How to Thread a Sewing Machine

The first stumbling block for most newbie sewists is how to thread a sewing machine. It can be frustrating. You’ve just taken the leap and bought your very first sewing machine and can’t wait to start sewing. But, you don’t know how to thread it.

Our step-by-step guide on how to thread a sewing machine will walk you through the process to get your machine threaded up and ready to go.

Before we get into threading, the very first thing you should do is wind your bobbin. It’s easier to do this first as you’ll have to un-thread part of the machine to swap to the bobbin winder. That can be a pain so, wind your bobbin first.

Winding the Bobbin

Most domestic sewing machines are class 15 models and will wind bobbins in the same way. Janome, Singer and Brother machines all use similar steps and threading path. If you are in any doubt that the next steps will match your machine, make sure to check your manual before winding your bobbin.

Step 1

Start with your spool of thread on your spool holder. Pull the thread off the spool towards the front of your machine.

Follow the instructions on the top of your machine for winding the bobbin, or refer to your manual. Most machines will have the thread go around the bobbin tensioner and back towards the bobbin stand. The bobbin stand is located at the handwheel end of the machine.

Step 2

Grab your bobbin and put the thread through the tiny hole in the bobbin surface. From inside the bobbin to outside.

Step 3

Put the bobbin on the thread stand and push it sideways towards the bobbin stop. Hold the thread you put through the hole in the bobbin, straight up into the air.

Step 4

Push your foot down on the pedal. Now would be a good time to turn your machine on if you haven’t already done so.

When the bobbin has revolved a couple of times and you have some thread wound on it, stop winding by taking your foot off the pedal.

Cut off the extra thread you were holding in the air. Check the thread on the bobbin is tight by running your finger across it.

The thread shouldn’t bulge or flop about. If it isn’t tight, remove the bobbin and remove the thread. Check your machine is threaded correctly and go back to Step 1.

If it feels good, put your foot back on the pedal and continue to wind.

Step 5

Once the bobbin is full, the machine will automatically stop the winding process. You can stop it yourself by taking your foot of the pedal. Move the bobbin stand back to its starting point and remove the bobbin. Snip the thread, leaving about 6 inches dangling on the bobbin.

Step 6

Put your bobbin to one side. We’ll come back to it in a little while.

Let’s take a look at some of the sewing machine parts you’ll need to be familiar with before we start threading.

What is the Spool Holder and Where is it?

The spool holder is a small stick shaped peg located at the top of the machine. It can either be standing upright or horizontal.

Horizontal spool holders have small plastic stoppers that fit on the end to hold the spool of thread in place.

What are Tension Discs and Where Are They?

The tension discs keep the thread under a constant pressure to make sure your stitches are uniform and neat.

Their location depends on the age and make of your machine. Most new machines hide the discs inside so you can’t see them. They are located close to the needle bar, behind this large slot in the side of the machine.

Older machines have the tension discs close to the needle bar on the outside of the machine. They look like this.

It’s important to make sure the tension discs are threaded correctly as this will have an impact on your stitches.

Which Way Do You Thread The Needle?

This is one area where it’s best to check your manual to find out which way to put the thread through the needle.

Some sewing machines thread from front to back. Others don’t. It depends on your brand and the age of the machine. A rule of thumb here, whatever side the flat part of your needle goes into the needle bar, the needle threads in the same direction. For instance, if the needle’s flat side goes to the back, your needle will thread from front to back. If the flat part goes to the right of the machine, you should thread from left to right.

What if You Can’t See the Eye of the Needle?

The hardest part to thread on any sewing machine is the needle. With holes smaller than most pinheads, they are incredibly difficult to see. Especially if your eyesight isn’t great. Fear not, for those with less than perfect vision, there are some handy gadgets on the market to help.

Automatic Needle Threader

The first device on our list of handy threaders is built in to most new sewing machines. It’s the automatic needle threader. The name is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not really automatic.

There’s a little lever by the side of the needle bar. Pull this down as far as it will go. Fully extended, you’ll find it’s level with the bottom of the needle.

Then, wrap the thread around and across to the needle and let the lever go. It will magically pull the thread through the needle as it shoots back to its resting place.

You do have to make sure the little hook is through the eye and has caught the thread before you let the lever go. Or it won’t work. The needle eye has to be in the right place which, may involve moving it up or down a little to get it spot on.

It might be easier to use the needle threader if you lower the presser foot to get it out of the way. Remember to raise it again before you pull any threads. Pulling on threads with the presser foot down will throw out your tension.

Needle Threading Devices

For machines without an integral threader, there are hand held tools to do the same job. Here are a couple of the ones available.

Dritz Machine Needle Inserter & Threader

This handy little gadget not only threads your machine needle, it also helps with inserting it into the machine.

Wire Loop Needle Threader

These little guys have been around for years and are a cinch to use. Push the wire part through the eye in your needle, put the thread through the wire. Pull the gadget out of the needle and the thread will follow. Simple, effective and tested by generations of sewists.

Now we know what the different parts are, let’s get into threading.

How To Thread a Sewing Machine Step-By-Step

Start with the needle in its highest position. If it isn’t already, you’ll need to get it there by either pushing your needle up-down button or turning your handwheel. You’ll know it’s at the highest point when you see the take-up lever popping up out of its hole. It’s the silver thing at the top of the picture below.

You should always start to thread a sewing machine with the presser foot up too! This takes the pressure off the tension discs.

Some machines have a threading diagram printed on the machine. All will have threading instructions in the manual that came with the machine. If you don’t have either, these generic steps should help you with threading.

For best results though, check online to see if there is a manual available as it may have a step not covered in these instructions.

Step 1

Make sure your thread is loaded onto your spool holder. Gently pull some thread off the spool towards the front of the machine. Pass it behind the top most thread guide.

Step 2

Bring your thread down the right hand side of the front slot, around the bottom and back up the left side of the slot. If your machine has a tension disc instead of a slot, wrap the thread around the disc from right to left.

From the tension disc, pass the thread through the hole in the take up lever.

Step 3

Bring the thread back down the left hand slot towards the needle.

Step 4

Find the thread guide at the top of the needle and pass the thread behind it. Thread the needle. If you need to put the presser foot down, do so but remember to raise it again before doing anything else.

With the presser foot up, pull about 6 inches of thread through the needle so you have a tail.

Step 6

Don’t forget the bobbin! Insert the bobbin into your machine. If it’s a top loader or drop in bobbin, put it in with the thread rotating counter-clockwise. Thread it through the slot at the front of the bobbin housing. Leave the tail hanging over to one side.

For front or side loading bobbins, put your bobbin in the metal bobbin case and pull the thread through the slot in the casing. You should have a tail of thread about 6 inches long. Push the case into the machine so the little finger fits into the channel in the bobbin housing. Leave the thread dangling outside the case.

Step 7

Hold the top thread tail in your left hand. With your right hand, push your needle up-down button, or turn your hand wheel to lower the needle. Once it’s down, either push the button again, or turn your hand wheel to bring it back up.

It will bring the bobbin thread with it. This is called bringing the bobbin up. Pull both thread tails to the back of the machine.

Your machine is now threaded and ready to go!

Threading Different Machines

Most sewing machines have the same basic design. They are all based on the class 15 model of sewing machine.

Having said that, some may have slight brand-specific differences when it comes to threading. While the process is the same, some features might be in a different location.

As always with sewing machines, it’s best to refer to your machine’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended threading pathway. Even models from the same brand can differ when it comes to threading.

Let’s take a look at three of the most popular brands to see how they differ or if they are identical when it comes to loading the thread.

How to Thread a Singer Sewing Machine

For Singer, we’ll take a look at how to thread a Singer Simple. This is an entry-level sewing machine and has a basic threading path. From the picture, you’ll notice it is very similar to the threading set-up on both the Janome and Brother machines we’ll look at next.

How to Thread a Brother Sewing Machine

The first thing to notice when you thread a Brother LS2125 is the tension dial. So threading this Brother sewing machine involves going through the tension slots and around the dial at the bottom before heading back up to the take-up lever.

How to Thread a Janome Sewing Machine

Threading the Janome QC 6260 is a piece of cake. Not only does it have an automatic needle threader but it also has a top loading bobbin. To thread a Janome sewing machine you simply follow the path shown in the diagram on the lid.


When it comes to threading a domestic sewing machine, the process for each one is fairly similar. So much so, the generic steps in this article will help you thread any class 15 machine.

There are a few exceptions, so always read your manual and follow the steps printed on your machine

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