How a Free Project Cost Me $75 and 3 Months of My Life

I’m not sure where I heard it first ~ Pinterest, a blog, or just the voices in my head ~ but somehow I learned that electrical supply places will give away their old wooden spools (you know, the kind wire is wrapped around) for FREE. All I had to do was come haul the ones I wanted away, add a little creativity and…

Giant Spools of ThreadGiant spools of thread! Adorable decor for my quilting room! And since the spools were free, it’d be super inexpensive decor, too.

The electrical supply store manager was really nice and let me pick out two smaller spools that would fit in my trunk. They’d been stored in a huge warehouse, so when I got home, I had to clean them up a bit. I left them in the garage to dry while I started thinking about what else I needed for my “free” craft project.

Rope. I’d want to wrap it around so it looked like thread. Pi, R squared … width times height … lots more math … I’d need HOW much? Have you seen the price of cotton rope?!?

Wait, what if I filled the space up with foam first? Then I wouldn’t need as much rope for the same look. Have you seen the price of foam these days?!?

I put the project on the backburner for a couple of weeks while I thought about other options.

Then one day I was wandering around Home Depot and my eye fell on the carpet padding remnants. Oooh, lots cheaper than foam. And they have polyester rope. While not exactly free, it was cheaper than cotton, so I grabbed 200 yds of that.

The poly rope was a white white and I was looking for something more vintage. So I decided to try to tea dye it. Wasn’t sure if poly would tea dye, but it came out of the pot a gorgeous toasty beige. It also came out as a giant 200 yd knot that took most of an afternoon to unravel – and several days to dry.

By this time, I’m almost 8 weeks into this project and the spools have been in my garage that long, so I need to clean them again! Several days to dry and I can finally stain them with a bit of stain leftover from another project – and several more days to dry.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about what I can use to make vintage-looking labels for the spools. Design them, print them oversized at Kinko’s, then decoupage? Wait, Spoonflower just introduced a new line of custom decals. I love designing my own fabric there, so why not give it a try? Design, design, design, submit – and wait several weeks to ship.

When the decals get here, they look awesome! But again a bit bright white for this project, so I boil up another batch of tea – and wait several days for the decals to dry.

Giant Spools of Thread 2Finally, the day to put everything together arrives. I start with the foam and add a layer or two of batting just to hold everything together. Hot glue the end of the rope and start wrapping around… around… around… and around.

I keep going around until the first spool is finished, add the decal to the top, admire my work and suddenly realize I don’t have enough rope to do the second spool.

So, back to Home Depot, brew up another pot of tea (this time I managed not to tangle the rope into one giant knot) and let it dry – for several more days.

I literally finished the second one three months to the day from when I first picked up my free spools.

I also purchased a giant wooden ruler and have now created this lovely little vignette on the way to my sewing room. It was totally worth the time and the tea AND the money and the misery… but I’ll think twice the next time I want to start a FREE project!



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