I have a railroading tool, or to give it the correct name, a laying tool, in my cross stitch kit. And I use it all the time. But I don’t railroad my cross stitches. Perplexing, right?
Whilst a laying tool can be used to railroad, it can also be used for a whole bunch of other uses that make it one of the most underrated cross stitch tools out there. Considering they can be picked up from a dollar (but be warned they can also be really expensive depending on the type) I think they’re worth picking up, even if you don’t railroad. So, let’s go through their various uses.
Well, it was obvious we were going to start with railroading, wasn’t it? Laying tools are used to help place stitches nicely, and while this is mostly used in other embroidery stitches, you can use it to lay cross stitches perfectly. This has a whole bunch of advantages, but many people ask if they should bother railroading at all. Whilst that’s a discussion for a different time, the laying tool can still be used for it if you’re so inclined.
Not sure how to use a laying tool? Check out the video below:
The second advantage a laying tool brings is somewhat similar to the first. Metallic threads and glow in the dark threads are a pain to use, and whilst there are ways to make using metallic threads easier and tips for using glow-in-the-dark threads neither are as easy as simple cotton. By using the laying tool in exactly the same way as you would if railroading, you’ll have a much more pleasant experience and better final product. I should say though that you will probably struggle to railroad the threads, even if you do the same technique, specialty threads are just a pain like that.
The third use is another “official” use; blending threads. In the image below you’ll see someone combining two threads to blend them, however, if you look at the stitching, it looks a bit…blotchy. Now, that could be the style they were going for, however if you use blending thread to make a color DMC haven’t got yet, or trying a dithering technique then this just won’t do. This is where the laying tool comes in.
You will be railroading here, but you don’t need to railroad your whole project, just the blended threads. Trust me, if you’ve ever blended, its worth it.
However, if you wanted to bypass the laying tool here, using a double eye needle for blending will save you the trouble.
This is the actual reason I use my laying tool, and why I wrote this post. Knots suck, but they do happen, even if you’re doing everything you can to avoid them.
Most knots can just be pulled out, but this has two issues. The first is how you pull the thread. By pulling the knot out, you pull on the aida and thread, making the whole you just stitched through larger, and sometimes even warping the fabric. By using the laying tool with one hand you can pull the knot with the other (or visa versa) and be sure not to cause undue tension on the fabric or thread.
The second issue is fingers, or more specifically the oil on your fingers. We tend not to touch our cross stitches, only the needle, and while washing your hands is (hopefully) a major part of your stitching process, the needle only transfers a little bit of oil. However, if you get your hands right in there and touch threads and knots, expect oil transfer. The laying tool takes over the job of your fingers and avoids the nasty oil getting on your work.
Poking and Prodding
Sometimes threads just need a poke. It’s as simple as that. Maybe it doesn’t want to go in the hole? Poke the fabric to make the hole bigger. Maybe it just isn’t sitting right? Push it over. Whilst you can do both of these things with your cross stitch needle, needles are meant to go through things. A laying tool isn’t. That’s why its the perfect tool to push something around and make sure your stitching looks neat and tidy.
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I find using a skewer works on my cross stitch. Brilliant.
I use a 2mm square dp knitting needle. Works great.