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My Favorite Tip for Machine Quilting without Swearing

My Favorite Tip for Machine Quilting without Swearing

Nothing – and I mean nothing – is more likely to make me curse like a sailor than when my bobbin runs out of thread in the middle of a long row of stitching while machine quilting. You sew and sew and sew, shifting the heavy weight of the quilt over and over again – and then get to the end and realize you just stitched a whole row with no bobbin – so there’s no stitching. Grrrrrrr. . . just thinking about it is making my blood pressure go up.


I had this happen one too many times on my last project – and then I had a little epiphany.

Actually – a big epiphany. 🙂

Wind a bunch of bobbins before you get started. Like – at least ten for a twin size quilt. Pop matching full bobbins into the top (where you’d normally use a spool) and in the bobbin case. The top and bottom stitching should use the same amount of thread, so you can look at the top bobbin at any time to see how much thread you have left in the bottom (secret hidden) bobbin.

Check before you start every row. If it’s close to empty – go ahead and replace both bobbins. You may waste a little thread – but you’ll be saving your sanity. I say choose sanity.

And even if you miscalculate and run out in the middle of a row – you’ll know right away instead of continuing to stitch on in painful, oblivious ignorance.

Here are all my posts about layering and basting your quilt, and the final round of quilting.

Here are all my posts about hand quilting and Big Stitch quilting. I don’t use these techniques with fusible applique or Quilt As You Go, but I LOVE using Big Stitch Quilting with my cheater fabric.

Finished with this topic?

Return to the Let’s Make a Quilt main Table of Contents.

Move on to the lessons about binding and finishing your quilt.

Happy quilting!


  1. You are my hero. I will never run out of bobbin thread again. Bless you;-)m

  2. Missy K. SAYS...

    So smart!

  3. gina SAYS...

    GENIUS!!! thank you! i just did my first twin size quilt and i think i ran out of bobbin thread at least twice! I will try on my next quilt, when i can gain enough courage to start another big project!

  4. Pam Petryk SAYS...

    That’s Brilliant!!!!! I wish I would have thought of it. -Pam

  5. betz SAYS...

    Brilliant! I am so doing this! Thanks for sharing.

  6. What a great tip–I was thinking about this just last night when I cut it really close in one row. Thanks for the idea!

  7. Debbie W SAYS...

    Great idea. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Ellie SAYS...

    Ha! It was the title of this article that piqued my interest. I love your epihany! Such a great idea to have the multiple bobbins for use in place of the regular spot for the spool as well as the bobbin case. If I keep track of how many bobbins I used on a quilt, over time I could have a more accurate estimate of how much thread I’ll need (and bobbins to wind) for the next time I do the quilting on the same size of quilt with a similar style of quilt stitching. A time-saving and blood pressure control tip? It certainly is, and it will also be a more enjoyable and satisfying quilting experience for me. Thanks, Wendi!

  9. Hilary SAYS...

    One caveat to this – I tried it part way through my last quilt and since I wasn’t using a spool the tension was off and I had to pull out some of the stitching. So remember to do a test sandwich with your fabrics and batting first!

  10. Heather SAYS...

    Thank you wise woman! It makes so much sense that it should have been intuitive, but it escaped me.

  11. Rebecca Pullen SAYS...

    Why haven’t I read this fabulous tip before. Stitching along with an empty bobbin really derails me.
    Thank you, Wendi, my hero!

  12. Ellen SAYS...

    Great idea! You won’t waste any thread if you save the almost empty bobbins and use them for foundations piecing or basting.

  13. Shirley Helm SAYS...

    Wendy, thank you so much for everything. You’re so helpful and always sharing your knowledge.

  14. Sheila SAYS...

    I can’t believe I never thought of this! Brilliant! Thank you SO much!

  15. Genell SAYS...

    WOW so simple and yet most of us would never have thought of this. Thanks for sharing

  16. Marie SAYS...

    That’s a wonderful idea. I have an older machine that does not alert me to a low bobbin and it’s the machine I use for quilting so this helpful tip is the BEST.