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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Pouches & Cases: They’re for Needlework, Too

 

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Not every needlework accessory or needlework tool needs to come from the craft industry.

Take, for example, the magnet wand (like this one I wrote about here). Buy the unadorned, simple magnet wand at a needlework shop, and it could cost you upwards to $14. Step over to a hardware store and you can purchase essentially the same thing for about $4.

Today’s case in point (hardy-har-har) is the pencil case / make up bag / pouch-made-for-just-about-any-other-industry.

This conversation came up thanks to a post over in my Needle ‘n Thread Facebook Community, where Sara Rossi shared a photo of her travel embroidery supplies nicely tucked into a pencil case.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

I thought I’d show you three (four, when you get to the end) pouches and cases that I use for needlework, that were not purchased within the craft industry – they are sold as pencil cases, make up pouches, even document carriers.

Many a time, I have been enticed by the nice, branded organizational bags, pouches, and cases found at craft stores and needlework shops. They often come with a surprisingly hefty price tag for what they are. Granted, if they’re a specialty item at a local needlework shop, you’re usually (though not always) paying for a higher quality item made from a small-quantity producer closer to home. But at most craft stores, a lot of the organizational goods they sell can be found in slightly different configurations elsewhere within other industries, for less.

It’s rather embarrassing to admit, but I have at least 8 of these types of cases around my studio, tucked in specific cubbies or baskets or boxes with specific types of things – like art supplies, embroidery kits, tools, and so forth. Some hold specific sets of “good” pencils or markers. Some are larger and contain the components of large embroidery projects.

Basically, I use them all to organize specific things.

The three above are my grab-and-go pouches. They’re smaller, and they fit in my tote-style purse.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

I used this first one-compartment pouch a few times for embroidery projects.

I could fit a 6″ hoop for a flour sack towel in it, add some floss and a pair of scissors in a protective sheath, and I was good to go!

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

Then I made the “mistake” of throwing in some pencils, erasers, and a small sketchbook one day for an outing, and it is now permanently my grab-and-go sketching pouch, for obvious reasons.

It’s a perfect sketch pouch, and I love it!

This is a simple zipper bag originally sold as a travel pouch for make-up.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

This is my favorite grab-and-go case.

It’s sold as a pencil case, but it works perfectly the way I use it…

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

…which is as a small kit to carry my hexies around. I can slide this into my purse and take it with me anywhere.

It’s much smaller, much more compact than the sewing box that I use for storing most of the project pieces.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

I can unzip the case and lay it out pretty much anywhere and have everything I need at my fingertips, for paper piecing hexies.

It has a fairly deep cavity for the bigger stuff, divided for organization.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

The divider comes out, but I prefer to leave it in for my uses.

I carry around a stack of pre-cut fabric, a glue pen, a spool of thread, my small pincushion (you can find instructions for making this pincushion here)…

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

…. some extra glue pen cartridges and my tiny scissors…

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

…a couple leather thimbles in the mesh pocket…

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

…and some paper forms in the closed velcro pocket.

It’s tidy. I love this case!

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

This case I’ve only used once so far. I successfully toted a flour sack towel (from my Festive Fall designs) in a 4″ hoop, all the threads, scissors, tweezers, needles and so forth in it.

It’s a bright and shiny nylon case with three zipper openings, and it offers a good amount of room for compact storage.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

The two side zipper compartments are not too deep. I found I could lay out my skeins of DMC in this side, using the straps there to hold the skeins in place.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

The center is the deepest part. A 4″ hoop and a folded flour sack towel about 27″ x 27″ fit in there very cozily.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

This other side zipper area can hold small tools. I had scissors here and a pair of tweezers.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

The outside of this bright and shiny case (hey, it’s easy to find if it’s in a large tote full of other stuff!) has two useless pockets on it. You can use them, but you need to be mindful of anything in them, because whatever’s in them tends to slip out.

It’s an ok pencil / tool / needlework travel case. It’s not super well made of high quality stuff, but it is affordable and it held up to being stuffed and toted around for a week or so. And I’m sure I’ll use it again.

I half-way thought about putting some drawing stuff in it, but it would ruin the case for embroidery use.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

This particular mesh zipper pouch I’ve had for at least five years.

I’ve seen these pouches sold at needlework shops. Before I ever saw one at a needlework shop, though, I found them at an office supply store, where they were sold for transporting documents. (I’m still trying to figure that one out.)

They were less expensive at the office supply store, where they came in a multi-pack. And they are less expensive still on Amazon. And they’re all pretty much the same.

I have several of them. I use large ones to hold the components of larger projects. I can even fit full stretcher bar frames in the large ones, along with all the threads and tools for the project.

Pouches and cases used for embroidery travel kits

Right now, this one is stuffed with two flour sack towels, a 4″ hoop, threads (the project is monochrome, so the skeins are loose), and a pair of round-tipped lace scissors, because I’m using my good scissors (which have a sheath) elsewhere.

So those are four pouches or cases that I’ve used very successfully for transporting needlework about. All of them make good grab-and-go project holders.

The one I’m using for my hexies is probably my favorite because it’s so very discreet and tidy. But the others are all functional and they work!

The take-away: look beyond the craft and needlework industry for organizational pouches and cases, especially if you want to put together a grab-and-go project for car travel, waiting rooms, long commutes, and the like.

What About You?

Thanks again to Sara for spawning this topic! I’d love to hear what interesting tools or accessories, storage or organizational items you’ve found outside the needlework and craft industry that work well for your needlework needs!

Or maybe what type of case you use for your own grab-and-go projects, if you have them?

Feel free to chime in on the conversation below with your own recommendations!

Where to Find Some of Them

You’ll find the case I use for my hexes and the mesh zipper bags available on Amazon. If you visit my Amazon Recommendations Page, you’ll find them under tools & accessories.

The link to my Amazon Recommendations page is an affiliate link, which means that Needle ‘n Thread receives a small commission for any purchases made through the links on those lists, at no additional cost to you.

 
 

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(47) Comments

  1. I use a telephone/pencil case from SmaSta for my tools that I need to travel with. It is compact, you can zip it closed and the best part is – it opens and stands up so that all your tools are visible and handy to grab. It helps to keep me from “spreading”. Here’s a link and I also have pictures of mine and how I use it.

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  2. Hi Mary,
    I have a few of those hiding in the linen closet…… but I must admit that I use a ziploc bag for my on-the-go projects. Not pretty, but does the trick!

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  3. I find most of my organizers at Good Will and Salvation Army! I choose ones that are washable and that have good zippers or snaps. Why even buy new? When my use for them is done, if ever, I just give them back again as a donation so someone else can get the benefit of them! I often think of these places as “rental” stores. While I am using what I bought, I’m basically renting it until I return it again to get something I like better!

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  4. Just wanted to mention that there is a similar situation when it comes to things needed for the disabled. Many specialized sources for such things are quite expensive, but a bit of imagination and looking around means a lot of things for the disabled can be found much cheaper elsewhere.

    I, too, find cosmetic bags – especially the TRANSPARENT kind – helpful when it comes to needlework because you can see exactly what you have inside, and differentiate between projects by colour.

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  5. One offbeat site for unusual pouches and containers is American Science and Surplus. They have a containers section with both soft and hard sided cases. The selection is rather haphazard because they are resellers of surplus gear – but I’ve found some very useful items there, at good prices. If you don’t mind an errant logo, or a past life as scientific or military gear, there’s wealth of options there. (No affiliation other than having bought from them before).

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  6. I use a worm bag for fishing lures. Sometimes called a binder. There are difference styles. Mine has zipper areas, mesh area, small compartments for needles, etc. These are light weight and soft sided. Easy to carry when traveling.

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  7. I use a hard plastic pencil case I found on Amazon (set of 4) for my tools.

    Emraw Double Deck Organizer Box – Small Items Organizer Box with 5 compartments Durable Plastic Pencil Box Small Plastic Pencil Case, Mini Organizer Storage Box (Random 4-Pack)

    It is two-sided, easy to open and keeps our Yorkie puppies from snatching my stuff.

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  8. I use a hard eye glass case. I travel a lot and have several projects going at once, each in it’s separate bag inside a tote. The eye glass case holds all the tools and notions I need for all the projects.

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  9. Thanks Mary! I’ve been thinking of replacing my embroidery tote with some kind of case but haven’t been happy with the high cost of the “designated” craft cases. I used to love the baby diaper bag I bought for my knitting and have been thinking there must be an equivalent, low-cost version for embroidery. Thanks for sharing the photos of your many cases. Great ideas.

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  10. My favorite project bags are the plastic mesh see through ones(your last bag), I have a ton of them in many sizes and colors. They slip easily in my purse or tote, keep my projects clean, and I can easily see which project is in them. Yes, the hand made bags are stunning and very useful(I do have one), but for me these are my choice.

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  11. I was lucky to find the plastic mesh bags at Dollarama for $1.50 here in Canada. The quality is just as good as the hefty priced ones I found in Florida needlework stores!

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  12. I reuse clear, plastic egg cartons for my balls of threads during transport and to keep silk thread spools organized while working on projects. I also use cosmetic bags that come with “gift with purchase”.

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  13. I started to learn Brazilian Embroidery with a group on Vancouver Island. I tried a variety of bags in which to transport my supplies to weekly meetings. I finally settled on my perfect bag, which turned out to be a diaper bag. It it grey and black so doesn’t scream diaper bag. It’s a backpack or the top strap allows it to be carried like a purse. It has plenty of pockets both in an out in order to organize my projects , threads and supplies.

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  14. I use the clear bags that sheets often come in for embroidery projects. They are just the right size and they are FREE!!

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  15. One of my makeup sampler subscriptions comes in a simple makeup bag. The “cute” ones I send to a friend’s niece for use as pencil cases. The plain ones are sewing kits, phone accessory organizers, etc.

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  16. For those who use spooled threads, plastic crayon boxes work well. Though I’ve only managed to fit 5-6 spools per box, it is see-through and has a lock at each end to keep the spools from going loose. The boxes are small enough to fit into medium/large project bags and inexpensive enough to have several (separate spools according to stitch plan).

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  17. I find the plastic Pencil Boxes (sold at start of school year) are great for holding all things dealing with a project (but I usually do needlepoint and it is larger than the 6 inch hoop). They are great for organizing threads and other things.

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  18. I don’t know why I never thought of using pencil cases before. I have a small, contact-paper-covered box for my embroidery/cross-stitch stuff that is not very practical for stitching on the go as the lid doesn’t fit well. It was my Nonna’s so it’s sentimental for me, and I mostly use it at home or on long car trips (my husband prefers to drive, so I get lots of stitching or knitting time in the car). I will look into a soft pencil case for my stitching supplies, at least for portable projects. Thanks for the ideas!

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  19. I use a tiny tin, like the kind mints come in to carry my to go project. I have a Hexie project I have been working on for a bit. Inside the lid of the tin I put a strip of stick on magnet tape to hold needles. I have a tiny pair of scissors, my thimble and a spool of thread tucked in there and can carry enough two inch squares with freezer paper hexes ironed on to make about three rosettes (21 hexies).
    I can slip it into my purse and off I go. I love this little box and refer to it as the world’s cutest sewing kit! I love tins to carry things in because nothing ever falls out. It is a tough little case and has been everywhere with me for years.

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  20. Since I enjoy sewing as much as stitching, I make my own. It is like getting 2 for one. #1 is the pleasure of sewing with beautiful fabric or even vinyl for a see through pouch and #2 is to enjoy using the pouch. I like the vinyl ones for my stitching project, right now, in use for one of the Fall Festival flour sack towels. I will post one on your FB page.

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  21. I love the double worm binder case . They may think its for fishing lures but its a lovely compressible soft sided case with handles that opens flat to display a huge collection of ziplock type storage bags held on rings and lots of pockets and small places to put almost anything. You can buy extra bags too. I use if for all my circular knitting needles , stitch markers… double points… tape measures ..etc. but it could work for any craft with lots of small bits that you want to keep clean and secure. Its a bit like the Tardis… bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside

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  22. Hi, Mary!
    My favorite hint is to use the zippered plastic pouches that hold new sheets sets & other bed linens. I like the large ones (form a blanket or comforter set) to hold a project on stretcher bars, and the smaller ones are great for grab-and-go projects. Some of the pouches have an interior pocket that is perfect for holding the project. pattern. I love that I am reusing something I would otherwise throw away, and that my project bags are free! Thanks for all the stitching insight and hints; your blog is my favorite!
    Cheers,
    MaryL

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  23. I use DIY stores for containers to hold Embroidery threads wound onto cards. You need to take a couple of the threads on cards with you, as there are variations between brands, and some fit better than others.

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  24. I like the look of that grey case!

    In terms of homemade options, I made a sew-together bag recently and it’s so much more useful than I expected it would be – and because I made it, it’s really pretty. Mister Domestic has a wonderful video tutorial for making the sew-together bag on YouTube because the directions that come with the pattern are terrible.

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  25. My husband travels frequently to conferences and international destinations. He is always coming home with zippered pouches and small cases that he gets as conference swag or even from airlines. Sometimes I even get interesting reusable boxes from his travels.

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  26. You know those zippered plastic bags that sheets, pillowcases and such come in? Yeah, they are very good for projects too. A big one I have, maybe a coverlet came in , is in use as a crosstitch bag. Even holds the large metal thingie, (pardon my advanced language skills) that holds my chart and floss symbol converter page with the magnets on it. It’s very sturdy, so check some packaging your stuff comes in!

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  27. I love when school supplies go on sale at our Fred Meyers! I grab up the mesh pencil pouches that hook into notebooks. You can use them by themselves, hook a few together with a ring, or even create a ‘notebook’ with a few in it for a tool carrier! Yep, I’m 67 and still excited when school supplies are on sale in our store!

    Thanks for all the tips you share!! -doni @ Oregon coast

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  28. The only thing I like more than having a variety of little pouches and bags and cases is organising my needlework into my little pouches and bags and cases. Such a wonderful past-time making them work ‘just so’. Thanks for sharing the love.

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  29. Hefty Zip Lock bags work for me. The freezer size is the one I use the most, ( it even holds my larger hoops) followed by smaller sizes for needles, markers and so forth.

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  30. Despite the cost, I went for the convenience and purchased a Yazzi soft case. Yazzi CA14 Craft Aqua Organizer. 6.5″ x 9,5″ x 3.2″. I’ve been using it for a variety of stitching projects over the last 2 years. I like the 5 individual clear plastic zippered pockets, some full size, some divided for storing my thread, pattern, scissors, thimbles, threaders and clips. Some pockets have two way zippers. There is room in the bottom section for both my wip and my headband magnifiers. It fits in my shopping basket and is easy to grab and get to work anywhere I like without losing any bits. There’s a double zip to close up the whole case and it has a small cloth handle for carrying.

    For other wip that aren’t going on the travel circuit with me, they live in hard plastic totes in a variety of sizes, some with dividers and layers, so they are stackable.

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  31. Thank you so much for putting the link for your Amazon Recommendations page in today’s actual post :o)

    I don’t know if it was my ad blocker or what; but I was having a hard time finding it, and I knew you had the towels listed… but whenever I clicked on the Amazon book at the top of the page I only saw that particular book – so was relieved to see the link today and headed over to browse and create a Christmas Wish List.

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  32. I often use laptop “sleeves” with handles, they’re smaller than a laptop “bag” and usually have outside zippered pockets I can use to hold thread, needlecase, scissors etc. I prefer them because they fit a larger hoop easily. I actually prefer to use stretcher bar frames, tho, which is what really prompted me to try the laptop holder route. The frames seldom fit well into smaller craft bags. The sleeves make a nice, thinking out-of-the-box alternative.

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  33. I have been using Ziplock freezer bags to put projects in for years mainly because they come in various sizes, are waterproof , and I can see at a glance what is inside . They are very light weight also. I write on the outside of the bag what is in it since the bags tend to look a lot alike. Happy stitching. Jan S.

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    1. Same here, qt size bags hold skeins of thread without too much bunching. I write the project name on the outside of the bag along with a list of the thread numbers. A sandwich bag is big enough to hold the tools needed with a piece of folded batting for needles and pins. These go in a pretty gift bag with hoop, fabric and pattern if needed. Pattern is in a sheet protector to save wear and tear.

  34. Hi Mary, I have a couple of pencil bags but I have to admit to using various sizes of ziplock bags. I use the gallon size to hold my fabric, hoop and pattern and quart size to hold my threads and other supplies. I like that I can write on them and see what’s inside. Perhaps not as environmentally friendly, but it works for me.

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  35. Hello! I saw a mesh zipper case covered with wool appliqué a few years back while in Houston for the quilt show. I came home and made one and then promptly made for all my wooly friends as they are perfectly sized to hold a project, needles, scissors and of course, glasses. I wish I could send pics.

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  36. I have a variety of project bags. I bought one mesh bag like yours, Mary, at a LNS and it was a bit pricey (why I only bought one at the time). Then I was thrilled to find the same kind of bags, but with lovely colored zippers at The Container Store. They are also not known for inexpensive items, but their mesh bags were half the cost of the first one I bought, and so I bought several in different sizes. I also have a variety of bags and pouches that I have made that I use. Right now my favorite project bag is a re-purposed cosmetic bag that I use for my tatting projects. It is oval in shape with a zippered lid that opens up. I have remodeled the inside and plan to use it as a pattern to make other small bags from when it begins to ‘age out.’ Thanks for all the ideals and inspiration you share with us.

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  37. When I start a project I like to gather everything I’ll need for it in one spot. I love back to school supplies. I go to my local dollar store and stock up on pencil cases and document envelopes. My pencil pouches are usually clear so I can see what I have. This year I bought a dozen in various sizes and the same with clear document envelopes. It’s great – I can grab and go.

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  38. If this has been answered somewhere else I apologize. I wonder if you ever get stopped by a TSA officer because it appears you are carrying a “weapon” on board a plane. Are there any regulations against metal tools, scissors, etc.

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  39. Dear Mary

    I can see how useful these pencil cases are even if they are not technically embroidery accessories but they are still important for organising embroidery items and useful for travel bags with your embroidery accessories nicely tucked in them. Thank you for showing us your pencil cases and for sharing with us their uses, I like the grey one with all the different compartments and I can see why it’s your favourite, it looks very compact.

    Regards Anita Simmance

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  40. hello Mary
    I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and developed a different folder to keep my bobbins of threads.
    I do them myself, because they are my creation.
    Sometimes my friends buy this folder to keep their threads. They are light and thin. Great for travel and classes. I abolished the boxes that took up a lot of space.
    Would you like me to send you one? I would like to send a photo. How do I?, Angela Garcia

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  41. I go to the local thrift store and find small purses for less than a dollar each and use those for my projects. Each is unique and therefore a bit easier to remember which one is for which project.

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