Not sure how to thread a sewing machine?

Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think.

In this step-by-step tutorial, we’ll cover the sewing machine basics of how to thread a sewing machine.

And it doesn’t matter if you have a Brother sewing machine, a Singer sewing machine, or any other brand, because honestly, they are all threaded the same way.

And I know that for absolute beginners, the sewing machine can feel really intimidating. But trust me, after watching this beginner sewing tutorial, you’re going to confidently know how to thread a sewing machine.


Step 1: Unbox and Setup Your Sewing Machine

The very first step of threading your sewing machine is taking it out of the box and setting it up on a table.

Now hopefully you have already done this step but if you haven’t or you’re not sure that everything is setup correctly, then grab my 5 Simple Steps To Start Sewing Checklist below.

It includes a how-to video of unboxing your sewing machine and how to set everything up the right way.

Step 2: Wind or Fill a Bobbin

Before we can get into threading your sewing machine, you need to have a fully wound bobbin.

Like the one shown below!

If you don’t have a fully wound bobbin or you’re not sure what a bobbin is, then check out my How to Thread a Perfect Bobbin blog post.

Because if you don’t have this, we won’t be able to thread your sewing machine.

So, do this step first, and once you have, then we can keep going.


Supplies For Threading a Sewing Machine

Sewing Machine
Full Bobbin

I think this is pretty obvious but I want to make sure that we’re all on the same page.

So, in order to thread your sewing machine, you will need:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Fully Wound/Filled Bobbin

If you have both of these, then we’re ready to start threading


How to thread a sewing machine Video tutorial

Prefer video tutorials? Check out my how-to video here!

If not, no worries. You’ll find the whole written blog post below!


Step 3: Make sure your sewing machine is ready to be threaded

No, I don’t mean that you should check in and see how your sewing machine is feeling.

Your sewing machine actually needs to have certain features in the correct position to ensure that your sewing machine is threaded correctly.

Presser Foot in the UP POSITION

The first thing we need to check is that the presser foot is in the UP position.

This is CRITICAL because when the presser foot is in the UP position, it OPENS the tension plates inside of your sewing machine.

When we thread the sewing machine and the tension plates are open, the thread will get caught between them which is good thing.

The tension plates help to make sure your stitches are nice and even which is important if you want your projects to stay together and not fall apart.

When your presser foot is in the DOWN position, the tension plates inside of your sewing machine are closed.

If the tension plates are closed when you thread your sewing machine, the thread won’t be able to get between them and you will end up with very weird, uneven stitches.

So make sure your presser foot is in the UP position.

Thread Take-up Lever in its HIGHEST POSITION

The next thing we need to check is that the thread take-up lever is in it’s highest position.

We do this by turning the handwheel on the right side of the sewing machine towards us.

As we move the handwheel, you’ll be able to see the thread take-up lever moving inside of the cutout on the left side of the sewing machine, directly above the needle.

Keep slowly turning the handwheel until you can visually see that the thread take-up lever is in it’s highest position.

Why do we care what position this is in?

The thread take-up lever is actually another part of your sewing machine that helps set the correct tension for your stitches. So we want to make sure that our thread is wrapped around it.

And the easiest way to wrap our thread around this piece is when it’s sitting in it’s highest position.

So now that the presser foot is up and the take-up lever is in its highest position, let’s add some thread!

Step 4: Thread the top half of the sewing machine

Take the spool of thread that you bough at the fabric store and place it on the top spindle of your sewing machine.

Then pull the end of the thread towards the left side of the sewing machine.

Thread Guide

On the top, left side of your sewing machine there should be a metal thread guide with two diagrams.

One diagram with dashed lines (which is used for winding the bobbin) and one diagram with a solid line.

The solid line shows the directions for threading the top of your sewing machine, so we’ll be following that line.

So my diagram shows I need to go under the first arm of my thread guide then over straight down towards the front of my sewing machine.

Now your thread guide and diagram might look different than mine, don’t worry.

All you need to do is follow the directions on your sewing machine.

They will be very similar to mine and easy to follow.

If you need extra help, check your user manual. It will definitely have the exact directions for you sewing machine.

And if you’re still feeling confused or stuck, head to my FB group and post a Q!

Tension Discs

After the thread guide, all sewing machines really look identical.

So we come to the front of the sewing machine and you’ll see two vertical cutouts.

We’ll take our thread down the right cut-out and make a U-turn under that central piece of plastic and then back up the left cut-out.

Down the right cutout
U-Turn
Up the left cutout

This U-turn is what actually pulls our thread between the tension discs that we talked about earlier!

Thread Take-up Lever

When we come up from the left cut-out, we want to keep our thread pulled towards the right.

Pull the thread all the way to the end of the cut-out, then pull it towards the left, and finally along the left side of the cut-out.

It’s important to really stay along the edges to ensure your thread get caught around the take-up lever.

Does it make sense now why we wanted it it such a high position?

You’ll know that you did this correctly IF your thread is pivoting around or leading towards the thread take-up lever (the top of the left cutout) as shown in the left photo below.

If your thread is pivoting around or leading towards the tensions discs (the lower end of the left cutout), you’ll need to repeat the previous step until you get your thread wrapped around the take-up lever.

sewing machine tension take-up lever - how to thread it properly - good example
sewing machine tension take-up lever - how to thread it properly - bad example

Once your thread is wrapped correctly, you can pull it down to the bottom of the left cut-out.

Step 5: Threading the Sewing Machine needle

You’ve made it through the top half of threading your sewing machine! Yay!

We’re almost done.

So now we’ll be moving down towards the needle.

Needle Thread Guide

Directly above the needle, you will see a tiny silver bar.

We need to pull our thread behind this bar.

needle guide

Now, you maybe be wondering how in the world to do that, but don’t worry, I’ve got a really easy trick for you.

First, grab the thread with your left pointer finger and thumb.

Then, further down the thread (closer towards the end) grab the thread with your right pointer finger and thumb.

Pull the thread gently into a line parallel to the table directly in front of the needle (see first photo below)

Then move your right hand behind the needle (second photo below)

And finally push the thread towards the left, above the bar, and it should slide right into place (third photo below)

Thread the needle guide pt. 1
Thread the needle guide pt. 2
Thread the needle guide pt. 3

THIS STEP IS REALLY IMPORTANT!

When you’re threading your machine this step can seem really unnecessary, but it actually helps maintain even tension, so if you skip it, you might notice random tension issues with your stitches.

So please, don’t skip it.

Thread the Sewing Machine Needle

To make life easier for yourself, cut the end of your thread right before you attempt to thread the needle.

Cutting it will create a clean, straight edge on the end of your thread making it easier to pass through that tiny hole on the needle.

Cut the thread

Another tip that might help you is to move the needle to it’s highest position using the handwheel.

Slowly turn the handwheel towards you until you can visually see that the needle is in it’s highest position.

This will give you the most amount of space for your hand maneuver as you try to get the thread through the needle.

Once you get the thread through, just pull it under your presser foot and towards the back of your sewing machine and you’ve finished threading the top of your sewing machine!

Thread the sewing machine needle

Bonus step: Automatic Needle Threader

As we’re on the topic of threading the needle, I want to put out a really helpful feature that your sewing machine might have.

If you look right around the needle area, you may see a plastic piece that looks like the image below.

This feature is called an Automatic Needle Threader and it makes threading your needle SUPER EASY!

If you want more details on how to use it, check out my Automatic Needle Threader How-To Post (COMING IN APRIL 2022)

Step 6: how to Thread the Bottom or bobbin thread

Congrats! The top thread is officially done.
Finally, we just need to thread the bottom (or bobbin) thread and your machine will be ready to start sewing.

Now, there are two types of bobbins out there.

So we need to figure out what kind of bobbin you have.

Look at the photos below and see which one looks like your sewing machine.

Top Load Bobbin
Front Load Bobbin

If you have a Top Load Bobbin, head to my How to Insert a Top Load Bobbin post (coming March 27, 2022) or check out the video tutorial that’s available now!

If you have a Front Load Bobbin, head to my How to Insert a Front Load Bobbin post (coming April 3, 2022)

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