Heirloom Collection – wooden spools of thread

Do you have a collection of old wooden spools of thread? Perhaps they’ve been passed down in the family. You just can’t bring yourself to throw them out because they are a connection to people and places in your past. You wonder what to do with them.

They are beautiful objects to look at. Mostly, the spools sit there unused, relics of a bygone era. Some people think the thread isn’t practical to use because it breaks easily, but others say it’s strong and of a higher quality than what you can buy today. A follower who saw my photo of the spools on Instagram summed it up this way, “I have a small collection. My husband asked me why I was keeping them…. well he just doesn’t get it.”

On Valentines Day, I decided to make an assemblage with my collection of cotton and silk thread. I put some spools on end and some sideways, separating the ones with paper labels from the stamped ones. It was so much fun that I surrounded the heart shape with just about every spool I could find hidden away in my studio.

I used my grandmother’s old bread board as a base. That way, I could move it without messing up the design. Doesn’t it look like a box of candy? Rob took a photo of the arrangement and viola, a piece of art!

I am happy to offer note cards, a jigsaw puzzle, notebooks, and a poster of the spool heart image to my Etsy shop.

Thread Spool Heart jigsaw puzzle

Gathering the spools and arranging them took an afternoon, which is a fraction of the time it takes to create a stitched piece. It seems that I either work quickly like this or laboriously over a period of months. Nothing in between. Each way feeds a different part of my creative soul.

Making the spool heart has sparked a new series of assemblage pieces made from vintage items that I’m calling the Heirloom Collection. I also made a homey scene with an assortment of old buttons (see below), which you can find out about in this post. A note card of the button landscape (sold in a 4 card set combo with the spool heart or separately) is also available in my Etsy shop.

4 Note Cards Set – Heirloom Collection, 2 thread cards and 2 Buttons cards

Part of the appeal of working spontaneously is that I can come up with an idea, set up an arrangement, snap a photo and then take it apart in a relatively short period of time. I like making ephemeral art because I don’t have to think about mounting, framing and preserving it as a “thing”. The photo becomes the art. My head is exploding with ideas for other collections!

These vintage spools resonate with so many of us, especially sewers, quilters and fiber artists who are old enough to remember using them. This is what they’re saying on Facebook and Instagram:
“Omg I love this! I thought I was the only one who had a collection of vintage wooden silk spools sitting around.” and “I have a box of old thread, passed down through 4 generations. I treasure it. It’s like a magic box.”

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14 thoughts on “Heirloom Collection – wooden spools of thread

  1. Guilty as charged. Just can’t part with some things. Beautiful idea. I took some of my many buttons and made a necklace of 65 buttons for a friend who was turning 65 this past October – she loved it. I guess I can’t send a photo to you in this comment format but I’m sure you can imagine away!

  2. They make me think of museums, I’m afraid. Only in museums have I seen thread on wooden spools. I’ve rarely seen cotton on a spool. I don’t think I’ve ever seen silk thread period. (I know they sell it so I’ve seen it online, but I’ve not seen it in the thread, so to speak.)

  3. I inherited my grandmothers and great aunt’s spools of silk thread. I ended up stringing them into a garland for my sewing room

  4. These lovely old spools of thread are also beautifully displayed in an old clear glass ginger jar lamp that I keep in my sewing room!

    Too beautiful to keep hidden in a drawer or box!

  5. I also have a collection of spools both filled (or partially used) and empty passed down through the generations. The button box I inherited from my mother and grandmother is still a source of wonder. I took some of the oldest and labeled them so that the memories could pass down to another generation intact. The boot button from my grandmother’s childhood shoes, the red one shaped like a fez from my mother’s college suit, the pearl buttons from her wedding dress, the huge blue 1940’s button you can see on my grandmother’s coat in the photo album….and then there’s just the way they feel! I remember playing with the button box while my mother’s scissors snicked through fabric when I was 4 years old, stringing my favorites in patterns to make necklaces. Thanks for reminding me! and let me know when you make a jigsaw puzzle from the spool photo….I’ll be your first customer!

  6. I USE my mom’s large collection of old spools of thread to do all the basting in any quilts or other handmade items of mine. Then it doesn’t matter if it isn’t very strong. It only has to hold together during the basting period of time…..then gets ripped out. I feel close to my very talented sewing mom whenever I use her thread. She sure had a lot of it!!! Love your art piece made from your spools. Leave it to you to make art out of them!!!

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