Safety in the Sewing Room

by GiGi McBreen
of Charming Station

When we talk about safety in the sewing room most people think about
keeping your fingers away from the needle as the machine sews and not
dropping pins on the floor.  But there is another very serious aspect
to safety in the sewing room and, if you’re like me, it would never
occur to you that this could happen.

We have three cats, all of whom were rescued in one way or another.
The oldest was adopted from our local shelter and is a very unique
cat in that he has six toes on each of his front feet. The kids named
him Sneakers.  Sneakers is a typical fuss-budget cat but also a
loyal, affectionate and wonderful pet.

Right before Thanksgiving last year, Sneakers got very sick but we
had no idea why. When we took him to the vet, she determined that
a piece of thread was wrapped around the back of his tongue and the
rest had gone down into his stomach. She was very cautious as she
explained that if it was long enough and had gotten all the way to
his intestines, there simply might not be any way to remove it and
the kindest thing to do would be to put him down so he wouldn’t
suffer. She would only know the extent of the problem by operating
on him.

We are very relieved to share that the surgery showed that there was
a large wad of tangled thread in his tummy but not further down so he
was eventually able to make a complete recovery. Our vet was great
and took the time to warn us that cats don’t learn in a situation
like this. Sneakers would go right back to his bad habit of chewing
on thread and other things he shouldn’t when he came home. She also
said that dogs do the same kind of thing.

We are extremely careful now to take clippings from jump threads and
place them in a cylinder where Sneakers can’t get to them. And since
this experience, we have realized that when we would pull the extra
thread off a bobbin in order to refill it, we had been wadding it up
and dropping that wad into  the trash can.  That is apparently what
Sneakers ate.  We now make sure that all thread is kept where he can’t
get at it, including the thread that sits on the thread stand between
embroidery jobs (we keep that covered with a piece of fabric).
Remember that rayon and polyester thread do not dissolve so if it
remains in a pet’s mouth, they are probably going to try to swallow it
and that can cause great harm.

We shared this information with members of our group last year and
heard dozens of additional stories about pets ingesting everything
from needles and pins to other small things that we use in our sewing
room.  Some of these included fatalities.

If you have pets, please take a few minutes to look at your sewing
room and figure out ways to protect them from going through what our
Sneakers did or worse!  Here are some tips to get you started:

1) Make sure you dispose of thread in a way that a pet can’t eat it.

2) Be very careful about needles you need to discard – tape them to a
piece of cardboard or put them in an old medicine bottle with a cap on
it. That way they don’t puncture the trash can liner and hurt you or
someone you love.

3) Try to pick up any dropped pins as soon as you can so pets don’t
swallow them or step on them and get one stuck in the foot. Don’t
leave pins or needles lying around on a table either if your cat has
access to it

4) Be aware that strips of fabric and even left over strips of
stabilizer may be finding their way into your pet’s diet and it really
isn’t good for them.

Now that this has happened we realize that there are other things that
our cats find enticing – like the curly ribbon attached to presents
and helium balloons.  While the image of a kitten or cat playing with
a ball of yarn or thread is cute,this is a potential problem if the
pet tries to eat any of the yarn or thread.

Keep an eye out for these kinds of problems and you can save yourself
a lot of heartache, not to mention a whopping Vet bill.  Your pets
will thank you for it!

Editor’s Note:  We have a young cat named Sparta.  Sparta is
fascinated by plastics and wants to eat them, bags and more . . . just
another example of a cat with a strange desire to eat things he
shouldn’t.  At times I feel like I have a toddler at home again.

Comments 17

  • Thank you for the wonderful warning. Everyone please know that this is so very true. It happened 1 1/2 years ago to my cat Cuddles. Only she wasn’t so luck. I had never thought of my sewing studio as being a dangerous place for my pets. I learned an extremely hard lesson, my pets are never left in my studio alone, there is a door to it now that is always shut unless I’m in there. Again thank you for your warning.

  • Thank you! I have a feline visitor/boarder from time to time and will definitely be more careful where I drop threads, etc in future.

  • thank you Gigi, great advice/reminders to us all. Not only do I have a puppy that likes these things, but also a 2yo dd – both “babies” needs precautions

  • My sister has two cats in her house, so I sent her the article. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. You just never think about these things!!!

  • I heartily agree and can add to the warning. My cat, Furlong, liked to sit on my lap while I sewed. One day as I was working in this fashion, he tried to “catch” the needle as it was going up and down and the needle almost went through his paw. Needless to say-we changed this habit.

  • My son had a big fire engine truck that had the capability of towing. The “tow rope” was a two foot long piece of heavy string with a metal hook on the end. One day I saw about two inches of string hanging out of our cat’s mouth while she was swallowing. I had my son hold her and I started pulling on the string. She had swallowed the two feet of string AND the hook off of the fire truck. The cat was fine. Needless to say, the truck lost its towing capability from then on.

  • My cat likes to lick at the garbage bags so I asked a cat breeder why and she said that the bags have fish oil in them that is why she likes it so I have learned put them away where she can not get to them

  • I to have 2 dogs that just love my sewing room. One eats everything she can find, the other just sits with me. I put a small pet bed on the floor beside my machine. They are never allowed in unless I am in there. To keep them out, yes just like children, I have a baby gate that I set in the doorway all the time unless the door is closed. But, the baby gate is still up there. My older dog get at the foot peddle and tries to sew with me. The younger one tries to eat everything. Better safe than sorry. Baby Gate.

  • My cat, Spot, hasn’t eaten thread yet but loves to chew on and eat plastic. This is my first indoor cat and she’s real weird.

  • Thank your for the warning. I’ve removed all household plants from the house because of the danger that my four rescue cats would eat them. I have a friend whose dog loves to eat paperclips and dryer sheets, so those also are carefully watched. I never thought of thread as dangerous to animals! My Shadow loves to bat at the needle as it moves up and down. Jonathan loves the foot pedal. But, I never worried about thread! Thanks so much for the warning!

  • It is amazing what animals will chew but you have not mentioned the sewing machine & computer leads that seem to breed every time we get a new gadget.We have to place a board in front of the desk leg space when we are finished using the compute because our dog is scared of storms & she hides under it & gets tangled up in all the leads

  • Thank you so much for this article! So many people don’t realize that our ‘fur children’ have strange habits, and eating thread can be one of them. I appreciate your writing and SiCK using this article in the newsletter to reach more people, and also the great comments by the others here. Hopefully it will keep our fur kids (and maybe kids & grands, too) from cat-astrophe!

  • Thank you so much for sending this very important information. I have noted that my cat, Mitzu (a 22 pound Maine Coon) loves to forage in the trash in my quilting studio. I know I have to hide string and gift ribbons. He likes those too. I’m going to come up with a different way to dispose of my thread remnents. Thank you! 🙂

  • Don’t forget those rolling chairs that are so convenient in your sewing room. When reaching for something on a higher shelf, be sure the chair in not close by. I stepped on the leg of mine and it rolled and I took a good flip backwards over a small table. Thankfully nothing was broken but my pride. Had some sore muscles for a few days.

  • I was sewing buttons on a shirt (by machine) and had the buttons lined up. My cat Squail got two of the buttons – he loved eating pills any pills – and apparently the buttons looked like pills. Now I do my best to keep the cats locked out of the sewing room.

  • I just had to tell you all about my daughters cat, Casper. She ate a deflated balloon (that just happened to be red!) and it got stuck when it came out the other end.We had to finish pulling it out,YECK!!!You can imagine what we thought!! It turned out to be the big joke of the family for a long time but we sure were glad it wasn’t something a lot worse!! We are a lot more careful now!

  • Creative Memories has a wonderful item; a cup holder that has a small waste bag attached. This way you can prevent several “accidents” at the same time. I have a large trash can beside the sewing machine and a huge box beside the cutting table but many threads still manage to hit the floor! I sweep the carpet prior to vacuuming to prevent clogging the beater brush and killing the belt. thank you for sharing your story, I’m glad Sneakers is OK. I have only chihuahua’s; Cleo, Boots and Stripes.

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