How to Make a Simple and Stylish Thread Rack




About: I am learning to teach and teaching to learn. A student of education, specifically art of the visual sort, hoping at the very least. Been crafting all my life, since my mother learned her things would stop g...

I was cleaning out my room and managed to come across a lot of left over scraps from old projects that I have saved over the years with the intent of using them later. Usually, this means I organize the scraps and stash them somewhere to be forgotten until my room needs to be cleaned again. This time though I was simultaneously trying (and failing) to organize my thread, wishing I would cave and buy the expensive thread rack I never let myself get at the craft store. Very, very luckily it dawned on me that all the supplies I needed to make one were sitting right there in my pile of scraps. The thread rack I ended up with is small, flat, and can either be hung on the wall to save space or taken down to be laid flat at a work space.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools

-Scrap wood (thick enough to drill through)
-Wooden dowels
-Quilt batting

-Pencil or marker
-Staple gun
-Awl or a sharp tapered object

Step 2: Measuring and Marking

If you are comfortable with eying where you want to drill, you probably can skip this step, but it makes life a lot easier if you don't.

First thing you want to do is to measure how much wood you have and mark out a grid. Try and center your grid so that all your marks will be centered as well. My grid was a half inch by a half inch.

Then you want to use the grid to mark where you want to drill holes for the dowels. I spaced three rows at an inch and a fourth for small spools of thread and four rows at an inch and a half for standard size spools. Remember to consider the same spacing in all directions. I chose to have different spacing in order to fit all the different spools I own as well as fit more spokes onto my thread rack.

It you want to hold larger spools, use the diameter of your larger spools as your spacing between marks. If you don't plan on upholstering your thread rack, you can still easily sand the grid marks off.

Step 3: Drilling

When I went through my tools I didn't have a drill bit the same size as my wooden dowels, but I did have one slightly smaller and sandpaper so I could easily make it work with only a few extra steps. Despite whether or not you have the right drill bit, you will want to drill at roughly a forty-five degree angle. In my case I also wiggled the drill, rounding out the hole into a funnel shape. carpespasm suggested creating a jig to get the same angle every time by drilling the desired angle into a piece of scrap wood to line up all your holes.

Even if you do have the right size drill bit for the job, you might want to consider rounding the top of the holes if you also are going to upholster your thread rack in order to leave a little room for fabric and batting.

If your wood can handle it, I suggest drilling all the way through to the other side. This could be helpful later, and even if it's not, overall it really can't hurt. I decided to drill all the way through when I thought I might need wood glue to secure the dowels and would not be able to apply it on the top with the upholstery. While I did not end up needing wood glue, it was helpful when I was puncturing the fabric to insert the dowels as I needed to be able to push my tool all the way through to work properly.

Step 4: Sawing and Sanding

I had a craft package of wooden dowels which I taped together with scotch tape in groups of four or five and cut them down to roughly four inches.

You will want to sand the rough ends. I sanded one end to a taper and the other end flat. Even if you had the right sized drill bit you still might want to sand an end to a taper especially if you are going to upholster your thread rack. To test if you need to do this, try to fit the dowel into one of your holes. It should be a tight fit and not able to move loosely in any direction. If it is too loose, you will need wood or industrial strength glue to attach the dowels.

If you aren't covering your thread rack, you also will want to sand your grid lines and any rough edges on the holes you drilled at this time.

Step 5: Upholstering and Marking Your Fabric

This is entirely a it take or leave it step; if you don't want to upholster your thread rack, skip to the next step. Personally, I think covering the thread rack gives it a nice finished look that doubles as needle storage.

Cut your fabric larger than your wood and your batting to the same dimensions as your wood.

You will want to calculate how much fabric you will need to cover your thread rack. You can eyeball this easily, but if the thread rack you're making is fairly large, it might be helpful to use this equation. Find the dimensions of your sides (x) and edges (y) and plug them into x+2y+2(at least 3/4 in)
ex: a board 9.5in by 11in by .75in
9.5+2(.75)+2(.75)=12.5  11+2(.75)+2(.75)=14

Lay the fabric on your board and mark all the corners and where the holes are with a pencil. If you are going to use especially thick batting, you also might want to mark where the holes are on your batting so that you can pre-punch the holes.

Layer your batting and fabric on top of your board and turn it over. If you want a little security, you can apply a little adhesive so the batting and fabric don't shift, but it isn't necessary.

When stapling the fabric to the wood, start in the center of one side and work out, pulling the fabric tight from that center staple. Do the same thing on the parallel side, pulling everything tighter. Fold over or cut off the extra fabric in the corners and do the same thing to the last two sides.

Step 6: Attaching the Dowels and Finishing Touches

If you have upholstered the thread rack you are going to need to puncture the fabric secure the dowels. The reason we didn't do this previously when the fabric was loose is because even though we marked where the holes are, the marks will have shifted slightly after the fabric was stretched. The holes do not need to be so large for the dowel to easily pass through, think around 3/4ths the diameter of the dowel, though it really doesn't need to be exact.

You can make these holes very easily with an awl, unfortunately for me, I had misplaced mine at the time and had to improvise with a needle tool (the kind you use with clay) and the drill. An awl is very easy to use and absolutely the best way to make holes in fabric to attach eyelets, but really any sharp tapered object like a large nail or a knitting needle should work just as well. It works by pushing the fabric's weave instead of cutting into the fabric in order to reduce fraying. If you have something like this, all you have to do is use it to push through the fabric.

 Next, line up the tapered end of the dowel with the hole and hammer, and it in until it is snug and doesn't move. If it wobbles and isn't staying put and hammering it in harder doesn't work, try using wood glue.

If you really don't have anything like an awl, you can try it down and dirty with a large needle and a drill like I did. Start with puncturing the fabric with a needle. Change the drill bit to a much smaller size and very, very carefully drill into the fabric, while holding the fabric as taut as you can with your fingers.

After you get all the dowels in place you can staple a sturdy ribbon to the back or attach a picture wire so you can hang it on the wall. Load up all your thread, and Ta Da! You're done.

Here are some other ideas you might want to consider while making your thread rack:
-Use pencil stubs as dowels
-Paint or stain your rack instead
-Leave room for an area to put a thicker layer of batting to make a built in pin cushion



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    23 Discussions

    Do  you think using foam core or a ceiling tile as the base would work? Also wood skewers (like for a kabob) instead of the dowels? Thread isn't very heavy.

    2 replies

    While I'm not certain about a ceiling tile, having never worked with one before, I would be wary that form core would be to thin, though you should be able to use two or more layers of it glued together just fine. I would definitely use glue to secure everything since such light materials won't provide the necessary tension to hold the spokes on their own. I don't see anything wrong with using skewers instead of dowels. You might have do some creative problem solving, but those materials should create a light and cost effective thread rack. The only real reason I could give for using wood and dowels (other than already having those materials) is while thread might not be heavy, time is and the stronger your materials, the longer your project will last.

    An excellant foam to use is the pink foam used around outside walls of basements. This is for insulation purposes but is excellant. Get the 1 inch thick. It is so light weight yet strong and easy to work with.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I made a thread rack based on your instructable. Here is the photo. I sanded down some shorter dowel pieces for bobbin holders, seen below the spools. I added some hooks to hold scissors, seam ripper, carded notions or whatever. I didn't have any batting, but I had some soft material that was long, round and cylindrical. I added that at the bottom for needles, hammering it in with steel tacks (not thumbtacks, but not really nails). I used the staple gun for the fabric.

    I had to buy the dowels but everything else I had around, including the silly rhinoceros fabric. I forgot to stagger my dowels, so it is a bit crowded but I figure I have enough of the skinny spools that it will still be useful. I had a drill press and set up a 45 degree guide as you mentioned. I couldn't get all the holes drilled that way, so I had to do some by hand. Those were not angled as consistently but it is not too noticeable. It is quicker to do by hand.

    I had access to a belt sander which made rounding off and sanding the dowels easier. The biggest divergence from your design was I did not bother to 'dot' the fabric. I just put it on there (good instructions on how to get it tight!) and felt where the pre-drilled holes were and poked with an awl. I used glue on some and not on others.

    So big thanks for getting me going on this -- I'd been wanting to do it and I liked how yours looked with the fabric & your re-use/re-purpose ethic is great.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    At a shop I work in, there is a very simple thread rack. Just a shelf tilted to the right angle with dowels and nails for the thread spools.

    However, I am going to use your idea as where I live now is temporary.

    Covering is a good idea to keep dust off and thread from drying out. Easiest way to do that is go to a bakery and plastic cake covers, then make your spool holders to fit under the cover.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    My neighbors are going to hate me for trying this. (Live in an apartment.) But I have all the tools, scrap wood (from making my headboard) probably some doweling somewhere, wood glue, batting, fabric. Oy what a great instructable this is!


    8 years ago on Step 6

    Excelent idea!!! Very easy!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Well, DUH!  This is exactly what I need, since I have so many spools of thread - to go along with the 34 boxes of fabric I've hoarded.  Unfortunately, I don't have time to make the thread rack, because I'm looking through all the boxes, bins, bags, and baskets for the thread that matches the fabric I'm working on next.  Oh, well - the usual solution will work just as well.  I'll just go buy another spool . . .

    Seriously, I love the thread rack, probably also have all the tools and materials lying around somewhere, I just have to dig - and I do mean dig - through the three-car garage that has never seen a car in order to find everything!  Thanks for the how-to.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done! I like the crafty addition of fabric and batting. Scrap wood is so easy to find, and if you want a fancy, uncovered wood block, check out your local reusable building center or ask around on  What I like most about your project is that the spool spacing can be easily adjusted to any spool size to optimize storage space. I also like tall spindles since I want enough space below each spool to hold two matching bobbins.  I can also see creating several spool holders, arranged on a wall to create a decorative as well as functional object.


    9 years ago on Step 3

     You probably don't need so steep an angle on your holes.  I've built thread racks, and 10-15 degrees is plenty.

    For the ones I built, I just used the board, sanded and stained - no covering required.  The dowels were only about 2" long and drilled 1/4 to 3/8" deep.

    2 replies

    It sounds like you made very nice thread racks. Personally I choose different features for mine like steeper angles to see the thread better, covering it for aesthetic reasons and for needle storage, and long dowels so I could double stack spools if I ran out of room. I tried to create an instructable that would not need to be followed exactly, but something that could be easily modified to the users needs and preferences.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The longer dowels are nice to add the matching bobbins to the thread spools.  No more looking for the matching bobbin if they are already stacked together.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Something you might want to add to the hole drilling step: You can make them all exactly the same angle by taking a scrap block of wood, drilling your desired angle through it, then using it as a guide for drilling the peg holes.

    2 replies

    9 years ago on Introduction

    This is a wonderful project but here are some thread care items:

    Do not hang in sunlight, if you are an occasional user of thread, consider a cover (hinge a clear plastic container on top) thread will ge dirty and vintage thread needs extra care and actually does best in a refrigerator to retain moisture content and keep the thread from becoming brittle.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    what an excellent carpetted work bench! Lots of room, plenty of high shelves...

    Seriously, though, I'd put some scrap wood under what you're drilling to stop yourself from drilling a hole through the carpet - not to mention getting saw dust pretty deep into the fibres.

    2 replies

    I actually just staged those photographs in my living room. The lighting was better there and I was more or less using the space to produce a nice image quality than using it as an actual workspace.