An Ultimate Guide to Bobbins

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Hey, you!

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 form 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 post, you will learn about the three most common bobbin styles, how to wind a bobbin, and how to insert a bobbin in its case.

NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!

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)

three class 15 bobbins: 2 filled and 1 empty

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.

And because the L style bobbin is about the same diameter as the Class 15, it can be used in Class 15 sewing machines.

However, the Class 15 bobbin cannot be used in L Style sewing machines, because the Class 15 are a little too tall.

M Style

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

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 many machines have a helpful diagram on the top of the machine of how to properly wind the bobbin.

Please, please refer to your sewing machine manual to learn exactly how to wind your bobbin properly. But here is the general way it goes…

how to wind a bobbin

Here’s how…

  1. Bring the thread on the spool pin around the bobbin tension winder thread guide. The thread should snap in place on the tension winder thread guide — this is key for a properly wound bobbin.
  2. Take an EMPTY bobbin and insert the thread through the hole from the underside.
  3. Hold on to the thread as you place the bobbin on the bobbin winder shaft.
  4. Then, push the bobbin shaft over to the right to engage the bobbin winding system.
  5. Lift the presser foot.
  6. Now, still holding the thread firmly and straight up in the air, press the foot pedal at a moderate speed and allow the winder to make a few revolutions. Alternatively, you could press the Stop/Start button if you have one.
  7. Once the thread has wrapped around the bobbin a few times, stop and trim the thread close to the bobbin with your thread snips.
  8. Now, continue filling the bobbin as much as you would like. The bobbin winder will stop automatically when the bobbin is full.
  9. Remove your foot from the foot pedal. Push the bobbin shaft to the left to disengage the bobbin winding system.
  10. Cut the thread and remove the filled bobbin.

Please, keep the following in mind…

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

And the best way to get an evenly wound bobbin is to wind your bobbins at a moderate speed.

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!

By the way…

Here is the ugliness that can result from not properly placing your thread around the bobbin tension winder thread guide:

gnarly hot mess of tangled thread as a result of improperly winding a bobbin

Not pretty!

Sew easy tip: On some sewing machines you have to pull the handwheel outward to engage the bobbin winding system. And after the bobbin is wound, you will need to press the handwheel inward to re-engage the sewing machine mechanism. Please, refer to your sewing machine manual!

Types of Bobbin Cases

top-loading bobbin on the left and front-loading bobbin on the right

There are two types of bobbin cases:

  • Top-loading is located directly under the presser foot.
  • Front-loading is usually hidden behind the removable accessory storage box. You have to remove your accessory storage box to access the bobbin area.

How to Load or Insert a Bobbin (Lower Threading)

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 is the general way it goes…

comparison of direction to hold wound bobbin to insert in top loading and front loading machines

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

Top-Loading Bobbin Case

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

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

To begin, drop the filled bobbin in and hold it in place with the index finger of your right hand until you’ve threaded the bobbin:

how to insert a top-loading bobbin

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

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

diagram on bobbin cover of how to insert drop in or top-loading bobbin

  • There is a handy diagram right on the bobbin case cover of how to insert the bobbin properly; and
  • The cover is clear, so you can keep a check on how much bobbin thread you have left as you sew.

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. And 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) so that the thread makes a “Q” shape.

how to insert a front-loading bobbin

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.

Now, how is simple was that?!

How to Care for Your Bobbins

It is 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.

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


bobbin storage ring

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.

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!

dirty q-tip after cleaning sewing machine

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

Here’s how:

  1. Just take a clean cotton swab and add just a tiny bit of high-quality sewing oil. You definitely do NOT want to soak the cotton swab with oil.
  2. Then, remove the bobbin and clean the case with the swab until it is totally lint free once again.

Done. And done.

Sew easy tip: If more extensive housekeeping is needed, you will need to unscrew the set screw(s) on your needle plate to remove it, so you can get in to do a deep clean.

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to deep clean your sewing machine.

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.

Yay! We’re getting closer and closer to actually sewing something on our new best friend forever (BFF).

And remember…

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

RELATED: Click HERE to learn all the essential sewing tools you need to begin sewing insanely pretty dresses!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn everything you need to know about your sewing machine!

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies!

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