How To Thread a Sewing Machine + How to Thread a Bobbin

Let me show you how to thread a sewing machine, so you can make that first stitch! Learn how to thread the upper thread and how to thread a bobbin.

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So you’ve decided you want to take up quilting or sewing as a hobby. You get Grandma’s old sewing machine out, or maybe you got yourself a brand new one (lucky you!). Perhaps you even got a sewing machine for your kiddo (lucky them!).

You’re excited and ready to SEW! But wait. How do you get thread in your sewing machine? Where to start?

Trust me, I have been there. The good news is that as you practice sewing and do it more often, threading your sewing machine becomes second nature and you won’t even think twice about it.

But for now, I’ve put together a handy sewing machine threading guide, which will hopefully help you set everything up and teach you how to thread a sewing machine ASAP.

How To Thread a Sewing Machine?

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).

This is why threading a sewing machine consists of two steps: upper threading and lower (bobbin) threading. We’ll look into each step separately.

How to Thread the Upper Thread on a Sewing Machine?

I am a very visual person, so for me, understanding (and explaining) upper threading is easiest with the use of a diagram, so this is what we’re doing.

As I’ve said, your machine may look a bit different, but the basic path of the thread will be similar to what is illustrated here.

Before You Start Upper Threading:

  1. Raise the presser foot. This allows the thread to slip between the two tension discs.
  2. Rotate the handwheel (on the right side of the machine) so the takeup lever (see number X on the diagram) comes to the highest point. This way the needle won’t come unthreaded when you start sewing.

Upper Threading Step-By-Step

This is how you thread the upper thread on your sewing machine:

How to thread a sewing machine
  1. 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.
  2. Guide the thread end through the first guide.
  3. 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’. (*For older machines please see the illustration below.)
  4. Guide the thread through the hook on the takeup lever.
  5. Bring the thread down and through the (usually two, sometimes one) thread guides above the needle.
  6. 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.

*Older machines usually have a single-unit tension assembly, where the tension discs and dials are located on one single unit. See the illustration below for how to guide your thread. Make sure the thread goes between the two tension discs.

How to thread a sewing machine
Threading on older sewing machine

How to Thread a Bobbin on a Sewing Machine?

Now that you’ve threaded your upper thread it’s time for lower threading. This means threading the bobbin case and raising the bobbin thread through the throat plate.

Before You Start Lower Threading:

  1. Wind and empty bobbin with your chosen thread. If you need help with this, see our guide on How to Wind a Bobbin.
  2. Raise the presser foot and lift the needle to the highest position (this is either done manually with the handwheel or with a press of a button, depending on the machine).

Bobbin Threading Step-By-Step

Most 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 (especially older ones) 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.

How to Thread a Top-Loading Bobbin
How to thread a bobbin
  1. Remove the bobbin compartment cover.  Lift or slide the plastic (or metal) cover to access the bobbin area.
  2. Remove the bobbin that is inside the bobbin case (if there is one left from a previous project). 
  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. 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.
  4. Close the bobbin compartment cover.
  5. Raise the bobbin thread (see instructions below).
How to Thread a Front-Loading Bobbin
How to thread a bobbin
  1. Remove the accessory compartment of the machine to access the bobbin area. 
  2. Remove the bobbin casing by pulling its latch toward you. If there is a bobbin inside from a previous project, remove it.
  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.
  4. Holding the bobbin casing latch, insert the casing back into the bobbin compartment.
  5. Slide the accessory compartment back in place.
  6. Raise the bobbin thread (see instructions below).

How to Raise the Bobbin Thread

After you’ve threaded the bobbin, you can raise the bobbin thread, so you can finally make that first stitch!

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:

How to thread a bobbin
  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. A loop of bobbin thread will come up with the needle. 
  2. Pull on the top thread gently to make a bigger loop of bobbin thread. 
  3. Release the top thread and gently pull on the loop to bring up the end of the bobbin thread. 
  4. Pass both threads (top and bottom) under the presser foot and to the back and pull to get a few inches of thread.

And this is it! You’ve learned how to thread a sewing machine and how to thread a bobbin. 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!

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