Why is my bobbin thread showing on top?

By on May 6th, 2019
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It’s Saturday morning at 11:37 and you decide to monogram a gift for a party that starts in 23 minutes.  You got this, right? Hoop and score the stabilizer, thread the machine, center the shirt on the stabilizer and get ready to go… But then, your embroidery machine starts stitching like absolute CRAP, and why is the bobbin thread showing on top? What’s a girl to do?

When it’s comes to machine embroidery, it can be incredibly frustrating when your machine starts making ugly stitching.  Ugly stitching can come in a variety of forms but one of the most common is when the bobbin thread starts appearing in the top stitching. You should never see the bobbin thread in the finished embroidery design. Ideally, some of your top thread should be pulled through onto the back side of your stitching.  Imagine you are stitching the letter I in a satin stitch. The perfect balance of thread on the back side would be about 1/3 top thread, 1/3 bobbin thread in the middle of the I and 1/3 top thread. Very little bobbin thread should even be seen on the back of your embroidery!

But what do you do when this is not the case? Especially when you only have 19 MORE MINUTES TO FINISH THIS PROJECT!??

Let’s start with the obvious solutions.

  1. Are you using embroidery bobbin thread?  Embroidery bobbin thread is much thinner than regular embroidery thread.  It is this imbalance of weight that helps pull the top thread onto the back of the design preventing the bobbin thread from showing through.  Whenever I embroidery, I use the same white embroidery bobbin thread.  It makes it easy, you never have to change your bobbin.
  2. Are you using the right weight of bobbin thread?  Bobbin thread comes in 60wt and 90wt varieties, and different machines require different weights.  Check with your manual to learn which weight you should be using.
  3. Is your thread stuck?  Sometimes the embroidery thread will get hung up either on itself.  Since I’ve started putting my thread on an thread stand and placed it a bit away from my machine, it happens less often.
  4. Is your machine threaded properly? At this point, I can thread my machine in my sleep, but sometimes I fail to notice when I don’t have the thread fully in the tension assembly, and this can majorly screw things up.

Assuming all of the obvious problems are not the issue, it’s time to look at some other issues.

  1. Is your bobbin area full of fuzz and strings?  Remove the bobbin and use a makeup brush to sweep out the bobbin area. I am often tempted to blow in my bobbin area in an attempt to blow it clean, but this is NOT a good idea because your breath introduces moisture into your bobbin area which can make it rust.
  2. Is there debris stuck in the nooks and crannies of your bobbin housing? Try cleaning it out by slipping a business card between the layers of metal. It’s easy for a little string to get stuck in there and wreck havoc on your stitching.
cleaning bobbin housing
Use a business card to clean out the crevices of your bobbin housing.
  • Have you threaded the eye of the bobbin housing? Taking this extra step when you are embroidering will increase the bobbin tension and help pull the embroidery thread to the back of the design.
  • Make sure you thread the eye of the bobbin housing when you are doing machine embroidery or appliqué
  • Is your bobbin tension too loose?  You can adjust the tension of your bobbin by loosening or tightening the little screw on the top of the bobbin case.  Make very small adjustments with a tiny screwdriver and test it out after every one.  1/8 of a rotation of this little screw can make a big difference.  In general, if you are seeing bobbin thread in your top stitching, the bobbin tension is too loose.
  • adjusting bobbin tension
    This little screw on your bobbin housing allows you to adjust your bobbin tension. Don’t overdo it though!
  • Are  you using an old, worn out or damaged needle? I find that a badged needles is sometimes hard to spot. But changing a needle out can make a huge difference. Besides, new needles are cheap.  It’s worth a try.
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    Good luck and don’t fret. But next time leave yourself a little more time to finish the gift before the next party.

    Happy stitching!


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    4 thoughts on “Why is my bobbin thread showing on top?

    1. You didn’t mention about which way you turn the bobbin

      1. Yes – you are right! Have you inserted the bobbin the right way?

    2. I fixed it once and it worked perfectly but then only the bobbing thread is showing on top, I’ve been fixing the tension and I dont know what to do. Can you help?

      1. Did you try all the suggestions listed in the article? My sister had luck tightening the screw on her bobbin case. But I think a thread stand makes a huge difference.

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