Top Tip: Transfer thread from large cones to small spools

how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools (1)

Picture the scene. It was New Years Day. (Happy 2016 everyone!) A rare opportunity over the holidays to duck into Shedquarters and sneak some sewing in. All ready to rock and roll and then……aaargh! Not enough thread spools in the right colour for my overlocker!

I can be a bit blasé about gathering supplies/notions for a project. I’ve developed quite a stash and kinda just assumed I would have enough standard spools in the general vicinity of this colour to cobble together a workable overlock stitch. (‘cos I use this colour all the time! Not! Doh!). But no. I had one cone in the colour I needed. Loads of it. But all on one cone. Hmmmm….how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools (9)

But as always with me, necessity is the mother of invention. Some of my favourite ideas emerge when I’m facing a (probably self imposed) hurdle and am scratching my head trying to figure out a work around. Plus, since this little solution means you need only buy one cone of overlocker thread (in that obscure colour that you need but will never use up in a million years) this one saves money and what better way to start off a cash strapped January than with a money saving hack right?how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools (2)

If you’re like me and hold on to empty thread spools because they are “bound to come in handy for something” at some point; then this would be the moment you are vindicated in your hoardiness! You’ll need 4 empty thread spools (These guttermann ones are particulary perfect as explained in a moment). Some double sided sticky tape. A spare bobbin from your sewing machine. how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools (3)

Stick a piece of the tape on the flat end of the thread spool….

Remove the backing and firmly press your empty bobbin on top,,,how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools (4)

how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools (5)

Pop the thread cone in a mug/cup in front of your standard sewing machine.  We are essentially going to treat the empty spool as a bobbin. Which is why I said these particular thread spools are quite useful. On the opposite end of the spool to where you stuck the bobbin, there are holes that you can use in the same way as the hole you would normally use in the top of the bobbin. Pop your thread through one of those holes just as you would on a bobbin…how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools (6)

Then attach the whole assembly to the bobbin winder on your standard machine just as if you were going to wind a normal bobbin…how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools (7)

Then start winding! Hold the thread at slight tension with your hands and feed it onto the thread spool in an even manner by gently moving the thread up and down as it winds so that it distributes along the full length of the spool in an even manner. how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools

And that’s that! Repeat for all the other spools, using the same bobbin. It’s removable because you only used double sided tape. But you may not want to use it in your sewing machine after due to a sticky residue. So I’ve just set mine aside and reserved it for this purpose; because I am so going to want to do this again at some point!how to decant thread from an overlocker cone to standard spools

There are other methods out there for doing this but this one suits me because it’s simple, quick and straightforward. The main morals of this story?

  • Don’t throw away empty spools!
  • Standard spools do work on an overlocker
  • If you HAVE to buy a overlocker thread in an obscure colour that you’ll only use once…just buy ONE and do this!
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40 Comments

  1. Mem January 6, 2016

    Brilliant idea .mgood on you for showing it to us.

    Reply
  2. Gemma January 6, 2016

    Now that is a very clever trick! Great tip, many thanks : )

    Gemma
    http://www.fadedwindmills.com

    Reply
  3. Jane Bellingham January 6, 2016

    Genius!

    Reply
  4. raquel from JC January 6, 2016

    Genius!

    Reply
  5. Charlotte January 6, 2016

    Very nice idea – I have some British-made linen thread that comes on a large spool and have been meaning to transfer it so this is perfect:)

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie January 6, 2016

      Just call me psychic Sal 😉 Px

      Reply
  6. MJ January 6, 2016

    Excellent!!! Thanks!!!

    Reply
  7. Suzie January 6, 2016

    Well done you!!!

    Reply
  8. Olly January 6, 2016

    A great tip. I’m really hoping you’ll add some more to the overlocker guide/tutorial you began last year, it was really helpful in getting to know mine but I’m still a bit anxious about using it.

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie January 6, 2016

      Hi Olly….I will be adding to that yes. I’ve just upgraded my overlocker so it won’t be on the same machine but the principles will be the same 🙂

      Reply
  9. Hélène January 6, 2016

    Wow! What a useful trick. This is clearly brilliant. Many thanks!

    Reply
  10. Jenny Bowman January 6, 2016

    Great idea, and you can use the same one for winding two bobbins for doing twin needle sewing. I never seem to have two of the same colour when I need it. Despite the fact that like you I probably have enough thread to stock a small store. Thanks for this. X

    Reply
  11. Patricia January 6, 2016

    That is a great idea. Unfortunately about forty+ years to late. I have always just put the larger spool in an ice cream bucket on the floor. My husband had made me a spool holder that had about eight pegs along it and that would sit on the floor but the bucket seemed to work better. I am sure there are many on here who will give this idea a try. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie January 6, 2016

      I think you’re thinking of how you can use a single cone on a standard machine Patricia? And yes that’s exactly how I do it to. Just sit it in a pot. But this is about creating multiple spools from one cone so I can use them on my overlocker. Unless I misunderstand you??

      Reply
  12. Gretchen January 6, 2016

    Absolutely brilliant!! I won’t be throwing away any more empty spools now. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    Reply
  13. Donna January 6, 2016

    I appreciate all hints to improve sewing and this has got to be at the top of the list! Love the improv! Thought I was crazy to be saving spools – not!

    Reply
  14. Sue Kelly January 7, 2016

    This is so purely brilliant I can hardly stand it! And it’s not that hard to do…on my 130-year-old treadle machine you have to guide the thread onto the long bobbin with your hand, and create tension by looping it around one or more fingers…she said smacking her forehead with the palm of her hand!

    Reply
  15. Elisabeth January 7, 2016

    What a great tip!
    I’ve been wanting to do this, but haven’t figured out how. You’re genious!

    Reply
  16. Deborah January 7, 2016

    Pure Genius!

    Reply
  17. Lynne January 7, 2016

    This is genius! Thanks for posting it!

    Reply
  18. Jereena Ameen January 7, 2016

    Thank you for posting this brilliant tutorial.

    Reply
  19. Carla January 8, 2016

    Oh, THANK you! My serger is messed up, and I have several cones, just kinda sitting here, and some of the colors would be perfect for other projects, that I’m not putting off until my serger is repaired. Now, I don’t have to either buy new thread, OR wait for my serger. w00t!

    Reply
  20. Teri January 10, 2016

    Serger thread should not be used in your sewing machine. It is not the same quality as sewing machine thread. It is more fuzzy, so it will leave a lot lint in your sewing machine. It is also thinner and not as strong, leaving you with weaker seams

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie January 10, 2016

      Hi Teri. This tip is for use on an overlocker when you only have one cone of the thread you need?

      Reply
    • Carla January 13, 2016

      Darn. Thank you!

      Reply
  21. Gladys January 11, 2016

    Thank you very much for sharing this! Great Tip! Have a nice day!

    Reply
  22. Tracey January 11, 2016

    That is such a genius idea!

    Reply
  23. Brenda Cupryna January 11, 2016

    thank you so much for this tip. what a brilliant idea.

    Reply
  24. I know everyone is saying Brilliant, but that is the only word that fits! Brilliant!!

    Reply
  25. Linda January 13, 2016

    I have wound four bobbins; but generally have to refill quickly. You are brilliant for thinking of this! It is better than rocket science! Ha, just read the comment before mine….yes brilliant is the only word!!!!

    Reply
  26. Judy McCarthy January 13, 2016

    This is brilliant!THANKYOU!

    Reply
  27. Dot January 14, 2016

    Brilliant idea.

    Reply
  28. Alice January 21, 2016

    Thank you! I once had a clerk at the serger store scoff at me because I wanted to match my thread to my fabric. I love this idea and now I feel slightly less crazy! I will be trying this tomorrow.

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie January 22, 2016

      Boo to store “know it alls” , lol! 😉

      Reply
  29. Billie Jelks-Hood January 22, 2016

    Great idea, where did you happen to get the empty spools?????????????

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie January 22, 2016

      I can never bring myself to throw them away! 🙂

      Reply
  30. Susan Kluger February 2, 2016

    Great idea. When I finished my first Gutterman spool, I saved it figuring I would use it for something! Now, I know what that something is!!! Thank you so much.

    Reply
  31. Annie S March 16, 2016

    Just found this via Swedish Tracing Paper – what an absolutely Brilliant idea! You are genius. I will definitely be using this…soon!!

    Reply
  32. Wai March 19, 2016

    Portia

    Thank you for this top tip!

    And this means that there’s more money for lovely fabric too! 😀

    Reply
  33. Claudia March 25, 2016

    Loved the idea. Fantastic.

    Reply

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