As I've gone along, I've found that there is a list of items I always have on hand when making string art myself. I keep all these in a box, so I can pick it up and take it with me when I want (and it stops me putting bits down and loosing them).
The pieces that I make generally use sequin pins, which are very small and can be placed tightly together. This little whale for example is 10cm long from the end of his nose to the tip of his tail and there are about 3 pins every centimeter. With such a small space between pins, wrapping the thread around them and pushing the thread down are both difficult. Some of the tools I use are especially for working with pins, but could be used for any type of string art.
Here is my list of essential items for making string art (in no particular order).
1. Pliers - when I make my bases, I pre-drill the holes and add in the nails or pins afterwards, hammering them in to the same height. But with sequin pins a hammer is a bit much, especially when the pins are close together. I hold the pin lengthwise using the pliers and gently push them into the holes.
These are perfect when I bend pins and have to pull them out again. I also find them useful sometimes for pushing down the thread.
2. Lolly Sticks - useful for pushing down the thread. I keep a couple of sizes on hand.
3. Masking Tape - for taping the template to the base when I'm making guide holes with...
4. An Awl (the blue pointy thing on the left) - I tape the template on and then poke holes in it. This shows me where to drill the holes and also helps me get the same arrangement of holes on each kit. Can also be used for pushing down thread.
This is a bit too big for poking guide holes for sequin pins, so I use ...
5. A pair of Compasses - I use my old school compass (pair of compasses?) to poke the guide holes for sequin pins.
6. A circle cutter - originally purchased to cut circles in felt, I sometimes use this to poke the guide holes for sequin pins.
7. Clothes Pegs - These are just the thing for holding the thread in place if you need to take a break, or switch to another colour without tying off. Some people like to use them to hold nails in while they hammer, but that never really worked for me.
8. Nail Glue - I use this for two things; firstly gluing the end of the thread to the base (under the pattern) to keep it hidden; secondly to seal the tops of the pins after they've been painted. Sometimes I glue slightly on the string around the nails too, just to make sure that there is no risk of them slipping off the top.
9. I use these acrylic paint pens to paint the top of my pins; I also have 'sharpies' but I don't like the end result as much as the paint.
10. Hammer - even once I have made a base up with pins, sometimes they just aren't level and I very gently hammer them down.
11. Scissors - small scissors are essential
12. Old Mechanical Pencil - this is my number one item. Take an old mechanical pencil like this one.
Unscrew the top and take out all the insides (it has a spring in it, so you have to pull hard). All you need is the screw top and the body and you have the ideal tool for holding your thread.
Take of the end and insert the end of the thread at the top; pull it through and then through the top, which you screw back on (you could do it without taking off the top of course, but I just think this is easier). You then hold the end of the thread in your left hand (if you're right handed) and the 'pencil' in your right. It makes wrapping the thread around those tiny pins SO much easier.
13. Thimble - if just one pin is standing a bit higher than the others then I sometimes use this to try and push it down with my finger.
14. Small metal ruler - not only fantastic for measuring things, but also very good for pushing threads down.
15. Pencil - I keep this on hand for when I am making bases up and may need to make marks that I can sand off afterwards.