Tips for Smooth Sewing: Thread Management

Get going sewing with these tips for smooth sewing from Sewing Machine Magic!

Sewing Machine, Sewing Machine Magic

The main goal of a sewing machine is to deliver thread to precise locations between pieces of fabric (or other materials), with the purpose of joining those pieces. The machine must deliver just enough thread, but not too much, at just the right time and at the exact location. This means that there are many variables that affect the delivery of the thread. Learning about the thread path can help you troubleshoot when stitching goes awry. It’s time to learn the correct way to thread all sewing machines.

Thread Path
The threading direction, from the spool pin to the needle, is called the thread path. Your machine’s thread path is illustrated in your manual and often on the body of the sewing machine. All machines have certain features on the thread path that are the same, including a spool pin, thread guides, tension disks, a take-up lever, and a needle.

Spool caps, Sewing Machine MagicSpool Pin

The spool pin holds the thread. Sometimes, the thread comes off the top of the machine vertically, and sometimes the spool pins are positioned so the thread can be released both vertically and horizontally.

The spool caps hold the thread spool on the spool pin and keep the thread from snagging on the spool. They come in various sizes. It’s best to use the size spool cap that facilitates the flow of the thread. For a narrow spool of thread, use the smallest spool cap. If you have a wider spool, use the wider cap, which directs the thread past the rough edges of the spool and around the smooth spool cap.

TIP: Not all vintage machines have spool caps, but you might be able to use spool caps from newer models.

Felt pad, Sewing Machine MagicFelt Pad

Felt pads are small pads of felt that sit on the base of the spool pin. Without these pads, the spool spins too fast, releasing too much thread, causing the thread to tangle around the underside of the spool.

Thread guides are designed to control the speed of the thread’s delivery and keep it from catching on something when the thread is slack. As thread comes off the spool, there are guides across the top and down the front of the machine that help keep the thread in the thread path. Check the owner’s manual for locating your machine’s thread guides.

Tension disks regulate the speed your thread feeds into the sewing area. It is very important that the presser foot is raised when you thread the machine; the raised presser foot ensures that the tension disks are open and the thread can slide between them. There is a dial on the machine for adjusting the thread tension to accommodate fabric type and stitching applications. See page 21 for more about the tension disks.

The take-up lever maintains tension on the thread as it feeds into the needle. Once the thread has passed through the tension disks, it is threaded into the take-up lever (or uptake lever). Note that when the needle is in its uppermost position, the take-up lever is also in its uppermost position and vise versa. From the take-up lever, the thread goes through a thread guide as it moves toward the needle. Always make sure you are threading the machine from the side of the spool pin toward the side with the needle.

TIP: If you don’t see the take-up lever, turn the hand wheel toward you slowly until you see the silver bar with the hole emerge from the upper edge of the machine above the needle.

The needle delivers the upper thread layers between the layers of the fabrics, where it joins the bobbin thread (see page 28). Insert the needle into the machine and then thread the needle according to the owner’s manual. The needle is usually threaded from front to back on newer machines and from left to right on some vintage or industrial machines.

Bobbin, Sewing Machine Magic

How to Pull Up the Bobbin Thread

  1. To retrieve the bobbin thread, hold onto the needle thread and turn the hand wheel, located on the right side of the machine, toward you. This moves the bobbin hook (under the throat plate) so it catches the upper thread.
  2. Pull the upper thread gently and the bobbin thread will come up through the throat plate into the sewing area.
  3. Pull both the needle and bobbin threads behind the presser foot toward the back of the machine (“parking your threads”) so there are tails to hold as you begin to sew.

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Sewing Machine MagicSewing machines are complicated machines, but with the instruction you’ll find in Sewing Machine Magic, you can make even an old sewing machine work wonders.

With just a little know-how and the right accessories, you can get the most out of your sewing machine and give all your sewing and quilting projects a professional look!

In Sewing Machine Magic, author and sewing expert Steffani Lincecum shares 30+ years of experience on how to handle a sewing machine with greater ease and confidence, and explains how to easily find and use the right presser feetand other accessories for your machine, whether you purchased it at retail or found it at a yard sale.

You’ll learn the logistics of managing thread, how to achieve the proper stitch formation for every project, and how to troubleshoot a variety of common sewing problems. Learn to use more than 30 presser feet and other accessories, from the basics to more specialized tools designed to maximize efficiency, precision, and creativity. The 10 fashion and home decor projects show inventive ways to use some of the feet and accessories.