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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The Organization of Stuff: Thread, Beads, Needles, & Tools


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It’s been a while since we’ve talked about organization of specific needlework-related stuff, and recently, I’ve had lots of questions come in about the topic.

There’s always the thread question: How do you store your threads?

And recently, with the article this past Monday, lots of inquiries on the bead storage containers in the photos.

But I’ve also had a couple questions about storing needles and about scissor storage and organization.

As it happens, I’ve written about all these subjects before. But for those who are new to Needle ‘n Thread, or those who’ve been around for a while and would like a reminder, I thought today I’d answer some of these questions on The Organization of Stuff.

Needlework Organization: Boxes & Tins

First, before we delve into specifics, I’m going to strongly proclaim my love of boxes and tins.

Never underestimate the power of a box or a tin for organizing and storing things like needlework tools, art supplies, the loose parts of projects that are underway, threads – on spools, in skeins, in little bags, unmarked threads, favorite specialty threads – and on and on.

A box or a tin, especially the decorative variety, can be a happy addition to any organizational situation where smaller bits and collections abound. I love to happen upon pretty decorative boxes or tins when I’m out shopping. To me, it can be the ultimate self-indulgent treat, to purchase a beautiful box that I know I will use.

Now, to just pick up boxes and tins and collect them with no clear use would be problematic. Eventually, you’d end up spending time organizing unused boxes and tins to no good end. So, be careful! They can be very pretty and very enticing, but if you haven’t a use for them, they really just end up being clutter.

Note: Square and rectangular boxes and tins work best if you’re looking for real storage solutions, because they fit better on shelves. Round and oval tins and boxes might look great for decoration, but they’re a pain in the neck to use for storage.

Note: However, I do use a couple of cute round tin buckets to hold pencils, pens, and rulers on my work table.

Needle Storage

Truly nothing exciting here. I really just store my needles in a photo storage box.

Needlework Organization: Needle Storage

Mostly, I keep them in their blister packs. The photo above is an old one, but things haven’t changed too much in this regard. I think the needle packs are more organized inside the box – they’re lined up by type and then by size – but overall, it’s really just a photo storage box.

Needlework Organization: Needle Storage

Since I use these types of boxes for a few different things (like my spooled sewing machine threads, labels, some shipping supplies, and whatnot), I try to make sure the fronts are clearly marked so that I can easily grab the box that houses what I need.

I don’t access the needle box too frequently. I have a couple pincushions on my worktable with various sizes of needles stuck in them, and those are what I generally grab when I’m working.

Bead Storage

I’ve written about my preferred bead storage solution before – this article goes into more detail.

Needlework Organization: Bead Storage

I use these bead trays above, that are available online through Amazon. You’ll find them on my Amazon Recommendations page here, under Tools & Accessories. I like both the 45 piece and the 80+ piece.

They may also carry them at JoAnn’s, if you have one locally, but they are usually a bit more expensive.

Needlework Organization: Bead Storage

I like them because I can clearly label each type of bead, and I can arrange all the little boxes according to color and then size and type, so that I can easily find colors and shades that I want to use.

Plus, the trays stack neatly in their own space and are easy for me to pull out when I want them.

Scissor Organization / Storage

Well, I don’t know about you, but for me, scissors are useful tools that don’t really get stored.

The scissors I have are the scissors I use. And it’s true, I have a few pairs of scissors, but they’re pretty much always out and available, no matter where I happen to be working.

Needlework Organization: Scissor Storage

I have different types of scissor and tool caddies that sit on my work table, where I stick my scissors… and my back scratcher!

(You’d be surprised! A back scratcher comes in handy for Way More than back scratching. I use it to pull cords or close curtains that are beyond my reach because of my weird furniture arrangement in the studio. And, when I drop something between tables or cabinets that would require moving the furniture to retrieve it, the back scratcher comes to the rescue. It’s a tool I use practically every day.)

I also put scissors in trays that hold my current projects.

I have a pair of embroidery scissors in my car. And a few pairs at home.

I don’t store them or organize them a specific way. I just use them!

Thread Organization

When it comes to thread organization, I keep my threads in these Bisley cabinets that I wrote about here.

Needlework Organization: Thread Storage

They’re terrific. I’ve had them for a long time now, and I really like them. I don’t plan to change from this system any time soon. The cabinets are an investment. I need at least one more, but it will be a little while before I add to my current collection.

Needlework Organization: Needle Storage

You can see them against the wall in my storage room. They keep all my threads clean and tidy and out of the light. They’re called “collector’s cabinets” because they are suitable for housing collections of things like baseball cards and other items that you don’t want affected by wood or plastic or light. I think any similar steel storage cabinets would work. I just like the size, look, and functionality of these.

In the US, they’re available through the Container Store for around $219 for the 10-drawer cabinet. I prefer the 10-drawer over the 8-drawer, because the top two drawers on the 8-drawer are so shallow that they are not super useful.

They also carry them on Amazon, but they are decidedly more expensive. I have them listed on my Recommendations page under Tools & Accessories, too, if you want to read more about them there.

And That’s That

Of course, there are a gazillion other ways to store needlework related things. This is just the way I do it, for those who are curious. I’m not obsessive about storage and organization.

Mostly, my goal with storage and organization is that, as long as everything has a place and is more-or-less in that place, then that’s a good thing, because it keeps my work time more efficient. I don’t like spending time chasing down things I know I have, but can’t find. I also don’t like spending time having to constantly organize. So I try to keep things in their places.

When it comes to thread, I am more concerned about the method of storage than I am for all the rest. I like the thread cabinets I use because they keep the threads out of the light, free of dust, away from anything corrosive, and I can label the drawers for easy access to what I’m looking for.

This article contains an affiliate link to my Amazon Recommendations page, which means that Needle ‘n Thread receives a small commission for any purchases made through that link, at no extra expense to you.


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(12) Comments

  1. Im so impressed with your organizational skills. I used tins and decorative boxes, but discovered that I couldn’t remember what was in each of the tins, so I switched to clear totes and clear containers.

    What ever works, but I totally agree it is easy for cute containers to become in need of organization. That becomes a big problem.

  2. Hi Mary ! I love storing my needlework accessories in decorative tins and boxes too! You are well organized girl ! I especially had to laugh when I saw the back scratcher! I too, have one at reach with my scissors and other tools. It also has a telescopic wand that pulls out. Mine is a women’s hand with a blue gem ring on the ring finger, ha! I use it for pulling things back to me when they fall (too lazy to get up ) ! An occasional back scratch too ! Lol Just got a good giggle when I saw that !

  3. Love storage ideas. I’m a beader, tapestry weaver, and now an embroiderer. I was glad to see what you store your thread in as I have a little 5 drawer bisley. I moved out miscellaneous craft items & put in the thread I’ve already accumulated. I also use the same Elizabeth Ward bead storage as do many beaders & I can vouch for it’s practicality. I need help in setting up my workspace which is a chair with a very small table on one side & a floor lamp , a floor stand, & a small trash basket on the other. I keep my supplies in a tray balanced on the corner of the trash container as the table is generally holding a pattern/book, phone and a glass. It’s not working very well. I’d love ideas from anyone or place.

  4. I absolutely love that Elizabeth Ward bead storage system. I bought my first tray of the tiny containers in January (after finding your old bead storage post here) and then over the summer I bought another one of those as well as the one with the mixed sizes of boxes (because some of my bead colors were overflowing the tiny boxes). I’ve made around 35–40 of the Mill Hill beaded cross stitch Christmas ornament kits this year (I may be an addict, LOL) and my bead collection is starting to be pretty big. One tip: the labels are designed to go on the _bottoms_ of the boxes. They stick much better. (They tend to peel off the white plastic tops.) I don’t know why they don’t include instructions to let you know. I had no idea until I saw this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCFqByCT8lI

    Just before I read your article about bead storage I had ordered some of those little vials with screw-on tops. I tried them out on some of my beads and decided I didn’t like them; the Elizabeth Ward storage is just so much better! But I did finally find a use for all the vials I’d bought; I’m using them for needle storage. Each type of needle has its own vial and they fit perfectly in the top level of my big blue DMC sewing box (which sadly appears to be discontinued). I store most of my tapestry needles and crewel needles (the sizes I buy in bulk) this way plus a few others. I put a label with the manufacturer, type of needle, and size on the side of the vial, along with a much tinier label on top of the cap. The rest of my needles I leave on the cards and store them in one of the drawers in the same box. I should take some photos and put them on Instagram at some point.

    1. Whoa!!! WHO KNEW?!?!? I am so glad you told me this. LOL! I had no idea that the labels went on the bottom of the container. Funny! I’d like to see pics of your needle storage system. Sounds great.

  5. I read one of your organizing articles that was such a fantastic solution for me. By putting each project into its own bag with everything you need, it’s always ready to go, whether from one room to another in the house or on a trip. I don’t have a lot of duplicate scissors and needles, so I also have a bag that holds all the common accessories and I just move that around with whatever project I’m working on. I’ve done the same with other crafts—I have an embroidery tools bag, a quilting tools bag and a knitting tools bag. Each has all the items common to those projects and my works-in-progress are all in their own bags with all threads, yarn, beads or other specific materials. Such a great idea. I love your site, your suggestions and your tutorials. I’ve learned so much about a hobby I absolutely love now that I’ve given myself permission to just go with it. Now to get organized on thread storage…! So happy to have found you!

  6. Tins are my weakness. They’re the perfect size to tuck a tatting project in my pocket, Dorset buttons, etc. I’ve actually bought a product, colored pencils, guest soaps, just for the pretty tin. My sister had a makeup subscription that was packaged in pretty boxes that she saved for me. They’re the perfect size for floss, ribbons, needles and I have stacks of them. I have a weird memory and can locate supplies without labels but the decorative boxes and tins make me smile.

  7. Hi! I´m sorry to say that the bead storage does not seem to be available, at least not from Amazon. Just to let you know, I love your site: lots of tips on all aspects of needlework 🙂
    Thank you for your efforts and your very lovely work, it is an inspiration:-)
    best regards
    anna-barbara kress, Helsinki, Finland

  8. I’m currently using a hinged metal tin that can fit on my lap to hold my supplies when working on small projects away from my favorite workspace.

    With the help of strong magnets to hold things in place I can work just about anywhere without having to continually dig through bags. I also used string and tape to hold the lid at a useful angle for displaying patterns.

    When working at my main workspace I generally keep my patterns on my “lapdesk”(the fabric covered binder I keep my current project patterns and supplies in) to make more space on my table for supplies.

  9. Dear Mary

    The tips and techniques of storage solutions is fantastic I like all of your storage ideas especially the scissors. I have a vey small living space and don’t have much room for extra storage for needlework accessories. So I have a cabnet with 10 draws 5 small 5 big. my threads go in the DMC folder which you wrote about once. My needles are stored in a a small wooden box which my Niece bought me, my beads are all stacked in one of the cabinet draws, my gold is stacked in another cabinet draw and I have a tray under my computer for all various needlework related accessories. Very small but contained. Thank you for your tips and techniques on storage and for sharing with us how you store your accessories.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  10. Hi Mary,
    Do you know where I can buy a tiny, lightweight pair of scissors in a scabbard on a chain to travel with? I had a pair and loaned them to my daughter. She can use them for travel also, so I thought I would buy a second pair for myself. I ordered a pair from Amazon and they are much too big and heavy. I wear them as a necklace when travelling.
    Thank you!

    1. I would check Etsy or similar sites. Also, Golden-Hinde in the UK carries them. You’re looking for “Chatelaine” scissors. I know there’s a pair out there that’s about 2.5″ inches. I think it’s a Norwegian design, so maybe search “chatelaine scissors norwegian design” or something like that? Hope that helps!

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