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How to Use a Sewing Machine

In order to proceed with these lessons on learning to sew, you will need access to a sewing machine. If you do not yet have a sewing machine, see if you can borrow one from a friend or family member.

Different brands and makes of sewing machines can have features that make them look different from each other, but all machines have some basic features in common. It is important to become familiar with the basic aspects of your machine so that you will be able to confidently thread your machine and operate it. I have pictures of two different machines below to illustrate the various components that make them work.

Basic sewing machine components:

In addition to the machine itself, there will be a power cord and presser foot. I have not pictured these because they are fairly standard. They will plug into the back or side of the sewing machine. The power cord provides power between the electrical outlet and the machine. The presser foot engages the sewing machine motor and makes it go. Typically, the harder that you press on the foot, the faster the machine will sew.

Top of the machine:

  1. Spool pin - this holds the spool of thread in place while sewing. Some spool pins are vertical while others are horizontal. Horizontal thread spools typically also have a plastic plate that keeps the spool from coming off the pin.

  2. Bobbin winder spindle - The bobbin is held here when thread is being wound on the bobbin.

  3. Bobbin winder stopper - This is a mechanism that lets the machine know when the bobbin is full and stops the thread from continuing to wind around the bobbin.

  4. Thread guides - The thread guides hold the thread and keep it moving smoothly from the spool through the machine. The location and arrangement of the thread guide components can vary somewhat, so it is important to understand where the thread needs to go (many sewing machines have an illustration on the machine itself showing the thread path like the Brother machine shown on the left). There are two sets of thread guides; the main one takes the thread from the spool through a take-up lever and tension discs to the needle below. The other one guides the thread from the spool through tension discs to the bobbin for winding.

How to Use a Sewing Machine - Top View

Right side (not pictured):

Handwheel - This is a round wheel on the right side of your machine. It can be turned forward or backwards to manually raise or lower the needle.

Power switch - This switch turns the machine on and off. It is usually located on the right side of the machine under the handwheel, but I have seen it on the lower front or lower back of the machine.

Click to see the front and sewing surface of the machine

To learn more about your sewing machine, take a look at these books!

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Content copyright © 2013 by Tamara Bostwick. All rights reserved.
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