Sewing Glossary

What is a Bobbin in Sewing?

September 15, 2023 by

You’re sitting at your sewing machine, ready to start a new project. As you thread your needle and prepare to sew, you notice a small compartment at the bottom of the machine.

Inside, you see a small spool of thread – that’s the bobbin. But what is it, and why is it there? In this article, we’ll explore the purpose of the bobbin in sewing and how to use it effectively.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Table of Contents

What is a Bobbin in Sewing?

A bobbin is a small, spool-shaped object that holds thread or other materials used in sewing.

It is typically made of plastic or metal and has a hole in the center so that it can be wound with thread. Bobbins are used in a variety of sewing machines and are an essential part of the sewing process.

When the machine is sewing, the bobbin’s thread passes through a small hole in the needle plate and is used to stitch together the fabric.

Bobbins can be purchased individually or as part of a set, and they come in a variety of sizes depending on the type of machine they are used in.

Most bobbins have a metal shaft that screws onto the machine’s spindle, and they are typically filled with enough thread to sew a few inches of fabric.

Bobbins can be a little confusing for beginners, so it’s important to understand their purpose and how to use them. When winding the bobbin, make sure to do it slowly and carefully so that the thread doesn’t tangle.

You can also use a winder to help you wind the bobbin more quickly and easily. When sewing, always make sure that the bobbin is inserted correctly into the machine and that the thread is threaded through the right hole. If the thread isn’t properly threaded, your stitches will be uneven and sloppy.


What is a Bobbin Used For?

The bobbin holds the lower thread that forms the stitch on the fabric being sewn.

It is inserted into the bobbin case, which is then inserted into the sewing machine. The upper thread from the sewing machine needle interlocks with the thread on the bobbin to form the stitch.

Different types of fabrics and threads require different types of bobbins. For example, heavier fabrics require a stronger thread, such as nylon or polyester, which in turn requires a heavy-duty bobbin.

Lighter fabrics require a lighter thread, such as cotton or linen, which in turn requires a lightweight bobbin. There are also many different types of bobbins for specialty fabrics, such as satin or lace.

When the bobbin is empty, it can be removed from the bobbin case and replaced with a full bobbin. The bobbin should always be wound in the same direction as the thread is pulled from the spool. If the thread is not wound correctly, it can cause the stitches to unravel.

When Do You Need to Use a Bobbin in Sewing?

You’ll need to use a bobbin when sewing on most fabrics, especially lighter weight fabrics. Bobbins help to distribute the tension evenly, which prevents fabric puckering and uneven stitches.

To use a bobbin, first thread the needle with your chosen thread. Then, wind the thread around the bobbin a few times. Once the bobbin is wound, insert it into the sewing machine.

Sewing with a bobbin is just like sewing without one. The only difference is that you’ll need to periodically stop and wind more thread onto the bobbin as you sew. This is because the bobbin runs out of thread faster than the needle.

Need to Use a Bobbin

Can You Sew Without Bobbins?

Sewing without bobbins is generally not recommended and may not be practical or effective, depending on the type of sewing machine you’re using.

The bobbin is an essential part of the sewing machine that holds the lower thread and works in conjunction with the upper thread to create a stitch. Here’s why you typically need a bobbin:

1. Thread Tension

The bobbin thread and the upper thread work together to create the correct tension in the stitch. Without the bobbin thread, you won’t have proper tension, and your stitches may be loose or uneven.

2. Stitch Formation

The bobbin thread is responsible for creating the bottom half of the stitch, while the upper thread forms the top half. Both threads interlock in the fabric to create a secure and even stitch.

3. Stitch Quality

Sewing without a bobbin can lead to irregular stitches, thread snarls, and other stitching problems. The result will likely be an unsatisfactory and unreliable seam.

4. Thread Management

Bobbins are designed to hold a significant amount of thread, allowing for longer sewing sessions without constantly refilling the thread. Without a bobbin, you’d need to replenish the thread more frequently.

5. Fabric Handling

A bobbin thread helps to secure the stitch underneath the fabric. Without it, the fabric may pucker, shift, or get caught in the machine.

However, there are some very limited and specialized sewing techniques where you might not use a bobbin.

For example, in free-motion embroidery or quilting, you may temporarily drop the feed dogs and use only the upper thread to create a decorative design.

Still, these techniques are exceptions and require specific adjustments and skill.

How Do You Put Thread on a Bobbin?

  1. Place a spool of thread on the spool pin.
  2. Slide the spool pin holder/cap firmly over the rim of the spool to prevent the thread from tangling.
  3. Push the bobbin winder pin to the far left if it is not already there.
  4. Pass the thread from the spool through the thread guide.
  5. Pass thread end, from inside, through the small hole in the rim of the bobbin.
  6. Place bobbin onto the pin.
  7. Push the bobbin winder pin to the right. As this will stop the needle from moving.
  8. Hold the thread end, step on the speed controller to run the machine until the desired amount of thread is wound. (Winding stops automatically once bobbin is full.)
  9. Cut thread; push bobbin to the left and remove it from bobbin winder pin
  10. Trim thread ends from the top of the bobbin.

Follow the videos for the practical procedure.

How Do You Know What Size Bobbin to Buy?

The easiest way to identify the size of a bobbin is to consider its thickness.

You must take into account the type and the class of your machine and then you can try out each bobbin.

It’s suggested to only use bobbins that are specific to the same class/style as those that come with your machine.

To further explore the subject of bobbin sizes, we recommend this video by the National Sewing Circle:

What is the Difference Between a Spool and a Bobbin?

A bobbin is a small, cylindrical spool that holds thread or yarn. It is used in a sewing machine to help weave fabric together.

A spool, on the other hand, is a large, cylindrical spool that holds thread or yarn. It is used to make string or rope. So, what is the difference between a bobbin and a spool?


A bobbin is smaller than a spool and has a hole in the middle so that it can be attached to a sewing machine.


A spool is larger than a bobbin and does not have a hole in the middle. A spool is typically used to make string or rope, while a bobbin is typically used to weave fabric together.

The bobbin plays a vital role in sewing. We hope you learned something new about the bobbin!

Do you need a bobbin to sew?

Yes, a bobbin is necessary for sewing with a sewing machine. The bobbin is responsible for supplying the thread from the bottom of the fabric as the needle thread passes through the top.

What is another name for a sewing machine bobbin?

Another name for a sewing machine bobbin is a spool. It is a small cylinder-shaped plastic or metal object that holds the thread and is used in the lower part of a sewing machine.

Does every sewing machine have a bobbin?

Most sewing machines have a bobbin, but there are a few exceptions, such as some handheld and industrial machines that use a different method of thread delivery. It’s always important to check the manual of your sewing machine to understand how it works.