Friday, August 23, 2019

Old Thread, Bargain or Not?

Old Thread, Bargain or Not?

Old thread can come from many sources: gifted from someone, estate sales, thrifted, our own stash, etc..  Coming across a big stash of sewing thread can feel like finding a treasure.  But is it a good idea to pick up and use old thread?

I learned how old thread can be a problem from my sewing machine dealer/repair shop.  The owner told me that people often bring their machines in because the machine is "breaking the thread".  The first thing he does is put new thread in the bobbin and through the top - why?  Because a good percentage of the time it is not the machine at all, it is brittle old thread. 

Exactly how old does thread have to be to qualify as "old"? Wooden spool, yes. If it is older than 4 years it should be suspect.  Stored in sunlight?  Even less time. 

Just because it is old, is it bad?  How can you tell? The SNAP test is the best way to tell.  Grab the end of the thread securely (like using dental floss) with about 8" of thread between hands. Bring your hands together and then quickly pull them apart bringing the thread taut in a snap. If it breaks, it is brittle and likely to break in the machine or during use. Consider limiting it to hand basting functions or other non-stress applications.

Once I learned that old thread posed a risk to use I went through every bit of my thread stash.  I had 28 year old neon thread from the early 90's (made florescent M.C. Hammer pants for my toddler), brittle, along with virtually all my serger thread and a hefty percentage of my stash thread.  Tossed it all. 

Now I make sure I purchase good quality thread to begin with and store it carefully, out of sunlight. When someone offers me old thread, I politely say no thank you and share the reason why.

See a demo of how to do the snap test in this Paganoonoo video tip.

In summary:

There are notions that are great thrifting - find out more in this video tip, also featuring Michelle Paganini, courtesy of It's Sew Easy TV.

Love thrifting and upcycling clothing?  You will want to visit and find out more about Paganoonoo's upcycle sewing instructions!


  1. My old thread is strung together into ropes that decorate the ends of my curtain rods in my sewing room

  2. I hand sew everything using vintage threads.I have garments and patched jeans over 20 years old and have always held up.I use vintage quality thread,it still holds up.Also I only sew with very old fabrics.I hate using synthetic threads.Maybe it's the combo of machine and old threads.

  3. When I purchase thread, I will only purchase one certain manufacturer that I was told to use when living in Scotland (over 20 years ago).

    I have purchased LOTS and I mean LOTS of cone thread at my favourite GW ( Good Will) store. Haven't had any problems except one or two spools are way to thick for the needles on my sewing machine.