Learn how to thread a sewing machine, so you can make that first stitch! This tutorial works for almost any brand of sewing machine!
If there’s one sewing tool you can’t go without it’s a sewing machine. And of course, there’s no sewing until you’ve figured out how to thread a sewing machine.
In this step-by-step tutorial, I am going to teach you how to thread a sewing machine no matter what brand your machine is. Whether it’s a fancy computerized sewing machine or a basic sewing machine for your kiddo (lucky them!), the steps to threading a sewing machine are very similar.
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- How to Thread a Sewing Machine Step-by-Step
- PART 1: Thread the upper half of the sewing machine
- PART 2: Thread the bottom half of the sewing machine
- Tips to help you thread a sewing machine
How to Thread a Sewing Machine Step-by-Step
Although they look very different from one another, standard sewing machines are all threaded pretty much the same way. The parts involved may look a bit different on each machine, and they may be located in slightly different positions depending on the make and model. But the technology behind all of these machines is pretty much the same, so you can follow these instructions no matter what kind of machine you are using.
That said, if you have the sewing manual for your specific sewing machine, I recommend reading the instructions there, as well. It should include diagrams specific to your machine, which may be easier for you to follow.
When machine sewing, each stitch is formed by intertwining two threads – the top thread (which comes from above through the needle) and the bottom thread (which comes from the bobbin placed below the fabric).
Part 1 of this tutorial covers how to thread the top thread. In Part 2, you will learn how to thread the bottom thread.
Before you start: prepare the sewing machine for threading
Before you actually learn how to thread a sewing machine, you want to prepare your machine for threading. Generally, you want to make sure you:
- Raise the presser foot. This allows the thread to slip between the two tension discs.
- Lift the needle to the highest position. Do this by rotating the handwheel (on the right side of the machine) so the takeup lever (number 4 on the diagram) comes to the highest point. Newer machines have a button to lift the needle. This ensures the needle won’t come unthreaded when you start sewing.
- Wind an empty bobbin with thread. If you need help with this, see our guide on How to wind a bobbin.
Now let’s learn how to thread a sewing machine!
PART 1: Thread the upper half of the sewing machine
First, we’ll learn how to thread a sewing machine with the top thread. For this, you will need a spool of your chosen thread.
The illustration above shows you the path the thread needs to go. The part may look a bit different depending on which machine you use, but the steps are the same.
In the step-by-step below I am using my Janome Skyline S5 which is a newer model. But again – the path of the thread is more or less the same.
STEP 1: Place the spool on the spool pin
Place your spool on the spool pin (the spool pin can be either a vertical or horizontal peg, depending on your machine). If you have a spool cap (a plastic disc), place it on top of the spool to keep it in place.
STEP 2: Through the first thread guide
The first thread guide will be on top of the sewing machine. In my case, it’s underneath the plastic casing. But often it will be a metal knob on top of the machine.
STEP 3: Around tension disks
Bring thread down, under, and around the tension discs. On newer machines, this is done by simply guiding the thread under and around the end of the vertical ‘bar’, as you see on my machine.
Older machines usually have a single-unit tension assembly, where the tension discs and dials are located on one single unit. If you have an older machine, see the illustration above for how to guide your thread. Make sure the thread goes between the two tension discs.
STEP 4: Through the hook
Guide the thread through the hook on the takeup lever.
STEP 5: Through the thread guides above the needle
Bring the thread down and through the (usually two, sometimes one) thread guides above the needle.
STEP 6: Through the eye of the needle
Guide the thread through the eye of the needle going in from the front of the needle and out through the back. Pull a few inches of thread through the needle.
PART 2: Thread the bottom half of the sewing machine
The next step in learning how to thread a sewing machine is threading the bottom thread. You’ll insert the bobbin in its compartment and thread the bottom half of the machine. You’ll need a wound bobbin for this – follow our tutorial on how to thread a bobbin for help.
Many modern machines have top-loading drop-in bobbins. This means you will see the bobbin compartment from above right under the needle. With this type of machine, the bobbin is placed right into the built-in compartment.
Some machines have a so-called front-loading bobbin. To access the bobbin area it is necessary to first remove the accessory compartment of the machine. These machines have a removable bobbin case, in which the bobbin is inserted.
First, examine your machine to see what type of bobbin case you have (a top loading or front loading). Then follow the step-by-step instructions on how to thread a bobbin below.
Option A: Thread a Top-Loading Bobbin
If your machine has a top-loading bobbin, follow the tutorial below to thread it.
STEP 1: Remove the bobbin compartment cover. Lift or slide the plastic (or metal) cover to access the bobbin area.
STEP 2: Remove the bobbin that is inside the bobbin case (if there is one left from a previous project).
STEP 3: Insert the new wound bobbin into the case. Very often there’s a drawing on the bobbin compartment cover or somewhere nearby that shows exactly how to guide your thread. Something like this:
Generally, you should place the bobbin inside with the thread running counter-clockwise, then guide it through a slit and to a small thread guide, as shown in the diagram above. Newer machines have a small blade located at the end, which snips off the excess thread. If your machine doesn’t have it, just let the thread lay flat.
STEP 4: Close the bobbin compartment cover.
STEP 5: Raise the bobbin thread (see instructions below).
Option B: Thread a Front-Loading Bobbin
If your machine has a front-loading bobbin, follow the diagram and the tutorial below to thread it.
STEP 1: Remove the accessory compartment of the machine to access the bobbin area.
STEP 2: Remove the bobbin casing by pulling its latch toward you. If there is a bobbin inside from a previous project, remove it.
STEP 3: Insert the new wound bobbin into the casing as shown in the diagram. Slip the bobbin in the casing, then pull the thread into the slot, down, and to the left. The thread should enter the delivery eye under the tension spring.
STEP 4: Holding the bobbin casing latch, insert the casing back into the bobbin compartment.
STEP 5: Slide the accessory compartment back in place.
STEP 6: Raise the bobbin thread (see instructions below).
Raise the Bobbin Thread
Whether you followed the top-loading or front-loading bobbin tutorial the last step is to raise the bobbin thread. This is similar for all machines.
Some newer machines don’t require this step. They will raise the thread automatically with the first stitch. So if you’ve got a machine that does that you can skip this altogether.
Otherwise, follow the steps below:
STEP 1: Hold the upper thread with your left hand. Slowly rotate the handwheel toward you to bring the needle down into the bobbin area and then back up again.
STEP 2: As you lift the needle up, you’ll see a loop of bobbin thread (or a short tail) coming up with the needle. Pull on the top thread gently to pull some more bobbin thread out.
STEP 3: Release the top thread and gently pull on the bottom thread. I usually use a tweezer I keep by my sewing machine to help me grab that bottom thread.
STEP 4: Pass both threads (top and bottom) under the presser foot and to the back and pull to get a few inches of thread.
Tips to help you thread a sewing machine
If you followed the step-by-step tutorial above, you should now know how to thread a sewing machine. Nevertheless, we have some tips that might help you in the process.
Tip 1: Use a good-quality thread
You might think that thread is thread, but in reality, you get what you pay for. Using a good quality thread will ensure it runs smoothly through all those nooks in the sewing machine. On the other hand, with low-quality thread, you might get ‘stray fibers’ stuck in the sewing machine, which can cause all sorts of problems.
Also, use the same weight thread for your top and bottom threads to prevent tension issues, etc.
Read our guide on the best thread for sewing and quilting for more guidance.
Tip 2: Snip the tail of the thread before threading
Even if you’re using a good-quality thread, the tails of it might be opening, which makes it really hard to thread the machine. Especially when you have to thread the eye of the needle!
Use a sharp pair of fabric scissors to cut the tail away and it’ll be much easier to get the thread where it needs to be.
Tip 3: Check your sewing machine manual
I know this is not always possible, but if you have the manual and want to learn how to thread a sewing machine, make sure you see how to thread the sewing machine you own. Most of the steps will be the same as we discussed here, but it might be easier to follow with the illustration showing your exact same model.
If you don’t have the manual, try searching the make and model instructions on Google. You’ll be surprised by what you might find online!
Tip 4: Make sure the bobbin is wound correctly
Before threading the lower part of your sewing machine, make sure your bobbin is wound correctly. You don’t want thread bunching on one part of the bobbin or anything like that. We talk more about correctly threading a bobbin in our tutorial!
Tip 5: Turn off the sewing machine before threading
I’ll be honest, I never do this anymore. But if you’re a beginner and you’re still learning how to thread a sewing machine, I recommend turning off the machine before you start threading. This is just a safety precaution. Your hands will be near the needle and the machine’s moving parts, and you don’t want to accidentally start the machine with your fingers under the needle! Ouch.
And this is it! You’ve learned how to thread a sewing machine! Yaaay! Hopefully, your machine is now threaded and you are ready to sew. I hope this wasn’t too complicated. I promise, with practice, this becomes super simple and you won’t really think much about it. Until then, I hope our guide helps!
Now go on and get yourself a quilt pattern from the shop and get your sewing machine working! Happy sewing!