Getting your hands on a sewing machine for the first time? Confused of the buttons and the mechanisms? No need to fret anymore, as this article will teach you every single bit of using a sewing machine and make you a pro!
Sewing machines are amazing tools which can help you showcase your creativity and innovations, if you are an expert at handling them, but if it’s the other way round and you are a beginner at it, then you must learn the functions of all parts of the machine, and familiarize yourself with its running.
Although every machine has a different way of operation, which is given with the machine in the form of an instruction manual that talks about the how-to’s of that specific machine, but here we’ll entirely discuss how a general mechanical sewing machine works. But before we jump to the functioning of the machine, you should know what kind of machine would be suitable for you.
- FIND A MACHINE THAT HAS ALL METAL PARTS
It is highly crucial to opt for a sewing machine that is completely made of metal. If some of its parts are made of plastic, it is inevitable that they will get damaged quickly and you’ll be looking for repair, which can be a hectic task sometimes, and the quality does not remain the same when you replace certain parts of the machine. Durability is assured when you buy an all-metal sewing machine.
- TRY A BASIC MODEL
As you are just starting to learn sewing, you won’t need a large number of stitches and very high speeds at this point, so you can consider buying a simple, basic model without a long list of mind-boggling features. A simple one will not cost you much and will be enough to cope with your requirements, but if you feel the need of a more advanced version after some time, then you can obviously find a better one.
- LOOK FOR WARRANTY
Always look for the warranty offered by the company, and check if they provide local service, so that in case of any malfunctioning, you can immediately get it repaired.
- USED MACHINES
If you are on a low budget and can’t buy a brand-new machine, you might look for used ones at repair shops, but make sure that the shop is well-reputed. On this wise, you’ll be able to get machines with more inspiring characteristics at substantially low costs.
Table Of Contents
Parts Of The Sewing Machine
- Power switch – It is very important to locate the power switch, and the on/off button first, because this is what will start your machine. The power switch connects the sewing machine with the foot pedal.
- Foot Pedal – The most crucial part, which operates the machine. It works like an accelerator, the more you press it, the faster the machine will work. Some machines, however, come with a regulator to switch between high and low speeds, in accordance with your requirement.
- Spool pin – A stick protruding from the top of the machine to hold the spool of thread.
- Bobbin winder – Another smaller stick at the top, near the spool pin, with a small horizontal wheel for winding the bobbin (a small spool for thread supply from the bottom).
- Bobbin cover – Sometimes it’s made of metal, and sometimes a transparent plastic for clear viewing and monitoring of the bobbin. In front of the needle plate is this cover, under which lies the bobbin.
- Thread guide and take-up lever – The thread has to cross these two media before reaching the needle. From the spool pin, to the thread guide, thread take-up lever and then to the needle. You might find some arrows indicating how to thread, near the take-up lever.
- Stitch adjustment – Cheaper machines would only allow you to select the type of stitch, which would have a fixed length and width, but the better ones come with adjustment options. The stitch length and the stitch width dials, just have to be turned, and your stitch is customized!
- Tension wheel – It also plays a significant role in making the stitches perfect. You can adjust the tension as required, by simply turning it. This is usually located over the top of the machine.
- Needle – Now this part includes the needle itself, needle clamp screw, needle plate and the presser foot. The clamp screw is just above the needle, at the right side and is used when changing needles. The fabric is held in place, between the presser foot and the needle plate.
- Feed dogs – These are teeth-like structures over the needle plate, which continually push the fabric back while you sew.
- Presser foot lever – This is found at the back of the needle, and is used to lift and lower the presser foot.
- Hand wheel – The hand wheel is located to the right of the sewing machine, and is used to manually operate the needle i.e. move it up and down. It is very useful for difficult-to-reach areas.
- Reverse stitch lever – This is a small lever, usually with a U-turn symbol, for reverse stitching which is needed at the ends. It can sometimes be on the right portion, near the stitch dials, or above the needle area, near thread take-up lever.
Now that you know what every part is called, and what it is for, let’s start sewing!
How To Use A Sewing Machine?
Find a good, strong table and a chair. Place the machine on the table and sit on the chair in a comfortable position. Now, install the needle if it is not there already. The needles have one sharp, and one blunt side. Insert the blunt side, up into the needle post and tighten the needle clamp screw to make it stay in position. Make sure that it is appropriately tightened.
Wind the bobbin by placing it over the bobbin winder. Take one end of the thread from the larger spool, bring it to the bobbin via the thread guides, and wrap once around the bobbin. As you turn the bobbin winder on, it starts rotating to wind the thread around it, and stops when the bobbin is full.
The next step is, to insert the bobbin into place, inside the bobbin cage, which is located under the needle system. For this, you first of all, have to lift the presser foot and the needle.
If your machine has a top drop-in bobbin system, the bobbin has to be inserted down towards the left. The thread should then be passed through two tiny slits under the bobbin case and then up through the one near the needle plate.
In case of a front-load bobbin system, open the side cover of the bobbin case and insert the bobbin into it. This should be done in such a manner that the thread runs in a clockwise direction. Pull the thread through the notch, and hold the case through the hinged latch at its back. Now, insert it into the shuttle.
Some advanced machines offer automatic needle threaders, but if you are using a simple mechanical sewing machine, what you are supposed to do is, unwind the thread spool a bit, now pass it through the take-up lever and into the needle, crossing through all the thread guides that come in the way. Your task will become easier through arrows for threading directions that are printed over the machine.
A step-to-step threading procedure is impossible to explain, as it is different for all sewing machines. The arrows and the instructions inside the user manual will tell you what you are exactly supposed to do. I
n some cases, threading is extremely simple and quick, whereas in the others, it can be tricky, time-consuming and frustrating if the thread comes out repeatedly. So, you are lucky enough, if you have the automatic needle threader in your sewing machine.
4. Joining The Two Threads:
Now that the machine has been threaded, the two threads: lower one from the bobbin, and the upper one from the spool, need to be joined together so that you may start stitching.
This is done by turning the hand wheel on the right, towards yourself, while holding the needle thread in one hand, in order that the needle goes into and under the needle plate, and back upwards. In this duration, the upper threaded needle goes into the bobbin cage, and the two threads curl into one another.
As the needle comes up, the lower thread also emerges with it. Now pull some more of it, and leave it towards the back of the needle assembly. Otherwise, it may get stuck in the feed dogs, which can jam the machine. Your machine is now completely ready to start sewing, and so are you!
5. Stitch Settings:
When selecting the stitch, you must raise the needle up first. Now, as it is your first, start with the straight stitch. Find the stitch selection dial on your machine, which has stitches drawn all around it. It might be on the right side. Turn the dial to choose the straight stitch option.
Now find the other dial, which can be near this, or on the top. The stitch length dial should be set at a medium length, this would be suitable for you. If adjustment option is available, set the length at 3.0 and width at 0. (You might have to consult the manual for these settings, as they may be different for your machine.)
6. Start sewing:
Choose a simple, not-too-thick fabric such as cotton or linen, as a sample. Thicker fabrics can cause difficulty while sewing. Double the chosen fabric, raise the presser foot through the lever at the back, and slide the fabric under it in a way that when the needle goes in, it doesn’t touch the extreme edge of the fabric.
Insert it under the needle from the side where the two corners of the fabric meet. Leave a little space from the edge, there might also be some guiding lines over the needle plate that can help with this.
(If you are joining two separate pieces of fabric, you may use pins to align them.)
Next, lower the presser foot to fix the fabric in place, and hold it with one hand so that it doesn’t leave the track while you sew, and move smoothly. You can guide the fabric through the machine with your hands, and it will move in that direction.
Don’t pull the fabric while sewing as it can cause it to stretch or tear, or even damage the needle. Stitches might also start to clog up in the bobbin. Starting with a straight line is preferred, as it is the simplest part, however it needs practice to keep the line straight enough. Before starting, check if the foot pedal has a speed control switch. If it’s there, set it to slow for steady stitching.
Now, press the foot pedal gently and adjust the speed according to the extent that you can manage easily. The foot pedal works like a car accelerator, the harder you press, the faster the machine sews. There might be another case, in which the machine can be operated through a knee bar instead. Move it to the right using your knee to start the machine.
Another important thing to be noted is, that you must insert the fabric from near the edge, the whole lot of the fabric should be flowing on the left-hand side.
As you start to stitch, hold the two stray threads together for 2-3 seconds so that they do not retreat or leave the needle, and leave them as you set the sewing pace.
You should back stitch at the start and at the end. At the start, stop after a few stitches, lift the reverse stitch lever and press the foot pedal to sew back until the point where you started. Lower the reverse stitch lever and start sewing normally now.
At the end, as you finish your stitches, lift the reverse lever, sew a few stitches back, put it down and come to the end once again.
Back stitching is done to reinforce the seams and prevent them from pulling out easily. Make sure that your forward and backward stitches overlap each other.
When you have finished sewing, put your foot away from the foot pedal (or knee away from the knee bar) and use the hand wheel on the right to bring the needle to the highest position, by turning it backwards slowly.
Now, raise the presser foot lever and pull the fabric out gently, and cut the thread leaving a tail for further seams. If your machine has a thread cutter near the needle assembly, use it, otherwise cut it with the normal scissors you have.
To start with a new piece, consult the “6. Start sewing” section above for help.
Once you have had a considerable grip over sewing straight lines, you can go further. Even if you made mistakes, you could’ve used an un-picker to undo the wrong stitches. Making mistakes in the beginning is normal, that’s a part of learning.
Turning corners is quite easy. At the point where you need to turn, lower the needle into the fabric and then turn the fabric in whatever direction you want. That’s it! And you can now just start sewing normally.
Curve. Steering the fabric with your hands while sewing, can help you make any shape. Slowly turn the fabric with your foot pressing the pedal, to make a curve. On this wise, you can even make a circle, or any other shape.
Sewing A Basic 4-Step Buttonhole
- First of all, stabilizing the fabric would be helpful.
- Use a ruler and a pen to mark the slit and the starting and ending points of the buttonhole, forming an ‘I’. According to the size of the button you want to attach.
- Remove the presser foot and attach the buttonhole foot to your machine.
- Position the fabric under the foot so that the needle would go in at the starting point of the buttonhole with the slit at the center. (You should also refer to the user manual to check whether it starts from the front or the back.
- Use the hand wheel to lower the needle until it penetrates the fabric at that point.
- Turn the stitch selector dial to set it as ‘Buttonhole Step 1’.
- Start to sew, and stop at the marked end-point.
- Turn the stitch dial again to select ‘Buttonhole Step 2’. Sew around six stitches.
- Now, select step 3, start to sew, and stop at the starting point.
- Select step 4. Sew around six stitches.
- Pull the fabric out, and cut the threads leaving long tails.
- Hand-sew these at the back for reinforcement.
- Use a sharp seam ripper to cut open the slit. Starting from each end one by one, and pushing it halfway through the buttonhole.
And, it’s done! Pretty simple though. If you have an automatic 1-step buttonhole option in your sewing machine, then you don’t even have to do these efforts. Just attach the buttonhole foot. Select the buttonhole option from the stitch selector. Place your button inside the foot, and sew. Pull it out and cut the slit open. It is a BIG time-saver, and with this, you can make double, or more of the buttonholes than you would have been able to, with the 4-step buttonhole.
I hope that I helped make sewing a super-easy task for you. If it helped, and you enjoyed reading, leave your feedback in the comments below. Happy sewing!!