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Donna Babylon: Quick Tip - The Care And Feeding Of Bobbins

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The bobbin on your sewing machine provides the lower thread supply, allowing your machine to form stitches. Needless to say, if your bobbin isn't set up properly, your machine won't work.

Rather than risk that, we thought we'd ask for some tips from a nationally recognized home décor sewing expert. Donna Babylon, creator of the More Splash Than Cash® brand and author of 15 books, including the recently published Decorating Sewlutions: Learn to Sew as You Decorate Your Home was happy to help.

Here are a few of Donna's tips to keep your bobbins working properly.


When you're winding thread onto a bobbin, always start with an empty bobbin. Never wind one color of thread over another color.

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Have several extra empty bobbins on hand. Don't skimp. They're cheap.

The thread on the bobbin has to be evenly wound across the bobbin spool for the machine to work properly. If your machine doesn't appear to be winding smoothly, first check to see you have it correctly threaded for the bobbin winding process. If that appears to be fine, it may be time to service your machine.

For most projects, you'll want your bobbin thread to match the thread in your spool. The exception is when the back of your fabric is a different color or you have a different colored lining. Then you'll want to use a bobbin thread that best matches the color of the back or lining.

Before you start a project, wind at least two bobbins. That way, you'll always have a spare at your fingertips.

Storage & Maintenance

Keep your filled bobbins together (and keep the threads from dangling) by storing them in a foam toe separator, the kind used for pedicures.

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Every time you change the bobbin, use a tiny brush to remove any lint that might have built up inside the bobbin case. For more handy care tips, see our tutorial: Taking Care Of Your Sewing Machine.

(Excerpted from Decorating Sewlutions by Donna Babylon.)

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Comments (20)

chadpeterson12 said:
chadpeterson12's picture

Nice tips as usual. I had no idea foam toe separator size matches bobbin's size.

sue.kozikowski@cisbec.net said:
sue.kozikowski@cisbec.net's picture

Why are you using a picture of a bobbin in backwards on the machine?????

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@sue - Thanks for your concern. This is such an old article; the bobbin is just sitting in the case yet to be threaded, for the photo. 

Brenda Cormack said:
Brenda Cormack's picture

Hi, I'm new to sewing and love your ideas! Can't wait to use them!! Thanks so much!!!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Brenda Cormack - Glad to have you as a new sewer! We have lots of great projects and techniques to get your going - and everything is explained in extra detail so you can have success even if you are just starting out. 

Sue Sews said:
Sue Sews's picture

To contain those messy bobbin threads try this. Use 5/8" clear plastic tubing that is 1/2" inside. (Find it in plumbing supplies).  Cut rings to fit between bobbin sides then cut a slit, wrap around bobbin. You can still keep spool and bobbins together.

dsantil71 said:
dsantil71's picture

I had my husband cut the vinyl tubing for me! I bought 2 June Tailor Spindle Thread Racks that hold 60 spools of thread each. I had my husband replace the original spindles for longer ones that would hold the spool & 2 more bobbins on top of the spool! 2 bobbins for twin needle sewing. Now I keep the bobbins together with the matching thread & safely covered with the vinyl tubing! Now I don't have to worry bout trying to match the bobbins with the thread because they are always together! I always make sure to return them together once I'm done using them too!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@dsantil71 - Super organizational tip! Thanks 

Jay..on the lake said:
Jay..on the lake's picture

I like to use golf tees pushed into the top of the spool of thread that matches.  Just place the bobbin on the matching spool and push a golf tee thru the bobbin and spool hole. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Jay on the lake - what a clever idea. Thank you for sharing it!

Debbie Lai said:
Debbie Lai's picture

Use a golf tee to keep bobbin attached to matching spool of thread, they're cheap.

joel.lemarchand@neuf.fr said:
joel.lemarchand@neuf.fr's picture

On peut aussi découper des anneaux dans un tube souple transparent, acheté chez un plombier.

Fendre l'anneau souple dans sa hauteur, et vous pouvez l'adapter sur les bobineaux de fil également.

Désolée, je ne maîtrise pas asser bien l'anglais pour traduite, mais l'ordi vous aidera !!

Merci pour les bonnes idées de toutes, so.

MoeWest said:
MoeWest's picture

I like to keep the bobbins with the thread. I cut a length of plastic straw and insert it in the middle of the spool with enough straw sticking up to hold 2-3 bobbins. Some types of thread don't stay wound very well. For these, I use the same idea as Jay noted in the comment below.

Vicky Poole said:
Vicky Poole's picture

I also want to keep the bobbin with the thread as I have a lot of very similar colours.
I use a cut  in half pipe cleaner (chenielle sticks also called) and just thread through bobbin and reel and bend over both ends - woks for me.
That's a great idea about the kids hair bands - will buy some asap!

Jay from East Tennessee said:
Jay from East Tennessee's picture

I found another way to keep the thread wound on the bobbins and that is to use the little circlets that are for children's hair. They come in many colors and I tend to use the color to match what is in the bobbin making it easy to find the correct one for the thread I want to use.  They are little woven circles used to keep the youngster's hair in pig tails or pony tails.

Elizabeth Barnett said:
Elizabeth Barnett's picture

I much prefer to keep my bobbin with the spool of thread it was filled from ... I have several spools that are very similar in colour and sometimes different in fiber content....

MHills said:
MHills's picture
Love this idea. I purchased some from the dollar store and they worked out great.
Tracy @ Cotton Pickin Cute said:
Tracy @ Cotton Pickin Cute's picture
This is a brilliant idea. I have always hated having my bobbin threads all tangled up. Now I'm going to be searching high and low for tons of these that are as pretty as yours.

Thanks for sharing this amazing tip. Hugs...Tracy smilies/smiley.gif