How to Thread a Sewing Machine

Plus, how each part of the the machine can affect tension, snagging fabric, or a broken needle.

woman using a sewing machine
Photo: photoguns / Getty Images

If you're new to your sewing machine, even the simple task of threading the machine can seem daunting. But with practice and habitual use, it becomes an intuitive process. First and foremost, it's important to understand the anatomy of your sewing machine and all its parts. Each part has its individual name and function. The look and placement of these parts will vary depending on the model of your machine, so always consult your manufacturer's manual for instructions. But all in all, the mechanism for making a stitch by machine is the same—it combines the needle thread with a second thread coming from the bobbin.

Wind the Bobbin

Before threading the machine itself, you will need a full bobbin. To do this, place your spool of thread onto the spool pin, which is a small dowel at the top of your machine. You will want the strand of thread to release from the spool in a counter-clockwise motion, so turn the pin with the thread towards the back.

Next, pull a strand of thread and wind it around the bobbin winder tension disk; this helps guide the thread between the spool and the winder. Thread the bobbin by taking the tail end of the thread and inserting it through one of the holes in the bobbin; then, wrap the thread around the bobbin a few times to secure it. Place the bobbin onto the bobbin pin and begin winding the bobbin by gently pressing down on the foot controller. The winder may stop on its own when the bobbin is full; however, if it doesn't, then stop when the thread is about even with the edge of the bobbin spool. Remove the bobbin and set it aside as this will be used to thread the lower half of your machine.

Thread the Upper Half of the Machine

This step starts similarly to winding the bobbin. Take a strand of thread from your spool pin and wind it around the bobbin winder tension disk and around the U-shaped thread guides, following the directional arrows on your sewing machine; these metal loops help regulate the tension of the thread. Wrap the thread around the take-up lever, which will create a narrow, sideways S-shaped with the thread. Thread the needle of your sewing machine and put the end underneath the presser foot. (It's worth noting that some machines have an automatic needle threader.)

Thread the Lower Half of the Machine

Remove the throat plate, which sits below the needle and presser foot. Unwind a few inches of thread from the bobbin, enough to catch when you turn the handwheel, and place the bobbin into the open compartment; replace the bobbin cover. The bobbin thread is still hiding under the plate below the needle. To bring out the end of it, grasp the handwheel on the side of your sewing machine and rotate it towards you a few times; the end of the thread should pop out. Take hold of it and pull so that a few inches of the thread are exposed. You're now ready to start your next sewing project.

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