How to Thread a Sewing Machine

Sewing is something of a lost art in our modern age. However, there are many who have taken up or revived the use of sewing machines for a wide variety of reasons. Regardless of whether you are new to your sewing machine or knocking the dust off to bring it back into commission, you will need to know or need a reminder of how to thread your machine before you can get started. Our simple guide will walk you through the four main steps necessary to thread your machine.

Step 1: Winding a Bobbin

One important component in the proper function of a sewing machine is the bobbin. You must have a wound bobbin before you can use your machine. Some machines will allow you to wind a bobbin after the machine is threaded and others won’t, so our guide shows you this step first. Before showing you how to wind a bobbin, let’s define what it is.

What is a bobbin?

The bobbin is a small spool installed under the footplate of your machine. The bobbin spool must be wound with thread and installed properly because it is essential for creating whichever stitch you choose. Now that you understand what a bobbin is, let’s show you how to wind thread onto one.

How to Wind the Bobbin

Before you wind the bobbin you need to disengage the clutch that drives your sewing machine’s needle. Your machine has a clutch that must be engaged to drive the needle up and down, but you do not want the needle moving up and down while you wind a bobbin. Disengagement varies from one machine to another. Once you have disengaged the clutch to the machine’s needle, follow these steps to wind a bobbin:

  1. Place a spool of thread on the thread holder pin. Unless you desire a multi-colored stitch, you will want to use the same thread that you will be using for your stitch.
  2. Pull the thread around the thread guide. The purpose of the thread guide is to create tension so that your bobbin will be wound nice and tight.
  3. Push the thread through the small hole near the center of the bobbin spool. Be sure to pull a pretty good length of thread through the hole so that you can hold onto it at the beginning of winding the bobbin.
  4. Place the bobbin on the bobbin winding pin or spindle. The bobbin should snap in place on the bobbin winding pin and be fixed in place. With the bobbin in place on the bobbin winding pin, be sure to hold onto the length of thread that you threaded through the center hole.
  5. Wind the bobbin by engaging the foot pedal of your machine. The thread will wind around the bobbin spool as the machine spins the winding pin. The thread should move up and down as the bobbin pin turns. Once it has spun several times and created some tension, you can let go of the length of thread in your hand and clip it.

This diagram shows how you should be set up before you begin winding the bobbin on a Brother machine, but the basic concept is similar with most common machine brands.

Wind the bobbin until it is full or stop at whichever point you feel that you have enough thread on the bobbin to complete the task at hand. Once the bobbin is wound, you can go on to threading your machine. Don’t forget to reengage your machine’s needle clutch before you start sewing.

The video below demonstrates the general steps to winding a bobbin.

Step 2: Threading the Machine

Threading your machine is a fairly logical concept once you see how it works. Done properly, your machine will create the stitches you desire. If not done properly, you will have nothing but a mess to deal with. Though the specific orientation might differ from one machine to the next, the basic process is the same. Many machines make it easy by labeling the points with letters or numbers in the order of threading. We’ll number each of the main points to help you along.

How to Thread Your Machine

Before beginning, you will want to choose the thread you want to use for your stitch and place it on the thread pin or thread spindle at the top of the machine. Take hold of the loose end of the thread on the spindle and follow these steps:

  1. Pull the thread through the upper thread guide.
  2. Draw the thread down through the slot (if there is one) and around the U-shaped guide at the bottom of the upper arm of the machine.
  3. Pull it taut to make sure that it engages with the tensioning discs.
  4. Bring the thread back up through the slot (if there is one) to the take-up lever. To complete this step, you will need to turn the hand wheel on the side of the machine to bring this lever to its highest point. You will know that you forgot to re-engage the needle clutch if this lever does not move as you turn the hand wheel, so make sure it is engaged after you finish winding the bobbin.
  5. Draw the thread over the take-up lever, or thread it through the take-up lever on some machines. The exact location and design of the take-up lever will vary from one machine to another, but it is a very obvious moving part toward the top of the majority of machines.
  6. Bring the thread back down toward the needle and thread it through the thread guides on the needle assembly arm. Depending upon the design of the machine, there might be one, two or even three different thread guides that you will need to pull the thread through in order to thread it properly.
  7. Pull a length of thread several inches long so you will have plenty of thread to work with to thread the needle. NOTE: If your machine has a light above the needle assembly, this is a good time to turn it on so you can see what you’re doing.
  8. Push the tip of the thread through the eye of the needle at its pointed tip. You may need to moisten the tip to make it easier to push it through.
  9. Pull a pretty good length of thread through the needle, draw it to the back of your machine and let it go.

After you have completed these steps, you are almost finished threading your machine. However, there are two more steps to follow. Before we get to those steps, take a look at the drawing below for a rough idea of how the threaded pattern should look. Its specific arrangement and components will vary from one machine to another, but this is the basic look of what you want to accomplish.

The following video shows the common steps in threading a sewing machine.

Step 3: Load the Bobbin into the Sewing Machine

Your machine is threaded and almost ready to use once you reach this step. However, your machine will not create the right stitch without a bobbin in place. How the bobbin is placed and in what configuration varies from one machine to another, but it is always located somewhere beneath the footplate of the needle. Some place the bobbin horizontally and some place it vertically. This step will show you how to load each type bobbin into your machine. The following photos will help you determine whether to use option A or option B to load the bobbin in your machine.

If your machine is set up similar to the one in this photo, then use option A.

If your machine is set up similar to the one in this photo, then use option B.

Option A: How to Load a Horizontal Bobbin into the Machine

After determining that the configuration of your machine is for a horizontal loading bobbin, you will need to remove the cover plate beneath the needle, and then you will follow these steps to load the bobbin in your machine:

  1. Place the wound bobbin in the holder with the thread running in a counter-clockwise direction, or with the loose end coming out of the top of the spool toward the left side.
  2. Pull out approximately six inches of thread from the bobbin spool to work with.
  3. Draw the thread around the first notch in the bobbin case, which is usually the one closest to you at the front of the machine.
  4. Pull the thread back to the left until it snaps into place in the second notch.

Option B: How to Load a Horizontal Bobbin into the Machine

After determining that the configuration of your machine is that of a vertically loading bobbin, then you will need to open the door or remove the panel at the front of your machine to access the bobbin where you will find a bobbin case. Follow these steps to load your bobbin:

  1. Remove the bobbin case from its place in the machine.
  2. Pull out approximately six inches of thread from the bobbin spool to work with.
  3. Place the bobbin spool into the bobbin case with the thread running counter-clockwise, or coming off of the spool at the top left.
  4. Draw the thread through the notch at the top of the bobbin case.
  5. Pull back the lever on the closed side of the bobbin case to hold the spool in place as you load it into your machine.
  6. Line up the hook at the top of the case to the corresponding notch on your machine and push the bobbin case into place.

After loading your bobbin into the machine using either option A or option B, you will need to move on to the next step in our guide, which includes drawing the bobbin thread up through the footplate of your machine.

Step 4: Pull up the Bobbin Thread

Regardless of whether you used option A for loading a horizontal bobbin or option B for loading a vertical bobbin, you will use the same process to pull the bobbin thread up through the footplate of your sewing machine. To accomplish this, follow these steps:

  1. Firmly grasp the loose end of the thread that you threaded through the needle of the machine earlier and hold it in your left hand.
  2. Turn the hand wheel of your machine with your right hand while you provide light tension on the thread with your left hand. You should see the needle moving down through the footplate and you will see the needle thread pass over the bobbin thread and catch it.
  3. The needle thread will pull a loop of the bobbin thread through the footplate.
  4. Grasp the end of the loop of bobbin thread that the machine pulled through and pull on it until the loose end of the bobbin thread comes up through the footplate.
  5. At this point, you should have two threads in your hand; the one threaded through the needle and the bobbin spool thread that was pulled up through the footplate.
  6. Pull them toward the back of the machine and replace the cover over the bobbin case.

The following video shows steps 3 and 4 on a machine with a vertical bobbin.

Once you have completed these four steps, your machine is fully threaded and ready to create whichever stitch is needed for your sewing or mending project.

Conclusion

Sewing has become something of a lost art in our modern age, but there are those who recognize its value in the home and have brought sewing machines back into style. Regardless of whether you are new to sewing or you’re dusting off that old machine you have had in storage, you will need to know how to thread it in order to get started on your project. After following our guide on how to thread a sewing machine, you should be able to thread your machine and start your project.

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