Sewing Machine Operation Instructions and Basics

Seamstress with sewing machine
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Sewing machines come with a vast variance in options but the basic operation of a sewing machine is the same from machine to machine. Once you know the very basics of operating a sewing machine, you will want the manual for your machine so you can use every possible option that your sewing machine offers.

  • 01 of 08

    Your Sewing Machine's Manual

    Sewing Machine Manuals

    Debbie Colgrove

    A new machine is not always new out of the box but new to you so you may not have the manual. Your first order of business is to obtain a sewing machine manual for your sewing machine. The manual is not going to just tell you how to operate the machine. It will also teach you how to care for your machine and uncover tips and tricks you might not learn anywhere else.

  • 02 of 08

    Parts of a Sewing Machine

    Sewing Machine Parts and Information

    Debbie Colgrove

    Instructions can seem like they are written in a foreign language if you don't have a clue what parts they are talking about. It's also difficult to have someone help you if you can't explain what part seems to be the problem.

    Newer sewing machines and older sewing machines all have the same basic parts... the newer machine hide the parts a bit more so the pictures you'll find online may be an older machine just so you can see the actual parts that are hidden on newer sewing machines.

  • 03 of 08

    Speed Control

    Sewing Machine Foot Pedals

    Debbie Colgrove

    The foot pedal of a sewing machine is essentially equal to the gas pedal on your car. The more you press down, the faster the sewing machine is going to go.

    Can it go faster than you can control? Definitely! Try sewing barefoot. Keep your heel on the floor and the ball of your foot on the foot pedal. Try using only your big toe to press down the foot pedal if you find yourself being heavy footed. Practice learning speed control with the machine being threaded. Once you can control the speed of the machine, then thread the sewing machine and sew in earnest.

  • 04 of 08

    Know Your Sewing Machine Needles

    Sewing Machine Needles

    Debbie Colgrove

    Different fabric requires different sewing machine needles. The most common telltale that you need to change the needle is skipped stitches. The weight and type of fabric all come into play in choosing the correct sewing machine needle for the type of fabric you are sewing. There are also special needles to fill special needs; learn about all of your sewing machine needle options to eliminate simple to solve problems.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Use a Guide

    Sewing Machine Seam Guides

    Debbie Colgrove

    As the sewing machine sews, where are your eyes watching? Don't watch the needle! Set a guide and watch the fabric lining up with the guide to obtain straight seams with even seam allowances. The guide can be on the sewing machine bed or on the presser foot.

    You may also want to experiment with needle position to obtain the results you want. Remember, you are in the driver's seat and you decide where the machine is going to stitch the fabric. Controlling the position of the stitching is your job!

  • 06 of 08

    Familarize Yourself with the Feed Dogs

    Throat Plate and Feed Dog on an Elna Heirloom Edition 6005

    Debbie Colgrove

    The feed dog is responsible for taking the fabric under the needle and feeding it through the machine. The feed dog works in conjunction with your presser foot to feed the fabric as it is being sewn. Your responsibility is to simply guide the fabric between the feed dog and presser foot.

    When you force-feed the machine or tug fabric through the machine, you can bend the sewing machine needle and create all kinds of problems. Let the machine do the work and just guide the machine to do what you want it to!

  • 07 of 08

    Threading the Sewing Machine

    How to Thread a Sewing Machine

    Debbie Colgrove

    Your sewing machine manual is the best place to learn how to thread your sewing machine but if you want to get started and don't have your machine's manual, the basics of threading a sewing machine may get you started.

    On all sewing machines, thread them with the presser foot up. With the presser foot in the upward position, the tension is released which allows the thread to seat itself properly. You don't have to believe me though; just test the difference of tugging the thread at the needle with the presser foot up and with the presser foot down... you'll feel the difference if the thread is seated properly.

  • 08 of 08

    Quality Thread

    Thread Quality

    Debbie Colgrove

    Grabbing a three for a dollar spool of the thread may seem like a great way to save money but you may pay for that bargain in oh so many other ways! Thread also ages, so if your machine is acting up and you are trying to sew with your grandmother's wooden spool of thread... it may be the whole problem.