Can You Use a Sewing Machine Without a Bobbin? Simple Answers & Guide

Image of sewing machine bobbin but Can You Use a Sewing Machine Without a Bobbin?Many sewing machine accessories contribute to your project’s success. For example, you’ll work with the presser foot, throat plate, take-up lever, and feed dogs. While some of these attachments are huge such as the balance wheel, others are tiny such as pins and needles. However, most users still question the necessity of these parts in every job, and others are more specific and ask, can you use a sewing machine without a bobbin?

You cannot sew anything without a bobbin because the sewing machine needs two spools to work properly. Also, the top thread works with the bobbin thread to create knots with each stitch.

Inside the sewing unit, the bobbin works with an extra thread to sew materials going through the machine. The bottom thread winds around it and creates loops. Therefore, a bobbin is a vital accessory in the sewing process.

You may have more questions about the bobbin. Fortunately, this article discusses bobbin matters. So read on to understand this tiny yet crucial attachment.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have a bobbin?

You can avoid using a bobbin if you have a machine that operates without it. These machines are the sergers, overlockers, or chain stitch units. The thread for the fabric’s underside feeds off of a moving ‘looper.’ Therefore, you get to sew without a bobbin.

Please follow these steps to sew correctly.

  • Hold the stitching unit with two hands.
  • Turn the empty bobbin case towards you.
  • Put one foot on the other and move towards the window.
  • Clean up the sewing device over the window’s edge.
  • With a clear window, shift your hands from the machine and drop it actively.

Can You Use a Sewing Machine Without the Bobbin Case?

The bobbin case is the part of the unit that holds your bobbin. So, if you are using a bobbin, you cannot work without it. The case facilitates the movement of the top thread during the sewing process and keeps the threads in place to cut. It also adds tension to the bobbin thread to provide perfect stitches.

Why Is a Bobbin Needed?

A bobbin performs the same role as a thread spool away from the sewing machine. However, if we factor in a sewing device, it becomes the crucial part that helps you deliver excellent stitches. Also, the bobbin helps you work quickly.

Below are some reasons you need a bobbin. Check them out!

  • You can use the lockstitch technique in your work.

This technique works when you connect the needle and bobbin thread. Therefore, you need the bobbin to help you deliver the bobbin thread.

  • You can work with embroidery machines.

Patterns and designs are only a reality when you have a bobbin. Embroidery machines need it to keep the stitching work intact. The bobbin also ensures that embroidery stitches are uniform and even.

Do All Sewing Machines Use Bobbins?

Not all sewing machines use bobbins. We have other specially designed units which work pretty well without the bobbin. However, commonly used units such as the lockstitch sewing machine significantly rely on bobbins to offer satisfactory results. Therefore, your first sewing device will most likely require you to have a bobbin.

An example of a machine that does not require a bobbin to sew is the chain-stitch sewing machine. Instead, it utilizes the top thread to loop with itself and delivers a stitch.

Do All Singer Sewing Machines Use the Same Bobbins?

Singer sewing machines work best with SINGER branded bobbins. Ensure that you wind the thread on empty bobbins only to avoid irregularities during sewing. So, avoid winding other threads on partially wound bobbins. You should also ensure that you look at the user manual to determine the most recommended bobbins for the machine.

In short, no! You cannot utilize the same bobbins for all sewing machines. They come in different shapes and sizes. Therefore, please be keen as you get the accessory to use.

How Does Bobbin Thread Get Picked Up?

When the sewing machine picks up the bobbin thread, you should see a small loop emerging through the needle plate. Use the tip of a narrow accessory such as a pair of scissors or pencil and pull the loop up. Then, pull both threads under the foot towards the back of the sewing machine.

You can also pick up the lower thread by considering the following steps.

  • Raise the needle and the presser foot to their highest positions.
  • Use your left hand to hold the end of the upper thread and your right hand to turn the balance wheel in a clockwise direction. Ensure that the needle moves down and returns to its highest position.
  • At this point, the upper thread should catch the lower thread in a loop. Therefore, pull it toward you, and the lower thread will come from the bobbin in a loop.
  • Finally, pull out about 6” of both threads and position them towards the machine’s back behind the presser foot.

Why Isn’t My Sewing Machine Catching the Bobbin Thread?

On some occasions, the machine may not pick up the bobbin thread: thus interfering with and slowing down your sewing process. The situation arises because of a few issues. Please consider the following sewing machine problem causes and remedies.

  • The unit may not pick up the bobbin thread if it is tangled. This situation happens if you thread incorrectly or use the wrong spool capsize. Thus, remove the thread from the sewing unit and rethread correctly using the manual directions. Also, consider getting the correct size for the spool cap.
  • If you hold the needle thread too tightly, the machine may not pick it up for sewing. Therefore, ensure that you hold it lightly to keep the thread’s end from going into the shuttle.
  • An incorrectly threaded or bent needle may lead to the unit not picking up the thread. Ensure that you thread the needle correctly (from front to the back) and replace it if it is bent.

Do Bobbin Cases Wear Out?

Bobbin cases wear out because of the bobbin that repetitively spins inside them. Over time, the bobbin fits poorly and moves back and forth inside the assembly.

Even though bobbin cases wear out, you can lengthen their life span by being intentional about their maintenance. For example, dust and thread wax easily collect around the hole in the tension-adjusting spring, resulting in an incorrect thread tension. Thus, it would be best if you clean it whenever you change the bobbin.

Please follow these steps to get excellent results.

  • Turn off the embroidery machine. Ensure that you unplug the power supply cord to avoid an electric shock.
  • First, open the hook cover and carefully remove the bobbin case. Then, remove the bobbin itself.
  • Remove dust from the tension-adjusting spring by sliding a paper. Use the paper corner to clean around the hole. However, be careful not to bend the spring. Also, ensure that you only use the specified paper to do the cleaning.
  • Use the machine’s cleaning brush to remove dust and lint from the bobbin case.
  • Insert the bobbin into its case once you are done, put it into the hook and close the cover. Also, ensure that you close the hook cover before using the sewing appliance to avoid mechanical issues.

What Is the Difference Between a Bobbin and a Spool?

A spool is a unit around which the wire, thread, or cable winds, whereas a bobbin is a spool where the thread coils. Therefore, on a sewing machine, the bobbin is the part that feeds the thread from the lower part of the device. On the other hand, the spool holds the thread reel while winding the bobbin or sewing.

Are Metal or Plastic Bobbins Better?

Metal bobbins are better than plastic ones. However, it is not a universal sewing material as it has limited uses. Also, if you use a metal bobbin with a plastic bobbin case, the case will wear out faster and cost you a lot of money.

You cannot swap plastic and metal bobbins even if they are of the same size. Sewing machines are set for particular tension settings_because if the setting requires a lighter plastic bobbin, tension changes if you use a heavier metal bobbin.

What Tension Should My Sewing Machine Be On?

A correctly formed stitch is a result of the top and bottom threads. Therefore, these threads should work in harmony to interlink at the center of the fabric. Any imbalances may cause one of the threads to pull to the fabric’s side, causing poor quality stitches. This aspect calls for you to make the correct tension adjustments.

The tension settings usually run from 0 to 9. Thus, a 4.5 position would be appropriate for regular straight stitch sewing. It is also suitable for most fabrics. However, if you want to deliver a zig-zag stitch, a 3 or 4 will work best since you need to slacken off the tension slightly.

The better you become at testing thread tension, the more enjoyable sewing will be, as you will be able to make correct adjustments before you begin working. It is difficult to diagnose the issue, but the tension problem becomes clear if you thread up using different colors.

A perfectly balanced thread tension translates into an ideal sewing machine tension. However, when the top and bottom tension are not in harmony, you may consider pulling the top thread underneath. The hiccup occurs when the bottom tension is too tight or the top tension is too loose. Therefore, when you pull the top thread, you create a balance.

Also, if you see that the thread is too loose and does not connect with its partner in the fabric, pull out the bottom thread.

Bobbin Thread Tension

Please note that if you use front-loading bobbin with a removable bobbin case, the screw is movable even accidentally. Thus, as it may not be at the recommended factory settings, you need to test the bobbin tension before you sew.

Test the bobbin tension by inserting a bobbin into the bobbin case and hold it up by the thread. The bobbin case should not move. Then, give a slight jerk on the thread and observe if the bobbin case slides down.

If it slides down slightly, you are working with the correct tension. On the other hand, if it drops freely, you need to adjust the tension as it is too loose. Also, a zero movement shows that the bobbin case is too tight.

The bottom tension also needs some setting. Again, use the tiny screwdriver that comes with your unit. The spool case has a small screw that you turn clockwise or anticlockwise to make necessary adjustments.

Note: A clockwise turn tightens the bottom tension while an anticlockwise movement loosens it.

If you use a drop-in style bobbin, you do not need to change the bobbin tension. It is not easy to accidentally alter it unless you do it yourself. However, if you need to make adjustments, remove the needle plate and take out the bobbin case. Once you have access to the bobbin tension screw, make the changes.

Does Bobbin Thread go Through Needle?

The bobbin thread does go through the needle. The threading process requires you to lightly hold the bobbin with your right hand and guide the thread through the needle slit. Then, use your left hand to handle and pull the thread lightly. The thread enters the bobbin case’s tension spring and passes through the slot.

When using a bobbin thread, you should not be surprised if it knots up. A bobbin thread knot refers to a scenario where the bobbin thread and the top thread are not cooperating. As a result, it causes knots on the fabric’s backside and large loops. But you can easily avoid the problem by knowing its causes and how to handle it whenever it occurs.

Consider the following tips to avoid knots.

  • Always use sharp needles for your sewing applications. A blunt or dull needle will not catch the bobbin thread and may end up getting stuck in the bobbin. Therefore, if you observe that the needle is bent or damaged, replace it immediately.
  • Set the bobbin and top thread to ensure that they operate in the same tension. Unequal tension is the most common reason for bunching thread and knots. Therefore, ensure that you lose or tighten the thread if you observe any tension variations.
  • Adjust the tension to match the fabric you are sewing. For example, use a lightweight fabric tension setting for delicate fabrics and heavyweight settings for thick woolen fabrics. If you set both threads correctly and still get knots, always know that the issue is with the fabric tension. Therefore, ensure that you determine the fabric tension requirements first.
  • Work with long enough thread tails for the bobbin and top thread. If they are short, the machine will pull them back, and you will need to rethread them. As a result, knots will appear.
  • Ensure that you correctly place the bobbin. Always check the user manual to get the specific sewing machine setup guidelines. An incorrectly placed bobbin can easily ruin your project. Such a bobbin will not unwind correctly, and thus the top thread and the bobbin thread will not interact correctly.
  • Always choose the correct bobbin size for your sewing machine. Knotting issues occur when the bobbin is too small or too big for the unit. You will also find that the needle collides with the bobbin, leading to bending or breakage. Additionally, you are at liberty to use multiple bobbins. Just ensure that they are suitable for the sewing device.
  • Thread the machine correctly, following the manual’s specifications. If you do not thread the top thread properly, it may get stuck on the sewing machine. This scenario creates the dreaded tangles and knots. Also, the top thread will affect the bobbin thread, which will not pull up into the material as expected.

When threading, ensure that the upper thread passes through all the thread guides. Also, keep the presser foot in an upward position to allow the thread to sit properly.

  • Finally, clean the machine regularly. If the knots persist after you have performed all the other remedies, consider cleaning the unit. Dust particles in the machine parts, especially in the bobbin case and bobbin, may contribute to the knots. Therefore, clean the appliance or the bobbin area whenever you change the bobbin and oil sufficiently.

How Does the Bottom Bobbin Work?

The bobbin holds the bottom thread in the correct position and sits beneath the needle in a bobbin case. The accessory is useful as it works with the top thread mechanism to deliver a complete loop during sewing.

However, before popping in the bobbin, there are a few things to check to ensure that it sits properly in its compartment. This way, you can maximize the bobbin’s potential.

  • Ensure that you choose the correct bobbin for the sewing machine. The accessory will not run as intended if it is not compatible with the sewing unit. Also, avoid using old bobbins as they may not be the exact fit for the job.

NB: Sometimes, you will find a bobbin that suits your sewing appliance but is of a different material. Please take a pass at it and stick to the recommended bobbin type.

  • Consider whether the sewing unit has a front-loading or top-loading bobbin case. A top-loading bobbin case is common for new machines and is usually found below the needle. It is transparent and allows you to see and monitor the bobbin thread. On the flip side, the front-loading bobbin case is detachable and comes with more classic sewing devices.

The two bobbin case techniques also differ because the thread in the top-loading bobbin case moves in a counterclockwise direction while the front-loading moves in a clockwise motion. Therefore, ensure that you determine which bobbin case you are using and wind correctly.

  • Correctly wind the bobbin before you start working. You may not see the bobbin during the sewing process, but its state will manifest in your work. Therefore, please take a few minutes to wind it and ensure that the thread is intact.
  • Examine the bobbin thread’s tension. You can begin by taking the wound bobbin and hold it by the end string. Then, shake it to see if it unravels. If it does not move, the tension is set too high, and you should consider adjusting it.
  • Always work with a clean bobbin as a little dirt may compromise your whole project. Soiled and rusty bobbins are not an ideal accessory for quality work. Therefore, maintain the bobbins and quickly get replacements whenever necessary.
  • Give the bobbin thread some space to breathe by ensuring that you do not wind them too tightly.
  • Finally, you can consider having an extra bobbin as a replacement when the current one runs out. This practice will help you get over the frustration of running out of the bottom thread.

Here’s how a bobbin work:

Another scenario may occur where you have the correct bobbin, but either the bobbin is stuck in one area, or the thread is not sewing. You may also observe that the bobbin is creating rough or uneven ends.

The following are easy ways to troubleshoot the above bobbin issues.

  • The Bobbin Is Stuck In One Place.

A stuck bobbin does not move freely and causes uneven threading. However, it is a common issue and should not worry you.

Simply check whether the bobbin case has scratches or is bent. Bent bobbin issues arise when you use various bobbins on a sewing device. Therefore, replace the bobbin with a new one and get back to work.

  • The Bobbin Creates Loose Threading, Bunching, or Bird Nesting.

This situation usually happens when the tension is wrongly set on the main thread or loop. Thus, simply reattach the main thread with the correct tension. Also, you can consider assessing the needle tip if the problem persists. A broken needle may lead to sewing problems. Therefore, ensure that the needle tip is in perfect condition.

  • Bobbin Thread Is Not Sewing.

The bobbin thread will not sew if you use the wrong bobbin type or size. You may also experience the problem because the bobbin does not fit into the casing properly. Therefore, correct the problem by winding another bobbin and refit in the bobbin case.

Note: Be keen to follow the user manual as it helps you select the correct bobbin. It also guides you as you refit the accessory.

  • The Bobbin Is Creating Rough or Uneven Threads.

You will observe uneven or rough threads when you use the wrong bobbin. Unfortunately, the problem also occurs when you work with an unevenly threaded bobbin. Therefore, rethread the bobbin correctly or replace the bobbin with the right one.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Bobbin Tension Should I Use for Thick Fabric?

Medium-heavy materials like twill weave such as denim and drill always work well with a five or a 4. Just ensure that you work with a higher tension for thick upholstery and lower tension for lightweight materials.

  • Why Is My Thread Wrapping Around the Bobbin?

The thread wraps around the bobbin if you do not set the sewing machine correctly. For example, an incorrect stitch setting causes the fabric to tangle up at the lower bobbin.

Also, if you do not thread the lower bobbin well, the sewing machine will not pull it in the right way. As a result, you will experience a freeze or jam.

  • How much thread should I use on my bobbin?

The size of your bobbin will determine the thread you need for the sewing project. For example, if you get frustrated when the bobbin thread runs out, ensure that you consider a large-sized bobbin.

  • Can I fix the bobbin thread knotting up issues at home?

Yes, it is possible to fix the bobbin thread knotting up issues at home. The first thing is to ensure that you keep your machine clean. Next, ensure that you oil it regularly. Also, assess the thread tension and adjust it according to the machine and fabric.

Prevention is better than cure, they say. Therefore, consider working with sharp and suitable needles for your machine and fabric as it significantly reduces thread knotting chances.


So far, we have seen that a bobbin makes all the difference despite being a small part of the sewing unit. It is a must-have attachment if you want to get excellent results with a lockstitch machine. While those who work with chain stitch machines may not see a bobbin’s relevance, we need to engage further and still ask,

Can You Use a Sewing Machine Without a Bobbin?

Sewing machines require a bobbin for them to create stitches. The top thread cooperates with the bobbin thread to deliver knots with each hem. Therefore, a newfound appreciation for the accessory will help you select the best one for your projects. And as a result, you will scale higher in your sewing career.

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