Saturday, 19 November 2016

Advantages of a spool holder with vintage machines

On a Facebook group I'm in someone just posted that they saved a machine that was going to be dumped because the spool pin had broken off. Sure these can be replaced, but whether you do or not, I thought about it and would probably not bother.

What has changed

Until the 1970s, domestic machines had only vertical thread spools because domestic thread was wound on from the side in a neat stack and was expected to be placed onto a vertical spool pin where it spins as the thread unwinds.
Top is from the 1960s, only straight-wound here.
Nowadays thread is wound on in a crisscross way and is designed to come off the top of the spool (as is industrial thread on large cones). It tends to twist if taken off from the side (or untwist - neither is good). Apparently the older style thread is still available but I don't see it often.

What to do

You can easily overcome the disadvantage of hard to find straight wound thread.
Before buying a thread stand, I simply stuck a pin in the wooden window frame above my treadle cabinet and placed a cone of thread under it. The thread was brought straight up and around the pin then down to the machine.

I would (in fact I did) replace this with an industrial thread cone stand and now have the thread go directly onto the first guide. I happen to have a lot of industrial thread cones I paid nothing or almost nothing for, from op (thrift) shops, hard rubbish and garage sales, and it would be ridiculous to waste this. It works for modern thread too so I can use any thread now.

A More Technical Explanation on YouTube

Someone far more experienced than I has made a video about this and made it available on YouTube. I urge everyone to watch it if you have a vintage machine.

So buy or make one and you can feel happier that your stitches won't be twisted, your thread won't break as easily and you can save money by buying in bulk.


  1. I found an overpriced dinky new thread stand, but I needed it and it does the job - even for my ~2001 Viking that prefers small spools only.

    Mike, can you use the thread stand for bobbin winding? My 201s have the bobbin tensioners, but I tend to use only Rasant and that causes problems because of the spool size. What is your preferred bobbin fill? Have you found something good that runs pretty clean?

  2. I use the thread stand for bobbin winding too. I use the same thread top and bobbin without any trouble. A bit of dust doesn't bother me at all, as I clean then oil the bobbin area reasonably often. My 201s are pretty forgiving until you try to feed them heavy thread.

  3. Thank you - that's good to hear, I'm off to try as I've many a bobbin waiting to be filled. How heavy are you talking with the 201s? I successfully used 12wt 3ply cotton in my 1957 201K over the weekend and was so pleased - my Viking repeatedly choked on that gorgeous thread, so I was happy to use it. I have an 8wt wool I should test...

    1. I don't really know what 12wt means. I had trouble with heavy thread when sewing my jeans. I used a size 20 needle.

  4. G├╝termann 'Top Stitch' thread is 30wt, normal cotton or poly thread is about 40-50wt.