Thread Lifter Lifts Spirits…and MORE!

First a little quilting lesson.

There are two kinds of threads. Actually, there are way more than that, but in terms of how they unfurl off the spool, there are basically two kinds: the ones where the spool goes up and down and the ones where the spool goes side to side.

Since I’m using some highly technical jargon here. Let’s move right to the picture. (That’s what we all do when we “read” a quilt pattern anyway, right?)

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know this. I didn’t for years. Of course I’m the one that never measured the distance between her needle and the side of her foot and just assumed it was 1/4″. HA! I was more like 3/8″ and for 12 years nothing every went together right. But that’s another story. I digress.

There is logic somewhere, about the spool thing, but I don’t know where. Nevertheless, I feel strongly that I am right and you should feed the thread through your machine in the same orientation as they are shown in the cute picture above featuring my left thumb. I took that picture myself, one-handed, obviously. Possibly another reason to follow my advice. (I know things.)

Well all that is just fine, isn’t it? Every machine I’ve ever seen comes with a spindle that goes up and down. The problem is that hardly any of the machines that I own have a spindle that goes side to side —- which wouldn’t be a problem, except that when you put a side-to-side spool on a up-and-down spindle and sew at any speed above a crawl, well then, as they say in River City, you got trouble. (The Music Man is one of my favorite musicals because it is one of the few I managed to load on my iPod and I have been known to sing along, loudly, in embarrassingly public places.)

Yes, you got Trouble (note capital T, just like the song) and the Trouble is that if you sew really fast there’s too much pull on the thread. It feeds slower through the machine and can make your tension wonky. Doesn’t do a lot for the tension on the machine either.  If you go fast enough the spool can fly right off and cause injury. It’s not as bad as sewing through your finger (no comments on that please, I have a weak stomach) but like our mothers said, “It could poke an eye out!”

Add to that, the fact that some of the side-to-side spools have several miles of thread which is GREAT, except that they won’t even fit on your side-to-side spindle. Too many words again. Sorry. We need another picture.

Did you notice my cute little gold-handled, fold-up “Travel or Stay At Home” scissors? They’re sitting on my safe-for-computerized-machines  “Magnetic Pin & Scissor Grabber. ” (Hey, this is a free blog. How am I supposed to buy fabric? A little advertising never hurt anybody.)

So what’s a quilter to do?  Enter the “Wangensteen Thread Lifter” with apologies to anyone out there reading this whose name happens to be Wangensteen, and with a nod of the head to Dr. Owen H. Wangensteeen who invented a similar device for medical pursuits. Normally I wouldn’t know this except that I’m a big fan of M.A.S.H. and Colonel Potter invented one. Wikipedia confirms.

To make a Wangensteen Thread Lifter, take a glass jar and tape a dull pair of shears to the side of it. Put a glob of poster putty on the bottom and “fuse” it to your sewing machine table. Carefully place  the spool of thread inside the jar so it stands upright. (The entire point of this exercise.) A smaller glob of poster putty will hold it in place for a while. Feed the thread through the holes in the scissor handles and then thread the machine.

Problem solved. Kind of. Shrimpy spools fall over inside, big ones don’t  fit in the jar, and the slightest little bump will send the Wangensteen Thread Lifter flying off the table and onto the floor where the thread doesn’t feed all that well at all. It does make a nice cat toy, however. If you have cats. I don’t.

I want to introduce you to Paul from Minnesota. He makes Coneflowers which are one-of-a-kind thread lifters that are as useful as they are gorgeous. They work with all sewing machines, much like the Wangensteen Thread Lifter, but they won’t fall over because they are  made from recycled steel. Heavy.

They work with all kinds of threads which need lifting and they look beautiful sitting next to any machine be it a Bernina or a “boat anchor.” There’s even a place to store bobbins. Wow!

Paul creates three basic Coneflower styles, in single bloom or double bloom, named for his mother-in-law, his daughter, and his daughter in law. (Is that the sweetest thing ever?) When I met Paul he gave me a “Sara” (daughter-in-law). Or maybe it’s a “Barb” (mother-in-law). I don’t care who I have, I just love it to pieces. My tension is perfect, I can run faster, jump higher, and I have better check-ups at the dentist. Seriously, it’s such a good thread lifter I thread it and forget it. And every time I walk by my machine and the chaos that surrounds it, I think what a beautiful piece of art my Coneflower is. And I should really clean up my mess!

After you go shopping on (remember the little commercial from up above?) you should head right over to visit Paul’s Metal Petals. Tell your friends make them go there too. Both places. Everybody needs little treasures in their lives that make them happy.

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18 thoughts on “Thread Lifter Lifts Spirits…and MORE!

  1. Great review Ami. It is so nice to have our own product tester. I have been looking at the Coneflower ad’s in the magazines and wondered if they were worth the investment. Now we know! Thanks so much. Oh, and PS, they would make a great gift for a sewing buddy.


  2. I just toss my my thread in a tall narrow coffee cup that I got as a freebie somewhere. When I tried to reheat my coffee in the microwave, the cup sparked so I decided that it’s probably not that safe to drink from if it sparks in the microwave. It may have been the paint on the cup but I’m not taking chances. Anyway…I set the cup on a pile of junk about 2 feet from my machine and go to town. The thread does get to jumping but so far hasn’t managed to escape the cup – yet. I would love one of the coneflower thread things, but my budget is non-existent for non-essentials. Gotta love the Michigan economy.


  3. I don’t get the distinction. Why can’t you turn the purple spool on its end and say that it’s an up-and-down spool?? (Except if the spool pole is too short.)
    And won’t the thread still come off the blue spool if you turn it on its side, as long as the little thread-locking-groove thing is on the far side so that it doesn’t catch? (I don’t use that kind of spool.)

    What actually makes it up-and-down vs side-to-side??

    My quilts hold together but maybe they’d be better if I understood this after 20+ years of quilting in the dark so to speak.


    1. Look at the pattern of the thread on the spool. The criss-crossing of the thread makes that type feed better horizontally.


  4. I went to Paul’s website, those Coneflowers are so cool. A piece of artwork and it is functional too. Can’t afford one right now but did bookmark the site, I could see it as a birthday or Christmas gift (could somebody notify my kids plese?).
    Checked out your bowl tuteriol too, very well done!


  5. Dear Ammi, THANK YOU! I am a new quilter and am looking for sites that are instructional. I am also new to sewing, so good basic information is greatly appreciated…not to mention a little humor just makes learning more fun. Please keep the tips coming.


  6. “Poke your eye out!” Ha, ha, ha!!! I haven’t heard that in years! My mom used to tell all us kids that — we all survived with our eyes intact, but I still smile when I hear that expression, it reminds me of her!


  7. Thanks for the info and the review of the Coneflower. I’ve noticed it especially in the Connecting Threads print catalog. Now I’m putting one on my Christmas wish list.

    Incidentally, my Vikiing D-1 has both types of spool holders, the lateral and the vertical, but I never knew exactly why there was a choice until this blog. I had noted the difference in the way spools are spun with thread but didn’t know how it affected tension. Now it all makes sense.

    Thanks for continuing to teach us these little known essential facts.


  8. i gave me mine for my birthday this year. i LOVE it.
    i remember that MASH episode. and i remember the old fashioned wagenstein suctions!!!!!!!!!!! showing my nursing age.


  9. My Janome Gem only has a sideways spindle with a small stopper and a larger stopper for different size spools. If there is a way to have an upright spindle, I don’t know about it. So, the up and down spools have to be used sideways on that machine. I do sometimes have trouble with the thread wrapping around the spindle.


  10. You explain things so nicely, Ami. Last Mother’s Day I emailed my 50-y-o son at work and gave him Paul’s Metal Petals site and said that the”Sara” Coneflower double petal is what I wanted for Mother’s Day and could he make it happen? He emailed back, “Mother, you make this so easy for me, it is done”. I was thrilled and I absolutley love that thread stand. For my birthday I requested a Gingher Rotary Cutter, something I would not buy myself, and he looked for it on his own and even bought three extra blades. Gotta love a son like that. Now if his wife had shopped I would have ended up with a “themed basket” of stuff . I don’t want much, I just want what I want and not what they think I should want. Happy Judy C in NC.


  11. I use a banana hanger to thread my big spools. It was one of those tips about double uses.. works slick. I have seen the flower thing, I guess it is cuter than a banana hanger..


  12. Why is it, when I read your blog about quilting (of which I know little), I always get a laugh? I loved your Wagensteen Thread Lifter and admired your creativity. It looks like something I would have rigged up in order to save a buck! LOL
    The coneflower thread lifters are very artistic and it’s wonderful too to have them be useful along with that. I’ll give him a nod on facebook.


  13. You are so creative, Ami—-I bow to you or should I curtsy?! I have the double flower flower holder that I got for my last birthday and I love it!!! A rose among the thorns!!!!


  14. These are marvelous, aren’t they. I found them a while back, but lucky me, I actually have an OLD Singer Touch n Sew, model 756, which actually has BOTH types of spool holders. The optional up and down one, and the permanently affixed laying down on its’ side one (which of course is my fave). Thanks for sharing Ami and go buy some fabric!


  15. I’ve had a basic cone thread holder for years. It has a circular heavy bottom, a 3-4″ spindle in the center to keep the cone of thread from wandering, and a long upright spindle with a loop at the top to pass the thread through on its way to my sewing machine thread track. Works great! I’ve seen a few recently that are made of plastic, and heard that they bounce all over the place when sewing fast. Maybe I’ll tie a silk flower to the top of mine to dress it up a bit.


  16. A friend from England had a very expensive and clever thread cone holder: she cut the bottom off a 2 litre soft drink bottle, put it over the cone, and threaded the thread through the neck of the bottle. Then she threaded her machine the usual way and off she went.


  17. I have one of the cone flower thread holders. I’ve never used it with the sewing machine but I just think that its beautiful in my dining room. He also has other things like paper towel holder, wine racks, etc. He shipped very fast and gave great service. A group of us from our guild bought ours in bulk.


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