Threading your machine correctly is a critical component in sewing. Learning how to wind thread on a bobbin is the first step to getting your sewing machine threaded correctly.
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 wind, or prepare, 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 wind the bobbin for your machine.
How a Sewing Machine Forms Stitches
As the needle moves up and down in the fabric, the top and bobbin threads come together. This movement forms stitches.
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 You Wind the Bobbin
You need to do three things to make the most out of the information in this post:
- Get your sewing machine out and set it on the table in front of you. Plug it in and flip the main switch to get power and light.
- Have the instruction manual* and/or quick start guide next to your sewing machine.
- Get the following materials: a spool of light colored thread, at least one bobbin that was made to go with your sewing machine, and scissors.
*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.
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 are not one-size-fits-all. They are not universal. This means every sewing machine requires a specific type of bobbin. Only use bobbins made for your machine. Otherwise, your stitches will not come out right and sewing will not be fun.
How to Wind the Bobbin
Machine Parts to Wind the Bobbin
Open the instruction manual that goes with your machine. Find the illustration(s) or the photograph(s) where the main parts of your sewing machine are labeled.
Some parts you want to identify are:
- spool pin
- bobbin winding tension disk
- thread guide
- bobbin winding spindle
- bobbin winding stopper
- handwheel (also called the flywheel)
For most sewing machines, you’ll use the parts on the top of the machine to wind the bobbin.
Winding the Bobbin
To wind the bobbin you’ll need the spool of thread, one bobbin, and scissors.
Use the instruction manual’s table of contents to quickly find the page(s) for winding the bobbin. Follow the directions and visuals provided in the instruction manual and/or quick start guide. This will be the best way for you to learn how to wind the bobbin for your machine.
Some sewing machines come with visuals marked directly on the sewing machine itself. You can see an example of these visuals in blue images on the Singer 3342 model pictured above. Use the visuals as a reference after you have read the detailed directions in the instruction manual.
Check to see if you need to make an adjustment to the handwheel prior to winding a bobbin. This adjustment would keep the needle from moving up and down when you step on the foot control. It could take the form of a push, pull, or a turn of a release disc.
Most machines will use or have a variation of the following steps:
- Put the spool of thread on the spool pin.
- Pull the thread from the spool into the thread guide.
- Wrap the thread around the tension disk.
- Insert the end of the thread in the bobbin.
- Pull the thread through until you have a tail about 4-5 inches.
- Set the bobbin on the winding spindle and snap it in place.
- Pull the thread taut and hold the tail end of the thread firmly. Step on the foot control so the bobbin starts spinning.
- After many rotations, the tail end you’re holding becomes really twisted. Sometimes it breaks off. If it doesn’t, lift your foot off the foot control to stop the bobbin. Trim the tail close to the bobbin.
- Step on the foot control and finish winding until the bobbin is full. The thread should be evenly distributed on the bobbin.
- Clip the thread leaving a tail of a few inches.
- Remove the bobbin by snapping the winding spindle back to its starting position and lifting off the bobbin.
You’ve learned how stitches are formed on a sewing machine. In addition, you know the role a bobbin plays in stitch formation.
It’s critical you use bobbins made specifically for your sewing machine and you wind the bobbin correctly.
The instruction manual for your sewing machine is the key to making sure you’re winding the bobbin correctly.
Now you have a bobbin full of thread! It’s time to learn how to insert it in your sewing machine.