Wood Spool Chess Set




Introduction: Wood Spool Chess Set

After collecting quite a few vintage wooden spools from estates sales, antique shops, and donations from friends, I thought it was about time I made something with them. I recently acquired two large spools and thought they would make great chess pieces, so here's how to make a sewing themed chess set.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Materials

wooden spools

cotton fabrics - I used 5 colors, two for the squares on the board, one for the back and trim of the board, and two for the opposing chess pieces.

embroidery floss - 2 colors




rotary cutter with mat and quilter's ruler

quilt batting


cotton thread

printed image of chess symbols

sewing machine

straight pins

quilter's pins (optional) You can use straight pins instead if you don't have these.

Fabri-tac and rubber bands (optional) See step 13.

Step 2: Spool Selection

Spread out your spools and sort them by size.

Choose 16 small spools for your pawns. Then, begin finding pairs that get progressively taller for your rooks, knights, and bishops. Then choose your four tallest for the queens and kings.

I opted to also create one set with labels on them and the other with no labels. When I was just two spools short on the labels set, I carefully peeled off two labels from spools I wasn't using and glued them to the two with no labels.

Step 3: Quilt Board: Cut Squares

Measure the base of your largest spool and add a 1/4" to each side. Mine ended up being 2".

Cut 32 squares each of two contrasting colors of cotton fabric. I chose a dark blue and light blue, one solid and one with print.

Step 4: Quilt Board: Sew Strips

Sew your squares together into 8-square strips alternating between your two colors.

Press the seams with an iron.

Repeat until you have 8 strips of 8 squares.

Step 5: Quilt Board: Connect Strips

Sew your strips together while making sure each strip alternates between your two colors both vertically and horizontally.

Press your seams.

Step 6: Quilt Board: Adding Batting

Lay your squares piece face down on a flat surface.

Lay your batting over it. I made a quilt recently and had some pieces left over, so I used two scrap pieces. Just make sure if you do this, that they line up perfectly but don't overlap.

Lay your back piece of fabric over the batting.

Make sure each layer is smooth.

Note: At this point, I had to flip the whole thing over. With such a small quilt, it wasn't a big deal, but if you don't want to have to flip it, put it together with the back down first and work your way up.

Pin through all the layers every 6" or so. Be sure you only pin in the middle of the squares. You need to be able to sew between them.

Step 7: Quilt Board:

Stitch in the ditch: Sew along the edges of all your squares.

Trim off the excess back fabric and batting.

Step 8: Quilt Board: Binding

Cut a strip(s) of fabric for binding the edges. I cut mine 1" wide and it was a bit challenging to get it to wrap all the way around. I suggest 1.5" This will create a thin and unobtrusive edge. If you can't cut a strip long enough to go all the way around the board, sew the strips together at the ends before attaching to the quilt.

Pin your binding face down to the front of the quilt board. Leave a triangle of fabric sticking up at the corners.

Fold and press one end of the binding where the two ends meet and allow the other end to overlap it.

Cut off excess binding.

Step 9: Quilt Board: Sewing Binding

Sew a 1/4" from the edge of your quilt board.

When you reach a corner, sew to where the fabric doubles up at your triangle corner. Do not go all the way to the edge. Back stitch, and begin again on the other side of the corner flap.

Step 10: Quilt Board

Press your binding on the front of your quilt board with an iron.

Fold and press the binding so the raw edge touches the edge of the quilt.

Fold the pressed edge of the binding over to the back of the quilt and pin it in place.

Pull out your needle and thread and use a blind stitch to secure it to the back.

Step 11: Spool Pieces: Cut Strips

Decide on another two contrasting colors and cut strips that are about a 1/2" thicker than your pawns are tall. I originally planned to have the strips cover the whole spool, but later decided that I wanted the strips to all be the same size regardless of the spool's height so the symbol on each would look the same size and so you could still see some of the old thread. It's up to you. If you want taller strips on taller spools, you'll cut larger strips for larger spools.

Also, be aware that these strips need to be long enough to wrap around the spools and some will be thicker than others.

Step 12: Spool Pieces:

Print out an image of some chess symbols or pull the images up on a computer or tablet screen.

Trace the symbols onto the center of your strips spaced so that they will line up with the front and back of the spool. All my pawns were the same size, so I could copy the spacing once I figured it out. However, with the larger spools, it's important to trace one symbol, wrap it around the spool it's being made for and mark the placement of the symbol for the other side before tracing it on.

Once you've got your symbols traced, embroider along the lines with a backstitch. If you need a detailed tutorial on the backstitch, I've got an instructable for that. Embroidery 101: Backstitch

Step 13: Spool Pieces: Press and Secure

Fold and press the raw top and bottom edges onto the back.

Fold and press one side of the strip as well.

Wrap your strip around the spool and fold the raw edge under the pressed edge.

Use a blind stitch to secure it. The blind stitch was very challenging on the tight round spool, so I recommend using a similar color to your fabric to keep messier stitches from showing as badly.

Another option, instead of the blind stitch, is to use fabric glue. I used Fabri-tac on my second set of pawns. Once you've applied the glue to the underside of the pressed edge, wrap a rubber band around it while it dries overnight.

Step 14: Portability

To make your chess set more portable, knit or crochet small loops and stitch them to the corners of your quilt board.

To make my loops, I chained 20 with some sock yarn. If you need help learning to crochet a chain, I have an instructable for that.

Step 15: Handle

Cut a strip of leather.

Wrap it through your clasp and rivet it in place. If your strip is larger than your clasp, you can use a leather punch to put notches in the side of the strip where it overlaps the clasp.

Step 16: Wrap It Up

Place all your pieces in the center of the board and add the loops to the clasp one at a time.

Take your set out for a stroll.

Step 17: Have Fun!

Outside Contest

Participated in the
Outside Contest

Summer Fun Contest

Participated in the
Summer Fun Contest

Travel Tips Contest

Participated in the
Travel Tips Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Sew Fast Speed Challenge

      Sew Fast Speed Challenge
    • Fandom Contest

      Fandom Contest
    • Jewelry Challenge

      Jewelry Challenge

    3 Discussions


    1 year ago on Step 16

    How incredible! congratulations. Such a great idea.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Very very clever~ I love it and voted. Hope your day shines.



    4 years ago on Introduction

    Such a neat idea. I love that you left the thread on the old spools too. Very nicely done!