Title:
THREAD CADDY SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to thread storage and dispensing systems which allow thread to be stored and used while positioned in the same location. A thread caddy of the present invention includes one or more drawers that can be opened and closed, and can move from a retracted storage position to an expanded usage position. The drawers can include a thread tray that has locations for positioning multiple spools of thread. A positioning system may also be included to reorient the thread tray between multiple orientations. In a first orientation, the tray may be retracted so that a drawer can be moved to its closed position. In a second orientation, the drawer may be expanded so that the drawer cannot be closed. The positioning system may also be retractable within the drawer. A retractable feed guide can also be included which can feed multiple threads simultaneously.



Inventors:
Wadsworth, Edward G. (Logan, UT, US)
Lyman, James D. (North Logan, UT, US)
Application Number:
12/015248
Publication Date:
07/24/2008
Filing Date:
01/16/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/459.5, 206/565
International Classes:
B65D6/00; B65D1/36; B65D85/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
POOS, MADISON LYNN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Workman Nydegger (Salt Lake City, UT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A thread caddy for storing and using thread, comprising: one or more drawers, wherein said one or more drawers are movable between a retracted position and extended position, and wherein said one or more drawers include: a thread tray having a plurality of thread positions; and a positioning system for reorienting said thread tray between at least a first orientation and a second orientation, wherein said one or more drawers are movable to said retracted position when said thread tray is in said first orientation, and wherein said one or more drawers are substantially prevented from moving to said retracted position when said thread tray is in said second orientation.

2. A thread caddy as recited in claim 1, wherein said thread tray has a plurality of shelves, and wherein each of said plurality of shelves are adapted to have multiple thread positions.

3. A thread caddy as recited in claim 2, wherein said plurality of shelves define a set of tiered shelves when said thread tray is in said second orientation.

4. A thread caddy as recited in claim 3, wherein said plurality of shelves are substantially horizontal when said thread tray is in said first orientation.

5. A thread caddy system as recited in claim 1, wherein said thread tray includes a spindle at said plurality of thread positions.

6. A thread caddy system as recited in claim 1, wherein at said first orientation, said thread tray is substantially contained within said one or more drawers, and said thread positions are adapted to maintain thread spools in an angled position.

7. A thread caddy system as recited in claim 6, wherein at said second orientation, said thread tray is at least partially elevated relative to said one or more drawers, and said thread positions are adapted to maintain thread spools in a substantially vertical position.

8. A thread caddy system as recited in claim 1, wherein said positioning system includes a support member pivotally connected to said thread tray.

9. A thread caddy system as recited in claim 1, wherein said positioning system is retractable to a storage position contained within said one or more drawers.

10. A thread caddy system as recited in claim 1, further comprising a feed guide.

11. A thread caddy system as recited in claim 10, wherein said feed guide is connected to said tray.

12. A thread caddy system as recited in claim 10, wherein said feed guide is retractable to a storage position and contained within said one or more drawers.

13. A dual-use thread caddy system in which spools of thread are located for both storage and usage, comprising: one or more retractable thread drawers, wherein said one or more retractable thread drawers are configured to store spools of thread when said thread drawers are in a retracted position, and to facilitate usage of said thread when said thread drawers are in an extended position; a plurality of thread positions within said one or more retractable thread drawers; and a feed guide, wherein said feed guide is retractable between an operating position and a storage position, wherein at said operating position, said feed guide facilitates feeding of thread during usage of said thread, and wherein at said storage position, said feed guide is retracted for storage within said one or more retractable thread drawers.

14. A dual-use thread caddy system as recited in claim 13, wherein said feed guide includes a plurality of feed positions for simultaneously feeding thread from multiple spools of thread.

15. A dual-use thread caddy system as recited in claim 14, wherein said plurality of thread positions are arranged in at least one of columns or rows within said retractable thread drawers, and wherein said plurality of feed positions are substantially aligned with at least one of said columns or rows of thread positions.

16. A dual-use thread caddy system as recited in claim 13, wherein said feed guide is pivotally connected to move between said operating position and said storage position.

17. A thread caddy operating as a storage and usage system in which spools of thread are storable, usable, and identifiable in a single location, and without needing to remove the spools of thread from the thread caddy, the thread caddy comprising: a cabinet body; a plurality of drawers slideably disposed within said cabinet body; a retractable feed guide; and for each of said plurality of drawers, a thread storage system and use system that includes: a thread tray, wherein said thread tray has a plurality of shelves, at least some of said plurality of shelves including spindles for receiving spools of thread, wherein said thread tray has a storage orientation and a use orientation, wherein said storage orientation enables a respective drawer to be in, and moved between, an extended position and a retracted position; and wherein said use orientation enables said respective drawer to be in said extended position but not said retracted position, and to feed thread from spools of thread one said spindles through said retractable feed guide; and a support mechanism for maintaining said thread tray in at least one of said storage orientation or said use orientation.

18. A thread caddy as recited in claim 17, wherein at said storage orientation, said thread tray, and spools of thread thereon, are substantially disposed within said respective drawer, and said spools of thread recline on said spindles at an angle.

19. A thread caddy as recited in claim 17, wherein at said use orientation, at least a portion of said thread tray, and spools of thread thereon, are elevated with respect to said respective drawer, and said spools of thread are substantially vertical on said spindles.

20. A thread caddy as recited in claim 17, wherein each spindle defines a thread position, and wherein each thread position further includes an identification area for providing indicia indicating, for a spool of thread at said thread position, at least one of thread color or thread style.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/885,186, filed Jan. 16, 2007, and entitled “THREAD CHEST SYSTEM”, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. The Field of the Invention

Exemplary embodiments of the invention relate to the field of sewing and embroidery. More particularly, the invention relates to apparatus, systems and assemblies for organizing and using multiple spools of thread in a single location.

2. The Relevant Technology

Sewing, in one form or another, has been around for centuries. By some estimates, hand sewing has been around as an art form for more than twenty thousand years, when bones or animal horns were fashioned into needles, and animal sinew was made into thread. As time marched on, the equipment used for sewing became increasingly advanced and by the early 1800's, various sewing and embroidery machines were already being designed and manufactured. Since then, technology in the field has increased such that computer aided equipment is now the norm in both commercial and home settings, and even the hobbyist can design and produce complex patterns and designs with the assistance of computer technology.

With the increase in technology, the commercial sewer and the hobbyist can sew patterns and designs which may use many different thread colors. Accordingly, sewers and embroiders may employ some form of thread storage and management system. For example, spools of thread may be placed in one or more drawers of a cabinet. A cabinet may be selected based on the size of its drawers, to ensure that the thread spools fit therein, and the sewer can then place the spools in the drawers. The sewer may arrange the spools according to color, style, manufacturer, or may use some other organizational pattern.

As the sewer or embroiderer then desires to use a particular thread color and/or style, the sewer can open the drawer where the user expects to find the thread. The user can find a spool of thread that is believed to be the desired color or style, and the user then removes the thread and inspects the bottom of the thread spool, where information about the thread, such as the color and style name and/or code, is printed. If the user has selected the wrong color or style, the user will then place the thread back into the cabinet and look at different spools of thread. If the thread is not found in a selected drawer, the user may need to look in additional drawers to find the proper thread color or style.

Once the desired thread has been found and its color and style verified, the user can then remove the thread and place it on the sewing or embroidery machine to begin use of the selected thread. When the user has finished using the thread, the user may then select a different thread color and/or style for a different portion of the sewing or embroidery project. Accordingly, the user may repeat the process described above many times for a single project, particularly where the project uses many different thread colors and/or styles.

Such traditional storage cabinet storage systems have a tendency to become disorganized. This is because spools of thread are moved many times, thereby resulting in a greater likelihood that thread will be misplaced when returned to a cabinet. For instance, thread spools are removed to verify thread color and/or style and when selected for use with a sewing project. Thus, different spools of thread swap places within a drawer, and often are moved between different drawers.

As a result, a user may look in a location where the thread was originally placed, only to find that the thread is missing. The user may be unaware, therefore, as to whether the thread has been used-up, or whether it has merely been moved. A user may thus need to spend extra time searching for a particular spool of thread, and may search many locations and/or drawers before finding the thread, or the user may even be unable to find the thread. Alternatively, the user may spend time reorganizing the thread storage cabinet, which reorganization also takes time that could otherwise be spent sewing or embroidering a project.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Exemplary embodiments of the invention relate to apparatus, assemblies and systems for improving thread storage and management. In particular, exemplary embodiments of the present invention include a dual-use thread caddy which not only operates as a thread chest for storing various spools of thread, but also acts as a thread stand from which thread is fed to a sewing or embroidery machine for use. The thread caddy thus provides a system in which thread can be stored and used from a single location, thereby minimizing the need to remove the thread from the storage location.

In one embodiment, for example, a thread caddy can store and use thread in a single location, and includes one or more drawers. The one or more drawers can be movable between positions, such as retracted and extended positions. Within any or all of the drawers there may be a thread tray that defines multiple thread positions. A positioning system may also be provided, and is optionally included within the one or more drawers. The positioning system may allow for reorienting the thread tray between two or more orientations. In one tray orientation, for instance, the one or more drawers may be movable to allow the drawer to close and be retracted. In a second orientation of the tray, the tray may prevent the drawer from closing and retracting within the cabinet.

In some embodiments, a thread tray includes a plurality of shelves that each can have multiple thread positions, and thus hold multiple spools of thread. Thread positions are optionally marked by spindles on the shelves. When the thread tray is in one orientation, the shelves of the tray may have a tiered configuration and at least some of the shelves can be elevated above the drawer. Such a configuration may also reposition the thread spools to have a substantially vertical, upright orientation from which they can be used directly, without the need to remove the thread spool from the tray.

Optionally, when the thread tray is in the first orientation and movable to the retracted drawer position, the shelves may each be substantially contained within the drawer to allow the drawer to open and close. For instance, the tray may pivot such that each of the shelves is substantially horizontal, relative to each other shelf. When spools of thread are on the tray, such a position can thus cause the spools of thread to recline and be maintained at an angled position which is also contained within the drawer.

In some embodiments, a thread caddy includes a positioning system for adjusting and/or supporting a drawer or thread tray as it moves between multiple positions. For instance, the positioning system can include a pivotally connected support member. The support member may be pivotally connected to the thread tray and/or the drawer. In one example, the positioning system expands to support the thread tray in an expanded, use orientation, while it may optionally retract to a storage position within the drawer. For instance, the positioning system may retract to the storage position when the thread tray is in a storage orientation.

According to other embodiments of the invention, a thread caddy provides for thread to be used and stored in a single location and includes at least one retractable thread drawer configured to store spools of thread. A thread drawer can thus be configured to store spools of thread when in a retracted position, while facilitating usage of thread when the drawers are in an extended position. Multiple spools of thread may thus be positioned in each drawer at any of multiple thread positions, any or all of which optionally include a spindle for receiving the thread spool. To further facilitate use of thread when the drawer is in the extended position, a feed guide can be included with the caddy system, and may also be retractable between an operating position, in which the feed guide provides a clear thread path for use of the thread, and a storage position, in which the feed guide is retracted for storage within one or more drawers.

A feed guide may be, in some cases, connected to the drawer or a thread tray. For instance, the feed guide may be pivotally connected and to rotate between storage and operating positions. Alternatively, the feed guide may be removable from a drawer and/or tray. For instance, a single feed guide may be used for all drawers and can be removed from any particular drawer for use with another drawer. Further, the feed guide can include one or multiple feed stations. For instance, a thread drawer may have thread spools arranged in columns and/or rows. In one example, the feed guide includes multiple feed positions such that each feed position is generally aligned with a column or row of thread spools.

In still another embodiment of the invention, a thread caddy operates as both a storage and usage system in which thread is storable, usable, and identifiable in a single location, and without the need to remove the spools of thread to either use or identify the thread. Such an embodiment can include, for example, a cabinet body in which there are multiple, slideably disposed drawers. A retractable feed guide is also included and each drawer includes a thread storage and use system. Each such storage and use system can further include a thread tray with multiple shelves and spindles for receiving spools of thread. The tray may also be reorienting such that it has a storage orientation in which a drawer corresponding to the tray can be positioned in, and moved between, an extended position and a retracted position. The tray may also have a use orientation in which the drawer can be in the extended position, but not the retracted position, and which facilitates feeding of thread from the spools through the retractable feed guide.

Such a thread caddy can also include a support mechanism for maintaining the thread tray in at least the storage and use orientations. At the storage orientation, for example, the spools of thread can be substantially disposed within the drawer and can recline on their spindles at an angle. At the use orientation, at least some of the spools of thread may be elevated relative to the drawer and can be substantially upright. Optionally, each thread position can include an identification area for providing indicia that indicates a color and/or style of thread stored and used at that thread position. For instance, a label can be affixed to such an area and identify the thread color, style, manufacturer, code, or the like.

These and other objects and features of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims, or may be learned by the practice of the invention as set forth hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

To further clarify the above and other advantages and features of the present invention, a more particular description of the invention will be rendered by reference to specific embodiments thereof which are illustrated in the appended drawings. It is appreciated that these drawings depict only typical embodiments of the invention and are therefore not to be considered limiting of its scope. The invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a thread caddy according to one embodiment of the present invention, in which various thread storage drawers are used to each store multiple spools of thread;

FIGS. 2A-2D illustrates side views of an example drawer of a thread caddy, according to one embodiment of the present invention, as the drawer is adjusted from a storage position to a use position;

FIG. 3 illustrates a top view of an exemplary thread drawer such as that shown in FIG. 2A; and

FIG. 4 illustrates a perspective view of a thread drawer according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Exemplary embodiments of the invention relate to apparatus, assemblies and systems for storing and managing thread usable for any type of sewing. In particular, exemplary embodiments of the present invention relate to providing a thread caddy in which multiple spools of thread can be stored and which is optionally adjustable to allow thread to be used and fed to a sewing or embroidery machine without being removed from the thread caddy. As a result, a user is provided with a well-organized thread storage and use apparatus, assembly and system which can minimize removal of a spool of thread.

Reference will now be made to the drawings to describe various aspects of exemplary embodiments of the invention. It is understood that the drawings are diagrammatic and schematic representations of such exemplary embodiments, and are not limiting of the present invention. While the drawings illustrate example embodiments, which are drawn approximately to scale, no inference should be drawn from the drawings as to requiring or necessitating, any particular dimensions of any invention or element inasmuch as the illustrated embodiments are merely exemplary and other dimensions and scales are contemplated and within the spirit and scope of the pending claims. In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be obvious, however, to one of ordinary skill in the art that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details, and no element, feature or component should be considered necessary for all applications unless so provided in the description related to that element, feature or component. In other instances, well-known aspects of sewing, embroidery, and cabinet-making have not been described in particular detail in order to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the present invention.

As used herein, the term “sewing” is broadly defined to refer to any process or action in which thread, yarn, string, or other similar materials are stitched, interlaced with fabric, or interwoven with itself. Accordingly, any process traditionally considered “sewing,” as well as embroidery, serging, cross-stitching, knitting, crocheting, and the like are all properly considered “sewing,” whether performed by hand or aided by a mechanical, electronic, and/or computerized device.

Referring now to FIG. 1, a perspective view of an exemplary thread caddy 100 is illustrated according to one embodiment of the present invention. Thread caddy 100 includes in this embodiment, a body 102 in which three drawers 110 are situated and contain one or more thread spools 106. In particular, in the illustrated embodiment, body 102 forms a cabinet structure which is at least partially open on one side, and in which each of drawers 110 are placed. Specifically, in the illustrated embodiment, front side 104 of body 102 has three openings into which drawers 110 are placed.

As further illustrated in FIG. 1, drawers 110 are optionally configured to be retractable. For instance, top drawer 110 is illustrated in an extended position whereas the remaining drawers 110 are illustrated in retracted positions. Further to facilitate extension and retraction of drawers 110, a handle 112, or other similar device, is optionally secured to each of drawers 110. For instance, handle 112 is secured to the front side of drawers 110, thereby allowing a user to grab hold of handle 112 and pull to extend, and optionally remove, drawers 110, or to push and retract drawers 110 within body 102.

Handle 112 may be secured to drawers 110 by any suitable mechanism, such as through the use of a mechanical fastener or adhesive. It will also be appreciated, however, that handle 112 need not be used at all, and may instead be replaced by a knob or other similar device, or may be eliminated entirely. In one embodiment, the front panel of drawers 110 may have notches formed therein to allow a user to grip and manipulate drawers 110. It will be appreciated that such notches, as well as a knob or any other device or construction, whether integral with, or temporarily or permanently connected to drawers 110, allows a user to extend and retract drawers 110, and is therefore also properly considered a handle.

To facilitate insertion, removal, extension and/or retraction of drawers 110, thread caddy 100 can include any suitable retraction mechanism 120. In the illustrated embodiment, for instance, each drawer 110 includes a groove 122 formed one the outer surface of left and right panels. Corresponding guide rails (not shown) may be secured to the interior of body 102, in locations that correspond to the positions of groove 122. Such guide rails may therefore be inserted into groove 122, thereby allowing drawers 110 to slide along the guide rails. The guide rails can also provide support to drawers 110.

It will be appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art, in view of the disclosure herein, that the retraction mechanism 120 as illustrated in FIG. 1 is merely one example of a suitable mechanism, or means, for allowing a drawer to retract within body 102, and that other alternatives may be employed as suitable alternatives. For example, thread caddy 100 may instead use a retraction mechanism that includes only a single groove, such as on the bottom panel of drawers 110. Alternatively, a groove may be formed in body 102 while a guide rail is secured to drawers 110. In still other embodiments, grooves and/or guide rails may be eliminated entirely and retraction mechanism 120 may instead use, for example, a center mount drawer slide, a suspension drawer slide, a ball-bearing drawer slide, or the like. In still a further embodiment, the retraction mechanism may include one or more pivots, such as hinges, which allow a drawer or tray to expand and retract by pivoting in addition or as an alternative to, sliding.

In the illustrated embodiment, it can be seen that each drawer 110 of thread caddy 100 can house a number of different spools of thread 106. Top drawer 110, for example, includes thread spools 106 arranged in columns and rows, with six thread spools 106 in each row of thread. Each of drawers 110 may be similarly sized and configured to have the same number of positions for thread spools 106. It will be appreciated in view of the disclosure herein, however, that it is not necessary that each drawer be similarly configured, that any drawer have thread arranged in rows, columns, or any particular configuration, or that any particular number of drawers 110 be used. For example, according to alternative embodiments, drawers 110 may be different sizes to accommodate different sizes of thread spools 106, drawers 110 may be configured so that thread spools 106 are positioned in an alternating, spiral, or other configuration. In another embodiment, more or fewer than three drawers 110 may be used in connection with thread caddy 100. For example, in one example, a cabinet body may house a single drawer. Such a cabinet body may further be configured to be stackable with one or more other cabinets that are themselves of the same or a different size. To facilitate stacking, an exemplary cabinet may include, for instance, a divot, groove, or other member on the top surface thereof, and a corresponding bump, wafer, or other member on the bottom surface thereof. In this manner, a corresponding bump or other member may be situated within a corresponding divot or the like, to allow for stability and/or interlocking of different cabinets. It will be appreciated that any suitable stability and/or interlocking features may be used. Further, such features may also allow for interlocking of cabinets in a side-by-side configuration.

Now turning to FIGS. 2A-2D, an exemplary drawer 110 is illustrated and a dual-use of drawer 110 described as the drawer 110 can act as a thread chest—for thread storage—and as a thread stand—for thread usage. In FIGS. 2A-2D, a side panel of drawer 110 has been removed to show the interior of drawer 110. Additionally, a single drawer 110 is shown along with only a single row of thread spools 106, so as to avoid unnecessarily complicating the figures. It will be appreciated, however, that more or fewer thread spools 106 can be added to drawer 110, and drawer 110 can be used alone, with other drawers, or in connection with a thread caddy 100 (FIG. 1). For example, according to one aspect of the invention, drawer 110 can be extended and removed from thread caddy 100 (FIG. 1) before thread stored in drawer 110 is used. In an alternative aspect, drawer 110 may be extended and left partially secured within thread caddy 100 (FIG. 1) while the thread stored in drawer 110 is used.

With reference now to FIGS. 2A-2D, drawer 110 is described with reference to an exemplary method in which drawer 110 is used for both storage of thread spools 106, and for use of thread spools 106 in connection with a sewing project. It will be appreciated that aspects of the method are described relative to the components of the illustrated embodiment and that some aspects of the method may change or be altered based on the removal of certain features or components, or the use of alternative features or components. Accordingly, the described method is provided merely to describe aspects for using the invention, but is not intended to be descriptive of all methods for using a thread caddy as may be learned from the description herein.

FIG. 2A illustrates drawer 110 in an exemplary storage position and orientation. In particular, in the illustrated embodiment, a tray 140 and feed guide 160 are illustrated in retracted, storage positions so as to allow drawer 110 to be easily and quickly inserted into, removed from, and/or slid in-and-out within cabinet body 102 (FIG. 1).

Specifically, drawer 110 can include a retractable tray 140 on which thread spools 106 may be positioned for storage and/or use. For instance, in the example tray 140 illustrated in FIG. 2A, tray 140 provides for at least seven rows of thread spools 106. In particular, in this exemplary tray 140, seven angled shelves 142 are laterally offset from each other to form the seven rows on each of which a user may position one or more spools of thread. To facilitate positioning of thread spools 106 on shelves 142, one or more spindles 144 may also be positioned on each shelf 142. For example, each shelf may have a single spindle 144 or may have multiple spindles 144 spaced along a width of the shelf 144.

In the example tray 140 illustrated in FIG. 2A, tray 140 has a substantially flat bottom surface which rests on a bottom panel of drawer 110. Each of shelves 142 is also, in this example embodiment, substantially identical so that each shelf 142 is positioned at essentially the same vertical position relative to the bottom of drawer 110. In this manner, each of thread shelves 142 are horizontal relative to each other. Furthermore, in this embodiment, each of shelves 142 is also angled relative to the bottom surface of tray 140, such that spindles 144 and thread spools 106 are also angled while tray 140 is in the retracted, storage position. For instance, shelves 142 may each be angled between about ten and fifty degrees from horizontal, while spindles 144 and thread spools 106 may be angled between about ten and fifty degrees from vertical. In a more particular embodiment, shelves 142 may each be angled between about twenty-five and thirty-five degrees from horizontal, such that spindles 144 and thread spools 106 can also be angled between about between about twenty-five and thirty-five degrees from vertical.

In the specific embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2A, it can be seen that drawer 110 and tray 140 are sized such that as thread spools 106 are positioned on tray 140 and in the storage position of tray 140, thread spools 106 are substantially contained within drawer 106. For instance, thread spools 140 may extend upward at an angle as described herein; however, the upper-most portion of thread spools 106 may be at a height that is about equal to, or less than, the height of the front, back, and/or side panels of drawer 110. Thus, thread spools 106 and tray 140 are each substantially contained within drawer 110 while tray 140 is in the retracted, storage position.

As one will appreciate in view of the disclosure herein, the illustrated tray 140 is merely one example of a suitable tray and tray 140 may be replaced by trays of other configurations, or tray 140 may be removed altogether. For instance, tray 140 may have different numbers of shelves, and accommodate different numbers of thread spools across the length and/or width of tray 140. In other embodiments, shelves 142 may have still other configurations or orientations. For instance, shelves 142 may be angled greater than fifty degrees or less than ten degrees from horizontal. Further, it is not necessary that shelves 142 all be of the same or similar size and dimension. For example some shelves 142 may be sized to accommodate thread spools 106 of differing heights and/or widths and may be angled at different angles than other shelves 142. In still other embodiments, spindles 144 may be removed or otherwise modified.

As noted previously, drawer 110 may also contain a feed guide 160 that can be positioned in a retracted, storage position while drawer 110 is also in its storage position. For instance, feed guide 160 may be pivotally secured within drawer 110 so that it can be oriented as desired by a user. In particular, in the illustrated example, feed guide 160 is pivotally secured to tray 110 at one or more hinges 161. For instance, feed guide 160 may include side supports 162 that connect to, and support, two ends of a thread guide 168 (FIG. 3). Each side support 162 may be pivotally connected to tray 140 and/or drawer 110 at hinge 161, such that as side supports 162 are rotated, feed guide 160 can be reoriented between a retracted, storage position, such as that shown in FIG. 2A, and an expanded, usage position, such as that shown in FIG. 2B.

Turning to FIG. 2B, it can be seen that by rotating feed guide 160 in a counterclockwise motion from the storage position illustrated in FIG. 2B, side supports 162 of feed guide 160 can rotate and elevate above drawer 110. As will be appreciated in view of the disclosure herein, by elevating feed guide 160 at least partially above drawer 110, feed guide 160 is in an extended position and may prevent or at least hinder a user from inserting drawer 110 fully within thread chest 100 (FIG. 1).

For example, in the illustrated embodiment, a side support 162 of feed guide 160 includes a base portion 163 which is secured to tray 140 at hinge 161. In the extended, usage position, the illustrated base portion 163 extends upward, from hinge 161 at an angle that is offset from vertical. The amount of the angular offset can be between five and thirty degrees, although the angular offset can vary and no particular offset or offset range is necessary. Indeed, in some embodiments, the base portion may extend substantially directly vertical or horizontal, based on the size and configuration of drawer 110 and tray 140.

Base portion 163 may also connect to an intermediate portion 164. In this embodiment, when side support 162 is substantially vertical and feed guide 160 is in the extended, usage position, intermediate portion 164 extends substantially horizontally from base portion 163, and thus forms an obtuse angle with base portion 163, although this configuration is exemplary only. In other embodiments, intermediate portion 164 may extend at a right or acute angle from base portion 163, and/or may not extend horizontally.

One feature of the illustrated configuration of base portion 163 and intermediate portion 164 is that as intermediate portion 164 extends horizontally, it can extend over and rest upon the front panel of drawer 110. In this manner, the extension of feed guide 160 can be limited to a desired amount.

Further, a terminal portion 165 of side support 162 may extend generally upward from intermediate portion 163, and may extend substantially vertically or at an angle, as desired. Terminal portion 165 extends towards thread guide 168 (FIG. 4) which can include one or more guides 170, such as openings or chambers, in which thread from thread spools 106 can be inserted and fed to a sewing machine for a sewing project. The guides 170 can thus enable a clear thread path and the use of one or more thread spools while the thread spools remain located in tray 140. In this manner, thread spools 140 can be stored and used in the same location, without the need to remove any thread spool 106 for its use.

As thread is fed though feed guide 160, it may be desirable to also prevent or reduce the risk that feed guide will inadvertently rotate toward the retracted, storage position illustrated in FIG. 2A. According, in some embodiments a retention mechanism 172 may be used to position and secure feed guide 160 in the extended position. For instance, retention mechanism 172 may include a bump 174 on an interior or exterior surface of side support 162. A corresponding divot 176 may also be placed on tray 140 and/or drawer 110, such that as feed guide 160 is moved to a desired position, bump 174 mates with, and becomes at least partially contained within divot 176. For instance, divot 176 may be formed in an exterior surface of tray 140 such that as feed guide 160 and tray 140 are both extended to usage positions, bump 174 mates with divot 176 and feed guide is fixed relative to tray 140. Thereafter, a user may apply manual force to overcome the resistance that bump 174 and divot 176 apply to the rotation of feed guide 160. It will be appreciated that similar or other retention mechanisms can also be used. For example, clasps and pins may secure feed guide 160 in a desired position. Additionally, one will appreciate that similar or other retention mechanisms can also secure feed guide 160 in a retracted position.

It should be appreciated that feed guide 160 as illustrated in the appended figures and described herein is exemplary only, and is not limiting of the present invention. Indeed, as described hereafter, a feed guide may take other forms. Furthermore, in some embodiments, feed guide 160 may be eliminated entirely. For instance, according to one example embodiment, tray 140 is configured to store multiple thread spools 106 of a thread spool and cap system as described in commonly assigned, U.S. application Ser. No. 11/380,891, filed on Apr. 28, 2006, and entitled “Thread Spool and Cap,” which application is hereby expressly incorporated herein by this reference. As will be appreciated in view of the disclosure herein, while feed guide 140 may be used in conjunction with such spool and cap systems, the disclosed spool and cap system can also allow thread to be used directly from the cap, such that a feed guide may not be required or even desirable for all applications.

In some embodiments, tray 140 is not fixed in the retracted, storage position, but may also be extended to further facilitate use of thread spools 106. As illustrated in FIG. 2C, for example, according to one embodiment, tray 140 may be at least partially elevated from drawer 110. As such, tray 140 may be elevated to a second position in which tray 140 substantially prevents a user from closing drawer 110.

A user may grasp one portion of tray 140 and, as shown in FIG. 2C, elevate all or a portion of tray 140. For instance, in the illustrated embodiment, a user has elevated a back end of tray 140, while the front end of tray 140 remains situated within drawer 110. In this manner, tray 140 has essentially been rotated counter-clockwise about the front end of tray 140. In other embodiments, all of a tray may be elevated with respect to tray 140.

A user can grasp and elevate tray in any suitable manner. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, tray 140 includes a grip 146 that allows a user to easily grab hold of the back end of tray 140. Of course, other grips and handling means may be provided. For instance, grooves or ridges may be formed in any suitable portion of tray 140 to facilitate handling. In other cases, no specific handling means may be provided.

As a user rotates tray 140 and elevates portions of tray 140, it can be seen that shelves 142 can also rotate, thereby changing the angle between shelves 142 and a horizontal surface, such as the bottom surface of drawer 110. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3C, for instance, a user has rotated tray 140 counter-clockwise such that shelves 142 have rotated to a position just beyond horizontal, and spindles 144 and thread spools 106 are at an angle just beyond vertical. One feature of the illustrated embodiment is that tray 140 may be secured at a desired elevated position. For instance, a positioning system 180 may be used in connection with tray 140 to secure tray 140 in the desired elevated position, and to substantially prevent tray 140 from inadvertently rotating towards the retracted, storage position.

In particular, in the illustrated embodiment, positioning system 180 is also retractable so that it can be retracted within drawer 110 when drawer 110 is in its closed or storage position. For instance, a support member 182, such as a bar, rod, shaft, pin, or the like, may be pivotally connected to tray 140. In the illustrated example, a hinge 184 connects support member 182 to tray 140, and allows support member 182 to rotate with respect thereto. For instance, support member 182 may be initially positioned within the interior of tray 140. As tray 140 is rotated and elevated from drawer 110, support member 182 thereby becomes accessible and a user can rotate support member 182 counterclockwise so that it extends downward from hinge 184 and tray 140.

As best illustrated in FIG. 2D, tray 140 can then be rotated slightly clockwise, and support member 182 can engage the rear corner of drawer 110. Consequently, the support member 182 exerts a force against drawer 110 and maintains tray 140 in an elevated, usage position. For example, in one embodiment, when support member 182 supports and positions tray 140 in the usage position, shelves 142 are aligned to be substantially horizontal, while spindles 144 and thread spools 106 extend substantially vertically. Thus, as shown in FIGS. 2A-2D, tray 140 can extend from a storage position in which each of shelves 140 are of about the same vertical height and therefore about horizontal relative to each other, to a usage position, in which the shelves have a tiered configuration in which each shelf has a different vertical offset relative to drawer 110.

Although support member 182 is illustrated as a single member, it will be appreciated that support member 182 may take any of a variety of different configurations. For example, two support members 182 may connect to each side of tray 140. Alternatively, a single support member 182 may be substantially U-shaped and connect to both sides of tray 140. Additionally, other support members, such as wedges, bands, or belts may be used to maintain tray 140 in a desired position. Further, positioning system 180 may also secure tray 140 in more than a single extended position. For instance, drawer 110 may include multiple notches in which support member 182 can be positioned to secure tray 140. Such may be desirable to, for example, accommodate shelves 142 having different configurations and angles, or for other reasons. Accordingly, it will also be seen that positioning system 180 may secure tray 140 such that one or more of shelves 142 are not horizontal, but are offset at an angle from horizontal. Indeed, in some embodiments, it may be desired that all shelves be positioned at an offset from horizontal. For example, some or all thread spools 106 may be offset up to forty-five degrees from vertical, or even more if desired.

While in one embodiment, a user may manually grip tray 140 and/or positioning system 180 to extend and stabilize tray 140, in other embodiments no such direct action may be necessary. For example, in an alternative embodiment, positioning system 180 may include one or more biasing members, such as springs, which are automatically released as drawer 110 is opened. In particular, as a user opens drawer 110 to a position in which tray 140 can extend, the biasing members of a positioning system 180 may act to automatically extend tray 140 to a desired, thread usage position. Alternatively, a switch or other release may be included to allow a user to release the biasing force. Furthermore, such biasing member may include dampers, shocks, or other mechanisms to slow the release of the biasing force and maintain a fluid and safe release of such a biasing force.

When the user has and secured tray 140 in the desired position, the user may then proceed to use thread from spools 106. For instance, as described herein, a user can extend thread 107 from one or more of thread spools 106 through an opening 170 in feed guide 160, and proceed to use the thread with a sewing machine, or in another manner. Alternatively, a user may not use feed guide 160, and thread 107 can be used directly from a thread spool 106 that remains positioned on tray 140.

Although FIGS. 2A-2D illustrate a method for extending tray 140, positioning system 180 and feed guide 160, it will be appreciated that the order of steps is exemplary only and not necessary. For example, in another embodiment, tray 140 may be extended before feed guide 160 is extended to its use position. Furthermore, it will be appreciated that by reversing the acts illustrated and described with respect to FIGS. 2A-2D, a user can reposition drawer 110 from an extended, usage position to a retracted, storage position.

As noted herein, tray 140 is merely exemplary of one tray suitable for use in practicing the invention described herein, and is not limiting of the types of trays usable in accordance with the spirit of the disclosed invention. For example, in some embodiments, tray 140 can include thread spool positions which are not supported by spindles 144, or which are otherwise adapted for other storage. In FIG. 2D, for example, a storage chamber 190 is illustrated behind a top shelf 142. A storage chamber 190 is an optional feature that can be included in tray 140 and/or drawer 110 to store additional spools of thread or other sewing accessories such as needles, hooks, bobbins, backing, stabilizer, color cards, scissors, tweezers, or a variety of other accessories or tools.

Turning now to FIG. 3, an overhead view is provided of drawer 110 in a storage position similar to that illustrated in the side view of FIG. 2A. In the illustrated embodiment, it will be appreciated that a number of different thread spools 106 can thus be positioned for storage and/or use within a single tray 140. For example, in the illustrated drawer 110, tray 140 is arranged to have spindles 144 that arrange thread spools 106 in multiple rows and columns. For example, the illustrated tray 140 includes forty-two thread spool positions arranged in six columns and seven rows, although this number and arrangement is exemplary only.

Inasmuch as a number of different thread types and colors can be positioned within a single drawer 110, and even more within multiple drawers of a single thread chest 100 (FIG. 1), a feature of the invention also allows a user to easily and visually distinguish the thread color and style, without requiring that the user remove the thread spool 106 and look at the information printed on the bottom of the thread. As shown, for example, each thread position includes an identification area, such as is represented by labels 148, where markings and other indicia can identify information about the thread that would otherwise be found only on the bottom of the spool. For instance, labels 148 can include the thread color name and/or code, the thread style, the manufacturer name, and/or any other relevant information.

The identification area and labels 148 can be placed in any suitable location. For instance, in the illustrated embodiment, labels 148 are positioned adjacent each thread spool position and on a transition area between shelves 142. In such locations, labels 148 can identify relevant thread information for a thread spool 106 positioned on the shelf 142 either below or above the identification area, as desired. In other embodiments, however, the identification area can be included on the shelf, or in any other suitable location. Additionally, the identification area can include a space for a label 148, or can include identification indicia printed directly thereon.

As further illustrated in FIG. 3, an optional feed guide 160 is shown in a retracted position within drawer 110. As described previously, feed guide 160 can include, for example, two side supports which are pivotally connected to tray 140 or drawer 140, and which support a thread guide 168, through which thread is fed when a thread spool 106 is used. In some embodiments, thread guide 168 may include a single location where a user may position thread for use. In other embodiments, such as that illustrated in FIG. 3, however, thread guide 168 may include multiple locations such that multiple threads can be fed and/or used simultaneously. In the illustrated embodiment, for instance, thread guide 168 includes six openings 170 for feeding thread. The illustrated openings 170 are aligned with the six columns of thread positions on tray 140, although this feature is exemplary only. In other embodiments, differing numbers of thread openings 170 may be used and/or may be aligned along rows of thread positions, or may not be aligned with any or all of the rows or columns of thread spools.

Openings 170 may also have any suitable configuration or shape. In one embodiment, for instance, openings 170 comprise a simple hole formed in thread guide. In such a case, a user can simply insert thread through the hole beginning on one side of thread guide 168, and extend it through to the other side of thread guide 168. In other examples, however, other openings 170 may be used. In FIG. 3, for example, openings 170 have a T-shaped configuration which allows a user to pass the thread through the outer surface of thread guide 168, and into the stem of the opening 170 where it can be fed for a desired application. In any such case, however, it will be appreciated that such a system can provide a clear thread path to use a single thread, or multiple threads simultaneously, and which can be opened, threaded, and ready to use in a matter of seconds, and without requiring that the user ever remove any desired thread spool from tray 140. Accordingly, from the time a thread spool is placed on its spindle until the time the spool is empty and needs to be replaced, there is no need to move the spool out of the tray. Thread thus stays where it is supposed to be and the user knows exactly where the thread is. Thus, a user's time, which is best spent sewing, can be saved for sewing and time otherwise spent in searching for a desired thread, moving thread from a storage area to a sewing area, loading thread into an embroidery machine, and/or reorganizing thread storage systems can be eliminated or substantially reduced.

As noted previously, aspects of the thread caddy system described herein can be embodied in different forms without departing from the spirit or desired characteristics of the claimed invention. FIG. 4 illustrated, for example, merely one example alternative embodiment of such a thread caddy drawer 210, in which an alternative feed guide 260 is used.

In the illustrated embodiment, feed guide 260 is secured to tray 240 and/or drawer 210 at a back end of drawer 210, rather than at the front of drawer 210 near the handle. Furthermore, feed guide 260 can include an alternative connection and operating mechanism. For instance, in the illustrated embodiment, rather than using two side supports, feed guide 160 includes a single support 262 which extends substantially vertically from tray 240. A thread guide 268 is connected to the top of support 262 and extends horizontally therefrom. Multiple feed openings, represented by loops 270, can then be connected to, or integrally formed within, thread guide 268 to allow one or more threads to be fed for use in a desired project.

Feed guide 260 may be connected to either drawer 210 or tray 240 in any suitable fashion, or may even stand alone from drawer 210 and tray 240. For instance, in one embodiment, feed guide 260 is fixed to tray 240 and extends therefrom. By way of example, support 262 may employ a number of different members that telescope to extend support 262 from tray 240. In this manner, support 262 can be retracted and positioned within tray 240 or drawer 210, or extended to the position illustrated in FIG. 4.

In an alternative embodiment, feed guide 260 may be removable from tray 240 and/or drawer 210. For instance, tray 240 may include an opening into which support 262 is inserted. In yet another alternative feed guide 160 may be pivotally connected to tray 240. For instance, support 262 may be attached to a hinge on tray 240, such that feed guide 260 can rotate counterclockwise from the position in FIG. 4 to a position generally parallel to tray 240. As such, when tray 240 is retracted within drawer 210, feed guide 260 can also be retracted for storage.

One will appreciate in view of the disclosure herein that aspects of the invention can be produced from a wide variety of materials. For example, a thread cabinet and cabinet drawers can be made from wood, or may be made of plastic, metal, composite, ceramic, or other suitable materials. Likewise, a thread tray may be made of plastic, or may also be made of wood, metal, composite or other material. A positioning system and/or feed guide, if used, could similarly be made from metal, wood, plastic, ceramic, composite, or other materials.

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative and not restrictive. The scope of the invention is, therefore, indicated by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description. All changes which come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are to be embraced within their scope.





 
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