There’s a sewing machine for every skill level, from beginner to seasoned pro. For home use, an electronic machine is ideal. They are powered by an electric motor that moves the needle and bobbin and powers a light. These machines are good for beginners, as they are packed with features but easy to use. Here's a breakdown of the different parts of a sewing machine and its basic functions.
Your spool of thread sits at the top of the machine. The thread goes through a series of channels and loops before it reaches the needle (your manual will detail exactly how to thread your machine). There will also be a numbered dial that can be raised or lowered to adjust the thread tension as your fabric requires.
Most machines come with a needle already in place (and a replacement), but your manual will show you how to swap it for a different one. When sewing speciality fabrics (for example a heavy denim, or a slippery lace) you should change to a different needle size to ensure the best results – ask for advice when buying fabric.
This metal attachment sits beneath your needle and holds your fabric in place. A lever moves it up to position the fabric and back down when sewing. The basic presser foot is the one you’ll use most, though there are lots of speciality feet to use for everything from quilting to zips.
You can tackle most sewing projects with the five must-have feet: Standard, zip, ¼ inch, free motion and walking/quilting.
This small plastic or metal spool sits in a special unit underneath the sewing area, below the foot and needle. Check your machine’s manual to find out how to load your bobbin. Once it has been loaded, the bobbin thread and the top thread feeds meet to form each stitch. The bobbin case is either drop-in or front-loading.
This dial allows you to change stitch length. For standard seams, aim for a setting of 2 or 2.5. A longer stitch length is useful for quick tacking lines.
Use the hand wheel to move the needle up and down manually. It’s essential for controlling the sewing line in tight spots and corners. To avoid your thread getting caught or tangled, be sure to always turn the wheel towards you. When winding bobbins, you may need to disengage the needle action by pulling out the hand wheel (consult your manual for how to do this on your machine.
Most machines have a button or switch that enables you to sew in the reverse direction. It’s the best way to start and finish your sewing – just stitch forwards and backwards for a few stitches to secure your thread.
The foot pedal rests on the floor. It is pressure sensitive – press gently for slow stitching, press harder to run the motor faster. Some machines also have a separate speed control, which gives you even more command over your pace.
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