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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Powerful yet Beautiful Embroidery Tools


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As I was trucking along on this embroidery project I showed you on Monday, finishing all the line stitching and venturing on to the satin stitched berries, I decided to put two powerful – and yet very beautiful – embroidery tools to use.

I’ve mentioned these tools and their maker before, but this particular set of tools is so intriguingly beautiful, so luxurious to hold, so exquisitely balanced, so smooth and glassy while being nicely weighty… aaaaahhhhh! I just have to share them again.

aficots and laying tools for embroidery

I’m talking about the aficot and laying tool above – these beautiful wooden tools hand crafted by Jeff Roberts. The more bulbous tool is called an aficot, and the long, slender tool is a laying tool.

I wrote about Jeff’s tools several years back, here, when I first experienced them.

Prior to using Jeff’s tools, I had written in detail about the aficot here, and way back, I demonstrated how to use a laying tool here.

aficots and laying tools for embroidery

The laying tool is primarily used to guide threads and to keep them from twisting up as you stitch. It’s a very useful tool if you’re working the satin stitch using more than one strand of thread. It’s also a useful tool for guiding cranky threads that want to bunch up as you pull a stitch through.

A laying tool will help you place stitches exactly where you want them, when you’re working through areas requiring very precise stitching.

The pointed tip of a laying tool can also be used as an awl or stiletto. It can be pushed into fabric to open up the fabric into a larger hole.

The laying tool normally requires both hands free while stitching – you work the needle with one hand and the laying tool with the other. It’s most comfortable and convenient to use, then, when you have a stand supporting your hoop or frame.

While the laying tool is pretty well known in embroidery and other needlework pursuits, the aficot is not a very well known tool. In fact, it used to belong more to the world of lace-making than to embroidery, but it is useful in both realms.

In embroidery, it makes a wonderful thread burnisher for satin stitch. Using the curved, smooth tip of the aficot, you gently rub satin stitching (in the same direction of the stitches) to smooth them out and help them sort of “meld” together and look satiny.

Is an aficot an essential tool? No, probably not. But it’s a very nice tool to have, especially if you do a lot of satin stitch!

aficots and laying tools for embroidery

What do I like best about Jeff’s tools? I love his choice of woods, but ultimately, it’s his craftsmanship that I especially admire.

I love the details on the laying tools. I love the perfect, glass-smooth finish of each piece. I love the way they balance so well in the hand. They not only look exquisite, but they are wonderful to hold.

This particular set is black and white ebony. The wood patterning is Fabulous.

If you’re looking for Jeff’s tools online, you’ll find them in his Etsy shop, Boxwoodruler. Be aware that many of the pieces are made to order, so don’t expect immediate turn-around, unless the tools are in stock at the time you place the order.

So that’s a bit of tool talk this morning! There’s nothing quite like working with good tools, is there? And you know, the right tools can surprisingly change your perspective on things.

For example, I dreaded the gazillion satin stitched berries ahead of me on this project I’m working on, until I took these out. But now I’m actually enjoying all those satin stitched dots and looking forward to getting back to them.

I admit it:

I love beautiful tools!


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(3) Comments

  1. I have Mr. Roberts’ Brazilian Tulipwood set. It has been a joy to use for several years now – and a joy to find another project with stitches that will provide an excuse to use them!

  2. I just received my aficot and laying tool. What a delight! They are super smooth and the wood (and the way he cut and shaped it) is stunning. He was clearly watching how it would appear–the wood grain, the abalone–the details just keep seducing! “Have nothing you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”–William Morris

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