101 Tips On How To Use A Sewing Machine – A Beginner’s Guide

This article is all about 101 tips on how to use a sewing machine. It is a comprehensive guide for beginners and it covers all the basics that’s needed to start using a sewing machine.

It is important to know the functions of an appliance or what it is used for before thinking of using or operating it. Even if you cannot get a very detailed information or knowledge of the appliance, a basic knowledge is important. The sewing machine is common in most homes because of its importance in mending or sewing clothes of all types.

 Because of the inadequate information some of us have about how to use a sewing machine however, we usually don’t get the best out of it in terms of usage.   A simple way to describe the sewing machine is that it’s a machine for stitching clothing materials together with the use of thread.

There are a variety of sewing machines which come in different shapes and designs. The fact is that the main operating functions for these sewing machines are the same.  It is important to know the fundamentals of how to use a sewing machine before seeking the aid of an operating manual.

This post is to acquaint you with what the sewing machine is all about and how to use it effectively. You can also buy additional resources on Amazon.

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 Parts of a Sewing Machine

All sewing machines have basically the same parts. The major difference being that the parts of more recent products are not as exposed as the older models. It’s going to be an added advantage to know the major parts of your sewing machines off hand. You will find this helpful when you want to decode your sewing patterns or fix a problem with your sewing machine.

We want to look at some of the main or basic parts or components of a conventional sewing machine though newer ones may have more parts. The under listed may therefore not an be exhaustive list of parts of a sewing machine but the main parts have been covered in this post.

On and Off button

With the ON button, your electronic sewing machine starts automatically making the use of the foot pedal unnecessary. This makes sewing less stressful and fun since your legs are relieved of pedaling. By pressing the OFF button, the operation of the sewing machine ceases. The ON and OFF switch buttons are mostly located at a conspicuous position on the sewing machine head.

The Foot Pedal

The foot pedal of the sewing machine is the accelerator of your machine and as such regulates the speed of your sewing. It works the same way your car gas pedal does.

There are sewing machines that have their switch at the foot of the machine. They are so placed for ease of operating the machine on low or high speed levels. The sewing machine accelerates in sewing speed with every added pressure on the foot pedal and this speed can be tremendous indeed!

Using the foot pedal barefoot gives one a better feel and control of the sewing machine foot pedal. Only the big toe of your foot can be used if the sewing machine is sewing at a faster speed than you desire.

It is advisable to do a regular practice of controlling the speed of your sewing machine without threading it. You can then practice with the machine threaded as you begin to gain control of your sewing machine’s speed.


The Needle happens to be a very small and tiny part of the sewing machine but quite important and indispensable in its functioning. The needle is usually inserted into or joined with a bar by screwing the needle to the bar. The needle makes punctures in the material in the process of stitching. There are as many types of sewing machines using different needle sizes as clothing materials vary. These sewing machine needles are from the tiniest size 8 to the largest size 18. Lighter clothing materials use the smaller needles with lower numbers while thick or heavier materials would require the higher numbered needles.

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Needle Bar

The function of the needle bar is to hold the needle firmly to it as both of them move up and down while the machine is sewing the fabric. Without the needle bar therefore the needle will have nowhere to be planted to function. The needle is fastened to the needle bar through screwing.

Metal Needle Plate

There is a small metallic sheet lying under the needle bar and the role of this plate is quite important in the machine sewing process. The surface of this sheet enables you maneuver or manipulate your clothing material while sewing. This role becomes more prominent when doing a design on a fabric.

Presser Foot

Presser foot rests on the fabric/material pressing it tightly to the machine table so as to make the stitches decent and clean. The presser foot tends to give your material a backward push while the stitching of the fabric continues. There are presser foot designed for different purposes like making of button holes and the likes. Some sewing machines actually come with a variety of presser foot which can easily be changed.

Feed Dog

The sewing machine’s feed dog takes the material being sewn from beneath the needle and passes it through the presser foot of the sewing machine. This device works together with the presser foot in feeding the machine with fabric while being sewn. All you need do here is to guide your fabric between your machines presser foot and its feed dog.


This is a mechanical device around which the thread is wound. It is a kind of spool or winder that supplies the thread for stitching from the base of the sewing machine. It is a very important part of a sewing machine. It is quite easy threading the bobbin with most sewing machines because of the simple winding system they come with. After the bobbin has been wound with thread, it is put inside a case referred to as the bobbin shuttle or case.

Bobbin Shuttle

The bobbin shuttle is the case inside which the bobbin is kept from where the necessary supply of the thread for stitching is made.

101 tips on how to use a sewing machine
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Thread feed

The way the threading mechanism functions is very important for you to achieve good and smooth stitching with your sewing machine. The route through which the thread goes before getting to the needle is carefully designed and must be adhered to thoroughly to avoid a malfunction. This route is what is known as the thread feed. The thread may be breaking intermittently in the sewing process if it does not take the right route and this will mar your sewing.

Thread Tension Settings

The setting for thread tension is important in the process of using the sewing machine. This setting determines the ease with which thread is released and affects the quality of your sewing. A loose settings of your thread would result in the upper thread supplying more than the lower thread making your stitches to be uneven. Where the thread setting is very tight however, it will lead to the upper thread breaking quite often while stitching.  It is therefore important to find a tension setting that is adequate and at equilibrium.

Stitch Length Controller

This part of the sewing machine helps control the length of stitches for a particular fabric or design. The conventional sewing machines have a big controller dial that rotates both clockwise and anti-clockwise and is visibly positioned in the machine’s front side. Lighter clothing materials do well with shorter length stitches while long stitches are good for heavier materials.

Stitch Select Dial

All sewing machines come with built-in stitches. The number of these in-built stitches would however depend on the model and quality of the sewing machine. The modern technologically sophisticated models have as much as 600 stitches that are in-built.  Selection of the desired stitch is done manually with the help of the dial for the conventional sewing machine. The stitch selection is by a simple touch on the touch panel for the computerized machines.

Reverse Stitch Lever

The reverse stitch device applies to sewing machines that have the feature which enables reverse stitching. This lever makes it possible to stitch your fabric back and front on a particular stretch of location thereby reinforcing the stitching. This ensures the fabric is not easily ripped because of the multiple stitching. This is always needful for heavy materials or at parts of the dress that experience a lot of pressure.

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Stitching Speed Controller

The stitching speed function is either controlled with the help of a dial for the conventional sewing machine or digitally for the computerized ones. The stitching speed of modern sewing machines are tremendous but are easily adjustable just by screen touch.


The lighting bulb in most sewing machines is planted by the needle location. It is just to offer additional illumination where the placement of the machine is not very bright. It is also helpful in threading your sewing machine.

Having looked at the major parts of the sewing machine, may we now consider the different types of sewing machines there are so we can make the best choice.

Types of Sewing Machines

Sewing machines are basically of three types and represent the dispensations of technological development in that field. We have the mechanical, computerized and the electric sewing machines in our markets today. The choice of sewing machine one decides to use would depend on the functions the machine will be put to as well as the funds budgeted for it. We will take a look at the three types of sewing machines there are in closer details.

Mechanical Sewing Machine

This category of sewing machines happens to be the most common and widely used of the 3 types earlier mentioned. The features of this sewing machine are manually controlled with dials which makes them the cheaper option of all sewing machine. For this type of sewing machine, most of its sewing functions particularly as it relates to stitching are manually controlled.

The various big dials that rotate both clockwise and anti-clockwise are used for selecting or adjusting the speed for stitching. They are also used in adjusting both the width and length of your stitches. The conventional mechanical design of these sewing machines make them come naturally big and heavy in size.

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Electric Sewing Machine

This set of sewing machine is an improvement on the mechanical machine and is technologically in between the mechanical and computerized sewing machines. The machine is electrically propelled and can be started and stopped with the ‘On’ and ‘Off’ button.

This machine can also be used manually or upgraded by being computerized.  Hence it is an improvement on the mechanical machine but not as advanced as the computerized category.

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Computerized Sewing Machine

This class of sewing machines represent the latest and most   advanced technology in the sewing machine industry. All features in this machine can be accessed and controlled through a computerized panel system.

With the aid of a touchscreen display panel in the front of the sewing machine, the machine setting is obvious. It therefore becomes quite easy to change the sewing machine settings with a touch on the button of the display screen.

For embroidery machines that are computerized, the files for the embroidery designs can actually be transferred to the built in memory of the sewing machine. This can be effected by connecting a USB cable to a computer and downloading same.

Other embroidery sewing machines that are computerized have a card system which is slotted into the machine for embroidery designs.

Of the three types of sewing machines enumerated above, the choice of the ideal sewing machine would depend on the level of ones skill as well as funds available for the purchase of a sewing machine. The technological input in the sewing machines no doubt would have a bearing on their price.

We have so far examined the parts of a sewing machine as well as the different types of machine available. It is now time to go to the nitty gritty of this review which is on how to use a sewing machine. Can we proceed?

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How To Use A Sewing Machine

Do A Checklist Of Your Sewing Machine

For one who desires to know how to use a sewing machine what would first cross your mind? I suppose you would be thinking of the sewing machine you would use. Now assuming you’ve already acquired one, I guess you would want to take a close look at it before commencing work. 

There’s always the inquisitiveness to carefully examine a product we are to use for the first time. The same thing applies to a first timer with a sewing machine. The need to be well acquainted with your sewing machine cannot be over emphasized. It is absolutely necessary to take a look at all the details of your sewing machine.

Having done that, you now physically cross check and confirm the parts and their functions with what is on the manual. Knowledge of every minute detail of your sewing machine is very important.

Knowing How To Thread The Sewing Machine

Getting to know how to use a sewing machine will come in bits and phases. The art of threading the machine would however be one of the first things to learn. To thread the sewing machine, two aspects are involved. There is the upper threading as well as the lower threading of the sewing. Whereas upper threading relates to how to link the thread with the needle, the lower act has to do with linking the thread with the bobbin.

The Upper Threading Of The Needle

The first step to take in this process is to consult your manual and carefully notice the route the thread will pass through to the needle. The journey of the thread begins from the machine top where you have the spool. It then goes down the base of the sewing machine head where the needle is. For most machines, the route is the same beginning from the hook to the tension wheel ending with the needle. 

The practice is to pass the thread into the needle from its front and take both threads to the back of the presser foot. This ensures that the thread is not loose but firm. It is important to have recourse to a manual to ensure this process is achieved hitch free.

The Lower Threading Of The Bobbin

Fixing lower threads are a bit more complex and complicated that the upper one. This is because machines come with diverse bobbins and bobbin cases. It therefore becomes imperative to study your manual closely to determine how to fix your machine’s lower threading.

Some bobbins are inserted right from the machine top while others are from the front. For bobbins that are loaded from the top, they are directly inserted to the casing which is already part of the machine. For bobbins that are loaded from the front, you first put it in the bobbin case externally, then into the sewing machine.

The bobbin winding process is crucial in threading your sewing machine and must be gotten right. To achieve this, the thread has to be placed on the pin of the spool, wound around the thread guide leading the thread over to the winder of the bobbin.

Every bobbin usually comes with an opening at the top from where the thread can be inserted to start threading. Once you push the winder across for a firm grip, you can start winding your thread.  For some sewing machines, you will need to free the flywheel while winding so that the machine needle is deactivated from any form of motion.

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How To Join The Upper Thread With The Lower One

When you are through with sorting out the upper thread as well as the lower one, the next stage would be how they both can be used together in your quest at sewing with a machine. The flywheel otherwise known also as a handwheel of the sewing machine is made to rotate towards you. With this action, the needle which has been threaded, will reach down to the compartment where you have the bobbin.

The threaded needle comes out with the  thread below from the bobbin seemingly intertwined and you can easily sort it out by pulling up the thread from below. If the lower thread does not come up, the process will need to be repeated until the thread emerges. Once the thread from below emerges, take both threads to the backside of your machine for your sewing to commence.

How To Begin Stitching With Sample Materials

To learn stitching with a sewing machine, it is necessary to begin with sample materials that are both cheap and easy to handle. These materials include fabrics such as stiff or quilting cotton and calico. You can conveniently draw you patterns and make notes on the Calico material because it is a bit stiff and light colored. It is recommended that you test your sewing machine with fabric that is doubled as most of your sewing will be of such thickness. Thicker materials also make for easier sewing.

It’s important to find out from the onset if the foot pedal of your sewing machine comes with the speed control device. Some sewing machines have it while others don’t but it helps you learn to control your sewing speed. For machines without speed adjustment, it is advisable to apply pressure gently with your foot. With the initial seam, it is proper that your machine is on the straight stitch setting. For machines with preset settings however, the medium length setting would be okay.

In commencing the stitching proper with your sewing machine, the first action is to insert your fabric beneath the machine’s pressure foot after lifting it. The next step is the lowering of the machine presser foot. You do this after making sure the upper and lower threads are moved behind the presser. The threads are moved behind so as not to interfere with the process of stitching.

Lowering the machine presser foot gives the machine a grip of the fabric being stitched so the sewing is coordinated. It is important to hold on to the upper and lower threads at the start of stitching your fabric so it does not intertwine. Both the initial and final stitching of the fabric is done in the forward and reverse modes.

This process of stitching is usually referred to as backstitching. It makes the initial and final stitching of your fabric tight and not prone to loosing. At the end of your stitching you may need to confirm that your stitching is neither too loose or tight requiring any kind of adjustment. If your stitching does not come out as desired you can unpick your fabric with the help of a ripper and stitch it again.

 Some traditional sewing machines require oiling certain points of the machine for optimum operation. The newer models do not require oiling as most of their units come well sealed so opening them will only be for repairs. It is therefore important to cross check if your sewing machine requires oiling or not.

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101 Tips On How To Use A Sewing Machine – Buying Guide

Before rounding off this review on how to use a sewing machine, it is important to consider the following tips to help you get a good sewing machine

Consider Machines With All-Metal Parts

Machines with all metal parts are preferred to the ones with plastic parts. This is because the all metal machines are more durable. The plastic ones may cost less but the hassles of constantly replacing broken parts makes it a less attractive choice. Most of the cheaper models of sewing machines come in plastic pieces.

Consider A Basic Model For Starters

For someone just launching into the sewing industry, it will be advisable to opt for a sewing machine model of not more than 12 stitch. This is because you require a level of expertise and experience before graduating to higher models with more stitches. By the time you require a machine that is more complex, you would have grown in the craft to easily acquire one.

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Other Features To Look Out For

Built-in Needle Threader

Since threading is a regular feature in stitching with the sewing machine, it will greatly help and be a relief if there is an easy way out. The handy dandy sewing machine with a needle threader that is built-in, saves you the problem of threading. The poor sighted and elderly ones will definitely find this device very relieving and time saving. Even those with good eyesight will equally find it useful as threading will be less stressful.

Top loading Drop-in Bobbin

A sewing machine with a top loading bobbin is preferred to the one concealed beneath the machine in front. This is because of the rigor and clumsiness involved in changing the concealed bobbin. The top loading bobbin pops out at the top of the machine, fitting into place with no need for a casing. The cover plate of the bobbin location is transparent enough for you to monitor the thread level in the bobbin.

Free Arm Capability

The ability of the sewing machine to convert from normal to free arm will be an added advantage. This is because it affords you the opportunity to make wears that are narrow and rounded. The ability to convert your machine to sewing free arm makes the machine quite versatile with sewing possibilities.

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Lightweight Design

Though most sewing machines come quite heavy and usually pose a handful to carry about, it will be relieving to find a light one. This is particularly so for one who is just learning the craft. You might be needing a lightweight sewing machine you can easily take to your learning location. This is why a portable, lightweight sewing machine may be the preferred option.

Various Built-in Stitches

For one that is just getting acquainted with the sewing craft, you don’t need a machine with multiple stitches. It is adequate if your sewing machine has the basic stitches like the straight, zig-zag, backstitch and the button stitches.

Affordable Price

The price of your choice sewing machine should be given consideration as this is of paramount importance. If you purchase a sewing machine that has all the features you desire, you may use it for a long time. If however you won’t be using the machine regularly, a cost effective machine may be the right choice.

Automatic Buttonholer

Some sewing machines come with an automatic buttonholer. This helps in making a long narrow opening or slit in the cloth for fastening the button in your wear. Making a buttonhole without the buttonholer can be tasking and time consuming. This is because it requires adjusting your fabric several times in different directions for the buttonhole to be accurate.

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Foot Pedal

Using the foot pedal becomes a relieving option when you want to run your sewing machine hands-free. This mode gives you the freedom to use both hands as you manipulate and guide your fabric while sewing. There are different types of foot pedal but one that is portable but firm and stable is preferred. The base of the foot pedal should be anti-slip to give your foot that firm grip on the pedal while you are sewing.

Multiple Speed Feature

With the multiple speed feature, you can control how fast your fabric is moving beneath the needle. This feature comes very handy where you are stitching very large and long fabrics like curtains, bedspreads and backdrops. This feature will give you uniform and constant speed to do a straight line stitching of the edges.


A warranty on a product gives you the assurance that the manufacturer has some level of confidence in its product. You are also assured of replacement or repair in case you discover any defect in the product.

Most sewing machines are backed with warranty that lasts a long while. With proper handling of your machine however, your sewing machine will be okay. The need for regular servicing of your machine for optimal services can however never be overemphasized.


Having acquired the basic knowledge of how to use a sewing machine, it is also necessary to know how to properly maintain the machine. With the additional help of both hard copy and online manual, you can learn how to maximize the use of your sewing machine. Using a sewing machine may seem not difficult but the level of knowledge of the user would usually show in the final product.

With the knowledge acquired through this write up, it’s certain you are now well informed about how to use a sewing machine.  It is equally hoped that you can commence stitching your fabrics with the sewing machine with some level of skill. No one expects you to become an expert overnight but there is no doubt you’ve started out well. Kudos!

P.s. You can also check out this post on how a sewing machine works. It would help you understand your sewing machine better.

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