How to Thread a Sewing Machine

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The first time you sit in front of a new sewing machine with a spool of thread in hand, the knobs and numbers of the thread path may seem like a tangled maze. Why does the thread go up and down through hooks, slots, and discs instead of straight to the needle? Find out the answer to this question and more when you check out this guide on how to thread a sewing machine!

To thread a sewing machine, the upper thread moves from the spool pin to the path across the top of the machine, through the tension discs and the uptake hook, and then to the needle. The lower thread winds onto the bobbin and then slots into the bobbin case. Every sewing machine model has slight differences, but the basic concept of where to place the upper and lower threads remains the same.

In this article, you will learn how the thread path on a sewing machine operates. You will discover a step-by-step guide that shows how to thread a sewing machine. Finally, you will find tips for how to thread a Singer, Brother, and Bernina machine.

How to Thread a Sewing MachineHow to Thread a Sewing Machine

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How to Thread a Sewing Machine in 25 Simple StepsWhich Way to Thread Sewing Machine Needle?What is the Easiest Way to Thread a Sewing Machine?How Do You Start a Spool of Thread?Tips for How to Thread a:Singer Sewing MachineBrother Sewing MachineJanome Sewing MachineBernina Sewing MachineOld Sewing MachineMini Sewing MachineHow to Thread a Sewing Machine BobbinWhy is My Bobbin Thread Not Catching?Common Sewing Machine Thread TroubleshootingConclusion

How to Thread a Sewing Machine in 25 Simple Steps

The key to threading a sewing machine is to follow the correct thread path for both the upper and lower thread. Every domestic sewing machine uses an upper and lower thread to create its stitches. You may notice that different makes and models place the spool of thread and the bobbin of thread in different places on the machine, but you can count on every machine using these two key features!

Most sewing machines also offer a clearly marked sequence along the thread path to help you figure out where to put the thread. If you aren’t sure how to read these markings, try finding the section in your owner’s manual that describes how to thread the machine. Most manuals give you a handy diagram for those who like to learn more visually.

Of course, you can also follow this handy step-by-step guide to learn the basic process of threading any home sewing machine!

1. Locate the spool pin on your machine. Most sewing machines place the spool pin either on the top of the arm or on the upper back of the arm. You may need to raise the pin or lift it out and away from the machine if it features a folding hinge.

2. Slide your spool of thread onto the spoon pin. Thread spools have a hollow core that allows easy access for the pin. If the thread spool has stickers over its ends, remove these first to show the core of the spool.

3. Next, slide the spool pin cap over the end of the pin. This keeps the spool from spinning off wildly as you sew!

4. Unwind about twelve inches of thread from the spool. You will use that thread to wind the bobbin first and then wind through the upper thread path.

5. To wind the bobbin, find an empty bobbin and slot it onto the bobbin winding pin. Most machines place this mechanism on the top or upper right section of the machine.

6. Wrap the thread tail around the bobbin winding tension disc. Check your sewing manual if you don’t know what this looks like. Typically, you will find it on the upper left of the sewing machine arm.

7. Tug the thread gently from that point to the bobbin. Wrap it around the bobbin clockwise two or three times.

8. Now slide the whole bobbin and its pin to the right. You will see a small cut-out in the body of the machine to allow this movement. On most models, sliding the bobbin winding pin will switch the machine into bobbin-winding mode. In some cases, you may need to change a setting on the digital touchscreen or press a special button to set bobbin-winding mode.

9. Turn on your machine and step gently on the foot pedal. As the machine runs, you will see the bobbin spinning and filling up with neat circles of thread. Your machine will usually automatically stop when the bobbin fills, but you can also keep an eye on it and take your foot off the pedal when the bobbin seems full.

10. Some machines have a bobbin-winding button that you hold down instead of using the foot pedal. You don’t see this very often, but check your manual to find out if you need to locate this button.

11. Slide the bobbin and pin back to the left. Pry the full bobbin up off of the pin. Use scissors to snip the thread, freeing the bobbin from the machine.

12. Unwind about three inches of thread from the bobbin. Slot the loaded bobbin into its bobbin case. On some machines, you will find this mechanism by removing a portion of the machine casing and opening a hatch. These front-loading machines will have a vertical bobbin case that faces you when you do this.

13. Other machines have a top-loading bobbin that you can see through a clear panel right in front of the needle.

14. With the bobbin set up, you can turn your attention to the upper thread. If the thread still has its tail wrapped around the bobbin winding disc, gently disengage it. Tug another twelve inches or so of thread from the spool.

15. Now you will wind through the thread path. The thread path just means the spots on your machine where you need to place the thread to have the proper tension as the machine stitches.

16. Before you begin threading the upper thread, use the presser foot lever to lift the presser foot. This disengages the tension discs and allows the thread to slide inside the machine as you work.

17. Also, use the handwheel to raise the needle to its highest position. This makes threading the needle easier and raises the takeup lever so that you can access it.

18. The first stop in your thread path often looks like a small metal stub, hook, or lever. Most machines will have a number “1” printed next to this on the top of the machine casing. Wrap the thread behind or underneath this first guide.

19. Next, bring the thread down through the U-shaped cutout in the front of the machine arm. This second guide slots the thread through the tension discs inside the machine.

20. Bring the thread back up the other side of the U.

21. Loop the thread inside the hook-shaped end of the takeup lever. You will see this sticking up out of the machine when the needle is raised.

22. Carry the thread down to loop it behind the needle bar thread guide on the front of the needle, and then insert the tip of the thread into the eye of the needle.

23. Draw the thread through until you do not see any slack.

24. Turn the handwheel toward you. As the needle goes down and then back up, it will carry the bobbin thread up with it. Gently tug both the upper and the bobbin thread tails so they hang toward the back left of the machine, behind the presser foot.

25. Insert your project and begin sewing!

Which Way to Thread Sewing Machine Needle?

You should slot the thread into the needle, starting on the side of the needle that shows a slight groove or indentation at the base of the eye. There is no right direction to thread a sewing machine needle because different sewing machine models require you to slot the thread into the needle from different directions.

Make sure you read your sewing machine owner’s manual to find out if you should thread the needle front to back, left to right, or right to left. If you insert the thread from the wrong direction, the needle will not hook on the bobbin thread and your machine will not form stitches as you sew!

On many models, you will find that the eye of the needle faces you. In this case, you simply insert the tip of the thread from the front, where you are sitting, toward the back. It goes straight through the hole in the tip of the needle.

On some machines, though, the needle has more of an angled position. In this case, it is crucial to know whether your machine requires a left-to-right or right-to-left thread insertion.

What is the Easiest Way to Thread a Sewing Machine?

Which Way to Thread Sewing Machine NeedleWhich Way to Thread Sewing Machine Needle The easiest way to thread a sewing machine is to use an automatic threading mechanism that can slot the thread into the eye of the needle for you.

Many machines–even cheaper beginner-level models–come with a small movable hook located to the left of the needle. If you loop the thread beneath this hook and then press down the lever next to it, the threader will spring down and push the thread through the eye of the needle.

This means you do not have to painstakingly squint at the needle as you try to get the thread into it just right.

That said, you still have to wind the bobbin and get the thread through the upper thread path before you reach this step.

The only way around that difficulty is to buy a super high-end sewing machine that comes with air threading mechanisms. These very pricey models can use puffs of air to slot the thread into all the right places for you!

How Do You Start a Spool of Thread?

You can start a spool of thread by twisting off the bottom of the spool or by locating the end of the wrapped-thread pattern around the spool.

You should never use scissors to cut the thread to get it started. This will cut your length of thread in half and you will eventually end up with loose bits of thread flying around as you sew.

The easiest way to start a spool of thread is to buy spools with a removable bottom. These often cost a bit more, but you can simply twist off the bottom and you will see the tail of thread tucked inside. All you have to do then is gently tug on the tail to unwrap the thread and get it started.

Many brands of thread do not come with this removable bottom, though. In this case, the tail of the thread tucks underneath the other threads wrapped around the spool to prevent the whole spool from unwinding.

In this case, you need to find a place in the circular pattern of threads where you see an end to the wrapping threads. This is often a sudden diagonal thread cutting across the other circular threads.

Use a sewing pin to gently lever up that diagonal thread, freeing the tail. Then you can unwrap the thread and get it started easily!

Tips for How to Thread a:

Every sewing machine has the same basic parts like the spool pin, needle, and bobbin winder, but you may also find it helpful to check out these tips on specific brands of machines such as Singer and Bernina.

Singer Sewing Machine

Singer sewing machines have an intentionally simple, user-friendly design that makes threading them easy.

Some Singer models have a vertical spool pin that you have to sort of pry out of the top of the machine so that it stands upright. It will click into place in this vertical position, and you can slide the spool of thread onto it.Singer models pretty much always have a front-facing needle eye. You will see the groove at the base of the eye on the side facing you. This means you will insert the thread front-to-back.Singer also offers an extremely useful help page like this one. Plus, if you need customer support or even a replacement owner’s manual, you can access all of that through the useful website!

Brother Sewing Machine

As one of the world’s oldest and most prominent brands of sewing machines, Brother offers sewing machines with clearly marked thread paths that you will find easy to thread. Brother has a reputation for designing even very complex machines like sergers with clear markings! This makes threading and using most Brother models quite easy.

If your machine has an automatic threader mechanism, keep in mind that it only works with some sizes of needles. Check your Brother sewing machine manual to find out what shape and size of needle you should use to make the automatic threader work.Some Brother models (though not all) have a spool pin that pushes down into the body of the machine. This means you need to lift it up out of the machine so that it stands vertical on top of the machine before you can begin threading.Like Singer, Brother is a well-known brand with a long history that continues to provide strong customer support. You can find downloadable threading instructions and sometimes even replacement manuals on the Brother customer service website.

Janome Sewing Machine

Janome primarily sells high-end advanced sewing machines with special features, meaning they may require a little more work to thread. Of course, you can also buy beginner-level Janome models with basic functions! But often, more advanced sewers seek out Janome models because they want fast sewing speeds, digital tools, and more complicated sewing functions.

On high-end models like the Memory Craft line, you may need to turn on the machine and access settings through the digital touch screen to complete threading functions.Some Janome models offer features like a remote thread cutting button that will make your threading process easier and automatic needle threaders or even air-threading.Janome does offer pricier support options such as webinars or classes you can sign up for on the brand’s official website. You can also check out the Janome blog to find free tips for using your Janome sewing machine.

Bernina Sewing Machine

Bernina ranks as one of the most elite sewing machine brands in the world, comparable to Pfaff and some Husqvarna Viking and Janome models, but the good news is that these high-end models often come with features that make them easy to thread!

Many Bernina models have a needle up/down button you should use to raise and lower the needle for threading, rather than turning the handwheel.Place the spool of thread onto the spool pin so that the thread comes up and over the spool, rather than coming up from underneath the spool.If you get a Bernina model that does not come with a threading mechanism, you should manually insert the thread into the needle from front to back.For customer support, help, and diagrams to assist with threading a Bernina machine, check out the company website.

Old Sewing Machine

Antique and vintage sewing machines can have much more varied threading mechanisms than most modern machines, meaning that you may have to learn how to thread them on a case-by-case basis.

The best way to learn how to thread an old machine correctly is to track down the original owner’s manual. For some antique brands like Singer, you can often find free PDF versions online, either through the company website or from fellow sewers. But many older sewing machine companies have long since gone out of business, making it trickier to track down manuals.If you can’t find the official manual, try searching YouTube for how to thread your specific brand and model number. Possibly someone has posted a video clip showing how to thread your sewing machine!The bobbin winding mechanism may prove tricky to locate on some antique sewing machines. You can often find it near the handwheel, which looks like a large metal crank on very old models.Many antique machines have more thread guides and more intricate thread paths than new models. These serve the same basic purpose, but you will need to make sure you loop the thread through the appropriate hooks and knobs in the right order.

Mini Sewing Machine

Mini sewing machines often have deceptively simple threading mechanisms but such cheap components that the thread can easily slip free. Mini sewing machines, sometimes called children’s sewing machines, typically only feature a straight-stitch option with no backtracking, zigzagging, or automatic threader.

A mini sewing machine goes through some of the same motions as a full-size machine but in a much more limited capacity. Keep that in mind as you use these tips to help thread one.

If the machine even offers a bobbin winder, you may find it tricky to locate. Some models like the MagicFly brand have a bobbin winder, but you must pop it out from inside the handwheel to use it. Some mini machines simply come with a handful of preloaded bobbins and do not provide a winder.Make sure you check for the groove in the eye of the needle to find out which direction to insert the thread. If the mini model has a needle that sits at an angle, you will need to thread it either left to right, or right to left, depending on the groove placement.The tiny tension discs on a mini sewing machine often do not hold the thread well. You may find that you need to either keep replacing the thread as it slips free or tug hard to get the thread loose if it becomes too tightly wedged. You may also find that some mini machines have a tension knob on the outside of the machine rather than discs set within the body of the machine.

How to Thread a Sewing Machine Bobbin

Following the correct steps to thread, a sewing machine bobbin is crucial for a smooth sewing experience. After all, the bobbin supplies half of the thread your machine needs for each stitch!

As a pro tip, make sure you use only the type of bobbin designed to work in your machine. Examine it to ensure that it does not have any chips, bent edges, or cracks. After winding, check to see if the thread around the bobbin looks smooth and perfect, just like it does on the spool of thread.

Start by winding the bobbin, following the steps described earlier in this article.Remove the loaded bobbin from the winding pin and use scissors to cut the thread.For a front-loading bobbin, open up the hatch and remove the bobbin casing. Hold the bobbin so that the tail of the thread hangs to the right–it will look like the letter “q”. Insert the bobbin and slot the thread through the slit in the case.Place the case back into the rotary hook mechanism in the machine.For a top-loading bobbin, push the lever or button to release the slide or cover over the bobbin area. Hold the bobbin with the thread tail facing up at you and pointing slightly to the right. Drop the bobbin into the round hole in the horizontal bobbin casing.The only tricky part with a top-loading bobbin is looping the tail of thread around the curved ledge that forms a half-circle around the bobbin.For both types of bobbins, use the handwheel to bring the needle down and then back up.Watch to make sure that the rotary hook lifts the bobbin thread and brings it up beneath the presser foot.

Why is My Bobbin Thread Not Catching?

If you have your machine threaded, start to sew, and then discover that the bobbin thread will not form stitches, check out these helpful tips to fix the problem!

First, rethread the machine. Cut the upper thread and gently tug it down out of the needle. Take the bobbin out and then slot it back into place. More than 50% of all sewing machine troubles will go away with a simple re-threading!Next, check to see if you placed the thread through the needle in the right direction.Examine the bobbin to see if it has any nicks, scrapes, or damage. This could keep it from turning smoothly in its casing.Put in a new needle in case the needle has bent or skewed slightly and no longer comes down in the right place.

Common Sewing Machine Thread Troubleshooting

Now that you know how to thread your sewing machine check out the common sewing machine troubleshooting techniques to avoid any basic problems!

Broken threads, a bobbin thread that won’t catch, or snagged fabric could all happen because of blunted or damaged needles. To fix this, simply replace the needle with a new one.Tangled thread jamming up beneath the fabric almost always happens because the upper thread does not have the correct tension. Try rethreading your machine and then test sew a few inches to see if you have fixed the issue.Another common issue you may encounter is that the machine skips over stitches as it sews. Can you see lots of thread gaps on the fabric? To solve this problem, rethread the machine, and make sure the thread tail comes off the bobbin in the correct direction. You may also need to use a different needle because the wrong shape or size of the needle could pass through fabric too slowly, throwing off the timing of the stitching process.If your needle comes unthreaded every time you try to sew, you should rethread the machine, but with one key detail in place: Make sure you raise the needle to its highest point before you start threading. Then, when you begin to sew, lightly hold the thread tails to the back of the machine in one hand.

Conclusion

Threading your sewing machine correctly is the most important thing you can do to provide a fun and easy sewing experience. All sewing machines use two thread sources: an upper thread from the spool and a lower thread from a bobbin. Your machine provides a thread path that shows where to place the upper thread and a bobbin casing to hold the bobbin.

Your sewing machine owner’s manual will provide diagrams and instructions with details specific to the make and model of your machine. You should always reference this guide for details like which direction to thread the needle.