How to Put a Bobbin in Any Sewing Machine – 4 Ways

This is a follow-up from my previous post, how to thread a bobbin.

Here’s how to put a threaded bobbin in your sewing machine. This process can be broken down into 3 main stages:

  1. Insert the bobbin into your sewing machine.
  2. Thread the upper thread system and needle.
  3. Pull the bobbin thread up.

There are about 2 ways to insert the bobbin and 2 ways to pull the bobbin thread up (or not). The process differs depending on whether you have a basic or computerized machine, and a top-loading or front-loading bobbin system. I’m covering all these variations in today’s post!

The information in this post is directly from Brother, Singer, and Janome sewing machine manuals, so I haven’t skipped important bits. I reviewed at least 3 manuals from each brand.

If your machine is from another brand, this post will still apply. Most brands have the same threading and set up process.

how to insert a bobbin (4 ways)

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1. Insert bobbin into the sewing machine

Sewing machines normally have 2 types of bobbin systems. A front-loading system, or a top-loading one. Here’s how to use both.

front loading bobbin and top loading bobbin

How to use a front-loading bobbin system

Turn off your sewing machine

Many brands recommend turning off your sewing machine whilst threading. This is to stop you from accidentally sewing your fingers. It’s a good safety habit to get into.

Open the bobbin area

On front-loading machines, the bobbin area is hidden. You need to remove the front extension table and open the front cover to access the bobbin area.

illustration of a hand opening bobbin covers on a front-loading sewing machine
How to find the bobbin on a front-loading machine. Illustrations courtesy of Singer.

Put your bobbin into the bobbin case

Make sure your thread unwinds in the direction of the arrow:

bobbin and bobbin case held in hands
(left) bobbin case, (right) bobbin.
illustration showing bobbin being inserted into bobbin case
Illustration courtesy of Janome.

Pull the thread through the notches on the bobbin case, like so:

illustration showing bobbin being inserted into bobbin case
Illustration courtesy of Janome.

Leave about 4″ (10cm) of free thread.

Make sure the free thread is hanging to the right of the bobbin case’s metal extension (or horn, as Janome says). The metal extension is the straight part of the bobbin case that sticks out.

Put the bobbin case inside your machine

The metal extension should be at 12 o’clock (so pointing straight up).

Push the bobbin case all the way into the machine until it clicks into place. It should be held securely. It shouldn’t be loose or falling to one side.

I’m pushing the bobbin case into the machine. The bobbin case’s metal extension/horn is the straight part that sticks out. It’s at 12 o’clock.

If you’re struggling to get it in, try turning the handwheel (towards you) to rotate the bobbin area until it’s positioned right and will accept the bobbin case.

Note: it’s important to always turn the handwheel towards you (a counterclockwise direction). If you turn it in the wrong direction, Singer says that your machine might jam when you start sewing. It may also cause the sewing machine’s timing to be disrupted.

How to use a top-loading bobbin system

Put your machine into safety mode or turn it off

Many brands recommend turning off your sewing machine whilst threading. This is to stop you from accidentally sewing your fingers. It’s a good safety habit to get into.

[Computerized machine] Brother recommends putting your machine into ‘safety mode’.

Here’s how:

  • Raise the needle to the highest position. To do this, turn the handwheel (towards you) and make sure the mark on the handwheel lines up with the mark on the machine.
  • Lower the presser foot using the lever.
  • Press the ‘presser foot’ safety button (pictured below) on your touchpad.

Now your sewing machine has been locked and can’t accidentally sew your fingers!

The ‘presser foot’ safety icon that locks your machine and stops accidental sewing.

Remove bobbin cover

Raise the presser foot using the lever. This will get the foot out of the way so we can remove the bobbin cover.

sewing machine presser foot being raised with lever
Circled: the lever that controls the presser foot.

Next to the see-through bobbin cover, there’s a latch. Slide it to the right to ‘unlock’ your bobbin cover. It might jump up a bit.

Slide latch to the right.

Remove the bobbin cover.

Insert bobbin counterclockwise

Place your bobbin inside. Make sure the thread unwinds to the left (counterclockwise direction).

Guide the thread through the slit in the needle plate cover.

This is important because it makes the thread enter the ‘tension spring’ of the bobbin case. This is how tension will be applied to the bobbin thread when sewing.

Thread enterring the needle plate slit.

Cut the thread using the cutter at the end of the slit. Pull your thread to the right to cut.

This is important. When I ignore the cutting step, my thread tension is bad when I sew. Brother confirms that if we don’t cut the excess thread off, it can cause performance problems.

But there is an exception.

If you’re gathering or free motion quilting, DON’T CUT the bobbin thread. Later on, you’re going to pull it up, so the extra length will be helpful.

Pull thread to the right to cut.

Note: some top-loading bobbin machines have NO thread cutter next to the bobbin. This means you should not cut the thread.

Pull it out by 6″ (15cm) towards the back of the machine.

Then put your bobbin cover back on with the thread tail hanging out.

Here’s an example from 1 Singer machine’s manual:

Illustration courtesy of Singer.

Put your bobbin cover back on.

First, place the ‘tab’ on the bobbin cover (it’s a rectangle piece that sticks out) inside the notch on the machine.

Then press down on the bobbin cover to snap it into place.

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2. Thread the upper thread system & needle

Raise the presser foot

Start by raising the presser foot using the lever.

This is really important.

When the presser foot is raised, the tension discs are open and will accept thread.

If your presser foot is down, the tension discs will be closed.

This means you can’t get the thread inside the tension disk, so your stitching won’t look good because your sewing machine can’t control the top thread.

Raise the presser foot using the circled lever.

You also need to raise the needle to the highest position. Turn the handwheel towards you to do this. This will make the hidden ‘take-up lever’ pop out for threading.

Place thread on the spool pin

If you’re using the same thread that you used for the bobbin, just leave it on.

Vertical spool pin that goes up.
Horizontal spool pin that goes side-to-side.

Like before, if your spool pin is horizontal (going side-to-side), make sure the thread unwinds to the front from the bottom.

Put the right size spool cap on. It should be wider than your thread. The flat side of the spool cap should be facing the thread. And it should be pushed right up against the thread.

I’m putting my spool cap on.

Follow the thread guides

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

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

Pass thread through the front channel

Pass the thread through the thread channel at the front.

  • You go down the channel first,
  • around the u-turn,
  • then up,
  • pass the thread into the ‘take-up lever’ hole,
  • and back down the channel, towards the needles.

Here’s a video that shows the process:

Here’s a closer look at the ‘take-up lever’ inside the channel. It has a hole that your thread needs to slot into.

Your thread should slot in from back-to-front and right-to-left, as pictured below.

Take-up lever on my old manual machine.
Take-up lever on my computerized machine. This is the highest it will go.

Place thread under the ‘lower thread guide bar’

Not all machines have this. It’s a bar just above the needle.

Slide your thread under the lower thread guide bar. There’s normally a gap on the left or right side to slot your thread into.

The ‘lower thread guide bar’ is circled.

Place thread under the needle bar

There’s normally a gap on the left or right side to slot your thread into.

Slotting the thread under the needle bar.

Thread the needle

Insert the thread into the ‘eye of the needle’. It’s the small hole at the bottom of the needle.

Thread it from front to back.

If you’re struggling to get the thread through the hole, try cutting the end of the thread at an angle. This makes it easier to slide through.

Pull the thread under the presser foot

Raise the presser foot using the lever.

Pull the thread under the presser foot, and pull it out about 2″ (5cm) towards the back of the machine. Singer recommends pulling the thread out by 6-8″.

This is to stop the needle from becoming unthreaded when you start to sew.

How to use the built-in automatic needle threader (optional)

Note: you can’t use the needle threader if you’re using twin needles. It’s also not recommended for specialty threads.

Raise the needle to the highest position

Your needle needs to be in the highest position for the needle threader to work.

Turn the handwheel (towards you) to move the needle position. Make sure the line on the handwheel is at the top and matching the mark on the machine.

Note: not all machines have these marks. If yours doesn’t, keep turning the handwheel until it looks like the needle can’t go any higher.

The marks on the handwheel and machine line up. That’s how I know the needle is at the highest position.

Pull thread into the needle threader’s notches

Pull the thread (which has already gone through the needle bar) to the left.

Pass it through the notch, and then pull it inside the slit.

The thread has gone through the notch and slit (marked ‘7’) of the needle threader.

Cut the excess thread using the thread cutter

It’s normally on the left side of the machine.

Thread cutter on the left side of the machine.

Lower the presser foot

Lower the presser foot lever to do this. It’s normally on the right side of the needles, near the back of the machine.

This closes the tension discs and holds the thread firmly in place.

Pull the needle threader lever down

Pull it down as much as possible. This will cause the hook on the needle threader to push the thread through the needle hole.

Let go of the needle threader lever slowly.

(circled) the needle threader lever.

Your needle has now been threaded!

If a loop of thread is formed, pull the loop towards the back of the machine.

A loop of thread that needs to be pulled out (towards the back of the machine).
Illustration coutesy of Singer.

Pull the thread under the presser foot

Raise the presser foot using the lever.

Pull the thread under the presser foot, and pull it out about 2″ (5cm) towards the back of the machine. Singer recommends pulling the thread out by 6-8″.

This is to stop the needle from becoming unthreaded when you start to sew.

Other types of automatic needle threaders

There are many styles of needle threaders, so if you have something that looks different, check your manual for instructions.

For example, here’s what the needle threader looks like on the Singer Confidence 7363:

Image and illustration courtesy of Singer.
  1. Hook your thread onto the thread guide.
  2. Whilst holding the end of the thread, push down the lever.
  3. Rotate the lever towards the back of the machine.
  4. Guide your thread into the hooked end. Pull the thread up.
  5. Rotate the lever back to its original position. The needle will then be threaded.
  6. Let go of the lever. Pull the thread loop in the needle towards the back of the machine.

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3. Pull up the bobbin thread

This step is different based on whether you have a front-loading or top-loading bobbin.

Method for front-loading bobbin systems

Start by raising the presser foot using the lever.

Use one hand to hold onto the upper thread (that’s coming out of the needle).

With your other hand, turn the handwheel (towards you) to make the needle go down and then back up one time.

This will make the upper and bobbin threads loop together.

Gently pull on the upper thread. This will bring the bobbin thread up through the needle plate hole.

Use something to pull the bobbin thread loop out (eg. a pencil).

Pull both threads under the presser foot.

You can close the front cover now.

Woohoo, that’s the END of threading!

Method for top-loading bobbin systems

Brother, Janome, and Singer say that you can start sewing without pulling up the bobbin thread. This is what I normally do and I have no issues.

This recommendation applies to you if your top-loading bobbin has a thread cutter built into the bobbin system. This is called a ‘quick set bobbin’. You don’t need to pull up the bobbin thread with this system.

But some top-loading bobbin machines don’t have this system, so you need to pull up the bobbin thread. If you have no bobbin thread cutter and you left a thread tail, this is your situation.

There are also times when these brands recommend pulling the bobbin thread up even if you have a ‘quick set bobbin’:

  • When creating gathers.
  • When free-motion quilting.

In these cases, you want a thread tail at the start of your stitching.

Here’s how to pull up the bobbin thread:

  • When you install the bobbin in the machine, don’t cut the bobbin thread at the end. And don’t put the bobbin cover back on yet.
  • Whilst holding the upper thread with one hand, turn the handwheel (towards you) to lower and then raise the needle. This will loop the upper and bobbin threads together.
  • Carefully pull the upper thread up. This will make the bobbin thread come out.
  • Raise the presser foot using the lever.
  • Pull both threads under the presser foot by about 4″ (10cm) to 6″ (15cm).
  • Put the bobbin cover back on.

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