A laying tool is something that improves the look of your stitches. It's especially useful in
What do you use for a laying tool?
A big needle (a #13 tapestry needle - - the kind you'd thread with yarn to sew together a sweater you knitted) works just fine, or you can use a trolley needle, toothpick, plastic hair roller pick, a stick from a "Pick Up Sticks" game, a small-gauge knitting needle (like you'd knit a sock on), or a skewer from a turkey-trussing set. You can also use a tekobari, a Japanese laying tool which is very sharp (read: dangerous!). Or, you can purchase a laying tool. A great one is the Perfect Stitch (Gripit Plus) - - wear it on your non-needle-hand thumb. I've also seen some gorgeous ones at stitch festivals made out of exotic woods, as well as some made out of metal.
Some laying tools have sharp ends so you can use them as an awl. (Before you ask: to poke a hole in non-counted thread fabric preparatory to working an eyelet there - - laced bodices and merry olde England and all that.)
Note: A trolley needle is like a thimble, in that it fits over your fingertip, but instead of being flat for pushing needles, it has a sharp spike on the end. (Your one finger will look like Cat Woman's. In fact, in the recent Batman movie, the costume designer -did- use trolley needles for Cat Woman's fingernails!) This spike is dangerous, and a teacher once told me that she wears hers on her thumb to avoid accidentally poking herself in the eye (horrid thought!): if she wore it on her index finger and forgot it was there and reached up to scratch her eye, she'd be in a world of hurt.
For this reason, a trolley needle is not for me!!!
Here's how to use a laying tool.
Send the needle to the top of the fabric and pull the thread through all the way. Now bring the needle towards your navel so the thread comes out of the hole, lies on the surface of the fabric, and the needle points toward your body. Place the laying tool flat on the surface of the fabric, lying perpendicular to the thread and trapping the thread beneath it. Here's a diagram.
Hold the thread to the fabric surface by placing your thumb on the laying tool. (If you're right-handed, you'll be holding the laying tool against the fabric with your L thumb--or whatever finger you wish.)
With your RH, send the needle to the back of the work--STILL holding down the thread with the laying tool. As you pull the thread through, you will eventually reach the point where the laying tool is preventing your completely pulling the thread through to the back.
Now the tricky part.
Pull the thread the rest of the way to the back. As you do this, the laying tool will rise up from the face of the fabric and move toward the hole into which the thread is sinking.
As you pull the thread and slowly lift the laying tool, keep the laying tool still parallel to the plane of the fabric. This keeps tension on the thread, and the thread doesn't just twist any way it wants to as it goes to the back of the work.
Finally the thread will be pulled through as far as you can and the laying tool will be trapped beneath the stitch. Pull out the tool and finish pulling the thread all the way through to the back of the work.
Some stitchers use the laying tool to "stroke" the thread. This, they say, helps the plies straighten themselves out into a neat parallel alignment.
The tip of the laying tool also can be used to comb through the stands of floss to help them lie parallel. This is especially helpful when stitching with more than 2 plies, and I find "combing" more effective than "stroking."
To keep "ordinary" stitches from twisting--that is, stitches made with 2 plies of floss--I suggest railroading. It is quicker than using a laying tool. Railroading also "guarantees" that the plies will lie parallel, whereas stroking and combing or using a laying tool do not.
copyright 1996-2002, Martha Beth Lewis
Contact me about reprint permission.