Are Singer Bobbins and Brother Bobbins Interchangeable?
One great disappointment when buying a new sewing machine is to discover those dozens of bobbins you’ve accumulated for your last machine are incompatible with it. Although a couple of bobbins come close to being universal, no one bobbin fits all devices.
- Top Thread Keeps Getting Wrapped around Bobbin? Here’s Why
- Do Bobbins Need to be Replaced? (What You Should Know!)
How do bobbins work? For us lowly sewers, it’s a mystery. Every sewing machine model has been designed and calibrated with a particular bobbin in mind. And knowing some bobbin facts will help your machine perform better overall.
Plastic vs. Metal
Even if some plastic and metal bobbins appear the same, they cannot be swapped out. The main reason is that metal bobbins are heavier than plastic ones.
Sewing machines are designed and calibrated for consistent bottom-stitch tension. Using a different weight bobbin than the machine was designed for will seriously affect the tension balance, resulting in fabric puckers, broken or tangled thread, and possibly a broken needle.
Sewing machines are amazing feats of engineering. Top and bottom threads wind together with factory precision to create controlled, consistent stitching. It may seem inconvenient to stop and refill the bobbin several times during a major project. However, doing so takes much less time than the hand sewing of pre-machine days, so the pause is undoubtedly worth it, and caution should be taken to fill the bobbin correctly for continued accuracy.
All bobbins are easily affected by being overfilled with thread. Overfilling a plastic bobbin can cause it to bulge. The bobbin may then not fit as easily in the space provided, disrupting the smooth flow of stitches. The bobbin itself may also warp, becoming unusable.
Overfilling metal bobbins can cause the thread to hang up along the inside edges, making the bottom tension too tight or causing thread breakage.
Bobbin Thread Direction
All sewing machines, with or without a bobbin case, require the bobbin to be inserted with the thread flowing in a specific direction. Machine owner’s manuals give instructions for correctly inserting the bobbin into the bobbin case or machine.
Sizes for Singer, Brother, and Other Brands
Will your Singer bobbins fit your new Brother machine or vice versa? Only your owner’s manual can tell you that. I have yet to be so blessed that a new machine was compatible with my old bobbins, but it does happen.
One of the most universal bobbins is the Class 15. There are both Singer and Brother machines that use this versatile size. In fact, only a few Brother models do not use it, and many of the newer Singer and Bernina models also accept this generically produced plastic bobbin.
There are bobbin size charts available, making it easy to know what bobbin a machine model uses at a glance. Such a chart is helpful when buying a new machine or advertising old bobbins for sale.
Sewers will agree that at least two dozen bobbins are needed to supply the ever-changing color demands of the craft. Although they are not a huge expense, it’s still disappointing to have to start over with building a new bobbin pallet.
If this is a concern and it’s not too late, check the bobbin size used on any prospective new machine before purchasing. If you’ve already purchased a machine and must replace your bobbin supply, there are still some ways to repurpose the old bobbins if you’re not selling or giving them away with the old machine.
Repurposing Old Bobbins
Bobbins have changed drastically since the invention of the sewing machine, and some sewers collect bobbins simply for collecting’s sake. The spool for my 1906 Singer treadle machine is nothing like modern bobbins. There are bobbins made of metal, wood, and plastic, and the history behind them can be fascinating to some.
If you’re not a collector and find yourself with a lot of out-of-date bobbins on your hands, there are ways of putting them to use for sewing and other crafts, such as:
- Organizing small amounts of ribbon, elastic, or brick-a-brack
- Sorting cut embroidery thread for a current project
- Bobbins can be made into unique jewelry pieces (check out Pinterest for this one)
- Use old bobbins for basic colors in a travel sewing repair kit.
- Use still-filled bobbins to make small sewing kits for charity. Old prescription pill bottles are great containers for this. Add some needles, beads for creativity, or buttons for practicality.
- If you can’t think of anything to do with them yourself, offer them to an elementary-aged child. The results may be genuinely imaginative and delightful.