Laying Tools Guide

brass stilettos, brass, stilettos, stiletto, Goldwork, Mellor, Gold equipment, gold, embroidery, equipment
Natasha Searls-Punter

Natasha Searls-Punter

Laying Tools

Who is using them and why?

Laying tools are one of the great secrets of an embroiderers tool kit. Many people don’t even know they exist but those that have used them rarely go stitching without one. At the London embroidery school we feel we have a few of the best and what’s better is we haver some new styles to bring to you.

Laying tools help you to reduce the amount you touch your embroidery to reduce the risk of damage or discolouration to your work. This can be particularly useful in the case of silk floss work which can get fluffy through over touching and goldwork which tarnishes and bruises.



Mellor, if you have looked at goldwork classes then you have probably come across this word and possibly not really known what it meant. Pronounced ‘Mel-Ore’, the mellor is a laying tool specially designed for us with goldwork to encourage the embroiderer to handle the goldwork as little as possible for fear of damaging it or discolouring it with the oils from the skin.

It is a little gold paddle shaped tool which has a smooth curved edge one end which can be used to reshape open curves such as those you might find if you are couching pearl purl for example. The other end is narrower but also rounded (so not to leave an corner impression on your bullion). This end can be used to encourage you stitches into the correct position with the point which fingertips may be too big to get into. This end can also be used to catch the thread under whilst you are pulling your thread with cutwork on it though the fabric so that the thread doesn’t twist or get caught up in the rough edge of the cutwork. This allows for even tension throughout your piece which will create a superior finish when all of your cutwork is evenly layed regardless of the direction you have stitched it in.

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Brass Stiletto

Slimmer and (arguably) more elegant than a Mellor, the Brass Stiletto is a more general laying tool. Often used for embroidery work using floss or stranded cotton like monogramming and silk shading where over handling will make the embroidery fluffy, rough or lose its shine. Stilettos are useful for easing the thread down with your non-pulling hand during a stitch, rather than just pulling it through from the other side. This makes it good for particularly twisty threads (metallic for example) as you can control the twist with the stiletto which helps to reduce the chance of knotting too. The blunt end if shaped asymmetrically to offer you both a narrow and a wide point for when you stitching needs a little encouragement in the right direction.



A favourite with dressmakers and pattern cutters, awls are a tool designed with making holes in mind. It comes to a sharp point to make a clean hole easily without much pressure which can be useful for techniques like plunging your couching work in goldwork. The wooden handle end means it is comfortable to hold during these tasks and so you can give it some real welly if you need to.



Rosewood Stiletto

The Rosewood Stiletto serves a a good all- rounder. It comes to a sharp point, so is good for making holes in more delicate fabrics like we do in Broderie Anglaise. It is more delicate than an awl, being made of wood rather than metal but it grows to a wider circumference up the shaft for making different sizes holes. The shaped handle has a nice hand feel meaning that it can also be used as a laying tool for your threads in the same was as you would use the brass stiletto (just watch the point doesn’t catch anything you didn’t want it to)


All these laying tools are available in the specialist equipment section of the website. If you are unsure about any of the uses above, get in touch or join us for a class and see what all the fuss is about.

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