Learn to Use a Sewing Machine All By Yourself

I am very excited today! I am going to teach you how to use a sewing machine. Whether you have just purchased a new sewing machine or you already own one, now is the perfect time to start using it.

The look may frighten you but trust me the process will not if you follow it step by step. The only thing you have to do is don’t let your fear overpower your passion to learn sewing.

You will understand the working better when you will start from the basics. Every sewing machine has a different design so we will learn all the basics to cover maximum operations

Learn Basic Parts of a Sewing Machine


Power Switch and Spool Pin

Find the power switch as depending on the machines, it is located at different places. Usually, it is on the right side of the device.

It looks like a small pin made out of metal or plastic that sticks out from the top part of the machine. It is used for putting a spool of thread.

Needle and Needle Bar

The smallest entity in the sewing machine is the needle which is attached to a needle bar with the aid of a screw. This needle bar helps it to move up and down to puncture through the fabric while you are sewing.

There are different sizes of needles for different fabrics and their weights. I have compiled a small list for your initial understanding.

  • Size 60/8: lightweight fabrics such as organza, silk, cotton lawn, georgette, sheer fabrics, etc.
  • Size 70/10: medium weight fabrics such as lycra, calf leather, lining fabrics, etc.
  • Size 80/12: medium weight fabric that includes polyester, cotton shirting or quilting cotton, linen, etc
  • Size 90/14 or 100/16: heavyweight fabrics like vinyl, jeans or denim, canvas, etc
  • Size: 110/18: Upholstery, canvas, leather, PVC, etc fabrics
  • Size: 120/19: extremely heavy fabrics such as heavy canvas, thick denim, thick leather, etc.

Additionally, needle size varying from 8 to 18 signifies 8 as the finish and 18 as the largest one. Next, the noteworthy information here is you use lower number needles for the lighter fabrics, and similarly, larger number needles work great for thick materials.

Thread Guide and Bobbin Wander

The thread guide defines the path from the spool on the top to the bobbin winder. The thread guide is a metal part on the left side that sticks out on top of the machine.

To the right side of the spool pin, there is another pin located next to the small wheel. It is called the bobbin winder and its stopper. It winds the spool of thread on the bobbin before you start sewing.

Stitch Adjustment Buttons and Thread Take-up Level

Find a small screen right next to a few buttons on the front side, location may change with sewing machines. You can select the type, length, and direction of stitch you want to create with the stitch adjustment buttons.

Once you complete the steps of threading your sewing machine then winding the thread from the spool. After that take the thread through the thread guide then put it around the take-up level.

The take-up lever will be on the left of the sewing machine with numbers and arrows engraved next to it. These printed directions indicate how you have to thread the machine.

For further details, I recommend you keep your manual handy to check the function of each button. Complete each step and only then head towards the next step otherwise you get confused.

Tension Dial and Needle Clamp Screw

You can see a small numbered wheel near the lever that is the tension dial to control the tension of the thread while sewing.

The needle will be pulled toward the right direction if the tension is too tight. The thread will make loops on the fabric if you keep the tension too loose.

The needle clamp holds the needle in place when you are sewing. It is a metal part under the arm of the machine that sticks out from the right side of the needle.

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Presser Foot

The Presser foot is a metal part attached below the needle clamp screw. Just before starting to sew, put it down the lever and it will hold the fabric. It looks like a mini ski that locks the fabric placement and prevents the fabric movement. It is helpful in holding the fabric tightly to get clean and fine seams.

There is a lever near the needle clamp setup. It may be to the right of the needle clamp or to its back. To adjust your fabric position, put the lever up or down or down.

Further, there are several types of the presser foot, such as straight stitch, buttonhole, zipper foot, and many more. Let’s quickly have a look at the types and their uses in brief.


1. Straight Stitch Foot

  • Sews is always a straight line
  • Ideal for sewing regular seams

2. Button Stitch Foot

  • Helps in sewing buttons regardless they are 2 holes or 4 holes
  • Basically, it securely keeps the button in place

3. Zigzag Foot

  • It is like all-purpose stitches and one of the commonly used presser feet.
  • You can use it for very basic stitches to the most intricate and decorative stitches.

4. Zipper or Piping Foot

  • It comprises a narrow, one-toed foot having notches on both sides of the needle
  • It is helpful to stitch around the zipper and you can sew very near to the zipper teeth.
  • If you want to stitch piping close to the cord inside, you can use this foot.

5. Blindhem Or Edgestitch Foot

  • It is beneficial when you want to sew hem on your fabrics.
  • It comes with an extended guide that is quite useful for fabric folds.
  • You can even use it to join two pieces of lace with the edges joined together.

6. Walking Presser Foot

  • It is useful when you want to stitch a machine quilting straight lines of a quilt across multiple layers.
  • It is named so because the motion of the foot is up and down that walks across the topmost layer without pressing the fabric against it.

7. Gathering or Shirring Foot

  • This foot gives fullness or volume in soft and lightweight fabrics.

8. Quilting or Piecing Foot

  • It comprises markings that help you to stitch accurately from the edges.
  • You can use it for quilting and it can sew perfectly with ¼ inches or ⅛ inches of the seam allowance.

9. Applique Stitch Foot

  • It is a short presser foot of ¾ of a straight foot.
  • It makes it easy to sew around curves of appliques.

10. Ruffler Foot

  • It creates uniformly spaced pleats and beautifully gathers at fixed intervals.
  • It works well on light as well as medium-weight materials.

Metal Needle Plate and Feed Dog

Find the silver metal plate adjacent to the needle. You can open or close it to put the thread on the reel.

Again a silver metal feed dog below the presser foot on a needle plate that guides the fabric to move while sewing. It looks like two zig-zag tracks right under the presser feet.

Bobbin Cover and Release

The bobbin is a small circular spool that has a thread around it. The thread is given from the bottom and it delivers thread to the needle from support. Bobbin cover is the metal plate under the needle where you put the spool of thread.

When you start to sew, you will put the bobbin under the cover. Bobbin release is the button or pin which helps in opening and closing the cover.

Setup Your Sewing Machine

Select a Sturdy Platform for the Sewing Machine

Get a table and chair of comfortable height. Besides a table and chair, you can also get a counter or cabinet or a desk for your working area. Place the machine in such a way that the body is on the right and the needle set up is on the left side.

Installation of Needle

The flat side of the needle will go upwards whereas the groove side will face the direction in which the needle will be threaded. Put the needle in the post and tighten up the screw using your hand only.

You can wind the bobbin either through the top thread loader or through the bottom thread underneath the needle setup. Put the bobbin on the metal pin and wrap the spool around. Turn on the bobbin winder and wait till the bobbin is full.

Take out the bobbin from the metal pin then insert the bobbin in the slot below the needle setup.

Pass one end of the thread through a small hole in the metal case and leave it outside. Put the case back to the position.

Thread the Needle

The thread spool will be on the top, take the loose end of the thread to pull it through the thread path till the take-up lever. Check the printed numbers and arrow direction to thread the sewing machine.

The usual pattern is first towards left then down then up again down, put in the hook through the needle. There is another way which you may follow using the manual.

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Now take both threads out, one which you pulled from the bottom and the other one you did from the top of the machine. The threads will be on the left side. To check if the thread is good to go, try to rotate the wheel towards you. This motion will let the bobbin thread loop over the needle thread.

Switch on the Sewing Machine

Check the right side or backside of the machine to find the power switch. Some machines don’t need a power supply to start. They have a built-in mechanism that is quite easy to handle. Connect the pedal with the machine and keep your feet comfortable over it.

Getting Started With Your Sewing Machine

Choose a straight to medium-length stitch on a rough cloth

Get any rough and plain cloth. Don’t take thick fabric and new clothes. Till you learn the process well, it would be better if you can avoid knit or woven material. The initial sewing should be very easy and comfortable.

To start with, choose straight stitches. Set the lower knob on the right side of the equipment till it stops at the place. When you are setting the knob make sure the needle should be up and out of fabric otherwise it will move the needle.

Simple straight sewing will cover your major learning process. Then you can practice the zigzag stitch. It avoids edges from unraveling and fraying. As you practice you will go to the next level.

Place the material below the needle and put down the presser foot

Take a rough cotton cloth and place it under the needle and pull down the lever to hold the fabric firmly. While sewing the feed dog will maintain the alignment along with the fabric and balances the speed.

Once you are done with sewing never pull the cloth otherwise it will damage the material. Keep the lever up and you can take it out. Using the dial you can adjust the stitch length and speed of the sewing machine.

The loose end of fabric and foot pedal

You will need to hold the loose ends for the initial few stitches to prevent them from penetrating the fabric. After sewing for a decent length, leave the ends and free your hands. Now you can freely use your hands for sewing.

Basically, the foot pedal is for controlling the speed. You may start it a little slow but after covering a certain distance you may speed up the process.

Note: Some machines have a kneebar instead of a foot pedal for that you need to push the knee towards the right.

Even the balance wheel (right side of the machine) gives the rotating motion to the device. This motion itself will move the fabric away from you thus making straight or curve stitches. It will give you the stitch in the design as you will move it.

Don’t tighten or lose up the cloth, hold it gently while it is under the needle. To speed up the motion, you need to press the foot pedal faster.

Try some reverse stitching

The reverse button or lever has a spring so to sew in the reverse direction hold the lever down. At the end of every stitch, sew in a backward direction to lock the stitches. It will also allow your fabric to loosen up so that you can pull it out.

Practice, Practice, and Practice

The ultimate way to learn something is to practice. You will not be the same person even if you practice regularly for a week. Get all the old fabric lying here and there. Their time has come and you do try different styles and designs on them.

Remember the only key to get your hands on anything is only consistent practice. I hope when we meet next time, you will be at least a level up. Take care.

Before You Go…

I have tried my best to give you a complete over how to use a sewing machine. However, my years of experience say that the trick is to understand the analogy of the sewing machine and start sewing the rough fabrics as much as you can. The more you sew, the better understanding you will get about the stitches and seams. Have a happy experience!!

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