Getting to Know Your Sewing Machine – for beginners

Today we are getting to know your machine.

Obviously, this is a bit of a harder lesson to teach due to the fact that we are probably using different machines and machines all have little differences, BUT most machines have massive similarities as well.  They all do the same thing, but levers and buttons or dials may end up in different places in your machine.  You just need to go and find them.

Your manual will help you with this.  I’ve made this lesson feel a little bit more of a conversation.  Reading manuals are boring and if you hate reading that you are not alone.  Still, there is valuable information inside that you need.

If you have a new machine, keep your manual nearby and ready to grab until you feel you’ve mastered the workings of your sewing machine.  Mark the important pages such as how to thread the machine, how to wind the bobbin, and the page about changing your needle and your tension. 

Your manual will feature a similar image to the one I created below labeling the parts of your machine.  Your machine should have the same parts as mine though they are likely to be in different places on the machine.

This is the Juki 2000Qi. Machines may look different, but they all have the same bones.

What all the parts do

Let’s go through them one by one.

  • Feed Dog – The feed dog sits just under your needle plate (that silver part where your needle goes up and down).  It has little teeth.  It’s job is to move your fabric along.
  • Handwheel – A handwheel will move your needle up and down while moving the feed dogs as well.  Some machines also offer a needle up and down button.  This button will move the needle, but not the feed dog.
  • Stitch Regulator – A stitch regulator is sometimes a knob or dial or even push buttons if you have a computerized machine.  It changes the length of your stitch.  My basic stitch length for piecing is just before the 2.
  • Reverse Lever – The reverse lever is sometimes a button.  On my machine it’s a lever.  This is usually in many different places on different machines.  By pressing, the needle will go backwards instead of forwards.  You have to hold the lever/button down and when you release it will go back to moving forward.  This is used for securing stitches.
  • Feed Dog Adjustor – If you are into making quilts, do not buy a machine that’s feed dog does not lower.  This is crucial for free motion quilting.  By pressing this button / lever / knob, your feed dog will lower into your machine and no longer move your fabric along.  It will allow you to move your fabric instead making it perfect for quilting your quilt.
  • Guides – There will be guides all over your machine.  They are for thread.  Some machines come with little arrows all over them showing you the guides and how the thread moves into them.  Guides hold your thread in place.  A sewing machine usually has guides for winding your bobbin and guides for threading your machine.

There are many other parts of your machine, but this is just a quick overview to get you started.

Here’s the link to my little light on my machine (affiliate link)

How a Machine Works

Sewing machines require two threads:  One on a spool that ends up threaded into your needle and one winded on a bobbin that goes below your needle. Your machine may only have space for one spool of thread and if that is the case, you have to unthread to wind your bobbin which is frustrating.

The feed dog moves your fabric backwards so that your needle can bounce in and out of your fabric fluidly.  When the needle goes down into your fabric, it pulls your bobbin around.  The bobbin thread catches onto your top thread and interlocks, securing the stitch you just created.

You’ll need to wind a bobbin before you insert it (you’ll find out how in your manual, every machine is different in this regard).  I like to keep one bobbin in my machine and one bobbin winded.  This way I’m never without a full bobbin.

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