How to Thread a Sewing Machine

Threading sewing machine
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The best source for learning about your sewing machine is your machine's instruction manual. However, because sewing machines are often handed down or picked up at a yard sale, the instructions are often long gone and you'll have to look online to find your sewing machine manual.

Most sewing machines look the same, though. The tension disc is on the top left of the machine near the take-up lever and tension wheel; the spool pins and bobbin winder are on the right. On the far left side of the machine, you'll find the hand wheel, and the stitch selector is typically on the front lower right side. Sometimes the spool pin is located on the back of the machine or on the side, near the bobbin winder.

Illustration of hand threading sewing machine
Illustration: The Spruce / Chloe Giroux

Importance of Proper Threading

Threading your sewing machine correctly is necessary to achieve secure and attractive stitches. Although sewing machines come in different sizes and models, the mechanism for making a stitch on a home sewing machine is the same—it makes stitches by combining the needle thread with a second thread coming from the bobbin.

Threading a sewing machine is an easy process that takes less than five minutes.

Threading a Sewing Machine

If your machine is electric, unplug it before starting. You can still work your machine, but it won't get ahead of you.

  1. Place the presser foot in the upward position. Put a spool of thread on the spool holder. Traveling from the spool holder across the top of the machine, look for a minimum of one thread guide. Insert the thread in the thread guide(s).
  2. Now look for a tension mechanism. Bring the thread down to the tension mechanism, slip the thread between the metal disks of the tension mechanism, and travel back upward with the thread.
  3. Look for a take-up mechanism. This is the area on the front of the machine which will go up and down when you turn the hand wheel. Place the thread through the take-up lever. Some machines are set up so the thread will slide into this while others require you to place the thread through a hole. The thread will now go down on the left side of the take-up lever.
  4. Locate and thread any thread guides, leading down to the sewing machine needle.
  5. Thread the sewing machine needle. For best results, hold the thread with your left hand and turn the hand wheel.
  6. Watch for any thread to flap around. If this happens, you have probably missed a thread guide.


  • Always thoroughly clean and oil any machine before running it.
  • Always start sewing slowly to test your machine threading. Practice with samples or scraps to try a simple straight seam.
  • Use a good quality thread to prevent excess lint in the machine.
  • If your stitching is uneven, that means the tension needs an adjustment.
  • Change the sewing machine needle regularly.
  • Start with simple projects and focus on learning and mastering your machine's speed and settings.