How A Sewing Machine Bobbin Works

The construction of a sewing machine is often intimidating for a novice sewer, endless cogs and wheels layered with tiny parts like thread, needles, and bobbins all working in tandem for a single purpose. A sewing machine bobbin, often mistakenly referred to as a shuttle, is a small spool of thread kept beneath the presser foot of the machine. While the bobbin may appear to be a very simple part, its purpose is integral for having a successful sewing project. A sewing machine bobbin is designed to feed the lower thread, the looper thread, to the bobbin case from which it is maneuvered through the machine’s stitch-forming components.

The bobbin case/bobbin holder helps hold the bobbin in place as it’s being wound with the lower thread. It is inserted into the bobbin slot inside of the main body of the machine. On the underside of the machine’s presser foot, there should be a “T” shaped slot. A flat side of the “T” is meant to hold the bobbin in place while the other side should have a tension adjustment screw. This is used to regulate the lower thread tension. When the bobbin slot is covered, the bobbin should not be able to move freely. It should stay in place as you sew.

Once the bobbin is placed in the bobbin slot, the thread should be inserted through the slot in the side of the bobbin. The same side that is being used for the presser foot should be used to tie the thread onto the bobbin. This can be done a few ways: wrapping it in a figure 8 shape several times or simply tying a knot; the knot will create enough of a friction to hold the thread in place. It is important that the bobbin is wound with thread in the same direction. This is not just the same as the thread coming from the spool, but also so the upper thread and lower thread cross in a figure 8 pattern.

Once the thread is connected to the bobbin, it should be attached to the tension adjustment screw at the back of the presser foot. This adjusts the tension of the thread as it is fed through the machine, allowing it to interlock with the upper thread for the stitch. Too much tension and the thread can become bunched on the bobbin, too little tension and the stitches will become loopy and may not form properly. Once the tension has been adjusted, the bobbin should be re-checked to make sure it is secure.

Once the bobbin is set up, it is ready to be used. As the needle is run through the fabric, the bobbin’s thread is drawn through the needle hole and at the same time the needle’s thread is looped around the bobbin’s thread. This creates a figure 8 pattern where the two threads cross and attach, forming the stitch. The bobbin’s thread is then wound onto the bobbin in a figure 8 pattern. The tension that was set for the thread should remain throughout the sewing process.

As the bobbin’s thread is wound, it should be monitored, as too much thread can cause the bobbin to become bunched. The thread should also be considered when winding the bobbin, as too much can cause the knot to come undone and the thread to slip out of the bobbin. If the bobbin’s thread is running low, the bobbin should be re-wound with extra thread. The bobbin should also be removed from the machine when it’s not in use, to avoid the thread becoming ensnarled or tangled.

Though it may appear to be a simple part, a sewing machine bobbin plays an important role in the functioning of a sewing machine. Not only does it help keep the threads organized and tidy, but it helps create the perfect tension for a beautiful stitch. By following these instructions, the bobbin should be well-prepared and ready to sew.

Advantages of Using a Sewing Machine Bobbin

The use of a sewing machine bobbin provides many advantages to those that sew. One advantage is the evenness of the stitches it creates. As the bobbin is constantly turning, this reduces the chances of the stitches becoming uneven and creates a more consistent stitch throughout the project. In addition, because the bobbin creates a figure 8 stitch, it can hold together multiple layers of fabric with greater strength as opposed to hand stitching.

Another advantage of using a bobbin is that it can save time. By having the bobbin pre-threaded and ready to go, projects can be completed with more efficiency. This isn’t to just say that the bobbin speeds up the stitching process, but it can reduce the time spent on set up and tear down, which are essential in completing a successful project. Lastly, if the bobbin is properly wound, the thread can last much longer, making it an economical choice for sewing projects.

Tips for Setting up The Bobbin

To ensure that the bobbin is setup properly, there are a few tips to consider. According to the library of sewing, the best way to wind the bobbin is, to start by lightly grasping the thread leader between a thumb and forefinger, so that it passes over the left side of the bobbin pin. The thread end should then be wound around above the bobbin, forming a figure 8 before being tangled through the slot in the side of the bobbin. This creates more friction and will help the bobbin keep the thread in place.

It is also important to be aware of how much thread is on the bobbin, as too much can cause bunching when the fabric is stitched. Those new to sewing, may not observe the thread amount and end up with a lot of extra thread on the bobbin. To avoid this, start threading the bobbin no more than three times around its axle. Once the bobbin is wound, the tension should be tested, using a fabric scrap and test stitch. If the stitches do not look to be forming properly, the tension should be adjusted.

Troubleshooting the Sewing Machine Bobbin

Even with proper setup and attention, it is still possible for the bobbin to cause problems for the sewing project. To avoid any potential issues, it is important to be aware of the common problems that occur with the bobbin. One possible issue is the thread becoming knotted, if too much is wound onto the bobbin or if it becomes over wound. To solve this issue, you should remove the bobbin and re- wind the thread, making sure that the bobbin is secure in the machine. If this doesn’t solve the issue, it might be necessary to remove the thread that is wound onto the bobbin and start fresh.

Another problem that could arise is thread becoming tangled around the bobbin case. This could be caused by the bobbin case being loose or something other than the needle thread coming into contact with the bobbin case. To solve this issue, the bobbin case should be inspected for any signs of damage or wear and tear, and then firmly secured into the machine. If the thread still becomes tangled, examine the machine for any loose threads on the outside and remove these. If threads continue to get snagged, further diagnosis should be completed.

Parts of The Sewing Machine Bobbin

Before setting up the bobbin, it is important to understand the different parts that make up the sewing machine bobbin. At its core, a bobbin consists of three parts: the bobbin case/bobbin holder, the bobbin itself, and the tensioner. The bobbin case helps keep the bobbin secure in the machine, while the tensioner allows the user to adjust the tension of the thread, making sure that the upper thread and lower thread interact correctly. The bobbin itself holds the thread, that when wound correctly creates the figure 8 pattern used to form the stitches.

Other parts to be aware of when using a bobbin include the bobbin pin and the thread leader. The bobbin pin is the part of the machine that winds the thread around the bobbin and is usually located close to the bobbin slot. The thread leader is the part of the thread winding around the bobbin that ensures the thread stays in place. It is important to check for both of these when winding the bobbin, as they can affect the tension and outcome of the project.

Aesthetics of the Sewing Machine Bobbin

When used with care, the bobbin can make all the difference when it comes to sewing projects. The look and feel of the stitches, the softness of the fabric, and the amount of time it takes to complete a project depend heavily on the machine’s bobbin. A well-wound bobbin can create a neat and uniform stitch that is pleasing to look at and easy to alter if necessary. It can also help ensure that fabrics don’t bunch or stretch as they are worked on because the tension is always perfect.

In addition to helping create the right tension, the bobbin can also help personalize projects. Sewers can use different colors and textures of thread to make their projects stand out. Different bobbin materials, like metal, plastic, and ceramic, also exist. These different materials can add a touch of customization to any project and make it even more unique.

Geoffrey Kirby is an experienced author and sewist who has been creating sewn projects for over 20 years. He has a passion for teaching beginners and inspiring more advanced sewists both online and through his writings. Outside of writing about sewing, Geoffrey loves to explore new techniques and styles of sewing that incorporate upcycling fabric remnants into sweet items with personality.

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