Stitchers' Tips

From Linda: My combo embroidery/sewing machine came with a pack of green plastic bobbins. I bought an extra pack (you never have enough bobbins) in multi-colors. I picked out the few green ones, and I use them only for regular sewing thread. The multi-color bobbins are reserved for embroidery threads only. This makes it easy to spot the difference, and I know I have the right thread at my fingertips!

From Suzanne: I generally don't use Madeira thread. Every time I use a design with Madeira thread, I convert the color to my thread and I write it down. Eventually you have your own conversion chart from Madeira to whatever thread you have. I sort it out on the computer and print my list. Much faster when converting your design to sew. Your own custom conversion chart.

From Pat: Make "tubes" from stretch fabrics such as rib trim or Lycra to slip over embroidery thread reels to prevent the thread from unraveling and tangling.

From Linda: When cutting jump threads on alphabet letters, I stop the machine after it has jumped and sewn a few stitches for the next letter, then cut the jump thread. Not only do I save time, but I don�t damage the stitching.

From Jeniffer: While making free-standing lace to match embroidery on a cushion, I discovered, to my horror, that the thread in the lace turned out a very different color from the embroidery, even though I used the same thread. It took about 3 years to find a solution. When dissolving the water-soluble stabilizer from your lace, add a tablespoon of washing soda crystals to the warm water. This will keep your thread color its natural shade.

From Sandra: When I'm working on a freestanding lace design with many color changes, I've found that it's difficult to keep the matching bobbin and thread spool together. I solved this problem by taking a 3/16" dowel and cutting it in 3" long sections. I then insert the dowel section in the spool with the bobbin on top, that way they stay together.

From Joyce: When cutting those tiny jump stitches inside lettering, I find using a manicure scissors works best. The pointed end allows me to "pick up" the tiny stitches and cut closely to where I need to be.

From Nancy H.: My new "favorite" tool by my embroidery machine is a very tiny (#12) crochet hook. It is great for catching and lifting the jump threads for clipping, especially the very short ones!

From Joyce: I like to scan in the designs I stitch out, into my computer, so that I can see up close what the actual design looks like. I save each image into the respective folder, so that when I go back to that design, I can make whatever changes to suit the next project.

From Pam: If you need to do some hand sewing, thread the needle first, then cut the thread from the cone, it stops the thread from getting tangled.

From Ellen: Print out a color image of the design so you can match/change colors before sewing. It's easy - just click on the selected design and print. 

From Christine T.: Cone nets can be expensive and tough to find. I use knee-high nylon stockings to keep my serger thread feeding correctly, this also works with large cones of embroidery threads.

From Cindy: Keeping the empty thread spools has it's benefits. Not only do they make a great kitty distraction, I use them to empty bobbin thread on to so I can use another color. This saves me from buying a bobbin for every color, and not waste thread.

From Debra: With the winter static making my thread fly away, I keep a used dryer sheet by my machine and rub it on my hand, then run the thread through my fingers. No more flyaway's!

From Jan: Sometimes, even using the thread cap, my top thread would still get tangled. I finally used a piece of sticky tack at the base of the spool to hold it tightly. No more thread problems!

From Connie: I have my threads on thread racks. I place snack-sized Ziploc baggies over the top of my spools. This helps keep the dust off of my spools that are on the racks. I also use clean cookie tins to hold spools of thread in that I am using. If I'm not done with my project, I place the lid on the tin. I don't have to go searching for my colors again and it keeps the dust off the thread.

From Julie: I work in a building that is very dry. To keep myself from getting shocked by the machine, I brought in a small humidifier to put moisture into the air. It benefits the plants too!

From Jeannie: If you are having trouble with thread fraying or balling up, put it in the freezer for a couple of days it will put the moisture back into the thread.

From Ruth C.: At the end of a project that uses matching bobbin thread, I use a golf tee to keep the bobbin and the thread together. I simply put the bobbin on the tee and then insert the tee into the spool of thread ready to use on the next project. No more hunting through my bobbin case and trying to match up the colors.

From Joann: I had looping issues that wouldn't quit. Finally, I purchased a new bobbin case and the looping has stopped. The old case had some dents and a chip from needle breakage.

From Shirlene: I know most of us have heard of using bee's wax to prevent thread from tangling. But, have you heard of this? Run a threaded needle through a fabric softener sheet before beginning to sew. It is quick and fast and very simple. Keep on stitching!

From Darla: Before using a spool of thread for the first time, insert a pencil or pen into the holes. This "seals" the label inside the hole and keeps it from coming off so easily.

From Rita: When it's time to change the thread color and you snip the thread - don't pull up from the cone area and re-wind the cone with the now long thread tail. Instead, cut again close to the cone and do pull down the thread from the needle area. The reason behind this is that the thread sensor may get all tangled up in thread and then your machine will do all kinds of wonky things and not sew right. Tangles occur by thread being pulled too quickly through there (hey - we've all been in a hurry before and just yanked that thread outta there, I know!) or perhaps the thread is just barely starting to fray a bit for what-ever reason. Pulling it backwards now will make it just that much more worse!

From Char: I use a lazy Susan to arrange my embroidery threads for design sequencing. When I need to repeat a thread color, I use an empty bobbin as a spacer in the sequence so that I don't accidentally skip a color. Another option to color-mark the repeat color space is to place a similar color regular thread spool in the space.

From Jeanette: I use my seam ripper to remove tangled or old thread from bobbins. It's much faster than unwinding the thread.

From Terry: To stop loose spools of thread tangling, I use a small amount of Blu Tack. I stick it to the side of my machine when I'm using the thread, when finished, I replace the tack. Leaves no residue.

From Sheila: I find that when my bobbins have small amounts of thread remaining, I usually use that thread in place of the thread on the spool when the color or white is called for. I free up my bobbin and there is no thread waste!

Tip from Joyce: Place your threads into a freezer type zip-lock bag and put them in the freezer until you're ready to use them. This keeps the thread from drying out and causing easy breakage.

Tip from Pat: I acquired a really large clear plastic container with a lid that came from a warehouse retail chain. It holds a portion of my sewing thread that I've collected over the years. You can find the color you need at a glance and it helps keep dust bunnies away.

Tip from Ellen: I have a Bernina machine and they have two different color bobbins. I use silver for regular thread and gold for embroidery thread, leaving no question when I am ready to use them.

Tip from Kris: I buy pre-wound bobbins in bulk. To store them so they are easy to get at, I use a small thread box and just stack them up on the spindle. The lid keeps the dust off and makes them easy to get at in my drawer.

Tip from Barbara: I take all of my decorative threads, separate them by type, and put them in freezer bags. You generally don't have too many of any one type, so the bags are of good size, and sturdy. You can also write on them with black magic marker. Then, I just put them in my drawer which holds specialty threads.

Tip from Johanna: I keep a roll of masking tape by my side when I have to tear out stitches. I use the tape to clean up the small thread pieces left on the material. It also works great for those thread ends you trim away after embroidering a design.

Tip from Christine M.: I hate to waste thread that is left on a bobbin or a spool when it's not enough to use on the machine. I take a piece of scrap batting or felt (I square it up with pinking shears, so it looks nice) sew a ribbon on the top as a hanger and hang it on a hook on the wall (or wherever it's convenient for you). I then put the threads on it; the threads will stick to the batting with little effort. If I need to use the thread, I just pull it off the batting. I can also put the needle with the thread into the batting. It makes it very convenient to have a variety of threads to sew on buttons, or to make quick repairs. I no longer feel guilty about not being able to use up the small amounts of thread left on the machine bobbin or spool.

From Gert: I have a wooden spool rack that holds 40 spools of thread. With a fine marker I numbered them 1-40 under each peg. Now when embroidering a project that uses oodles of colors, I take the rack to my shelf of threads (and my color chart to match colors not my brand of thread) and of course the pattern. Then, I select the color and put it on the tab corresponding with the color number of the pattern. The rack proudly stands behind the machine and I can easily see which color change is next. Just make a note of the numbers when same color is used more than once. It's much easier than spools rolling around and trying to keep them lined up. It's also a huge time saver on large projects.

From Diane:  When I am done sewing with a thread color, I put the bobbin with a pin on the top of the spool so I am ready to sew with that thread again without trying to match it up.

From Pat:  When sewing with metallic thread, put your thread as far away from machine - on the floor, behind or on the side. This helps with less tension on the thread.

From Beverly:  Pull a long loop of thread out to the side of the cone, twist about 3 times forming a loop place. Take the large loop over the top of cone and pull the loose end through it. Cut any excess. Works great - no more rubber bands, tape, etc.

From Annabell:  When I first started embroidering, I bought a rayon thread collection of about 120 tall spools. My husband made plywood bases with 18 pegs to fit in the bottom of plastic shoe boxes with snap-on lids. The thread is dust-free and organized by color, and it is easy to see what I need.

From Therese:  Whenever I purchase any of your designs, I print a copy of the order details page. It's the one that comes up after you've paid and has all the wonderful thumbnails. I keep all of these in a separate index binder. Then, if I ever have any trouble with a design file (can't seem to locate it or whatever), I just look it up in my index and can immediately see the order date, go to my order history, and spot the same date and re-download the design I misplaced. I can then finish my project quickly, and when I have more time, locate the duplicate and delete it from my files. It sure helps when I'm pressed for time. This is a very helpful feature (holding our order histories on file) that Embroidery Library has on their website.

From Beth:  I'm an embroid-aholic! I sew almost every day on one of my three machines. I keep a desk-type clear (scotch) tape dispenser on my sewing table to tape the ends of my jumbo spools of thread when I'm switching them out during embroidery. I find I can re-use the small bit of tape from one spool on the spool I'm unloading up to three or four times, and it saves time unwrapping mesh covers or struggling with the eaten ends in the snap spools. So handy, quick, and convenient!

From HC: I had my husband attach a plastic thread storage case to the wall so it was flat, with the latches at the top. The pokies inside the box keep the thread in place even when you open up the box. It replaces the need for a flat horizontal surface which quickly gets used up.

From PJ: To keep your spools of thread and bobbins stored without unraveling on you, buy a bag of ponytail holders in many colors. They are the soft cloth elastic ones; not rubber. You can get a bag of them for $1.00 at the Dollar store.

From June: I use a black permanent marker to mark the slit in the thread spool so that it is easier to find when I am done using that color spool.

From Ann: If you store your metallic thread in the freezer overnight, it is much less likely to break or tangle.

From Lana: I use a Hot Wheels carrying case for my thread and I also label the  thread number on the lid. Therefore, when I need a particular number/color, I don't have to go through each and every thread spool in the box. Works great.

From Cathy: When I start a project, I do two things first - grab a new needle, and then make sure that I have two bobbins done so that if I run out of bobbin thread, all I have to do is reach for the next bobbin. This saves a lot of time.

From Christine: When I wind a bobbin to match a thread, I want to make sure that I can match it up when needed in the future without too much trouble. My husband came up with a great solution. I purchased dowels small enough for the bobbin and thread to slide onto it. I bought a few clay flower pots and put Styrofoam in each pot. I then poke the dowel into the Styrofoam. I now can slide on the spool of thread and bobbin and keep stacking others on top. It not only makes my sewing easier, it is a colorful addition to my sewing room.

From Melinda: I have attached L-hooks (from the hardware store) to a large piece of soft-board and attached the board to my sewing room wall - away from sunlight. I hook all my embroidery thread on the board.

From Amy: To keep your bobbins from unwinding thread all over your sewing room, you can either buy those expensive bobbin keepers, or you can go to a hardware/home improvement store and buy a roll of 1/2" clear plastic tubing. Simply cut a little "slice" off of it, about 1/4", and then snip it open so it makes a "C". Simply slip it over the thread on the bobbin and your threads won't unravel. A 10 ft roll will cost less than $10!

From Christine: When using a pre-wound bobbin, I will write on the cardboard bobbin how many stitches I used. I now have an idea when I go to do the next project if there will be enough on the bobbin. This has helped me in time and prevents wasted bobbins.

From Ruth C.:  I have found that running your thread through a fabric softener sheet stops it from tangling. This is a great and inexpensive way to prevent this problem.

From Sherry: I wind a small amount of each of my embroidery thread colors around an inexpensive cardboard card that is used to hold embroidery floss. Mark the card with brand, type, size, color number, or whatever identifying notes you need. Push the holes out & place on a large metal ring (the kind that has a hinge in the middle & the 2 ends snap together). I then put a hot pink permanent marker dot somewhere on the original thread spool so I know that I have "carded" that spool. I wear the ring as a bracelet when I go shopping so now whenever I stumble across a great embroidery thread sale, I know what colors I can buy so I don't end up with duplicates.

Tip from Christine: When I see that I am getting low on my embroidery or sewing threads, I make a list with the name of the manufacture and color number, and I clip a piece of thread and tape it to the list. I now have all the information and if by chance they don't have that manufacture of thread I need, I can match it up by color with another company. I also carry in my purse a copy of a embroidery thread chart that I got online. It has all the major thread companies and shows what is closest to the color I am looking for. This has saved me many times from having to go to another store or wait to get the color needed via mail.

Tip from Trish M.: I use plastic sheet cake takers (I bought mine from Wal-Mart) to store embroidery thread. It's inexpensive, holds a lot of spools upright, the sides lock, and it has a handle on top.

Tip from Carol:  When embroidering, keep a bottle of Sewer's Aid close to your machine. Take one drop on your index finger and rub it on your needle. This keeps your thread from breaking.

Tip from Donna: When changing thread colors, I cut the thread at the spool and I save the length of thread that is pulled through the needle in a jar by my machine. When it's full, I make a small quilted wall hanging and spread the threads out all over it and stitch the threads down. Makes an interesting abstract wall hanging with all the different colors.

Tip from Christine: When changing threads on my sewing machine, I was taught that you should not pull the thread back towards the spool. The thread should be cut next to the spool and pulled out at the needle. Sewing thread has a direction when made and by pulling it backwards you cause friction, leaving fuzz in the tension disks of the machine. By doing this, I have had less thread debris and less tension problems with my machines.

Tip from Anne: A low cost solution to the twisting that often breaks metallic threads is to attach a 4" deck screw to the wall behind your machine and about 1-2 feet to the right at the height of the thread spindles. Leave enough of the screw showing so that a spool will go on the screw with the screw head in front of the top of the spool. Put the metallic thread spool on the screw so that the spool can roll freely. The thread will unroll and not twist as it does when you place the spool on the spindle.

Tip from Debra:  When using metallic thread, make sure to use a metallic needle because the eye is larger. And if your machine allows, slow down the speed. This will help with thread breakage.

Tip from Tonya:  A good way to keep thread from getting tangled up is to take a piece of scotch tape and tape the end of the thread to the spool.

Tip from Ruth C.:  When I sew out a design and run into a situation where I don't have the exact color called for on the Color change sheet, I will substitute a similar color, rather than going out and buying more thread. To keep a record for future reference, I print out the Color Change Sheet and write down the name and number of the color I replaced next to it's corresponding color on the sheet. It saves time and eliminates the guess work the next time. This is also helpful if I am doing several of the same projects and want to change the colors to match fabrics. I now have a record of the threads I used!

Tip from Kris:  I have found a product called Amazing Tape that is great for the spools of thread that do not have a place for the thread end to attach to. It stretches and clings to itself, and it can be used over and over.

Tip from Ruth C.:  I have those oversized spools of thread that don't fit into the commercial Thread Storage Boxes, and I have found an inexpensive way to store them. In the produce department of our grocery store, they sell pre-washed salad mix in large clear Plastic Tubs. These are the perfect solution to storing those oversized spools and a useful way to reuse the tubs!

Tip from Christine:  I keep a grouping of hand needles threaded with basic colors in a scrap piece of cut-away stabilizer or piece of felt. I have several sewing machines, so I have one at each machine and one at my chair in my family room. This way, I always have an needle ready to do a quick repair. It takes more time to find a needle and thread, than it does to sew on a button.

Tip from Vivian: I have made a great bobbin storage container. Using a small plastic container, I cut strips of double sided tape and applied them to bottom of container. Then, I cut three quarter inch pieces of plastic water pipe and put them in the container leaving the open section facing up. The bobbins clip in nicely.

Tip from Penny: I think buying a color chart of the thread you use the most is very valuable. You can't buy all the colors but if you find another brand on sale and buy them you can easily match them to the colors on your color chart. I just love mine.

Tip from Pat: To make my thread snip bag easier to use, I cut a small slit in the top pocket hem and inserted a thin plastic headband. This gives a nice round opening that will stay open and is easier to drop the thread snips into it.

Tip from Shirley: When I need a thread net, I use knee highs (or hosiery) cut into strips to fit the spool.

Tip from Samantha: To keep my threads nice, neat and organized, I use Glad Press 'n Seal. I cut it into small strips and put them around the spool. No more messy threads.

Tip from Patricia:  I have found that pre-wound bobbins last longer if they are stored in a container with an airtight lid.

Tip from Janeen:  I have a few spools of thread that don't have a thread keeper included on the spool so I have been looking for something that could be added that would work. I discovered that the disposable foam earplugs make a great thread keeper for spools that don't have built in thread keepers. Simply squish the end of the foam plug and stick it down in the top hole of the spool, then wrap the end of the thread around the foam plug a couple of times and it will hold the end of your thread until your ready to use it again.

Tip from Barbara:  In order to keep my thread spools in order by color block, I purchased a standing thread spool holder made by June Tailor. It holds 30 spools and is free standing so you can place it right on your sewing table. When I get ready to stitch a design, I arrange the thread spools on the holder in color block order. I never lose track of the color block I'm working on since that particular peg on the holder will be empty and I can see what color is next. This stand also keeps the thread spools from falling on the floor.

Tip from Therese:  I have some spools that don't have a way to attach the thread to keep them from unraveling. I use a safety razor blade and make a small notch on the bottom of the spool. Then, I mark this notch with permanent marker so that it's easy to spot. When I'm finished with a spool, I simply lock the end of the thread into this notch. This works for me because I use a thread stand. If you use your thread horizontally on your machine, your thread might catch if it unwinds toward the base of the spool.

Tip from Carol:  I use yellow mini Post-it notes to help thread my machine. Place one behind the needle, sticky side toward the thread. It helps to see the eye and the sticky part grabs the end of the thread.

Tip fromTherese:  Here's what I do when my design requires repeated thread colors. I line all the colors up and if one color needs to be repeated further down my row, I put a space holder of a tiny cut out from an index card (You can cut out 15 or 20 of these from a single index card). You can even write the name of the color if your memory is less than perfect. Then, when you're finished with the color, you just place it over the index square for the next time you use it. This trick saves me time and I'm less likely to use the wrong color. I keep a small container full of these little squares in my sewing area.

Tip from Deidre: To build up my thread collection gradually without spending a lot of money, I bring a list of thread that I have at home with me to my favorite store. I pick up one or two spools that I don't have yet and add these to my collection.

Tip from Glenda:  I select my thread for an embroidery design and place it on the left side of my machine. Then, when I change colors, I place it on the right side. I have gotten lost in many thread changes and didn't know which thread I used last! " Trial and Error!"

Tip from Rhonda:  I've found that using metallic thread can be a challenge, and I've tried everything! But I finally conquered the challenge. I put the spool of thread inside a coffee cup and placed the cup on the floor next to the machine. This gives the thread time to unwind and less tension before it hit the tension guides. I also loosen the tension guides slightly.

Tip from Suzanne:  When working with metallic thread, I put a small amount of Sewer's Aid on the thread. The Sewer's Aid works wonders on all thread to help keep it from breaking.

Tip from Jan:  I use painters tape (low tack adhesive) to tape the ends of my spools of thread, as well as to mark clothing. It leaves no tape residue.

Tip from Sherry:  Tiny, children's hair ties work great for holding the thread on your bobbins.

Tip from Maureen: Whenever I buy a new spool of embroidery thread, if the color number is not permanently printed, I write the number on the spool itself with a permanent marker.

Tip from Teresa: Use the bottom of a Styrofoam egg carton to hold your thread spools in order for your current project.

Tip from Janet: Bobbins filled with embroidery thread for a special project can be stored without tangles in a daily or weekly pill dispenser which are about $2.

Tip from Connie: I keep my thread in a Hot Wheels container (I found mine at Wal-Mart). You can put three spools in each space and there are spaces on both sides!

Tip from Elaine: To keep spools of thread from unwinding when stored, I buy the knit ponytail holders at a $1 store and simply slip over the spool catching the end of the thread!

Tip from Alice: To keep my threads organized and free from dust, I use storage containers from the hardware store. (You know, the ones for screws and nuts and bolts, etc.) They come in all sizes, are stackable, and the drawers are clear so you can see what color is in each drawer without opening it.

Tip from Patti: When I embroider I keep a small piece of batting on my table. I use this to put the threads on after I snip them. The threads stay in place on the batting rather than flying all over to try to make it to the waste basket! I throw out the batting when finished.

Tip from Gina B.: To keep unruly run-away threads under control for both my sewing machine and serger, I recycle empty round canisters with their lids. The kind that pop-up cloths for cleaning, etc are sold in. I place the thread in the base of the plastic canister, pass the thread through the opening in the plastic top, put the top back on the canister then thread my machine as usual. Gives great tension when placed to the back of the machine and I NEVER have to deal with tangled threads, no matter how fussy or "special" the kind of thread being used. Works EVERY time.

Tip from Kim H.:  It seems like my thread labels keep falling off the spool and getting lost. The other day, three thread labels fell off and drifted to the floor. I grabbed my handy glue stick and affixed the label back on the spool. 

Tip from Charlene G.: Always store your threads out of sunlight. Over time light will break down the fibers in the thread and cause it to shred and break when used. If you have your thread hanging on thread racks in your sewing room where sun reaches them during the day, drape a sheet or other large piece of fabric over them to protect them from the suns harmful rays when you aren't using them.

Tip from Connie M., Jeannie L., Katherine, Fran, Lynne, Debbe M. and Lisa L.: Instead of using nets for keeping your threads from unraveling when storing them, try the lightest-weight clear, plastic table cloth material cut to fit your spools. Cut strips about 1/4 inch shorter than the spool and about 1 inch longer than the circumference. Make a courtesy fold of at least 1/2 inch so that it is easy to remove the plastic when needed. For less than one dollar, you can wrap dozens of spools. I get my plastic in the fabric dept at Wal-Mart.

Tip from Daphne: I like to take the extra time at the beginning of every project to pre-thread each of my colors through its own needle. On larger projects, I often pre-thread several needles with the same color. This saves time and steps for me.

Tip from Anne D., Sandi S., Carole F., Terry F., Chris R., Ann G. and Dianne: Ask your florist for the netting that comes over the flowers. It makes wonderful thread wraps, just cut length to size. Best of all, it's free.

Tip from Kathryn: I really do not like using the pre-wound bobbins you can purchase. I prefer to wind my own bobbins --- five or six at a time. To keep them separate from the bobbins wound with regular thread for general sewing, I use a permanent marker and mark and "E" on top of the bobbin for embroidery and an "S" on the others for sewing.


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