How does one tame a bobbin?
February 24, 2007 10:27 AM   Subscribe

SewingFilter. I've a new sewing machine, a model 2950 bought refurbished from Singer. As such, I need help with something that ought to be simple. How does one go about positioning and manipulating the bobbin in such a way that the needle will pick it up?

The manual gives what appear to be definite instructions, but I really need some specifics, some wheres and some how muches. For instance, do I need to do anything with that trailing bit of thread? Need it be shoved under the needle plate? If not, how does the needle manage to magically grab the bobbin thread?

I've scanned the "Inserting a Bobbin" and "Raising the Bobbin Thread" pages and posted them to Flickr. Take a look and explain this mechanical miracle to me as if I were eight. Thanks.
posted by grabbingsand to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here's what typically happens - on your machine, you pull a bunch of thread from the bobbin and then draw it into a slot on the bobbin plate. This aligns the thread so that the needle picks it up. The mechanism of the needle and bobbin are made for this. When you turn the wheel towards as per the instructions, the needle will hook into and lift up a loop of the thread. You can just pull both the bobbin and needle threads.

Doing this will pull the bobbin thread that's in the groove back into the machine and out of the top.

On my machine, I end up pulling on both threads to get about 5 inches out of the mechanism and lay it so that it's trailing over the back of the machine.

What I would do is to take the machine to a sewing machine store or bring over a friend and have someone show you a few times and then have you do it until it's second nature.

You also might want to put a different color thread in the bobbin so that you can see the contrasting colors. Run a few stitches into scrap fabric and see how the stitches get built.

A word of free advice - become so absolutely comfortable threading the machine both top and bottom that you could do it in your sleep, otherwise you'll have to re-learn this every single time you take out your machine, and that will become a deterrent to using the machine. Oddly enough, when making clothes or other projects, the time running the machine is tiny compared to cutting fabric, aligning seams and pinning. You want it to stay this way.
posted by plinth at 10:45 AM on February 24, 2007

plinth has it. Drop the wound bobbin into the case. Turn the hand wheel toward you and a looped thread from the bobbin will appear on the throat plate. With a needle or a small pair of embroidery scissors, or any long thin object, pull the lopped bobbin thread out approximately five inches. Pull the needle thread along with the bobbin thread, and as plinth described, place it to the back of your machine. Do a few practice stitches to insure the machine was threaded properly.
posted by LoriFLA at 11:07 AM on February 24, 2007

how does the needle manage to magically grab the bobbin thread?
Sufficiently advanced technology, my friend.

Most machines I've seen can pull the trailing thread up through the plate on their own (leave it where the picture shows), if you leave a 6" or so tail. You hold the top thread and manually do on stich (with the wheel on the right), and it should pop right up. Pull some thread out, and hold both the ends when you start sewing.

Seconding plinth's advice to get someone to show you, and to get totally comfortable with the threading procedure.

I'm guessing that this is your first time operating a sewing machine, so I'm going to add a little more advice: have someone show you the other basics of how the machine works, they are a little trickier than they appear at first. Oh, and always keep your fingers off to the side of the needle, not directly in front of it, as the feeding of the fabric can sometimes pull them in.
posted by yohko at 11:20 AM on February 24, 2007

You might also consider having a little bit of fabric that you lead through the machine right before the main piece you're sewing goes in. That way you're sure that the stitches are running as desired and there are no snarls. Just fold over a 3x6" piece of muslin or something cheap, and you can sew through it over and over. It will be attached to the main piece with a little thread; clip it and run it through again the next time.
posted by Addlepated at 11:26 AM on February 24, 2007

few things extra for the 8 year old in you:
  • have the needle perched high to load the bobbin into its housing, end with 5 or so inches of bobbin thread draped out neaty over machine top, not shoved under the needle plate, no.
  • without applying tension simply hold the end of the needle thread throughout the needle rotation, again you'll need 5 or so excess inches from eye of needle
  • finish the one manual rotation of the needle - down into the bobbin and up again - with the needle again back at its highest point
  • now still holding the needle thread apply tension to elevate the bobbin thread through the top of the machine.
and wah-la. you don't need to preserve that first loop between the threads, simply lay both threads neatly to the back of the foot.
posted by de at 12:27 PM on February 24, 2007

I taught sewing once upon a time, and heartily second Addlepated's suggestion of stitching a few lines on a scrap before beginning work on your actual project. Don't just stick to random cheap fabric scraps, though: it can be particularly helpful to save otherwise-useless cutting scraps of the fabric for your project, and use those for a bit of testing along with the matching thread, needles, etc. you are planning to use. This will let you work out any needed finetuning of tension, stitch length/width, etc. BEFORE you get to the good stuff -- a minute or two doing this can save you a lot of heartache, especially since that machine has non-automatic tension.

Also, if the store where you purchased this machine is not too inconveniently located, go back there and inquire if they offer any sort of classes on machine operation: many sewing stores will include such a basic class free to sweeten the deal, particularly with new and/or higher-end (and more complex) machines. If they have classes but didn't offer them to you as a freebie since you only got a refurbed economy model, perhaps they'd let you attend one for a token fee...or even if they don't have a classroom, most sewing stores aren't so insanely busy or unhelpful that they can't take five or ten minutes to just sit you down at a machine and walk you through some hands-on threading practice. They WANT you to keep sewing, after all, so you will continue to come back and buy needles and bobbins and material, and hopefully upgrade to a bigger and better machine once you're good and hooked...and even aside from simple business sense, in my experience most folks working in that field love to sew themselves, and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 3:23 PM on February 24, 2007

And always store it with the thread still in it, in case it's a long time before you use it again. Keep the manual (if you have or can download one) with the machine.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 1:35 PM on February 25, 2007

unrepentanthippie is right on - buy a whole bunch of bobbins and at the start of a project, pre-load them with thread. That way you don't lose a bunch of momentum when you're in the zone by having to stop and wind bobbins.
posted by Addlepated at 12:58 PM on February 26, 2007

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