Floss Your Bobbin!

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.

Most sewing machine owners know that keeping your machine clean and lubricated extends the life of a machine, keeps tension troubles at bay, and keeps the noise down, but did you know that much like teeth, you can floss your machine? If you've ever watched me demo the proper way to thread a machine I often talk about using two hands like flossing teeth. But flossing the bobbin case is another trick I've picked up over the years.

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......

This post was retrieved and edited from my archives. The original posted in August of 2014.


  1. Thanks Amy - a timely reminder. I haven't flossed the little bit! I do clean the bobbin around as best I can after an expensive trip to the sewing machine doctor! I thought it was something in the top tension, but it was a tiny piece of thread stuck in the bobbin area (somewhere - I couldn't see it at the time) and so I use that brush inside and out - even move that little spring at the side to see if anything's under there. But I will definitely floss from now on. :D

  2. Interesting that you posted this today. I had an issue with losing bobbin tension the other day . No adjustment worked and the setting seemed stuck. Re- threading didn't help. Well after a bit of messing around I found a bit of thread peeping out of the case where the thread should have been tight. Pulled out a section of thread and then reset the tension and all was fine. I bought a little entry level Janome from my neighbour and used her old thread a 50 wt just to use it up. No more. Somethings are not worth it. Never had the problem with other threads and machines. Thanks for the post

  3. No I didn't know to thread with the needle up - although I do that. But I didn't know I should. Thanks - I will tell my daughter who is just now starting to sew (and thread the machine herself).

  4. All such good advice, Amy! You're spot on, and it's always worth repeating. Thank you for sharing!

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