How to Thread Any Bobbin (Singer, Brother, Janome) – 6 Ways

Here’s how to thread a bobbin, no matter what type of sewing machine you have.

I examined 11+ sewing machine manuals, from old basic models to fancy computerized ones. I focused on Singer, Brother, and Janome machines, but this post applies to other brands too because they’re largely the same.

I’m going to start with how to wind thread on the bobbin.

In part 2, I’ll cover how to insert the bobbin into your machine and pull up the bobbin thread.

There are about 6 differences in the process depending on whether you have a basic or computerized machine, a front-loading or top-loading bobbin system, and whether your thread spool stands up or lies down, etc. This post covers them all!

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how to thread a bobbin (6 ways)

1. Put the bobbin on the winder

A ‘bobbin’ is a small circular item that holds thread. You can get plastic or metal versions.

Place your bobbin on the ‘bobbin winder shaft’. It’s the small silver pin at the top of your machine.

My plastic bobbin on the ‘bobbin winder shaft’.

Push it to the right until it snaps into place.

2. Put your thread on the ‘spool pin’

A ‘spool pin’ is a tall stick at the top of your machine. It holds your thread. You might have 1 or 2 spool pins.

Your spool pin design could be vertical (going up) or horizontal (going side-to-side).

Vertical spool pin (going up)

Place your thread on the ‘spool pin’. It’s the tall ‘stick’ at the top of your machine.

On some older machines, the spool pin is pushed down for storage. So you need to pull it up first.

Note: If you’re using a special thread that winds off quickly, like metallic or transparent nylon thread, first cover it with the thread net that came with your machine. If your net is too long, fold it so it fits your thread. If you’re just using normal polyester or cotton thread, don’t worry about this.

Cotton thread on a vertical spool pin.

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Horizontal spool pin (going side-to-side)

Lift up your horizontal spool pin and place your thread on it.

Make sure the thread unwinds to the front from the bottom. This stops the thread from becoming tangled around the spool pin, according to Brother.

Note: If there’s already a ‘spool cap’ (a circular disc) on your spool pin, remove that first.

Thread being placed on a horizontal spool pin.

Now slide a spool cap on. Push the spool cap as far as possible to the right.

A spool cap will stop your thread from flying off when you sew. It also ensures a smooth flow of thread.

Note: spool caps are only used for horizontal spool pins (that go side-to-side), not vertical ones (that go up).

Pick the size that’s bigger than the size of your thread. If the spool cap is too small, the thread might catch on it.

Spool caps in different sizes.

The flat side of the spool cap should be facing the thread.

There should be no gap between the spool cap and thread.

However, if you’re using the small spool cap, Brother recommends leaving a tiny gap between the spool cap and thread.

Placing a small spool cap next to my thread. The spool cap is bigger than the thread.

3. Follow the thread guides

Pass your thread under the thread guides at the top of your machine.

The design of these guides often looks different on each machine, but they do the same thing.

Thread guide 1 on my Brother machine.
Thread guide 2 on my Brother machine.

Pass the thread counterclockwise (to the left) around the ‘bobbin winding thread guide’. It’s often a circle.

Make sure the thread gets properly pulled into the circle.

My computerized machine has a hook on the circle that I have to thread first, but my basic machine doesn’t.

The hook on the ‘bobbin winding thread guide’ circle. Not all machines have this.
Passing the thread counter-clockwise on the circle. I’m making sure the thread is pulled into the circle properly.

Here’s what the circle looks like on my basic machine. There’s no hook.

The circle on a basic machine.

On a few old basic machines, I saw instructions to wind the thread around the circle in a clockwise direction (to the right). I saw this in 2 manuals for old Brother and Singer machines.

Unless your manual tells you to do this, use the normal counterclockwise direction (to the left) pictured above.

Illustration courtesy of Brother.
Illustration courtesy of Singer.

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4. Wind thread onto the bobbin: method for basic sewing machines

Your bobbin normally has 1 (or more) holes in it.

Insert your thread through the hole in the bobbin from the inside to the outside. It might be easier for you to take the bobbin off the machine to do this.

When the bobbin is back on and you’ve pushed it to the right again, use one hand to hold onto the excess thread.

illustration showing bobbin being wound
Illustration courtesy of Singer.

Press on the foot controller to start winding the bobbin with thread. Go slowly.

After a few turns, stop and cut the excess thread off close to the bobbin hole. This stops the excess thread from getting tangled in the bobbin, and you don’t have to hold it anymore.

illustration showing bobbin thread being cut
Illustration courtesy of Singer.

Carry on winding the bobbin by pressing your foot down on the foot controller again. Try and keep a consistent speed so your bobbin is wound evenly.

Old basic machine.

Stop when the bobbin is full.

You can tell it’s full when the bobbin winder stopper (the metal or plastic oval thing next to the bobbin) touches the thread on the bobbin.

full bobbin with white thread
What a full bobbin looks like.

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5. Wind thread onto the bobbin: method for computerized sewing machines

After passing your thread around the ‘bobbin winding thread guide’ circle, wind the thread clockwise around the bobbin 5 or 6 times. (A ‘clockwise’ direction goes to the right).

Cut the excess thread off using the slit on the bobbin winder (circled below in red). You slide the thread into the slit and pull it to the right to cut.

When I don’t cut the excess thread off, it gets tangled in the bobbin thread and can’t be removed.

Cut the excess thread off using the slit (circled).

Note: if your bobbin winder does NOT have a built-in cutter, scroll up and use the bobbin-winding method for basic machines.

Use the speed controller to choose a winding speed. I went with the slowest setting. Janome recommends using the fastest speed for bobbin winding.

Brother says that if you’re winding stretch thread (like transparent nylon thread), a low speed is recommended to stop the thread from being stretched.

The ‘speed control’ slider. One triangle means slow, 3 triangles means fast.

Press on the foot controller to start winding the bobbin with thread. Try and keep a consistent speed so your bobbin is wound evenly.

Computerized machine.

Holding your foot still can be tricky. An easier alternative is to use the ‘start/stop’ button on your machine to do the winding for you! You need to unplug your foot controller first to use this method.

I’m pressing the ‘start/stop’ button. One push starts the bobbin winding, and the second push stops it.

When the bobbin’s full, stop winding.

You can tell it’s full when the bobbin winder stopper (the metal or plastic oval thing next to the bobbin) touches the thread on the bobbin.

If you’re using a foot controller, just take your foot off to stop. If you’re using the ‘start/stop’ button, press it to stop the machine.

A full bobbin. The thread is touching the silver ‘bobbin winder stopper’ on the right.

Note: if you’re winding transparent nylon thread, stop when the bobbin is 1/2 to 2/3 full. Brother doesn’t recommend fully winding this type of thread because it won’t be neat and sewing performance may suffer.

Slide the bobbin to the left until it snaps into place.

Cut the thread. Take the bobbin off the bobbin winder.

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