An Ultimate Guide to Bobbins

In this article, you will learn the three common types of bobbins; how to do a bobbin pre-check; how to wind a bobbin; the two most common types of bobbin cases; how to load a filled bobbin in its case; and the importance of cleaning the bobbin area and how.

Do you know one of the first steps to getting to know your sewing machine?

Well, it is learning how to wind and insert a bobbin.

You see…

In order to form a stitch (aka lockstitch), you need two things working together:

  1. the needle or spool thread; and
  2. the bobbin thread.

When you make a stitch with your sewing machine, the needle thread is lowered into the bobbin case. It catches on the bobbin hook and is brought around to loop around the bobbin thread and forms a stitch.

Yes, it is the incredibly simple action of the needle thread and bobbin thread interlinking that allows us to create insanely pretty dresses.

In this article, you will learn about the three most common bobbin styles, tips on winding an evenly wound bobbin, and how to insert a bobbin into its case.

Bobbin Rules

Rule #1: Buy the bobbins that are specifically recommended for your machine! Your sewing machine is only designed to use ONE style of bobbin! Please refer to your sewing machine manual.

Rule #2: ALWAYS start with an empty bobbin. This is key to making sure you end up with an evenly wound bobbin.

Rule #3: Clean the bobbin case after each project. I can’t stress this enough: A clean machine is a happy machine.

Rule #4: Wind at least two bobbins for larger projects. There is nothing more annoying than running out of bobbin thread in the middle of a project and having to stop and wind a new one.

The Three Most Common Bobbin Styles

Apparently, there are over 60 different bobbin styles. Who knew?!

But there are three bobbin styles that are most common to 95% of all home sewing machines. So, let’s learn what those are…

Class 15 (A Style)

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

The Class 15 bobbin is about the size of an American nickel.  And they come in plastic or metal.

And I think it is safe to say that this style is probably the most common bobbin style you will come across.

I remember the metal ones from my mum’s vintage Singer sewing machine. But these days the plastic ones are more common.

Sew easy tip: Not all machines that call for class 15 bobbins will like class 15 metal bobbins. For example, Janome, Elna, Bernina, Viking, and Pfaff machines may not. So don’t assume. Double-check!

L Style

The L Style bobbin is also about the size of an American nickel. It comes in aluminum, plastic, and Magna-glide core.

Apparently, because aluminum bobbins are lighter, you can wind them faster. But I’m not sure how much of a bonus feature this is since it doesn’t take long to wind any bobbin.

M Style

The M Style bobbin is kind of large–about the size of an American quarter. This is the bobbin style used in some Babylock sewing machines.

Bobbin Pre-Check

Every time you wind an EMPTY bobbin or insert a bobbin into its case, take the time to do a pre-check:

Simply, glide a finger along the edges of your bobbin to check the integrity of your bobbin.

You want to make sure that there are no nicks or other inconsistencies that could throw a wrench in your zeal to sew insanely pretty dresses.

How to Wind a Bobbin

Winding a bobbin is super easy. And most machines have a helpful diagram on the top side of the machine on how to properly wind the bobbin.

Because each sewing machine manufacturer’s method can vary, please, please refer to your sewing machine manual to learn exactly how to wind your bobbin properly.

In the next three images, see who three different sewing machine manufacturers vary in how they instruct you to wind a bobbin properly for their machine. The blue arrow points to the bobbin winder tension thread guide.

This is an example of the “how-to wind a bobbin” diagram found on sewing machines…

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

The actual way that you wind a bobbin will vary with sewing machine manufacturer. It typically varies in the way in which they want you to place the spool thread around the bobbin tension winder thread guide.

And they can even vary how you engage the bobbin winding system on their machine. This is why it is so important that you refer to the sewing machine manual for your machine!

But I would like to offer the following bobbin winding tips so that you end up with an properly wound bobbin:

  • Make sure you begin with an EMPTY bobbin.
  • Make sure that the thread “clicks” in place on the tension winder thread guide (see the blue arrow in the images above).
  • Wind your bobbins at a moderate speed — this is one of the best ways to end up with an evenly wound bobbin. This is especially important if you’re using 100% polyester thread. Because 100% polyester thread has elasticity–and you don’t want the thread to get stretch out!

A bobbin that is wound unevenly will later give you tension headaches as you sew!

Now, let’s move on to…

Types of Bobbin Cases

The two most common types of bobbin cases are…

  • Top-loading, which is located directly under the presser foot
  • Front-loading, which is hidden in a compartment behind the removable flatbed attachment

Here is an example of a front-loading bobbin…

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

And here is an example of a top-loading bobbin with its cover removed…

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

How to Load or Insert a Bobbin (Lower Threading)

Inserting a filled bobbin into the bobbin case is just as easy as winding a bobbin.

Again, please, please refer to your sewing machine manual to learn exactly how to load your properly wound bobbin into your sewing machine.

But here are some general tips…

Top-Loading Bobbin Case

These days, most modern home sewing machines have top-loading bobbin cases.

Here’s a handy diagram that is my sewing machine to assist with loading the bobbin correctly…

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

Pretty handy, right?!

The three things that I love about top loading bobbins are:

  1. There is a handy diagram right on the bobbin case cover or nearby on how to insert the bobbin properly;
  2. The cover is clear, so you can keep a check on how much bobbin thread you have left as you sew; and
  3. They are less likely to jam than front-loading bobbins!

If your sewing machine has a top-loading (or drop-in) bobbin case, you will hold the wound bobbin so that the thread comes off to the LEFT (or counterclockwise), making a “P” shape, as you insert the wound bobbin into its case.

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

With most computerized machines, after you’ve loaded you bobbin into the case, you can go ahead and replace the cover to the bobbin area.

And if you’ve inserted the bobbin correctly, when you pull on the thread, it will spin counter-clockwise.

And you’re done!

Front-Loading Bobbin Case

If your sewing machine has a front-loading bobbin case, you will need to raise the needle to the highest position by turning the handwheel towards you or pressing the needle position button. And then, remove the accessory storage box to access the bobbin case.

You will hold the bobbin spool so that the thread comes off to the right (or clockwise), making a “Q” shape. See image above for clarification.

When you place the bobbin case back into its housing, you should hear a click.

If you’ve done this properly, the bobbin will spin clockwise when you pull on the thread.

Click HERE for an short video on how to insert a wound bobbin into a front-loading sewing machine!

Now, how is simple was that?!

Sew easy tip: As a beginner, you should have NO reason to tamper with the factory setting of your bobbin case!

How to Clean Your Bobbin Case

As I’ve said before and I’ll say it again…

Sewing machines loathe lint and dust!

In fact, they find lint and dust so loathsome that they will rudely grind to a halt when it all gets to be too much for them to bear!

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

So clean your bobbin case, the surrounding area, and feed dogs after every major project if you want to be the owner of a happy sewing machine!

Here’s how:

Step 1: Remove the bobbin cover and/or throat plate.

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

Remove the bobbin cover and the throat plate or needle plate cover. For some machines this is one piece (throat plate) and for other brands it is two pieces (needle plate cover). Refer to your sewing machine manual!

If I am going to do a serious deep cleaning, then I go ahead and remove the presser foot and presser foot adaptor too. See the image above.

Step 2: Lift the bobbin case out of its compartment.

Then, lift the bobbin case out of its compartment.

Set everything aside. Set your screws on their heads to stop to from taking a “walk…”

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

Step 3: Apply a tiny dab of sewing machine oil.

Next, apply a tiny dab of high-quality sewing oil to a clean cotton swab. You definitely do NOT want to soak the cotton swab with oil!

Step 4: Swab the bobbin case, its compartment, and the feed dogs free of lint.

Now, swab the bobbin case until lint free. Then, swab inside area where the bobbin case resides and the feed dogs, those tiny “feet” under the presser foot, until they too are lint free.

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins
I am clean.

Depending on how linty the area is, you may have to use more than one cotton swab.

Step 5: Replace bobbin case, bobbin case cover and throat plate.

Now, replace your bobbin case into tits compartment, matching the triangle to the dot or triangle to triangle, depending on your machine. (Refer to your sewing machine manual!)

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins
See the white triangle?!

Finally, replace the needle plate and the bobbin cover and you’re ready to sew again!

How to Care for Your Bobbins

It is also important to treat your bobbins and bobbin case with care.

A small nick or other damage to either the bobbin or the bobbin case could cause skipped stitches or thread bird nests.

Ultimate Guide to Sewing Bobbins

So how do you take care of your bobbin and bobbin case?

Easy. Give them their own digs!

I bought this bobbin storage organizer to show my bobbins some love. But there are many options. So I recommend you find one you like and buy it!

The End

As you now know, winding and inserting a bobbin is super easy.

Always start with an EMPTY bobbin.

Also, take your time and wind your bobbins evenly and smoothly.

Finally, your bobbins deserve a safe home.

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!