Wait, what are the “real” tricks to thread a needle on a sewing machine? I want it!

In this post, I want to show you how to easily thread a sewing machine needle. 

If you prefer a video tutorial here is the link to my YouTube channel.

If you are interested in how to thread a needle for hand sewing, check out my other article “End the hassle of threading a needle”.

I didn’t think about writing these tutorials before because threading a needle is kind of routine for me – I do it every day and don’t even think about it, it seems so simple. I can compare it with brushing teeth – we know it’s important but we don’t publish tutorials telling people how to do it because we consider everybody already knows it, right?

So I was really surprised to see that this phrase “How to thread a needle” gets 6600 searches per month in Google! It means that people simply find it tricky and need tips to avoid frustration or improve their sewing experience.

Here we go – learn easy ways to thread a needle on a sewing machine and a serger.

     1.   First, let’s talk about some general rules to follow.

Don’t turn on your sewing machine while threading a needle if you are just learning to use your sewing machine because you can accidentally start sewing and get injured. Have other sources of light around your sewing machine so you won’t need the light build-in the machine. Read my article “Sewing room lighting idea” to get a summary of what we really need to know about lighting in a sewing room.

But if you already know how to sew with a sewing machine then turn it on and keep it on while threading. Actually, some high-end sewing machines require you to turn it on for threading – my Destiny is one of them.

The thread should go from front to back through the needle and shouldn’t be twisted. Look at the video below – that may happen but you can’t sew with the thread like this.

Raise the needle to the proper position – it’s better if the needle is in the most “up” position. You can manually do it with a hand wheel. Of course, on modern computerized sewing machines you can just press the up/down button to raise the needle, but for this, your machine has to be turned on.

Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself. 

Lower the presser foot (manually, of course) or take it away completely – this way you will have more space to move around the needle. Lowering the presser foot bar will also engage the tension disks to keep the thread from pulling freely in your hands.
2.   If your vision is good and you have a vintage sewing machine or just a very simple one you can thread a needle the regular way as our grandmothers did.

Just make sure you cut the thread end with sharp scissors (so the cut is clean and nice without any fibers coming apart). Licking the thread also helps. Hold the thread as close to the end as you can.

Sometimes it takes me many tries to thread the needle this way. I need not only good eyesight but also steady hands!

You can use a small piece of white paper like in the video below – then you can see the needle eye clearly.

Or use a headlamp to get some extra light and avoid shadows.

Tweezers are the very useful tool to pick up the thread end that comes through the needle.
In some cases, it can be useful to unscrew the needle and thread it while it’s not in the machine. It’s actually quite easy to take the needle out and put it back already threaded.
     3. The modern world is full of helpful gadgets and sewing world is not an exception.

So there are special needle threaders for sewing machines which you can buy separately here for example. Let me show you how to use one.

There are two small arrows on it. So hold the threader horizontally with either arrow facing up. Bring thread across the “fork” from side to side.

Gently press the threader across the needle, let go of the thread freely (don’t hold it anymore with your fingers) and pull the threader down on the needle until you hear (or feel) a click. Push the threader – the small metal tongue will push the thread through the eye of the needle as it passes. You will see some loop behind the needle eye.

Bring the rest of the thread with your hand or with tweezers.

Some people complain that the threader breaks easily. I am not sure why it happens. To me the threader works just fine, I have it for 3 years already. Of course, you have to be very careful with it – it has really small parts. Or maybe it’s the brand that matters – mine is from Dritz and I know this company makes awesome sewing tools.

I save myself a lot of frustration by having one of these threaders near my serger because serger needles are awkward to thread. This inexpensive tool makes my life easier.

Here is another clip with close up and different angles. It’s really very easy and fast. It takes longer to describe it than to do it.

4. Modern computerized sewing machines have built-in threaders. Check if your machine has one. So small thing but so helpful! Let’s see how to use this threader.

First of all, make sure your needle is in its highest position because the threader has to line up with the eye of the needle. You can do it manually with the handwheel or push the needle up/down button (sometimes twice) if your machine has it.

Hold the thread to the left of the needle. Draw the thread down around the threader guide (or prong) with some tension and bring it from left to right in front of the needle. Depress the threader knob down as far as it will go.

You will see that a very small hook will come out through the needle eye from the back towards the front.

Place the thread under the hook keeping the thread parallel to the table.

Release the threader knob slowly while holding the thread end with your hand. A loop of the thread will be pulled through the needle eye.

Remove the loop from the threader and pull out the thread end through the needle eye.

This built-in needle threader is a wonderful invention indeed but you have to be gentle with it because it breaks quite easily. For example, if the small hook that goes through the needle eye is bent for some reason it will go to the side of the needle rather then through the eye. In this case, you will have to center it again to realign it with the needle eye – you can gently push it back to the center position with your fingernail or a small screwdriver.

Sometimes the hook fails to pull a loop of the thread – something can be wrong, then check the needle and its setting.

Unfortunately, built-in needle threaders don’t work well with thick threads (like size ##10-30 weight), very thin needles (size 65/9 and smaller), twin needles, etc. In this case, you will need to thread the needle the regular way.

     5. There are automatic needle threaders on modern sewing machines. My Destiny 2 has exactly that. See how wonderful it is in the video below. You practically just press a correct button for automatic threading. This feature is especially nice for machine embroidery when you need to change the thread color many times.

For this tutorial I used Eloflex thread – it’s first ever stretchable thread for regular sewing machines, you can sew knits with it without a serger and use the thread in upper threading and in the bobbin. I have a review of this thread on my blogHow to use Eloflex – an innovative stretchable sewing thread from Coats”.
And now I want to show you something unusual – I bet you didn’t see it before. What am I talking about?

There are double eye needles now. They can be used to sew with 2 threads of different colors at once.  They are for decorative use mostly of course.

Let’s see how to thread this double eye needle.

You can do it the regular way.

But you can also use needle threaders – the one that comes with a sewing machine goes to the eye which is down, and the threader you buy separately goes to the upper eye.

See also an example of the decorative straight stitch in the video below.

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