How to Wind and Insert a Sewing Machine Bobbin

Sewing machine bobbin

Getty Images / by_nicholas 

Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Winding and inserting the bobbin of a sewing machine is not a difficult task if you follow the instructions in your sewing machine manual to take the thread through the necessary guides and tension controls so the thread is smoothly and evenly wound on the bobbin.

Even and smoothly wound bobbins will assist in properly formed stitches. Just remember, looping or tangled bobbin thread when sewing is usually not caused by the bobbin. The culprit is often incorrect upper threading of the sewing machine. 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing machine manual

Materials

  • Spool of thread
  • Empty bobbin

Instructions

Tip

As always, the sewing machine manual for your sewing machine is the best guide for operating your particular sewing machine. 

  1. Loading the Spool Pin

    Place the spool of thread to be used for the bobbin on an upper spool pin and hold it in place with a spool cap if you have one. Some machines also have a small piece of felt, foam, or a plastic cone on the spool pin - leave this under the spool to help stop excess vibration.

  2. Threading Machine Guides

    Pull the thread through the guide specified in your sewing machine manual - it may look like a button or disk that the thread will go under or between. This puts tension on the thread before reaching the bobbin. Make sure the thread is wrapped in the correct direction per the instructions.

  3. Threading the Bobbin

    If the bobbin has a hole in the side of it, thread the hole from the inside to the outside of the bobbin and place the bobbin on the bobbin winder spindle. If the bobbin sides are solid, place the bobbin on the spindle and wind the thread around the bobbin a few times, leaving just enough loose thread to give yourself a tail to hold onto when winding.

  4. Engaging the Bobbin Winding

    For the thread to be wound on the bobbin, the bobbin-threading mechanism must be engaged on the sewing machine. All machines are different but they all need you to engage the bobbin winding in one way or another.

    The brake or stopper might move toward the bobbin that is about to be wound or the bobbin on the holder might move toward the brake.

    The center of the handwheel at the end of the machine might need to be loosened to engage the winding process on your sewing machine.

    Thread on sewing machine
    The Spruce Crafts / Debbie Colgrove
  5. Winding the Bobbin

    Power the machine via the foot pedal or a start button on electronic machines, holding onto the thread tail if you left one. You can pause winding once the loose tail is secured and trim it, or let go of that thread tail and allow it to wind on the bobbin. If the brake is properly set, on most machines the machine will stop winding automatically when the thread fills the bobbin. If the initial thread tail is still loose, trim it close to the bobbin, so that the thread will not catch or cause tangles when sewing.

  6. Inserting the Bobbin

    Refer to your sewing machine manual to insert the bobbin in the sewing machine and bring up the thread.

    • Machines with a vertical bobbin: Remove the bobbin case, insert the bobbin as directed, and pull the thread through the slot and guide in the side of the case to the outside. Pull the thread to make sure the bobbin spins smoothly and in the proper direction.
    • Machines with a horizontal, drop-in bobbin: Remove the needle plate, insert the bobbin, and pull the thread through the guide following the threading pattern shown on the machine's threading diagram (often printed on the needle plate or machine bed for easy reference).

    The bobbin must be inserted and threaded correctly for the upper thread to form stitches properly with the bobbin thread.

    Bobbin Case for a Singer Fashion Mate Model 237 Sewing Machine
    The Spruce Crafts / Debbie Colgrove

Tips

  • The thread on a bobbin should be as smoothly wound as the thread on a purchased spool of thread.
  • The thread on a bobbin should not exceed the size of the bobbin. (The brake may have been adjusted if the thread on the bobbin exceeds the edges of the bobbin and will need to be readjusted according to your manual so the threading stops before the bobbin is over-wound.)
  • Never use a rough, cracked, or rusty bobbin in a sewing machine. If you are desperate to use a rusty bobbin, sand off any rust and oil the bobbin enough to prevent it from rusting again until you can purchase a replacement bobbin.
  • There are several different types and sizes of bobbins, and each machine only uses a specific type so consult your manual if you are unsure what type you need. Visit a local dealer or a reputable online dealer to get the bobbin that is correct for your machine.
  • Bobbins are inexpensive so purchase extras for each machine you own so you will have plenty of empty bobbins ready to wind to match your top threads.
  • Thread labeled "bobbin thread" in stores is a very lightweight thread used for machine embroidery or machine basting. It shouldn't be used for normal sewing. For regular sewing, use the same type of thread that you use in the upper threading of the sewing machine.
  • When you are sewing and the bobbin thread knots up or creates wads of thread, as much as it may seem like it is caused by the bobbin, it is usually caused by the top threading of the machine or the sewing machine needle. See more on machine troubleshooting and solutions to loopy, knotting bobbin thread.