Keep Your Thread Long and Strong

thread breakageI come from a long line of sewists and seamstresses. In fact, my great grandmother used to sew costumes for the San Francisco Ice Capades! I even have the very machine she sewed them on. I was lucky enough to get a lot of her old sewing stuff, including French curves, boxes of buttons, and a hat box full of beautiful, old thread.

But when I went to use the thread for the first time, it just kept snapping and breaking and I was so sad that I couldn’t put her thread to use. I shared my plight with my mom, and she assured me that the thread was still perfectly useable but it just needs a little TLC.

I live in Colorado, and it is incredibly dry here. In fact, if you live in any dry climate like Colorado, I recommend you get your machine professionally cleaned once a year even if you use it infrequently. The lubricants in your sewing machine evaporate quickly in a dry climate and need to be changed yearly to prevent damage. But, that’s another story. Back to thread!

Thread that lives in a dry environment tends to dry out also, becoming brittle and prone to breakage. Here in Colorado, even brand new thread right off the shelf at your local sewing shop can break if it has been on display for awhile. Older thread, such as my great grandmother’s, tends to lose moisture over time and simply needs a little moisture to make it usable again.

My mom’s suggestion? She told me to take the thread and tuck it into a re-sealable baggie along with a wet paper towel. I was then to place this in my fridge or freezer for a few hours and let the thread soak up some of the moisture. And so I did!

After letting it come to room temperature in the baggie on my countertop, I tested the thread out and – ta da! – was thrilled to see the thread was usable again. After that, I was able to successfully make my first project using my great grandmother’s thread.

And that is truly keeping her sewing legacy alive!


Related Video: How to Prevent Sewing Thread Breakage

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Discussion
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43 Responses to “Keep Your Thread Long and Strong”
    • Elaine T

      There are more factors than humidity involved in keeping your thread viable. You also want bug protection. I keep my threads on a rack in the open. But if you must store them, don’t use plastic bags or drawers, or tubs! An all cotton pillowcase or fiberboard box will allow your threads to get some air, and resist molds and pests.

      Reply
    • Anita

      Like Ann I am wondering if the added moisture in the thread would harm the internal parts of the sewing machine. Would it make them rust? It’s something to consider.

      Reply
  1. Bonnie L. Spielman

    A friend just gave me oodles and oodles of old thread and I kept what i thought might still be good. Had I known I could have saved it all. Makes me sick. Oh well live and learn. I kept all the ones on wooden spools for decoration, but I now know that it could be used also. Thank you so much for your information. Isn’t it wonderful to learn that just because something is old doesn’t mean it is useless. Like me an old lady……LOL!!

    Reply
  2. Earlene Kay

    I just through out my old thread, I wish I would have seen this blog first.

    Reply
  3. Elaine T

    I love this post! I live in a very humid climate so dryness has not been a consideration, but I find your tip helpful to pass on to students in dry climates

    Reply
  4. Kathryn

    Very interesting info – excellent. These little snippets of wisdom can be so easily lost 🙂

    Reply
    • National Sewing Circle

      Hi!
      Some believe that putting it in the freezer helps the thread absorb the moisture faster and more evenly. If you don’t want to put it in the freezer you can just leave it in the bag a little longer.
      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  5. sue parker

    All information is good. Please include me in future discussions of all sewing information.

    Reply
  6. Lorelei

    I am definately going to try this. I thought it was just me. I am always having trouble with this problem. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  7. DEBBIE VILLERS

    Thank you for sharing this tip. I too have old thread from my Aunt and Grandmother. Now, with this technique I will be able to use their thread with confidence.

    Reply
  8. Debra Yoder

    Wow! I loved this article! I’m so glad that I found this article, now I don’t have to throw my old thread away! Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Krystyna Barbera

    I really enjoyed to learn about how to keep your thread long and strong thank you!

    Reply
  10. Nell Angelo

    What a coincidence. I was just thinking about The Ice Capades and about a family friend who owned/ran it with her husband.

    Reply
  11. Nell Angelo

    What a coincidence. I was just thinking about The Ice Capades and about a family friend who owned/ran it with her husband. Their names were Cathleen and Willie Frick.

    Reply
  12. Margie

    This was a great tip. I have some “glow in the dark” thread that keeps on breaking. I just haven’t used it, but I hung on to it just in case something magical happened. Your tip might be the answer. I am anxious to try it out. You never know, it may just work.

    Reply
  13. Melissa

    Will the thread dry out again and break AFTER it’s been re hydrated and sewn into a project? If used on a garment, will the piece fall apart sooner than you would like?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,
      No, I have not found that thread that has been treated dries out and falls apart once it has been used on a garment. Typically if there are going to be issues with the thread it will happen during the sewing process.
      Cheers,
      Ashley

      Reply
  14. Sandra Henegar

    This just goes to show that no matter how long you been sewing (40+) years, we are never too old to learn something new!

    Reply
  15. Marlene Capelle

    Thank you. I’ll try it right now. I have a drawer full of old beyond old thread I was getting ready to toss.

    Reply
  16. Brenda Kraemer

    Thanks so much for this advice! I’m going to try it. I have embroidery thread that was never used that breaks! 3 boxes full!

    Reply
  17. Jackie Lewis-Ward

    I have an embroidery machine and have been using threads that I purchased in 2003 when in Alaska. They have been pulling apart and breaking causing the embroidery machine to not function. I have just placed this Madera thread in the refer with a paper towel along with my pre wound bobbins. Sure hope this helps I have a lot of embroidery thread in all colors and sizes. Along with threads for my Baby Lock serger. Did some alterations and embroidery while in Alaska.
    First time I have had the chance to actually get involved so will watch your site closer. Great tip and thanks for sharing. Will respond after I try my thread.
    Thanks again.

    Reply
  18. MARTH STANPHILL

    I HAVE A LOT OF DRAW;S OF THREAD WOULD IT WORK IF I TOOK THEM OUT AND USED A HUMIDIFIER ( UNDER A TENT – LIKE MADE WITH A BED SHEET ) ???? MARTHA

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,
      Yes, you can use a humidifier in the room that your thread is stored in to help keep the air moist, however I would not put the thread directly in front of or very close to the humidifier as you may end up adding too much moisture to the thread. Some threads are not mold and mildew resistant so the extra moisture can do more harm than good.
      Cheers,
      Ashley

      Reply
  19. Carolyn Lewis

    Thank your mother for me, also Thank you for sharing her information on how to make my old thread from my early, early teen’s (I’m now almost 66). I fell in love with sewing when I was 19 even tho my Mom made me take Home Ec.I hated it in school. My mother in law and being pregnant for the first time gave me a love for sewing and when I was 62 a dear friend taught me to make quilts. Still need to get brave enough to do my own quilting. Thank you both again. Sorry this is so long. I wanted to share my story.

    Reply
  20. Olivia Costalez

    Thanks for the info. I’ve bought old thread at yard sales and such just for the wooden spools and decoration. Now in a pinch am able to use some of it.

    Reply
  21. carol fitzgerald

    that was a very useful story on thread i live in sydney australia i have all my threads in a double side boxes (thank usa) so i havent had that problem but i might try the paper towel to see how it goes. p s it is not sealed tightly so i hope they are all o k

    Reply