OK, you’ve done it. You bought a new sewing machine, got one for Christmas or broke the one you bought 3 years ago out of its dusty box. Now what? What are all those buttons and levers? How do you turn this thing on? What do you do now?
Before we get started on our official sewing lessons which start January 7th, I want you to take some time to get to know your sewing machine. So, pull that guy out of his box and set him up somewhere you can sew comfortably and let’s have a look and meet your sewing machine.
I am going to introduce you to 2 sewing machines today. I will start with my friend Carrie’s machine because hers is probably more similar to most of yours than mine is. Then we will meet mine.
Sewing Machine Guide for Beginners:
Carrie’s machine is a beautiful basic Janome. When I asked her if I could borrow her machine to snap some pictures I didn’t know she had a Janome too, but let me just say that I love Janome. You can’t go wrong with Janome. And from what I understand, Kenmore is the baby sister of Janome and I highly recommend them too. (Kenmore is what I started on.)
Now, as I show you Carrie’s machine, keep in mind that every machine looks different, but that yours is likely to have a lot of these same parts. Have your user’s guide or manual handy so that you can refer to it since your machine is probably a little different.
Say hello! Here’s the machine. Sit down in front of yours and let’s get started.
First off, find your power cord and your on/off switch:
The power cord is attached to the foot pedal. The foot pedal goes on the floor where your foot can comfortably reach it:
On the front of the machine you will find several knobs. On this particular machine there is a knob with letters-when you turn that knob you change what type of stitch you are doing-straight stitch, zig zag, etc. Below that you find another knob which changes the length of the stitch-are they tiny, close together stitches or long, farther apart ones? That knob determines this. To the right of both of these you find a stitch guide which shows what stitch options this machine has (and again, you would select which stitch you want to use by turning the knob at the top):
On the side of the machine is little wheel that turns. That’s called the hand wheel and will make your needle go up and down (and yes, I had to look up what that thing was called. Even my mom didn’t know.):
OK, here’s an important part of your machine and I apologize, I have a really fuzzy picture of it, but you can still get the idea right? This is the reverse stitch lever. When you want to sew backwards, or in reverse (and you will often), you will pull this down:
Up near the top of the machine is a dial that adjusts the width of a stitch. For a straight stitch this wouldn’t matter, but for a zigzag this would determine if it’s a big, fat zigzag stitch or a small, narrow one:
On the far side of the machine is a knob that adjusts the tension of the presser foot. I don’t usually even touch this on my machine, but there it is, so now you know what it does:
This metal part on your machine is called the presser foot. You will lower it (there’s a lever just to the right and above it) to sew and then raise it to remove the fabric.
A few other fun features-here’s a little built in measuring tape. How handy! I saw this on Carrie’s machine and realized mine has it too and I never noticed:
And did you know that the front part of the machine comes right off (and usually has storage inside). This will be handy when you are sewing things like hems on pants and other small areas:
So, how do you thread this thing? That’s going to be VERY important. I want you to practice this at least 10 times before we start the lessons. Now I can’t teach you how to thread your machine because every machine is different. Your manual will show you how. But most machines are at least somewhat similar, so let me show you how Carrie’s is threaded.
You start off by putting your spool of thread on the spindle at the top of the machine:
Make sure you have the spool holder in place to keep your thread from flying off (that’s the plastic thing you see on the left of the thread up there).
Take the end of your thread and somewhere on the top of your machine will be a few nooks and crannies for you to pull it through that will look something like this: (and see how the machine even has a little guide to help you?)
Now you’ll go down to the right of the grey part with your thread, loop it at the bottom and then go up the left side:
Then through the little “thread take up lever” (that’s what it’s called) at the top:
And back down one more time toward your needle. You are now going to thread it through a few things. First this: (see the little metal piece right below the white part of the machine?)
Then this: (another little piece of metal-this one right at the top of the needle)
And finally, thread the needle.
Practice that a few times. You will get so that you can do it with your eyes shut.
Now, you also need to thread your bobbin.
Before you sew you will need to wind your bobbin. You actually need to do this before you thread your machine for a project. What you need to do is take one of your empty bobbin cartridges and the thread in the color you need. On your bobbin cartridge there will be a little hole to stick the end of your thread through. You’re going to need to look at your own manual again to see how to do this for sure on your machine. It will involve putting your thread on your spindle, wrapping it around something like this: (see the little silver button on there, you would wrap it around that once, as shown in the diagram on the machine)
And then through the hole in the bobbin cartridge. Place the whole cartridge on this:
Keeping hanging onto the end of that thread even while your bobbin cartridge is on that bobbin winder. Slide the bobbin winder to the right. It is now ready to wind.
Keep hanging onto that thread and push down on your foot pedal. It should start to wind. As it starts, grab a pair of scissors and snip the thread you are holding and then let the bobbin keep winding until it is full. Slide it back to the left and remove it.
To insert the bobbin into your machine you will need to take off your bobbin cover and place your bobbin into the slot for it: (this part might look VERY different on your machine-if so, grab your manual):
Your manual will tell you which direction your bobbin spool should turn. For this machine, it should turn clockwise, so I want to line my bobbin up like this before I put it in:
Then I would place it down into that little hole for my bobbin and pull the thread through the little slot (see my diagram above) to get it secured into place.
Give the end of the thread a gentle pull and your bobbin should turn in the direction indicated.
Now, thread your machine. Using the hand wheel (or down/up button if you have one), lower your threaded needle all the way down and back up again and it should catch the bobbin thread and pull it up with the needle thread. Pull both threads to the side and close your bobbin case.
You are now set to sew.
Now let’s switch to my machine. Here’s a few shots of my machine. I am showing you this because my machine is computerized. Does anyone have a computerized one? If so, here’s a walk though of a few features:
There’s my baby. That thing gets a lot of use.
Let’s have a look:
One of the biggest differences on a computerized machine is the way to select stitches. It has a touch screen. Here you see some stitch options-currently with straight stitch chosen. If I want a zigzag, I would just touch that button:
And then I can adjust things like stitch length and width by touching the adjust button:
On the front I also have my buttons for reversing, putting the needle up and down and a fancy, stay in place knot:
Also, my machine has an automatic needle threader. (Very handy!)
Most other features will be the same as the machine I already showed you.
One other thing to note. On your machine you will see something like this. See the lines and etchings on the sewing machine in this picture? Those are your seam guides. If a pattern tells you to sew a 1/2 inch seam for example, you would want to line the edge of your fabric up so that it was parallel with the 1/2″ seam guide. This will make more sense as you start to sew a lot.
Do you feel a little more comfortable with your machine now? Do you still have questions? Please remember that you can always ask me! I might have forgotten something that you and others are wondering about. Just let me know.
And also remember that we have a facebook group that you can join. Please also make sure you are subscribed by email (look in the right sidebar) so that you get updates of new lessons.
Next week watch for my Sewing Dictionary. Just three more weeks until we start!