What is Bobbin Work

Welcome to our 125 years celebration of the BERNINA company! We’re celebrating by bringing you lots of inspiration and today we’re taking a closer look at bobbin work! And just what is bobbin work? Read on to find out all about this technique! As a bonus we’re giving you the chance to win an incredible set of 28 spools of thread in all the colors of the rainbow, scroll to the bottom of the post to find our anniversary giveaway!

What do you do with beautiful decorative threads, thin ribbon, or cording that is too thick to fit through the needle of a sewing machine? Turn it upside down, of course! Wind decorative threads, thin ribbon or cording around the bobbin and sew your project upside down. The top thread will stitch the over-sized threads right to the bottom of the fabric.

Bobbin Work Wind Bobbin

You can use the technique of bobbin work with virtually any kind of stitching your sewing machine can do, straight or zigzag stitching, open decorative stitching, free-motion stitching, and even machine embroidery (with the right designs). Try using bobbin work with decorative threads, pearl cotton, yarn, ribbon floss, or similar weighted cords and trims.

checking bobbin work

Bobbin Work Machine Settings

There are a few general tips to setting up your machine for bobbin work. You can read more about the technique of bobbin work with the BERNINA Hook System and Jumbo Bobbin here.

  • Check with your BERNINA store for a specially configured bobbin work bobbin available for your model. If not, it’s a good idea to purchase a second bobbin case for bobbin work to avoid having to re-set the bobbin tension for normal sewing (and to mark it so you don’t get them mixed up, use permanent marker or nail polish). Adjust the tension of the bobbin case so the cord flows smoothly from the bobbin.
  • Wind the bobbin at a slow speed to make sure the thick thread or cording is wound evenly around the bobbin.
  • Use an open toed foot such as the Open embroidery foot #20 to help you see exactly where you are stitching.
  • Always test-stitch first and fine-tune your machine settings.
  • Start with a 4mm stitch width and fine-tune from there. Avoid stitches that are too close together that may bunch-up the larger thread or cord.
  • Adjust top tension if needed, the bobbin thread should be laying against the fabric without being squeezed too tight or drooping too loosely.
  • Always bring the bobbin thread tail up through the top thread before starting to stitch to avoid thread nests and machine jams.
  • Look for decorative stitches with wide, open looking designs. Avoid decorative stitches with too much back-and-forth stitching or elements that are very close together.

Bobbin work feather

Did you know you can even quilt with bobbin work? Read tips for quilting with this technique here on WeAllSew!

October 125 Years Golden Anniversary Giveaway!

Metrosene Thread Kit Giveaway at WeAllSew

One lucky WeAllSew reader will win this fantastic set of 28 spool Mettler Metrosene threads! The perfect sew anything thread, Metrosene is a strong, high tensile strength polyester with a smooth finish that won’t easily fray or cause extra lint in your sewing machine. The perfect colors to add to your stash with a value of $40.00.

What is bobbin work

All you have to do is post a comment below and answer the question, “How would you use bobbin work in a sewing or quilting project?” The the giveaway is open through Friday, October 19th.

The giveaway is open to residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia. One comment per fan. Comment must be submitted to the WeAllSew.com blog by October 19, 2018 at 11:59 PM Central Time. Winner will be chosen randomly. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to contact to claim the prize.

Good luck!

This giveaways is closed.

301 thoughts on “What is Bobbin Work

    1. I used bobbin work with my 200/730 to create a thread painted throw for a dear friend featuring faces of her daughters and granddaughters with moi and faces of my 3 daughters and granddaughters. Friend is now 89 yo. She loved it! I used a variety of black and brown decorative threads on a pale sea foam green background. I’m eager to try the technique on my 880.

    2. I would use bobbin work in a wall hanging that has raw edge applique – flower on silk fabric, applique around edges with bobbin work, cut silk 1/2″ from applique and fray silk.

    3. I had heard about bobbin work before and always wondered about it. I would use it while free motion quilting to decorate and have unusual and interesting texture and color to quilts!!

  1. I would try bobbinwork on a wallhanging, I would want to be able to see it all the time! I have a bobbin work bobbin already. Thanks for the tips and idea!

  2. I tried this in a class at the local sewing machine store. Choice of stitch really makes a difference. It would make a great accent on a jacket lapel or pocket.

  3. Wow! This is a great technique that I had not considered. I have learned so much from this we all sew. I would love to play around with it on an arc quilt …a portrait of my horse, Suede. I think this would make fantastic texture & movement in her mane.

  4. I have tried bobbin work years ago but have learned much since then. I would like to make a Wallhanging first for Christmas then take my time and create a bed size quilt with bobbin work. Thank you for offering the thread to create.

  5. Bobbin work is just an amazing technique, and there are so many beautiful threads to choose from. I would like to create a stitch recipe to stitch out on a set of pillowcases as a gift.

  6. I have not heard of bobbin work before, but I really love the appearance of it! My first project would be to add some designs or words to the front of a small zippered pouch for my purse. They’d make super gifts to personalize with the recipient’s name or initials.

  7. I would love to make bed quilts for my girls as belated wedding gifts . Now that they are older, they appreciate when Mom makes them anything . Being on a limited income , this would help me tremendously in achieving this goal .

  8. I’d love to try this technique on a denim jacket. I’m thinking drawing Roses on the inside and use the coordinating threads ie: Red on the Rose, green on the Leaves. Then once I’ve completed the flower I’d embellish it with accents if my choice.

  9. I would love to try the pillow that is shown in this blog and use it as a wall hanging instead of a pillow using different shades of plus and a small splash of red. Bobbin work looks awesome.

  10. Wow, so many possibilities! I think it would be fun to personalize a quilt with names or initials and a date for a quilt gift, especially a wedding gift.

  11. I’ve been wanting to learn this technique for years and I think the time has finally arrived! I’m looking forward to doing this with the Jubilee Quilt. I also think it would be a fun and beautiful way to add free motion quilting to so many of my quilts, pillows, and even as accents on some of my clothing, like jeans!
    I’m so excited for all of the “new” things to learn with my new Bernina!

  12. I just recently found out about bobbin work. I purchased the Bernina bobbin to try my hand at it only to just discover that Bernina has this tutorial. I am anxious to learn how to do bobbin work so that I can incorporate bobbin work in my appliqué and collage quilting. I would like to explore other uses for it to embellish clothing

  13. I’m just learning to applique and now want to try bobbin work. I can’t paint or draw but find I am able to express my creative self with my Bernina.

  14. In Sew it All Magazine, Vol 6, August 2013 there was a pattern called Thread Play. It made a cosmetic bag with bobbin work. I could never make myself purchase a bobbin to just do this project but I can see that I should try it. I do, however, make this project quiet often with decorative stitches. It has always been a hit with the receiver. This is a link to one of many I made. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/127086020707998152/

  15. I would use bobbin work on some of the Christmas presents I’m working on right now! Can’t specify because I don’t want any of the recipients to have a hint as to what I’m up to! 😉

  16. I cut out and started a quilt and realized I did not have enough contrast between the fabrics so the design does not stand out enough. I am hoping that using thicker thread for the quilting will save the quilt! Thanks for the chance to win the thread!

  17. I have a baby quilt that I have included ribbon in as an inner border. It would be super cute to use bobbin work to quilt with. I have to give this a try. Thanks for the inspiration.

  18. I would use it to add more definition to my quilts. Probably by tracing around a motif on fabrics until I get comfortable with it. Thank you for the inspiration.

  19. I’d use this technique for textile art pieces. A thicker thread could be used in the bobbin for free motion quilting to free-hand shapes, flowers, leaves etc with scraps of fabric adding a three dimensional aspect. Sounds like fun.

  20. This is something I’ve wanted to try! I could see it used on a garment piece ( reversible jacket maybe) or on a sweet baby quilt or placemats! Maybe even using the Bernina Q24 longarm?!

  21. I’m getting my first Bernina tomorrow (an old 2nd hand one – 1130) and I want to use the cottons on the Christmas wall hanging I’m doing. I can’t wait to use it. I’m so excited as I’ve wanted a Bernina for years!

  22. I am about to start a comprehensive fabric postcard project. The postcard size would be perfect to experiment with bobbin thread … and share my success with friends and family. And the postcard designs would inspire me to apply the technique throughout my sewing projects.

  23. You know, no truer words were spoken when it is said “you learn something new everyday”. Because I DID NOT KNOW about this technique before now! WOW. I seriously will try it. I do little clothes for dolls and how nice to make simple super and fast designs this way! And.. no kidding, a pillow! borders on a curtain… I am going to try this and soon.

    1. I have heard about this technique, but have not really tried it for myself. I think it would add uniqueness to any project you can conjure up in your mind. I like your ideas!

  24. I think bobbin work would look great on blue jean material. And I happened to have both a jean jacket and vest that would be great to try with this technique .

  25. This weekend I took a class from Cindy Needham which included whole cloth on linen and I can see real possiblities for using bobbin work on the piece I plan to do.

  26. I have used bobbin work on jean jackets and would love all the colors to do more. Making and decorating
    jackets is my favorite thing to sew and decorate.

  27. I’d use bobbin work on an art quilt to add texture and extra interest. Lots of choices of different threads make it fun just to experiment too.

  28. I’d like to experiment with adding cord or heavy thread free form borders to hand embroidered quilt blocks and then progress to decorating the back of a jacket.

  29. I make dopp bags, tote bags, back packs pouches, Japanese aprons, and napkins. The bobbin work reminds me of crewel work and I think it would be beautifully presented on my cork and linen handmade items! Thanks for the opportunity!

  30. Since Christmas is creeping up fast (in crafting terms), I would use all six strands of floss as one thick thread to sew ferns and fir trees in lovely Christmas greens!

  31. The possibilities look endless! I would love to learn and use bobbinwork on clothing for my little grandchildren. Thank you for the opportunity for the beautiful thread!

  32. I would use it to do some bobbin work designs on different sections of a purse pattern before I sewed it together so that it finished up with a nice designer look. Would be nice to do this on several different patterns that I have

  33. Oh my goodness. what a creative group we have here! After practicing quite a bit, I would love to embellish my daughter’s wedding gown with this technique.

  34. I would use bobbin work as embellishment especially on jeans, jackets, and pillows, but I think it could add a decorative and fun touch on just about everything.

  35. Oh my gosh! How inspiring the colors are to me. I am an art quilter, surface design person. I love doing underwater designs, making sea plants, using beading and making crazy fish with threads that follow them as part of the design..could I use these luchious threads? Heck yeah! Would add to the world of the underwater beautifully!

  36. Love bobbinwork on my 830. I used it to embellish a round robin when it was my turn. I used one of the big fancy stitches and a metallic braid to stitch embelish a border.

  37. I would use it to add embellishment to any project! I do have a special bobbin for my machine, but haven’t used it for a project yet. Thanks for the tips!

  38. I would like to give bobbin work a try on a wall quilt or a table runner. Building up my confidence, I would go on to a very special quilt I am now working on.

  39. Love the added advantage of using these speciality threads and ribbons. Makes for pretty stitching on hand bags and I would love to do some on some pillows for our sunroom. Hope to win these threads too.?

  40. I am looking forward to working on this new-to-me technique. Creating and embelllishing new things can be so much fun!! The thread set would enhance my new adventure!!

  41. I would use bobbin work on table runners, wall quilts, totes with appliqué, and my very special art quilt all to add interest and accent with decorative threads.

  42. I have six blocks left to finish my quilt Stitchers Garden quilt top. The six blocks are suppose to be bobbin work. I’m afraid to make adjustments to my bobbin case. The last time I did bobbin work was maybe 11 years ago in a class at my Bernina store. Someone there did the bobbin adjustment. The project turned out really nice.

  43. I am sure I did this technique years ago when I bought my Bernina. Would love to do a project with the bobbin work. I would start with something for my grand daughter. Maybe a table runner or decor for her new house. So many choices!!

  44. I love to use bobbin work to accent the bindings on quilts, placemats and jeans. It adds that personalized touch to a quilt binding and pushes it from “finished” to “WOW”. Using it to spiff up a pair a jeans at a fraction of the cost is just a plus where i am concerned. It makes things individual and personal!

  45. I would use it to embellish some quilting on a future project. The idea is just in my head. Would I do it on the top or would I wait to do it on the quilt! Hm m m m need more time to think about the possibilities and some time to play with the options!

  46. I would use bobbin work with the fantastic set of 28 spool Mettler Metrosene threads to create a topographic map on the face of a pillow cover because I love maps and drawing with thread.

  47. I would use bobbin work with the fantastic set of 28 spool Mettler Metrosene threads to create a topographic map on the face of a pillow cover because I love maps and drawing with thread. Thanks for including instructions to use with my 830

  48. Bobbin work would look so nice on a wall hanging in my Sewing Studio. Bobbin work adds just the right accent to any project & lends itself to being “seen” in the work which is a plus. Love to win & try my hand (machine) out on bobbin work.

  49. I would use bobbin work in my free motion quilting, using my BSR. When I quilt for my granddaughter’s quilts, I like to write messages in the borders – bobbin work would make that stand out more. It would also add a bit of interest to bindings.

  50. I think I’d like to try bobbin work on a pair of jeans, down one leg, or on a collar or cuffs. Actually, the more I think about it, the more things I can think of using it on.

  51. I once used it to make a tri-fold sewing supplies caddy. It came out absolutely stunning! Would love to try it again on something–maybe incorporate it into my crazy quilting!

  52. I have two queen quilts to finish before Christmas and I would love to use bobbin work to enhance the designs and really make each one unique as well as beautiful.

  53. I love bobbin work. I used to do bobbin work on my lovely Bernina 1630 but My wonderful husband has just bought me and amazing Bernina 830 which I am still ‘playing’ with and getting to grips. So I will be looking forward to trying out Bobbin Work on new amazing machine.

  54. I would use bobbin work to add accents to a linen blouse that I bought several years ago that I never wore because it was too small. Now that I’ve lost weight, it fits nicely and would look beautiful with some added bobbin work.

  55. Oh my goodness! I would is bobbin work on all kinds of things; quilts, costumes, clothing and as accenting on journals and art work! The possibilities are endless!

  56. I would make a Christmas Tree with bobbin work and use it either as a wall hanging or table runner. You could even use it for the ribbons on the packages under the bobbin work Christmas Tree. Ideas are perculating.

  57. I think I would use this technique as embellishments on bags, totes, and jackets. Once I am better at bobbin work, I would LOVE to try it on some open squares on a quilt.

  58. I sewed a lot for my daughter when she was a child. When she became a teenager she wasn’t quite so confident in my ability! She is now older and wiser and I’ve become her own personal seamstress again. I’d love to use this bobbin work technique on a dress for her.

  59. I would use this to mimic hand quilting my mother and grandmother did back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. They used a heavy, size 8 Coats and Clark I think. The quilts were more utilitarian back in those days, especially trying to raise a family and make ends meet. I remember the last quilt my mother made, I would thread a whole pack of needles for her to use the next week before I headed off to college for the week, only to return to do it again. She would always make the comment that she did not have enough threaded needles to last the week.

  60. There are so many fun ways to use bobbin work. A pillow would be a great practice piece. I love making jackets which would be a perfect place to incorporate this beautiful detail.

  61. I’ve used bobbin work on a vest that I made years ago. I would like to do it again on a baby quilt. It is a unique embellishment to most any project and easy to do. Most of the time the results are better than what you intended.

  62. I am currently working on a waterfall quilt that uses bobbinwork, so this would be perfect.
    Also, the Autumn Table Topper would be perfect, also found on this blog.

  63. I have a 200/730 and make bags for my family–daughters, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and your very good instructions are leading me to use bobbin-work along with embroidery for embellishing purses and bags.

  64. I have a tree of life panel that I’ve put borders on and appliqued with butterfies for a friends who’s husband has past. I would love to use all those colors doing thread art in the quilting so the tree would be decorative and show on the plain backing as well.

  65. I love bobbin work on pillows because it gives them dimension – such a professional decorator look at a fraction of the price of a store. One of the first things I bought for my new B700 was the red bobbin case. I have used metallics and cords. It is great for Christmas projects like stockings too.

  66. Thanks so much for the tips and the chance to win! I’d like to try bobbin quilting on a quilt with a cool backing design that I could follow – especially since I’m not a very good free motion quilter and always need something to follow!!! 😉

  67. Enjoyed all the comments. I was going HAND embroidery quilt squares with silly farm animals – now you have me going crazy with ideas – faster, easier and wonderful raised effect Thank you

  68. I would love to free motion with bobbin work on the back yolk of a jacket. I also have a free motion wall hanging idea that’s been ruminating in my brain for several months. Bobbin work would be perfect for this project. Thank you for the tutorials!

  69. I create Renaissance costumes, more on the historic side vs costume. I could use this technique as a way to embellish skirts and bodices and other pieces of clothing. Thank you for the article.

  70. I would use bobbin work sewing to decorate the bottom legs of my jeans. It gives a ‘retro’ look that I like. I’ve couched designs in the past and have gotten many compliments, I would really like to try the bobbin technique!

  71. I would use bobbin work to add extra decoration around the quilt label that I embroider to go on the quilts I make and to dress up designs that are outlines in one color with no fill stitching..

  72. I have used bobbin work but not since I have my 830. I still have my 730 and think I would love to try it on some Mug Rugs I will be doing for the upcoming holidays

  73. I would like to sew a silver horn on a unicorn
    And couch fluffy clouds that are airborne.
    I would embroider a baboon swinging on the moon
    Or add ribbon to a balloon held by a raccoon.
    I would outline a ghost with silvery thread
    To show that it’s a spirit and very, very dead…
    I’d load up my bobbin with sparkly stuff
    And play at making marshmallow fluff.
    I’d add dazzle to a quilt and razzle to a bag
    I’d make glitzy antlers on a Christmas stag.
    All this and more is what I would do
    Possibilities are endless & quite a breakthrough!

  74. “How would you use bobbin work in a sewing or quilting project?”

    I plan on using bobbin work in the Halloween quilt that I am currently working on. I hope to finish it this weekend 🙂

  75. I sew garments. I have yards and yards of mostly solid vintage silk, linen and cotton fabric that my Great Aunt Irene left to my mom. I would love to embellish these fabrics for that haute couture look!

  76. Using a machine & threads specifically made for Bobbin Work would be so creatively liberating! I’ve been doing “Bobbin Work” for a long time but didn’t know that was what it was called. I called it “using your fancy stuff in the bobbin”. The idea came from using heavy thread in the bobbin when gathering all those late 1969-80s ruffles! Thank You Gunne Sax.
    I probably first used Bobbin Work with fancy metallic threads that kept tangling in the needle. And with heavy threads that were too big for the needle. Then I went wild with yarn and ribbon embellishments. Now I’m quilting some pretty unorthodox stuff.
    What to use Bobbin Work for? The list is long: Christmas decorations and ornaments, banners and flags, Halloween Costumes!, string and leather laces and fine rope on RenFest wear. Ribbons on Prom and other formal wear, quilts & pillows, faces and other details on stuffed toys, embellishments of all kinds on jeans and tops. It makes great candlewicking and “red work” embroidery: do all the plainest stitching by machine and then do the fancy /fun stitches & knots by hand.
    Right now, I’m making a quilt using a cloth baby book panel. The “pages” have embellishments. The quilting around the “pages” has all kinds of textures in the quilting.

    1. I Am just getting back to sewing and never heard of this technique so would love to try it with some mandalas I have drawn with my cricut maker also recently purchased that can drawn my designs on the fabric and with all the color choices shown I think they would turn out beautifully

  77. I want to learn bobbin work to create pretty lines on my crazy quilt. I have decorative stitches and now want to add pretty thick threads to accent the crazy pieces. It would also look lovely on my nightgowns. I always use old sheets for my nightgowns and would love to make them fancy with beautiful threads on the bodice and sleeves. Thanks.

  78. What a great blog post. Thank You. I would like to give it a try on some things I would typically machine embroider. It has a much less dense appearance. I’ve been doing embroidery on gift bags. I think the ability to use a heavier thread AND the less dense pattern would lend itself perfectly for a burlap gift bag.

  79. I love to try bobbin work on a beautiful everyday purse. Then, maybe, if it turned out good enough, make a skirt or jacket to match. After that, anything is possible. Would love that thread to practice with!

  80. Having just purchased the 880 Plus Anniversary Edition, I’m new to the Bernina Family and am so eager to learn new techniques! I’m already amazed at all the things I can do. I would love to add bobbin work to small quilting projects.

  81. I purchased a second bobbin case for thread work because I didn’t want to risk messing up the perfect tension on my machine. Wonderful to add a dimensional element to any project. Have done flowers and even simple designs to add interest to a few projects. Great “how to” information that will inspire others to explore this technique.

  82. I have a second bobbin case and love to do bobbin work. This review was great, now I just need more thread to make a table runner for Christmas and maybe Easter in case I don’t get Christmas made in time.

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