How to Keep your Needles in a Row



Some of my summer break was spent cleaning and organizing my home, specifically our storage room. Like many other art teachers I know, I am a pack rat. I keep a lot of random items because I “might” use them for an art project in the future. (I finally got to use one of these random items for this project.) In addition to the random items I keep, I also have all of my binders and textbooks from college.

One of the totes contained all my book making supplies and coursework. As I was going through the tote, I remembered how much I loved book making. I asked myself, “Why haven’t I taught bookmaking to my students?”

I knew exactly how I could incorporate book making into my curriculum. I teach art history to my students at the beginning of each class. I decided this year; my students were going to talk and about art in their handmade books.

My students sewed their books together using tapestry needles. At the end of each class I count the needles to make sure that all 30 are there. Then one class period I forgot to count them and mysteriously four needles were missing the next hour. I decided I needed to come up with a way to visually display the needles so they were easy to count.

My solution? A custom made needle board!

The numbered foam allows for me and my students to visually see how many needles are missing.

Here are the supplies you need to keep your needles in a row:

  • Foam
  • Needles
  • Permanent Marker
  • Ruler

Easy Step by Step Directions:

  1. Cut the foam to the size you want. (I used a box cutter.)
  2. Divide the foam into squares. (Or rectangles. I wanted to be sure I had enough needles for each student and I wanted to be sure I had extra needles left over to replace in case there was one lost. I currently own over 30 needles.)
  3. Write a number in each square.
  4. Put a needle inside each square.

Voila, you’ve created your own needle board!
Hint: Keep the needle board close to you so you can remember to count them at the end of class. I sit the board on my desk.
If you have extra foam, you can create additional boards to organize other sharp supplies such as awls for book making.

How do you keep track of your needles for weaving or bookmaking?

Any other good suggestions for those special supplies that tend to mysteriously “disappear”?


Cassidy Reinken

This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • Cassidy, What a genius idea! I usually collect needles as students leave as their ticket out the door, but if I forget needles go missing on me as well. I love how you can visually see your needles. Love it! :)

  • Dawn Kruger

    I keep all needles in a small tackle box with lables for each type on the inside lid.  Make them easy to find and inventory.

    • I like the idea of labeling different labels.  Thanks for sharing!

  • I lost so many little plastic needles during my weaving unit I had to order more. I feel so silly because I have no method for organizing them. Now I do, thanks to you! 

  • n cahill

    I use a system something similar to yours: I use an inverted cheese box with numbered holes. I also have a rule with my elementary kids that I put the needles on the group tables and I pick them up. I don’t want the kids walking around with the needles (oh – the liability!) and by passing out/picking up I know exactly how many needles should be at that place because of the ‘body count’ at the table. You can see pix of my box at And by the way – it’s a prerequisite that all art teachers MUST posses the packrat gene!

    • I agree- my Mom is a retired art teacher, it’s in my blood to be a packrat!

  • Kdeterman

    Ooooo I love this idea! Thanks Cassidy. I have been keeping my tapestry needles in a baby food jar, clearly labled. I pass them out, they return them and I designate a student to count the returned before anyone walks out the door. I’ve lost a few, but your needle board will make it even faster/easier to keep track of them all. Sweet!

  • dette

    I used to do it that way but now i’ve gone one step further. All my tables are organised by colour so I would use textas in the colours for each group. each pollystyrene cube would have enough needles for each person at that table. At the end of each lesson the whole group is responsible for returning them complete to me. It also means they have a safe place to poke their needles while getting more thread or whatever rather than leaving the needle floating about on the table. This has worked so well I’ve now  made pin cussions with felt in each group colour Here’s a photo on my blog.

    • What a great idea, and that lesson looks like so much fun!

  • Alisa Blundon

    Just this week I was wondering how other teachers manage their needles. Thank you! This answered my question at just the right time!

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