Plastic Bobbins vs Metal Bobbins: Which One Should You Use?


Anyone who uses sewing machines or is familiar with sewing or embroidery, will definitely know what bobbins are, and more importantly, why they are so important!

A bobbin, just like a thread pool holds the thread, holds your thread under the needle in the sewing machine. It is the combination of the thread in the bobbin and the thread above the sewing machine that the stitches come out perfect and permanent. 

When sewing in a machine, the thread from the bobbin goes up through the metal plate of the sewing machine, situated directly below the needle, and connects with the thread in the top to create a sturdy and strong stitch.

Without the bobbin and the thread in the bobbin, it is only the top thread that will be making temporary, one-sided stitches on the fabric – stitches that can be removed instantly with a single pull. 

This is exactly why the existence and the use of bobbins and bobbin threads are so important when working on a sewing machine. 

Types of Bobbins

There are mostly two types of bobbins based on the material they are build from that we see in the market: plastic bobbins and metal bobbins

Of course, there are several other types based on the use, the shape, the size and the use on different sewing machines, but they are mostly made from metal or plastic.

These different types of bobbins are generally: the Class 15 or A style bobbin, the L Style Bobbin, the M Style Bobbin, the Singer 16313 bobbin, and the Singer 8223 bobbin made exclusively for Singer, the Bermina 0115367000 bobbin for the Bernina sewing machines, the Juki 270010 for Juki sewing machines, the Viking Specific 4125615-45 bobbins for Viking machines, and more. 

In all types of sewing machines, bobbins are used for the same reasons and in the same way, and they are mostly made from either plastic or metal. 

Sometimes, we can see bobbins made of wood or bone, but the most popular types are made from either metal or plastic, and are widely used all over the world.

What are Plastic Bobbins?

Although similar in every single way important, plastic bobbins have become popular ever since plastics were first introduced several decades ago.

Before the widespread introduction of plastic for literally everything, metal was used in making bobbins for all kinds of sewing machines.

Ever since plastic becomes affordable and available, most bobbins are made from plastic. In fact, not just bobbins, but a lot of parts for sewing machines are also made from plastic. 

Although they may look the same shape and size, plastic bobbins are usually compatible with sewing machines that have a front or top-loading design. Also, plastic bobbins are made for relatively newer sewing machines and might not fit into the older models. 

What are Metal Bobbins?

Metal bobbins have been in use in sewing machines ever since these machines first came into existence.

Before plastic became available to the public, everyone used metal bobbins in their sewing machines, which were only compatible with the older and sturdier models of machines. 

Apart from the fact that plastic bobbins are see-through and colorful, there aren’t much difference between the shape and size between plastic and metal bobbins.

The one you have to use depends on the machine you are using, actually. Some sewing machines still use metal bobbins and for these machines, you need to buy metal bobbins and nothing else. 

Metal bobbins happen to be more durable than plastic bobbins, and they also have a longer lifespan. Although more affordable, plastic bobbins don’t work perfectly as long as metal bobbins do. Professionals and regular users of sewing machines, therefore, prefer metal bobbins more than plastic bobbins in their work. 

Differences between Plastic and Metal Bobbins

Plastic and metal bobbins aren’t interchangeable. A user cannot simply decide to use a metal or a plastic bobbin based on their looks and their availability. Both kinds of bobbins, although the same use and specifications are important in their own way. 

Here are some differences  between plastic and metal bobbins that a regular user will know and understand: 

  1. Model of the Sewing Machine

The relatively older models of sewing machines generally use metal bobbins, and plastic bobbins will not be compatible with them. This is because the older machines come with a built-in metal bobbin case where the bobbin would go and plastic bobbins cannot handle being inside a metal bobbin case.

Even when they are the same size, shape, class, and specifications, plastic bobbins should not be used inside metal bobbin cases in some older versions of sewing machines. 

On the other hand, some newer models of sewing machines come with plastic bobbin cases, and they should be used only for plastic bobbins. Using metal bobbins in these plastic cases will only result in the bobbin case melting and getting damaged due to the excess heat created by the metal bobbin. 

  1. Size of the Bobbin Case 

The bobbin has to be the exact match of the bobbin case when it comes to size. Even the slightest difference in size – be it smaller or larger than the bobbin case – can cause the bobbin case, the bobbin and the machine to be damaged beyond repair. 

Just like the bobbin you use should be of the same material as the bobbin case, the size of the bobbin should also match the bobbin case. When they are made from different materials, the size of the bobbin and the bobbin case doesn’t match exactly as a rule.

The bobbin case and the bobbin would only have an exact match when they are made from the same materials, i.e. plastic with plastic, or metal with metal. 

  1. Durability

As a rule, metal bobbins are more durable than plastic bobbins. Because of the different materials they are made from, plastic bobbins require to be replaced more often than metal bobbins because they get damaged earlier than metal bobbins. 

  1. Tension of the Bobbins 

The tension of plastic and metal bobbins are not the same, either. Plastic bobbins can get damaged when too much tension is applied to them while winding.

These kinds of bobbins are also prone to change in shape, distorting, or breaking. On the other hand, this is not a problem with metal bobbins. 

Plastic bobbins vs Metal bobbins: Which one should you use?

Using either a plastic or a metal bobbin depends completely on the sewing machine that you are using, and the bobbin pase that comes with it.

If the bobbin case inside your sewing machine is made of metal, you should definitely use a metal bobbin in it. This is the same with sewing machines that come with plastic bobbins. For plastic bobbin cases, only plastic bobbins should be used. 

Using a bobbin that is not made from the same material as the bobbin case will only damage the bobbins, the bobbin cases and the whole machine in general. 

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