How to thread an older Singer sewing machine (it’s really easy)

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At the Sewing Machine Club we’re huge fans of older sewing machines, so in this post, we’ll take a look at how to thread an older Singer sewing machine.

How to thread an older Singer sewing machine: step by step

First off, it is useful to understand that all sewing machines are essentially the same. Thread goes from a spool on the spool holder, across through a series of tensioning springs and hooks, and finally through the eye of the needle.

On the other side, you will need a wound-up bobbin and pull thread from the spring inside the bobbin case just slightly out so both threads can catch one another during the stitch.

This may sound a little complicated but it really isn’t. Here’s a quick diagram and explanation, and I’ll also point you to an excellent and informative video(and I highly recommend you subscribe to the creator’s channel if you’re into vintage sewing machines like I am!).

diagram of an old singer sewing machine

This diagram can seem a little overwhelming especially since it’s a bit of a cross section as well, but the critical parts to know for threading are:

  • Spool pin
  • Thread guide
  • Tension disc
  • Tension spring
  • Thread take-up lever
  • Thread guide at the front of the machine

Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1:

Place the spool on to the spool pin.

Step 2:

Turn the balance wheel until the needle assembly comes to the middle or near the top of as far as it can go. This will make it easier to ultimately thread the needle.

Step 3:

Pull the thread from the spool and run in through the hole/hook on the thread guide that is on top of the machine, on the side closer to the wheel.

Step 4:

Pull the thread downwards from the thread guide and roll in around the tensioner once, and then through the tensioner spring.

Step 5:

From the spring, run in under, not through the thread take-up lever until you reach the second thread guide. Run it through the thread guide and pull down towards the needle.

Step 6:

Finally, run the thread through the eye of the needle.

To make sure you’ve done this correctly, you can manually turn the wheel to slowly move the needle down and see if it catches the bobbin thread and makes a proper stitch.

For making life easier, pull a little extra thread from the needle and the bobbin. This will give you a little more leeway to work with and you can always cut the excess thread later.


How to wind a bobbin on an old Singer

If you’ve looked at some of the other sewing machine reviews on this site you’ll know that newer sewing machines have automatic bobbin winding mechanisms.

Older machines did not have this feature, but it’s really easy to wind a bobbin yourself.

Start with a spool of thread on the spool pin. Remove the bobbin from the machine and start winding the thread from the spool a couple of times around the bobbin until it becomes taut.

Now you can insert a pen or something similar through the center of the bobbin and start spinning it to quickly wrap thread around the bobbin.

Once the bobbin is sufficiently wound, place it in the bobbin case and pull the thread out through the guide.

2 thoughts on “How to thread an older Singer sewing machine (it’s really easy)”

  1. I have a 1941 singer quilting machine…the quilting foot is made out of a tablespoon with a 1/4 in foot welded into it. My problem is
    1. Which way do I face the needle?
    2.How often do I oil it?
    3. Thread weight?
    When I run out of needle where’s a good location to buy /heb
    Thank you I will have more questions

    • Hey Kathy!

      So cool for you to have this piece of vintage 🙂

      Let me try and answer these questions for you:

      1. You should see a scarf – a small “dent” on the needle – close to the bottom of it. This Scarf should always point towards the hook assembly of the sewing machine.
      2. I would recommend checking the machine manual for the ordinary machines, but since I guess you don’t have one – I would recommend oiling it once a month or after the lint is removed and you know you going to have a break from it.
      3. 30 to 50 – up to your needs. Keep track of it and see what works best for you!

      Hope it helps!


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