How to Thread Almost ANY Sewing Machine

February 4, 2021

If you are looking at your brand new sewing machine and wondering how to thread it, start with the manual. If you are looking at a machine you bought used, chances are pretty good that you do not have the original manual. No worries, this post will help you learn how to thread your sewing machine pretty much no matter what brand or age it is. Many of the terms we will talk about are bolded throughout for quick reference.

FYI: There are A LOT of photos in this post… 86 I think…

Importance of Proper Threading

How the thread goes through the machine as it is sewing is one of the most critical ways to determine:

1) How well your machine is going to work
2) How to prevent and fix thread problems
3) How nice your sewing will look

When any of my machines (commercial embroidery machine included) have an issue, the first thing I do is look at the thread path. Tension on the thread as it goes through the machine determines the quality of the stitches.

Too tight and the stitches will bunch the fabric or be too small for the area and not hold properly. Too loose and the stitches will not hold well enough or make a nice smooth stitch line that is the hallmark of a high quality product. Sloppy stitching is ugly. No offense to it. Whenever troubleshooting an issue with your stitch quality, check your thread path first!

***IF you came here hoping to thread a needle for hand sewing, try this post instead…

Want to save this for later? Pin to your sewing machine Pinterest board!

Someone threading a Featherweight Sewing Machine

Similarities between Sewing Machines

Most sewing machines were created to use the same basic kind of thread path. The Thread Path is the path the thread takes from the spool to the needle. This configuration has changed very little between sewing machine brands and over time.

Once you understand the basics of threading one brand of sewing machine, you will likely be able to figure out other brands with some practice. I will walk you through threading three of the four machines I have so that you can learn how to thread almost any machine you come across. (Two have the same thread path, so why bother showing it twice!)

I am going to show you how my newest sewing machine is threaded and then show you the differences on the other style machines. Otherwise this post would EVEN LONGER THAN IT ALREADY IS! I figure if you are a beginner, you are more likely have a newer machine, just a guess.

When starting to sew, you do not need the fanciest machine with the most bells and whistles. Some of the best machines ever made just do a straight stitch and nothing more! I’ll go in the order of: Bernina, Janome, and Singer Featherweight (I’m using its fancy name to differentiate it from other Singer machines since it is sooooo much better).

There are so many errors and frustrations that can be solved by simply taking out the thread and rethreading the machine, PROPERLY.

Parts of the Machine

This is my newest and most sophisticated machine, a Bernina 440QE. This is what I use whenever I need to sew something quickly. It is already over 12 years old but works just like when I got it and I would like to tell you I have had no issues with it but then that would be bad luck… If you know what I mean… knocking on wood here…

Photo of a sewing machine

Familiarize yourself with the layout and terminology of a basic sewing machine. This machine is a little more than basic, so just ignore the parts that don’t have arrows pointing at them and that don’t have definitions listed below.

Do you already have a sewing machine and want to troubleshoot thread bunches?

Get the Free Guide!

Sewing Machine Basic Parts

We are going to look at the basic machine parts – working from the right side to the left side – the same overall direction a machine is threaded. Reference the photo for the definitions above it: The orange color behind the text doesn’t mean anything, I just wanted to make it easier to see and read.

Hand Wheel – It moves the needle up and down so you can control the needle by hand instead of by the foot pedal. ALWAYS turn towards you, no ifs ands or buts about it and is really THE Cardinal RULE with sewing machines!

Power Switch – Basic on/off switch for the machine. Make sure it is on before you start panicking that your machine isn’t working… more about power below.

Power Cord – For plugging the machine into an electrical outlet, make sure the cord is inserted all the way and in the proper direction. Also, if you’re having trouble and the machine isn’t turning on, check that it’s plugged in. Care to guess why I am telling you this??

Foot Pedal Outlet – Where the foot pedal is plugged in, make sure it is in all the way.

Feed Dog Control Lever/Switch – Controls the feed dogs (see below), some more advanced applications require them to be down and not in contact with the fabric.

The side view of a sewing machine

Spool – What thread is stored on when you buy it from the store or snag it from a friends stash. It holds the thread nicely so it does not get knotted up.

Upper Thread– The thread that is on the spool, it will become the stitches that rest on the top of your fabric as it is sewn on the machine.

Bobbin Winder Spindle – Place to put your bobbin so you can wind some of the upper thread onto it, which is better for sewing smoothly vs if you were to wind the bobbin by hand.

Spool Pin – Where you place your spool of thread, either vertically or horizontally

Spool Stopper – A small little ring that fits on the spool pin, needs to be smaller in diameter than your spool. Horizontal spool pins need a spool stopper to hold the spool in place.

Tension Dial – Controls how fast or slow the upper thread goes down to the needle.

Needle Up/Down Button – Newer machines may include a button that controls the position of the needle. You can push the button to go to the opposite position without having to use the hand wheel. If the needle is up, when you press the button the needle will go down. And vice versa. Older machines you only have the hand wheel to raise and lower the needle, you can stop anywhere between the up and down position. Using this button will put the needle all the way up or all the way down, that way you know it is at it’s highest or lowest point.

Reverse Button – Button or lever you can touch or hold to reverse the direction of your stitching. This is useful to secure stitches at the beginning/end of a line of sewing.

Stitch Controls: Not important for threading, but while we’re here…

Stitch Pattern Selector – Older machines have dials, newer machines have buttons/electronic screens. Tells the machine what kind of stitch you want to use, there are different kinds of stitches for different applications/methods/projects.

Stitch Length Dial/Buttons – Tells the machine how long to jump between the needle going up and down, the space between the points at which the needle goes into the fabric.

Stitch Width Dial/Buttons – Tells the machine how wide to make the zigzag stitch, (ZigZag stitch – the needle jumps up and down and side to side all while the feed dogs move the fabric forward, creating a zig zag line of stitching).

Bobbin Compartment – Where the Bobbin resides so it can spin around freely and not catch on anything.


Photo of a sewing machine with some parts labeled

Presser Foot Lever – lifts the presser foot up and down, can be to the right or just behind the needle.

Needle – The thin sharp pointed metal ouchy thing that goes in and out of the fabric. It has a hole near the sharp tip called the eye so the thread can go below the bed of the machine to connect with the bobbin thread to form secure stitches.

Eye of the Needle – Where the upper thread goes through the needle, it takes the upper thread down with the needle so the upper thread can meet with the bobbin thread to create stitches, under the throat plate.

Presser Foot – Holds the fabric down to the flat part of the machine so it stays stable while sewing.

Bed – The flat part of the machine where the fabric is laid while being sewn.

Throat Plate – Metal plate with a hole where the needle goes when the needle is down as far as it can go. The presser foot is pressed against the plate while the machine is sewing.

Side view of a sewing machine

Feed Dogs – Little zig zag strips of metal that go up and down with the same timing as the needle, they are responsible for moving the fabric through the machine, under the needle. They are what determine the direction of sewing – forward or reverse.

Bobbin Case – The bobbin rests inside the round metal case so that it can spin in a controlled manor. There is a place that the bobbin thread goes into so it can control the tension of the thread.

The bobbin compartment in a sewing machine

Bernina sewing machine fool pedal

Foot Pedal – This is plugged into the machine and controls how fast you are sewing. Very similar in function to a car’s accelerator, the harder/further down you push it, the faster you will go. Make sure it is resting on a non-slip surface, shoes are optional 😉.

Do you already have a sewing machine and want to troubleshoot thread bunches?

Get the Free Guide!

Power Cord & On/Off Switch

Keep the machine unplugged when you are first inserting the needle or doing anything with the throat plate off. The power cord/plug is usually a separate thing, I’ve never come across a machine where the cord was permanently attached to the machine, but anything is possible.

For Bernina & Janome, very self-explanatory, fit the non-electrical outlet plug side into the machine, usually on the right side. Fit the shape of the cord end into the corresponding hole. Then plug into the wall outlet when you are ready to wind your bobbin. Tada! Done! Easiest part…

Electrical cord for bernina sewing machine

The Featherweight has the power cord and foot pedal all in one. I swear some of the older designs are just so much more thoughtful and easy. It’s one less thing to keep track of…

Singer Featherweight foot pedal

Machine Set-Up

Where you put your machine is important too. For now, make sure it is on a sturdy table/desk. Some of these machines are monsters and weigh more than you would think. My Bernina is almost hernia inducing. And the Singer Featherweight is just like its name, at least relative to the Bernina.

When you start sewing on an actual project, you will want an ergonomically correct set-up, especially if you plan on begin there for long stretches at a time. We can spend another 2000 word post on that, but just for a quick tip:

Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle when your hands are on the bed of the sewing machine (not the top of the desk/table it’s resting on). Also, your knees should be at a 90 degree angle relative to the floor.

What this usually look like is sitting up high to get your hands on the top of the bed and having a stack of books or small stool to keep your knees at 90 degrees and your feet flat. Or a special table that lowers the sewing machine into it, making the bed level with the table top. Not the simplest to do if you have limited resources and space in your sewing area. I like stacks of books under feet and big old pillows under my butt. I think we deserve to sit in comfort, don’t you?!

Do You Have the Right Bobbins? ✅

Make sure you have the proper style of bobbin for your machine, this is VERY IMPORTANT!

Bobbin – small metal wheel looking thingy that is placed in the bed of the machine. The bobbin is wound/loaded with thread (once thread is on the bobbin, it is called bobbin thread) to match your upper thread. The purpose of the bobbin is to put the bobbin thread in the right place for the upper thread to catch it, creating strong sewing machine stitches. The two threads twist one full time in the thickness of the fabric and by twisting, they are securing themselves in the fabric and with each other.

All spools of thread will fit onto all spool pins but not all bobbins will fit in all machines/bobbin cases. Some have a thicker width, some have a wider diameter. This is a place where having the brand and model number of your machine is important.

Featherweight bobbin and bernina bobbin
Featherweight – Left, Bernina – Right. Not pictured – Janome. It’s plastic, nothing special…

You can’t just buy the generic/universal bobbins at the local box store and expect them to work in all machines. They are usually meant to fit Singer sewing machines since that is what the big box stores usually sell and because it is a very popular brand.

*TIP* Start with an empty bobbin when winding. When I was younger, I was taught that you can add thread onto a bobbin that already has a little thread on it. Yes, you can technically do this, but it is one of those things that you probably shouldn’t do. So I will let you decide when it comes time. I’ve never had an issue doing it that way but there’s always a first time for everything and now I usually choose caution in a situation like this over convenience.

Choose the Thread & Fabric for Testing Your Machine

Thread – Use only good quality threads, even for testing it out. New, high quality thread is another important factor of good results for your sewing projects. Thread gets weak over time, especially if it is exposed to the sun and air.

*TIP* I like to keep my thread in a plastic box to keep it out of the air and I put it in the bottom of my dark cabinet so it doesn’t get any sunlight.

If your thread is constantly breaking, it will not matter how well or how many times you rethread the machine. If your sweet Auntie gives you thread from her stash, politely thank her for it. But check if the thread is still good, just try and break it by hand. If it breaks easily you will not want to use it, so you’ll either chuck it or craft with the spools. Don’t keep it and let it get sucked into your good thread stash.

Practice Fabric – It is best to start with a tightly woven quilters cotton or similar. Knit fabrics, like what t-shirts and sweatshirts are made out of, should not be used when first starting sewing. They stretch a lot, require quite the finesse when sewing, and not good for the beginner. NOT a good place to start to grow your confidence on a sewing machine. You will become frustrated before you even get done practicing some sewing and want to chuck the machine out the window.

Thread/Fabric Combination – You need to use the right thread for the right fabric. When testing out if you have your machine threaded properly, it is not as important, however, if you use a super fine thread in a super heavy duty fabric (and vice versa), you will not get a good feel for the quality of your stitches.

Using a basic 40 weight thread (which is the most popular and what most people have on hand or find easily at the store) on a decent quality quilter’s cotton should be fine. In the future, you’ll want to use the same kind of thread you will be using on the kind of fabric you will be using for a project to check out stitch quality. Best to use the actual thread and a fabric scrap to test out stitching, but again, that’s another post for another day.

Needle – is it Already in the Machine?

To get started, let’s talk about how to put the needle in the machine. I will not go into different types of needles, that is a rather long discussion that will have to wait for another post. Home sewing machine needles usually have a flat side on the needle shank (99% of machines I’ve ever seen).

The place on the sewing machine where the needle goes will have a matching flat side so that there is only one way to insert the needle. Push the end of the needle opposite the sharp point up in the ‘D’ shaped hole until it does not go any further up, then secure with the needle clamp screw on the right, next to the needle. Turn to the right to tighten, righty tighty, lefty loosey applies here.

Inserting a needle into a bernina sewing machine

The needle is that last part of threading the machine.

How to Thread the Upper Thread in a Front loading & Top Loading Sewing Machine:

Upper Thread – Pulling from the Upper Thread/Spool

Make sure that IF the spool has a small cut in the edge it is away from the end that is being pulled to be threaded into the machine, see below. (The cut is there to hold the thread when not in use so it doesn’t ravel.) Otherwise it will catch the thread and either keep the thread from going anywhere or mess with your tension. For a horizontal pin, put the little cut down, away from the end of the pin. For a vertical pin, place the spool with the cut facing down.

Spool of thread

For example, my Bernina and Janome machines have horizontal spool pins that require a spool stopper. The Featherweight has a vertical pin and gravity keeps the spool on the pin.

Here are the different places and styles for three different machines, yours will likely look like one of these:


Let’s get started: Directions are in Bright Pink (it’s technically Coral…)

Place a full/fullish spool of thread onto the spool pin. Secure with spool pin if necessary. To keep the thread from raveling while threading the machine, you can either hold the spool or just pinch the upper thread.

Pull the thread end from the spool and follow the directions below to properly thread and tension your sewing machine.

Thread Guides – Places on the sewing machine that are used to direct the thread from the spool down to the needle. Many are not obviously marked, but all should be used for proper thread tension. Usually small metal hooks or loops.

Using thread guide when threading the upper thread on a sewing machine
thread guide on sewing machine

Continue holding the thread taut as you pull it down from the first thread guide towards the tension discs. Pull the thread down between the tension discs.

Tension Discs – Two metal discs, that when pressed together determines the speed of the thread going from the spool down to the needle. The tighter the discs are held together, the slower the thread will be going down to the needle.

threading the top of a sewing machine

Then pull the thread from the tension discs down. There are usually arrows printed on the machine to show this motion. Go down around the metal protruding from the machine and up again on the left side of it, towards the Take Up Lever.

Threading a sewing machine

Take Up Lever – A moving part that goes up and down at the same time and speed as the needle. It is what moves to actively pull the upper thread off the spool. It should be raised to the highest point for threading.

To get the take up lever to the highest point, either turn the hand wheel towards you and stop when it is at the highest point, or use the up/down needle button and stop when the needle is up.

*NOTE* This is where the upper thread I use magically changes from Purple to a BRIGHT Neon Yellowish Greenish color in the post. I changed the thread color for better visibility. It might change back, just know that it should be the same color the whole time, or else you have real issues 😆 (or variegated thread).

Now, take the thread up and to the right of the take up lever.

Take up lever on sewing machine

Then bring the upper thread behind the take up lever and down again on the left side of the take up lever. The thread should automatically ‘click’ into a notch. Older machines have a hole that you need to put the thread through, without the notch. Pay close attention to which style you have.

Theading the take up lever in a sewing machine

Once the thread is secure in the notch, continue the thread path down the left side of the take up lever. Then you will encounter a few nameless thread guides.

Threading a sewing machine

You will be ‘catching’ the thread on the ends of the thread guides and by continuing to pull down, the thread will get itself situated where it wants and needs to be.

Threading a sewing machine

See how the thread jumped to where it needs to be?

Thread guide on a sewing machine

Make sure the thread is in the thread guides, other wise it might get caught somewhere it shouldn’t be.

Close up of the next thread guide which is the last one on this particular machine. This one happens to be approached from the left instead of the right.

Thread guide for a bernina sewing maching

The last thread guide puts the thread in an ideal place to go through the needle.

Thread the needle. On this machine, the thread goes through from the front to the back of the needle.

Theading a needle on a sewing machine

Pull the thread out of the needle about 3-4 inches. We do not want it to get sucked back up the way it came. That happens easily when the hand wheel is turned or when the machine starts sewing. The upper thread is done.

Threading the Janome

The upper thread path of the Bernina and Janome are near identical. I’m going to add some photos with very little text so you can see the similarities and differences.

Here she is in all her glory. She needed a little sprucing up… hence the canned air, stiff bristled brush and cotton swabs.

A janome sewing machine ready to be cleaned

Start with the spool. Don’t forget that little plastic ring thingy – spool stopper right? I keep forgetting the proper name for it…

Thread Spool on Janome Sewing Machine

Then bring the thread over to the left side of the machine to the first thread guide. It is round and black in this situation. Don’t get confused with the round one in the back, that’s for winding the bobbin.

The first thread guide on a janome sewing machine

Down through the tension discs that are not as easily seen on this particular machine. The set up is exactly like the Bernina, all the way down to a piece of the machine that juts out and is a color different from the machine. That is where we will bring the thread down and around to go back up to the take up lever. There are little arrows to follow.

moving thread back up to the take up lever on the janome sewing machine

Bring the thread back up and going from the right to the left, hook the thread into the notch at the top of the take up lever.

After hooking the thread on the take up lever, go down yet again towards the needle. There is a groove down the front of the machine where the thread wants to be. Bring it down and look for a thread guide. There is only one thread guide before the needle.

And finally… thread the needle from front to back. DONE with the upper thread!

threading the needle of a janome sewing machine

Threading the Featherweight

Older machines will have more rudimentary looking contraptions that do the same things we’ve seen on the Bernina and Janome above. Take a look at the thread path to see how it is nearly identical, with a slight variation when it comes to the needle.

Vertical spool pin, gravity holds it in place. No plastic spool holder ring things to break or lose… I want to go back in time, things were so much simpler…

Just like the Bernina, we move the end of the thread from the spool to the first thread guide, to the left. This guide is a simple hook.

Threading a featherweight sewing machine

From the thread guide, we go down to the tension discs, making sure the thread is between the two circular discs. The mechanics are very open compared to the new sewing machines which have most things covered in plastic. We are taking the thread between the tension discs, around the bottom and up the other side of the tension dial in a clockwise direction.

threading Featherweight sewing machine around the tension dial
Threading a Featherweight sewing machine, using the thread guides

Once you have reached the top of the dial, bring the thread a little farther clockwise so it tucks behind the long, horizontal thread guide.

Making thread go around tension dial and behind thread guide on featherweight sewing machine

Coming up from the horizontal thread guide, next the thread goes through the take up lever. Notice that this one has a hole to insert the thread through from right to left.

Take up lever threading the sewing machine - featherweight

Now the thread travels back down to another thread guide. This one looks like a loop, you can either thread it through the hole, or you can drag the thread from the back to the front. It will catch in the loop.

another thread guide after the take up lever on the featherweight sewing machine thread path

Thread guide on thread path - featherweiight singer sewing machine

Yes, another thread guide! This machine is so easy to thread! This time we are approaching from the left. Catch the thread on the left side of the guide. It will eventually rest towards the front of the machine.

easy to thread featherweight singer sewing machine

One more thread guide before we reach the needle. This last one is also threaded from the left side. It is right above the needle clamp. This needle clamp is the same idea as the other machines, only the needle goes in a different way.

Last two thread guides before the needle featherweight singer sewing machine

So this is really the only big difference between the thread path on each machine. Done with the upper thread path!

thread the needle from the right to left on featherweight sewing machine singer

Loading the Bobbin with Thread

Most machines, even rather old ones, come with a way to quickly load a bobbin with thread. Some have their own little motors to wind the bobbin thread and some rely on the same motor that makes the needle go up and down. Here are photos to show how my three machines wind bobbins:

Bernina

Place the empty bobbin on the bobbin winding spindle, place spool of upper thread on spool pin and secure with the spool stopper. Run upper thread from spool, towards the left – around the bobbin winder thread guide CLOCKWISE (the round shaped thread guide, on the left side), following the direction of the arrow printed on the machine and then bring upper thread over to the empty bobbin.

Winding a bobbin with thread

This particular machine says to wind the thread CLOCKWISE around this first bobbin thread guide. The guide shows how to wind a few rounds of thread (once the upper thread is touching the bobbin, it becomes bobbin thread) onto the bobbin. You do not need to put the thread through any holes on the side of the bobbin (other machines have you do this as you will see soon).

Winding bobbine thread Bernina Sewing machine
Wrap it a few times and keep the wraps taut.

Once you have the thread around the bobbin a few times, keep hold of the end and slide the little handle (located to the right of the bobbin winding spindle) towards the bobbin. That movement starts the winding. It will stop automatically when full, or you can stop whenever you want by moving that handle back to its original position to the right. Use the handy thread trimmer when the bobbin is wound.

Bobbin in motion.

Janome

My particular machine has a handy dandy diagram of how to wind a bobbin printed on the lid! But if your machine doesn’t have a diagram, the general flow is the same. (That’s the whole point of this post!!!)

Janome bobbin winding thread path

Place spool of upper thread on spool pin and secure with the spool stopper. Run upper thread from spool towards the left – going under a little square metal ‘hoop’ then around the bobbin winder thread guide (that round shaped thread guide), CLOCKWISE following the guide printed on lid of the machine and then bring thread back over towards the bobbin winding spindle on the right.

janome sewing machine stitch patterns

Grab an empty bobbin. Take the end of the thread and put it through one of the holes on the side of the bobbin, going from the inside of the spool towards the top. Push the bobbin down onto the bobbin winder spindle then push the spindle to the right to engage the motor for winding the bobbin.

winding a bobbin janome sewing machine
Not such a fancy bobbin…

Hold the thread above the bobbin and gently press down on the foot control. After the bobbin has turned a few times, stop the spinning by picking up your foot and then trim the excess thread close to the hole on the bobbin. Press down on the foot pedal again and when the bobbin is fully wound, the machine will stop automatically (or you can wind it to your desired amount and let go of the pedal – I do this when I don’t have a ton of thread and I need to split it evenly between the spool and bobbin). Cut the thread. Done.

bobbin wound on a janome machine
Magic, there’s thread on it!

Featherweight

The manual for the Featherweight is really nicely done, and it has a very formal language about it. Some older things are just better, even the manual is better!

On the hand wheel you will see a smaller screw in the center, technically called a knurled screw . Gently turn that screw COUNTERCLOCKWISE until you feel it loosen slightly, all while holding the hand wheel still. That lets the machine know you want to wind a bobbin.

Photo of Featherweight Sewing Machine

Place the spool on the spool pin at the top of the machine. Bring the thread to the first bobbin winding thread guide that looks like a hook on the top left of the machine. Bring the thread around the hook COUNTERCLOCKWISE. Then, bring the thread down to the bottom right of the machine and hook it onto the round thread guide going COUNTERCLOCKWISE again.

Winding Featherweight Bobbin

Place an empty bobbin on the bobbin winding spindle. It is on the upper right of the machine, on a little hinge that has a small silver wheel on it, technically called the bobbin wheel pulley. Gently push this silver wheel and bobbin part down so it touches that large rubber belt that is around the hand wheel. You need good contact. The friction of the metal on the rubber is what is going to mechanically wind the bobbin! So cool.

Winding Featherweight Bobbin

Bring the thread up towards your bobbin and from the inside of the bobbin, insert the thread through one of the holes on the left side of the bobbin. You want it to go from the inside/middle of the bobbin to the left, outside the bobbin.

Hold the thread firm, slowly press down on the foot pedal to wind the bobbin. Keep hold of the thread until it breaks off all on its own. This is an older machine, it doesn’t have an automatic stop for the bobbin winder so you will have to stop it yourself. Wind the bobbin until the thread is almost even with the edges of the bobbin or less, you do not want it to go past the edges.

Cut thread from spool. In order to get the machine to sew, you will need to move the bobbin wheel pulley up and off the rubber belt and retighten the knurled screw in the middle of the hand wheel. Just follow what you did before but in reverse to put the machine back to its sewing configuration. Done. Phew, that was long…

Inserting the Bobbin

Each machine has its own kind of bobbin case or place where the bobbin goes so it can be ready to sew. The older style set-up is the use of a bobbin case that holds the bobbin then is inserted into the machine (still very popular, just started earlier – also found in commercial embroidery machines). A more recently used bobbin configuration is to place the bobbin into the machine on the top of the bed, without a true bobbin case, you’ll see below with the Janome.

Bernina & Other Front Loading Machines

The bobbin for the Bernina goes into a separate bobbin case. Start by inserting the bobbin into the bobbin case. Pay attention to the way the bobbin goes into the bobbin case. This is one of those times where having the manual is really useful.

The Bernina’s bobbin is placed in the bobbin case with the thread coming off the bobbin in the shape of a 9 or 6. It’s helpful to remember this, you’ll have to load the bobbin more often than the thread spool, so knowing how it goes in without having to look it up will save you a little bit of time and frustration.

Note** The bobbin case for this sewing machine happens to have that little arm that sticks up out of the case. Not all bobbin cases have that, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t look exactly the same, we are going for general comparisons here.

Place the center hole of the bobbin onto the center post inside the bobbin case.

Inserting bobbin into bernina bobbin case
See the ‘9’ shape? I’ll show you again…
wound bobbin in bobbin case for the bernina sewing machine

Hold the bobbin still with one hand, gently bring the thread up to the top of the bobbin and you will feel the thread ‘click’ into the notch shown at #1 below. Then, gently pull up and to the left so that the thread slides under the tension plate.

Loading bobbin case for bernina sewing machine

The thread will eventually land in the bigger notch as shown below. Pull out about 2-3 inches of thread from the bobbin. Make sure the bobbin stays in the bobbin case, they like to jump out and roll across the room!

Then, insert the bobbin case into the bobbin compartment. It can only go in one way. The bobbin case will go in with the bobbin thread sticking out the top, at the 12 o’clock position. Hold the little handle and gently push it in, placing the hole of the bobbin onto the little peg that sticks out. It should make a little ‘click’ sound. If it does not click and falls out when you move your hand, it is not inserted properly, try again!

Inserting bobbin case into sewing machine

Janome – Inserting the Bobbin in a Top Loading Machine

The Janome has a different layout for the bobbin compartment, it is on the machine’s bed, right in front of the needle, and acts like part of the throat plate. Big bonus, it has a small diagram of how the bobbin thread should come off the bobbin when inserted into the machine!

Notice how the Janome bobbin has the thread coming off the bobbin in the opposite way as the Bernina.

The ‘top loading’ (meaning the bobbin compartment is on the top of the bed instead of in the front of it) Janome sewing machines use clear plastic bobbins. They do not use metal bobbins because they would interfere with the magnetic hook system used to spin the bobbin. Therefore there is no metal cylinder in the middle for the bobbin to rest on.

Take the wound bobbin with the thread coming off the top and left side and place it into the bobbin compartment.

inserting bobbin into top loading bobbin compartment on janome

Following the instructions printed on the little plastic cover shown above, place the bobbin in the round space (the Janome equivalent of a bobbin case) and pull the thread into the first notch close to the bottom of the bobbin.

bobbin compartment of a janome sewing machine

Again, following the diagram, put the thread into the second notch.

bobbin proplerly loaded in janome sewing machine

Do not replace the little plastic cover YET… just wait…

Inserting the Bobbin in the Featherweight

The Featherweight bobbin goes in a bobbin case but notice that the thread comes off the bobbin the opposite way of the Bernina. Push the bobbin into the bobbin case, placing the hole of the bobbin on the metal cylinder. Hold the bobbin in place with your thumb.

loading Featherweight bobbin case

Gently pull the bobbin thread aruond inside the bobbin case until the thread ‘clicks’ into the notch.

bobbin case of the Featherweight sewing machine

Again, gently pull the thread until it slides under the tension plate and rests in the last notch.

loading bobbin thread into bobbin case

With the bobbin loaded correctly and about 3 inches of thread pulled out, grab the handle and guide it into place onto the machine.

Prepping to insert bobbin cast into Featherweight Sewing Machine

Thread will be popping out the top of the bobbin case.

Bobbin case inserted into Featherweight Sewing Machine

Push the bobbin case in place until you hear a click.

Bring the bobbin thread up to the top

In order to sew, we need to bring the bobbin thread out of the machine so it can interact with the upper thread. And my favorite tool to do this with is this clay needle! I know it’s weird, using a clay tool for sewing, but I use this sucker all the time. It’s great for bringing the bobbin thread up but also for sewing at the end of a piece of fabric, use the tip to guide the fabric instead of your fingers! Plus about two dozen other household uses….

The Bernina shows us the typical way of bringing up the bobbin thread, for machines that have that separate bobbin cases.

Inserting bobbin case into sewing machine

After the bobbin is clicked in, hold onto the upper thread with one hand.

Pulling thread out of the needle of a sewing machine

While holding the upper thread, move the hand wheel towards you one full rotation. When the hand wheel rotates, it makes the bobbin thread come up to meet the upper thread. By holding the upper thread taut, it will pull the bobbin thread up and out of the machine in a loop.

Use a small thin implement like a needle or this kind of tool that I have (seen here and above) in the loop created by the bobbin thread. Pull on the loop until the end of the bobbin thread pops above the machine.

Bringing the bobbin thread up to meet the upper thread

This is where we want both threads to end up. Make sure they are at least 3 inches long from where they leave the needle/machine bed to the ends. Close the bobbin compartment.

Janome

The process is nearly identical for the Janome. Hold the upper thread taut, turn the hand wheel one rotation towards you to get the needle to go down and up one time. The upper thread will pull up the bobbin thread to form a loop.

See how the upper thread catches the bobbin thread?

Use the pointy clay tool, straight pin or another needle to pull on the loop and pull out the end of the bobbin thread. Now you can close up the bobbin compartment with the little plastic cover.

Featherweight

The Featherweight bobbin thread is brought up the same exact way as the other two, it just doesn’t have a bobbin compartment door that closes. I’m saving you from having to look through another handful of photos.

Ready to go!

Plug in, get comfortable and get ready to go sew! Now that you have seen how to thread these three machines, give yours a try!

Helpful Tips (Random Thoughts that Didn’t Fit elsewhere Actually)

Make sure the bobbin compartment is shut before you start sewing, there are moving parts in there and it would be a disaster if anything got caught… Imagine your beautiful long locks or your eye glass chain 😳

Many sewers/sewists use a new needle for each project. I do a lot of mending and small little things all the time so I really have a hard time keeping track of this. Most needles will come with the size engraved on the needle but not the type (ballpoint/sharp/jersey etc.) so I like to use a post it note on the front of my machine so I know what needle is in there at all times. 

Threading the needle on your machine – Tips: brighter light is better, wet the thread, cut thread with sharp scissors, helps if you have an automatic threader.

Make sure bobbin winder spindle is in correct place or machine likely won’t sew (older models)

If you find this post is not specific enough, sewingpartsonline.com has a lot of manuals for purchase. Or you can just Google it, the typical answer to our questions these days, right? Even if you know how to thread the machine, a manual is super handy for learning what all you can do with your machine. AND WHAT NOT TO DO!!!!

You Made IT!!!

You didn’t think this post would ever end, huh? Me either.

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