How to Thread a Sewing Machine

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So you found a pattern for a cool skirt and you dug out Grandmas old sewing machine, but now what? This page will teach you where to put the upper thread. Get ready to sew to your hearts content! The machine used in this article is a Brother CE-4000, but most machines should be similar.


  1. First youll need to wind a bobbin, which is a small spool of thread. See the linked article for detailed instructions.
  2. Place your spool of thread on the rear arm or post. For taller spools, you can usually pull on the arm to extend it.
    • For some machines, there also may be a spool holder that slides onto the post. Place this on after the spool, making sure the spool can still spin freely.
  3. Place your bobbin on the bobbin winder, as pictured. Sometimes this will be a swing arm that you push to the right against another arm so that the bobbin doesnt get too full.
  4. Unwrap a few inches of thread from the spool. Youll need to pull that thread around the tension arm or button on the left-hand side of the machine and then pull it back to the right side of the machine to the bobbin.
  5. Pull that piece of thread up through one of the pinholes in the bobbin. I usually cheat by wrapping one or two rounds of thread around the bobbin by hand to get started.
  6. Press your floor pedal to get the machine started winding thread around the bobbin. Keep the machine going until the bobbin is fully wrapped but thread is not overlapping the bobbin edge.
  7. Cut the thread so that the bobbin has a short tail and remove the bobbin from the top of the machine.
  8. Now you can prepare the machine to actually sew. The main spool of thread will stay in the same spot on top of the machine. The bobbins home is under a small door that is below and in front of your needle.
  9. Unwind a few inches of thread from the bobbin. (Note that in the pictures, I have switched over to a teal colored thread on the bobbin, just so you can differentiate between bobbin thread and spool thread.)
  10. Drop the bobbin into the space such that if you pulled on the thread, the bobbin would spin counter-clockwise. (You should be able to pull on the tail of thread to the right and the thread should unwind fairly easily.)
  11. There should be a cutout that you will lay the bobbin thread into. In my machine, there is a C-shaped loop with a blade at the end to cut off the thread.
  12. Close the trap door. There should be no thread protruding from it.
  13. Now we need to wind the thread from the spool through the machine. Unwind about a foot long length of thread from the spool. Youll need to keep tension on the line as you wind it through the areas of the machine described below, but only so tight as to hold it in place, otherwise the thread will break. This image shows the path that the thread needs to go as explained in the next 3 steps.
  14. Take the thread and pull it through the top left hand arm of the machine.
  15. Next the thread goes straight down through a gully cut into the sewing machine. The thread then goes back up so it is making a U-shape.
  16. Most machines will have a hooked wire arm above the needle that goes up and down in time with the needle. This arm pulls the thread off of the spool with gentle tension. Wrap the thread up and over the arm, then take it down towards the needle.
  17. Now well send the thread through the areas that will help us thread the needle. At the top of the needle is a hook. Pull the thread through that hook and out toward the left-side of the machine.
  18. Next you will see a gray lever that is to the left of the needle. Run the thread under the inverse V-shaped part of that arm.
  19. Pull the loose thread across the front of the eye of the needle. At the same time, pull down on the grey lever. Youll see a little arm swing forward like a hand grabbing a stick. The goal of this is that the barbs on the hand will grab the thread and pull it through the eye of the needle. This may take a few tries. Make sure that the hand is grabbing at the right spot on the needle by turning the manual wheel on the right side of the machine. This will move the needle up and down.
  20. Once the needle is threaded, grab the excess thread and pull it under the foot of the machine that will sit on the cloth. When you first start sewing, be sure to hang on to that thread, so that it doesnt get pulled right out of the eye of the needle.



  • Refer to your machines manual, if you have it.
  • Some companies now post threading information online. It is worth trying a web search for your model number.
  • Most machines thread in a generally similar manner. If yours doesnt look quite like this one, see if you can find instructions for one that is similar, or give it your best guess.
  • Look for threading instructions printed on your machine. Many newer machines have lines and arrows to help you along.

Things You Will Need

  • Spool of thread
  • Bobbin (the little clear plastic spool)
  • Sewing Machine

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