How to Thread a Sewing Machine (Step-By-Step)

instruction for threading sewing machine
Date Modified: July 16, 2022

An experienced sewer can tell you that once you’ve learned to thread one sewing machine, no matter the brand or model, any future machines will be elementary to figure out.

All sewing machines operate based on the same mechanical engineering requirements. The differences come as designers combine functional parameters and creative options.

As you learn to thread your machine, think about what each guide and tensioner means to the correct function of the device. In the future, your next machine will follow the same necessary route to achieve its sewing purpose. 

How to Thread a Sewing Machine

Step 1: Choose Your Thread and Needle

Check your pattern or other resources to determine the best thread for your project. Now is also an excellent time to change the needle if need be. Your machine’s instruction manual will show how to correctly remove and insert the needle.

Step 2: Place the Thread Properly in the Machine

Varying machine models may have a vertical or horizontal thread mounting pin. If yours is a vertical pin, all you have to do is plop the spool of thread down on it, and you’re ready to go. 

Horizontal thread pins have a spool cap to securely hold the spool while sewing. And because the space allowed for thread mounted horizontally can be more limited, there may also be a removable bottom cap to accommodate slightly larger spools. A separate spool holder will be needed if you want to use oversized thread spools with a horizontally-mounted thread pin.

Another helpful hint for horizontal thread pins: beware the cut in one side of the spool where the manufacturer inserts the thread end, then secures it under the label. Thread can become caught in that almost invisible cut and cause no end of trouble, especially for beginners who don’t know why their thread keeps breaking.

Turn the end of the spool with the cut away from the feeding end to save yourself from future frustration. Marking the cut with a permanent marker will make it easier to see.

Step 3: Fill the Bobbin

In most models, the machine must be unthreaded to fill the bobbin. For this reason, it just makes sense to fill the bobbin before threading the rest of the machine. 

Again, consult your owner’s manual for bobbin instructions. Wind the thread around the bobbin a few times to secure it in place, then place it on the bobbin pin on the top of the machine and push it over to engage the bobbin-fill setting.

Some models wind the thread clockwise, others counterclockwise. An arrow may indicate direction at the pin, or your manual will instruct which way to mount the bobbin. You’ll know immediately if you’ve mounted it wrong. No problem. Just untangle the mess and mount the bobbin the other way.

Once the bobbin is filled, go ahead and place it in the machine (or bobbin case first). Leave the cover off or open and several inches of thread hanging out until you’ve finished threading the rest of the machine.

Step 4: Upper Thread guide

When threading any sewing machine, think: Guide, Down, Up, Guide, Needle–and you’ve got it! The first guide will grab hold of the thread as it’s flying wildly off the needle and hold it steady  as it follows along the remaining track. 

If you’re unsure what to look for, consult your owner’s manual or look up your brand and model online. If you miss this guide, the thread may be pulled out of the tension discs below, and then the machine will not sew.

Step 5: Tension Discs–the Downward Trek

The thread must be inserted snuggly between the tension discs, or the machine will not sew correctly, if at all. The discs are generally located in a vertical slot down the front of the machine. 

Pull the thread down the slot with a straight, firm motion to ensure it becomes embedded between the tension discs.

Step 6: The Take-Up Lever–and Up We Go Again

After catching the tension discs, it’s time to connect with the take-up lever. This lever has the most apparent movement on the front of the machine. It pulls the thread through the tension discs and feeds it steadily to the needle below. Follow the indicated arrows and loop the thread as indicated around or through the take-up lever.

Step 7: The Needle Guide

Just above the needle, there will be one more needle guide to keep the thread in line as it feeds into the needle area. It’s important not to miss this guide, as it can cause uneven stitching or tangles. 

Every part of the threading process is essential and can impact the machine’s performance. There have been times when I couldn’t find the reason my machine was not sewing correctly, but completely unthreading (including removing and reinserting the bobbin) has fixed the issue. 

Step 8: Thread the Needle

Thread the needle from front to back. Some machines have a helpful threader to assist you, or you can use a common needle threader if needed. Pull several inches of thread through the needle and pull it under the presser foot and away from you.

Step 9: Bring Up the Bobbin Thread

There are very few machines for which this step is unnecessary. Bobbin thread left in the bobbin space below the sewing deck will become tangled. So unless your machine’s owner’s manual tells you specifically not to, always pull the bobbin thread up above the feed dog plate.

Hand crank the machine through one cycle until the needle is back up above the presser foot, and a small amount of bobbin thread can be seen below the presser foot, looped around the upper thread.

Use a seam ripper or small ruler to pull the threads to the side, then finish pulling the bobbin thread up from below. Now close the bobbin area. 

It’s always a good idea to do a test run with a scrap of your project’s fabric to check tension and stitch settings. If the machine is stitching smoothly, congratulate yourself. You are now an expert sewing machine threader.

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