Organizing Your Sewing Room Part 1: Thread & Bobbins

Organizing Your Sewing Room

There I stood in front of my very-unorganized sewing room, staring off into a churning sea of fabric and threads. If I didn’t do something quickly I was going to lose it – I was already having problems finding what I was looking for and my sanity could only hold out so long!

I’m sure many of you have had this same feeling when your sewing room is not as tidy as you’d like it to be (or in my case, chaotic!). You’ve probably wondered, “How do I even begin to organize this mess?” Well, have no fear. We’re kicking off an article series all about tips for organizing your sewing room. We’ll start first with one of the toughest contenders in the search for organization: thread.

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My first step on my path to thread organization was first realizing I had a problem. I looked at the countertops in my sewing room and new immediately that thread was the obvious place to start. I had loads of ideas, but I wanted to wait and see what worked for the look I was going for. I spent a great deal of time on Pinterest and searching in magazines for ideas. These are always good places to start when getting the creative juices flowing and I recommend you try the same when looking for new ideas.

Sewing Room Organization: Bobbin Storage

I knew right away that I needed to do something with my bobbins; the tails were always flying and I was having constant trouble detangling. So here are a few ideas I came up with in the bobbin category. There are generally bobbin storage areas built into your sewing tables, so don’t miss out on this storage opportunity if it’s available to you.

bobbin scrunchies - resizedIdea #1: Place tiny scrunchies from the dollar store around the bobbins to keep stray tails from tangling.

bobbin ice trays - resizedIdea #2: Use ice cube trays to organize your bobbins. They are stackable and fit easily into a shelving space or drawer.

thread container retake resizedIdea #3: Purchase a ready-made bobbin holder. You can purchase these at most craft stores or look for them at rummage and estate sales.

Many manufacturers are now selling bobbins in already in containers for organization. The bobbins come in jars or trays that are already color-organized and on pre-wound bobbins to boot. Just be careful that the bobbins you order will fit your machine.

Sewing Room Organization: Thread Spool Storage

wall rack - resized

Moving on to my thread spools now. I really wanted to utilize the space that I had, looking for ways to use drawers or empty wall space for thread storage. There are lots of gadgets available in craft shops for this sort of thing. I found these thread holders that mount to the wall on clearance at JoAnn Fabrics, and I even got to use a 40% off coupon on them.

While this is a great option to store threads in a small area, I was just not impressed with the way it looked hanging on my wall. I still wanted something more aesthetically pleasing but equally functional.

Another easy option is using bookshelves. Lots of my friends store them in neat rows on bookshelves just like the quilt stores do. This wasn’t the best option for me though as I find it hard to keep tidy.

thread rack retake resized The option that has worked best for me is using a thread display rack that I actually got from a quilt shop that was going out of business. It helps keep my threads organized by color and I always know when I need to order more. Because I also do long arm quilting, I tend to go through quite a few spools of thread on any given quilt so it helps to have a visual indicator – I can quickly see when I’m getting low.

I really love this particular rack. While not all of them fit in the display, I find it really handy to keep them organized and tidy. It’s a standard size rack so most of your standard size thread spools will fit on it, though some sizes do not.

wire rack resized Here’s another makeshift rack option for you. To make them, I simply went to my local hardware store and picked up some inexpensive wire shelves used for spices and such. Just install them on a wall or anywhere you have space, and ta dah! Instant thread storage.

This spice rack option has worked well for me – up until I began my thread addiction. I am currently having a carpenter rework my long arm room with wooden shelving units that will hold two cones deep and wrap around my room that houses the long arm machine. I’m very excited about this work – it’s every girl’s dream come true to have custom shelving built in the sewing room!

thread pyramid

Speaking of custom, you can always get creative with shelving units if you have the woodworking/carpentry resources available to you. Here is a photo of Karen McTavish’s quilting thread organization system. Her father built the shelves along a staircase and her mother organized it into the rainbow color coding. It’s really beautiful isn’t it? A great way to showcase your supplies in an aesthetically pleasing way.

thread straws One final idea for you: Attach your bobbins to its spool pair with straws and store in a drawer or container. They have to be one of the larger-sized straws though, as regular straws will not hold. Blogger Maria Elkins shared this idea and many others on her blog.

So now that you’re armed with ideas, it’s time to tackle your thread organization. Do you have different ideas that have worked for you? Share your techniques in the comments!

Happy quilting!

More in this Series:
Organizing Your Sewing Room Part 2: Fabric Organizing Your Sewing Room Part 3: Quilting Tools Organizing Your Sewing Room Part 4: Kits & Projects

Related Videos:

Choosing the Right Quilting Thread

How to Store Quilting Supplies

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54 Responses to “Organizing Your Sewing Room Part 1: Thread & Bobbins”

  1. Diane

    Is there some way to mark the color name and number on the robison-anton threads? The older spools had the information on paper but when you put your thread on machine in poked a hole and tore it off. I have cut them in half and stuck them inside the edge of the spool but then are coming unstuck and falling off.

  2. Marge

    I use the sponge things they put between your toes when getting a pedicure. They work perfect and you can see the thread. I then place them in a container with thread color up.

  3. Glenys Donaldson

    I haven’t got many bobbins but a lot of reels of thread… I keep my everyday ones in a plastic tool/fishing tackle box. As well as the bottom of it, there’s two trays that you swing out. Both have wee cubby holes, ideal for all the odd sized reels I have. I also have a quantity of older ones that I keep in two plastic cutlery trays from the days before kitset kitchens.

  4. Jo

    I bought some of the larger “Ball” canning jars and organized my spools by color; I think I have 10 or 12 of them. I put my “fancy” threads in there. My “daily” threads are organized in painted wooden boxes I got from
    Target and sit right in front of the corresponding fancy threads in the jars. If you like to display in a cute way this is for you,

  5. Karen

    My mom, an avid quilter, passed away in 2019. She left behind two 15.5×15.5 unbacked squares with her name embroidered on them in the corner of her piece. How can I hang them without going broke. I want to display them in my sewing area.

  6. Lisa Cameron

    I use clear tubing that I cut a slit in and then the width of my bobbins to hold my thread ends in and store them in lipstick trays. Similar to ice cube trays but smaller. I like this better than the baby pony tail holders now I can see the color without having to remove the holder. I purchased a set of draws from IKEA that are shallow and cut dividers and use that for my thread.

  7. Carol Beardmore

    I live in a dusty part of Australia so I’m conscious of keeping my threads clean. I use a multiple drawer desk organiser for threads. I have cottons, polys and embroidery threads in separate drawers. I put all of my cutting things in their own drawer too (all scissors, rotary cutting blades, seam rippers, etc). My bobbins are in a clear lidded bobbin box. I have some of the bobbins marked with a “C” to indicate cotton threads. the others will be poly or poly cotton. To check if they are cotton, burn a short length of thread. Cotton will turn to ash. Polyesters or blends will form a melted bead. Watch your fingers!

  8. Yvonne Moretti

    I pair up my bobbin with matcing spools using a tall prescription bottle. It makes it eadoer to keep them together

  9. Shirley Strosaker

    I bought a bag of chicken leg bands for my ducks, found I could not use them for that purpose, but the bands are perfect for around bobbin thread, & then I store like colors in baby food jars!

  10. Fredericka

    I have 4 different brands of sewing machines. The bobbins for a couple of them don’t work very well in the other machines. The plastic bobbins are the worst. Now when I buy new bobbins, I put red nail polish on the ones for my big Babylock and I put green nail polish on the bobbins for another smaller machine. This really has helped me save time and makes organizing them much easier.

  11. Sue Grinnell

    Love all your ideas! I use the wooden racks from Joann like you have. I hang them from the bottom of a pegboard so I can move them easily if I need more room. I use Handibobs for my bobbins–the BEST thing I have ever found to organize thread. They are round
    plastic holders for the bobbins that have an end that fits into the thread. I always have the correct bobbin thread for the spool, and no tails since the ends fit in well. They are great!

  12. Mary Mignano

    I use old type setters boxes for some of my thread. It makes a colorful display on my wall and the colors are easily spotted.

  13. Patricia

    I use the paper reinforcement rings to hold the thread in place on my bobbin, simple saucer the thread and place the ring on the top of the bobbin. Works well and can be reused. Also is biodegradable!

    • Rose McClanahan

      I use the plastic shoe boxes with covers to keep the dust out. I glued golf tees in rows and topped them with a piece of a straw. That way I can keep the bobbin on top of the spool of thread. I separate the different kinds of threads in different boxes that are labeled.

  14. Angela

    I have a Bernini 7 series which uses oversized bobbins. Clear plastic beading containers with individual lids are perfect to store each bobbin in. I label each lid by fiber content. I store the containers on their sides so I see the colors in flat plastic divided boxes. Separate boxes for sewing vs embroidery thread. And the sewing thread rows move from 100percent cotton to polyester.


    I have a thread holder with pegs too short for my embroidery threads so I extended them with plastic straws cut to necessary length. Straws are snug so they stay in place when thread is removed.

  16. Margreta

    I don’t have cones of thread but my sewing threads are in a rubbermaid box and each spool is wrapped with Hugo’s amazing tape. This is a none sticky clear tape that sticks to itself, truly amazing.

  17. Lisa Toth

    Since I live in a dusty area, I can’t leave anything out in the open for long. I bought at some expense and with coupons plastic thread holders. I have 3 at this point. I keep everything including fabric in plastic cases.

  18. Laura

    All very pretty ideas for a dedicated area, but I’d like to see solutions for a small shared area; perhaps solutions utilising drawers (I use an IKEA Alex table but have yet to find inserts that work for thread.)

  19. Janet

    I use the pink bobbin buddies and keep the bobbins in boxes made for them. I have separate boxes for the different weights. Because I like to match bobbins to top threads for machine applique and quilting, I want to know exactly what thread is on the bobbin. So, I use a fine Sharpie and write a simple letter code for the manufacture along with their color number on the bobbin buddie — works like a charm.

    • Theresa

      Not about storage, but I use a felt marker on the top of my spool so I know where to fasten the thread.

  20. Marge

    I store my thread in a bureau draw, keeps it clean. I purchased plastic art bin trays that have metal wires for the cones to set on.

  21. Sharon

    I use thread holders from Joanne but not enough space for more of them. I put various diameter straws over pegs so can put 2-3 spools per thread….works great. However having several different brands and weights of threads cannot always put spools where you want them…but it works well for me

  22. Laurie

    I got a rack to put on a wall to hold my threads, but found that my threads got dusty. Eventually, I got a plastic 6 drawer organizer from an office store. One drawer holds my bobbins in bobbin holders I bought in the notions section, and my spools are organized by colors in the other two drawers. I have the threads laying down and not upright corralled in shallow organizers, and I can see at a glance what shades and hues I have. I’m considering using some gadget to organize threads with their bobbins attached, and this system would still work. Any way, the drawers keep dust off them and gives my room less of a cluttered look.

  23. Mary Lynn

    Yes! Love the mini colored pony tail holders. I have 3 sewing machines that I use for different projects, one of which has an embroidery component, which ALL add to the bobbin organization crisis!! I use the wall spool rack system, regular size and large size for cones, which helps with easy access & storage. I also use the various bobbin “holders” that attach directly to the spools. The new silicone bobbin holders are very adaptable to all size spools. Since each machine uses a different bobbin, I have labeled small size plastic boxes for each machine. If there is thread left on the bobbin after sewing, I place it with the spool into the appropriate labeled box. The boxes are deep enough for the spool to lay on it’s side. It keeps me straight on what type of thread is on the bobbin, weight and type. When I need the spool color for a different machine, I take the bobbin to the other machine and spin it off to the new bobbin. Thereby, the bobbin and spool are always together and the bobbins stay with the correct sewing machine. I also use the bobbin storage box that has the soft foam slots to secure the bobbins.(I found mine in Sewing with Nancy catalogue) I label the box for each sewing machine, also a good way to organize prewound bobbins. I like the pipe cleaner tip, too! Tips for dust bunnies…try canned air…a few puffs will blow dust off…tear a sheet of lint paper and tap around the spool…or make a cute fabric cover to cover the spool rack…a few minutes in a hot dryer will kill any dust on this cover’s surface. To me…organization is work in progress! Happy organizing!!!

  24. Randi Empanger

    I have a glass front cabinet- once a store display- has a peg board back – It has 6 thread racks in it and I have another 4 on the wall in front of my machine. More than 500 spools of thread and it seems never the right color

  25. Ruth Olsen

    Attach your bobbins to its spool pair with straws … Why not make it with a wood dowel, It would make it a lot stronger!!

  26. Jo Anne

    I had thread storage problems too. Finally I bought the top part of a Craftsman tool chest. It’s 3 shallow drawers and 1 deeper drawer. Spools lay flat to see colors. I use straws between rows to keep them in place. The top part opens to store extra spools and all my threads are kept clean and fade free. The larger drawer on the bottom stores extra sewing and embroidery items. Also when I buy extra spools, I use a marker on the spool in use to tell me I have a backup spool in my storage.

  27. Jeanette

    I like your thread organization, except, what about the thread getting dusty? Any ideas for covered storage other than clear plastic bins? THANKS!

    • Terry Sheldon

      I have the same question about how you keep the dust off your thread…???

      • National Quilters Circle

        Hi, Terry. I use a snack baggie and put it over my thread. To be truthful, I go through thread so quickly, it isn’t a huge issue. I also keep the plastic on my thread cones and spools until I need to open them. Hope that helps; do you have suggestions? If so, we’d love for you to share them.

        • fransan

          I use one of the multi drawer plastic storage units. I use a lot of different colours of threads, so they are organised by their colours and the drawers are labelled. I keep all my specialty threads – metallics, variegated etc. in one drawer.I keep spools and matching bobbins together with pipe-cleaners from the dollar store. 1/2 a pipe-cleaner is usually long enough and the ends bend so easily. My quilting neutrals are kept in a candy jar on my machine table, a circular bobbin holder sits on top so when I am piecing, I can see how many full bobbins of thread I have ready to use.

          • Marilyn

            I also use the pipe cleaners to store my bobbins with my thread. The problem is, I don’t know how to store it neatly and dust free. Any ideas would be gratefully appreacated!!! Thank You

      • Carol killmore

        I have a display unit to keep the dust &light of my threads.lmade a certain works well👌

      • Hazel

        I wrap my thread in clear vinyl strips which I cut to fit the various sizes of my spools. This has proven to be a great tip I received years ago.

    • MJ

      I thumb tacked a piece of fabric / curtain at the top to cover my thread and bobbins. Can’t see the beautiful colors as some of the pictures show, but they are dust free.

  28. Rhonda L. Morrison

    In my closet i have my zippers batting, felt and zippered bags from pillow cases and curtains that i have my different size fabric strips in….

  29. Rhonda L. Morrison

    I use a frozen pop mold to store my necessities often used for sewing/serging such as the little screwdrivers, little seam rippers, scissors, 1/4″ rulers, fabric markers, quilt guides, etc. It came in handy. I was going to throw it away. Glad i didn’t.

  30. Lisa

    I have used the baby pony tail holders to wrangle the bobbin threads for a long time and LOVE the way it works! Because I do alterations, I do use a wooden rack for all my threads and have found that the pegs are just long enough that if I put the bobbin on first, I can put the spool on top, thus, keeping the matching thread and bobbin together. This also works in a Gutterman box set that I use for travel although I do have to tape the lid on with painter’s tape. (I wouldn’t have to if I wasn’t going to throw it in a bag.)

    • Teresa N. Hunt

      I use two pony tail elastics to hold the top on my guttermans thread collection.

    • Candy Newton

      I have the cheap thread wooden thread holder from Walmart and I put the bobbins on the peg first then the thread. Sometimes it is hard to tell a color difference so this helps a lot.