One of the more tedious sewing tasks is winding bobbins. I'll be the first to admit it is my least favorite part of preparing to start a new project. I think my dislike dates back to an old sewing machine that had the worst bobbin winder ever; four times out of five my bobbins looked like big globs of thread. Today, most sewing machines have great built-in bobbin winders. Some higher-end models even have separate bobbin winding motors, allowing you to wind a bobbin while sewing. And there are pre-wound bobbins you can buy, but usually only in black and white. As part of our Lush & Plush Series, Fabric.com asked us to test and write about the two bobbin winders they carry. Both are from Simplicity: the SideWinder Portable Bobbin Winder and the SideWinder Deluxe. I took them both for a spin and recorded my results.
They are radically different in size. The Deluxe is over twice the size of the Portable. Both models call themselves "portable" and they each feature a carry handle, but only the Portable model has a battery-powered option. Both are lightweight and would be easy to pack and carry to a class or sewing group.
The Simplicity SideWinder Deluxe Bobbin Winder
When open, the hinges on the Deluxe allow it lay nice and flat. The lid features two little storage compartments where you could stow your thread, extra spindles and empty or filled bobbins.
To set up the Deluxe, all you have to do is lift up the telescoping thread guide and click it into position, pull up the spool pin to its full height and slip the felt base pad into place over the spool pin.
The Deluxe comes with four color-coded spindles to hold your bobbin. There is a chart on the included instruction sheet, listing which spindle to use for your sewing machine's bobbin type. My Janome machine uses the red spindle. The little plastic bag off to the side in the photo below shows you the blue, green and yellow spindles. There did not appear to be any machines excluded; in other words, you should be able to wind any type of bobbin with this SideWinder model.
Place your spool on the spool pin. Run the thread up through the guide, then back down through the metal eye, around the tension disks and into your bobbin. There are arrows to follow. The thread should come under and up through a hole on the top of your bobbin. You use the fill capacity gauge next to the bobbin to set the amount of thread you want to wind, from just a little to completely full. And, there is a speed control knob above the on/off switch. I started with the both the capacity gauge and the speed knob in their middle positions.
Turn the switch to on and, holding your thread tail, press the green start button. You can let go of the thread as soon as it starts. WHOA! It goes really fast... and I didn't even have it at top speed! I could barely get my camera on in time to take a couple pictures of the bobbin winding. It goes waaaaaaaay faster than the bobbin winder on my sewing machine.
Although set to the midway point on the capacity gauge, my bobbin wound all the way full. You'd probably need to experiment a little to determine the exact settings for your bobbin type. I wound a full bobbin and then turned the gauge all the way down and just wound a little thread. Both worked well.
I must admit I didn't think the Deluxe wound my bobbin quite as evenly top to bottom as my Janome does, but the tension was smooth, and when I threaded up my machine, the bobbin worked like a charm. The tension disks on the Deluxe are adjustable so you can tighten or loosen them to get the correct wrap for your bobbin.
Next, I tried threading up the Deluxe with some slippery rayon thread. I used the speed control knob to slow it down a bit, which was suggested on the instruction sheet. It worked great!
If for any reason you want to stop the machine, you have to use the on/off switch. And, even though the bobbin stops winding automatically based on where you set the capacity gauge, I would suggest turning the switch to off before you remove the bobbin. I didn't do this on my first test and somehow the spindle started spinning again, wrapping the thread and making a bit of a mess.
The Deluxe has a nifty little built-in thread cutter, which was handy. And, since the thread guide is telescoping, it is designed to handle all sizes and shapes of thread spools, including thread cones. I didn't have any of these other types of spools to test so I can't vouch for the flexibility, but it seems like as long as the spool rests snugly on the spool pin, it should work great. You can also buy an optional "swift" that will allow you to wind embroidery floss onto a bobbin.
The Simplicity SideWinder Portable Bobbin Winder
The Portable is so much smaller than the Deluxe, I was prepared for a lot less power and speed. Wrong! It definitely has fewer features, but it is just a speedy... if not even a little faster than the Deluxe!
It opens up and lays nice and flat. All you need to do is pull up the spool pin.
There is only one spindle and it is not removable. So there are a number of machine models whose bobbins do not work with the Portable. Bobbins that do NOT fit are: Husqvarna Viking machines that use the 412 09 75-45 Sure Fit bobbins, Designer SE, Designer I, Quilt Designer II, Quilt Designer, Platinum, Interlude, Rose, Prelude, Daisy, Orchidea #1, Prisma, Optima, Classica, Huskylock, Singer Centaur II, Futura, and Pfaff Creative Vision.
To start, place your thread on the spool pin. Run the thread down through the metal eye, around the tension disks and into your bobbin. The thread should come under and up through a hole on the top of your bobbin. There are two extra pins to hold additional bobbins. The Portable will only handle standard thread spools.
You cannot set the capacity. A flipper bar judges the fill rate and automatically stops the machine when the bobbin is full.
Press start and WHOOSH, this puppy winds FAST! There is no speed control. There is also no off switch. If you want to stop the machine, pull back the flipper bar next to the bobbin.
In seconds, my bobbin was full, smooth and neat.
When I look at the bobbin I wound on the Portable side by side with the bobbin I wound on the Deluxe, there wasn't any difference I could see. In the photo below, the Portable bobbin is on the left and the Deluxe bobbin is on the right.
You can't adjust the tension, so I don't know what, if anything, you could do if you are unhappy with the wind you get on your bobbin... other than be unhappy.
The Portable is truly portable because it will run on two AA batteries. But, I'd read some reviews that said it wasn't as powerful in battery mode so I thought I'd give it a try. I popped in my batteries.
I set up a new color of thread and pressed start. WHOOSH again. It was a little bit slower than with AC power, but it was still super-duper fast. Much, much faster than a regular sewing machine bobbin winder
My final test was to try the Portable with the slippery rayon thread. I was really curious how this would work because there was no way to slow down the winding. It ran just fine.
Both bobbins from the battery-powered test turned out great.
So what is my final pick? For speed and precision at under $30.00, I would go with the Portable SideWider. It worked great, was unbelievably fast, and the quality of the winding was consistent bobbin to bobbin -- even with the slippery thread. The bummer is that it is not compatible with all models like the Deluxe model is, but my Janome bobbins fit and the list of models that do work out numbers those that don't.
If you are a person who goes through tons of bobbins, if you prefer to use thread cones, and/or if you're someone who likes to experiment with specialty threads for decorative bobbin work; the extra $68.00 for the Deluxe model would make sense for you. Being able to adjust the the fill capacity and the speed as well as the tension are all real benefits for the power-sewer.
All-in-all, I was very impressed with both machines. Especially the warp speed! You could fill dozens of bobbins in just minutes. Both models allow you to tackle a tedious task crazy fast, and I think either one would help me move past my bobbin-winding phobia.