Which Sewing Machine Spool Pin To Use?

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Ever wonder why some sewing machines have a vertical spool pin while others have a horizontal spool pin and still others have both? When I started working with sewing machines in the 90’s, horizontal spool pins were just coming into vogue. Machines from the turn of the century until the late 1980’s and early 1990’s had vertical spool pins. This includes the old Singer, Bernina, Viking, Pfaff, White, Kenmore, Montgomery Wards, Good Housekeeping… you name it, it had vertical spool pins.

Flat Wound Thread. – Here is why, old style spools were flat wound. The thread on a flat wound spool is intended to come off by turning the spool. The problem was that you could only put so much thread on a flat wound spool before the weight of the spool started messing with the top tension as the machine tried to turn the spool. Seamstresses and quilters wanted more thread on the spool. The introduction of decorative “embroidery” stitches on the 1960’s sewing machines meant that people who embellished with those stitches were going to use more thread. Note the Sulky and Madeira in the back row. Flat wound threads are still produced today for the modern creative seamstress or quilting enthusiast. These are generally specialty threads, quilting threads, metallic threads or similar threads for the creative seamstress or quilter. There are also inexpensive threads for the folks who still have their original needle in their vertical spool pin sewing machine 😉

Cross Wound Thread. – Thread manufacturers were willing to solve the problem by producing cross-wound spools and cones. With cross wound spools, the thread is intended to be pulled off the end of the spool, so the spool did not need to turn. This meant you could have thousands of yards of thread on a spool. It also meant you needed a horizontal spool pin or another way to feed that thread onto an older machine. I’ve seen some interesting engineering over the years. While I’m never happy to see a machine that the husband has tried to fix, I have enjoyed seeing some of the ways they figured out for getting cross-wound thread onto a vertical spool pin machine. Almost all involved duct tape, but they generally worked!



I on the other hand, prefer a thread stand. (Here is a spool holder for under five bucks!) As you can see, I can place the cross-wound cone behind the machine. If I need to alter the thread path, I will tape a safety pin onto the machine so that the circle part protrudes above the machine and use it as a thread guide eye. This way I can direct the thread to where I need it. I have seen bobby pins, paper clips, fishing swivels, keys, etc… attached to machines to serve as a thread guide. I like the safety pin because you all sew and therefore you all have one. The double wind of that hole means your thread can’t escape or get caught in your thread guide.

Today, almost all sewing machines come with both a horizontal and a vertical spool pin. I know when I explain the reason to clients I still get the occasional roll of the eyes. How can the thread coil going into the sewing machine when it comes off the spool the wrong way? Easy, and you can prove it to yourself. Take a spool of flat wound thread and pull about two feet of thread off by rotating the spool (without letting go of either). Bring the end back to the spool and your thread should hang straight. Now, same spool of thread, pull about another two feet off the end of the spool and bring the end back to the spool. The thread twists in the air. Just the opposite for cross-wound spools. Perhaps I should post a short video 🙂

I hope the information on vertical and horizontal spool pins was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please use the comment link.

May Your Thread Never Break!

Mike Roussin