Threading a Sewing Machine

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Threading a sewing machine the wrong way can get you into trouble.

You're very excited about sewing lots of clothes and pretty things, so you go find a machine and decide to get started.

But, the problem is that you don't exactly know where to start. You figure that the first step must be to get some thread in the machine.

Even though all machines are different, their threading process is pretty similar. I'll describe the steps to do it and I'll tell you what each part of your machine is used for.

I will include my sewing machine's threading diagrams to make it easier. I suggest you check your user's manual for more information about your specific model.

Winding the Bobbin

The first step for threading a sewing machine is to wind the bobbin. The bobbin is the little cylinder that you will put thread on. It can be either plastic or metal.

  1. Place a spool of thread on your machine's spool pin and pass the thread around the bobbin winding tension disc.
  2. Your bobbin should have a little hole. Pass the end of the thread through this hole from the inside.
  3. Place the bobbin on the bobbin winding shaft and move it to the right. This will deactivate the needle so it doesn't move when you're filling the bobbin.
  4. Hold the end of the thread and press the foot control gently. The bobbin will spin and the thread will start to wind around it. Stop after a few turns.
  5. Trim the excess thread sticking out from the top of the bobbin. Press the foot control again to continue winding. Your machine should stop by itself when the bobbin is full.
  6. Cut the thread, push the shaft to the left and remove the bobbin.
  7. Threading a Sewing Machine

Lower Threading

The first step is done! Now you have to insert the bobbin in the bottom of your machine.

  1. Raise the needle to its highest position by turning the balance wheel towards you.
  2. Raise the presser foot.
  3. Remove the machine's cover to see the bobbin case.
  4. If you look carefully, you'll see that the bobbin case has a latch. Pull it toward you and it will come out.

    Threading a Sewing Machine
  5. Unwind about 4” from the bobbin and insert it in the bobbin case. Pull the thread into the slot until it's below the tension spring.

    Threading a Sewing Machine
  6. Hold the bobbin case by the latch, insert it back into the shuttle race (where you took it out from) and release the latch.
  7. Make sure that the metal finger fits into the notch at the top of the race (like in the first picture).

Upper Needle Threading

The machine uses two threads to sew a stitch, one on the top and one on the bottom. We already have the bottom one, now we need to thread the one that will be going through the needle.

  1. Raise the presser foot and turn the balance wheel until the thread take up is at its highest position.
  2. Place a spool of thread in the spool pin.

    Threading a Sewing Machine
  3. Pass the thread through both thread guides at the top of the machine.

    Threading a Sewing Machine
    Threading a Sewing Machine
  4. Pull the thread down and around the tension control. When you do this, hold the thread at the top.
  5. Take the thread up to the thread take up and insert it in the eyelet.

    Threading a Sewing Machine
    Threading a Sewing Machine Diagram
  6. Bring the thread down and pass it behind the thread guide in the needle.

    Threading a Sewing Machine
  7. Thread the needle from front to back and pull out about 3” of thread.

Drawing Up the Lower Thread

The next step is to bring up the lower thread so that you can start sewing.

  1. Raise the presser foot and the needle to their highest positions.
  2. With your left hand, hold the end of the upper thread. With your right hand turn the balance wheel until it moves down and back up again to its highest position. The upper thread will have pulled up the bottom thread.
  3. Pull the top thread. You will see that it brings up the bottom thread in a large loop. Use a pair of scissors or a needle to completely pull it out.

    Threading a Sewing Machine
    Threading a Sewing Machine
  4. Grab both threads and place them towards the back, under the presser foot.

You're done with the steps for threading a sewing machine, now you can begin to sew.

Thread tension and Stitch Length

Threading a Sewing Machine

Your machine should have two knobs, one for the stitch length and one for the tension. These two settings should be adjusted right after threading a sewing machine and whenever you change fabric or thread type.

Always test these settings with a scrap of fabric to make sure both of them are right.

  • Stitch Length
  • This is set by a knob that has numbers on it. If you increase the numbers, your stitch will be longer, and if you decrease them it'll be shorter. The normal setting is usually 2.5. Use the largest numbers for basting.

  • Tension
  • Thread tension is very important for the quality of your stitches. If you find locks on the upper part of the fabric, the tension is too tight. If they appear on the bottom, the tension is too loose.


Threading is only the first step to using your machine. When you're starting out, sewing can be scary and you may be getting a lot of:

  • Jammed threads
  • Stuck fabrics
  • Broken needles
  • Loose stitches
  • Puckered seams
  • Terrible loops
  • Strange noises


It happened to me. I was very frightened and didn't want to sew because I thought I'd break my machine. The threading was right, but I didn't know that there is much more than that.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across Sewing Machine 911 and found it to be the best option for all those that are eager to get started but are still scared.

This is a free course offered by Craftsy that helps you get intimate with your machine.

It covers everything you need to get started. From knowing what each part is for, the supplies you need, threading a sewing machine, winding the bobbin and even cleaning and maintenance.

It comes in 4 video lessons that you can watch over and over. It also includes a great downloadable chart that has solutions to the most common problems. You can review the lessons as many times as you like, take video notes and even ask questions to your classmates.

Give it a try. Even if you already have some experience, you'll pick up a couple of new tricks. This is the best course to learn about your machine and befriend it! I wish I knew about this when I started sewing.

FREE Online Sewing Class

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