Place your sewing machine on a sturdy surface and at a comfortable height if you don’t have a cabinet for it. And
make sure your work area is well lit.
Before beginning any sewing project, there are several things you need to do:
Choose a needle
Sewing machine needles come in different types and sizes. It’s important to use a needle appropriate for
your fabric and thread because using the wrong needle can lead to stitch problems.
For more information on choosing a sewing machine needle, see Sewing Machine Needles - The Basics.
Also, needles become dull with use. So use a new needle with every project or change your needle after
eight hours of continuous sewing.
To change your needle, most machines have a screw to turn, then the needle slides out. But consult your
sewing machine manual* in case your machine is different.
Choose a presser foot
The presser foot is the piece that sits beneath your machine needle that looks, well, like a foot. It’s what
holds your fabric down against your needle plate as you sew.
Your presser foot lifts up and down. Move the presser foot down onto your fabric before sewing a seam
and back up when you’re finished.
Presser feet are interchangeable. For most sewing jobs, a zigzag presser foot is probably fine (this may be
the foot your machine came with). The opening in the center of this foot is wide to allow for the side to side
motion of the needle as it makes a zigzag stitch. But this foot can also be used for sewing straight stitches.
Other types of sewing may require different presser feet. For instance, you may need a special presser foot
for putting in a zipper or for sewing an overcast stitch.
Thread Your Sewing Machine
Threading a sewing machine involves placing your spool of thread on a spindle, then weaving the thread
through a series of guides, then into the eye of your needle. Since different sewing machine models need to
be threaded differently, consult your owner’s manual* for how to thread your particular machine.
Threading your sewing machine correctly is important. An incorrectly threaded machine can lead to stitch
Wind and Insert Your Bobbin
Your bobbin is a smaller spool of thread you wind yourself. The thread from your bobbin is used to form
the underside of a stitch.
Different machines use different types of bobbins, so consult your manual* for the type of bobbin your
machine uses and for how to wind it. Just don’t over wind your bobbin because it can lead to problems.
You may find it convenient to keep several bobbins on hand with different threads for when you’re working
on several projects at once.
Adjust your Thread Tension
When the tension on your sewing machine is adjusted correctly, your stitches will look neat and smooth.
The top thread won’t show through to the underside of your fabric and the bobbin thread won’t show
through to the topside.
There should be a way to adjust the upper thread tension for your machine. And some machines allow you
to adjust the bobbin thread tension. Some machines have a dial or lever for tension adjustment and some
newer machines can automatically adjust the thread tension for you. Consult your owner’s manual* for how
to adjust the thread tension for your machine.
And before every project, take a square of the fabric you’ll be sewing, double it, sew a seam, then check to
make sure the stitching looks good. Stitches that pucker the fabric or stitches that show little loops mean
your tension is off. Adjust your tension and sew another test seam until the problem is resolved.
Adjust your Stitch Length and Width
Consult your sewing machine manual* for how to adjust the stitch length and width on your machine,
which are usually adjusted with dials, levers, buttons, or touch pad controls.
Sew several test seams on a scrap of your fabric to decide on a stitch length or width for your project.
And use a stitch length appropriate for your fabric. About ten to twelve stitches per inch for medium weight
fabrics and most general sewing. Use a shorter stitch length for sewing fine, delicate fabrics or for adding
reinforcement to an area. And use a longer stitch for heavier fabrics or for basting.
Adjust your stitch width when sewing “zigzag” or other decorative stitches.
There are so many models and types of sewing machines out there and they all work a little differently. So consult your
owner’s manual for learning the specifics of operating your particular machine. If you don’t have the manual for your machine,
try visiting your manufacturer’s website. They often have old manuals for download or purchase.
Learn to Sew Lesson #9: Set Up Your Sewing Machine*
|Sewing Information, Advice, How-to