Of vintage threads and wooden bobbins….

Those of us who come from stitching families are likely to have inherited various bits and bobs from aunties, grannies or other relatives. We may even have inherited whole sewing boxes filled with old reels of threads and other miscellaneous objects – some useful and some not so much. But approach old threads and floss with caution.

Threads tend to become flattened in storage on the spool and so if you use them in your machine they’re unlikely to run very smoothly. The quality won’t be as good as modern threads and they’re likely to snap. So it’s best to accept that thread deteriorates with age and use a good quality modern thread in your sewing machine. It is possible to use both old threads and floss in hand stitching however, though do be aware they may not be as colour fast as modern brands and if they’ve perished at all they may well break when put under stress.  And also (being perfectly honest here) you may not particularly like the colours or even the texture of these older threads.  Thread is, however, very easy to remove from the wooden bobbin with a craft knife.  Just slice down through all the thicknesses of thread on the bobbin with your knife (watching out for fingers) and simply peel it away.  It’s just so satisfying to do and you’re left with some lovely vintage wooden bobbins all ready to reuse.

I’ve created many projects using vintage bobbins – from the very simple, such as the image at the top of this post where I used them to display tiny scraps of vintage fabric that I couldn’t bear to throw away.  I simply folded and wrapped them around wooden bobbins and secured them with a stitch at the back so they could easily be unwrapped and reused.  Then, back in 2012, there were the cotton spool mice, still one of my all-time faves….

And in the following years, the Mini Cactus Planters and Henny Penny and Friends projects….

As well as various others.  In fact I’m beginning to think I have enough cotton spool projects to put a new style pattern collection together for those, like me, who love these reminders from their mum or grandma’s sewing boxes.  I think that displaying your work on a bobbin/spool/reel (I seem to use these words interchangeably!) makes an imaginative alternative to a hoop, and I’m very much looking forward to displaying my Carol Singing Bobbin Mice this Christmas…

As well as incorporating these vintage bobbins into projects, I also use them on a day-to-day basis to store my floss.  Sometimes, no matter how careful I am in pulling thread from my skein, it does become tangled or, as I use it, the bands may slip off and are likely to become lost. If this happens, then I like to wind the skein onto one of my wooden bobbins.  I’m not fond of the flat plastic bobbins as I find they leave kinks in my floss, but this doesn’t happen with the wooden bobbins….

And, so I don’t forget what colour the floss is, I fold and tuck the numbered band into the top of the bobbin where its natural springiness ensures it remains put and doesn’t slip out and become lost.  So if you spot a vintage bobbin in one of my work-in-progress images, then it’s not there as decoration, it is serving a very practical purpose..

And finally, I do hope you like the little felt owl, sleeping peacefully on top of his (slightly larger) bobbin. He is a project for the September edition of the Bustle & Sew Magazine that’s published in just under two weeks time.  Vintage bobbins are readily available from eBay or if you prefer you can purchase new wooden bobbins in various sizes that are just as suitable for all these projects.



😍 I have jars full of wooden thread spools. I made teething rings of them for my now grown children. Probably not such a good idea I now realize. Also not such a good idea was sewing a dress with the old thread and getting in the car for church to the sound of snapping threads along my outer thighs. 🤣😂 lesson learned.


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