Tools, Glorious Tools

toolsI love tools.

Truly, I do—I love the tools of almost any trade. I love hardware stores and catalogs like the ones I get from Lee Valley Tools and Rio Grande and the Yarn Barn.

In history museums, I love to look at rusty tools from the farm, the sawmill, the kitchen, the workshop. I like the familiar tools and the mystery tools, the ones now obsolete, where you can only guess what their work once was.

One of the best parts of starting a new craft, for me, is the necessity of accumulating the tools of the trade—poring through catalogs, searching eBay, poking through garage sales, coming up with elaborate ways to justify the cost.

As I’ve thought about the crafts and hobbies I’m most drawn to, I’ve noticed that I seem to gravitate to the ones that take the most tools. I wonder if the reason I’ve never really connected with knitting and crocheting is because the basic tools seem so few and, well, basic?

I also realize I like powerful tools—they make me feel competent. One of the primary appeals of jewelry making, for me, was that I got to use acetylene torches and wield big hammers.

And I love specialized tools—the tool that does one thing, perfectly.

I love expensive, high-quality tools because, if you can’t trust your tools, you can’t do your job.

And, if I can get a tool that is, itself, handmade and beautiful—well, that thrills me no end.

I love old, well-loved tools that show the evidence of the work they’ve done and human hands upon them—the wooden spoon that’s getting a little flat on one edge because it’s stirred the soup and scraped the pan so often, the worn spot on the hoe handle, where the hands always grip.

I find myself consciously appreciating certain tools, almost petting them. Just off the top of my head, I can think of favorites for almost any activity I engage in. When I find these favorites, I keep them safe, and I keep them close.

I think I may tell you about some of my favorite tools, at some point, partly because I love them so, but also because I want you to think about the tools you use and rely on and, yes, love.

Just off the top of your head, do you have special favorites? A paintbrush that’s special? A crochet hook? A fiddle, or trowel, or shuttle, or pair of scissors?

52 thoughts on “Tools, Glorious Tools

  1. A couple of years ago, Kerry, while I was stirring something our “original” (you know, wedding gift) wooden spoon just snapped right in half in my hand. And both my husband and I went “Ohhhhhh” in dismay at the same time. It’s just a wooden spoon but we loved it!! Yes, I get it about tools.

  2. I love my kitchen knives, and look after them obsessively well. Apart from that, I’m a shirker. ‘Why use a screwdriver when a broken knife will do?’ – is the sort of attitude that drives my husband, and probably you, mad.

    • Hear! Hear!
      I’m just like you, margaret21!
      I am obsessive about some things, but at other times, I’m just too lazy to walk to the garage for the right tool. I’d rather shave with a volcanic rock than bother loading a new blade into my razor.

    • Like you, I’m only obsessive about certain tools. Beyond those I’ll use whatever is at hand! And knives are one thing I am not particularly attuned to–I am not much of a cook, sad to say. Maybe if I spent some time with a really expensive, really sharp knife, I’d understand the appeal!

    • I have a couple of special tools, including scissors, set aside for hand sewing–I like the way I can create my own little world when I sit down and pick those items up!

  3. Beautiful photo!! Ha, favorite tool…I am devoted to many of my knitting needles and recently I admire on a daily base the Yarn Minder ( so appropriated re-named by you;0)) Have a great weekend, Johanna

  4. I love tools too. My grandfather was a carpenter, and I was surrounded by tools from birth! My grandfather said the same thing about tools (buy the best you can afford because you have to trust your tools!). One of my painting professors also said to buy the best tools you can afford, because it will allow you to rise to your materials. I like that, too.

    I don’t think I can pick a favorite tool! Maybe my hands? 🙂

    • Your hands are your most imports tools, no doubt! Take care of them–I’m at the stage where arthritis is starting to creep in. I’m also realizing that my eyesight isn’t what it was when I was 20!

  5. Not especially- I knit, crochet and sew. Well, you said it yourself- knitting and crocheting don’t really lend themselves to lots of tools, and sewing needles need replacing! Maybe one day I’ll get some nice tools for something 🙂

  6. Luckily for you, many of the weaver’s tools are elegant and functional, often made of wood with a lovely finish. That cannot be said so much for quilter’s tools, which tend toward tinted plastic. In fact, the only quilting tool I have that I consider elegant is my hera marker.

    • You’re right! Quilting tools are not inspiring, except nice scissors. I do have a fine wooden quilting hoop, on a stand–it pivots and rotates and is quite wonderful. I’m finding weaving tools quite seductive!

  7. You have one of the most philosophical minds of anyone I “know”.

    Reading your blog is like listening to Chris Stevens, the deejay character on Northern Exposure, ponder something most of us are either completely oblivious to or just never really thought about before.

    You see things that others miss, and then, after really thinking them through, you create consistently well-written posts. And by doing so, you force us to consider the aspects and details we’ve overlooked in the past. But more than that, you make us care. 🙂

    As an aside, I’ve always found it interesting (I think I learned this in junior high, back when the schools taught the things that matter) that one of the things that set us apart from every other animal on the planet is that we use tools. But, alas, this turned out to be a confusing “fact” since other primates, such as chimps, hit things with clubs. So maybe I was “misinformed” in school. Or maybe the teacher said something like “on a regular basis” … or that we are the only animals that “fashion” tools … or maybe he said that we are the only ones who use tools in outer space. I just don’t remember. 😀

    • Oh, Eric, you always make me smile with your nice comments! And I remember that stuff in school about “man-the-tool-user,” too. I don’t know if we were misinformed or if the understanding of animals has simply become more sophisticated since then. Buy, obviously, we need to look further, to see what sets us apart!

  8. liking the kitchen aid mixer and all its attachments 🙂 Probably the grain grinder is my favorite. And I like the soda maker, too. Like you, can’t pick a favorite.

  9. Me too! I would spend hours, when I could/should be simply creating, researching and searching for more ‘tools’…… Interestingly you me me think about my accumulation of tools and my thoughts settled on a very recent discovery that makes me feel a tad uncomfortable. I have several expensive ‘tools’ that were ‘must haves’ at the time and which sit now, in my revamped art room, on shelves in the storage cupboard behind the pretty Indian curtain. I have returned to the simpler, hand crafted way of making things. Discovering, perhaps a bit belatedly, that I love most of all fashioning things with the simplest of tools and with the skill of my hands. I guess the journey was necessary in order to make that discovery 🙂

    • Your distinction is a good one, between the basic tools and the fancier ones we get sold on! Maybe we should call one “tools” and the other “gadgets”–I will try to be more aware, going forward, of which I’m picking up and using. I suspect I’m drawn to the former, the real tools. At least I hope so!

      • An excellent suggestion! Henceforth it shall be tools and gadgets. I was drawn to the latter for a brief period, somehow believing they were necessary to make me a better paper crafter. As I became more and more immersed in painting and mixed media I realised once more I can make just about everything I need myself – no gadgets required. Time to move the gadgets on!

  10. I have some colored pencils that I bought years ago at a store for artists, I don’t use them too much, they seem so special to me, I just want them to last for a long time.

  11. I love tools too, and like you am fascinated by old tools that led former lives, wondering how they were used and by whom. I guess, other than my sewing tools I use for my business (which are newer but nonetheless very well appreciated!), I have a special fondness for garden tools. I really love my sharpshooter shovel and my folding garden saw (like this one at Don’t know how I lived without this for so long. It is the perfect blade for smaller limbs you want to quickly cut without dragging out the heavy duty stuff! If you know any gardeners – this is a must have tool. I got one for my 85 year old Mom and she loves it too!

    • I’m not a very sophisticated gardener but that sounds like a fine tool! I do know gardeners who are very fussy about their tools, just like I am about some of my favorites.

  12. I share your love of tools!! When I had my sewing business (bridal/formal wear), I regularly was asked to sew with beaded/sequinned fabric. Of course, a DSM will not sew such obstacles BUT an easy solution was found!!! A welder’s pliers is perfect!! The markings on the flat “paddles” even give you the 5/8″ you need for the seam allowance. Cut out the item then go around the cut edge, aligning it with the appropriate mark and smash!! The sequins/beads fall off and leave the thread that attached them so that it can be secured in the seam when sewn…..wha-la!!!!! Perfection!!!!! Who knew??? LOL!!!!! Here’s a link to a photo of the tool similar to mine. (

    • What an ingenious solution! And you’re right, that’s another angle on tool-love–adapting a tool for a new task. I can spend hours in a hardware store, fondling tools!

  13. Ooooh! We must be soul-sisters. I know what you mean about tools of the craft! Collecting and treasuring the tools are as important to me as trying the actual craft! I just found your blog…thank you.

  14. I do not know of any artist that does not like tools. The love of them are part of who we are. For me my grandmother’s thimble and my two favorite shuttles. I go into a panic if I don’t know where they are. Old tools, power tools or kitchen tools. Love them all!

    • I haven’t been weaving long enough to have found my special tools yet, except I do love my little Norwood loom. I’m just like you, though–I can always put my hands on the favorites of my tools, even if I haven’t used them for awhile. I’m usually fairly disorganized but not with those super-special items.

  15. I tried commenting while I was away…with no success. I love tools, all tools, old, new, with or without power and or technology. I admit the old handmade ones are the best but there is nothing like a good tool in my book!

  16. I love this post. Like an inspirational teacher, you always manage to fire up my imagination, helping me to bring out little forgotten parts of myself.
    Yes, there are tools which mean a lot to me. The first is a wooden tool which belonged to my Grandmother. It is a pork pie mould for making raised pork pies. I don’t know if you are familiar with one of these? I was born in Leicestershire in the Midlands. Melton Mowbray is famous for its Pork pies which are made using hot water crust pastry and the pastry is drawn up or raised around the mould. I treasure this worn, wooden tool which my Grandmother used. I also have her tools for making rag rugs.
    Something else which is really special to me was the time I spent at the Dorcester Museum in Dorset, the county where Thomas Hardy was born. The museum had recreated his study where he wrote many of his books. I actually got to see the pencils he used to write his novels with! And on each pencil he had cut of a slice at the end and written into the wood the names of the book he was writing. I found this unbelievably special and it took me so close to the great man, to his experience of writing and to the beauty in his soul.
    The mould, the tools, the pencils had been in the hands of people I love and it feels special to know this.

    • What great stories you have to tell! I didn’t know about pork pies–do you use the mold to make them still? I love these regional foods and how specific they can be to very small areas. I can’t believe Hardy did that thing with his pencils–how creative and how amazing that they still exist. I’ve been to museums that have recreated an artist’s studio, with brushes and palettes and all–there really is something spiritual about seeing the tools a great artist touched.

      • I have never used my Grandmother’s pork pie mold, or made hot water crust pastry. I think I am going to have to try now!
        I really love Hardy’s work and have been to visit the cottage where he lived. I agree with you that it means a great deal to be so close to the tools of his trade. I felt that his pencils were sacred.

  17. Q – I’m lucky in that a few of my favorite tools have been handed down to me. There’s great-grandma’s krumcake pan and lefse turner, grandma’s paintbrush from her 1st grade teaching days, great-aunt Cissy’s sock darning egg, etc. I really have too many to list them all. I love this blog!

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