little pair of concentrated attraction holds needles, yes…but they also hold my scissors, so I don’t have to forage around for them on my table or in a tool caddy. They’re right within my sight and I can pick them up immediately. The scissors won’t fall to the floor, even if I flip my frame over.
Just make sure to place the magnets at the at the top of your frame, within reach, but out of the way of your normal hand and arm traffic.
For this to work well, you have to use a pair of strong magnets, as craft magnets won’t always hold the weight of a pair of scissors.
But wait! There’s More!
I also use this pair of magnets to hold other Needful Things temporarily. I’ve found them absolutely indispensable on Late Harvest.
Remember this portable and pretty bead tray I made ages ago? It’s a tacky Beadalon bead mat, cut to fit inside a flat gift tin.
Even when I’m working with my frame at a precarious tilt, I can plop that tin and the beads within onto my trusty magnets on my work surface, right next to my beading area for easy access.
The beads stay put on the tacky mat and the mat stays put in the tin and the tin stays put on the magnets. It’s a terrifically convenient situation.
I’ve even left the bead tin there accidentally, when flipping my frame. No problem. Beads, mat, and tin all flipped back successfully!
A Couple Magnetic Cons
There are some cons to using magnets.
The most frequently encountered one for me is the subsequent magnetization of Everything.
Once you use a strong magnet to hold your scissors or needles, the scissors and needles become magnetically charged, which means that they’ll enjoy an unhealthy attraction for a short while.
Every time you reach for your scissors, you might have to check for needle parasites that hang onto the blades or handles. This can be annoying. But I find it a temporary annoyance, worth putting up with.
Another con: if you use electronic equipment around your embroidery – camera, smart phone, tablet – a neodymium magnet can cause damage to those things. Craft magnets that are a lot weaker aren’t too dangerous, but the very strong neodymium magnets can cause problems with electronics. I’m always very aware of the location of my magnets in relation to my camera and the like.
Those are about the only cons I can think of for the average embroiderer – but you might know others?
Are you Attracted to Magnets?
Whenever I’ve written about magnets or magnetic needle holders or the like here on Needle ‘n Thread, I’ve always heard from folks who love the things and from folks who hate the things.
Where do you fall, and why? Do you use magnets? Do you have any good advice for stitchers on how to use these little tools more effectively or efficiently? Do you have any reason why stitchers might consider avoiding magnets altogether? I’d love to hear your insights! Feel free to join the conversation below!