How to Thread an Older Singer Sewing Machine

Vintage sewing machines can seem a bit intimidating for beginners who are used to a modern machine. You might have an easy time using the machine to sew but hit an instant snag when the thread runs out. That said, experience is the best teacher when it comes to sewing and learning how to thread an older Singer sewing machine is a valuable experience. So how do you thread an older sewing machine without breaking a sweat?

How to Thread an Older Singer Sewing Machine

To thread an older sewing machine, you’ll first need to disengage the needle by rotating the balance wheel towards you. Then You will remove the used spool and place your new thread on the spool pin. Next, pull enough thread (about half a meter) through the front hooks, tension assembly and finally thread the needle manually. It’s a straightforward process once you understand the hooking process.

Steps  to Thread a Vintage/Older Singer Sewing Machine

At first glance, you might feel a bit intimidated by the way the thread is weaved through the front assembly on a vintage Singer machine. There are probably five or so hooking points that you need to master before you thread the machine properly. At the same time, you will need to set the thread tension manually at some point in the threading process.

That said, you shouldn’t be scared into thinking that a Vintage Singer is too complicated to thread. In fact, you’ll be surprised at the simplicity of the threading mechanism in these old sewing machines as compared to modern ones. 

Still confused? Here is an easy step by step guide you can follow when threading an older Singer sewing machine for the very first time. The whole process shouldn’t take more than a minute if you follow all the steps correctly and have steady hands!

Step 1 – Disengaging/Raising the Needle

You don’t have the luxury of a lever or switch when it comes to raising the needle on a vintage Singer machine. You can raise it to any height you want by rotating the balance wheel when there is no thread on the spool pin. You may need to also raise the presser foot one way before you lift the needle and secure it with the needle clamp. 

Note that raising the needle at this point is an anticipatory action as it will make it easier and less messy to thread the needle when it’s in a raised position.  You wouldn’t want to have to turn the balance wheel with the new thread already set on the pin and thread tension already set now, would you?

Step 2 – Attach Your New Spool

You’ve probably already figured out this next step but let’s just go over it for the sake of clarity. Start by removing the spent spool from the spool pin. Vintage Singer machines don’t have anything holding the spool in place except the pin so you just need to lift it. Next, just place your new spool onto the spool pin and proceed to unwind some thread manually that can go all the way to the needle (about half a meter is fine but it’s always good to leave an allowance just in case your eyes deceived you).

Step 3 – The Thread Guide

Pull the thread tight horizontally across the arm and attach it to through the hook on the thread guide at the opposite end. Make sure the thread is taught and properly hooked before you proceed to the next hooking point. The thread guide hook has two sides and the thread should go through the right side.

Step 4 – The Tensioner Mechanism 

On the front of the machine’s head directly below you first hooking point is the tensioning mechanism that looks like a wheel and probably has some digits printed to the side. The tensioning mechanism consists of the tension spring, the thumb nut and tension disk. It should be your next hooking point. 

The tension mechanism may vary slightly depending on the type of Singer you are threading but it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out how to weave your thread through it. For most Vintage Singers machines, you will need to spin the thread around the tension disk and the tension disk before you move to the next hooking point. 

However, being the most important part of the threading process, it’s good to look at a reference diagram for your specific machine and see how it’s done. Missing something here will most definitely cause major problems when you start sewing.

Step 5 – The Take-Up Lever

The thread take-up lever is next to the thread guide at the top of the head and will be your next hooking point. This means you will need to now pull your thread up, under the take-up lever and then hook it to the auxiliary thread guide located on the right side of the sewing machine head a few inches below the tensioning assembly before taking it down to the needle.  

Step 6 – Threading the Needle

At this point, you have already done ninety percent of the work and only remain with one task- that of threading the needle.  Modern machines have additional hooking points at the needle level to help in threading the needle easily especially if you are visually impaired or have unsteady hands. Sadly, you will have to thread the needle manually if you are using a vintage Singer. 

At this point, you will also appreciate why we had to put the needle in a raised position at the beginning.  To thread the needle, just grab the edge of your thread and carefully pass it through the eye of the needle and pull the thread until its taught. You can cut any extra thread that remains after you have pulled it through the needle. Some people find it easier to remove the needle and thread it while it’s free before putting it back. 

Final Step – Attaching the Bobbin

You may have threaded your sewing machine with the main spool but you won’t be able to make any stitches without a bobbin. The bobbin is an additional bottom-fed thread that is usually housed in a special compartment below the needle. Raise your needle and open the compartment to see if the bobbin is properly set before you start sewing.  If it is not there, then you will have to find a fresh bobbin or wind a new one, slide it into the bobbin casing and secure it.

Finally, test that your machine is properly threaded by turning the balance wheel in a clockwise direction to see if the needle reaches into the bobbin compartment and picks up the bottom thread to loop it with the upper thread. At the same time, the upper spool should be able to spin without getting stuck and releasing thread to be used for sewing.

Related Questions

What Is the Best Thread for A Singer Sewing Machine?

All Singer sewing machines, whether old or modern, will work with any type of thread you are currently using. In fact, the same applies to pretty much every other sewing machine out there as they are made to accommodate different types of thread. The kind of thread you use will depends on the project you are currently working on and other considerations such as brand, material and price.

How do I choose a thread for my sewing machine?

The type of thread you choose depends on the project or fabric you are working on. You can choose thin thread if you are working on light fabrics such as silk, cotton and even polyester. You can for look for thick thread if you are working with heavier fabrics such as denim. Of course, the heavier and thicker the thread, the more visible it will be.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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