How to Thread a Brother Sewing Machine (Step-by-Step)

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Learning to thread a Brother sewing machine for the first time can be difficult!  When I first got my Brother CS6000i sewing machine, it took several tries to get everything figured out.  Especially that darn automatic needle threader.

You can find diagrammatic instructions for threading a Brother sewing machine in your manual, the quick-start guide, or on the body of your sewing machine.  However, I always prefer real picture tutorials.  So that’s why I’ll be showing you how to thread your Brother sewing machine using my Brother CS6000i as a model.

I’ll cover how to thread the upper thread through the needle, how to thread the bobbin on a Brother sewing machine, and how to install the bobbin.

This tutorial should apply to most Brother sewing machine models like the Brother CS7000i, Brother CS7000X, Brother GX37, and many other recent models of Brother sewing machines.  Some of the Brother heavy-duty sewing machines and embroidery machines may have slightly different mechanisms, but you should be able to extrapolate how to thread them well enough.

step-by-step thread a brother sewing machine

How to Thread a Bobbin on A Brother Sewing Machine

If you’ve just taken your brand new Brother sewing machine out of its box, the first thing you’ll need to do is wind the bobbin. 

Make sure to only use compatible Brother bobbins for your sewing machine.  In the case of most Brother sewing machines, this will be Class 15, SA156 plastic bobbins.

To begin the bobbin-winding process, first, pull the spool pin all the way up or out, and place your spool of thread on it.  If your machine has a horizontal spindle, you may need to place the spool cap over it.  My vertical spindle machine does not need a spool cap.  For my vertical spool pin, I put the thread where it pulls from behind and to the left.

Then, pull the thread end out, and pass the thread around the pre-tension disk on the left of the machine body.  Go under the disk and around counter-clockwise.  You’ll be able to feel once the thread slips under that disk.

setting up bobbin winding

Put the bobbin on the bobbin winder shaft.  There’s a spring on the shaft that should slide into the bobbin groove as you turn the bobbin clockwise.  You will feel it kind of click into place.

setting up bobbin winding

Slide the shaft to the right.  You will feel it click into place.

setting up bobbin winding

For Brother sewing machines with a fast bobbin-winding system: Hold the end of the thread with your left hand, and with your right hand, wrap the free end of the thread clockwise around the bobbin several times.

setting up bobbin winding

Pass the thread through the slit in the base of the bobbin seat to trim the excess thread.

setting up bobbin winding

Depress the foot pedal all the way or touch the on/off button and slide the speed controller to the right.  The bobbin will begin winding quickly!

When the bobbin is almost full, it will start slowing down, and most models will stop winding completely.  Take your foot off the pedal or press the stop button.

For Brother sewing machines without fast bobbin-winding: Insert the end of the thread into one of the holes in the bobbin.  Turn on the sewing machine and either press the start button (if your machine is computerized) or press the foot pedal down while holding the end of the thread.  Use low foot pressure or the slowest slider speed when pressing start/stop to wind the thread a few times.  Then, press down harder or increase speed to fully wind the bobbin.

For all sewing machines, now clip the excess thread and slide the bobbin winding pin back to the left.  Remove the bobbin and check to make sure it’s wound evenly and not too loosely.

winding brother bobbin

How to Install The Bobbin on a Brother Sewing Machine

After the bobbin is threaded, it’s time to install the bobbin on your Brother sewing machine.  The newer Brother sewing machines feature quick-set, top-drop bobbins, which are simple to set up.

Turn the power off on your machine and raise the needle to its highest position.  Do this using the needle up button on computerized machines or turning the handwheel towards you.  Raise the presser foot also.

Press the button near the bobbin cover on the base of the machine to the right to open the cover.  Remove the cover.

opening brother bobbin case

Drop your bobbin in.  The thread needs to be coming out the top of the bobbin, not the bottom.  You should be able to see the directions on the base of your sewing machine for a diagram reference.  If you were to pull your thread, the bobbin would spin counterclockwise.

winding brother sewing machine bobbin

Feed the end of the thread through the bottom slit, and pull it around as directed to cut it.  The thread will need to be correctly inserted through the tension spring on the bobbin case to maintain proper bobbin tension.

lower sewing machine thread   threading the brother bobbin

Replace the bobbin case cover. The left tab goes under the base, and the right side will click into place.

lower brother presser foot

Threading the Brother Sewing Machine Upper Thread

Once the lower, bobbin thread is set, it’s time to thread the upper thread on your Brother sewing machine. 

Make sure your sewing machine is still off, the presser foot is elevated, and the needle is in the up position.  Ensuring these things are in the correct position help prevent sewing machine tension issues.  The spool of thread should still be on the spool pin.

Feed the thread through the first thread guide on the top left of the machine.  It’s a silver upside-down L-shaped piece.  Go from back to forwards with the thread.

passing thread through guide

Pull the thread down and pass the thread through the guides and tension discs in the U shape on the front of your machine from right to left.  Arrows on the machine will show you the direction.

passing thread through guide passing thread through guide

At the far top, left of this guide, there’s going to be a thread take-up lever.  Make sure the thread is going into this lever.

passing thread through guide

Wrap the thread around the takeup lever, which is a silver hook above the needle base.  There’s an opening on the back right you can get the thread through.

passing thread through guide

Pass the thread through the eye of the needle from front to back and pull the thread a few inches out.  Place it below and then behind the presser foot. 

If you have an automatic needle threader, keep reading if you’re not wanting to manually thread the needle.  If you don’t and have issues threading the needle, check out my tips and tools to help thread a sewing machine needle.

How to Use the Brother Automatic Needle Threader

While the idea of an automatic needle threader is appealing, the reliability and ease of use of this device are lacking, in my opinion.  To thread your Brother machine using the automatic needle threader, you need to follow the above steps and stop right before placing the thread through the eye of the needle.

Then, lower the presser foot using the lever.

Lower the needle threader lever about halfway (gray lever on the left of the machine), and hook the thread onto the guide. It’s an upside-down V shape.  The thread should go from top right and under the V to then around the guide to the right.  As if you were threading counterclockwise.

using brother auto needle threader

Lower the needle threader all the way.  You’ll see the hook pass through the eye of the needle as the threader rotates towards you.

Inside the big hook that’s now in the eye of the needle, there’s a super tiny hook.  Pull your thread back all the way into the big hook and catch it on the tiny hook.  It helps to catch the hook more easily if you run the thread along the back of the guide from bottom to top using your hands.

using brother auto needle threader

Keep hold of the free end of the thread.  Then, release the needle threader lever.  As it rotates back in place, the thread will be pulled through the eye of the needle.  Pull the thread out a few inches and place it behind and below the presser foot before you start sewing.

threaded brother sewing machine

As I mentioned, I think this is a complicated, finicky apparatus.  My inside hook is always bending the wrong way, and it’s a pain to keep adjusting it so it will fit through the eye of the needle on its own.  Seeing as I don’t have any dexterity or visual issues, I prefer to thread by hand!

The beauty of Brother quick-set bobbins is once the thread goes through the eye of the needle, you’re set!  There’s no reason to fiddle with drawing up the bobbin thread.  The sewing machine will do that itself once you start sewing.


You’ve now learned how to thread a Brother sewing machine! 

Specifically, threading the upper thread, winding the bobbin, installing the bobbin, and drawing up the lower thread when you start sewing.  If you forget how to thread the next time you go try, just remember, most Brother sewing machines include instructions on the body of the machine!  Once you’ve practiced threading a few times, you will notice it becomes second nature.

Feel free to check out some easy sewing tutorials while you’re here! And, if you’re completely new to sewing, read more about the best threads for a Brother sewing machine to see what threads are compatible with your new machine. 

How to Thread a Brother Sewing Machine


  1. Doris Johnson says:

    I think the Brother is a great machine and I’m still practicing on it, I really love this machine. I do agree with you about the needle threader, it is very daunting and complicated. Thanks for your wonderful help.

  2. Susan Easley says:

    I have a Brother Pacesetter XL 5100. I would like to see if someone has a manual for it, as it is pretty complicated (to me), and I cannot even get it threaded!

  3. Brother HC1850 How do I use the larger spools of thread that come on a cone?? . 3 days,I’m in love with my machine!!
    Really looked forward to self THREADER but it’s flimsy and it stopped turning towards the needle

    1. Yes, the needle threaders are just so finicky at times!

      As for large spools and cones that don’t fit on the machine, you can feed them from a thread stand (ex: Dritz 896 Cone Thread Holder). You can also rig your own setup if you prefer. There are several videos out there of people using DIY thread stands that you should be able to find on YouTube.

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