I want to share three of my favourite needlework gadgets with you. They may not necessarily be Italian, but I got them all and learned of them all in Italy so this is how they tie in with my blog.
The first is a small awl:
This awl is about 3 5/8" long, the handle is plastic and the metal shaft is a bit rough, that is, it's not perfectly smooth, its got a few burrs - so I wouldn't go near any silk with it. I was advised to use it to count ground threads on high count fabric (38ct shown above) when doing hems or other drawn thread areas. Count over 10 (or however many you like) ground threads and push the awl into the fabric between the ground threads. You are left with a little hole which stays visible for quite awhile. This is extremely handy when calculating or counting out Four-Sided Stitch-based hems or any other counting really. I think the roughness of the shaft of the awl helps in keeping the hole visible by roughing up the threads just a bit so that they don't fall back immediately into place. Once you do your stitching, washing and ironing, there is no trace of the holes.
The second gadget is also related to drawn thread work, it is a long shafted, ball point needle:
My ball-point needle is about 1 7/8" long and is used for withdrawing threads. (Click on the photo for a close up look) They come in varying lengths and also with wooden handles. It is the best thing ever! I used to use a regular #24 tapestry needle for withdrawing threads but sometimes I'd have to slide the needle under the thread 5 or 6 times before pulling up at the right moment to pull it out as the thread would slide off the end of my needle. Now with the ball-point needle, the thread doesn't slide off the end and I'm able to go much faster when withdrawing my threads. The length of this ball-point needle makes it very easy to hang onto. It has revolutionized the way I prepare my drawn thread work channels!
The last item is again related to drawn thread work and hemming. It is a plastic adjustable finger shield called a Salvadito in Italian:
It wraps around your finger so it will fit any size. Placing the shielded finger under your work means that you can stitch "scoop-method" without stabbing yourself when using a sharp-tipped needle. It took a bit of getting used to but now I don't hemstitch without it, whether I'm using a tapestry or sharp needle. The Salvadito makes the going so much faster as the needle just glances off the plastic below - no stabbing, no catching.
Where to get these gadgets?
Well, I bought the Salvadito at the Italia Invita Forum in 2007 but I see they are at Lacis in California, under Thimbles.
The long-shafted, ball-point needle – which I understand are hand-made, I ordered from Tombolo Disegni. Click on "Negozio/Shop", then "Aghi", scroll down to the third row, they are the "ago/aghi con la punta a pallina". Send an email request to order.
For the little awl, I don't know what to tell you. It was a gift to me from a lady in Ferrara who bought it at her local Merceria which is like a haberdashery or notions store. There is no manufacturer's name on the one I have. I have tried using regular awls but they are too smoothly finished and do not leave the holes for long in the fabric like this one does. If you know where to get them online, will you leave a comment below?