Drawer dividers for Ikea Alex

I’m smack dab in the middle of four separate deadlines/commitments, so it seemed like a great time to destroy my work area. I’m logical like that.


The thread came, so I’m a step closer to divorcing the Chain Fabric Store from Hell. However, I needed a place to put the thread.

I don’t use wall racks. Some folks like them, but my house gets incredibly dusty what with two dogs and a bird, plus Apple building a spaceship half a mile from my house. Anything that sits out for a couple of days disappears under a half inch thick layer of filth.


I’ve been using spool storage cases from Allstitch. They hold 48 spools, keep the dust out, and at $12.75, aren’t too expensive. Unfortunately, I’ve run into some issues finding room for the cases, plus pawing through a bunch of them is getting tedious. Getting even more didn’t seem like a good idea.


Alex series – about $120 at Ikea

My next thought was to stick dividers in some drawers. I had some wide, shallow Ikea Alex drawers that seemed about the right size for storing thread. Perhaps, since they’re a standard item at Ikea, they or somebody else might sell drawer inserts? Barring that, maybe I could head out to the garage, scrounge up some wood, and make my own?

I poked around on the web. I didn’t find pre-made dividers, but I did learn that the Alex series is incredibly popular with crafters and artists, as this pinterest page demonstrates. From there I also learned that many people make drawer dividers from foam core board.

Foam core! Why didn’t I think of that myself? It’s cheap, easy to cut, and in some sense is more forgiving of mistakes than if I started fiddling around with wood. I headed down to Michael’s with a 40% off coupon and grabbed a 20 x 30 x 3/16” piece of foam core for around $2. That piece of foam was big enough to furnish dividers for three of my drawers. If I’d bothered to plan ahead, I could have optimized my cutting scheme and made even more.

The top three drawers of the Alex are about 2” deep. There’s an added complication in that the back 4 1/2” of the drawers is obstructed, so it isn’t terribly useful to run dividers all the way back there. Thus, I opted to make my dividers 1 1/2” tall and leave about 6 1/2” clearance behind, so one can wiggle other items in and out.

Other specifications were driven by the fact that I was storing spools of Madeira Polyneon, which are about 3″ long, and the pieces of foam core were 3/16″ thick.



To make dividers like mine, begin by cutting four 1 1/2” thick strips across the 30” length of the foam core. An X-acto knife (Or, bleh, a “craft knife”) and long metal ruler or T-square work well for this task.


Put waste cardboard or a cutting mat beneath the foam core to avoid cutting in to your work surface. Or, you know, you could just do what I do, which is pretend the scratches and cut marks aren’t there and throw a cloth on the table when you have company.


Measure the width of the drawer and cut three of the 30” strips to that length. Or, if you aren’t fond of measuring, take the strips over to the drawer and mark them there.


Mark lines 6” and 6 3/16” in from each end of the long strips. Next, mark horizontal lines about 3/4” down from one edge, as seen above.

The goal with these lines is to outline the area which will be carved out to make notches. I like to draw an X over the area to be cut out, as a reminder.

Set the long pieces aside.


Cut two 10” pieces from the remaining 30″ strip.


On each 10” strip, measure and make the following marks:

  • 3/16” from one end (3/16″ being the thickness of the foam core board)
  • 3 5/16” from the end  (The above measurement + 3 1/8”, which is the length of one spool of Madeira thread plus 1/8″ wiggle room)
  • 3 1/2”  from the end (The above measurement + 3/16”, which is the thickness of the foam core board)
  • 6 5/8”  from the end  (The above measurement + 3 1/8”)
  • 6 13/16”  from the end (The above measurement + 3/16”)

You should end up with a series of marks which alternate the thickness of a piece of foam core and the length of a spool of thread.

Next, make horizontal marks about 3/4” down from one edge. These will determine how tall your notches are.

The finished marks should look something like those shown in the photo above.


With the X-Acto knife, cut out the notches in all of the pieces.


You should end up with three long notched pieces and two short notched pieces for each set of dividers.


Test fit the pieces before gluing. I like to use hot melt glue; it sets up quickly, and this application isn’t going to require much strength.


Oops. The drawer is full of junk. Also, I’ve managed to photograph it so that it looks like a trapezium rather than a rectangle, which is kind of a neat trick.


Junk removed, with a test fit of the drawer divider. There’s just enough room behind the divider to wiggle stuff in and out for storage.


Thread in place, with some assorted rulers stuck behind the divider. Hmph. My drawer has reverted to looking like a trapezium again. Maybe we’re in a universe without ninety degree angles or something.


There’s a way to cut out the foam core more efficiently, so as to get more dividers out of it, but I didn’t really plan before cutting. So, um, just throw the waste pieces in a random drawer and hoard them for twenty years. That’s what I’d do. They’re bound to come in handy sometime. Bound to.



Some of the other thread drawers.

Okay. That was fun. Now I guess I’d better deal with the wreck I made when pulling junk out of the thread storage drawers, then get back to work … hope this helps somebody and sparks some ideas, anyhow. It turns out foam core is incredibly easy to work with, and is a natural for making drawer dividers. If I was somebody who enjoyed folding underwear rather than wadding it all up and mounding it in the dresser, it might be worthwhile to make foam core dividers for the bedroom, too. (Spoiler: not happening.)

4 Responses to “Drawer dividers for Ikea Alex”

  1. Meggie says:

    i LOVE all those colours! I also love those excellent storage drawers. Well done.

  2. Brenda says:

    I haven’t been to IKEA for years but I can feel an excursion coming on.

  3. Tamara Espinosa says:

    I too have an Alex and was having issues with thread moving. I’m headed to hobby lobby now for some foam core!!!!

  4. Katherine Prior says:

    I recently added Alex units to my sewing room. Dividers are on my future plan but in the meantime I added shelf liner (the thicker, soft foam type) to the bottom of my drawers. Perfect! No more sliding spools but I do still have the “nearly” wasted space in the back of the drawers. A problem for another day-after Christmas sewing.

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