Step-By-Step Guide: How To Sew Without A Bobbin

If you know how to use a sewing machine, you will know bobbin and its importance in sewing projects. Without one, a sewing machine won’t function. But, what if there’s no bobbin? How can you sew without one?

Metal bobbins with blue and yellow threads

The bad news is that you can’t sew without one if you have a classic type. A sewing machine needs two spools to operate. That’s why you need a bobbin thread and a needle thread. The good news is that there are sewing tips to sew without a bobbin.

What is a bobbin, and why use it?

A bobbin is a small reel used in sewing machines to hold the thread. There are different types of bobbin; metal bobbin, plastic bobbin or wood. You can also find pre-wound bobbin threads suitable for high-quality machines for a smoother and uniform winding. It also comes in different shapes like M style, L style, Class 15 A style etc. Then, the thread is fed into the machine and secures a stitch.

If you want to secure the piece of fabric you’re sewing, you have to create a lockstitch by both the bobbin and the needle thread together. In the needle, you can see the upper thread at once. The lower thread, though, is hidden under the feed dog, and it isn’t visible while stitching.

Where the bobbin goes

The bobbing has its place in the sewing machine. It is under the needle in a case, but you can get it separately as well. Most new sewing machines use top-loading bobbin cases. However, the old ones have front-loading bobbin cases. In both of them, the bobbin is positioned into the case inside the sewing machine. However, the case in top-loading ones always stays in the machine, whilst in a front-loading one, you need to take it off to remove the empty bobbin and insert a different one.

A close up of a hand inserting a bobbin in the bobbin case of a sewing machine

In some machines, winding the bobbin is achieved by pulling or pushing the handwheel. However, many sewing machines have a built-in bobbin winder which you have to slide to the right. For more information, just check the user manual. If you are a beginner in DIY sewing projects, here’s how to insert a bobbin in both types of cases.

Inserting a bobbin in top-loading sewing machines

  1. Push the button to release the bobbin cover and remove it.
  2. Hold the bobbin in such a way that the thread is coming off towards you and to the right.
  3. You have to make the thread pass through the two slots on the side of the case. You need to make it go out the first slot and then back in the second. Thus, hold the bobbin into the case and hold it in place with your left index finger whilst the right hand is bringing the thread to the left.
  4. Bring the thread towards the back of the machine with your left hand and put the cover back in place with the other hand.
  5. Hold the top thread with one hand and with the other, turn the handwheel to lower the needle. Then, raise it again.
  6. Hold the top twine against the needle with your right index finger and gently pull it up through the opening in the front of the presser foot.
  7. Now, hold the top and the bottom thread with your left hand and pull them back under the presser foot and towards the back left.

Inserting a bobbin in front-loading sewing machines

A close of the bobbin case in a sewing machine

  1. Check the machine manual to locate the loading area. Once you know where to find the bobbin case, open the cover, lift the metal latch and pull the case out.
  2. Turn the bobbin case upside down, so the bobbin falls.
  3. Hold the new wound bobbin, making sure that the thread comes off to the left in a clockwise direction.
  4. Put the bobbin in the case and pull the thread through the slot along the edge of the case.
  5. Next, pull the thread under the “finger” until it slips into the opening on the side.
  6. Hold the bobbin by the metal latch and place it back into the case.
  7. Push and rotate the case a bit until it snaps into its position.

Now you can thread the top of the machine and pull the bobbin thread. The process is the same as for top-loading machines.

The bobbin case

The sewing machine bobbin case holds the thread, providing at the same time tension to the lower thread. While running the sewing machine, the needle thread is pulled around the case, wrapped around the bobbin thread and pulled through the plate. A bobbin case maintains the thread tension ensuring smooth stitching.

How to sew without a bobbin

1. Hand sew

Hand sewing is the traditional method of stitching. Even if you use a sewing machine, you will need to hand sew. The most used stitches made by hand sewing are running stitch, blind stitch and hemstitch.

hands of a woman while sewing with needle and thread a striped pillow

Hand sewing is usually used for:

  • Sewing buttons and poppers
  • Mending torn leggings, lace and seams
  • Fixing holes in socks and gloves
  • Sewing delicate fabrics like chiffon.

2. Use a fabric glue

Another way to sew in case you don’t have a bobbin is to use fabric glue. Unfortunately, you can’t use it in all cases. You can use glue only when you don’t want the stitches to show.

Fabric glues are strong enough to hold the pieces of fabric together. They’re also washable, dry quickly and nontoxic. You can use such glue to make no-sew pillow covers, scarves and headbands. What’s more, it’s probably the easiest and fastest way to repair torn hems, trims, broken zippers, or to add embellishments to your clothes.

3. Use a sewing machine without a bobbin

The stitch created by a sewing machine with a bobbin is secure; some machines, though, don’t need a bobbin to operate. These machines are called sergers, overlockers and chain stitch machines. These machines use the top thread to make a chain stitch. The thread underneath the cloth goes through a hinged hook with thread guides.
If you’re a beginner in DIY sewing projects, this type is the perfect one to learn how to stitch. However, you better avoid it if you are a professional because the stitch isn’t secure and can come undone.

Differences between a sewing machine with and without a bobbin

As we have already mentioned, there are sewing machines that need a bobbin and machines that operate without one. Let’s see where they are different:

An overlock and a sewing machine

A sewing machine with a bobbin

A classic sewing machine, as well as modern and lockstitch sewing machines, need a bobbin and are used by both industrial production and home sewing. They’re easy to use, and you just need two spools of thread to make invisible stitches, locksmith stitches, zigzag and straight stitches, and the list goes on. To get the best out of them, you need to put oil on the bobbin.

A sewing machine without a bobbin

A sewing machine without a bobbin is found in a serger, overlocker and chain stitch machine. They’re commonly used for industrial production; however, they’re used in home sewing as well. This sewing machine type is much more difficult to operate than the ones with a bobbin. You can use this to sew a line of holes in a cloth, a piece of paper to make a stencil (called pouncing), for lines of quilting stitch and so on. You should keep in mind, though, that the stitches are very easy to come undone.

Do you need a bobbin for embroidery?

If you are using an embroidery machine, then a bobbin is necessary. This type of machine needs the bobbin to keep the stitches secure. What’s more, the bobbin ensures that the backside of the embroidery is less thick than the front side. That is very helpful when embroidering lightweight fabric, as it keeps the cloth from crumpling or the thread from bunching.

White zipper and zipper foot next to the head part of a sewing machine over a white table.

A bobbin is a small part of your sewing machine (even if you have a handheld machine) but of such great importance. Hopefully, you can sew without a bobbin. The result might not be the same as it would be if sewing with one; however, it will be decent enough.

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