How to use a sewing machine

Knowing how to use a sewing machine opens the door to a whole new world of DIY projects. These tabletop machines are convenient to use and make it easier and faster to develop your creativity. Setting up your sewing machine is the first step to creating something new, but the first time you use a sewing machine can feel overwhelming. Although these machines seem complex, getting started is simple once you know how to use the dials, levers and spools. Learn how to use a sewing machine by following the steps below.

Sewing machine parts

Before learning to use a sewing machine, it is important to familiarize yourself with its main components.

  • Light switch: Usually located on the right side of the machine, the power switch turns the sewing machine on and off.
  • Pedal: The foot pedal controls the sewing speed. Pressing the foot control allows you to start sewing. Pressing harder on the foot pedal speeds up the sewing of the machine and light pressure slows it down.
  • Spool holder: The spool pin is a small metal or plastic pin that holds the spool of thread. It can have a vertical or horizontal configuration, and it is usually located above the sewing machine.
  • Thread guide: The thread guide directs the thread from the spool pin to the bobbin winder. This small metal piece holds the thread and is usually located at the top right of the sewing machine.
  • Bobbin winder: The bobbin winder is usually located at the top right of the sewing machine. As the name suggests, its purpose is to wind the thread onto the bobbin.
  • Flying : Usually located on the right side of the machine, this large dial is used to manually lower or raise the needle.
  • Stitch selector: The stitch selection dial allows you to choose the active stitch type. On many newer sewing machines, the stitch selection dials have been replaced by LCD displays with touch screen and/or button inputs.
  • Thread take-up lever: The take-up lever is usually located on the upper left side of the sewing machine. It keeps the upper thread taut between the spool pin and the needle.
  • Needle clamp: The needle clamp is a small metal screw that holds the needle in place.
  • Crowbar : The presser foot is located next to the needle. It looks like a small ski and can be raised and lowered using the crowbar lever. This piece helps hold the fabric in place while sewing.
  • Needle plate: The needle plate is the metal plate located just below the needle.
  • Feeding dogs: The feed dogs are small metal ridges located on the needle plate. These mechanisms pull the fabric through the machine while sewing.
  • Bobbin cover: The bobbin cover protects the bobbin in the sewing machine, keeping it in place.

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This guide describes the basic steps for setting up and operating the sewing machine, but keep in mind that instructions may differ from machine to machine. If in doubt, refer to your sewing machine manual for exact setup and usage instructions.

Before continuing, place the sewing machine on a sturdy table at a comfortable height. Make sure the needle and presser foot are attached before proceeding to the next steps.

STEP 1: Wind and install the bobbin.

Many sewing machines are equipped with an automatic bobbin winder. To use the bobbin winder, place the spool of thread on the spool pin. Follow the instructions on the sewing machine (or in the manual) that show how to guide the thread to the bobbin winder. Slide the end of the thread through the small hole in the bobbin before placing the bobbin on the bobbin winder.

Drag or click the bobbin winder to the winding position. Hold the end of the thread and step on the foot control to start winding the thread onto the bobbin.

Stop winding when the bobbin is full. Cut the thread, remove the bobbin from the winder and install it in the machine under the bobbin cover. The bobbin slot can vary from sewing machine to sewing machine, so check the manual for specific instructions on how to insert the bobbin if you are having trouble.

how to use a sewing machine

STEP 2: Thread the machine.

Sewing machines create stitches using a lower thread from the bobbin and an upper thread from the thread spool. Now that the bobbin is installed, it’s time to thread the machine.

The spool of thread should already be in place on the spool pin. Take the end of the thread and follow the threading guide on the sewing machine (or in the manual) to place the thread correctly. Once the thread is woven throughout the machine, push the thread through the needle eye. Threading the needle can be done by hand or with an automatic needle threader, if your sewing machine has this feature.

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STEP 3: Prepare your thread and select your stitch.

Both threads must be removed before you can start sewing. To pull the bobbin thread up, use your left hand to hold the needle thread taut. Use your right hand to turn the handwheel on the right side of the sewing machine. Turn it one full turn to allow the needle to catch the bobbin thread and bring it up above the needle plate. Exposed bobbin thread should be looped. Pull on the loop to bring up the tail of the bobbin thread.

You will now have two threads: one threaded through the needle at the top and one thread coming up through the needle plate at the bottom.

You are almost ready to start sewing. Use the stitch selector to choose the desired stitch. To test if the machine is threaded correctly, you can run a few stitches on a scrap piece of fabric.

how to use a sewing machine

STEP 4: Prepare your fabric.

When you’re ready to start sewing, prepare your fabric. The sewing machine needle should be up and the fabric should be aligned with the needle. Keep most of the fabric on the left side of the machine for smoother sewing. Using the presser foot lever, lower the presser foot to hold the fabric in place.

STEP 5: Start sewing.

It’s time to start embroidering. Make sure the pedal is placed comfortably under the table. Hold the free ends of the threads apart for your first stitches; it will also prevent the threads from pulling back into the fabric. Gently step on the foot control to start sewing your first stitches.

To hold the stitches securely in place and prevent them from being pulled, you will need to reverse stitch (also called a back stitch) at the beginning and end of each seam.

The feed dogs move the fabric when you start to sew, so all you need to do is gently guide the fabric through the machine as you sew. Pulling or pulling on the fabric can damage the needle, so let your sewing machine do the work.

STEP 6: Reverse the stitch and continue sewing.

After a few regular stitches, click or hold the reverse stitch button or lever. This will reverse the sewing direction. Reverse stitch for a few stitches (along where you just sewed) to secure the seam.

Switch off or remove your finger from the reverse stitch control to return to the normal stitch. Continue sewing until you finish your seam. Do a few more reverse stitches to secure the seam.

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how to use a sewing machine

STEP 7: Finish the stitch.

When finished, use the handwheel to lift the needle out of the fabric. Use the presser foot lever to raise the presser foot, and then remove the fabric. Trim the threads to release your project from the sewing machine, making sure to leave some thread sticking out of the machine so you can easily sew your next seam.

Final Thoughts

Although learning how to use a sewing machine isn’t too difficult, it will take time and practice to master the process. By following the steps above and referring to your sewing machine manual, you can get started on your next textile project easier than ever.

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