How to organize thread for sewing and machine embroidery

By on July 19th, 2020
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how to organize thread for sewing and embroidery
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It gets to a point in a machine embroidery career that you realize, “dang –  I own a lot of thread.” In addition to all of the different sewing thread you may have already accrued, you have a whole collection of different type of thread for machine embroidery. And, because machine embroidery thread is such a visible and prominent part of the craft, it helps to have a lot of different colors. But once you start to collect a bunch of thread, it becomes necessary to store and organize thread for sewing and machine embroidery.

When it comes to the best solutions for storing and organizing threads – you have a lot of options. And, of course there are pros and cons to them all.

So, to get a broad picture of all of the different possible thread storing and organizing solutions, I went right to the pros. These are the people who sew and machine embroider a lot, have collected tons of thread, and figured out some pretty creative solutions for keeping it organized and clean.

Products mentioned in this post

Wall mounted thread rack

If you are tight on space it makes sense to put your thread up on the wall. It prevents you from using any floor space for her specific site type of storage container and keeps all your threads within view.

thread storage on wall
Spools of thread mounted on wall. Photo provided by Karen Walters and used with her permission.

I actually copied what my sister did in her sewing room. She’s very tight on space in her sewing room.  It’s a small and awkward space with an angled ceiling. Around the holidays, she often ends up with a pain in her neck for working so many hours in such a strange configuration. Anyway, her thread storage and organization solution was to hang a few wooden thread racks from Walmart on her wall. So, I did the same thing I use I dedicate a few to embroidery thread sort of try to keep them organized by color and then reserve a couple for a regular sewing machine thread.

You can buy these simple thread racks that hold 120 spools of thread for about $29 at Walmart.

One issue I’ve found with these cheapo thread racks from Walmart is that they con’t hold embroidery spools very well. Many times when I go to grab one spool of thread, 3 others fly out.

A much more functional alternative is a Thread Valet. These thread racks can be installed together to make a huge grid of thread storage. The also have long enough posts to hold embroidery thread (and even serger thread). Each Thread Valet rack also comes with a pattern to make a cover that fits over the thread to keep it dust free.

The Thread Valet thread storage system

Floating shelves

My Walmart thread racks are great however they do not accommodate the larger spools of thread that I started buying Once I figured out how to use a thread stand, I started investing in larger spools of embroidery thread, especially in the colors I use most. So, to accommodate these larger spools, I store them on a floating wall shelf above my existing thread rack.

I purchased my floating shelf at IKEA, but you can get similar ones in different sizes and styles at Walmart, or even make them yourself.

Floating shelves are useful for storing thread. Photo by Becky Little Potter and used with her permission.

DIY shelves for thread storage

One DIY solution that I stumbled upon in my research was a re-purposed fence that a clever seamstress installed in her sewing room. She simply lined up all of her threads on all of the fence planks. It looked really cool and rustic and totally served its purpose. And, being that she made her thread storage system from remnants around the house, her cost was next to nothing.  

Let’s say you don’t just happen to have an old fence laying around your house. Other scrap pieces of wood will work as well.  Check your local Menards, if you have one. They have a scrap wood bin where you might find exactly what you need. 

Thread storage bins

While I prefer to keep my thread out where I can see it, there are some advantages to keeping your thread covered. Dust and lint that collects on thread can wreck havoc on the tension discs of an embroidery machine.

So, if you keep your thread out on a shelf or a rack you should definitely take the time to wipe it off before you put it on your machine to remove any dust or lint.

If you keep your thread covered, however, you can avoid the whole lint and dust collection problem. You can actually but a product specifically for thread storage, and they are aptly named “thread storage bins.” 

So, if you have shelf space and are willing to take the time to organize your thread by color, then they are a great option for storing your embroidery thread. You’ll know exactly which storage bin to pull out if you keep your threads grouped by color in each of the bins.

Thread storage bins. Photo provided by Barbara Stimpert of Sweet Baby K Bowtique and used with her permission.

Alex cart from IKEA

I’ve heard several people rave about the Alex cart available at IKEA for the storage of an organization of thread for sewing and embroidery.  Fellow embroiderer, Christina Malcolm really took her Alex cart to the next level. She uses the top surface for her serger and then customized the heck out of the drawers for thread storage. 

I got the Alex cart from Ikea to hold my brand new serger. Then I made dividers for the threads with foam board from the dollar store. I stood up the embroidery thread, and laid down the sewing thread (to see what color it is). I’ll be organizing by color eventually, and securing the bobbins to the thread as well. I also used my Cricut Maker to cut vinyl to label the drawers, (font is Lavenderia). While I was at it, I also embroidered a thread catcher for giggles.

Alex cart by IKEA for thread storage
The Alex cart from IKEA is great for thread storage. Photo provided by Christina Malcolm and used with her permission.
Alex cart from IKEA used for thread storage
The Alex cart from IKEA is great for thread storage. Photo provided by Christina Malcolm and used with her permission.

Modified Cart with Golf Tees

Another creative idea for thread storage is to use modify a typical rolling cart with golf tees. You simply buy a rolling cart (preferably with clear drawers to you can see the thread colors inside). Then you cut pieces of cardboard to fit the bottom and poke golf tees through the card board at regular intervals. Finally, you hot glue the cardboard with the golf tees poking up onto the bottom of each of the drawers. Then place a spool of thread on each one.

A word of warning: before you go too crazy with this project, make sure that the drawers are deep enough to store the thread standing up.  

Stackable, portable storage containers

Another great solution for thread storage that protects your thread from dust and lint is the Lifesmart clear, plastic, stackable storage trays. I think they are actually designed for little toys, but they work really well for thread.  Plus, you can take your thread collection anywhere.  Two 500 meter spools fit perfectly in each section, and you can lay the 1000 meter spools sideways. You can also stack as many sections as you want. 

Thread organization trays

If you really want to get organized, check out these cool thread organization trays from Laser Bee Studios. They are designed to fit inside of off-the-shelf storage systems like the Alex drawer system from IKEA.

You simply buy the trays that fit into your storage system that are associated with your thread brand of choice. Each spot is labeled for every thread so you know exactly where to find the thread and you know precisely when you are out!

Peg board

A peg board is a great way to store thread as it allows you to free up your floor space and easily see all of the thread you own.  You simply add another peg for every spool of thread you accumulate.  

I actually use a peg board in my craft room for other types of tools and 3D print the pegs and accessories I need to store my tools.  Yes – geeky I know. And maybe a little foolish since these thread holder pegs are so cheap. 

Nail polish holder

You know those nail polish holders you see mounted on the walls in nail salons? Well – guess what?  They also make great thread holders. Plus you can buy them for next to nothing on Amazon.  Then, you hang them just about anywhere: instant thread storage!

Thread storage carousel

If you really want to get fancy, check out this hand crafted thread storage carousel. It’s super compact and holds 450 spools and 90 bobbins. 

Frequently asked questions about thread storage

Does machine embroidery thread go bad with age? 

Unlike milk, thread does not have an expiration date. But as thread gets older, it dries out and becomes brittle.  If you can prevent moisture and air from contacting your thread, it will last much longer.  

Since there is no guideline telling you how long thread lasts, it may help to make note of when you purchased the thread. My recommendation is to write the purchase dates on the bottom side of the spool with a Sharpee.  This will give you an idea of how old the thread is. Then, if you are experiencing bad results with a thread, you may be able to attribute it to age. 

How do I store bobbin thread? 

While some people store their bobbin thread in a separate container or location than regular embroidery thread, I keep my bobbin thread on the wall with all my machine embroidery thread, albeit in a slightly different location.  If you buy pre-wound bobbins, I would suggest keeping them in the same container they arrived in to keep them as fresh as possible. 

How do I keep my embroidery thread from unwinding? 

Did you know you can get thread clips to keep your thread from unraveling? These little doodads are cheap and keep your thread from unraveling. Now that will really tidy up your thread collection.

How to clean thread before putting it on my embroidery machine? 

I’ve noticed that some of my thread left out in the open is VERY DUSTY. So, before putting a spool like this on my embroidery machine, I blow it off with some canned air, then simply wipe it with a cloth. Yes – I realize my embroidery thread would last longer if I stored my thread in an enclosed container, but dang – I love the accessibility of my thread with it stored on my simple wall mounted thread racks. 

Feeling inspired? 

As you can see, there are pros and cons for all the different ways you can store your embroidery threads. But, I hope I’ve given you some fresh new ideas for organizing your thread. 

Good luck + happy stitching! 



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2 thoughts on “How to organize thread for sewing and machine embroidery

  1. I’m fairly new to machine embroidery and a little OCD about my stash. I went the cost effective way and purchased a large cheap thread from Amazon. I’ve labeled the cones with the name, number, and conversion numbers of two other brands. I had stored them by original mnfg brand number, upside down, in a pegged drawer, couldn’t see color. I’m now wondering what is the best way to store thread? By color, by number?
    Your thoughts on this are greatly appreciated.

    BTW, I’m getting a security error when trying to navigate to your web site. Google is not recognizing it as secure, stating you don’t have a security certificate. Blah Blah… bunch of BS, but, you might have namby pamby’s scared of progressing through to your site.

    All the best to you!


    1. If you are really interested in organizing your thread – I would check out the thread drawer organizers by Laser Bee Studio.

      Regarding the security issue, for some reason my SSL didn’t auto renew on the morning you noticed the problem. Fortunately I was able to fix it. Thanks for letting me know.

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