How to Insert a Bobbin in Your Sewing Machine

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Congratulations… you’ve wound thread on your first bobbin! Now it’s time to insert the bobbin in your sewing machine.

Note: This post is part of a series called Starting to Sew. This series is intended for people who are either new to sewing, have limited sewing knowledge, or need a plan of action to teach their child how to sew. It’s designed to help you prepare for wildly successful sewing experiences.

Because there are so many different sewing machines, it’s impossible to share with you specific details about how to insert the bobbin on your make and model of machine. The details provided in this post, though not specific to your sewing machine, will help you focus on the information you need so you can get the bobbin inserted correctly.

Why the Bobbin is Important

What is a Bobbin?

The bobbin is a small spool you prepare by winding thread on it. It holds the thread that forms the stitches on the bottom side of the fabric.

IMPORTANT: Bobbins aren’t one-size-fits-all. They’re not universal. This means every sewing machine requires a specific type of bobbin. You need to make sure the bobbin you are using was made for your machine. Otherwise, your stitches won’t come out right and sewing won’t be any fun.

Three different types of bobbins: Metal bobbins in a jar lid. Plastic bobbins in a transparent holder. A bobbin sitting on top of a spool of thread
The metal bobbins are for my Elnita. The bobbins in the clear container go in the Pfaff I borrowed from my mom. The bobbin on top of the spool of thread is the one I wound for my Singer.

What Part does a Bobbin Play in Making Stitches?

As the needle moves up and down in the fabric, thread from the bobbin and thread from the top spool come together and stitches are formed.

How It Works

The threaded needle goes through the fabric. As it does this the shuttle hook, located below the needle plate, rotates and catches the thread. (The shuttle hook, also called a rotary hook, holds the bobbin.) When the hook spins, it spreads the needle’s thread and moves it around the bobbin. The two threads come together and form a stitch that holds pieces of fabric together.

Hard to Visualize?

If you just read the above paragraph and can’t picture what is happening when stitches are formed, take a minute to do a quick search online to find a picture or video. If you google “how a sewing machine works” you’ll get numerous results, many of which have a simple animation. You can then see how the top and bottom threads come together forming stitches.

Before We Get Started

You need to do three things to make the most out of the information in this post:

  1. Get your sewing machine out and set it on the table in front of you.
  2. Have the instruction manual* and/or quick start guide next to your sewing machine.
  3. Make sure you have a bobbin with thread on it.

*Note: If you don’t have an instruction manual, more than likely you’ll be able to find it online. To do this you’ll need to search using the brand/manufacturer and model of the machine. You can contact the manufacturer of the sewing machine directly or search online for a third party distributor of sewing machine manuals. Depending on the sewing machine, the manual may be free or you might have to pay a small fee. Regardless, if the machine you’ll be sewing with doesn’t have an instruction manual, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of frustration if you take steps now to get one.

Inserting the Bobbin

Most machines either have a front-loading bobbin or a top-loading (also called drop-in) bobbin.

front-loading and top-loading bobbins
Left: front-loading bobbin. Right: top-loading/drop-in bobbin

If you can’t tell by looking at your sewing machine, refer to the instruction manual and/or quick start guide for details on the bobbin system your sewing machine uses. Then read the section below that corresponds to your sewing machine.

Front-loading Bobbin

Sewing Machine Parts to Insert the Bobbin

Open the sewing machine instructional manual so you’re looking at the illustration(s) or the photograph(s) where the main parts of your sewing machine are labeled.

Some parts you want to identify are:

  • handwheel (also called the flywheel)
  • presser foot lifter/lever
  • needle plate
  • shuttle cover (not identified on all machines; It’s the hinged cover below the needle plate.)

The bobbin case sits behind the shuttle cover in a piece called a hook body or shuttle race.

front-loading bobbin with labels

Directions to Insert a Front-Loading Bobbin

Look at the directions provided in the instruction manual for your sewing machine for the exact steps to insert the front-loading bobbin.

Most machines will use or have a variation of the following steps to insert the bobbin in the front of a machine.

  1. Turn off the main switch.
  2. Raise the needle to the highest position by turning the handwheel toward you.
  3. Open the cover below the needle plate so you can see the bobbin case.
  4. Lift the lever on the bobbin case and remove it from the sewing machine.
  5. Leave a tail of about 3 to 4 inches of thread and place the bobbin in the bobbin case. Important: There is a certain way the bobbin must be set in its case. In addition, there will be at least a couple of slots in the bobbin case you’ll need to draw the thread through. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to pull gently on the thread and see if the bobbin spins in the direction as explained in the manual for your sewing machine. For my machines with front-loading bobbin cases, the bobbins must turn clockwise. I can’t say for sure what direction it needs to be on your machine. If the bobbin isn’t turning in the direction described in your instruction manual, remove it from the case, flip the bobbin over, and try again.
  6. Hold the lever of the bobbin case and slide it onto the hook pin. (This is the post in the middle of the hook body.) Let go of the lever and press it securely in place. Note: Refer to the instruction manual so you know what side of the bobbin case should be facing upward.
  7. Leave the shuttle cover open until you thread the top thread and draw up the bobbin thread from the bottom.

Top-loading/Drop-in Bobbin

Sewing Machine Parts to Insert the Bobbin

Open the instruction manual that goes with your machine so you are looking at the illustration(s) or the photograph(s) where the main parts of your sewing machine are labeled.

Some parts you want to identify are:

  • handwheel (also called the flywheel)
  • presser foot lifter/lever
  • needle plate
  • bobbin cover plate

Top-loading bobbins do NOT have a separate bobbin case. The bobbin case is in the sewing machine.

top-loading bobbin with labels

Directions to Insert a Top-Loading/Drop-In Bobbin

Refer to the specific directions in the instruction manual for inserting the bobbin in your machine.

Most machines will use or have a variation of the following steps to insert the bobbin in the top:

  1. Turn off the power.
  2. Raise the presser foot.
  3. Make sure the needle* is in its highest position by using the handwheel.
  4. Remove the bobbin cover plate.
  5. Place the bobbin in the bobbin case with the thread running in a specific direction. Note: My machine requires the bobbin thread to be in a counterclockwise direction. Check your instruction manual for the details on your machine.
  6. Pull the bobbin thread through the thread channels as described in the instruction manual. Leave a 4-5 inch tail.
  7. Replace the bobbin cover plate.

*Note: The needle is very sharp. Be careful as you insert the bobbin.

What You’ve Learned

You have foundational knowledge about a sewing machine bobbin. The purpose and the role the bobbin plays in making stitches makes sense to you.

Only use bobbins made specifically for your sewing machine and pay attention when winding the bobbin so it is done correctly. If not, you will have problems with the stitches.

After following the directions in the instruction manual for your sewing machine, you know the bobbin is inserted correctly.

Next Steps

What happens when you have a bobbin full of thread in your sewing machine? It’s time to learn how to get the top spool threaded!

Let’s Connect

My goal at The Ruffled Purse is to support, empower, and inspire you to sew and make wonderful things for yourself, your home, and others.

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  1. This is a great tutorial! I had no idea how to insert a bobbin in my sewing machine, but after following these steps, it was a breeze. Thank you for taking the time to write this!

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