Friday, August 17, 2018

Serger Thread Catcher Tutorial

When getting my serger set up and getting all the accessories I would need to use it properly, one of the first things I looked into was a thread catcher. My mom's 90s model Janome serger came with a plastic bucket that all your cut off edges fall into so you can dump it in the trash, but my new/old Babylock did not have this feature. Turns out that most modern machines don't have a thread catcher either, including my mom's new $1500 Babylock Imagine - craziness! Why would you want to pick all your waste up off the floor all the time? So I set out to find a solution to this madness.

When you search online for serger thread catchers, the main one that shows up is a long plastic tray you set the serger on that has a small opening and a fabric bag hangs from that opening. All the reviews said it was difficult to get the bag hung right on the small hole, plus since the serger sits on this plastic tray instead of your table, many people complained that their machine would rattle off their tables as they worked. Also this thing is about $20. I decided that I could make something myself instead of spending the money on something plastic I might not like, so I started searching for tutorials. By the time I went to pick up my serger from the repair shop I had decided on making the style that has a quilted place mat that a bag hung from (the most common solution I found on Pinterest with lots of tutorials). My repairman suggested an easier and better solution - making a bag that has ribbon straps to hook around the feet of the machine. This way when you need to dump the bag, you just unhook it from the feet and dump it into the trash - no need to pick up your whole machine to remove the placemat and then dump before putting it back (too much hassle!). I loved the idea, so I went home and looked for a similar tutorial online only to come up empty handed. Really? No one had posted about this before? So I decided to make one of these up to my own specifications and take pictures so that others could make a bucket of their own :) Welcome to my thread catcher tutorial.
I started off with this (super basic) schematic. The area from my knife to the edge of the machine is a little over 6" wide, so I decided to make the bag fill that space. I wanted my bag to be 6" across and 3" deep, so I just drew up a box and added 1/2" seam allowances to all the pieces. 

Fabric choice considerations:
The outer fabric can really be any type as long as you like the look since you will be using this for a long time :) I picked a cute rose gold metallic printed floral quilting cotton from Hobby Lobby that I had in my stash because it went well with my sewing room. The lining fabric is the only one that I would recommend a specific type: anything slick. Technically you could use anything for the lining fabric and what I usually see in thread catchers is cotton muslin and the like, but I find that 1) the threads will stick to the cotton and not fall all the way into the bag and 2) the threads stick in the bag when you are trying to dump them out. This is just annoying to me, so I made sure to pick a slick lining fabric that would not have these issues. My lining is just a cheap white acetate left over from a garment project, but it can be anything - just think slick!
To Make This You Will Need:
  • Main fabric (I used quilting cotton) 
  • Medium Weight Fusible Interfacing (I used Pellon SF101)
  • Slick Lining Fabric
  • Thin Ribbon or Elastic
Cut the fabric, interfacing, and lining pieces all the same. You need 2 squares that measure 7" x 7" of all 3 fabric as well as 3 rectangles that measure 4" x 7" of all 3 fabrics. Iron your fusible pieces to the main fabric pieces before you begin. All of my pictures will show that I serged my entire bag, but you could do the same thing with a sewing machine. Since the seams will all be closed in the bag, there is no need to do any extra finishing.
1. With the lining pieces, sew one rectangle piece to one square piece, then sew the second square piece to the opposite side of the rectangle piece, making one large rectangle. Press seam allowances in toward rectangle piece - it should look like the above photo.
2. With 2 remaining rectangles of lining material, pin one to each side of the long rectangle you just made. At the seams in the large piece you've already sewn, pin the corner of the rectangle - this will make the piece look like a box. Sew around these rectangles, picking up your presser foot and pivoting at each corner.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the main fabric, always sewing with right sides together.
4. Press all seams of your bag - I just folded the fabric along each seam and pressed flat. This will give your bag a nice square shape and it get much harder to get a nice press after this step so go ahead and do it now.
Once the pieces are pressed, your bag should stand nice and square like the photo above.
5. With right sides together, insert the lining box into the main fabric box.
6. Pin each corner of the lining and main fabric together. If using ribbon: Go to your serger and wrap a piece of ribbon around the foot, pulling the ribbon to where the bag will sit when it is finished. Add 1" to the length of your ribbon and cut. If using elastic: Cut 2 pieces of elastic that are 5" long. For ribbon or elastic, continue the same way: Fold each ribbon/elastic in half and slide between the lining and main fabric. Pin each just in from the corner seams on the back square (mine were about 5/8" in from the seam).
7. Sew around the top edge of your bag leaving about a 2" opening, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and end if using a sewing machine. Your elastic/ribbon will be trapped between the two fabrics like the above photo.
8. Flip you bag right-side out through the hole. It should look like the above photo.
9. Push the lining into the main fabric bag. Press the lining along the edge of the bag so that the lining is just slightly below the main fabric. Fold the edges of the opening you left to the inside, making sure it is level with the rest of the edge and press well.
Your bag is looking like a real bag now!
10. On a sewing machine, top stitch your opening all the way around. I kept mine as close to the edge as I could to make sure the space I left from flipping the bag right-side out was sufficiently closed with this step, but it's up to you how far in you top stitch as long as it's within the 1/2" seam allowance.
After a nice press to the top stitched edge, your bag is finished!
I love that the lining is not only slick but light - I can easily see in there at any time. This may seem silly since it's just going to be filled with trash, but imagine the pain if you used a dark fabric and something you don't want to throw out falls in. Just one of the little perks of making something yourself - you can accommodate all your quirky desires, lol.
Now you just hook the ribbon/elastic pieces over your machine feet and pull the machine to the edge of your table and it's ready to use! Now my feet are firmly planted on the table - mine are suction cups, so it is very secure and not going to slide around - and I can easily pull the elastic off to dump my bag :) It's so fuss free!

This whole project (even with taking pictures for this tutorial) only took about 20 minutes and I love this little thing - it's even handy when I'm cleaning off my desk from snipped threads since now I can just put them in here until I dump it again. So convenient. Now I have to make one for my mom's machine too :)

 So if you, too, find yourself in need of one of these guys, I hope this tutorial helps! And please send me a picture - I'd love to see what you make with it!


  1. Awesome thanks. I’ve seen some with a base that goes under the whole machine but the feet are what grips to the table. Yours is spot on . Thanks

    1. Hi There! You're so welcome :) I'm glad it was able to help someone else.


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