Are you a beginner sewer looking to finally try your hand at your first sewing machine, or the old but efficient model passed down from grandma?
New or old, just being able to design and sew your own apparel with it is a dream come true for many. It’s thrilling imagining what you can put together!
Before you get to that point, though, there’s a bit of a learning curve. The anatomy and all the words for the different machine parts and all the pieces needed just to make a stitch is perhaps one of the most basic yet important lessons in sewing.
First and foremost, you’re probably wondering about all this thread talk!
What’s the difference between a bobbin thread and a top thread? A top thread is inserted from above the layers of fabric, and the bobbin thread goes up from below. Any stitch made on a sewing machine is formed by the looping and interlocking of these two strands.
Knowing how these two threads work will help you troubleshoot problems you may encounter while sewing.
If you want to know more about your bobbin and top threads, you’ll find that more in this post. Reading on, you’ll learn everything there is to know about a top thread and a bobbin thread so you’ll become a pro in no time!
Let’s get started.
Bobbin Thread And Top Thread – 3 Main Differences
In the course of sewing, you’ll come across these two terms a lot.
Both threads are used to create a stitch with a sewing machine, but they are not quite the same. Here are the primary differences between them.
1. Where the Thread Appears on a Fabric
If you take a close look at a garment’s hem, neckline, or pockets, you’ll find a row of uniform stitches both at the top and the underside. As the name suggests, a top thread normally appears on the garment’s upper side while the bobbin thread shows underneath.
Therefore, the top thread has to match or complement the fabric’s color since it is in full view. On the contrary, the bobbin thread appears on the hidden side of the garment, so it can technically be any color.
These positional differences also hep a beginner know whether the thread tension is correct.
For instance, if the bobbin thread appears where it shouldn’t (on the top/front side of the fabric), you’ll have to make adjustments to tighten it or loosen the top thread, or vice versa.
2. How the Thread is Fed into the Machine
Although the top thread and the bobbin thread work in tandem to hold layers of fabric together, there’s a difference in how they are threaded and fed into the machine.
The top thread is fed through the needle eye while the bobbin thread is fed through the needle plate from a bobbin in a compartment below it.
Each of these threads originates from separate parts of the sewing machine and follows completely different paths before interlocking.
The bobbin thread originates from the bobbin fitted in a chamber below the needle. (A bobbin is a reel that first needs to be wound before threading the machine’s upper part.)
Unlike the top thread that is utilized straight from a spool, the bobbin thread needs to first be wound around the bobbin from the main spool, ensuring it is even and just the right amount before being reinstalled back in its chamber.
There are various ways of winding a bobbin depending on your model, but if you want to skip the hassle, you can buy pre-wound bobbins compatible with your machine.
The top thread begins from a spool inserted in the spool pin either at the top (vertically) or the side (horizontally) of the machine and is stretched out and around several parts all the way to the eye of the needle.
This path may have subtle differences among models, but the most common sequence guides the top thread from the spool pin to the tension disc, take-up lever, and the needle, winding through a series of thread guides (metallic protrusions) in between.
The best sewing machines show you where the top thread should go with markings on the machine. It could either be numbering the steps, use of arrows, or miniature illustrations.
3. Thread Weight
The bobbin thread is much thinner, shinier, and lighter in weight than regular threads (which can be used for the top thread). It is less utilized on the bobbin and performs other functions such as machine basting.
It also helps keep the underside of embroidery lightweight and flexible since the top is already heavy.
Its thinness and light weight should not be confused with being flimsy. A good quality bobbin thread holds up and is the best for sheer fabrics even as a top thread.
However, many sewers will use the same thread as both the top thread and the bobbin thread. This is the norm and that’s usually just fine.
There is nothing wrong with that if doing seams, hems and other high tension parts of a garment that need thicker, strong thread.
The next time you are out shopping for sewing threads, threading your machine, or even sewing, now you’ll know which thread is which!