How to Thread a Bobbin | The Best Tutorial for ANY Brand Machine!

Learn how to thread a bobbin, no matter what type of machine you use. This step-by-step tutorial will show you exactly how to wind a bobbin!

The sewing machine is probably one of the most basic quilting supplies (and sewing supplies, for that matter). But of course, 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 a bobbin, you’re at the right place. We’ll look at the correct way to wind a bobbin no matter what make or model your machine is.

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How to thread a bobbin step-by-step

Let’s jump right to it! This tutorial will show you how to thread a bobbin (or how to wind a bobbin). This process is the same whether your machine has a top-loading bobbin, or a front-loading bobbin (the differences start when you need to thread the sewing machine).

So make sure you’re starting with an empty (original!) bobbin and good-quality thread and let’s learn how to thread a bobbin.

The illustration below shows how to thread a bobbin on an older machine. This is the ‘typical’ setup:

How to thread a bobbin

The photos in the tutorial, however, show you how to thread a bobbin on a newer machine.

The process is very similar on both types of machines, but I wanted to include both options, so you can see how things look.

Before winding the bobbin

Before you start winding the bobbin, you might need to prepare your machine.

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 particular before starting 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.

Place the spool on the pin

STEP 1: Place the spool on the pin

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.

Wrap around tension disk

STEP 2: Wrap thread around tension disk

Pull the thread from the spool and wrap the thread around the tension disc (see illustration at the beginning). The thread must slip in under the tension disc. My machine has the tension discs ‘hidden’ under the plastic casing. If yours is similar, follow the thread direction as illustrated on your machine.

Insert threat in the bobbin

STEP 3: To the bobbin

Insert the end of the thread, from inside, through the small hole in the rim of the bobbin. Some machines (mine included) require you to wrap the thread a few times around the axis of the bobbin rather than pulling it through the hole. 

Place the bobbin on the pin

STEP 4: Place the bobbin on the pin

Place the bobbin onto the bobbin pin. Slide the pin to the right, so it snaps in place. If your machine – like mine – also has a tiny knife that cuts away the excess thread, slip the end of the thread through the knife and leave it there (see the right picture above).

Start threading

STEP 5: Start threading and continue until the bobbin is full

Holding the end of the thread with your hands (unless you have the tiny knife – in that case, leave the thread where it is), put press down with your foot on your speed controller, or press the start button on computerized machines so the machine starts running. 

Continue winding until the bobbin is full. When the bobbin is fully wound, the machine will usually stop automatically. (If yours doesn’t make sure you stop before the bobbin is full.)

Finish the winding

STEP 6: Finish the winding

Cut the thread, push the bobbin pin back to the left, and remove the bobbin.

Wound bobbin

Congratulations! You have just learned how to thread a bobbin. The next step is to insert it into the bobbin compartment. We have a step-by-step tutorial on how to do this for both front-loading and top-loading bobbins in our machine threading tutorial.

Tips to help you thread a bobbin

Here are some tips to help you with your bobbin winding efforts.

Tip 1: Use the right type of bobbin

This is extremely important. Although all bobbins look pretty much the same from afar, 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.

Tip 2: Use good-quality thread

Using a good-quality thread will ensure your machine will run smoothly. Not just when winding the bobbin, but also when threading the sewing machine and of course – when sewing. 

I also recommend using the same weight thread for the bobbin as you’re using for your top thread. This will get you the best results and the least amount of tension issues.

Read our guide on which thread to use for more information.

Tip 3: Use the speed control

Use the same button that controls the sewing speed to control how fast you want your bobbin to wind. With my old machine, I often saw that going at full speed resulted in uneven winding, so I always slowed down a bit.

With my Janome Skyline S5 I don’t have those problems and always go at full speed to speed up the whole process.

Bobbins with thread

Tip 4: Wind multiple bobbins at the same time

If you sew a lot, I recommend you wind more than one bobbin at a time. This will save you so much time! 

For general piecing, we always use a neutral off-white thread, so we make sure we have a bunch wound and ready to go. Having multiple wound bobbins ready is super handy when you run out of thread.

Tip 5: Use a portable bobbin winder

Well, this is not so much of a tip, but more of an idea. If for some reason, you can’t get your machine to wind your bobbins correctly, consider using 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 surely worth looking into if you’ve got bobbin winding problems.

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 for 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

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.

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. 

There you go, my friends. I think we’ve covered just about everything about how to thread a bobbin. 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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