Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Winding a Bobbin: Basic Tutorial

Winding a bobbin is a basic task you must master if you plan to do any serious sewing. Every machine has a bobbin winding feature and you should read your manual to find out how yours works.

Nevertheless, in my experience, the basic steps are the same.

Basic Steps

Step 1: Thread the machine for bobbin winding. Usually you start threading the machine in the normal fashion, then the thread takes a detour; redirecting it to the bobbin area.

Step 2: Thread the bobbin. This involves sticking the end of the thread through a hole near the middle spindle of the bobbin. Leave a long tail you can grab onto.

Step 3: Stick the bobbin on the spindle. On my Pfaff, you can put it on with either side up. I always put the side of the bobbin with "PFAFF" imprinted on it facing up.

Bobbin ready for winding

Step 4: Engage the bobbin spindle. On my Pfaff, I push the spindle to the right slightly and it clicks in place. This step is necessary because it engages the bobbin winder (that is, it makes it spin), and disables the needle so it doesn't go up and down while winding.  On my machine, you can't get the bobbin on the spindle when it's engaged, so you have to do this before engaging.

Step 5: Get it started - hold on to the end of the thread and depress the foot pedal gently. The bobbin spins a few times, catching the thread on itself.

Holding the thread end, ready to start

Step 6: Snip off the loose end of the thread from the top of the bobbin (so it doesn't get tangled up).

Snip off the loose end after several 
rotations, and the thread is locked on bobbin

Step 7: Wind the bobbin with abandon - as fast as you like. The machine should have a sensor that stops the winding when the bobbin is full.

Step 8: Snip the end of the thread (that connect to the spool), disengage the bobbin winder, and remove bobbin.  On my machine, I disengage the bobbin winder by pushing the bobbin and spindle gently to the left. It clicks in place. Then I can easily remove the bobbin.

Proper Bobbin Tension
As I mentioned in a previous post, my machine doesn't provide enough tension on the thread when winding a bobbin to get a nice tight bobbin. If the thread isn't tight enough, it won't feed through the machine properly. It makes uneven stitches and jams. No fun.

To work around this, I've developed a simple manual technique. I pinch the thread as it's winding.  This provides enough even, consistent tension to get a good bobbin. See the photos below.

You may think it would hurt to hold onto the fast moving thread, like "rope burn." It doesn't.

The only thing you have to watch out for with this technique is that you don't hold the thread out of it's proper alignment too much. Otherwise, the thread won't wind evenly up and down the bobbin. I just keep an eye on the guide as the bobbin is winding and make sure the thread alternates all the way to the top and to the bottom as it's winding.

Guide for Even Winding

I wish I didn't have to do this! It should just work!! But, in my experience, all machines have their little quirks and either we live with them or we get a new machine.

A Few Other Tips
Your machine will wind the bobbin in a consistent direction. Direction of the thread is important when loading the bobbin into the bobbin case. Think of it like the roll of toilet paper - do you like the paper coming over the top or from under the bottom? The concept is the same, and in my experience some machines are extremely sensitive to how the thread comes off the bobbin. Unfortunately, different machines are designed for different directions. I can't tell you the "right" way.

This is why I always wind my bobbins with the PFAFF imprint on the top. Then, I always load my bobbins with the PFAFF imprint on the bottom. The direction of the thread coming off the bobbin is always correct for my machine, and I don't have to think about how I'm loading the bobbin.

It is important to use the proper bobbin for your machine. I always buy Pfaff bobbins for my Pfaff. I don't mess around with the cheaper, generic bobbins that say they fit the Pfaff. It doesn't save that much money in the long run because bobbins are reusable. And, it might save lots of frustration, if they don't work quite right.

Happy sewing! More tutorials to come!


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  5. I used my pfaff machine for first time today. All went well with winding thread onto the bobbin until I attempted to remove it from the spindle after pushing bobbin spindle to the left. A little spring-like wire on spindle seems to prevent me from lifting the bobbin up and off. Suggestions?

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