Bobbins: a picture dictionary


It has come to my attention that the word bobbin in the world of fiber can be confusing. There are a lot of particular products that are called "bobbins". If you're new to the world of fiber, that can be a bit of a stumbling block. 

This post contains photos of the fiber things that are most likely being referred to. You'll be able to make an educated guess if you know whether the speaker is discussing a tapestry, fabric weaving, sewing, or spinning project. All of them are things that hold yarn in some form or another.

Tapestry bobbins

If a tapestry weaver says "bobbin" in the context of their work, they are probably talking about these.

Tapestry bobbins made by Milissa Ellison Dewey

Light-colored bobbin by John Moss, back two examples by Milissa Ellison Dewey

You might see the bobbins hanging down from their work like this.

Sarah Swett's bobbins on a four selvedge warp.

A tapestry bobbin is a tool used most often by people who weave on high-warp tapestry looms. The tool is used both for holding the yarn in an orderly fashion and for beating the weft in. This is efficient because the tool never has to leave your hand.

Another sort of tapestry bobbin is used by low-warp tapestry weavers. It is known as an Aubusson bone and is most frequently seen on Aubusson tapestry looms. You can see photos of Aubusson looms on Elizabeth Buckley's website HERE.

Aubusson bones made by Milissa Ellison Dewey

Spinning wheel bobbins

But if your tapestry friend is also a spinner, you might hear them talk about bobbins that looks like this. 

Schacht Ladybug spinning wheel with bobbin in the flyer

Lazy kate and handspun. Kate by Schacht Spindle Company. Handspun by me. This is an old photo. I didn't know how to load the bobbins evenly yet.

The newly spun yarn is collected on the bobbin as the flyer whirls around it. Two or more filled bobbins might well be put on a lazy kate and then those yarns can be plied together onto another bobbin. 

A lazy kate can take many different forms, but this is the one I like by Schacht Spindle Company.


Boat shuttle bobbin

And if your friend also weaves yardage, they likely mean a bobbin that fits in a boat shuttle like this.

Boat shuttle and bobbin. Wow it is all Schacht today! This shuttle is also made by them.

This sort of boat shuttle and bobbin are used by people who are throwing the shuttle across their warp in the shed to draw through a line of weft. These are used on yardage-type floor looms.

Sewing machine bobbins

There are also sewing machine bobbins. I recently found out that I'd been using the wrong bobbins in my Kenmore for decades... and that was the reason my bobbin tension was way off. There are some lovely metal sewing machine bobbins out there, but usually mine look like this:

The bobbins go in here.


Bobbin winders


I pulled out my bobbin winder which is a tool for winding the yarn on storage/boat shuttle bobbins, and found it to be bent. How a hefty piece of metal like this that I have used for a couple decades gets bent is beyond me, but if you know of anyone who can fix it, I'd love to know. It is possible there is just some mechanical adjustment off, but when I went to try to loosen the screw you can see on the right side of the shaft, it sheered off. 

I needed the bobbin winder to wind warp onto storage bobbins (like the white plastic ones that go in boat shuttles) for an upcoming workshop and I needed it right then. So a quick trip to Lambspun later and I had one of these. Though I adore my Swedish bobbin winder, Schacht Spindle Company has been a wonderful and helpful presence in my life and I was happy to purchase this one. Turns out it works great!

Schacht bobbin winder

So whether you use all four kinds of bobbins like I do, or you don't use any of them, I hope you have tools that are useful and beautiful and serve you well. And remember, a bobbin is just a thing that holds some kind of yarn or thread.