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top-loading vs. front-loading bobbin

landers04 | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on


I am humbled by the knowledge and experience of the sewing ladies on this forum and  I am hoping some of you can share some wisdom with me!

 I am a beginning sewer, interested in making garments, not crafts, and am shopping for a machine. My question, which i can’t find addressed in the archives, is why is the top-loading bobbin so highly valued? I know that it is supposed to jam less, but is there more to it than that? It seems that when you take a machine and add the top-loading bobbin feature, the price goes up at least $150!  Is it really so important a feature, and why?

most gratefully yours…


  1. Elisabeth | | #1

    I'd like to know the answer to that question too. I have an older Viking with a front loading bobbin. It gives me a one piece stitch plate on the top which I would think would be an advantage. I was surprised to see all the new Vikings with the top loading system. I am seconding your question!

  2. suesew | | #2

    I have a front loading Viking. It has the advantqge of being able to change the bobbin in the middle of stitching a seam without showing on top. You can also bypass or change th tension for bobbin work or other situations that demand it. I also have access and need to occaisionally use top loading machines and I generally do not like them as well.

  3. carolfresia | | #3

    I don't know the answer to your question. I think it might be a matter of convenience, or at least of perceived convenience. I've always used machines with top-loading bobbins, and so I'm used to that and find it easier than a front-loading machine. But I'd like to think that I'm smarter than your average bear and could learn to insert a front-loading bobbin with my eyes closed if my machine called for it.

    If your bobbins are clear plastic, you can check how much thread is left on a top-loading bobbin quite easily, and to me that's an advantage; even machines with low-bobbin warnings don't give me as much information as a quick peek at the bobbin itself.

    On the other hand, if you're doing bobinwork or machine embroidery, having a front-loading machine can offer a slight advantage: you can keep a separate bobbin case on hand with custom tension settings for these applications.

    Let me take an informal poll around the office and see what folks here say; I wonder if there's a preference depending on what kind of sewing you do most.


  4. ChrisHaynes | | #4

    Most machines with top loading bobbins use plastic bobbins... while many of the machines that use front loading bobbins have the option of using metal bobbins.  The metal bobbins hold more thread, which if useful if you are doing home-dec, quilting or free-motion embroidery where it is a pain to stop and reload another bobbin.  ALSO... you do not have to remove what you are working on to reload a new bobbin--- but it is easier to load in a top loading bobbin (convenience).

    Another observation... machines that sew faster usually have front loading bobbins.  This includes the Brother PQ-1500... and my older mechanical Pfaff sews much faster with its front loading bobbin than my new computerized Brother PC-2800.

    1. edgy | | #5

      I've used both (and still do), and the top loader is definitely worth the extra money in my opinion if other features that you want also accompany it. It's quicker, easier to see what's left, and you can often wing the bobbin from the NEEDLE which is incredible.

      It really depends on what you're looking for. My 30 yr. old Kenmore is front loading, and it's extra trouble, but the metal bobbins do hold more and that machine can do some things my Viking Lily cannot.

      Hope that helps,


      1. Kiley | | #6

        I have machines with both types of bobbins also and I prefer the front loaders over the top. The top loader is nice to see how much bobbin thread you have left but I don't care for that little piece of plastic that covers it. I am always afraid I will lose it or that it will break..then what? These top loaders are supposed to be jam proof and usually are except a slight thread sticking up from winding can cause the plastic cover to come up a bit and almost jam. As for the front loading..I find they run smoother..that is if your machine has a rotary hook and not an ocillating hook. I am just glad to get away from that type of bobbin that loaded from the side in the old days ..they were a bit of a pain. You had to strain your neck around to do it. Hooray for modern technology :)

        1. landers04 | | #7

          Thanks for the feedback!  I was curious because i'm shopping for a machine and a saleslady for a janome machine was trying to show me how the front loading bobbin would jam whereas the top loading wouldn't jam (only she couldn't get either to jam for me in the shop!).  so i think i'll go with front loading since i'm starting out anyway and it's a big price differential. also, i don't know how much sewing i'll be doing, better to save my $$ for my dream machine down the road!  love this forum!

          1. Kiley | | #8

            On the front loaders there are some with oscillating hooks that go back and forth that do have more problems with jamming than the front loaders that have rotary hooks. The rotary hook goes around and around and not back and forth. I hope this makes sense, but when sewing you can watch how the bobbin performs..either back and forth or just round and round. I have noticed that my top loading seem to not have the "oomph" needed for some heavy material like my front loaders. I don't know why this should make a difference but it just seems that way to me. It is always nice to have a machine that also has a foot pressure control to help in heavy to light fabric feeding.

          2. edgy | | #9

            Excuse my ignorance, but how does foot pressure conrol help w feeding? Do you mean presser foot control? Not trying to be picky here, but really wondering if I'm missing some abt my foot control.



          3. Kiley | | #10

            Pressure control on the foot depending on the fabric your using can be important. Most sewing machines and sergers have this control but not all. This is not the foot control.

          4. noreen | | #11

            I could be wrong, but I thought that a double needle could not be used on the front leading styles, whereas it can with a top loading bobbin.  Can anyone confirm this?


          5. SewNancy | | #12

            I had a Viking for 20 years that was a front loader and it used a double needle without any trouble.  I now have a top loading Viking and find that it jams less than my old one.


          6. ChrisHaynes | | #13

            I have been able to use a double and triple needle with no problem with my 13+ year old mechanical Pfaff with the front loading bobbin.

            The only time I would NOT use a multiple needle (or a zig-zag) stitch would be when I put the straight stitch needle plate and foot on it (kind of obvious why), which is what I would do for sheers.

          7. Kiley | | #14

            As far as I know most maschines accept a double needle no matter where the bobbin case happens to be. Your machine just needs to have a place to accept the extra spool pin. If there is no place for an extra spool pin you can purchase a thread stand to go on the table beside the machine.  Just remember when using a double needle not to use a zig zag stitch that is to wide so that the needles don't hit the pressure foot and break.

          8. suesew | | #15

            I use the double needle all the time on both front and top loading machines. I also rarely use two spools of thread. I usually just wind some on an extra bobbin and put the bobbin on the thread spindle and put the thread on top. Once in a great while this will tangle but if you keep your eye on it it works really well. I have an extra spool spindle but find that the bobbin spins very easily on it and the first method actually controls it a little bit better by adding a little tension to the bobbin thread.

            Edited 8/12/2004 11:46 am ET by suesew

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