What is a Bobbin? Uses, Instructions, Troubleshooting

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What is a bobbin? At first glance, a novice may think a bobbin is something that bobs up and down. In a sewing machine that is very far from the truth. The bobbin is a small, round, very important, and neat little component used in the threading of the sewing machine. It is stable and enables the threads of the machine to do their work and sew.

What is a BobbinPinWhat is a Bobbin?


What is a Bobbin?What is a Bobbin for Sewing?What is a Bobbin for Knitting?How to Thread a Bobbin in a Sewing MachineHow to Wind a BobbinHow to Insert a BobbinWhat is a Bobbin – TroubleshootingBobbin Thread ProblemsWhat is a Bobbin LoopingWhat is a Bobbin SnappingIncorrectly Loaded BobbinWhat is a Bobbin TensionStuck Bobbin CaseBobbin Case is LooseStrange Bobbin NoisesWhat is a Bobbin FAQsCan You Sew Without a Bobbin?What Holds a Bobbin in Place?Are Metal Bobbins Better than Plastic?Do all Bobbins Fit in All Sewing Machines?What is a Bobbin Winder?What is a Bobbin – In ConclusionMore Sewing Articles

What is a Bobbin?

A bobbin is a small, plastic or metal spool that contains thread and is placed in the lower part of the sewing machine. The bobbin holds the lower thread of the machine. Each stitch is made by catching the bottom thread from the bobbin with the top thread that comes through the needle.

Bobbins are such an essential part of the sewing process you need plenty of them. Each color thread you plan to use on the top of your machine, ideally, should have a bobbin available for the matching thread.

The bobbin thread and the top spool of thread need to be of the same quality to ensure correct tension and neat stitching. Ideally, they should be the same color also but this is not strictly necessary. Keeping a good supply of bobbins just makes sewing easier.

What is a Bobbin for Sewing?

Here are some important facts to note about sewing machine bobbins:

What is a Bobbin FACTS

TYPES – Different brands of machines have different bobbins including plastic bobbins and metal bobbins. There is no one size fits all. When you buy your machine it will come with one or two bobbins of the correct size. There are many different makes of machine and even different ways of inserting the bobbin into its bobbin case. Always refer to your sewing machine instructions manual for more details.DON`T OVERFILL – Plastic bobbins have a tendency to bulge if filled too much. The result of filling the bobbin too full is a bobbin that sticks up and does not fit into the bobbin case accurately. The sewing machine is a precision piece of machinery and the bulging bobbin will upset the mechanics of the machine.DIRECTION – Thread the bobbin carefully to spin in the right direction for the type of machine you are using. Make sure the thread clicks into place to engage with the tension of the bobbin case.LOOSE THREADS – Avoid letting a thread stick up out of the bobbin because it may catch on the machine as the bobbin goes round.SAVE TIME – Buy lots of bobbins if you can because the more you have with the color threads you want the less time you spend threading and winding bobbins.What is a BobbinWhat is a BobbinPinWhat is a Bobbin?

What is a Bobbin for Knitting?

Bobbins are not only found in the sewing machine world. The word bobbin also describes spools and cylinders holding yarn, wire, or string. Weavers and knitters use bobbins.

The word bobbin comes from the French word Bobine meaning a small instrument used in sewing.

How to Thread a Bobbin in a Sewing Machine

When using a bobbin thread it is important to know how to wind a bobbin, how to insert the bobbin, and how to fix those horrid tangled bobbin messes. These are the ones that look a bit like a bird’s nest in your sewing machine.

Winding and inserting a bobbin is very dependent on the make of sewing machine you have. Your instruction booklet will have the directions to follow.

The machine stitching and tension will be affected by a bobbin that is not correctly inserted or wound. Mastering this part of your sewing skills will be part of the demonstration you should receive on purchasing your machine.

How to Wind a Bobbin

I have a full article on how to wind a bobbin but here is the summary:

Remove the old bobbin from its case with the needle in the top position. Make sure the bobbin is completely empty.Disengage the clutch at the side of the machine. Place the empty bobbin on top of the bobbin winder pin. Put the thread spool on the spool pin, around the thread guide, and over to the bobbin. The thread should be in the small hole of the bobbin.Click the bobbin winder to the right and start the foot pedal. This will disengage the clutch so the needle doesn`t go up and down as you are winding. Some brands of machine may have a button instead.Wind until the bobbin is full. Click the bobbin winder to the right and re-engage the clutch.

How to Wind a BobbinHow to Wind a BobbinPinWhat is a Bobbin – WInding

How to Insert a Bobbin

I have a full article on how to thread a sewing machine but here is a summary of inserting the bobbin:

Load the wound bobbin into its casing. In some machines, this will be top loaded and others will go into a casing in the front of the machine. Ensure the bobbin thread goes through the tension groove. Turn the flywheel on the side so the needle hooks the top thread with your bobbin. Pull the bobbin thread through.

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What is a Bobbin – Troubleshooting

Check these easy things first to resolve bobbin problems if you think that is the cause of your sewing machine difficulties.

What to do if you are experiencing problems with your bobbin settings and tension:

RETHREAD – Check and rethread the bobbin first and foremost then have a look at other possible problems. It might not necessarily be your bobbin.CLEAN – The bobbin must slot neatly into the bobbin case. No extra threads or fluff should be stuck in the bobbin case. Once the bobbin has been threaded the thread should pull up smoothly ready to be drawn through to the upper side of the machine with the needle thread.NEEDLES – Check your sewing machine needle. Are you using the correct needle for the fabric you are working with? A needle that is too thin may bend easily and upset your tension. Check the needle you have in case it is bent. Your needle may be blunt if it has been used often. Although these are not bobbin problems they will affect the tension of your machine. Check you have inserted the needle correctly and tightened the screw in case it has come loose.BOBBIN TYPE – Are you using the right bobbin? It would be an easy mistake to make if you have multiple bobbins or have recently bought a new machine, but have old bobbins lying around. The right bobbin for each make of machine is very important.

Bobbin Thread Problems

When the bobbin thread is not coming up to meet the needle thread:

Check you have returned the bobbin winding spindle back to its neutral position on the machine.  It should no longer be engaged in a position for winding the thread.  Check you are turning the flywheel in the right direction for the needle to catch the bobbin thread and pull it to the surface. 

Make sure the presser foot is up as you connect the needle thread with the bobbin thread to pull it to the surface. If there is a timing issue with this action, and your needle and bobbin are not connecting, this could be a reason for taking the machine to a sewing shop or service depot.

What is a Bobbin Looping

When the bobbin thread is looping on the back of the sewing:

The looping of the bobbin thread on the back of the sewing is actually a problem with the needle sewing machine tension. Whatever happens on the underside of the fabric is connected to the upper or needle tension. When the upper tension is too low then it is not able to pull the bobbin thread up to form a neat stitch.

Take a scrap of the same fabric you plan to sew and test the tension with a higher tension for your needle. Most machines have an average upper tension of between 3 – 5.

Sewing Machine TensionSewing Machine TensionPinWhat is a Bobbin – Sewing Machine Tension

What is a Bobbin Snapping

If the threads are bunching and snapping:

Poor quality thread with knots and irregularities will cause bunching or snapping of the thread as it is not able to run smoothly through the bobbin or the needle. Check your thread and although quality thread may cost a little more it is really worth the added expense for a smooth problem-free sewing experience.

Incorrectly Loaded Bobbin

If your bobbin is incorrectly loaded:

Working with machinery, even a small domestic sewing machine, means the mechanics have to be put in place correctly. Some machines have front-loading bobbins and some have side-loading bobbins in a bobbin case. Some bobbins drop in and others have to be fitted. Always check your instruction booklet in case you have not followed the instructions exactly.

What is a Bobbin Tension

If there are bobbin tension problems: (not all makes will have this option)

If your bobbin is inserted into a bobbin case that clicks into the machine after you have loaded it, you can check the tension by holding the bobbin by its thread. The bobbin and thread should just hang loosely for the tension to be right. If the thread snaps it is too tight, if the bobbin runs down to the ground it is too loose.

Your bobbin will have a little screw to adjust the tension. It is a very small screw and only needs tightening or loosening a little bit at a time. Think of it as if you were looking at a clock without numbers. Turn a five-minute interval to tighten or loosen the tension. Turn the screw clockwise to loosen the tension and anticlockwise to tighten the tension. You should have a tiny screwdriver in your box of gadgets that came with your machine.

When you thread the bobbin make sure your thread is pointing in the direction your bobbin case turns. 

What is a Bobbin - MetalWhat is a Bobbin - MetalPinWhat is a Bobbin – Metal

Stuck Bobbin Case

If the bobbin case or bobbin is stuck and does not want to turn:

This could be more serious, but before you rush off to a repair shop take off the bottom plate of the machine and check there is no lint or unwanted threads bunched up under the plate. A little stiff brush is a useful thing to have to sweep out the bobbin casing and check for any unwanted threads. There could be a broken pin or the tip of a broken needle you will want to remove. Your box of gadgets should have a pair of long pointed tweezers to help remove obstructions.

Bobbin Case is Loose

If the bobbin case is loose:

If you notice your bobbin case is loose it could just be a problem with inserting it incorrectly and not hearing that ‘click’ as it settles into the right spot. 

Turn the fly or handwheel towards you until the needle reaches its highest point. Then check if the bobbin is clicked in place and not moving around. Make sure the needle is not hitting the bobbin case by slowly turning the wheel and watching the needle go down into the bobbin area. If the problem continues after you have tried everything, take the machine to a repair shop for a further inspection.

Strange Bobbin Noises

If you hear strange noises coming from the bobbin:

Your sewing machine is precision-made and designed to make gentle whirring noises. If you hear something suspicious and you have done everything recommended in the points above then, rather than getting frustrated and fiddling too much, it is best to take your machine to a technician or to the supplier where you bought the machine. If there is a technical problem your machine could still be under warranty and fiddling with it could cause further damage.

What is a BobbinWhat is a BobbinPinWhat is a Bobbin

What is a Bobbin FAQs

Can You Sew Without a Bobbin?

Home sewing machines are always made to function with a bobbin. So no you can`t sew without a bobbin. Not only will you need a bobbin to sew, but it must be the correct size and type for your machine brand and make.

What Holds a Bobbin in Place?

A bobbin is held in place by a bobbin case. This may be fixed to the machine or may be a removable part. The bobbin case holds tension in the thread coming from the bobbin and is an integral part of your sewing machine.

Are Metal Bobbins Better than Plastic?

Both metal and plastic bobbins have their pros and cons. You don`t get to choose whether to insert a metal or plastic bobbin into your machine as it will only take one or the other. Plastic bobbins can distort more easily but are cheaper.

Do all Bobbins Fit in All Sewing Machines?

No, they don`t! Your machine will take a very specific type and size of the bobbin and will not work if you substitute another style. Always consult your machine manual or check with the manufacturer. Bobbins are relatively cheap so once you find the right one, stock up.

What is a Bobbin Winder?

A bobbin winder is a part of your sewing machine, specifically designed to wind your bobbin. The winder will rotate to wind thread from a large spool onto the smaller bobbin that will be inserted in the bottom of your sewing machine.

What is a Bobbin – In Conclusion

Remember to always keep your sewing machine clean and well oiled to ensure a smooth ride. Your sewing machine and the bobbin need love and care to give you the best performance. In other words, if you want your machine to go bobbin along merrily like the song ‘Red Red Robin’ you will want to hear the sweet song of a machine whirring away happily. Then you’ll have no need to be sobbing ‘cos your bobbin is not running perfectly.

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