Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Frugal Tip: How to save money on sewing thread

If you're on a sewing kick and (like me) go through 10 regular (400-yd) spools of thread in a month, you know that thread expense can add up. It's one of those hidden costs that you don't think about when you're starting a project.

After I went through those ten spools of thread in one month, I was on the lookout for a good way to save money on it. Even though I got them for $1 each on sale (a great deal considering they're usually $1.99 or more), $10 a month for thread is a bit more than I was willing to part with. I know, I'm cheap! :)

At any rate, as I was reading library books on the subject of machine quilting, I came across a tip that is worth every late fine I've ever paid at a public library! It's from the book Machine Quilting: A Primer of Techniques by Sue Nickels. If you're looking for the best book to introduce you to machine quilting, this is it. Don't let the cover fool you - it's not all about fancy embroidery machine stitches. It's the most practical, helpful book I've read on the subject. (And I've read upwards of ten, so you can trust me on that.)

But let's get on to the tip ... You've probably seen those wire hanger-type things that are designed to adapt cone thread to a regular sewing machine. Well, you don't need to buy that wire hanger-type thing to use inexpensive cone thread on your regular sewing machine. Check this out:

You simply place the cone on the table behind your sewing machine. Then place a bobbin either on the spool holder (which didn't work on my machine) or on the bobbin-winding-pin (whatever the technical name might be). Pull the thread through the little hold in the top of the bobbin and thread your machine as usual.

Here you can see how it works on my machine. You may have to experiment just a little bit for your machine, but it's fairly easy. You just want the thread coming from the same general direction as the spool pin usually feeds it.

In order to wind a bobbin with the cone thread, I simply threaded my machine as usual and held the cone in my left hand, just slightly behind the machine, on level with the top. It doesn't require as much coordination as it sounds.

I haven't had any problems with the cone tipping over and rolling around on the table. I'm about halfway through with the cone, so I'll be sure to let you know if it becomes a problem - and what solution I come up with. :)

So, how much money can you save this way? I bought this 3000-yd cone at full price (Hancock's) for $2.99. I would have paid $7.50 for that same amount of thread at the sale price (400-yd/each), and almost $15 for that same amount of thread at full price.

This thread is 100% polyester. Since I do most of my sewing with poly/cotton blends, it works great for me. If you do quilting with 100% cottons, you'll probably want to shop around for cotton thread on a cone. I didn't look for any, but I'd guess they're out there - and for a lot cheaper than regular spools. If you go to thrift shops as much as I do, you've probably even seen a few industrial-sized cones, too. They're generally as cheap as dirt in a thrift store, but be sure to check the fiber content.

I hope this helps you as much as it has me!


Shore Girl said...

Thanks for the frugal tip! I'll have to remember this for future use.

Anne Maskell said...

This is a fabulous idea. Thank you so much for sharing. Like you, I use a ton of thread in a short time, and the cost does add up. Since it is usually white or black on my machine, using spools will work out perfectly. Thank's for your sweet comment on my blog! I'm off to read more of yours. Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

that's a great tip!

...with ♥, SB said...

OH wow, I have a few of those cone things of thread. I bought them thinking that was what I was suppose to use {as you know im a newbie to sewing} so YAY for me, for loving your blog, because that is an awesome tip!

THanks for visiting my blog ♥ I love meeting people w ho have the same interest as I. =)

I am doing features right now on 'love-stories' {i know off the subject of sewing} so if you have a love story that you would like to share, please email me!

Ginny said...

This probably isn't the case, but you do not want to use serger thread for regular sewing. It has fewer plies, meaning it is thinner and more prone to breakage. When used on a serger, you are (usually) using three or more cones at once, which makes for a stonger seam than using just one thread for regular sewing. Based on the price you paid, I fear that you are using serger thread, and it would be a shame to put all the work into a project only to have the thread break. That doesn't save money in the long run. You can buy 6000 yard cones here ( that are more economical than the small spools, but equal in strength. Or you can wait for sales and stock up then. Happy sewing!

Sophia said...


Thanks for posting that information! I'll definitely check that out the next time I go to the store. (Unfortunately, they don't label this stuff very well, so once you take off the plastic, all the info is gone.) :)

Sophia said...

Wait! I did find a name on the cone after all. It is indeed MaxiLock, which is apparently a serger thread. According to the description on Joann's website, "Maxi-Lock Cone Threads are long lasting and high strength making Maxi-Lock one of the top serging and regular sewing machine threads. Able to withstand the high speeds and tension that accompany sewing this 100% polyester thread is sure to meet all of your sewing needs." So maybe that's why I thought to try it in my regular machine. I haven't noticed any problems with strength or breakage, so perhaps two threads (top and bobbin) is still strong enough. At any rate, this is good to know!

Anonymous said...

That's a great tip! I'm don't sew a lot, but I really have a desire to learn more. Your blog inspires me. :-)