Why is there a vertical and horizontal thread holder?

Find out why there are both upright and horizontal options for using thread on your machine and why that is important. Why did I not know this? You know sometimes how you just assume that everyone knows the same things that you know.  Just small little snippets of information picked up from random sources over time and just filed away? Often these can be bizarre facts about cats, random dates in history, or the funny middle names of celebrities – anything.  Then it comes up in conversation and it turns out that in fact, not everyone knows this – and you feel like a rock star!

Not saying I’m a sewing rock-star in any way, but as a newbie sewer somewhere along the line I’d learned a little-known fact about thread and why there are often two spool holders on your machine – one that lies horizontally and one that sits vertically.

This thread is wound straight on the spool in one smooth line with each wind directly next to the previous one

This thread is wound straight on the spool in one smooth line with each wind directly next to the previous one

photo credit: via photopin (license)


These are made to accommodate the two different types of wound thread spools.

  1. The regular spool of thread that our grandmothers would be most familiar with where the thread is wound round and round the spool smoothly in a single uninterrupted line, (picture above) and
  2. what appears to be a more modern recent way of winding, where the thread criss-crosses over itself and makes a pattern on the spool, like you usually see on cones of thread. (picture below)
See how these spools of thread have a 'criss-cross' pattern

See how these spools of thread have a ‘criss-cross’ pattern

photo credit: Threads via photopin (license)

These threads are wound onto the spools in different ways and that means in order to give you the best possible sewing performance, they should come off the spool in different ways too.  Spool 1 – the regular ‘smooth’ wound thread should come off the side of the spool and the spool turns as it feeds off.  This should be placed upright on the vertical spool holder.


Spool 2 – the criss-cross thread should come off the top of the spool in a circle and the spool shouldn’t turn while being unwound.  This type of spool sits horizontally on your machine.


However its hard to describe exactly how and why in words so check out this great video about what happens if you use the wrong one and how it affects your thread, giving it both unwanted tension and twisting.  Interesting to see it demonstrated with a reel of ribbon.

So now you all know this little snippet of information too if you didn’t know it already. If you’ve had niggling tension problems or other problems with your thread, maybe this little tip might help.

But what if you don’t have the horizontal thread holder, or your spool of thread won’t fit on it for some reason?  Then you can buy a thread stand that sits at the back of your machine, and the thread spool stands on it, with the thread coming off the top of the spool correctly as it should.

Don’t forget to pin and share this article and get the word out about the correct spool holder to use on your machine. Tell your friends, and look like a sewing rock-star!

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28 Responses to Why is there a vertical and horizontal thread holder?

  1. S Cal says:

    I enjoy learning little snippets of information like these… guess it’s my perfectionist streak!! Thank you so much for sharing this. It is actually useful too. 🙂

  2. Kerrie says:

    Excellent…thanks. I didn’t know any of that….great to know!

  3. Candice says:

    This changes EVERYTHING!! For years I’ve always thought my machine was just picky and didn’t like “basic” thread. I thought she only wanted fancy thread. Once I get my sewing room remodel done I will have to give this a try.

  4. ncjeepster says:

    Awesome, this probably why I’ve been having so many problems recently, I tried the other type of thread. Thanks so much!

  5. Janet says:

    What a great video, definitely something to remember the next I want to throw my machine out 😉 lols

  6. Thanks for sharing informative video ‘thread therapy’. Keep quality posting.

  7. Patti Evon says:

    awesome!! did not know this.. great info! thanks..

  8. Cindy Quinlan says:

    EUREKA!!!!!!! Actually, you ARE a rockstar!!

  9. Wonderful! You are a sewing rock-star. I’ve been sewing for more years than I care to count, and I never knew about this. Thanks for much.

  10. Hémiole49 says:

    Thank you for this very useful information !

  11. Sonja says:

    Wow thank you so much for sharing!!

  12. Carmella says:

    Wow, I never knew this and I’ve been sewing for decades. I love learning new stuff!

  13. Marsha Law says:

    Well, I’ll be damned! I never thought about that but it makes perfect sense. And it might explain why my horizontal-loading machine hates certain brands.

  14. twemyss says:

    Found this out the hard way but yes, I bought the cheap version for the thread and have no trouble with it! If it falls over I just put my paper weight on the other side of the spool. So when I go to classes and forget it I only lose $5, hahaha! Funny though, it is never returned so someone will have found out how handy it is!!

  15. aly says:

    Thank you so much for the information. This will help so many people including me.

  16. Sandy says:

    I worked at one of those “dealers” for some time. We were definitely taught the way he described! I knew that there was something about the “twist” of the thread,and you had to pay attention, but I was told that was a really old way that manufacturers used to wind their thread. I was taught that they didn’t really use that method in manufacturing any more. But in reality, this is the new “twist”! Thanks for the great info.

  17. Sewing Gracefully says:

    Great Information! I guess I too am “old school” at 61. I’ve been sewing since 1965 and never heard this. My original heavy metal Dressmaker machine only had a vertical spool and my Pfaff machine has a default of a horizontal pin. I never knew it made a difference. I’m off to see if I can locate a vertical pin for my Pfaff. Thanks for the information. The other related videos that come up in my window as a playlist afterwards look helpful as well.

  18. Nancy says:

    So interesting..I’ve been sewing for over 50 years and machines I learned on had only the vertical holders, so this is news to me. Thanks so much!

  19. Krista says:

    This was pretty interesting. I definitely learned something new– I’ve been doing it the opposite way for 20+ years! So, it can work (even if it’s not ideal).

  20. Primrose Bohne says:

    This is certainly something to be aware of, especially when you are having issues with your stitch. However, some newer machines have horizontal spools for regular (smooth wound) thread, like my newer Elna, and work just fine that way, with the thread spool turning as it sews. Thank you Mayra, good article.

  21. Diane says:

    Never, ever heard this before. My machine has horizontal thread holder and I do experience tension problems. I have a crochet needle taped to the back of my machine that I use with a double needle. Maybe I should try using it normally to see if there’s a difference.

  22. I have sewed for many years and did not know this! I really appreciate reading this article and seeing the video. Thank you so much for this good information.

  23. Marilyn Griffiths says:

    I have 2 spools on my machine but they are both horizontal!?

  24. Yvette Lawrence says:

    Thank you very for this article regarding the position of the spool. I’ve been seeing all my life and never knew this. I love this newsletter and I look forward to reading it every week.

  25. Pam (Swansea, Wales) says:

    I did A-level Needlework in 1970 and have sewn on and off since then, but had never been taught not heard this information. It perfect sense and explains why I’ve had issues when stitching sometimes. Thank you so much for another brilliant post.

  26. Sandy Woerner says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I am an old school sewer and never knew this, but have encountered the problems he described.

  27. Samone says:

    This is great! Thank you sew much! I always thought I was “crazy” because my thread spool worked better on top of my machine. Now I know why! This is elementary but yet can change results in how our creations turn out! Thank you again.

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