10 Things You Need to Know About Sewing Machine Bobbins


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by Sara Snuggerud in Sewing Machines, Sewing Tips

Sewing machine bobbin questions are a regular topic around a sewing machine store. Here are the most common questions and answers we help be with on a regular basis.

1. You always need MORE sewing machine bobbins.
How many bobbins do you really need? We took a survey at a recent Sewtopia Sewing Club and the average amount our club members said they had was between 20 – 30 sewing machine bobbins for each machine they owned. Yes, many of them own different brands of machines. Many of our customers SEW on Bernina sewing machines and EMBROIDER on a Husqvarna Viking machine. Wonder why so many of our customers are multi-sew-lingual? Come in and see for yourself!

sewing machine bobbins

2. Buy a pack of bobbins every time you visit your favorite sewing machine store.
Most sewing machines come with 3-5 bobbins when buy them. So many people say that is enough bobbins when they are just starting out, but then we see them back within a few days saying they need more. Keep buying sewing machine bobbins at each time you visit our store. You eventually will have enough.

3. You MUST use the bobbins that are made for your machine.

sewing machine bobbins 2

Just because you like the color blue does not mean you can use these bobbins. These bobbins are made specific for a Husqvarna Viking Designer EPIC sewing and embroidery machine.

4. Plastic bobbins can bulge if filled with too much tension or too tightly.
Filling a sewing machine bobbin too tightly can make a plastic bobbin bulge. This is hard to see the problem, but the bobbin ends up too tall for machine and will cause an awful mess in the bobbin area.

5. Plastic bobbins and metal bobbins of the same size can NOT be swapped.
Machines are set for a very precise tension setting. If they are set for a lighter plastic bobbin, the tension will change if a heavier metal bobbin is used.

6. Bernina Users – This is NOT your bobbin!
Bernina bobbins are milled and generic bobbins are stamped. The difference is night and day. If your machine takes a generic metal bobbin you CAN use a Bernina bobbin. It will be much smoother for your machine.

Sewing Machine Bobbins 4

Sewing Mishaps Happen…
Ensure every project is a success with simple, creative ways to prevent slip ups and fix common errors with this online Craftsy class “Sewing Mistakes: What can go wrong and how to make it right”.

Craftsy Sewing Mistakes Jennifer Stern-Hasemann

7. Bobbins must be inserted to spin the correct direction.
Many machines have a picture to remind you which way a bobbin should spin.

sewing machine bobbin 5

8. Do not leave this thread tail sticking up!
This tail will interfere with the forming and the connecting of the top thread with the bobbin thread with EVERY stitch made. Be sure to cut this tail off so nothing sticks up.

sewing machine bobbin 6

9. This is one of the WORST things for a sewing machine mechanic to find in a sewing machines’ accessory box.
What is wrong with this picture?

sewing machine bobbins 3

When a sewing machine mechanic opens your machine and seeing a variety of bobbin types mixed together and none of them are the correct bobbin for the machine, this is a guarantee way to make them cringe. This is a huge NO-NO! Just because bobbins came with the machine when you received it second hand, does not mean that last person was using a correct bobbin. Do you really have the right bobbin? Double check with your local sewing machine as to which bobbins are right for your machine.

10. Buy more bobbins.
Tired of winding more than one color on a bobbin? Refer back to #1…Buy more bobbins!

BONUS Bobbin Info…

Husqvarna Viking users – want to learn a cool trick about filling your bobbins? Watch this video!

Have a sewing machine bobbin question?
Post it in the questions below and we will answer it.


Want to learn more about sewing and quilting? Join us online at Craftsy for great classes you can take at your leisure including two from Sara Snuggerud.

Craftsy Sara Snuggerud's Recommended craftsy classes


  1. Jean C Blaisdell says:

    I have Babylock machine one is a Quest Plus, Quilter’s Dream Series,
    I have notice that if i buy the plastic pre wound bobbins that they don’t work they are a tad smaller in size. What is the correct way of winding a bobbin from the machine. Thank you for the 10 things to know about bobbins.. you never have enough..

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Jean, Your Babylock sewing machine probably has a diagram on the top of the machine for how to wind a bobbin. If you need assistance, please come in our store or visit your local Babylock store for help.

  2. Louise says:

    Great information for us who have all sort of bobbins. If you can’t use it lose it! Give to a church quilting group who may be able to use them.

  3. Sue Ptacek says:

    I totally agree. i must have 30 bobbins for my one Bernina. Another trick is to wind a whole slew of bobbins at the same time. I usually wind 5 every time – so there are 5 white, 5 cream, 5 navy, 5 black and 5 red wound and ready to go. Makes like so much easier to just have to pop a new one in rather than to stop what you are doing and wind another!

  4. Judy walker says:

    I had bottom lip of a bobbin break off at end of winding, messed up a lot of thread for reuse. Why would it break? Age, defect? Hopefully not my threads.

    1. Sara says:

      Bobbins sometimes get weak or a crack in them over time. Though it does not happen often, we do see it. Sometimes it can be caused by the thread getting wound on the bobbin too tight or with extra tension then normal. There is no way of knowing until it happens.

  5. Terri Riddle says:

    Should you always use a metal bobbin in a metal bobbin case and a plastic bobbin in a drop in bobbin? Example: class 15 come in both metal and plastic. I had a customer with a metal class 15 in a drop in machine. I’ve had customers with a plastic class 15 bobbin in a metal bobbin case. Please tell me if there is a hard fast rule for metal vs plastic!!

    1. Sara says:

      The main difference is if the machine’s bobbin tension was set for a heavier metal bobbin or the lighter weight plastic bobbin. Traditionally you do find metal bobbins in the front load metal bobbin cases and plastic class 15 bobbins in the drop in bobbin machines. The bobbin tension would be slightly different when they are switched. Though the bobbin is the correct size for the machine (that is always half the battle) the weight of the bobbin can make a difference on the final look of the stitch. A slight adjustment in top tension can adjust for the difference.

  6. Jennifer Quigley says:

    I would like to try Bobbinwork. Would I need a special bobbin for my Sapphire 870 machine?

    Jennifer Quigley

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Jennifer, You will want to purchase the Husqvarna Viking speciality bobbin case from your local Husqvarna Viking dealer. Here is the link to the accessory:

      Thanks for asking. ~Sara~

  7. Metteke VandenBout says:

    When sewing with stretchy fabric is a stretch needle, mean you do not need to stretch the fabric and is the stitch to be a straight or zig zag stitch.

    1. Sara says:

      Yes, a fabric that stretches prefers a Stretch needle. Select a stretch stitch like a narrow zig zag when sewing a construction seam. A serger would be a better option in the future.

  8. Barbara says:

    I just bought an old White rotary machine, what bobbin can I use? I have the model number but still unable to find bobbins! Help!

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Barbara, We would recommend having your local sewing machine store confirm what size of bobbin fits your machine. Take in your machine and they will be able to match up the right bobbins based on the bobbin size.

  9. Heather says:

    Great article! Thanks for the tips. I recently purchased a bobbin winder machine thinking it might lessen wear and tear on my super cheap Singer machine. I am now wondering if it wouldn’t be better, tension wise, to just wind them on the machine anyway. The bobbin winder apparatus also seems pretty shabbily constructed. Do you think this would pose tension challenges in the winding process? Just trying to avoid headaches as I learn to sew ;). Many thanks!

  10. Anne-Marie says:

    Thank you! Great article. I am machine quilting at the mo and have not been able to get my normal tight bottom stitch no matter what adjustments I make . Couldn’t work it out.. it is the bobbin. I use a vintage Kenmore and only have 3 original bobbins and am using a plastic one at the moment. I bet that is the issue!

  11. Jeri Walker says:

    I have a Bernina 930 and I have been using different types of bobbins, guess over the years I have collected quite a few of them, should I only use the ones with 7 little holes around the flat side of the bobbin like you showed in your photo above?????

    1. Sara says:

      Yes, the Bernina bobbins (with 7 holes) is the correct bobbin for your machine.

  12. Andrra says:

    I have a babylock essnte machine. It is very difficult to find the correct bobbin for my machine. I have gone to my dealer but was given bobbins that were the wrong fit. Can you help please? Any other bobbin chokes my machine thread. Thank you.

    1. Sara says:

      Your Babylock store will have the correct bobbins for you. If they do not seam to fit, please have your sewing machine checked out to see if you have something else not working properly.

  13. julie thorne says:

    Wow interesting to read I think that’s why I prefer to use the machine I’m used to altering the tension every time I use different fabrics. Sometimes find it easier to alter the screw setting on bobbin case it also helps. Thank you

  14. Judy Young says:

    Thank you for this Article, I have a Singer Studio S18 and it takes plastic bobbins. Sometimes the bobbins will jump up and down while sewing. It is very noisy, but I do not know why, can you explain what it going on with my machine. My machine is about 8 months old. Thank you.

    1. Sara says:

      Some machines are just louder than others. Be sure to clean the lint out the bobbin area and keep it lint free between sewing projects. You can have your local sewing machine technician look at it to see if something else is making it sew louder than normal.

  15. Jeannette says:

    I hate the plastic bobbins. Give me a machine the the metal bobbins any day of the week

  16. From Linda Morrison says:

    I have 5 sewing machines. Each one has their own bobbin containers. From metal to plastic. If you sew alot . Get a bag to keep them separately. I use the little zipper pencil pouch cases. You can get them for $1.00 just take a magic permanent marker. WRITE ON IT THE NAME OF THE MACHINE ON CORNER AND STORE WITH MACHINE.

  17. Betty Clack says:

    i just bought a new Brother sewing/embroidery machine. my pfaff machine feet that are special accessories appear to look like they will fit on my Brother. Are they compatible?

    1. heirloomc says:

      Hi Betty, We are neither a Pfaff Dealer or a Brother Dealer but my guess would be no they will not fit.

  18. Cheryl says:

    My grandaughter wanted to help, so she put one of her bobbins in one of my bobbin boxes. I got her a little Janome and, unfortunately, the bobbins look very similar. I have tried to see the difference, but I just can’t tell. I have a Singer Quintet, so of course they don’t match. She added hers to a box that still had 15 new bobbins in it. I have a feeling that I might just as well scrap them all. Any suggestions?

    1. Sara says:

      You definitely do not want to use the wrong bobbins in a sewing machine. Your local sewing machine store might be able to help you sort them out. We area around bobbins every day and can usually spot an out of place bobbin quickly.

  19. Mary Dinkel says:

    I bought a pack of Bernina bobbins for my 560 on Amazon. Big mistake. They look IDENTICAL to the original bobbins, but will not work. My machine goes for about 100 stitches, then I get an error and the machine stops. Unfortunately, I wound up a bunch of them and mixed them in with the originals. The only way I can identify the bad ones is to use them, then toss each one that doesn’t work. Beware of the “deals” that you can get on Amazon.

  20. Sharon Lamb says:

    I mark my bobbins with a sharpie. if the bobbin gets in yhe wrong box I will see it fast.

  21. mulan luna says:

    Hai, this is a great artical i ve ever seen bout bobbins… i love collect a lot of bobbin so that i can use it with different colour. I am using Brother NV955 embroidery machine, i think it suitable with plastic bobbin but tje thread alway come out at the end of the sewing… either my bobbin had something wrong or maybe my machine tension got problem. And it is Brother machine suitable for plastic or metal bobbin????

    1. Sara says:

      Brother sewing machines use the Brother plastic bobbins.

  22. Barbarann Farney says:

    I have a brother machine..sews perfect on double layer of material but if I am sewing across a seamless that is a little thick then thread will bunch up underneath. I use brother bobbins, thread machine correctly, put bobbin in right, new needle…can’t figure out what is wrong. I am doing everything right and it is still bunching up …please HELP! I called Brothers and they said that I am doing everything right…I read the instructions more than once….HELP

    1. Sara says:

      Hi, We would suggest taking a “learn your machine” class at your local sewing machine store. They will be able to help with the problems you are having.

  23. sherrie says:

    What is the best sewing machine to invest in

    1. Sara says:

      The best machine is the one you like the feel of when you sew on it and that you can receive classes at the store you buy it from on how to use it.

  24. Patsie says:

    Great article.

  25. Angela says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. A lot of people do not know enough about their sewing machine bobbins and it can cause them many issues. Using the wrong size bobbin is a very common beginner mistake. I wish one day the sewing machine companies would just make them all universal. There are a few things I’d like to add from my experience. For example #2 states to buy a pack of bobbins everytime you go to the store. While this is one way to acquire bobbins, another would be to buy them in bulk from an online retailer. It’s a lot faster to get many at once and it is often cheaper than Joann’s fabrics. Also, #10 implies that people are winding multiple colors of thread onto one bobbin. No one should ever use the same bobbin for different colors. This could cause the machine to jam when the outermost thread segment ends and leave the under segment to potential clog the machine. Either unwind the previous color or at mentioned in #2 purchase more bobbins for your machine.

  26. Audrey says:

    Is there truly a purpose to owning a bobbin winding gadget machine? I hear people talk about them a lot. I “thought” winding a bobbin on my machine “enabled” it to be wound at the correct tension for my machines. Is this incorrect? I have lots of toys & really do not plan on buying one of these–especially since l can wind an additional bobbin without stopping my sewing. I’m simply curious. Thanks!

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Audrey, I’m with you. I can wind my own bobbins on my own sewing machine. 🙂

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