I ended up having to split this post into two because I didn’t realise how much there was to learn here or how involved it actually was >_< Once you’ve been sewing for a little while all of this becomes second nature so you won’t even think about threading a machine, it will just kind of happen. So when you see how complicated it looks don’t be discouraged, I promise it gets a little easier every time and soon you won’t even need to look at the instructions!

So threading a sewing machine can be kind of scary for beginners but it really shouldn’t be! First let’s get to know about sewing machines a little bit.

Keep in mind that during this guide I will be using a Singer, your machine may be different to mine. Most sewing machines thread roughly the same way but it’s always best to see if you can find a manual specific to your make and model. I will be giving tips which are specific to my Singer and also fairly general so please take this as a guide rather than concrete instructions and use your imagination to apply it to your own situation. Also keep in mind that I’m only going to be explaining the basics for the moment. There will be other functions that the machine has that I will ignore for the moment because they aren’t needed for what we’re going to do as beginners. I will cover them in the advanced classes later.

A note on safety first:

BE CAREFUL. It REALLY hurts if you accidentally sew your finger. Seriously. Keep your fingers away from the needle when your foot is on the pedal. It seems obvious but I have seen a lot of injuries because people weren’t paying attention. If you have animals make sure they are in another room. I had a friend once who caught her finger in a machine because her cat jumped on the petal.

If you are threading your machine, turn it off at the switch or at the very least take your foot off the pedal. I cannot stress this enough. It also can’t hurt to have someone who already knows what they are doing around a sewing machine to help you if possible. You can’t be too careful!

So let’s look at our machine!



The first thing you’ll notice is that there are two big dials on the right of the machine. Most machines have several dials which control different aspects of how the finished line of stitches looks. The location of these dials varies a lot, my previous machine had all of them on the top where as this one has two on the front and two on the top.

The two on the front are for stitch length and stitch type. They are basically exactly what they sound like.

The top dial controls stitch length, depending on the number you choose the stitches will become really long or really short. If you choose 0-1 you will get super tiny stitches which are used for things like button holes. I usually have mine set on 3, that gives a very standard length.

The bottom dial controls the kind of stitch the machine will be sewing. We will be using straight stitch and zigzag. We may use the button hole stitches at some point too. All of the other stitches are fancy and to be honest a little pointless. For the style of clothing we’re going to make the designs just don’t need that kind of stitching.



Now let’s look at the top of the machine. You can see there are two more dials here which control the stitches.

The one on the left controls the tension. Tension means how tight the thread is pulled while you’re sewing. Different tensions are used for different fabrics. For the most part you’re probably going to be sewing medium weight fabrics (cotton etc) so pick a medium tension. You will need to change the tension to tighter if you’re doing heavy weight fabrics (eg. denim) and looser if you’re doing light fabrics (eg. chiffon). I will also make the suggestion that if you’re a beginner learning from this series, you should put that chiffon right back on the shelf and walk away from it because chiffon is an absolute bitch to sew!!

The other thing the tension dial is useful for is making ruffles. You can make very easy ruffles by turning the tension really tight, I will do an entire post dedicated to that technique in detail later though 🙂

The dial on the right controls the width of stitches. This is important when you are using zigzag stitch but not really when you are using straight stitch. The little diagram next to it explains it!

Above that you will find the pointy stick which holds the thread. This should also have a little stopper on the end which keeps the spool of thread from flying off when you sew. If you are using an old machine this piece may be missing… just use a piece of blutac!


Lastly on the far right there is the bobbin winder. The bobbin is the second mini spool of thread that your machine uses. Rather than winding them by hand or using a separate winder, most modern machines have a little stick here that you put the bobbin on to wind more thread onto it from the thread spool.


How it works depends on the machine but on mine:

  1. You pull the thread around the metal part (which controls the tension)
  2. Stick the end of it in the bobbin (plastic/metal thread holder)
  3. Put the bobbin on the metal stick
  4. Push the stick to the right so it locks in place and switches the machine to bobbin mode
  5. Then press the foot pedal and the machine spins you a full bobbin
  6. When it’s full you can stop or mine had a little stopper which pushes it back automatically when it’s too full



Now let’s look at the side of the machine.

Here you have the power switch, the cord which attaches to the power plug and the foot pedal and the air vent. Pro tip: don’t cover the air vent and make sure you clean it out occasionally otherwise you run the risk of having your machine overheat or need servicing.

The most important part here is the hand wheel. By turning this you  can sew forwards or backwards manually. It is useful for doing small details, turning corners and other things that you need precision for. It is also useful to turn it a few times and look at how all the parts of the machine actually work slowly so you can understand it better.



Now let’s look at the back!

There are only two important things here: the lever that raises and lowers the foot and the lever which releases the foot completely so you can change it to a different one eg. a button hole foot.

You won’t use the foot release much but you will use the raise/lower lever all the time. The foot needs to be down when you’re sewing so the fabric is sandwiched between the foot and the little teeth on the bottom. The teeth move when you sew and feed the fabric through automatically.

If your fabric isn’t going through or it looks weird, make sure you have the foot down, I’ve made that mistake several times before XD


Ok finally let’s look at the front where all of the action takes place!

There will be a lever here somewhere which is the reverse switch. By holding this down the machine sews backwards. This is really important because it’s the easiest way to start and end lines of sewing securely.

The machine will have a track like the one here which is where the thread goes. Inside the track is a metal hook which pulls the thread along, it goes up and down every stitch and if you move the hand wheel you should be able to see it move inside.

Down towards the needle there will be another little metal hook which holds the thread in place so it’s close to the needle. Around that area is a screw which you untie if you need to change the needle on the machine.

Below that you have the needle itself and the foot.



Here is a clearer image of where everything sits. You can see the gripping tread under the foot and the hole in the middle where the second piece of thread (from the bobbin) comes out from.



So speaking of bobbins, they go inside the machine below the needle.

Every sewing machine I’ve used has a different way of loading the bobbin so I really suggest that you read your instruction manual or google the model number for specific instructions. Some machines don’t have bobbin casings and you just put the bobbin straight into the machine.

So to get inside my machine a piece of the front slides out and another bit flips down and inside you can see the mechanical workings.

The metal round bit you can see in the middle is the bobbin casing. There is a little metal stick which lines up with the top to lock it in place and a metal tab which when pulled releases the case so you can pull it out and replace the thread.



When you remove the bobbin you can get a better look inside. The way it works is that there is a spinning bit which grabs the thread inside, twists and pushes it up towards the needle. that creates stitches 😀



This is what the bobbin looks like inside the case.



And apart!



So now that you’re more familiar with the parts of the machine let’s actually thread it!

First step is putting the bobbin back in the case. The thread should come out of the hole in the side of the casing in this direction.

Next align the little metal spike  on the casing upwards and place it back in the machine until it clicks in place.


Again, all machines have different ways to do this so read your instructions for this part!


Once it’s in the machine just leave the bobbin for now and let’s thread the top of the machine!

This is how the threading on my machine works. Looks complicated right? Let’s look at it step by step!


The steps are:

  1. Use the hand wheel to make sure the needle is as high as it can go and put the thread on it’s stick.
  2. Pull the thread through the little metal loop on top and then follow the gap down the front of the machine, around the U shape bit and up to the top again.
  3. If the needle is in it’s high point you should be able to see the metal hook inside the machine. Wrap the thread over that (right to left) so it catches on the hook and the back down to the botom of the machine.
  4. Push the thread through the little metal hook here so the end hangs where the needle is.
  5. Thread it through the needle.
  6. Pull 20cm or so extra thread and put it out of the back of the machine.
  7. Insert the bobbin into the machine.

Now we need to get the end of the bobbin out of the machine.

To do that, hold the end of the top thread to the side and rotate the handwheel one full turn. When the needle goes in and out of the machine it will catch the bobbin thread and drag it back upwards. Now that it’s on the top side too, you can grab it with your fingers or tweezers and pull both loose ends of thread off to the side.



That seems really complicated in one photo though so let’s look at each part.

From the top follow around the metal holder and down the gap to the front of the machine.


Continue following the gap down the up to the metal hook. Put the thread through the hook then follow the same gap back down.



Push the thread through the holder at the top of the needle then through the eye of the needle and out the side!


Thread your bobbin through and make one stitch with the hand wheel to bring the bobbin thread up to the top and you’re good to go!


That is a lot of information to digest in one sitting so I suggest all of you go and have a play around with your machine. Being familiar with your sewing machine  is really important because you will get to know it’s quirks and limitations. That will help you later in the course when we are doing more complicated things! You have to learn the rules before you can break them ;D

Hopefully this was helpful to you guys and as always please leave questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to help there or answer them in the next post.

This ended up being super long so I’m going to wait until next edition to do our first mini sewing project. Next week we will be learning about the different types of stitches, how to actually sew with the machine and making our first mini project: a mini bag!

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