There are only a few tools that I absolutely need to cross stitch. I can get by with my cat's claw scissors, which are blunt so that they don't damage fabric or thread when they are closed and don't scare the TSA in airports. I also use a Lo•Ran flat metallic needle threader. The small end is good for cross stitch and the larger end can be used for needlepoint threads and needles. The cross stitch needles I use are usually John James Size 26 Petite. I also have Petites in 24 and 28, but end up using this size most of the time. I also tried John James Size 26 Petite Gold Plated, but out of the three I tried, two if them broke in short order, right at the tip of the eye. I am still using the last one for Hawaiian Mandala, but when that one breaks, I won't bother to buy any more. They do seem thinner than the non-gold plated ones. Of course for the actual stitching I need fabric and thread and a Q-snaps frame. I always rinse and iron my fabric before I put it in a Q-Snap. For most projects I just keep the thread loose in skeins in a ZipLoc project bag along with the Q-Snap and the above tools and a copy of the chart.
What items do you consider essential to your needlework that you keep in your stitching bag?
For most projects I also need my iPod (and Ultimate Ear headphones) and some Altoids (especially when traveling on airplanes). I am an Altoid junkie, but haven't made any cross stitched topped tins yet. Someday. My ipod is filled with music, but mostly I listen to podcasts on technology (Buzz Out Loud and MacBreak Weekly) and business (APM: Marketplace). I also listen to Lost podcasts (The Transmission, with a lot of information about filming on Oahu, and the ABC Official Lost Podcast), Heroes podcasts (The Ninth), and Grey's Anatomy (ABC's Official Grey's Anatomy Podcast [I love Shonda Rhimes voice.]).
Sometimes I can stitch directly from the chart if it is small like the ones from Bent Creek and Lizze*Kate. But if it is at all complex then I need bigger tools. I would rather stitch from a black and white chart. I can follow the symbols better when they are not confused with colors. The first thing I do with a complex chart is to scan it into Photoshop. Then I blow it up into large overlapping pieces and print them all out on 8 1/2" x 11" paper. I then use a single color highlighter (I like the fluorescent ones) to mark off the parts I have stitched. For Hawaiian Mandala I have dozens of sheets for the first part of the design. I'd rather have it "easy to see at a glance" than try to use fewer sheets. Since Hawaiian Mandala also uses dozen of silk and specialty threads, they are kept in Floss*Away bags with their color number and chart symbol written right on the bag. I only have the colors I am currently stitching by me and keep the rest of the threads and beads in their large plastic project bag.
In the case of Rouge, the chart is in color and there are are no overlaps in the charts. The next part I am working on is split between two pieces of paper, so I folded the excess and lined up the two pieces and photocopied the part I will stitch next. I am glad I have a color photocopier (and printer) because this chart is only in color.
If I am working on needlepoint I use many of the same tools, but I also add scissors for metallic thread and a tekobari, a long needlesharp laying tool from Japan. Instead of Q-Snaps, I thumbtack the canvas to stretcher boards. I also have hemostats (small plier like grabbers) for pulling tight threads and various measuring devices. I won't even get started on all the tools I have for quilting!
It's taken me a couple of days to get this posted. We lost our DSL and it took a while to get tech services to narrow down the problem. We needed a new modem which we got this morning. Boy, I thought modems were immortal. At least I mailed the 177 Westercon program participant invitations before we went dark.