Object Lesson | Wooden Spools

Porch Nook's "Object Lessons" is a series of short articles sharing my vintage and antique finds over the years, containing just enough information to make you dangerous at the local flea market. Happy hunting!

Value as of 8/29/20, $0.50-$2 each*. My Grandma used to say, “Beauty comes in all different sizes, shapes and ages.” I couldn’t have said it any better when describing my latest vintage** and eclectic collection. Although there are many vintage wood bobbin brands out there to discover, today I will focus on only two that are most commonly found: Coats & Clarks and Belding.

(Interested in purchasing your own collection of vintage spools? Click here.)

When dating a wooden thread spool you can depend on a few details.

  • The country of origin.
  • The type of wood used.
  • The manufacturer’s name. If the label is fully intact…
    • If the company still exists, you can call the company and request the actual manufacturing year.
    • If the company no longer exits, and closed before plastic spool manufacturing began, this would give you a good approximate year.

A good wood spool doesn’t lose its value once the thread is gone. When determining the value of a wooden spool, its condition and age will drive the price.

Similar to soda bottle deposits, once the thread had been completely used the consumer would collect a half penny deposit if they returned the spool to the manufacturer. Due to mass production, and the use of less expensive materials, deposits were put to end.

Back in the early 1970s thread spool manufacturers stopped making wood spools and moved to plastics. Due to the price of wood going up, causing each spool to cost $0.025 to $0.045 cents each, manufacturers had to protect their bottom line which led to the demise of the wooden spool.

(Interested in purchasing your own collection of vintage spools? Click here.)

Porch Nook's Object Lesson | Wooden Spools

Keep the Vintage Thread?

Did you know thread has a shelf life? Although it may look beautiful wound on its original vintage spool, when thread is exposed to light and air for an extended period of time they become brittle, tend to jam up in a sewing machine and can break when used. If the thread is not stored properly, exposed to dust and lint can affect the tension of the thread. Threads spun on Styrofoam or wood spools weaken over time because the chemicals found in those spools have a negative reaction to the thread itself.

If you are determined to use the vintage thread, there is a great and easy way to test it. Simply take an 8-10” strand, tie a not onto the middle, then gently pull both ends. If it breaks, toss it. However, if it’s on a wooden spool I recommend keeping it for the decorative purposes.

(Interested in purchasing your own collection of vintage spools? Click here.)

Coats & Clark's

The Clark brand was established in the 1750's by two brothers, James and Patrick Clark (Paisley, Scotland) and were the first to mass produce and sell thread internationally. The Clark family also lays claim to creating the first wooden spools used to hold the thread. The brothers opened their first U.S. thread factory in Newark, NJ in 1864.

Around 1830 J&P Coats began manufacturing in the same city as Clark (Paisley, Scotland). By the 1890's the two Scotland thread companies joined forces but kept their separate identities when selling thread. This was done in order to corner the expanding international thread market.

Finally, in 1954 the two companies merged their two names. Still in business today, Coats & Clark's headquarters is located in Greenville, South Carolina and continues to manufacture high quality thread.

(Interested in purchasing your own collection of vintage spools? Click here.)


Founded in 1866, the Belding Brothers began manufacturing silk thread in Rockille, Connecticut and sold door to door. The brothers found expansion necessary and established four mills in Belding, Michigan in 1890.

Belding Brothers & Company merged with Heminway Silk Company in 1925 becoming Belding-Heminway. Soon after the merger the business was acquired by Corticelli Silk Company and become Belding-Heminway-Corticelli. Unfortunately, due to the Great Depression the silk industry had died and the company had to close it’s mill doors in 1932.

(Interested in purchasing your own collection of vintage spools? Click here.)

 (Interested in purchasing your own collection of vintage spools? Click here.)


*For the sake of transparency, Porch Nook in not an antiquities dealer, nor do we specialize in antiques. However, for many years we've gained experience acquiring and selling old stuff, and hung around a lot of people who also like to acquire and sell old stuff. We gotta tell'ya, they're our kind of people...smart, creative, not shy and will tell you what's what. 

**The common expectation of a "VINTAGE" item is to have a date or decade applied to it. Accordingly, most experts in the trade have decided that the term "VINTAGE" refers to items that are over 50 years old, but less than 100. This kind of standard works when dealing with truly old, but not antique, items. However, this falls short when using the term to describe something newer, and from a specific era. For example, Etys.com's policy states any item at least 20 years old to be “VINTAGE”. Click here to learn more about the differences between "ANTIQUE" and "VINTAGE".

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