How to Wind a Bobbin on a Sewing Machine

How do you wind a bobbin? Learn all about winding a bobbin on a sewing machine with our step-by-step bobbin winding guide.

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There’s no sewing without threading your sewing machine. And there’s no threading a sewing machine without winding a bobbin first. 

If you’re wondering how to thread and wind a bobbin, you’re at the right place. We’ll take a look at the correct way to wind a bobbin no matter what make or model your machine is.

What is a Bobbin on a Sewing Machine?

First things first. What part of a sewing machine is the bobbin? A bobbin is a small wheel-shaped cylinder that holds the lower thread n your sewing machine. Think of it as a mini spool, designed to fit inside the sewing machine.

So what is the purpose of a bobbin? Much like the spool, the bobbin is simply a spindle that holds the lower thread that is needed to form a stitch. On every sewing machine, a stitch is formed by intertwining the upper and lower thread. The spool is what holds the upper thread whereas the bobbin is where the lower thread is wound.

Image by PDPics from Pixabay

Types of Bobbins and Bobbin Casings

While the details of different bobbin assemblies vary between manufacturers and models, there are generally only two types of bobbin compartments.

Newer machines usually feature a built-in top-loading drop-in compartment. The compartment is located right below the needle area and you can see it from above. The bobbin is simply dropped into the compartment.

The second option (often found in older machines, but also in newer ones) is a front-loading bobbin compartment. To access the bobbin area it is necessary to first remove the accessory compartment of the machine. Inside the bobbin area, there is a removable bobbin casing, in which the bobbin is inserted.

Do all sewing machines use the same bobbins?

No! This is very important. There is no such thing as a universal bobbin. There are many bobbins shapes and styles and every sewing machine uses a specific type of bobbin.

The most commonly used are A-style (or Class 15), L-style, and M-style bobbins. But what you really want to know is what type your machine uses. Refer to your sewing machine manual to make sure. If you don’t have a manual, I recommend googling your specific model and make to find out what bobbin style to use.

Winding a Bobbin on a Sewing Machine

Let’s get to why you’re probably here, shall we? Machine winding a bobbin is an inevitable step in getting your machine ready for sewing. Always wind your bobbin before threading your sewing machine. Make sure you use the right type of bobbin (see above) and a good thread, appropriate for the type of sewing you intend to do (if you’re a beginner read more about how to choose your thread in our Quilting Supplies for Beginners Guide).

As with machine threading, I recommend checking your machine manual to see exactly how the bobbin is wound on your specific sewing machine make and model.

The guide here will help you identify the machine parts, involved in winding a bobbin, but keep in mind they may look a bit different on your specific machine.

Before Winding the Bobbin

Newer machines make the prep very easy for you and go into bobbin-winding mode automatically when you move the bobbin pin. In this case, you don’t have to do anything in particular before you start the step-by-step described below.

Most older machines, however, require you to manually ‘lock’ the needle to keep it from going up and down. This is usually done on the handwheel by pushing, pulling, or turning a knob inside the handwheel. Refer to your manual if you’re unsure.

How do You Wind a Bobbin Step-by-Step

  1. Place the spool of thread on the spool pin. If you have a spool cap (a plastic disc), place it on top of the spool to keep it in place.
  2. Pull the thread from the spool and wrap the thread around the tension disc. The thread must slip in under the tension disc. (Some newer machines may have the tension discs ‘hidden’ under the plastic casing. In this case, follow the thread direction as illustrated on your machine.)
  3. Insert the end of the thread, from inside, through the small hole in the rim of the bobbin. (Some machine manuals require you to wrap the thread a few times around the axis of the bobbin rather than pulling it through the hole.)
  4. Place the bobbin onto the bobbin pin. Slide the pin to the right, so it snaps in place.
  5. Holding the end of the thread with your hands, step on your speed controller (or press the start button on computerized machines) so the machine starts running. The bobbin pin will start spinning.
  6. Cut the thread end coming from the top of the bobbin early on, so it doesn’t get caught anywhere.
  7. When the bobbin is fully wound, the machine will usually stop automatically. (If yours doesn’t make sure you stop before the bobbin is completely full.)
  8. Cut the thread.
  9. Push the bobbin pin back to the left and remove the bobbin.

Bobbin Winding Troubleshooting and FAQs

Unfortunately, winding a bobbin can sometimes prove to be a bit of an ordeal. Perhaps the bobbin doesn’t wind or winds unevenly etc. Most of the time, however, the problems can be easily solved, so read our tips to help you with your bobbin winding difficulties.

Bobbin Won’t Wind

There are different possibilities of why your sewing machine bobbin winder won’t spin. If you’re experiencing this, here are some tips that might help:

  • Check that you are using the correct bobbin style for your sewing machine.
  • Check that the thread is threaded correctly. Follow our guide AND check your machine manual to see the specifics for your machine.
  • Make sure you have about 3-4’’ of thread coming through the hole on top of your bobbin (see step 4 in the guide above).
  • Examine your thread for knots and tangles. Replace if necessary.
  • Examine your bobbin for scratches or other defects. Replace if necessary.
  • Examine the bobbin pin (under the bobbin). Sometimes thread can get tangled there which could prevent the spindle from spinning. Also, check for broken-off pieces and dirt. If you can reach it (a tweezer might help), remove it. Otherwise, the machine will need to be serviced. 

Bobbin Winds Unevenly

In order to get nice stitches, it’s important to wind the bobbin evenly. Very often the reasons why the bobbin winds unevenly are similar to why the bobbin won’t wind at all. With this in mind, here are some ideas that might help you resolve your bobbin winding unevenly:

  • Check that you are using the correct bobbin style for your sewing machine.
  • Check that the thread is threaded correctly. Follow our guide AND check your machine manual to see the specifics for your machine.
  • Check that you are using the correct spoon cap. If you’re not, your thread could get tangled or caught, which may cause uneven winding.
  • Make sure your bobbin pin is in place when you start the winding. The pin should be as far to the right as possible, it usually snaps in place, so you’ll know you pushed it far enough.

What is A Portable Bobbin Winder?

A portable bobbin winder pretty much does the exact same thing as your sewing machine winder but on a separate little machine.

A portable winder can be useful if the bobbin winder on your sewing machine is broken and you’re not quite ready to buy a new sewing machine. But interestingly, some quilters actually prefer using it to the sewing machine’s winder. Mostly because it’s practical and you can wind your bobbins pretty much anywhere (i.e. while watching Netflix on your couch).

I haven’t used one myself, so I can’t report on the benefits, but it’s sure worth looking into if you’ve got bobbin winding problems.

Can you Wind a Bobbin From Another Bobbin?

Generally, you don’t need to wind a bobbin from another bobbin, but in some cases, you might need to. Perhaps you bought some pre-wound bobbins not knowing the exact bobbin style your machine uses. Or maybe you have some full bobbins from an older machine and you don’t want the thread to go to waste. Whatever the reason, it is absolutely possible to wind a bobbin from a bobbin. 

The process is exactly the same, the only difference is that instead of placing a spool on the spool pin, you will place the full bobbin there. I would definitely recommend placing a spool cap on top, so the full bobbin doesn’t jump around too much. 

Can You Wind a Bobbin by Hand?

When putting together this article, I came across people asking about manual bobbin winding. I’m not sure why you would need it, because generally, you wouldn’t need a bobbin if you don’t have a sewing machine. Right? 

But still, can you manually wind a bobbin? I guess you could, but it would take a pretty long time and it would be hard to get it wound evenly and tautly.

Honestly, if your machine bobbin winder is broken, I recommend getting a portable bobbin winder, as I’ve said earlier. If it’s not, I’d stick to your sewing machine winder.

There you go, my friends. I think we’ve covered just about everything about bobbin winding. Hopefully, this guide will help you learn how to wind a bobbin correctly and the best way to wind a bobbin on your machine. I promise, with time, this too will get easier and you’ll be winding bobbins in your sleep!

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