In this article you will learn how to check sewing machine needle quality; how to change a sewing machine needle; how to thread and unthread a sewing machine; how to draw up the bobbin thread manually; what sound a dull needle makes; how to discard a dull needle safely, and so much more.
Can you believe it?! You’re this close to actually getting to the fun part. Sitting down in front of your sewing machine and practicing how to sew!
It has been quite been a journey! So far, you’ve learned…
- the essential sewing tools and supplies you need to begin;
- how to buy the perfect sewing machine for you;
- the anatomy of your sewing machine;
- the ergonomics of sewing; and
- how to wind and insert a bobbin.
Stay with me as we learn…
- How to change your sewing machine needle
- How to thread your sewing machine
- How to draw up your bobbin thread
Let’s start with a few rules…
Threading: The Rules
I know that I’ve shared these rules with you before, but they bear repeating…
Rule #1: Learn your machine. Learn your machine. Learn your machine. And the best way to do that is to read your manual from cover to cover! Then, keep it right next to your sewing machine always!
Rule #2: New project, new needle. Period.
Rule #3: When your sewing machine becomes demon possessed (and it will), make sure it is clean. Then, unplug it. Plug it back in. And rethread! This has successfully chased those sewing demons out of my sewing room nine times out of 10 so that I can get back to sewing.
But before we learn how to thread our machines, let’s learn how to change our sewing machine needle…
How to Change a Sewing Machine Needle
This is ridiculously easy!
First, check the quality of your new needle by doing two things:
Step 1: Check your new needle for defects by holding the butt of the needle between the fingers of one hand and running the fingers of the other hand up and down the entire length of the needle’s shaft.
Step 2: Next, place the needle on a flat surface to check the clearance. The clearance between the needle and the flat surface should be consistent from the shoulder to the point. There should be no gaps! See the image above for clarification.
Yes, even a new sewing machine needle can have defects!
Now, you’re ready to insert your new sewing machine needle. And all you have to do is…
Step 3: Raise the needle to its highest position either by pressing the needle position button to bring the needle up. Or you can turn your hand wheel one full revolution towards you until the needle and takeup lever are in their highest position.
Step 4: Next, lift the presser foot.
Step 5: Now, turn the sewing machine OFF! Please!
Step 6: Place a small square of fabric or paper underneath the presser foot over the hole and feed dogs. You don’t want the needle to accidentally fall into the hole on the needle plate as you remove the old needle and insert the new one!
Step 7: Then, remove the presser foot so that you can remove and insert the new needle easily and without incident.
Step 8: Next, hold the old needle firmly as you turn the needle clamp screw, using the screwdriver that came with your sewing machine. You want to loosen it just enough to release the needle. (On my machine, I turn the needle clamp screw towards me to loosen.)
Step 9: Wrap the point of the old needle with Scotch tape and discard it. You can store old needles in a used prescription bottle until it is full and then discard.
Step 10: Now, hold the new needle with the flat side of the shank facing towards the back of the machine and away from you.
Step 11: And push the needle up into the needle bar as far as it will go.
Step 12: Finally, turn the needle clamp screw in the opposite direction used in step 6 to tighten.
Step 13: Replace the presser foot. And you’re done!
Wasn’t that simple?!
Sew easy tip: And how do you know when a needle is past its expiration date? Well, you can hear it. That is, you will hear THUNK, THUNK, THUNK each time a dull needle pierces the fabric.
The Spool Pin & Spool Cap
Your machine will have either a vertical or a horizontal spool pin and/or both.
This is a horizontal spool pin…
Many machines have only one spool pin on the machine, but provide an additional spool pin that you can install. Here’s an image of an additional spool pin…
Spool Cap Size
Horizontal spool pins require that you use a spool cap. If your machine is designed with horizontal spool pins, you will get at least two or three spool caps in various sizes.
The spool cap makes sure the spool of thread stays put on the spool and plays nice as it rotates.
It is important that you choose the spool cap that most closely matches the size of the spool of thread. Like this…
How to Thread Your Machine (Upper Threading)
As I’ve said before, it is critical to thread your machine properly!
And since I know that you don’t want any of that nonsense, you’re going to commit to learning how to thread your machine properly from the start.
First, you need to check your owner’s manual to determine how to properly place the thread on the spool pin for your machine.
For example, on my machine, when I am using the horizontal spool pin, the thread must unwind from the BOTTOM of the spool. My machine even includes this helpful diagram near the spool pin.
This is how it is done on my machine, you need to check your owner’s manual to make sure how it is done on YOUR machine!
Threading Your Machine
Many sewing machines provide helpful diagrams on the top side of the machine that tells you exactly how to correctly wind your bobbin and thread your machine.
From there, the path is usually numbered for our convenience.
Here’s an example of the diagram on the top side of the machine, starting at #1…
and the numbered pathway…
As I always say, refer to your sewing machine manual for the specifics. But this is how it goes generally…
FIRST, lift the presser foot to OPEN the tension discs so that the thread can fall in between them! Do NOT skip this step!
SECOND, make sure the needle is at its highest position by pressing the needle position button to bring the needle up. Or you can turn your hand wheel one full revolution towards you until the needle and takeup lever is in the highest position.
THIRD, hold the thread taut between your thumb and index finger of your right hand near the spool of thread — this makes it easier to thread your sewing machine. Then, follow the numbers, starting from #1, first thread guide…
FOURTH, bring the thread down the right channel (#2), and then…
FIFTH, under at #3, and…
SIXTH, back up the left channel towards the takeup lever. Hook the thread into the eye of the takeup lever (#4). On some machines, the takeup lever is shy and somewhat hidden.
Okay, you’re almost home…
SEVENTH, once you’ve hooked the thread into the eye of the takeup lever, bring it back down the left channel to the final guide, the needle bar thread guide, which is located right above the needle (#5).
At this point, you’re now ready to thread your sewing machine needle either using your automatic needle threader or manually!
I know that it seems like a lot of steps. But once you’ve done it 10 times, you’ll see how simple and effortless threading your machine is.
Now, let’s thread our needle…
Threading a Sewing Machine Needle
You can use your automatic needle threader. If this is the route, you wish to, I must direct to your sewing machine manual as every machine may handle this differently. On my Babylock Presto II this feature is inspired!
However, if you want to go old school and thread your needle manually, then I’ve got your back.
- Lower your presser foot so that your thread is held taut between the tension discs and you have a bit more space to maneuver in.
- Then, with your shears or embroidery scissors, snip the end of the thread at a 45-degree angle. This will make it so much easier to thread the needle!
- Now, guide your thread through the eye of the needle from front to back.
RELATED: Click HERE for a short but great video on using a built-in needle threader! (No horrible music overlay, I promise!)
Once your sewing machine needle is threaded, it’s time for…
Drawing Up the Bobbin (Lower) Thread
This is the final step to threading your sewing machine!
Once you’ve properly threaded your sewing machine, the only thing left to do is to draw the bobbin thread up.
And this is super easy too! The following instructions are for top-loading sewing machines.
Check out this image of a diagram that is located right next to the bobbin area on one of my sewing machines. Yes, ridiculously, helpful…
FIRST, lift your presser foot and remove the cover to your bobbin area.
SECOND, insert an evenly wound bobbin properly into the bobbin case. Notice in the image above that with top-loading machines, the bobbin thread is on the LEFT when you insert the wound bobbin into the bobbin case.
Click HERE to learn how to insert a bobbin in a front-loading sewing machine!
THIRD, place your index finger on the wound bobbin to hold it steady, and then follow the arrows on your bobbin case and bring your thread around to the little blade and trim the thread.
At this point, with most computerized machines, you can go ahead and replace the cover to the bobbin area. And you’re done!
All you need to do is to begin sewing and your machine will automatically draw the bobbin thread up with the first stitch. Now, that’s way cool!
Manually Drawing up the Bobbin Thread
However, if you have an older sewing machine or a front-loading sewing machine, or you just prefer to do it manually, then this is what you do…
Hold the needle thread and complete a single stitch. You can do this by turning the handwheel one full revolution towards you, lowering the needle and then bringing it back up — essentially you’ve completed ONE stitch.
Or even better and easier still, press the needle position button to lower the needle, and then press it again to raise the needle back up.
Whichever method you choose, just tug gently on the needle thread and you should see the loop of the bobbin thread above the needle plate. Like this…
Now, coax the bobbin thread completely through to the top side of the needle plate. You can use your seam ripper to assist if necessary.
And, finally, replace the cover of your bobbin case, and then bring both the needle thread and the bobbin thread under the presser foot and towards the back of your machine. Like this…
And voila! You are now ready to sew!
Now, wasn’t that simple?!
Sew easy tip: Pressing the needle position button TWICE completes one stitch.
How to Unthread Your Sewing Machine
Unthreading your machine is so easy too.
- Make sure the needle is at its highest position by pressing the needle position button to bring the needle up. Or you can turn your hand wheel one full revolution towards you until the needle and takeup lever are in their highest position.
- Lift the presser foot so that the tension discs are disengaged.
- Clip the thread near the spool of thread.
- Then, pull the thread out from the end near the needle.
That’s it. That’s all!
There are four steps to threading your machine:
- Wind your bobbin;
- Thread your machine;
- Insert your bobbin into the bobbin case; and
- Draw up the bobbin thread.
Now, you can wind your bobbin, change your sewing machine needle, thread your machine, draw your bobbin thread up, and unthread your sewing machine. These are all critical skills for producing high-quality stitching and sewing fuss free!
So I recommend that you repeat the above skills until you are dreaming about them in your sleep and can complete them with your eyes closed.
How many times is that, you ask? Why 10 times ought to be just about right!
Next up, we’ll be learning about stitch type, stitch length and stitch width.
Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!