Things You Might Not Know About Bobbins


Quilting Contessa researched bobbins and shared some interesting things you might not know about bobbins.

Rating: Not enough ratings.
Your rating: Sign in to rate

Things You Might Not Know About Bobbins

"Bobbin!" is a swear word in my house. My husband and I both make quilts, so we have two sewing machines and our mid-arm quilting machine to run out of bobbin thread. The wise women say that you should always wind 5 bobbins at the start of any quilt. What they don't tell you is that the last one will always run out anyway!

Things You Might Not Know About Bobbins


Given how often that word gets used, I decided to do a little research into bobbins. This article won't tell you everything you need to know about bobbins. You would need a book for that. However, it can make you aware of what deserves your further attention.


In history, bobbins were made to hold wire, yarn, and thread in sewing machines, cameras, and electronic equipment. In other fiber arts, bobbins are also used in spinning, weaving, knitting, and lacemaking.


Bobbins come in different sizes, shapes, and materials. They come pre-wound, or you can wind them on your machine or use a separate bobbin winder. Some come with holes, some don't. They have names like "L" for the regular sewing machine or "M" for a long-arm.



They have names like "15" and "15J" for different brands of sewing machines. Some are flat, some are more domed. The number of holes can vary from none to many. Some are plastic, some are metal. Some are aluminum, some are steel. Some bobbins drop in from the top and some insert from the front.



What you need to know is that THEY ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE!


The purpose of the bobbin case is tension. The sewing machine must have this tension for the bobbin thread to interlock with the top thread to create a stitch. If the bobbin is the wrong size or type or material, the bobbin case can't do its job. If you have more than one machine, please remember to mark your bobbins or store them separately! We bought blue tinted bobbins for my husband's machine and clear for mine, and we do store them separately.



If you purchase a secondhand machine, it may come with the wrong bobbins or no bobbins at all. You must do the research to get the right bobbins. A local quilt shop may also be able to help you.


Here's a quick list of ways that your bobbin can stop your machine:


  • Cleaning the bobbin case of the machine is critical. The dust that accumulates can be the size of a dust bunny!
  • Plastic bobbins can overheat and distort.
  • If you normally use plastic bobbins, a heavier metal bobbin can change the tension.
  • For your bobbin winder, the rubber ring can become worn.


For the advanced sewer, I want to mention something called "bobbin work". This is a technique that uses a decorative thread in the bobbin to create stitches that embellish the quilt.


On the good side, bobbins can be worn as jewelry. Folks make earrings and necklaces. At our last Bee retreat, we initiated the new retreaters with a bobbin necklace and a pledge to uphold the purpose of the retreat. We called this the "Order of the Bobbin"! This creates some humor in the inevitable cry of "bobbin" at retreat!



Check This Out!

Check out the most popular tool on QuiltingHub. Use the search 'Map Of Resources' or the 'Resources Trip Planner' to the right (or below).



A spool or reel that holds thread or yarn for spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, or making lace.
The part of a quilt that hangs down the sides of your mattress.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
Search Articles
Map Of Resources Near
Resources Trip Planner