Day 11: Bobbins

Today is Day 11 of 31 Days of Sewing School.

One of the ways a sewing machine differs from hand sewing is that it uses two threads to sew, the top thread and the bobbin thread, which is what you see on the underneath side.

The bobbin itself is a small spool, sometimes metal, sometimes plastic, depending on the machine.

If you saw the video about my machine, you probably noticed that I have a drop-in bobbin. This means the bobbin is inserted by simply setting it down into its compartment.

Photo by Robbie1

My old machine, had a bobbin case, like the one pictured above and was inserted into the case, then into the compartment, vertically on the front of the machine, rather than laying it flat down like a drop-in.

Once you figure out which type you have, grab your trusty owner’s manual to see exactly how yours is threaded and inserted. The direction the tail of extra thread is going when you insert the bobbin is key to your machine sewing properly.

If you still don’t have an instruction manual, don’t be afraid to drive to your local sewing machine shop to ask them. When my machine was new, I was having all sorts of trouble with the threads bubbling when I sewed. I could have sworn I had done everything right, but sure enough the repairperson at the shop pointed out I was simply putting my bobbin with the thread going the wrong direction (which made sense because my previous machine went the other way).

The internet is full of helpful videos to assist you with your bobbin (no reason to reinvent the wheel, right?). It’s such a visual thing to understand, so video (or a real person who knows) is pretty vital. Just make sure to clarify drop-in or front-loading bobbin when you search for online help (or email me with a photo of your machine!).

A few basics about bobbins

  • You’ll need to wind (or spin as I sometimes say) a bobbin to get thread from your main spool to your empty bobbin. It’s a good idea to match the colors although sometimes for sewing on seams that don’t matter I end up with mismatched colors.
  • You can also buy pre-wound bobbins; just make sure they are designed to work in your specific make and model machine.
  • Once you insert your front-loading or drop-in bobbin, you’ll need to bring the thread up. Some machines do this automatically; otherwise, you’ll just need to wind the hand wheel away from you. Your needle will go up and down and eventually the bobbin thread will pop right up!
  • When you start sewing, you’ll want to hold the bobbin thread for a few stitches, along with your top thread.
  • If you plan to use a variety of colors of thread like me in your sewing, it’s helpful to buy extra bobbins. It’s a bummer when you are using a new color of thread but you don’t have any matching bobbins or empty ones to spin.
  • If you know you’re going to be sewing a lot with the same thread on a project, spin more than one bobbin at a time so you have them ready. When you’re in the middle of a project and your bobbin runs out, it’s nice if you already have another ready to go.

If you have any questions about bobbins, be sure to leave them here and I’ll try to help. Tomorrow we will brave the scary topic of tension a bit, so stay tuned.

top photo source

Nicole lives near the beach in Southern California with her husband and three young kiddos. She writes a a lifestyle blog about creativity, family life, community, and all sorts of other fun stuff, and also keeps a homeschool journal called The Bennettar Academy. Her most recent (free!) ebook is about why and how to make more time for reading.

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  1. I’ve been sewing for years and only recently did I start winding several bobbins at once like your last point mentions. That first time that I had a bobbin all set to go was so exciting. Now I wind 5 or 6 white bobbins all at once and each time I don’t have to wind, I feel like I won something, like I’m getting away with something. Love it.

  2. I have a front loading bobbin case. And I m so stuck. NO idea what I’m doing wrong. It’s just not working. When I try to sew after I put the bobbin in, the thread bunches up at the back of the fabric 🙁

    • Have you tried putting your bobbin in the case with the thread going the other way? Are you holding the bobbin thread when you start sewing? I’ll talk more about that in a few days.

      It could be the tension, which is Day 12’s post- maybe that will help? Sorry you are having trouble- I know how frustrating that can be!

  3. Thanks for this series! I appreciate all these little details that make all the difference! I’m just learning to sew and teaching myself, so I love the easy-to-understand tips.

  4. AllieZirkle says:

    I can’t sew to save my life, but this series is fantastic Nicole!!

  5. Nice to be here and see your post!

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