Comparing Sewing Machine Hooks-Oscillating, Rotary, Horizontal, & Vertical

Last updated on October 17th, 2021 at 02:01 pm

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The hook design of a particular machine can be an important consideration when choosing a sewing machine best suited for a particular application as well as your personal preferences.

For this reason, may quilters prefer a vertical hook for free motion work. Also, this makes most vertical hooks a little less fussy with heavier or oddball thread types.

First, let’s discuss what the sewing machine hook actually does. When the needle comes down into the fabric and begins to rise, a little loop of thread is formed behind the needle.

The hook picks up this loop, and wraps it around the bobbin thread by traveling around the bobbin case. Obviously, the hook plays an essential role in the formation of a stitch.

Now, lets talk about the different types of hooks. Realize that  they can all form a lovely, secure, balanced stitch. 

When it comes to hook types, there are two primary characteristic by which they are categorized. The first characteristic is the type of motion the hook makes in the stitch formation process. It is either oscillating or rotary.

An oscillating hook moves in one direction and then back again. A rotating hook continues around the bobbin in one direction. 

Both types of hooks can get jammed up very easily through operator error. CAVEAT EMPTOR-  Sewing machine companies are keen to advertise machines as having a “jam proff hook”. 

Well, I have personally created thread knots and jams by way of user error on many machines advertised as having a supposedly “jam proof hook”.  So, keep in mind that this claim has often proved to be little more than marketing hype.

Any machine will allow you to sew “off the fabric as long as you are pulling along the thread tails. Quilters often do this when they are chain piecing.

However, if you just start sewing air with any threaded machine, you are going to make some lovely jams. Threading errors can also cause Thread nests, jams and wads, and no hook type is immune to this.

Now let’s look at the hook orientation. A hook is either vertical or horizontal. A vertical hook can face toward the side (aka side or end loader) or toward the front (aka CB or front loading hook).

With a horizontal hook, the bobbin drops in from the top. This can be very convenient. However, the thread must make a 90 degree turn in the stitch formation process with a top loading (horizontal hook) that isn’t required with a vertical hook. 

If you have trouble loading a vertical bobbin case into a machine, I hate to say it, but the problem isn’t the design of the machine, it’s your approach. Interestingly enough, removing the bobbin case rarely poses any problems for anyone.

So, carefully examine the way you hold the bobbin case when you take it out of the machine and be sure to hold it in the exact same manner when you install it. Your finger should be pointed DOWN behind the latch.

Also, be certain that the bobbin is all the way into the bobbin case before you open the latch to insert it into the machine. 

When purchasing a machine, be certain to discuss the types of sewing, materials and threads you expect to be using. Don’t hesitate to seek for guidance on what hook style would be best suited for your application and why. 

Keep an open mind as to what may suit your sewing applications best.  Personally, I own and use machines with a  variety of hook styles and orientations, and I find that each one has it’s strengths and shortcomings. 

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