Saturday, September 20, 2014


Under the category "all things are not created equal" are sewing machine bobbins. It would be so much simpler if there was only one style, say 15's because they hold so much thread, and the sewing world would be a much happier place. As it is, there are special bobbins for so many manufactures:

Left to right:15, 66, Elna, Viking, Singer Touch-n-Sew, Featherweight

15 from the original Singer 15 model sewing machine
66 those drop-in bobbin Singers
Elna slightly thinner for less thread
Viking those little concave/convex numbers
Singer Touch-n-Sew where the bobbin winds in a drop in bobbin casing
Featherweight & 301's wider and thinner

Profile: 15, 66, Elna, Viking, Singer Touch-n-Sew, Featherweight
Several of my older sewing machine take class 15 bobbins but their newer counterparts take specialized bobbins: Bernina and Viking are two that come to mind.

Why so many different kinds of bobbins? Proprietary? Special bobbins for special sewing machines? Manufacturing? They could only make a bobbin with a certain depth or contour? Or how about the real reason that no one really wants to admit to: money! If you have a special size bobbin you will have to sell new ones and sometimes that are a dollar each. Be careful in buying super cheap bobbins, like those sold on Ebay in large quantities that are made and shipped from other companies. Their standards can be lower and in some sewing machines that can throw them off and you have a poor or no stitch.

How many bobbins do you need for a sewing machine? At bare minimum, I would think two: one light thread, one dark thread. Most of us don't want to sew with just 2 colors, though, so my real suggestion is about a dozen and mine are usually filled like this: white, cream, pink, red, yellow, brown, navy blue, black, gray, purple, and forest green.That only leaves one for anything else. My favorite sewing machines usually get the box treatment: a box that holds bobbins just for that sewing machine. Each box holds about 20 bobbins so it's not a huge amount either, especially when you think about how many spools of thread you might have.

Singer 301's on left, Pfaff 1222 on right

Bobbin winding courtesy: never wind another color thread over existing bobbin thread. Why would anyone do that? It's just lazy! Say you need a red thread bobbin but don't have an empty one so you grab the white bobbin and fill it with, you think, is just enough to get your project done. Oops, project is done and there is still red thread on the bobbin. Oh well. Days or months go by and you sit down to sew but where is your white thread bobbin? You don't remember that it's underneath the red thread bobbin so you grab another bobbin with xxx thread and fill away. After a year of these kinds of bad habits you have a mess on your hands. A few extra bobbins would have helped this situation but, let's face it, you will never have "enough", so good habits will help. When you need an empty bobbin, take the one you are going to use and unwind the thread back onto the spool it came from. Next time you need it, it can be wound back onto a bobbin, a nice one-to-one ratio. I only harp at this because in all of my sewing machine collecting I get dozens of bobbins that have little surprises waiting for me.
Like peeling an onion (imagine with a solid metal bobbin!)
How does your sewing machine wind bobbins? There are some machines that wind an excellent bobbin with nice neat rows with just the right amount of tension. Then there are those that seems to make more of a mess of it and that will effect your sewing stitch. Even a sewing machine that usually winds fine can have an off day due to the thread, how far the bobbin is pushed in, or any other reason it could be off. I suggest placing your finger somewhere between the spool and the bobbin, creating a bit of tension and guiding the thread back and forth. A correctly wound bobbin can be part of the problem with poor stitch formation since tension from the bobbin and tension from the spool form each stitch. Who knew how the bobbin is wound could be so important?

Having problems with a stitch and think it might be from the bobbin area? Looped stitches underneath come from an improperly threaded upper thread, even though it's on the bottom, bobbin, side. Still wondering what's off? Try switching out a plastic with a metal bobbin or visa-versa. Some sewing machines, even very old ones, like plastic and some like only metal. It's easy to test out, providing you have some of each. An overfull bobbin is also a no-no. Even when I have a sewing machine that says it will stop when the bobbin is full, I watch it towards the end to make sure its not overfilling, somehow not sensing that it's now full.

Now I've rambled on enough about bobbins (thanks for reading to the end of this +800 word post) but I hope you won't take them for granted in your future sewing projects. Just like a two-year-old, they might be little but they can be powerful when crossed!

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