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Lush & Plush Trends from Fabric.com: Bobbin Winders Review

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One of the more tedious sewing tasks is winding bobbins. I'll be the first to admit it is my least favorite part of preparing to start a new project. I think my dislike dates back to an old sewing machine that had the worst bobbin winder ever; four times out of five my bobbins looked like big globs of thread. Today, most sewing machines have great built-in bobbin winders. Some higher-end models even have separate bobbin winding motors, allowing you to wind a bobbin while sewing. And there are pre-wound bobbins you can buy, but usually only in black and white. As part of our Lush & Plush Series, Fabric.com asked us to test and write about the two bobbin winders they carry. Both are from Simplicity: the SideWinder Portable Bobbin Winder and the SideWinder Deluxe. I took them both for a spin and recorded my results.

The Simplicity SideWinder Deluxe sells for $97.98 at Fabric.com. The Simplicity SideWinder Portlable Bobbin Winder sells for $29.98 at Fabric.com. That's quite a price difference; let's find out why.

They are radically different in size. The Deluxe is over twice the size of the Portable. Both models call themselves "portable" and they each feature a carry handle, but only the Portable model has a battery-powered option. Both are lightweight and would be easy to pack and carry to a class or sewing group.

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The Simplicity SideWinder Deluxe Bobbin Winder

When open, the hinges on the Deluxe allow it lay nice and flat. The lid features two little storage compartments where you could stow your thread, extra spindles and empty or filled bobbins.

To set up the Deluxe, all you have to do is lift up the telescoping thread guide and click it into position, pull up the spool pin to its full height and slip the felt base pad into place over the spool pin.

The Deluxe comes with four color-coded spindles to hold your bobbin. There is a chart on the included instruction sheet, listing which spindle to use for your sewing machine's bobbin type. My Janome machine uses the red spindle. The little plastic bag off to the side in the photo below shows you the blue, green and yellow spindles. There did not appear to be any machines excluded; in other words, you should be able to wind any type of bobbin with this SideWinder model.

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Place your spool on the spool pin. Run the thread up through the guide, then back down through the metal eye, around the tension disks and into your bobbin. There are arrows to follow. The thread should come under and up through a hole on the top of your bobbin. You use the fill capacity gauge next to the bobbin to set the amount of thread you want to wind, from just a little to completely full. And, there is a speed control knob above the on/off switch. I started with the both the capacity gauge and the speed knob in their middle positions.

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Turn the switch to on and, holding your thread tail, press the green start button. You can let go of the thread as soon as it starts. WHOA! It goes really fast... and I didn't even have it at top speed! I could barely get my camera on in time to take a couple pictures of the bobbin winding. It goes waaaaaaaay faster than the bobbin winder on my sewing machine.

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Although set to the midway point on the capacity gauge, my bobbin wound all the way full. You'd probably need to experiment a little to determine the exact settings for your bobbin type. I wound a full bobbin and then turned the gauge all the way down and just wound a little thread. Both worked well.

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I must admit I didn't think the Deluxe wound my bobbin quite as evenly top to bottom as my Janome does, but the tension was smooth, and when I threaded up my machine, the bobbin worked like a charm. The tension disks on the Deluxe are adjustable so you can tighten or loosen them to get the correct wrap for your bobbin.

Next, I tried threading up the Deluxe with some slippery rayon thread. I used the speed control knob to slow it down a bit, which was suggested on the instruction sheet. It worked great!

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If for any reason you want to stop the machine, you have to use the on/off switch. And, even though the bobbin stops winding automatically based on where you set the capacity gauge, I would suggest turning the switch to off before you remove the bobbin. I didn't do this on my first test and somehow the spindle started spinning again, wrapping the thread and making a bit of a mess.

The Deluxe has a nifty little built-in thread cutter, which was handy. And, since the thread guide is telescoping, it is designed to handle all sizes and shapes of thread spools, including thread cones. I didn't have any of these other types of spools to test so I can't vouch for the flexibility, but it seems like as long as the spool rests snugly on the spool pin, it should work great. You can also buy an optional "swift" that will allow you to wind embroidery floss onto a bobbin.

The Simplicity SideWinder Portable Bobbin Winder

The Portable is so much smaller than the Deluxe, I was prepared for a lot less power and speed. Wrong! It definitely has fewer features, but it is just a speedy... if not even a little faster than the Deluxe!

It opens up and lays nice and flat. All you need to do is pull up the spool pin.

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There is only one spindle and it is not removable. So there are a number of machine models whose bobbins do not work with the Portable. Bobbins that do NOT fit are: Husqvarna Viking machines that use the 412 09 75-45 Sure Fit bobbins, Designer SE, Designer I, Quilt Designer II, Quilt Designer, Platinum, Interlude, Rose, Prelude, Daisy, Orchidea #1, Prisma, Optima, Classica, Huskylock, Singer Centaur II, Futura, and Pfaff Creative Vision.

To start, place your thread on the spool pin. Run the thread down through the metal eye, around the tension disks and into your bobbin. The thread should come under and up through a hole on the top of your bobbin. There are two extra pins to hold additional bobbins. The Portable will only handle standard thread spools.

You cannot set the capacity. A flipper bar judges the fill rate and automatically stops the machine when the bobbin is full.

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Press start and WHOOSH, this puppy winds FAST! There is no speed control. There is also no off switch. If you want to stop the machine, pull back the flipper bar next to the bobbin.

In seconds, my bobbin was full, smooth and neat.

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When I look at the bobbin I wound on the Portable side by side with the bobbin I wound on the Deluxe, there wasn't any difference I could see. In the photo below, the Portable bobbin is on the left and the Deluxe bobbin is on the right.

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You can't adjust the tension, so I don't know what, if anything, you could do if you are unhappy with the wind you get on your bobbin... other than be unhappy.

The Portable is truly portable because it will run on two AA batteries. But, I'd read some reviews that said it wasn't as powerful in battery mode so I thought I'd give it a try. I popped in my batteries.

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I set up a new color of thread and pressed start. WHOOSH again. It was a little bit slower than with AC power, but it was still super-duper fast. Much, much faster than a regular sewing machine bobbin winder

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My final test was to try the Portable with the slippery rayon thread. I was really curious how this would work because there was no way to slow down the winding. It ran just fine.

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Both bobbins from the battery-powered test turned out great.

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So what is my final pick? For speed and precision at under $30.00, I would go with the Portable SideWider. It worked great, was unbelievably fast, and the quality of the winding was consistent bobbin to bobbin -- even with the slippery thread. The bummer is that it is not compatible with all models like the Deluxe model is, but my Janome bobbins fit and the list of models that do work out numbers those that don't.

If you are a person who goes through tons of bobbins, if you prefer to use thread cones, and/or if you're someone who likes to experiment with specialty threads for decorative bobbin work; the extra $68.00 for the Deluxe model would make sense for you. Being able to adjust the the fill capacity and the speed as well as the tension are all real benefits for the power-sewer.

All-in-all, I was very impressed with both machines. Especially the warp speed! You could fill dozens of bobbins in just minutes. Both models allow you to tackle a tedious task crazy fast, and I think either one would help me move past my bobbin-winding phobia.

Click to read more about or buy the Simplicity SideWinder Deluxe Bobbin Winder at Fabric.com.

Click to read more about or buy the Simplicity SideWinder Portlable Bobbin Winder at Fabric.com.



Comments (33)

ptartist_sandra said:
ptartist_sandra's picture

Returning my new Portable Sidewinder:  the on/off switch jams, so must unplug it to start & stop, while trying to either hold the bobbin thread at start or just keep this lightweight item on the table... don't know how you would start & stop using batteries! Also I had to put my finger on/off the thread to get an even wind!   Has anyone tried the Easy Winder Bobbin Winder (which requires also the Universal Thread Holder)?  Sounds better, but ___?

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

@ ptartist_sandra - Sorry you were less than thrilled. We did not have either problem you described when we were testing. Perhaps it was just a bad apple. We have not tested the Easy Winder Bobbin Winder. 

Sarah La Rose said:
Sarah La Rose's picture

The little metal clip on the bobbin spindle broke, does anyone know if this can be replaces as l love my sidewinder.

Why said:
Why's picture

Don't expect to use any Joann store coupons on any Sidewinder.  It is considered a machine and it's on the exception list.  Had a huge argument with the Joann manager.  

Maria Soares Paim said:
Maria Soares Paim 's picture

quero saber o preço desta maquina de encher carritilha  e tambem a foma de pagamento, frete moro em minas gerais  cidade JUIZ DE FORA  meu email é (maria.paim@yahoo.com.br)

Maria Soares Paim said:
Maria Soares Paim 's picture

quero saber o preço desta maquina de encher carritilha  e tambem a foma de pagamento, frete moro em minas gerais  cidade JUIZ DE FORA  meu email é (maria.paim@yahoo.com.br)

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

Maria Soares Paim - We do not sell the machine on Sew4Home. We only wrote the review. You would need to contact Fabric.com or another retailer directly for purchasing infromation. 

Laura.Lightner said:

I bought the small unit, Got it home took it out of the box and sat in in my quilting studio. Later when I tried to use it found out I have the Designer SE by Viking and my bobbins do not work. LOL. I threw the box out so now I have a winder that I never use. LOL

Lynn Street said:
Lynn Street's picture

I did the same thing.  My engineer hubby turned the batteries around backwards and the winder wouund the opposite way--perfect for Husqvarna Designer SE I use.  Hope this helps.

AliceB said:
AliceB's picture

I was given the smaller unit as a gift a few years ago, and I LOVE IT!  I use a lot of clear nylon thread, and it took a little bit of knob adjusting, but now I couldn't do without it!  I appreciate the review on both, as I thought I might purchase the Deluxe if & when mine dies.  There is no sign of it wearing out, but if it does I will just get another of the smaller units.  I purchased it at a Jo-Ann store; their price is good, and even better with one of their 60% off coupons!

Thistlfarm said:
Thistlfarm's picture

I use the smaller Sidewinder and was having problems with it having loose tension.  However I find that putting a light touch on the top of the thread makes the difference.  It also keeps the spool from wobbling which might be partof the tension problem.  Over all I'm happy to find it is a time saver for me and a lot easier than threading and unthreading my machine, a Brother, in order to wind a bobbin.

Reta Epps said:
Reta Epps's picture

I have the small portable...love it.  Paid about $19.95 at Hancock Fabrics a couple years ago. 

PattieO said:
PattieO's picture

As a sewing teacher, I bring my Sidewinder when I teach classes. It really saves time having students wind a bobbin for a machine they are unfamiliar with. I also like to pre-wind bobbins for students when I can. Two weeks ago I wound over 180 bobbins for a lace leaf cutwork class. The students really appreciated the time savings.

KimYwashington said:
KimYwashington's picture

So I have a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4...would my bobbin fit and load properly with either sidewinder?

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

@ KimYwashington - I'm not expert on all the nuances - and certainly not on the Pfaff machines, but the packaging did exclude Pfaff Expression models. I would recommend following-up directly with the consumer service contact at Simplicity or perhaps Fabric.com. 

llinda p said:
llinda p's picture

For the Viking owners, try putting the bobbins in upside down. It works!

mrsleise said:
mrsleise's picture

I was given the smaller one as a gift 3 years ago.  I have used both metal and plastic bobbins with equal amounts of success.  I have always used the battery option (the AC power cord is still in the box!) and have only changed batteries once about 5 months ago.  This was one of the best gifts I have ever gotten, as I hate to have to rethread my sewing machine to wind bobbins.

ScentedSoft&Sewn said:
ScentedSoft&Sewn's picture
I was in the market to purchase one of the bobbin winders as I frequently have to stop sewing to rewind bobbins on a project, which as we all know is frustrating. but after reading the review I think the portable sidewinder is my choice, so glad I read about them both before purchasing.
Debbie O said:
Debbie O's picture
Thanks for the helpful review. The bobbin winder on my old Singer has been giving me fits, so your information is certainly timely. I will definitely buy the small one now.
Michelehug said:
Michelehug's picture
I bought the small one at a bargain price from Overstock.Com, and it is the greatest bargain I have ever obtained. At first, I was surprised at how small and light it is, but it makes up for its size in power. I have an old, old Singer machine and my bobbin winder is a pain-in-the-neck to run. This little gem has certainly paid for itself already! There is nothing on the Deluxe model that I miss.
quilterchris said:
quilterchris's picture
The Viking Mega Quilter bobbins will wind on the smaller of the two. I know, because I have one. My husband uses it all the time for his bobbins. I prefer the winder on the quilter
vickit said:
vickit's picture
This is great. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I have wanted to get one of these myself but at one time I had seen they both won't work for my Viking machine. Then I wasn't able to locate anywhere which one would or wouldn't work so I haven't bought one yet. Now I know much more as well as the answer to that question.
Sew Sew Sandi said:
Sew Sew Sandi's picture
I have the smaller Sidewinder and use it to wind serger thread on empty thread spools (the small, thin size). I put a cone of serger thread in a glass jar on the floor to keep it in one place rather than skittering away. Then I put the Sidewinder on my lap, thread the winder, and start the thread a-winding. I do have to use my finger to guide the thread up and down the receiving spool until it contains the amount of thread I need. This process allows me to save on the number of serger cones I need but provides more thread for the serger needles than a bobbin does.
Hedgehog said:
Hedgehog's picture

What size spool do you use to wind the thread . Does it fit in the bobbin winder. I need to wind thread from a large cone to a smaller cone bigger than a bobbin. If you can do this, is it possible to buy empty spools. I need about 50 of them.

TrinaQ said:
TrinaQ's picture
I have the smaller one- my kids sew on an ancient Singer and while the sewing machine itself still works like a dream, the bobbin function is kaput. So, I LOVE this little gadget and my kids (10, 8 and 6) have no trouble winding their own bobbins. I even now use it myself instead of stopping to unthread my Bernina.
regina918 said:
regina918's picture
I purchased the smaller machine and love it. Well worth the money and quite the little powerhouse!! I highly recommend this for those of you who hate to stop and wind bobbins...Santa's coming!!
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Carol E - I am not an expert on the Janome 1600 models; I know they have a different, side-loading bobbin case, but do not know if the bobbins are different. However, there were no Janome models listed on the exclusion list for the smaller model. Other Janome bobbins work fine on both models.
Carol E said:
Carol E's picture
Could you a wind a bobbin for the Janome 1600 on the deluxe model because you can't wind one on the smaller one?