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How to thread a sewing machine {tutorial}

Today I’m going to teach you how to thread a sewing machine. The feedback from my last post, sewing basics was great! It was so nice to hear I’m not the only one with sewing fears. Several of you mentioned that you aren’t even sure how to thread sewing machine or put in the bobbin. So today’s post will cover exactly that. NOTE: I’m showing how to thread the machines I have here in my shop, but I’ve worked with several different brands of machines and the majority of them follow the same steps. If your machine doesn’t look the same as the one I show in my photos, I’d recommend you consult your user manual or even do a search on Google based on your machine model.

Check out this cool animation on How Stuff Works that illustrates how a sewing machine creates those magical stitches. The stitch that our machines make is the second animation called a Loop Stitch.

How to thread a sewing machine

Actually, first we’re going to cover how to wind a bobbin because it never fails that once you get your entire machine threaded, you realize you don’t have a bobbin to match your top thread. And that’s pretty important.

How to thread a sewing machine on iheartnaptime.net #sewing #tips
Now, assuming you have a sewing machine to practice on, let’s get started, shall we? First, turn your machine on. It’s probably a switch on the right hand side of the machine near the power plug. Oh and did you make sure to plug it in first? (Just checking!)
How to thread a sewing machine on iheartnaptime.net #sewing #tips
Next put the thread spool on the spool pin at the top of your machine. If the spool pin is horizontal, as it is on my machine, make sure the thread unwinds to the left off the spool, that will prevent the thread getting stuck as you sew. If you have a spool cover/stopper, slip it on the spool pin to hold the spool on.
How to thread a sewing machine on iheartnaptime.net #sewing #tips

To wind a bobbin, you’ll need to pull the thread around the bobbin tension disc. The bobbin tension disc usually has a screw on the top of it and if you’re luckily, you’ll see a little drawing on your machine (like mine has) referencing that as the place to put your thread for winding the bobbin.

How to thread a sewing machine on iheartnaptime.net #sewing #tips

The most important thing to remember when you wind your bobbin is that the thread has to go in the middle of the bobbin and up through one of the holes on the top.

How to thread a sewing machine on iheartnaptime.net #sewing #tips

Next pop the bobbin on to the bobbin pin. You’ll probably have to push the bobbin over to the right to set the machine in bobbin winding mode. Now either press the pedal or the bobbin winding button to start winding the bobbin. It should stop when the bobbin is finished winding.

How to thread a sewing machine on iheartnaptime.net #sewing #tips

This machine has a drop in bobbin so the bobbin drops in on the top of the machine. Once the bobbin is in the machine, you’ll need to thread the machine.

How to thread a sewing machine on iheartnaptime.net #sewing #tips

Follow the arrows/numbers on the machine and pull the thread behind the upper tension disc. It should fit snugly in that disc. This is what make a nice smooth stitch, and it can be adjusted but I don’t really recommend it unless your stitches don’t look smooth. You’re doing great by the way, and we’re about halfway done!

Learn how to thread a sewing machine #tips

Number 2 in the threading process, pull the thread down in front of you and make a you shape (see the arrow?) up to the top of the machine.

How to thread a sewing machine on iheartnaptime.net #sewing #tips

Move the thread to the back of the opening behind that metal take up lever (the metal thing that is sticking up) if you can’t see the takeup lever, turn the wheel on the right side of the machine toward you until the lever is sticking up. Some machines are made where that takeup lever does not stick up beyond the top of the machine. That’s OK, if you pull the thread to the back and forward to your left, you should catch it in the takeup lever groove. Again, follow the arrows, back down in front of the machine.

Now this is where machines differ slightly. This machine has a flat metal hook at the top (just below that number 4) that the thread needs to go behind AND another flat metal hook just above the needle on the left. Some machines will just have one hook by the needle.

Finally, thread the needle (sometimes that’s the hardest part) and pull the thread down through the opening in the presser foot. Whew! You did it! You threaded your machine!

You’ll need to pull the bobbin thread up to the top. To do this, turn the wheel on the right side of the machine toward you. That will catch the bobbin thread and pull it up to the top.

Congrats you are now ready to start sewing!

So tell me now, which do you want me to show next, button holes or zippers?

Happy Stitches,

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  1. These ‘how to’s’ are so handy! Sometimes the manuals are just so wordy, I always prefer actually seeing something!

    Buttons or zippers, tried one button hole, it did not go well and as for zippers, I don’t even know if I have the right foot!

    I love my sewing machine, making something just feels so amazing, but after 2 years I’m still to use it properly, I haven’t even changed the needle!!! Admittedly, I’ve only used it in the last few months but still, this is definately on my to do list.

  2. A couple of things to add to the tutorial:
    1) make SURE your bobbin is unwinding in the right direction after dropping it into the bobbin case. On most if not all top-load machines, the bobbin should be turning counter-clockwise as you pull the thread
    2) Pull the thread through the slit at the front of the bobbin case. Put your finger on the top of the bobbin to keep it from turning and pull the thread toward the left. This takes it through the tension properly. Sometimes you can hear a faint “click” when it goes through the tension.
    Skipping either of these steps will cause your bobbin thread to be loose on the bottom of your fabric.
    Hope that helps
    Edna-sewing machine guide instructor for Viking, Pfaff, Elna machines (Elnas are made by Janome, just fyi)
    HV/Pfaff 5D software

    1. Thanks for the clarification Edna! I didn’t know the best way to describe the bobbin thing.

      The best troubleshooting tip I can offer is that if you have trouble, cut the top thread, rethread the machine, then take out the bobbin and reinsert it into the machine. Usually those two things help fix most problems.

      Also, if problems persist, change the needle! If it’s slightly bent, it could end up causing major issues.

    2. I’ll have to check to see if I’ve been doing that bobbin tension thing, it might explain some of my tension problems

  3. Hi Jamielyn!!!
    This is awesome and exactly what I’m looking for, lol!!!
    I would love for you to link up with a new party I’m starting on my blog!!
    It’s called Show Me How!!! and it’s all about tips, tricks, and tutorials!! I think your tutorial would be PERFECT!!! Please come visit and check it out :))
    Have a wonderful day!!
    Oh yeah, it starts this Friday but I did an intro post for it.

  4. I’d love to learn how to make a button hole. Also, how do you use a regular sewing machine to embroider?

    Thanks for the tutorial! I always have issues with threading, even after consulting my manual each time. I also end up with a mess of thread on the underside of the fabric – I’m guessing from Edna’s comment that it’s a bobbin problem. Darn bobbins. 🙂

  5. I have been wanting to learn to sew for a while now. I had a home ec class in high school but don’t remember a thing. Any pointers on what kind of sewing machine a beginner should invest in?

  6. And yet you don’t say how to get the bobbin thread under the metal plate, which was the only reason I came here in the first place.

  7. My husband bought me a janome 5200 a couple years ago. I don’t know why I am procrasting to use it. I need videos to watch. Could anyone recommend a site? 

  8. Thanks so much for this.  I have been avoiding using my sewing machine, ’cause I did not know to thread it or the bobbin.  I love to sew, but was scared to use my machine.  Thanks again.  Very helpful

  9. These are brilliant – hope you don’t mind but I have started a little (none profit) sewing group called Sew Nimble Fingers (Janome sewing group) Hull and East Riding and share on my FB page for my group memebrs .  (Janome provide memebrship packs but I will accept any type of machine owner) Greatly appreciate your ‘How to’s’ they are really well done and informative. We have a few experts (far better than me!) and some complete beginners so these are fantastic. Thank you. Lyn

  10. I just got a Janome. My first sewing machine. I have quickly discovered tutorials. I feel very fortunate technology is on my side!

  11. A very nice and helpful tutorial so far. But sometimes i messed up when the thread going to the bobbin and the needle also messed up? quite often i face the problem. please help

  12. i find it really amazing and enjoying to thread a sewing machine. its always an interesting part for me. The thread sometimes do not comes from the bobbin. what should i do then?