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Machines at the Ready! Tutorial on threading a sewing machine

Updated: Jan 2, 2022

This is a basic tutorial about threading your domestic sewing machine. If you have not used your sewing machine for a while or you have one that was gifted or passed down to you, do not be afraid of dusting it off and threading it up. I had a client once who created so many beautiful stitched projects by hand stitching but she actually had her mums sewing machine in a cupboard! This was because she didn't know how to use it.

Thread the Thread:

Domestic sewing machines all use similar concepts and threading is the same. You need a top thread and a bobbin, threaded correctly and you should be good to go. I will also discuss some "challenges" you may face which are easily resolved.











Sewing machines either have a horizontal top spool pin or an upright one. Your thread should be placed on the spool pin so that it unwinds anti-clockwise (tip #1). Holding your thread up it should form a "P' shape, P for perfect!


Most sewing machines made in the last ten years or so have a threading picture guide printed onto the machine. A manual is also a treasure trove of necessary and additional information. As a basic introduction, the top thread needs to pass through a top thread guide (not the round bit that looks like a button, this is for winding a bobbin) down the long groove on the right then back up the other side of the long groove and through the thread-uptake-leaver. I have heard this described as a "gooseneck". It is the bit that moves up and down when the hand wheel is turned. The thread-uptake-leaver should be at the top so the thread can be guided between the hook. The thread then goes down towards the needle. The needle clamp, which holds the needle, usually has another small hook for the thread to loop through, then you thread the needle from front to back. Always place your thread to the back of the machine to avoid tangles, and make sure there is enough of a thread "tail" to not get taken back up when you start sewing (tip #2).


Pointy points:

Your sewing needle should always be sharp and suited to the fabric you are using. If your machine has not been used in a long while or if it has been used countless times, it is a good idea to change the needle (tip #3). This can solve many problems before they begin!

To change the needle you will find a screw on the top edge of the needle clamp. This can usually be loosened by hand but some may require a small screwdriver. Release the current needle and dispose of it safely (you do not need to remove the screw fully, only loosen it). Take a new needle and you will see that the blunt end is flat on one side. This side should face the back of the machine. Insert the new needle with the flat end facing the back, pushing it in as high as it will go, then tighen the screw again to keep it secure. Your new needle should be suitable for the fabric you will be sewing. Most standard fabrics will be fine with a universal needle which is usually provided with the sewing machine.


Bobbin Basics:

A domestic sewing machine will either have a top or front loading bobbin. On a top loading bobbin, the bobbin is usually dropped into the bobbin case which stays in the machine. For a front loading bobbin, the bobbin case may come out of the sewing machine for you to place the bobbin into before securing it back into the machine. In both circumstances one again, the thread should unravel anticlockwise (P for perfect)(tip #4).










Winding a bobbin will require your top thread placed as normal on the top thread spool, then it is threaded around the round "button" which is near the thread uptake leaver. Each bobbin has a hole (one or more) on the top and bottom (the flat circular sides). The thread is then threaded through one of these holes from the middle of the bobbin out of the top through the hole. You will need to keep hold of this thread tail.


The bobbin itself is now placed onto the bobbin winding spindle which is a small upright peg on the top of the machine near the hand wheel. The bobbin should be pushed down onto this spindle and it clicks into place. Keep holding the thread tail! The bobbin on the spindle is then pushed to the right, toward the hand wheel. On some machines this will disengage the sewing needle, but most machines will need the hand wheel to be pulled out, or the centre can be twisted, which then disengages the sewing needle. The bobbin is then wound by pressing down on the presser foot.


The bobbin should wind evenly throughout from top to bottom, up and down. When you have enough thread wound or the bobbin is full, push the bobbin spindle back to the left and cut it away from the main top spool. Re-engage your sewing needle by pushing the hand wheel or twisting it back into place. Cut off the tail of thread coming out the top of the bobbin and now it is ready to put into the machine, remembering that it unwinds anticlockwise.


Ready, Steady, Sew!

You'e almost ready to get sewing! Thread your top thread as discussed above and insert your bobbin into the sewing machine making sure that your needle is at the top-most position. The bobbin case should have two groves for the thread to pass though. On the top loading case, the first groove is at the front and the second slightly to the left. Guide your bobbin thread towards you through the first groove then back through the second groove, leaving the thread loose to be taken up by the needle.


For a front loading bobbin case, the case comes out by releasing the flat central "latch" on the case. There is also a thin "arm" which is what guides the case back into the correct position. Place the bobbin into the case (unwinding anti-clockwise) then pull the thread though the groove on the top edge of the case. Then guide the thread to the right and down through the next groove near the middle of the case. Put the case back into the machine holding the latch, with the thin arm pointing upwards. This should fit smoothly into the machine and will fall out if not inserted correctly. Give a gentle pull on the bobbin thread to check this. If the case comes back out, re-hold the latch and place the case back gently moving it back and forth until it engages. Try the thread again to check.





For both types of sewing machine, before closing the bobbin case, bring the bobbin thread up through the foot plate. This is done by holding onto the top thread which is placed to the back of the sewing machine, then turning the hand wheel in an anticlockwise direction. This will "sew" a stitch which brings the bobbin thread up, forming a loop. Your needle should be back at the top-most position and you should be able to see the loop of the bobbin thread which should be pulled though. Both the top and bobbin threads are placed to the back of the machine. Leave a good four inches /10 cm at least for when you start sewing (tip #5).


I hope you have found this guide helpful? Happy sewing!



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