serger thread hack

I recently participated in a charity sewing event, and I brought my serger to use for the day. I was so amused by my fellow sewists’ reactions to my conebobbinspools of thread that I had to create a tutorial.

a conebobbinspool of serger thread

Let me back up… As many of you know, when you first purchase a serger, one of the investments you make is in the thread. While one cone isn’t going to break the bank, buying four of them each (in oodles of colors) will definitely start to add up. Not to mention sorting out the storage of said cones.

I do keep four cones of the most frequently used colors on hand, but when I decided to round out my collection, I knew there had to be a workaround. I found several techniques online, and then I did my own thing based on a mishmash of these ideas, incorporating my needs based on the machines I have. Now, I only buy two cones of the colors I’ll use less often, and I use this technique in place of the other two. And actually, you could buy only one if you just want the color for a project or two. I know I’m not the only one doing this type of thing, but since it was new to my friends that day, I assumed it may be unknown to some others as well… so here it is!

serger thread hack

what you’ll need:

  • a cone of serger thread
  • empty thread spool, labels removed – the smaller Gütermann ones are the ones I use*
  • empty bobbin that works with your bobbin winder
  • hot glue
  • sewing machine (or bobbin winder)

*I’m sure any empty spool would work. I use this one because it stores easily (see below), it is almost the exact width of the bobbin, and I have a lot of them.

what you need

1) Apply hot glue around the edges of the top of the empty spool (opposite that rough ridge where you secure the thread). Be fairly generous with the glue to fill up those outer holes, but avoid getting it into the center hole of the spool; that needs to remain clear.

begin applying the glue

2) Press the bobbin onto the spool, so that its center hole is aligned with the spool’s. Hold it for a couple of seconds until secure. Then, reinforce the attachment by applying a little more hot glue at the holes, if the bobbin has them like this one does.

apply bobbin and reinforce with more glue

3) Place the newly minted combo on your winder, with the bobbin locked in, if applicable, just as it would be if you were about to wind a bobbin.

ready to wind

4) Set the cone on the table next to your machine for the moment. Secure the end of the thread from the cone onto the spool (not the bobbin) and wind it around a few times, in the same direction that it will continue to wrap when you press the pedal. Don’t put the thread through any of the channels in the machine that you normally would — the thread will go straight from the serger cone to the spool.

thread secured

5) Hold the cone of thread in one hand, grasping the bottom of the cone as to not get in the way of the thread. Start to lightly press the pedal. With your other hand, guide the thread, moving it slowly up and down the length of the spool as it winds, keeping it evenly disbursed along the spool. You can pick up speed as you’re comfortable, but it will be easier to control if you don’t max it out. Keep it up until the spool is as full as you’d like.

thread moving from cone A to spool B

6) Clip the thread between the cone and the spool, and you’re done! One last thing — if you are using a Gütermann spool like this one, place it on the serger right side up, with the bobbin on top. If you do it the other way, as the thread feeds through the serger, it can get snagged on the rough ridge at the bottom.

serger fully loaded

alignment of spools on serger

Oh, I almost forgot one of the best parts! For storage, the conebobbinspool fits neatly inside the hollow part of the serger cones, as I (rather excitedly) demonstrate next…

At the previously mentioned event, not only did someone capture a video of me refilling one of these, but he even edited it and set it to music. Thanks Andy! ;-) (You can click here to see it if it isn’t showing up for you below.)

55 thoughts on “serger thread hack

  1. Thanks for the demo, moonthirty, great pictures and a cool video. Having to buy all those cones of thread has been one of the main reasons I haven’t bought a serger. Maybe I’ll consider it now that I know a workaround.

  2. You just made my day! What a great idea. I just pulled my serger out of storage to get reacquainted and dreaded the idea of buying more thread. I’ll definitely be doing this instead.

  3. That’s awesome. I wonder if it would work with the side bobbin winder little machine too. I will have to try. If not, I will just use my machine like you did. (-’

    Hi Donna! From looking at the pics of the SideWinder machines, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. If you find out, let me know! :) ~Susan

  4. So I’ve been serging for years and I only have three sets of colors – black, white and gray, and I’ve only used the gray once, ha!

    Yeah, I’m way too cheap to buy four cones of random colors!

    I had to immediately go and check this out and I found out that if I use the same kind of Gutermann spools that you used I don’t even have to glue a bobbin on top, it can fit right on my machine’s bobbin winder and spin! Sweet!

    Nice! I tried doing that and it wouldn’t work on my machine, so you’re lucky! :) ~Susan

  5. Since I use my serger while making costumes for the theatre and usually serger everything… I started buying 3 regular spools of thread alike..for my serger. They are easy to use, easier to store.. and find I don’t have to buy as much thread as you would think.. Also a tip .. at other times I keep one serger threaded with white or light colored thread and the other with black.. so I can use the serger..for any color material

  6. Will you do a review on your serger? I am considering buying this model for my daughter, but they are not sold locally and I’d appreciate knowing from someone who has one.
    I have a Viking, but I can’t afford to buy her one of those right now. Thanks in advance.

    Hi cneubie — I don’t have a lot of experience with other sergers for comparison’s sake, but I have loved using this one (Brother 1034D). I bought it a little over a year ago, and I found the threading easy right away. I use it all the time and haven’t had any problems. I definitely don’t take advantage of all the things a serger can do, but I regularly use it to finish seams, sew knits, and do rolled hems. Two thumbs up! ~Susan

  7. Love this idea! I have a whole drawer full of cones of thread, but often have none to match a particular project. I will be using this idea for sure.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Great idea, I mostly use white for everything but this is really would be a help when you want something spacific.

  9. Can you just use the bobbins by themselves? Hmmmmm

    Hi Michelle! Yes, you totally can — in fact that’s what I was doing at first, but I found myself having to refill them too often, which is why I started looking for a way to hold more thread. :-) ~Susan

  10. thanks great idea if your wanting to do edges. like some of the other ladies here I use three basic coulors but when it comes to hemming or edging it will be great to just use the correct colour thanks again for sharing :)

  11. How clever are you? I’ve been winding mine on a bobbin winder because I weave also. I LOVE this idea! Thanks.

  12. This is a fab idea. I have been sewing for years and I have never heard this before. You should submit it to the magazines, You will probably win a prize. Keep up the good work!

    Thank you Charlene! Maybe I should have thought of that before submitting it to the interwebs, huh? ;) ~Susan

  13. Thank you so much for the thread economy tip – great idea. I am constantly amazed and delighted with peoples’ generosity on the web – makes me smile!!!

    Aww… thanks Tam! ~Susan

  14. Absolute genius! I wish I’d seen this before I invested in too many serger cones. I know what I’ll be doing going forward. :-)

    Thanks for sharing.

    You’re quite welcome! I hope it works well for you. :) ~Susan

  15. I use both serger thread and my sewing thread and my embroidery thread in my serger. I don’t really see the point of winding an empty spool of thread from a spool of serger thread and with the amount of serger thread I use I’d be winding every day. I’ll stick to the serger spools unless I need a certain color or type of thread. But I have to say, it’s a very good idea!

  16. To make a smoother wind, you can put your cone with thread on your serger and wind off of it. This way you don’t have to hold your cone while winding your spool. Just slightly guide with your fingers.

  17. Cool idea,i admit i only have black and white as i use most of my serging inside the garment im making.A friend of mine had her hubby buy her a serger from sears and she just found it way too complicated so she returned it and i let her try my brother 1034D and she was converted )We bought both from ebay.

  18. I just found this! What a great idea. I’ve been free motion quilting and was looking for a way to get thread off of large quilting cones to something bigger than a bobbin. I’m going to try it with my sidewinder.
    Thanks!

  19. I’m new to serging and wondered how come you can’t just put a regular spool of thread on the serger? I have a Singer Ultralock 14U34.

    Hi Marian! I’m not familiar with your specific serger, but the short answer, at least with mine, is that yes, I could. But there are two reasons that I usually choose not to use the regular all-purpose thread on my serger: 1) foot for foot, it’s much more expensive, and 2) it’s not as fine, so it creates a much stiffer, bulkier finish. Hopefully this helps, and good luck with learning your serger! :)

  20. Thanks, I’ve had the plastic cones to break on 2 spools of serger thread. Now I don’t have to trash them.

    Wow, I’ve never had that happen! Glad you’ll be able to salvage the thread. :)

  21. Thanks so much for great idea!!! I did this and it works GREAT!
    I am always up for frugal ideas using items you have to upcycle into something useful!
    Thanks again for sharing!

    I’m glad it worked for you Kelly! If you have any other uses for those spools let me know, I still have tons! :)

  22. What a cool idea! I use really old (30 years or more) serger thread for all the hand basting I do on wedding gowns and change colors for each subsequent fitting like first fitting, red, second fitting (hopefully final) green and so on to keep track of which thread tracing is the correct one. Your hack would also work if you wanted to use up the remaining serger thread of an odd color in the machine by using an upright thread holder. Love your creative thinking!

    The different colors of thread for different sets of fitting/alterations — what an AWESOME idea! I’m totally going to use that. Thank you!!

    • Thanks Beata — occasionally I do use just bobbins on the needles if it’s only for one project, but they definitely don’t last long at the loopers!

  23. THAT’S SUCH A GOOD IDEA. A FRIEND OF MINE GAVE ME A SERGER BUT I HAVEN,T BEEN ABLE TO BUY ALL THE THREADS SO I ‘M TRYING THIS. THANKS FOR THE IDEA AND THE COOL VIDEO.

  24. Thank you so much for sharing such an amazing idea. I just bought a massive reel of good quality 180 weight monofilament thread that quilters usually use on long-arm machines. Would I be able to wind this using your method? I want my 2 thread flatlock to be near invisible on my serger, hence I need a second reel of monofilament thread.

    • Hi Shamin! I don’t see why not… I haven’t used that thread but I don’t see any reason this technique wouldn’t work with any thread, really. I’d love to hear about your results. Good luck with your project! :)

  25. Thank you for sharing your idea! I just got my first serger for my birthday (61 yrs old) and was searching for serger thread vs. embroidery thread. Google brought your site up, I watched, I am hooked on your idea. Now to get an empty spool…….

  26. Do both of the loopers use a lot more thread or just one of them, it seems that one of my cones empties out a lot quicker than the other, but it has been a while since I used it, and I can’t remember which one it is?

    • You know, I’m not exactly sure… The last time I had new spools on each until they were used up (which is rare for me — I do change colors occasionally!), it seems like my upper looper used a little more, but this probably depends on the serger, the settings, etc…

  27. I too am just beginning on my serger. I was concerned not only over buying a lot of cones but also storing them. I use normal matching thread on the needles although I only really need matching thread in the left hand needle if the seams are on the inside.

    I don’t like the solution of just using white and black because the contrast is too great with most fabrics. I bought 2 light grey and 2 charcoal. Charcoal worked great with dark purple and dark green, and the light grey worked fine with a light lime green. At a glance you don’t even notice that the looper thread is grey because the tone is the same and the grey doesn’t provide much contrast.

    I will get more cones but I don’t expect to need much variety. I may have to get a beige and a medium brown eventually but so far all my projects are working great with the range of greys.

  28. I usually buy just two spools of various colored serger threads, and stock up on black and white. I thread the upper and lower loopers with the thread colors to match my fabric, and either the white or black depending on the color of the fabric. I find this saves me money in the long run.

  29. ho j adore l idée on a donner a ma mere des tas de cone industrielle et on s’en ai jamais servi ne sachant pas comment et n ayant pas de surjeteuse mais la on peu meme s’en servire sur un mac normale merci bcp.

  30. I just bought my first serger but haven’t bought the thread yet…as you mentioned, it can add up quickly. I was just searching the internet to see if I could use an all purpose thread on my serger and I found this tutorial instead. Great idea! Thank you so much for sharing, you just saved me a lot of money, and undoubtedly the headache of jamming my brand new machine with the wrong kind of thread!

  31. I received a serger as a Christmas gift and its still in the box, it’s intimidating. Your “hack” as you call it has given me the push to get going. I have an embroidery machine and I’ve invested a small fortune in embroidery thread, so I’m thankful for this tip. Thanks!!

  32. Im still so intimidated by my serger ( we call it Overlocking Machine in South Africa), but this is a really helpful hint, I will definitely be using my machine now. Thank you

  33. this is a really great idea! Thank you so much!! I had extra large spools and haven’t used them for months because I didn’t know what to do with them. Now I do! Thank you so much!

  34. That is awesome! I am trying to edge a unique color fabric that I finally found a regular spool of thread in a matching color, but certainly no cone thread on that color. I certainly needed a hack!

Reply!