Tutorial: Small thread spool holder for under $5.00

In my pre-blogging days I uploaded a couple of tutorials and patterns via BurdaStyle to share. In the next week or two I want to re-post these to my blog, because I can. I just sort of want them on my blog, you know? Then I can link to them more easily and they are here, under my control.

So first up is my tutorial for a thread spool holder I (mostly Nerdy Husband – but I did all the planning and supervising!) made while living in Perth, it cost less than AUD$5.00

From December 2009: OK so this isn’t technically sewing but I thought I might share anyway. I am lucky enough to have a small dedicated sewing room and I’m a bit of an organising geek but since we rent I can’t really put up permanent shelving or hang things off of the wall so I have to get imaginative. I also like to display my sewing items and keep them within easy reach so I’ve had this little project in mind for a while and thought I would document as I go to see if I can inspire someone else. I wanted to display my sewing threads in a nice manner and since I already have a pin board up I wanted to piggy back off of it some way…


  • Length/s of dowel small enough to fit through a spool
    • Mine are 6mm in diameter – $0.87 each x 2 (0.6cm or 1/4″)
  • Length of timber to fit dowel to
    • I used a piece 30 x 12 x 900mm long – $3.07 (3 x 1.2x 90cm long or 1-3/16″ x 1/2″ x  35-1/2″)
  • PVA Glue
  • Drill and drill bit
  • Pencil and ruler
  • Helpful fiancé or similar

Method (to the madness):

Step 1

First mark a center line down your timber and mark the spacing for the dowels. I measured 4cm between centers; this allows my largest spools to sit side by side without touching.

Step 2

Now pre-punch your marked holes. We didn’t have a punch so we used an old screwdriver, and because my helpful fiancé is a geologist, a rockpick for a hammer.

Step 3

Now drill your dowel holes, mine are on a slight angle, about 45 degrees. Try and keep the angle and depth consistent.

Step 4

All holes drilled. Now clean up the mess and gently sand away any rough parts on the surface and inside the holes.

Step 5

Now cut your dowels. I cut mine 5cm long which allows enough to go into the base and still leaves enough for a spool to sit on without it showing. Clean up any rough ends.

Step 6

Now fill your drilled holes with a little PVA glue and begin to fit your dowels. Mine needed a little gentle persuasion. Clean up any glue that squirts out with a damp rag.

Step 7

I attached my spool holder to my pin board but you could make a larger stand alone one, or attach it to a shelf edge. I’m sure there are plenty more possibilities.

Totting Up:

Dowel: $0.87 x 2 = $1.74
Timber: $3.07
PVA Glue: from my stash – seriously, who doesn’t have some PVA at home?!
Husband’s Fee: Home-made Banana & Walnut Loaf

Total: $4.81

Since writing this I have added another row of spools below this one:

And on the weekend I added some small hooks underneath the bottom row, upside down, so that I can hang some of my current favourite patterns underneath using small bulldog clips. In the picture above I have them hooked over the dowel, underneath a spool of thread but every time I go to move them I keep dropping the spool of thread down behind my fabric shelving, haha. The hooks work much better!

And that’s it, I hope you have been inspired into a little bit of nerdy organisation 😉


The Official Sewing Studio Tour!

Right, it must be time for a tour, yes? Hold on tight then, here we go!

First up, a couple of panoramas to give you an idea of the space overall.

I mentioned previously (without trying to sound spoilt) that this is the biggest space I have had for sewing. It is also the fourth iteration of my room, so I am now quite settled in my working methods and know how I like things set up. Here is the plan I drew previously if you missed it.

If you are interested in my previous sewing rooms I have photos here of my second room in Perth. I consider this my first “proper” sewing room and I sewed in here for almost 2 years. The third version of my room was in our rental back here in NZ. It was a tiny room with no space for my layout board. We were there for just under a year and the last 3 months resulted in pretty much no sewing due to it being on the market and the numerous open homes. Thank goodness that is all behind us!

Now please step inside and follow me as we cruise around in a generally clockwise direction.

Let me show you my toys:

My machines: I sew on an Elna 2130 and I love it. I bought this machine after I graduated University as a congratulations gift to myself. I remember doing a lot of careful research before settling on this one and I “lay-buyed” it (gosh, does anyone actually do that anymore?!). It cost me NZD$495 back in late 2003 but I moved to Australia in January 2005 and it went into storage until my Mum brought it over (in her suitcase!!) in 2008. Needless to say it survived the trip intact and it still stitches perfectly.

In 2009 I decided to buy an overlocker and after more careful investigation I chose a Bernina 1150MDA which cost me AUD$995 – I’ll admit I was pretty lucky, the Australian government introduced their economic stimulus package earlier that year, which included giving all eligible Australian citizens (or in our case – registered tax paying residents) a one-off bonus payment of AUD$900 and they encouraged us to spend it, so, adding $95 to it, I did just that 😉 I’ve never looked back – Best. Purchase. Ever!

You can see my computer in this photo too and a couple of drawer sets holding various sewing and crafty items and on top is my Silkstone barbie who has yet to get some new clothes.

Some of you may have noticed the absence of my “fancy red chair” which I am currently sitting on at work, it’s really comfy! I considered keeping it at work but my Ikea chair really is stuffed. I’m actually just waiting to get a chair mat to protect the new carpet.

I also have a new long mirror, very important for fittings…and no, you cannot see inside the wardrobe 😉

My new bookshelf that you saw me building the other day is a bit messy right now, I kind of just shoved everything in there 😉 You can see all the jars that I keep all my little bits and bobs in, my sewing books, a crazy cat soft toy that just cracks me up (surprised kitty is very surprised), sewing magazines and then some junk I have to sort through at the bottom.

On the left of my shelves I keep rolled up paper that includes copied patterns and spare butter paper. I found huge stash of it from my University days, back when I could buy it for like 2 cents an A1 sheet, and it is perfect for tracing patterns and drafting.

This is my garment hanger. It is meant to be taller but I bought a cheap one and the plastic locking thingees on the telescopic bits (so technical!) don’t really work if you hang more than one garment on it, it just slides down to the stops.

Nerdy husband will be instructed to drill holes in it this weekend. I will fix it, I will fix it good!

This is meant for holding items in progress but right now it’s mostly things needing repairs and alterations. The skirt at the front you would not have seen before and it is waiting for a zipper repair.

Why are these things not in the wardrobe? Hah, you almost got me there, but I’m still not showing you inside. A girl’s got to have some secrets 😉 No, actually I just like having them out on display, so I don’t forget about them.

My layout board: This is a piece of pre-finished MDF board from Bunnings. I originally shared my first sewing room with the Guest Room and a queen sized bed. So that I could layout my patterns we bought this board and I used it on top of the bed. However this was way too low and really bad for my back so when we moved we sold the bed and I attached the board to the top of a drafting table frame.

It’s great because I still have room under for storage but it is still a tad too high. I have drawn up a replacement frame and one day I will convince Nerdy Husband and Mechanical Brother-in-Law (who owns a welding device) to make it up for me 🙂

For now I am very happy because this is the first time I can walk around three sides of my layout. I have found I can really only cut curves well in one direction, then to get the other way I need to contort my arm or rotate the fabric, which just messes everything up. I’m not the only one right?

I use a set of Ikea Gorm baskets to keep my scissors, pens and pattern weights etc close at hand. They can’t slide all the way on at the moment but they will with the new frame.

I can also slide my ironing board underneath when it’s not in use which is a big space saver and saves me from having to constantly fold it up. You can just spot my sleeve board underneath the table and in the photo below, hiding on the filing cabinet is my pressing board, if you are interested check out my post on how I made them. For the brave (and power tool happy) among you there is a bonus photo tutorial and patterns included 😉

I bought my filing cabinet from a recycling centre a couple of years ago. It cost me AUD$40 and it was a sad grey colour but I fixed that with a bit of paint. It’s perfect for holding my envelope patterns and magazine pattern inserts and takes up very little space.

My fabric stash is a bit messy right now, as I stacked it away I spread it out and kind of organised it by type. In the basket are fat quarters, I don’t know why I can’t stop buying those things, they are too darn cute.

I like having my fabric out where I can see it, it keeps the stash in check and allows me to be constantly inspired. Also, don’t worry, the filing cabinet shields it from the sun.

I have also realised that the reason I love having so much fabric (and I am aware that this is not a lot of fabric by some people’s standards) is because it is like having a personal fabric shop in my home. I love looking through fabric shops just like I love looking through my stash and re-discovering pieces I fell in love with at the shop and brought home, it’s great, don’t you agree? 😀

Birthday Dress pattern contenders hang in the background too, more on that in a later post.

Pride of place on top goes to my Singer 201K-3, gifted to me by The Amazing J, awaiting repairs, you can read her story here. My collection of miniature sewing machines will join her soon, I just need to find them all!

My thread holder is attached to the bottom of my pin board, you can see how I made it here. I have since added another row and I’ll be doing the same to pin board number two!

Also on top is a fairly major project I cut out last Winter, I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on the blog yet. Can you have a guess what it is? I think the fabric selection will at least give away the type of garment. Also I went to the library last week, I LOVE the library!

Scarlett guards the doorway (you never know when someone might sneak in looking for some scissors!) and models the current WIP which was interrupted by the packing, Simplicity 2364.

Behind her are my pin boards, I hung them myself, thank you very much, and I am pretty sure they are level. A bit sparse of inspiration right now but I’ll fit that soon. Do you like my very special bunting?

And that’s it, we are back at the door, now, shoo, off you go, do some sewing or something! 😉

Phew! Sorry, that was a really long post. So as you can see I am 100% ready to go but I have to be honest, I am almost frozen by the overwhelming list of things I want and need to sew! Sigh! My plan for the minute is to just START SEWING! Hence the machines are threaded pink so first up, the WIP must be finished.

Sewing Studio Update

For the record, I’m not calling it a “sewing room” anymore, it is now my Sewing Studio – because I am a grown up, and because I can 😉

So just a couple of pics for you as an update: In order for the carpet men to do their carpety thing all the rooms had to be emptied. So this is what our dining room looked like for a couple of days:

Dining Room Mayhem

This photo was taken before the big set of drawers and our bed got moved in as well! I had our bedroom all set back up the night after the carpet went in but my studio had to wait until the weekend.

Here is a before photos as a reminder:


And a reminder of the after:

…after – SO MUCH BETTER!

The new carpet is super springy and lush and it looks (and smells) so good. It will be even better when the rest of the old carpet goes during summer and we get the floor boards sanded and sealed, it will be a gorgeous contrast.

So on Saturday morning Nerdy Husband announced he was sick of looking at Allied Pickfords boxes and today we were going to empty and flatten as many as we could.

We got to work and moved the rest of the furniture back. Nerdy husband cut off the damaged end of my layout board and we even got my table frame upstairs. As payback I did have to help build the huge nerdy computer desk but I quite like assembling furniture.

Don’t you guys worry about Nerdy Husband by the way, oh no, he has his own nerdy room plus his “workshop” downstairs that I have been instructed to call The Mannex.

Then I started on my sewing studio!

Here is a progress photo of me dealing to those pesky boxes at mid-day:

Despite my pathetic protests to the contrary, Nerdy Husband was correct, most of the boxes in the dining room were in fact mine 😉

Surprisingly I stuck 100% to my plan. This being the fourth iteration of my room I’ve learnt a thing or two about how I work and how I like things set up.

Space restrictions previously mean’t that I used to keep my fabric and books all together in my Ikea expedit shelving unit but now that I have more room I want to space my fabric out in the shelves and group it by content so it is easier to look through. This leaves no room for books so I decided I needed a new bookshelf. Cue up a trip to the shops on Sunday morning and then I was doing this:


Excluding hanging my pin boards, I was all done and very happy by Sunday evening, but it was a bit too late for photos so you’re going to have to wait for the official tour this weekend when there is better daylight 😉



New carpet! All plush (the better to hide dropped pins from bare sewing feet) and waiting to be filled with sewing awesomeness…

That is all 😉

BMVK Christmas in July SALE! + Sewing Room Planning

Wow, Vogue patterns for under $3.00?! That is seriously cheap! I’ll share my splurge with you guys a bit later but for now here is one pattern that went into my basket:

It is McCall’s 2718 Misses’ Fitting Shell by Palmer/Pletsch. I may not be sewing at the moment but I have been doing quite a bit of reading and I have decided it’s time I made myself a fitting shell. I’ve been meaning to for a while after reading the section in my Reader’s Digest Complete Guide Sewing (of which I now have two copies, the “new” one and an older one which I am looking forward to comparing when I unpack that particular box). I couldn’t decide what pattern to use as my base so at just $1.26 I figured I’d grab this one – apparently it also includes different bust sizes.

If you are not sure what I am on about: basically you make up a basic pattern, adjusting it to your perfect fit following diagrams that help you correct any problems. This shell then converts back to become your master pattern that you can then compare to any pattern you make in the future and helps you see where fitting issues may arise. You can then alter the tissue pattern to more closely resemble your master pattern and eliminate those problems immediately. It’s good for someone like me who doesn’t make a muslin for every project.

I have sort of relied on a tissue fit up until now and I do make a few standard pattern alterations to most of my patterns before I sew (FBA, lengthen the bodice, adjust for assumed slight sway back, waist comes in) but if I am completely honest my method is more “fly by the seat of my pants” than anything else! Luck has been on my side for quite a while but it would be nice to have a really good fitting shell to compare so that I can understand more technically what I am doing and achieve an even better fit every time. It shouldn’t take long to whip up but will be worth the effort so I am actually quite looking forward to this little project. Has anyone else tried to make a fitting shell or do you use one regularly in your sewing?

Now, lacking the ability to sew (because my sewing room now also contains our bed, don’t ask…!) doesn’t mean I can’t fantasise about sewing (as per above) or the set up of my new room.

I don’t want to sound like a skite* but this is the biggest room I’ve ever had for sewing so I can have a bit more fun with the set up. Here is a sneak peak at my first cut:

It is mostly to correct scale, although I did over-estimate my cutting table. I will have to trim my board down to remove a bit of damage to the short edge after being in storage under the house for 1 year, eck. This is not entirely a bad  thing, it’s still a pretty big surface and it means I can walk around three sides of it, something I’ve wished I could do ever since I got it. Other items have been dictated by power point locations and I may tweak this a bit more when I actually start placing items in the room. I can’t wait to give you guys a real life tour!

Ok, that’s it from me 🙂 Happy Monday! xx

*I had to look this up because I wasn’t sure of the spelling for a colloquial term I’ve grown up with but never had to write down before and since this blog is read by lots of international readers I thought I should also clarify: Skite is used in Australian and New Zealand slang and means to boast. Unlike the Scottish/Irish use which, according to the internet, means to have a heavy drinking session! Perhaps when I am drowning in fitting shell confusion I’ll have to look into the Irish use of the word 😉

A bit of Sewing Room progress

I didn’t achieve everything I wanted this weekend but I did un-bury both my machines!

…and powercords, which are also very important!

It doesn’t look like much but it made me feel MUCH better about pretty much EVERYTHING.

Hrmm…we appear to be lacking quite a lot of fabric…

Nerdy husband and I have decided we have to prioritise getting new carpet for all the bedrooms, the current carpet is very old, full of 24 years worth of pet fur and goodness knows what else (despite numerous cleans) and it’s just not healthy for us. We were prepared for this, we knew when we bought the house that the carpet was bad. The exciting pay-off is that the carpet sits on top of beautiful New Zealand Rimu floor boards so the rest of the house will be taken back to this and polished up. Oh my, it’s going to be gorgeous!

This will happen very soon, I just have to organise myself, but until that time I am reluctant to load my room with too many items as I’ll just have to empty it again when the new carpet goes in. I do intend to have enough in there so that I can sew 😉 This weekend made me realise that my mood has been slowly descending into gloomy territory. We’ve only been in the house 1 week and I’ve felt a bit lost in general.  I’m just impatient. On Saturday I cooked our first “proper” meal, in my kitchen, roast chicken with all the trimmings, it felt so good. I want my sewing room back the same way and I know it’ll feel just as good when I sit down at my table and push the pedal on my Elna for the first time in aaages.

I have a quick project already lined up to get me back in the swing. It doesn’t sound super exciting because it’s home-dec but I’m excited about it. Here’s the background: Nerdy Husband’s interests also include goldfish and he has a nice large tank that has been in storage for 6 years. We have dusted everything off and bought additional supplies and are now looking forward to getting it all set up in our lounge. The tank also has a pretty naff looking pine table that Nerdy Husband made for it to sit on. It’s OK, even Nerdy Husband concedes the naff-ness of this table and has asked me to make a cover for it. I have left over fabric from this ikea-hack-esque project which will go nicely with the couches and ottoman. I’ve already planned how I’m going to tackle it so I just have to do some measuring (and dig out said fabric) and then I’ll get at it later this week…I may also need a couple of zippers…

Now for something completely different: Would you guys pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top vote for my entry in the Bernina Craftsy DIY Weddings Contest? You just have to click on THIS LINK or on the image below and then click on the heart to “heart” me 🙂

If you missed my wedding dress journey you can see all the posts HERE

Thanks everyone, you guys are awesome xx

Fabric shopping > cleaning

Just a quick post to say I’m still here, I’ve just been recovering because last weekend was MOVE DAY! Yay! Finally!

Originally it took just the two of us 5 truck loads and two days to move everything into storage but with the help of some awesome family members (Mechanical Bother-in-Law and Father-Who-Didn’t-Lift-Anything-Heavy-If-His-Wife-Asks) we managed to move everything out on Saturday in just 3 truck loads, phew!

Nerdy Husband and Mechanical Brother-in-Law seemed dismayed at the number of boxes labelled “Mel’s Room (Sewing)” or “Fabric” but Father-Who-Didn’t-Lift-Anything-Heavy-If-His-Wife-Asks knows his daughter well and just smiled.

I know you guys will understand 😉

I love our new house but unfortunately I haven’t had much time to enjoy it yet. Despite the previous owners paying a cleaner for the morning I still ended up spending most of the weekend cleaning the kitchen before I ran out of energy. So I have no future-sewing-room photos for you just yet. The problem is that my room is currently serving as wardrobe, dressing room and linen cupboard until I get a chance to thoroughly clean them too. There is only one word to describe their current state: feral.

The plan this weekend is more cleaning (sarcastic yay) so that I can get our clothing, linen and towels out of future-sewing-room. Then I can re-assemble my sewing table and shelves, which all had to be pulled apart to get them down the tiny hallway of our rental house, and then the fun really begins!

I better hurry up because my fabric shelves just got some new additions…

Excuse the wobbly cell phone photo – hands were full of fabric

50% off at Arthur Toye? Well if you insist… 😉

Green & white cotton/spandex for an experiment to recreate my favourite (and almost falling apart) workout top and 2 x 100% viscose prints

Some sort of knit with sparkly stripe, some suiting and a lace – because I really want to make a lace overlay dress! Possibly to combine with the suiting fabric beside it as a more work-appropriate version (?)

Lace detail

I am looking forward to sharing photos of my room with you as I set it up so watch this space next week when, hopefully, normal service resumes…