Floss Your Bobbin Holder and Other Cleaning Tips

I was cleaning out my bobbin case and it reminded me of a couple tips for all my free motion quilting friends. Actually, this applies to all sewing machine users and technically, I have a bobbin holder, since my machine is a top loading machine.

I love my top loading machines for ease of use and easily seen bobbin. I hate running out of bobbin thread! But one drawback is that the groove that creates the bobbin tension can be difficult to clean.

Getting lint built up in these grooves can really mess with getting good tension on your machine. Here's a video on cleaning these spots:

Make sure you have a good brush to clean the lint out of the bobbin area. One should have come with your machine. You can also get these at any sewing center or place with a good selection of notions.

See the bit of lint I teased out ?

You can "floss" your bobbin holder too with a bit of thread as shown in the video. Running a piece of good thread through the groove can loosen lint and help remove it.

Don't be tempted to disassemble the case/holder as it is likely that you will lose one of the tiny screws or have difficulty getting the tension set back to where it needs to be.

Clean this area out frequently. Newer Janomes make this easy with their lever release needleplates. If the area under the bobbin case is linty, it can cause extra tension on the top thread and can cause the bobbin case to try to come unseated.

One suggestion quilters are given when having a sudden issue with tension is to re-thread the machine. We all hate to hear this as usually we think it's threaded properly. But there are times that the issue is a wad of lint that has caused the problem and the re-threading process may work it loose. (Plus, there are those times when the thread jumps out of the take up lever!)

You probably already know this, but never thread the machine with the foot down! Put the foot down to thread the needle if need be, but the thread won't settle between the tension discs properly with the foot down as that closes them. For this reason, I always raise the presser foot when adjusting my thread tension too.

I mentioned canned air in the video, don't blow it into the machine! It will send the lint around the gears and shafts. I have seen some machines so full of lint (glitter, sequins, needles, and pins too!) that a wad of lint has felted and become a wedge in the workings and causes them to "freeze up".

So, now that I have a clean machine, I'm off to sew......


  1. Amy, these tips are incredibly valuable! I've never thought about flossing the bobbin case. Your explanation for re-threading the machine to eliminate problems was well presented. Thank you!

  2. Also....when changing the top spool of thread, do NOT pull it backwards through the through the tension disks. Rather, cut the thread at the spool and pull the thread end at the needle through until clear of the machine. "Flossing" completed!!!

  3. Amy, love your blog, love your tips~! Thank you also to treadlemusic for that reminder. :) ::: getting out the itsy bitsy vacuum attachment. ::::

  4. Thanks for the great tips, Amy. A well maintained machine eliminates a lot of tension (pun intended) Happy Quilting!

  5. Thanks for the tip and closeup video, good job. 24Tangent@gmail.com

  6. I like that floss idea. I'm going to grab a bit and keep it in my studio now for just that use. Thanks bunches.