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 regular maintenance and getting 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 Videos:
How to Prevent Sewing Thread Breakage
Different Types of Thread for Sewing
Tips for How to Buy Fabric, Needles, and Thread
Choosing the Best Serger Thread
How to Thread a Needle with Ease
Sewing Threads by the Numbers
Threading a Sewing Needle with Chapstick
No More Tangled Thread
Tips for Threading a Serger

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42 Responses to “Keep Your Thread Long and Strong”

  1. Chris Parks

    Am always interested in learning.

  2. Julia

    Your story caught my attention regarding your grandmother building costumes for the Ice Capades. My husband skated with the Ice Capades for awhile and then was the lightning designer for years. I would be interested in the years she worked for them. I have old programs and it would be great if your grandmother build those costumes. Thanks

  3. Joan Marzell Quinn

    Aurora, I live in the NC so I don’t have a problem with dryness and thread breakage. Your article caught my eye when I saw that your great grandmother sewed for the Ice Capades. Our flower girl’s sister skated for the Capades and their Mom, Vi skated for the Ice Follies, also in SF. Vi later became a costume designer and sewer for the skating community around the Bay Area. I bet your great grandmother and Vi knew each other. She lived into her 90’s and I imagine her grand daughters are using her sewing machine to create beautiful things. They are probably using her thread in her machine, just like you are. ❤️

  4. Linda

    Great advice...

  5. pei

    My maternal grandmother was a needleworker who earned her living from the skills being learnt at a old women's school before ww2. She had skills in many crafts imcluding embroidery and weaving. She kept some pieces of her work and left them for me after her passing. It seems that our ancestors learnt a lot from their lives so it is important to carry this legacy of wisdom to future generations.

  6. catherine williams

    Was it cotton thread?

  7. debmills99

    Great informtion

  8. JoAnn Volz

    Thank you

  9. 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

  10. 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.