Good habit of the month: Clip those threads!

We recently talked about developing some good habits together. The idea is that we can adopt better sewing habits by focusing on just one good habit every month.

Starting this month, I’m going to be posting my “habit of the month.” This is what I’m going to be personally working on. You can join me in this habit, or choose your own (feel free to shout it out in the comments).

This month, I’m going to clip all my threads as I go.

I am horrible about this. I start with good intentions, but I always seem to peter out halfway through a project. In the end, I have to spend an extra 10-20 minutes removing all the tangled threads that have accumulated, and I always miss some. No good!

Helpful tips:

  • Ready a container. To help me, I set out this little box near my sewing machine to throw threads into. I made this box a while back and it has been looking for a purpose ever since. Purpose found! Some people have mentioned that they tape a small bag to the edge of their work table for thread collection, so that’s another option. Be especially mindful if you have pets, because throwing threads on the ground can be dangerous if they’re swallowed.
  • Keep thread clippers handy. I have a pair that I wear on a ribbon around my neck whenever I sew. Even though I haven’t been great about thread clipping, having them within reach at all times really does help.

Anyone else have any tips for getting in the swing of thread clipping?

Or, do you have a different habit you want to work on for August?

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On , Nancy said:

great tip and one that I follow – I keep a paperbag attached to my sewing table. Clip as you go is a great tip. Thanks

On , Kokori said: | twistedyarns.wordpress.com

I used to be horrible with thread cutting, too, and would always have some left on my finished garments!

What I do these days is
– have a thread clipper (I actually use a small pair of scissors) handy. Mine lives on the right side of my sewing machine.
– Use it! When I finish a seam, I cut the thread immediately, on both ends of the seam.
– Cut off both sides, the end and the start, too – that’s the harder part, to go back to the other side of the seam.
– Have a plastic bag (ideally this would be a waste basket, but since I don’t have dedicated sewing space, the plastic bag is a good enough solution) by my left foot, into which all snips go.

For me, this works like a charm, and I haven’t had too many left-over danglies ever since I’ve set up this order. Obviously, if your left-handed, you might want to switch things around a bit, or find a set-up that works for you.
Mostly, I think, it’s about doing it in some way, and always sticking to it. Build the habit, literally.

On , Ruth said:

I do the same! My mother did this so I naturally copied her. I have a small bin on the floor next to me for the threads. Once you get into a rhythm, you snip the threads automatically and it doesn’t seem hard.
A few years back I got a new sewing machine which has a thread cutter. But it still leaves an inch or so. I rather trim at the fabric then I don’t have any to cut later.
Thanks for the great tips!

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

My machine has a thread cutter too, but like you I still have to clip by hand because it doesn’t cut them close enough.

On , Bronwen said:

Keeping clippers around your neck is a great tip: now heading off to hunt down a suitable ribbon. Thank you!

On , Mizjayne said: | empireroom.com.au

I used to wear snips around my neck, but then I kept having issues with getting caught on things when I was at work & I was snagging a lot my tops & cardigans.
I now have a little leather sleeve that my snps go in when I’m at on site jobs, but in my home & school workrooms my emproidery scissors are attached to the machine with a piece of hat elastic.

On , PatternJunkie said: | patternjunkie.typepad.com

Having a bag or box devoted to clipped threads is such an obvious smart thing to do, but I’ve never thought of it — thanks for the tip! It will help eliminate all the piles of tangled threads I find on my sewing room carpet…

On , Maddie Flanigan said: | madalynne.com

I am good at clipping my threads but what I’m not good at is throwing them away in a trash can or a bag – I always end up throwing the thread tails on the ground. The ground becomes very messy – and luckily I don’t have any pets – but I end up vacuuming for much longer than I should once I complete a project (and I always miss one or two thread tails!)

On , Nina said: | toftsnummulite.blogspot.com

Haha, Maddie – I think my carpet is at least 20% thread tails these days!

On , Sally said:

Great tips. I always clip my threads but spend ages picking them all off the sofa and hunting for my little scissors. Will definitely be utilising a ribbon and box – so simple, so why didn’t I think of that?! Maybe I’ll try to concentrate on preparing the things I need to use before I start sewing, I’m always hunting around for things.

On , Christine Guest said: | christineguestdesigns.com

I’ve been better at this since I taught a Temari Ball class at our homeschool co-op. I actually needed soft stuff I could wrap up in the middle of a ball – I cut up my husband’s worn out shirts at first, the styrofoam balls were to expencive in bulk.

Looking at the thread layers in my glass jar reminds me of what I’ve been making.

Of course, I did give the girls the left over embroidery threads and cheap yarn, so I now have stuffing but no next step matterials. I’ll take care of that when the budget says I can go shopping again.

On , Graca said: | sewessentiallysew.blogspot.com

I recently bought a new sewing machine while mine was being serviced. It is a Janome 4120. I has a built in (dare I say it) thread clipper. It took some time getting use to having this feature as I kept reaching for the hand clippers before reminding myself I don’t that anymore. It is a sweet feature, and saves on thread.

On , Seraphinalina said: | seraphinalina.blogspot.com

This is my general work in progress habit. Like you, I start off with good intentions, I think I’m doing it and then I get to a place where a few seams meet and realize I’m not. I think it’s just a WIP for me to be more aware of it and follow through. I keep a garbage can beside my sewing machine desk so at least that is accessible.

On , Catholic Bibliophagist said: | quiltingbibliophagist.blogspot.com

My SewEzi sewing machine table has a cut-out at the left end which is intended to be used as a handle when one is transpoting the table. I position a brown paper shopping bag on the floor beneath it and just drop all cut threads into the hole.


On , Ana said:

Having small thread scissors around my neck is a must when sewing. I clip all threads as I sew, but I don’t collect them. I make a mess around me, luckily my cats don’t eat thread, and I clean up when I’m done.

On , Nina said: | toftsnummulite.blogspot.com

OK, this is related to something I’ve been wondering about for a long time: what’s the ‘right’ way to end a seam? My (evil) sewing teacher at school always had sew to the end without back-stitching, then pull both threads through to the same side and tie them together before clipping them. Back-stitching is obviously much quicker, but do you even need to do that it the end of a seam is going to be crossed by another seam or enclosed in a hem?

On , Ruth said:

I think back stitching is the way to go. If you do it every time you don’t have to think whether you need it in that particular case. It only takes 1/2 second. If you don’t back-stitch, some fabrics can start to come apart and your garment may not be as neat.

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

I only tie off the ends of my seams when (1) the seam isn’t sewn all the way to the edge of the fabric (because then it will be either enclosed or finished some other way) and (2) bulk is a consideration (like the tip of a dart).

On , Anna said:

I am bad about clipping threads because of knitting, in which I never cut anything until the end, in case I need that extra yarn tail to sew up a garment. Because of that, my instinct is to save everything until the very end, just in case! I have to remind myself that this is sewing, and I can clip as I go :)

On , Sue Elbu said:

I used to be terrible for not clipping my threads – but I had to change that because it really did affect the quality of my projects. I started to keep a little pair of scissors and a small bin on my left side so that every time I had something to clip it was very easy – just a part of the process.

Now I clip threads without even thinking about it!

On , Meg said: | megthegrand.blogspot.com

My habit this month has been to stop biting my nails. I got a head start a week ago, and so far, I’m doing ok! If I make it to the end of the month, I am going to get my first manicure. I’m sure my habit next month will be sewing related, but I was so inspired by your post that I decided to address the most annoying thing first instead!

Bravo on clipping your threads! I received a lovely pair of embroidery scissors for Christmas and cutting threads means I get to use them as often as possible – which makes me happy.

On , Vintage Sweetie said: | thevintagesweetie.com

Love the box! How did you make it? Tutorial? Please?

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

I got a kit and the paper and supplies from Paper Source! I was learning bookbinding (and the box is basically the same process as binding a book). They sell everything you need, including instructions.

On , Steph said:

Clipping and disposing of threads is actually something I’ve become very good about. Partly because having extra attached threads floating around feel like they get in the way, but primarily because we have a cat that likes to eat stringy things. As a youngster, she got ahold of a long piece of thread. It wrapped around her tongue and got stuck, but the ends traveled down her esophogus and became embedded in the lining. Surgery was the only recourse…cost over $1000 to save her. SOOOOO…especially if you have cats that might be so inclined, do clip those threads and put them straight into a container. Your pets and vacuum sweeper will thank you. Like many others, I keep a pair of thread snips right next to me and a small trash can at my feet on the left (becaus I’m right handed). Pick…snip…drop…pick…snip…drop…

On , Emme said:

I like to leave out a strip of tape (folded over onto itself). Just in arms reach, but out of reach from my fabric, but i can stick threads to it without them continuing to fly everywhere.

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

That is a great tip!

On , Melissa said: | scavengerhunttheblog.blogspot.com

Oh, I have this problem too- I’m always snipping off threads at the very end of a project and it would have been so much easier to just clip as you go! I like the suggestion to tape a paper bag nearby for threads. I think my habit to work on would be to remember to back-stitch on every seam- I’m terrible at that!

On , Betsy said: | melittaberze.blogspot.com

Great ideas! I’ve always been in the habit of immediately snipping both end threads when I’m finished sewing a seam. I have a small trash can propped up to table height next to my sewing area, and a cute pair of embroidery scissors I use to cut. I find that for myself, I am much more inclined to do something if the tool (or workspace) I’m using is pretty and “special.” So just having a really nice heirloom pair of nippers or scissors might be a good motivation to use them!

On , Sarah said:

I use a paper bag taped to my sewing table too. It makes cutting threads and keeping my sewing area clean so easy.

On , Jen said: | mommymadebyjen.blogspot.com

I find that I’m always forgetting which side my sewing clippings basket is! Maybe I need one on each side.
Steph mentioned her cat’s encounter with thread clippings and I thought I’d share my cat meets thread story (and another reason why pets in the sewing room can be a bad idea):
About 15 years ago I had 2 cats and 1 was very curious – she ended up getting shut in my sewing room by mistake. She somehow managed to swallow a threaded needle that I’d left on my table rather than in my pincushion. I only discovered this after she passed the needle while using the litter box a few days later. (I had to clip it from the rest of the thread, which was still inside her!) I don’t know how she managed to avoid puncturing some part of her, but she lived through that escapade. Now I always double-check to make sure that there are no pets or small children in the sewing room.

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Oh my god. That is so scary! I’m so glad that story did not have a sad ending.

On , Shelly said:

I keep a rather large trash can right next to my sewing machine and most of my thread clippings make it in there. Since the trash can is a good size, and therefore easy to hit, it is almost like I just throw them on the floor. A few strays do end up on the floor, but it’s not a big deal to sweep them up every so often.

On , Jenny said:

I learned this when I was quilting… Keep a small square of batting by the sewing machine for threads. After you clip throw the threads on the batting. They will stick to the batting. I like using batting rather than a small container because it’s unobtrusive, and if it falls on the floor the threads stay stuck on it. I also move it easily from my machine to ironing board ( where I always find more threads to clip).
The batting is reusable, and holds a lot.

On , Jos said: | blog.jostan.com

I’ve been trying to do same. But I think the first bad habit to break for me is holding pins with my mouth. I just read some pin-swallowing horror stories in the post and comments on Jorth’s blog – http://jorth.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/pins-belong-in-pincushions-not-in-lungs.html

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Ahhhhhhhhh. I am working on this habit next after reading that.

On , Kat Neeser said: | sewinbrighton.co.uk

I get my Beginner Sewing Class students to trim both ends and put in the bin from their very first seam on a bit of scrap fabric! It freaks me out when I later go round to help then when they’re onto clothes making or something and the whole garment needs a haircut before I can even work out what’s going on..arrgh!

The other one is taking pins out and leaving them rolling around on the table, when there’s a really great magnetic pincushion 3″ away… I do feel like a bit of a hitler going round magnetically scooping up their pins, but I think it goes in eventually : )

On , Shirley said:

I have come a long way in remembering to clip. I use the empty square tissue boxes with the oval opening at the top. I remove the plastic and keep one of these next to each of my machines. The threads fall in easily. A nice thing to do with the captured threads is to use them for embellishments or better yet to recycle them by spreading them in the trees in the spring for birds to use in their nests.

On , tubroh730 said:

I did the same as all of you for 50 years until I got tired of having to cut and struggle to remove threads from the wheels of my rolling sewing chair…what a pain! So, I adopted a method that is a win/win/win/win/win. As a quilter, I learned to use a small scrap of fabric on which to start sewing before I actually sewed the desired seam and then also to sew onto that scrap cloth after finishing that seam. You only need a scrap about 3/4″ x 3″. Sew across the short 3/4″ side to secure the threads, abut (but do NOT overlap) the project seam, and then continue onto your project. Here are the wins:
1.) No more loose threads to get into those chair wheels or on the floor to clean up!
2.) I must immediately clip the threads to separate that scrap cloth from the beginning of the project seam and then bring the scrap cloth to the end of the seam where I again sew onto it and clip the project seam from it (constantly alternating sewing on the scrap and project).
3.) It saves on thread. You do not waste much thread in a 3/4″ line of stitiching.
4.) No bird’s nests of crumpled fabric/thread at the beginning of a project seam. When you sew off the scrap cloth onto the project seam, there is a smooth transition and all stitches are perfect.
5.) I never need to rethread the needle thread that was too short and became unthreaded when I started sewing.

Hey, it works great for me!!!!

On , jan Larson said:

I cut my threads right away because they seem to get in my way but I put them in bag and then in the spring I have threads, all colors, for the birds to make nests out of. So fun to see a nest with color in it.

On , Laura Proudfoot said:

I let my sewing machine foot help me. This is how – I have my thread snips handy. When I start to sew a seam, and then have sewn a few inches I simply reach back and snip off the thread tails. The foot is holding the fabric securely, I can pull the tails taut and snip accurately. Then I continue sewing the seam.
That way, the thread tails at the beginning of the seam are already, and easily, cut and I never have to go back hunting for them. It is quick and easy, and once you get in the habit, you find it literally only takes a few seconds. When I get to the other end, I snip off those and my seam is clean. No hanging thread tails!
I have been sewing for about 45 years, but I only started doing this about 2 years ago. Not sure where I got the idea….

On , Robin H. said:

For years I have kept a small wastebasket on the floor to the left of my machine. Being right handed, I clip with my right and drop the threads with my left. It also holds all the small bits of fabric from trimming seams etc. Just force yourself to clip as you go for a while and before you know it, it will be a habit.

On , elizabethe said:

I’ve never had a problem with this habit. One of the very first sewing books I ever read, before I even started sewing, was a couture sewing book that insisted that rhythm of each seam sewn in the sewing room is: “stitch, clip, press.”

So that’s what I do.

I have two tips. 1. I don’t have a thread cutter on my machine, but I wear my clipping shears around my neck on a ribbon, and I don these as soon as I set up my sewing area for the day, and don’t take them off until I’m done sewing for the day.

2. Even if I did have a thread cutter, I wouldn’t use it, as, as someone said above, it doesn’t clip the thread close enough to the fabric. The second tip is, only cut each set of threads once. If you have to clip the thread to detach it from the thread on the sewing machine, then that is the time to clip it as close to the garment as possible.

Here’s my rhythm: As soon as I finish a seam, I pull the fabric out from the machine, then clip the threads as close to the garment as I can, then I go back to the front of the seam, clip those threads, and then head to the ironing board for pressing. Even If I do another seam before pressing, I always clip the instant I finish the seam; it’s just part of the seam stitching process for me. I find it weird that it seems like so many people have a problem with this.

Stitch, clip, press.

On , Twink said:

Clip as I go is the way for me, too. For pins, I keep a magnetic pin holder just behind my machine arm as I sew, and toss the pins I take out onto it and no pins to look for later.
A must tip is to never leave scissors open when not in use! Too easy to snip something you’re working on in error. It happened to me once sewing a custom dress.

I love this site!

On , Lisa GI said:

I like to save all my threads and similar for spring time when I put them out for nesting birds.

Fostering good sewing habits | Seamless

[…] Gertie took a look into the whys and hows of ironing – specifically, whether it’s really necessary to iron your seams flat and then open. Over at the Coletterie, August’s good habit of the month was clipping those threads! […]

On , Lauren Nash said: | transientart.com

This was a habit I was taught while young (lucky me I guess!) I always always trim as I go and put my scraps in a thread/scrap catcher I made, which also serves as a visual reminder to trim and help keep my space clean. =)

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