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Can I Recycle Empty Cones and Spools?

Posted: 17 April 2014 at 6 a.m.

Rainbows Superior Thread cones and spools

We are frequently asked:  “Are empty spools and cones recyclable?”

We love that our customers are thinking about saving waste and possible reuse.  If we don’t take care of what we have now, what will the future generations be left with?  We are happy to answer, if the recycle center takes “polypropylene” or “PP” plastics, they can be recycled.  Some centers don’t recycle polypropylene, so we recommend calling ahead to confirm with them before you send them in. 

The shrink wrap packaging is made out of “polyethylene terephthalate” or PET for short.  This is what water bottles are made out of and can also be recycled.

My aunt’s favorite saying of “use it up, wear it out, make it due, or do without” has inspired me to search for ways to personally reuse or upcycle my empty spools and cones.  Some great suggestions we’ve received are:

Sherry S – I wrap my binding around an empty thread cone...I then put it on the upright spool holder...this keeps it under control and keeps my binding clean.

Bri B – I’ve transformed a used cone into a beautiful angel tree-topper.  Spools can be strung to become cute garland to hang on your tree or create a spool wreath!

Ruth A - If anyone is interested in birding, the thread tails can be scattered in your yard in the spring when the birds are nesting and they love to pick these tails up for their nests! I have done this every year with my leftover thread tails and when you dispose of their nest in the fall or winter you will see them woven all through their nests!!

Kenzie O – If you have kids or grandkids, a fun activity is transforming empty cones into kaleidoscopes!

How have you reused empty cones or spools?

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  • 26. Bertie (18 March 2017 at 3:32 p.m.)

    In response to Laurie, #1 comment, I have some empty plastic spools that I would gladly get to you. I have 11.
  • 25. Laurie (18 January 2017 at 6:02 p.m.)

    Does anyone know where I can find small Guterman empty thread spools? I'm looking for about 60 of them.
  • 24. Phyllis (04 April 2016 at 10:14 p.m.)

    Cats and toddlers love to play with them.
  • 23. Miss C (04 November 2015 at 9:22 a.m.)

    I am a hand spinner and the empty spools, especially from King Tut (saved by my quilting friends), are perfect for winding smaller amounts of handspun cotton thread. The spools store easily and I can quickly see what I want form my nest project!
  • 22. Brent (08 May 2015 at 3:25 p.m.)

    Does anyone know where I can buy around 100 6 inch black Y-cones without thread. We are working on a project and need some. If you know of a place please email me at
  • 21. Linda (23 April 2015 at 10:05 p.m.)

    The grandkids use the cone type spools to set up an indoor bowling lane. we also made a ball toss game using a cone anew a large wooden bead.
  • 20. Susan Isaacson (23 April 2015 at 8:40 a.m.)

    I used an empty spool (large cone) as a funnel to get my ground walnut shells into my pin cushion! works great!
  • 19. Beth (22 April 2015 at 5:28 p.m.)

    I agree with Jolene. Last spring, while leaving the house one day, a momma robin was raising quite a ruckus. When I investigated, I found both of her babies dangling from their nest with their feet wrapped in a polyester twine. I'm sure momma thought it would be fine building material, but it could have cost her babies their lives. Hubby climbed a ladder and cut them loose. A week later, we watched them fly from their nest. Cut those cotton threads in short pieces!
  • 18. Michelle (10 May 2014 at 9:42 a.m.)

    at our local guide group in England we use a wooden spoon and make puppets that pop out of an upside down cone
  • 17. Betty (24 April 2014 at 6 p.m.)

    Always kept different size plastic spools in you're baking stuff to press cookies . Nice flower cookies.
  • 16. Barb (24 April 2014 at 2:39 p.m.)

    Turn upside down, insert a small piece of batting to block hole and drop through the grommet hole on Koala cabinet or desk units; now seam rippers, stiletts, marking pencile and small scissors can be right next to sewing or project with wandering
  • 15. Elizabeth (24 April 2014 at 10:43 a.m.)

    They make good insulators when running wire for and electric fence.
  • 14. Jane (24 April 2014 at 8:10 a.m.)

    I tape over the top and turn it upside down and put in in the crook of the handles on my Gammill to hold my scissors and any other small tools that I use frequently on my longarm. It comes in really handy in this location.
  • 13. Beth (23 April 2014 at 10:52 a.m.)

    The cones fit right down into a toilet paper tube. I made a small doll body from the waist up and attached it with glue to the small end of the cone, then dressed her with a wide skirt to use as a toilet paper cover for a spare roll of TP in the bathroom.
  • 12. Laura K (23 April 2014 at 12:40 a.m.)

    My son and I wrapped bright yellow and orange paper around empty spools to make "construction barrels" for his train track. My daughters would wrap leftover fabric bits around the spools and string them onto ribbons to make a bright recycled necklace.
  • 11. Susan (22 April 2014 at 11:37 a.m.)

    I have at times, donated mine to a day care center. What they did with them I don't know.
  • 10. debbie (21 April 2014 at 5:30 p.m.)

    please be careful regarding putting thread out for the birds to use for their nests. the threads made from natural fibers will break down in time but the man-made fibers do not and if the bird gets it wrapped around it's beak or foot, it could cause some serious damage or death. same for any babies in the nest. if you still want to put out man-made fibers, be sure that it is very short lengths.
  • 9. Jolene (21 April 2014 at 3:17 p.m.)

    I use them to fill Maine balsam in my cotton sachet bags.
  • 8. Nancy H (19 April 2014 at 3:35 p.m.)

    I use empty cones to roll up quilt bindings on.
  • 7. TheaM (19 April 2014 at 9:40 a.m.)

    I use mine as stamps with an ink pad or acrylic paint. They also provide nice texture on a Gelli plate for printing circles on fabrics.
  • 6. Christianna (18 April 2014 at 4:18 p.m.)

    I am saving mine to glue fabric yo yo's on them to make christmas Trees
  • 5. Denise /Folsom (18 April 2014 at 2:06 p.m.)

    I recyle the large comes into funnels for when I am filling pincushions with crushed walnut shells.
  • 4. Linda (18 April 2014 at 11:24 a.m.)

    When grandkids were small I strung them on long shoelaces. They were pulled everywhere. Now, I wrap my perle cotton skeins on them and tuck the color info label in the spindle hole for reference later.
  • 3. Patty (18 April 2014 at 6:21 a.m.)

    I have used the empty cones as funnels to fill rice bags or use them to make those wax bead candles. I also ask around the community and see if any crafters have kid's crafting sessions at the community halls etc. they can use them to make to make angels, trees etc. Kids will come up with ideas on their own and I work for an embroidery company so the supply is pretty plentiful
  • 2. Donna (17 April 2014 at 9:08 p.m.)

    For the last few years, I have dropped them into a large glass vase as a testament to how much artwork I have done/am doing. It currently is a decorative item/conversation piece in my studio until I find a better way to use them or someone else does.
  • 1. Paula (17 April 2014 at 9:49 a.m.)

    our local Boys and Girls club live to get our empty spools for the kids. They make crafts with them, help the kids learn math and much more.

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