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How to Thread a Sewing Machine (With Photos)

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Threading a sewing machine is easier than you think.

Threading a sewing machine is easier than you think.

Tips, Tricks and How Tos for Threading Your Sewing Machine

Tame thread issues and learn how to prepare your machine with this illustrated tutorial and accompanying video.

In this article, I will show you how to thread your sewing machine while avoiding some common pitfalls that lead to major frustration.

The thing about threading sewing machines is that every model is a little different. Brother sewing machines are a tiny bit different from Kenmores, which are different from vintage sewing machines. That's why it's a good idea to read the manual, even if you are a confident sewer. If you don't have a manual for your machine, this tutorial should give you a good idea of the basic steps. Something as simple as having the spool of thread unwinding in the wrong direction can wreak havoc with your stitches. So, let's start with the spool.

sewing machine threading diagram

sewing machine threading diagram

Complete Threading Diagram

This graphic shows the basic steps and correct order for threading almost any sewing machine. Start on the top, work your way through the vertical channels, hook the thread around the uptake lever and bring the thread through the needle. That's it!

NOTE: The thread guide with the little round mushroom-cap doodad is part of the bobbin threading system, so there's no need to worry about that. The only guide you need to catch is the small metal loop just before the channels and tension plates.

Basic Threading Guide

  1. Place your spool of thread on the spool holder. Cover with a spool cap if necessary.
  2. Bring the thread through the first thread guide on the top of the machine.
  3. Next, bring the thread through the first row of channels, making sure the thread passes through the tension plates or tension discs.
  4. Follow the threading channel downward, bring the tail around the island in between the two channels.
  5. Bring the thread up, following the second or left-most channel.
  6. Now for the tricky part, make sure the thread hooks around the thread uptake lever, a metal hanger type apparatus with a notch for the thread. If necessary, turn the hand wheel to raise the needle to the highest position.
  7. Next, bring the thread all the way down to the needle area. Make sure to catch the needle thread guide, which is a little eyelet located on the front or side of the needle.
  8. Finally, thread the needle. For most home sewing machines, the tail should go through the needle from front to back. Now you're done!
Step 1: The Thread Guide

Step 1: The Thread Guide

Step 1: Bring Thread Through Guide

After your thread is on the spool holder, bring it through the first guide.

Step 2: The Tension Plates

Step 2: The Tension Plates

Step 2: Guide Thread Through Tension Plates

Guide your thread through the vertical channels. This is where your tension discs are located. To make sure the thread passes through the plates, tug on both ends to keep the thread taught while guiding it through.

If you aren't sure whether it worked, move your tension knob to zero, try it again and then re-tighten the tension.

Step 3: 'Round the Horn

Step 3: 'Round the Horn

Step 3: 'Round the Horn

Continue guiding your thread through the channels that run from the top through the face of the machine.

Once you round the bottom, wrap the thread around the horn and pull it up the second row of channels.

Basically, you're making a making a sharp U-turn.

Step 4: Catching the Thread Uptake Lever

Step 4: Catching the Thread Uptake Lever

Step 4: Catch the Thread Uptake Lever

Catching the thread uptake lever is one of the most important steps.

After you've brought the thread down and hooked it around the center median, bring it all the way up to the thread uptake lever, making sure the thread is caught in the notch.

If necessary, adjust your handwheel to raise the position of the thread hanger, which will make it easier to complete the process. This close-up photo shows the thread-up take lever on my Kenmore Mini Ultra sewing machine.

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