Have to say it always seemed like magic watching one work. Funny how a simple graphic can clear away the fog.

Reposted to top.

  1. angelo says:

    a lot like a movie camera film advance mechanism

  2. . says:

    Omg thank you! Ever since I was little I wondered how the stupid things worked.. Everytime I asked my family they just said “It sews” -.-

  3. Hashim says:

    This is really amazing, i always use to to think how it worked and everytime i got puzzled. This simple gif animation made things clear in seconds.

  4. YA says:

    There is something very wrong with this graphic: look at the green wire: it goes completely around the white circle/cylinder. If that’s true, then what is holding the white cylinder? It is just floating in the air? There cannot be a shaft to hold in place or the green wire could not go around it. So what gives?

  5. Allan says:

    What gives is that its PHOTOSHOPPED.

    Sorry, always wanted an excuse to say that. I believe one of the previous posters explained what gives. Obviously you didn’t read all the posts.

  6. BritishAgent says:

    Great demonstration. I think that it should perhaps show the green thread passing in front of the white circle (bobbin shaft) to show how it happens.

    Now can you explain the thread tension to me? I always end up with it set on medium and hope for the best!

  7. 603Clothing says:

    I have to say… I have been an embroiderer for many, many years… I have never seen it so clearly.

    It is the perfect way to describe it to trainees… I have bookmarked this for just that reason!


  8. bill gorley says:

    Now you can visualise how your clothes are made …. with the help of some millions of sweatshop workers and their sewing machines.


  9. Peter B. says:

    So, there IS a magical red snake inside sewing machines! They said I was crazy…

  10. Johnny can't sew says:

    Since everybody’s so excited about all this sewing, I can provide a new pair of pants for you to shorten for me… : )

  11. instinct says:

    Anyone who suggests that some things should never be questioned, is in my opinion not very smart. Such a person would be an enemy of reason.

    As for the animation, if you brush aside the fact that it wouldn’t work practically (for reasons already pointed out by other commenters), it does give a rough idea of how these machines are supposed to work.

  12. Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

    #44 instinct writes, “#20 Anyone who suggests that some things should never be questioned, is in my opinion not very smart. Such a person would be an enemy of reason.”

    In defense of Mr. Baggins, I think he was merely responding in kind to the somewhat playful religious subtext of my own comment #19, showing that he “got it.” I doubt that he really intended any declaration of war on reason 😉

  13. reoup says:

    This info and illustration was sewwwww smooth.

  14. Steve-o says:

    I am sublimely curious, just never had the occasion to use a sewing machine. My mother always used a plain old thread and needle (obviously not a lot of seamstressing going on) but I believe that is the reason I was never curious about sewing machines (together with the fact that I learned to sew in Boy Scouts – without the benefit of a machine) just chalk it up to ‘lack of exposure’, but most certainly not ‘lack of curiosity’.

  15. Dan Marius says:

    Since I was a child and looked at my grandmother working on the sewing machine I was fascinated about how it works. Never found out until now.

  16. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    45, (actually, this is to 44) not really anything to do with religion. As a parent, there’s no way I can explain everything, and some things really aren’t worth the time to explore or explain. “This thing just works, and what would you like for lunch?” If you clutter your head, and waste a lot of time/life learning, say, the data structure of the various kinds of cell phone transmissions and all that, (just an example) you miss the big picture things in life. Being a techie is cool, I am one, but don’t miss out on life and relationships in the meantime. Technology will eventually pass you by, and so will your life if you aren’t careful.

    44 jumps to conclusions…you pick your battles, but that doesn’t mean anyone hates reason. Jeebus.

  17. UnkaDano says:

    I always thought there were a couple of miniature old ladies down there doing the sewing.

  18. ElphieFae says:


    I had always kind of wondered what happened in there, but I’m not much of a domestic soul, so I never used one often enough to care.

  19. lherrin says:

    I have sewn for 50 years and never knew how it worked.
    Absolutely Amazing.

  20. Jesus Campos says:

    So anti-gravity was invented in the 1800’s to make this bobbin work. I wonder if would get more MPG if my car didn’t require a shaft for it wheels? You know; less friction! Oh, wait a minute I still have to deal with asphalt and concrete roads. Damm!

  21. KathleenSews says:

    “The bobbin thread should be the same thread as used on the spool. Same size and weight or they will not stitch properly.”

    True only for garment sewing in order to get a nice seam that presses flat. I have used heavy threads in the bobbin to get lovely effects. I keep a separate, marked bobbin case for this so I can loosen the tension to allow heavy threads and narrow ribbon to feed through. I sew with the wrong side up.

    When dong fancy zig-zag stitches, I use a thin but strong lingerie thread in the bobbin, use my spare bobbin case and tighten the tension. I loosen the tension for the upper thread so some of the upper thread can be seen on the underside.

    Wonderful creative device, the sewing machine. Hard to use, though, on a bus or doctor’s office.

  22. KathleenSews says:

    “But on the few occasion I have tried to use one of these beasts, there have been many expletive laced conversations between me and machine when the bobbin gets screwed up.”

    Before beginning a seam, make sure the needle is in its highest position. Make sure you have at least 4″ of bobbin thread and 4″ of top thread pulled out. Hold them both firmly and start sewing. This will prevent both threads from laying loosely in the bobbin case and tangling.

    On some machines or with some fabrics, do this plus start sewing in the middle of a scrap of fabric, feeding the project fabric under the presser foot abutting the starter scrap.

  23. KathleenSews says:

    “1) The “catcher” does not rotate 360 Degrees- it reciprocates in a half moon arc (most important fact).”

    The “catcher” is a “Rotary Hook.” Some bobbin assemblies are oscillating, as in the above explanation, and some are rotating and turn a full 360 degrees.

    My Pfaff has a rotating bobbin hook. It catches a loop of the top thread when the needle comes down and brings half of it in front of the bobbin and bobbin case and holds the back part of the loop above the bobbin and bobbin case until the complete 360 degree turn brings the hook back up to the top and releases the thread.

  24. anonymous says:

    its funny, i love to sew, i just got a new sewing machine for Christmas in fact, and never even thought about how one works!

  25. jgtsngh says:

    It is diffcult to visualize or understand how the thread loop made by the upper needle makes it around the thread pully inside the lower part called bobbin. This mechanism needs some modification for more explicit animation.Three dimensional model will clarify all the confsion.Indeed it is a difficult mechanism.

  26. Music Dummy says:

    Great. Never knew how it worked, it just does. That goes for airplanes, ships and a lot of other things. They just work, and aren’t we lucky? Other things I know and wish I did not. Milk cows fit the category or how weeds grow faster than the good plants.

  27. Mrs. Micah says:

    That’s a great gif. I knew how it worked before, but I’ve always seen it in the heat of frustration of trying to figure out where in the cycle it was screwing up…so it’s nice to see it calmly and rationally.

  28. I’m with all the confused posters. This doesn’t solve the basic mystery of sewing to me — how you pass the one thread around the spool for the one while the other one is held by something. In this animation, they get around that by just not showing what’s holding the spool. But I don’t quite follow any of the couple of explanations given in words here. A video would be much better.

    So what it comes down to is I wish I had an animation showing how a sewing machine worked 🙁

  29. bobbo says:

    #61–Randall–why don’t you click on the two different links to video’s provided?


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