How to Thread a Sewing Machine: Basic Tutorial to Get You Started

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Cover Image: How to Thread a Sewing Machine

How do you thread a sewing machine? It is a thing to dread if you’re just learning how to use one. Depending on the type of sewing machine that you own, the process can be either super simple, or complicated (at least for beginners). The proper way to thread a sewing machine typically different from one model to another, but we’re going to give you the basic know-how so that you can do this all by yourself.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Before you start learning how to thread your sewing machine, always consult the user manual that came with it. Since sewing machine models differ from one another, you can avoid plenty of frustration by reading the manual before you actually start winding the bobbin or threading the machine. However, all machines have virtually the same components which are usually placed in the same spots. Because of that, the step-by-step instructions listed below should be perfectly valid and applicable to your new home sewing machine.

Step One: How to wind the bobbin

White Singer Sew Mate on the top of the table

  • Start by checking the top side of your machine, as it may have a diagram on how to place the thread spool. This information should also be mentioned in the user manual of your machine model. This first step requires that you place the thread spool on the spool pin.
  • Once the spool is in place, pull out the loose end of the thread.
  • There should be a winding tension disc located on the top side of the machine. Pull the thread around this tension disc. Typically, this winding tension disc is located on the top side of your machine, above the needle. Depending on the machine you own, there might also be a small wire that’s meant to hold the thread in place.

Step Two: Threading the bobbin

a close up shot of a hand threading the bobbin

  • The second step requires threading the bobbin, which should have several holes in it, indicating where the thread needs to go. Threading the bobbin is a two-step process. You must first pass the end of the thread through the holes in the bobbin, and then wrap the thread around the bobbin, in order to secure it. Alternatively, you can opt for pre-threaded bobbins which are typically found in craft stores.

Step Three: Wind the bobbin

  • Once there is a thread in an around your bobbin, you can place it on the bobbin pin. This pin is most likely located on the top side of the machine, in the proximity of the spool pin.
  • When the bobbin is in place, you have to slide the pin to the right. This will secure the bobbin in place but also prepare it for winding. If the bobbin is locked in place, you should hear some sort of audio cue, like a click.

focus shot of orange thread and the top bobbin

  • Now it’s time to start the bobbin winder. If your machine has a foot pedal, you can press the pedal down for a few seconds to start winding. Alternatively, you can also press the bobbin winding button, but note that this isn’t a feature available on all sewing machines. Once this step is complete, the thread should now be wrapped around the bobbin.
  • In order to finish winding the bobbin, press the foot pedal again, or simply flip the winder back. Depending on the type of machine you own, it may automatically stop once the bobbin is full (the edge of the bobbin is even with the quantity of thread now wrapped around it).
  • Once the bobbin is full, you can now remove it from the pin. You can slide the pin to the left in order to unlock it. Unless you’ve run out of thread when winding the bobbin, then it is still most likely attached to the spool, which means that you need a pair of scissors to cut it. Leave a short tail so that you will be able to find the end faster.

Step Four: How to thread your machine’s upper side

Top view of white Singer Sew Mate on the top of the table

  • Now it’s time to actually start threading the machine. Place the thread spool in the color of your choice on the pin that’s located on the top side of the machine.
  • Pull the end of the thread and wrap it around the thread guide. The thread guide is most likely a metallic silver piece that’s sticking out from the top of your machine. Be careful: you want the thread to come from the backside of the thread guide to the front. Depending on your sewing machine model, there might be a diagram printed guiding you through the proper locations for the thread to pass through.
  • Check your machine for directional arrows that point towards the area of the needle. These directional arrows will indicate how you’re supposed to pull the thread.
  • What you want to do now is to pull the thread towards you a little bit, and then loop it around the tension discs located at the bottom, and back to the top side of the machine. The end result should be a thread in the shape of a very narrow U.

close up shot of a hand inserting a thread into the needle

  • For the next step, you will have to identify the take-up lever. The user manual of your sewing machine should show you exactly where it is. For reference, know that the take-up lever is usually located in the second thread guide, and has the shape of a metal piece that sticks out. The top side of this metal piece has a hole cut out, which is where you’re supposed to pass the needle. Basically, you’re looking to finish your narrow U by wrapping the thread around the take-up lever and then bringing it back down towards the needle area.
  • If you’ve completed these steps correctly, you should have a narrow sideways S with your thread.
  • Now it’s time to pass the thread through the needle. Pull the thread towards the area of the needle. You should notice a small eye in the needle: pass your thread through it, pulling it on the other side. For instructions on how to thread a double needle, check our guide here.
  • Now pass the thread through the small gap that’s located in the presser foot. This completes the final step of threading the upper part of your sewing machine.

Step Five: How to thread your machine’s lower side

a sewing machine with an opened bobbin area on the top of the table

  • The last series of instructions refer to threading the lower side of the sewing machine. Your lower compartment comes with a cover that’s usually in the form of a small trap door, typically located below the needle (on some machine models, it can be on the front side of the needle). You will have to remove this trap door in order to expose the bobbin chamber.
  • Put the bobbin you threaded in the first part of this tutorial in this chamber, but make sure that you unwind a few inches of the thread first you do so. You will need to make sure that underneath the compartment cover there is no additional cover that could further conceal the right spot of the bobbin.

bobbin with thread on the top of the table

  • Pull the end of the thread so that you can unwind a few inches from the bobbin. As you turn the handwheel later, you will need the thread to catch, so make sure that you’ve unwound enough.
  • Most modern machines now come with a diagram or some sort of indicator that will show you how to position the bobbin in the compartment correctly. The thread should be going in the direction indicated on this diagram. Remember to consult the technical manual of the machine in case you’re not sure how to place the bobbin. If you’ve positioned the bobbin correctly, you should be able to unwind it by pulling the end of the thread while the bobbin stays in place. Make sure that you put back or close all covers once this step is complete.

close up shot of the opened bobbin area

  • On the right side of your machine, there should be a handwheel. When you turn it, the sewing machine should expose the bobbin thread. When you see the end of the thread coming out, grab it with your left hand and pull in gently, exposing a few inches. If you notice that the thread isn’t catching, there could be a problem with the thread being too full, in which case you’ll have to unwind some of it.


a close up shot of the bobbin area and a hand pulling a thread

Threading a sewing machine is a process that will seem complicated the first few times you try it. There’s no shame in fiddling with this activity for a while until you get the hang of it. Make sure that you practice threading the machine and using it on pieces of fabric that you can afford to ruin at first.

The entire threading process should be explained in the user manual that came with the machine. Note that some of the steps differ depending on the model of your sewing machine, but the overall components and placements are similar in most cases. Now that you have your sewing machine threaded, why not try out some basic sewing projects.