Tuesday, 3 January 2012

How to Thread Your Sewing Machine

This post is part of the Learn to Sew series aimed at beginners.

Threading your sewing machine is a quick and easy process once you know how. This post may look long, but practise it a few times and you'll soon be threading up in seconds, I promise.

Machines vary, so some of the parts on my machine (a Janome J3-18) may be in different positions to yours, but nothing will be that different that you won't be able to work it out.

Ready to sew? Let's go!

1) Wind the bobbin

A sewing machine uses two sources of thread – the spool (or reel) of thread that sits on top of the machine and the bobbin of thread that comes up from below. You buy the spools of thread in the shops and the bobbins come empty – so before threading the machine, you need to get some of your chosen thread off the spool and onto the bobbin.


Place the spool of thread onto the spool pin (the prong sticking out the top of your machine). Some spool pins stick upwards, others stick out towards the left and have a plastic cover to hold the spool in place. The thread should be coming out from behind towards the left. Unravel a few inches of thread, pull it to the left and wrap it round the front of the little nubbin sticking out on top of your machine. Thread a little up through the tiny hole in the top of the bobbin and wrap it round a few times so it’s coming out round the back and towards the left. Place the bobbin on the bobbin winder and flick this towards the right to secure it in place.

On many machines, if you pull the handwheel out you can wind the bobbin without the needle going up and down. Switch your machine on and, holding the thread sticking out of the bobbin for the first few seconds, press your foot down on the pedal to start the thread winding from the spool onto the bobbin. If the thread ends up on the bobbin winder rather than on the bobbin itself, you may need to switch the direction the thread is being wrapped. Keep winding until the bobbin is full of thread (or as much as you need).

Snip the thread to separate the spool and bobbin, before flicking the bobbin winder to the left to remove the bobbin. Now turn your machine off so you don't accidentally sew over your hand doing the next part.

2) Thread the spool

Now you need to thread your machine – you start with the spool thread from the top and do the bobbin thread after that.



The thread should be coming out from behind the spool towards the left. Now you need to guide the thread down to the needle - your machine will probably have arrows directing you so you can’t go too wrong. Pull it round to the left of the first hook, then down through the first ditch (1), up the second ditch to the left (2), round the second hook (3), and back down the second ditch again (4).


Then you need to secure the thread behind the two hooks, one at the front of the machine and one next to the needle. Now thread it through the front of the needle. This will be easier if you snip the thread so it has a clean end. If your needle is down in the ditch, turn the hand wheel (the knob on the right of the machine) to move it up into a position so you can thread it easily.

3) Thread the bobbin


The bobbin thread goes in the bottom of the machine. On some machines it's positioned horizontally directly under the needle – flip off the little plastic lid and insert the bobbin. My machine is front loaded, meaning the bobbin is positioned vertically - you need to remove the arm on the front left of the machine and flip down the cover to reveal the bobbin holder.


Take the bobbin case out – this is the silver thing in the middle. Place the bobbin of thread inside it - the above left photo shows the way it's supposed to go in (although another school of thought is that it doesn't make a difference). Pull a few inches of thread down the tiny slit and and out through the side, before placing the case back in the machine.


Now you need to get the bobbin thread up to the surface of the machine, using the spool (upper) thread to fish it out. Holding the spool thread in your left hand, turn the hand wheel with your right hand for one rotation to move the needle down and up again. Now gently tug on the upper thread with your left hand and a loop of the bobbin (lower) thread should emerge to the surface with it. Use small scissors or a pen to pull out the loop of lower thread. Close the cover, put the arm back on your machine... et voilĂ !

You’re ready to sew!

Before you do that, it’d be a good idea to pull your thread out from whence it came and practise rethreading a couple more times. I promise that, once you do that, you’ll realise that it’s actually a quick and easy procedure, and not as complicated or time consuming as this long tutorial makes it seem!

Now read How to Stitch: Part 1
Like this? Read more Learn to Sew posts

37 comments:

  1. Great series so far! weird little question - What font is that you're using for the annotations? I just ADORE it!!

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    1. It was a font available on Picnik before it shut down, unfortunately

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  2. I'm no expert seamstress, but can tell you that your instructions, photos and callouts clearly explain what I already know. ; ) This series is going to be perfect for a lot of us - thanks!

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  3. This is a wonderful and noble idea - sewing is so much fun and practical too.
    You did ask for feedback though.
    I think at the start of these tutorials you should emphasise safety issues - although you have not said to yet turn your machine on after plugging the cords in , it is confusing with pictures showing the light on hence I would assume to also turn on my machine . New sewers may not realise these safety issues and turn their machines on whilst changing needles etc. good luck with the rest of your series. Melanie.

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  4. I am a rug hooker who bought a sewing machine last year so I could quit using hockey tape to keep my burlap from unraveling. Most rug hookers sew a zig zag holding line around the edge. I failed home economics (sewing and cooking) class in high school and at 58 am re-learning how to sew with help from blogs like yours... and the patience that comes with age. Thanks!

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  5. Y'all - thanks for the positive words, I'm glad these posts are useful, they took me ages haha!

    Malinda - the font is Sue Ellen Francis in Picnik, a free photo editing website.

    Melanie - thanks for the input, I'll amend the post to highlight that the machine should be off. I had so much to think about when producing the tutorials that it didn't occur to me that the light on the machine would confuse anyone - I'll remember this for next time!

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  6. Thanks Tilly! I will have to see if I can find it.

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  7. that was quick! Here is a link to the font - http://www.fontcubes.com/Sue-Ellen-Francis.font

    all ready installed! thanks again!

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  8. Hi Tilly

    Great start here. I am so impressed that you are doing this! I have some feedback based on a few things from giving a couple of friends beginner lessons just recently, if they are of use to you! (Also, as a technical writer, I can't help myself, sorry!)

    Firstly, might be worth pointing out that machines vary so although this covers the basics not everyone will have the exact same experience. For example, to wind a bobbin on my years old Pfaff, the inner wheel on the hand wheel has to be turned to disengage the needle and engage the bobbin winder, as well as shifting the bobbin holder to the right. Also, the sort of "N" shaped pattern for threading the machine is right to left on left on some machines (like your diagram) and left to right on others (like mine). Each user should check for a threading diagram for their machine if possible, either marked on the machine or in a manual.

    Secondly, might be worth noting that the hand wheel on most machines should only be turned towards you.

    Next, most bobbin cases will only work if the bobbin is inserted with the direction of the thread going a specific way - there is a right and wrong side. I'm sure you'll think of a much better way of explaining it!

    Hope this is seen as helpful not critical - I think this is a great job!

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions. I did point out that different machines work differently in the previous post, but you're right I should repeat it here in case I get any readers who only see this post.

      I don't want to overwhelm my readers with too much information (they can read their sewing machine manual for all the dos and don'ts) as I want these posts to be accessible. But thanks for adding some extra bits in the comments.

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  9. Hi! I have a question that one of you might know the answer to. I'm new to sewing, and I have a Singer 6160. My bobbin case and shuttle look exactly like these, and I have it threaded exactly like you've shown. I've sewn a bunch of pieces together and stuff so far, but now I am having a problem. My thread was getting wound up somehow around the bobbin case or something, I'm not sure exactly what was going on. Now, every time I stitch, my bobbin case comes unhooked and moves out of place and moves to the right. If anyone has any input on what could be going on or what I'm doing wrong, I would really appreciate it!

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    1. Hmm... I'm not sure why (or even how!) it could move to the right. Do you mean while it's in the machine it pops out? I wonder whether it's a tension issue or something wrong with the inner mechanics of the machine. Sorry I can't be more helpful - but there's usually an answer for these kinds of things if you Google it!

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    2. I'm still learning as well, but I remember my mother's sewing machine has the same type of bobbin holder. When you put the bobbin in the holder you have to pull the tab, so the bobbin can't fall out. Maybe that is already obvious, but I just thought I'd mention just in case.

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  10. Thank you SO much. Very EAST to understand, helps that there are pictures, as im more of a visual learner than jargon!

    Steph and Izzy

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  11. Thank you very much for your tutorial! I have been struggling for months with my set up of my sewing machine and have little time to take a class with three little kids under the age of 4. Im so excited to start sewing!!!

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  12. Just discovered your blog. LOVE it! Thanks for this series.

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  13. Great tutorial (and blog)! Been fighting with the threading of my machine for a while. Thanks for this!

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  14. Great tutorial and pics (and blog)! Thanks a lot! x

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  15. Ely Villarreal23 October 2012 20:03

    omg...i was having so much trouble dealing with the bobbin until i found this. thanks alot. just got a sewing machine yesterday so i'm a complete newbie trying to self-teach

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  16. Thanks so much for this! I am going to purchase a sewing machine in a week or so and I havent sewed on a machine in about 6 years! This was a nice refresher, and will be pulling this back up again once I get the machine! Love it, thank you again! = )

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  17. GOD BLESS YOU. Just got a Singer today as an anniversary present and could not for the life of me figure it out, nor how to interpret the manual. You have NO idea how immensely this has helped. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  18. This has helped tremendously. You have no idea. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  19. Jesus Christ, it only took me 24 hours since I got my machine yesterday to figure out how to bloody do it! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    ps. It's so damn simple :D

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  20. Hello I am new to sewing, and i want to learn how to sew using a sewing machine. May I ask what is a bobbin and whats it for?

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    1. As shown in the post, a bobbin is to hold thread which comes up from the bottom of your sewing machine. Good luck with your sewing!

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  21. This is absolutely amazing. I have been flicking through websites full of lessons for "beginners" and I don't mean to sound dumb but none of it made sense!! This is clear, concise, the pictures (and of course arrows) are extremely helpful. I cannot say thank you enough!

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  22. Ah, now I know why the thread keeps winding up on the bobbin winder instead of my bobbin when I want to wind a bobbin, thanks!

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  23. i know that this is COMPLETELY off topic,but what is your nail varnish colour and whats the brand??ive seen it on sewing bee and on here and i LOVE it!!

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  24. Can you pretty please do a post on tension? I would greatly appreciate it because every time I start to sew my thread snaps and I am getting HIGHLY frustrated :(

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  25. You helped me so much with the begginers series tutorial!!!
    Thank you so much for all your tutorials, they are amazing and so helpful, you explain everything step by step. :)
    I have a little question! What color should the bobbin thread needs to be? The same color of the spool thread? Or maybe white? Black? For example if I am using a light blue thread for the spool, should I be using white thread for the bobbin? Please answer, it will help me a lot! :)

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    1. I'm so pleased! Thanks so much for the feedback. The bobbin thread should be the same colour as the spool thread.

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  26. I just got a kingston sewing machine borrowed from my grandma and i cant figure out the bobbin on it. I havedo no ideai where theto string goes at all
    PLEASE HELP! Ive looked for manuals online bc this machine didnt come with one and i cant find anything.

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  27. HI Tilly,

    Your site is really good and easy to read and as new owner of Singer 201 and novice sewer I think I will find it really useful - looking forward to trying Miette and hopefully mathilde!

    I have made a cushion cover with a heavy cotton and am now trying to do one with a woven upholstery fabric. I did a small practice on a piece of the material and have found the stitching on the back keeps clogging up. I am not sure of why this - I appear to have put the bobbin in correctly having consulted the manual. Do you have any ideas?

    Thanks in advance,

    Katy

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    1. I had the same problem and for the life of me couldn't fix it. then my mum looked at the machine and said I had it threaded wrong at the needle, it wasn't around the hook behind the needle properly. perhaps that will help you.

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  28. I have an older Kenmore sewing machine it works like new.the problem is me. I can't thread the bobbin back into the machine. I dont know what i am doing wrong. I have followed the guide (still have instructions). So i know it's right but it's taking up the bobbin thread. It seems tight and the thread goes around in front of the bobbin. Any and all help is welcome.

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  29. thank you thank you thankyou for realising there are so many beginner sewers out there who need this help!

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