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Thread Cleanup

Sandra Hatch

Getting Threads off Carpets

Kathy asks: "I have so many threads that end up on the carpet when I sew. The vacuum cleaner doesn't pick them up well. Any hints or ideas on which vacuum might work better or other ideas."

I have this same problem, Kathy, so any help from other readers will be welcome.

Ellen shares her secret: I run a commercial embroidery company and have lots and lots of threads in my carpets. The best method I have found to get rid of them is to rake the rug. You can buy a plastic carpet rake that works like a dream. If it is a small area, simply use a regular big-tooth hair comb and comb the rug."

Cate writes: "About the threads on the carpet -- I have two solutions that work together. First, I have little 'ort' bags taped to my worktables and my comfy chair where I sit to pin. These bags get full and are emptied on a regular basis. Having a handy place to toss them seems to be effective on the general threadiness of the house that one would not expect.

"Second, I finally shelled out for an Oreck vacuum, and I must say they are even better than advertised. I have the bottom-of-the-line model, and it picks up everything! Threads and cat litter are the biggest offenders at my house, and my Oreck picks them up on the first swipe every time. My parents bought the top-of-the-line model and love it. My dad is 85 and can easily handle it because the vacuum is so light. And yes, he is the one who does the vacuuming at that house. I have tried every major brand of vacuum made and I will never have anything but an Oreck again."

Nancy shares her trick. "To pick up threads off my carpet before I vacuum, I use a 3M floor adhesive roller; it works great. When the piece of roller tape is full, pull it off and there's another underneath. This sure saves on the brushes on the vacuum."

Roberta has a handy hint: "My husband fixed a long-handled paint roller with masking tape (sticky side out) to pick up threads from the carpet. It also works on hard floors. When it gets full of threads, I simply tear off the tape and replace it with new. This is very much like a lint roller and sure saves one's back."

Linda has a special broom: "Regarding getting threads off carpeting, I use a rubber-fingered broom and pull it across the carpeting before I vacuum. The threads get caught in the fingers of the broom and can then be easily pulled off in a clump. The threads that remain on the carpeting are then easily picked up by my vacuum."

Treba gets exercise while removing threads. "Put on a pair of tennis shoes and rub your foot across the thread pieces. You can pile all the thread into a ball and then pick it up. My technician told me about this, and it works."

Bonnie shares her hint. "I have one of those plastic guards for under a computer chair under my sewing machine. It catches all of the loose threads and makes them easy to sweep up. You can buy them at computer-supply stores."

Renee adds: "In response to Kathy's request on how to best get threads off a carpet, I have this idea I use not only for thread but also for hair, both animal and human, and for the dots that fall on the floor from a hole punch at the office. Take a length of tape (I use the clear shipping tape) and pat it on the areas where the thread is. It all comes right up, not only off the carpet, but also off the furniture and clothing. The wider the tape, the less time spent cleaning.”

Audrey writes: "The question asked was how or which vacuum to use to collect threads from carpet. I heard somewhere about using a clean, new, toilet brush to swipe carpets, then pick the threads off the brush and dispose of them. I purchased a rather 'elegant' brush and holder, and keep it near my longarm machine. Now I don't worry about dropping threads. I just swipe after each quilt."

Joanne adds her comment: "I tried the new Swiffer sweeper, the one with the sticky pad, to get threads off my carpet, and it does a great job. I use it in my quilt shop, so it gets lots of use. (This is not an advertisement for the product -- it just works!) Also, if you are up to it, get on your knees (or give the job to an eager-to-help child) with a loop of duct tape over your hand with the sticky side out. Pat the carpet and the threads will come right up."

RoseMary says, "Using your vacuum to remove thread is really not a good idea because the thread wraps around the rollers. I put duct tape around the toes of my shoes, sticky side out and walk my floor clean of thread and get a workout at the same time."

Shirle tells us: "I wish I could be more specific about the 'broom' I use to remove threads from around my sewing area but here goes. The product is made by the Fuller Brush Co. The 'broom' part resembles a rake. It is made up of many rubberlike rakes on a long metal handle. It is a wonder, and I no longer need to worry about the nasty little threads getting tangled in either my vacuum or carpet sweeper. It rakes up the threads into a ball, which I then pick up. After they are removed, I then either carpet-sweep or vacuum the area, and it looks as good as new. I have had this implement for some time. The rake looks like it did when I purchased it and no one is allowed to remove it from my sewing room."

Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your secrets for removing thread from carpets. Lots of people wrote about using a toilet brush or tape to pick up threads. It looks as though lots of quilters have had this problem.

Rebecca responds : "To Kathy (cleaning threads from carpeting): Try a Dyson Animal vacuum. They are designed to pick up pet hair especially well, so the little clumps of thread bits are no problem. This is a pricey vacuum cleaner, but it has no belts and no bags to replace ever, so it saves you money over time. I was also amazed the first time I used it by how much dust it sucked out of my 'clean' carpets that my old Hoover had left behind, and it takes less than a minute to empty and replace the dustbin, much easier than fussing with the bags. Check on eBay for Dyson Animal; I have seen them there for less than what they go for in stores.”

Karen has a great idea. "The problem of threads, and even fabric scraps, on the floor and embedded into the carpeting was an issue for me, too. When my mind is on a project, I am really not concentrating much on making scraps reach the garbage can! I finally got smart and bought several vinyl tablecloths from a dollar store. I spread the vinyl tablecloths on the floor under and around my sewing area, then at the end of the day I loosely roll up the tablecloth and empty it into a garbage bag.

"Actually, these vinyl tablecloths have proven to be quite multipurpose. My 8-year-old daughter has started automatically reaching for one to use to protect surfaces when she is doing arts and crafts. When the tablecloths are torn or otherwise damaged, I let her cut them apart. She makes beautiful 'collage quilts' out of the salvageable pieces by gluing them in her own patterns onto cardboard. She has made holiday decorations and over-sized cards, among other things. She embellishes them with glued-on sequins, scraps of ribbon, permanent marker writing and all kinds of other neat objects.”

What a great idea, Karen. You have a quilter in the making there for sure.

"As an interior designer who has once had the pleasure of designing a woman's hobby/sewing room, I also have another trick for keeping thread off the carpet. It is slightly more expensive, but certainly not outrageously so. I purchased some wood-look floating flooring that just snaps together and created a rectangle of this flooring large enough to cover the area under, and a couple of feet around, her sewing table. I then had a handyman make a hardwood border for the rectangle so that the weight on it would not cause it to snap apart because of the plush carpeting beneath it. It vacuums, sweeps and mops very easily, and when the quilter knows she won't be using the sewing machine for a while, she often stands the floating floor panel up against a wall (behind a piece of furniture to be out of sight) so as not to risk stubbing her toe on the edges of it, which are a bit higher than the carpeting."

Junee makes wonderful use of her threads. "I have a basket by my machine. In it I place any sewing threads I cut off, and tiny scraps from when I cut squares or any shapes. When there are a bunch of cuts, I place them in any pattern between Solvy in a hoop, then freehand machine-embroider all over until it makes a gorgeous piece of material that will be a memory of the quilt just made. I make it into a matching cushion or wall hanging. There is no waste, and I have a unique piece of gorgeous fabric. This is also lots of fun to do, especially if you have a few pieces of gold or silver, satin, etc. Try it. Best wishes to all you lovely sewers out there and thanks for this site."

Diane has the ultimate recycling hint. "I love your newsletter and get so many wonderful ideas from it. My family camps a lot and I take my fabric scraps and threads and pour old melted candle wax on them. They make wonderful fire starters. At first, everyone made fun of my snarls of fabric, but now the whole family uses them to start fires."

I love that Junee and Dianne have found ways to use their thread ends and tiny snippets of fabric. After a hint from Sue Harvey, I have been saving my snipped triangle tails in a canning jar. This makes a colorful decoration for a windowsill or other area needing a bit of color.