Whenever I start a project, I get all the needed threads from my stash to save time. For my etui, I recently bought a small Christmas tin that was on sale ($1.50, probably will be 70% off after the season... will probably buy more when it happens :) ), it fits my scissors, threads I want to start working with, etc. and I can easily carry it around when I have to travel.
I usually start with the dark threads (from experience, when I did a more complicated project that took a lot of time to finish, I noticed that my light threads either faded or somewhat dusty by the time I finished, or maybe it's dirt from my fingers, hmm...) And it's usually the lighter ones that the shades change (I'm only using DMC) were more obvious. I once did an angel, the same number for the skin but the newer thread bought was darker than my old one :(
The pens are my miracle helpers. I line my cloth so my eyes don't get too stressed from counting squares. Warning tho, try it first on a small portion of aida cloth and spray with water to see if it disappears. It also comes in other colors, I prefer the blue one. I have not seen a white one yet, just in case I work with black aida, it would sure come in handy. The disappearing pens I bought from a craft store with a 60% discount coupon. It's a steal.
After I have rolled my cloth to the part I'm working on, I fasten it with these snack clips. I think I paid $3 for a pack of ten. They are so cute too!
If you have any tips please do let me know, I will really appreciate it.