Ways & How

How to Use a Sewing Machine

How to Use a Sewing Machine

Have you ever wondered just how much money you could save if you knew how to use a sewing machine? You would be able to do a lot of alterations like basic hemming without having to pay a hefty price. A lot of household DIY projects like curtains or fancy shams only need basic sewing skills too. How many times have you gone around a home design store only to be struck by how easy and cheap it would be to make that designer-inspired bed sheet? The good news is that operating a sewing machine is actually not as intimidating as it looks. Read our basic guide below to get started:

  1. The fundamental principles of machine sewing are the same regardless of the brand or make of the sewing machine. Gather your sewing supplies (machine needles, thread, and lots of scrap fabrics to practice on) and position yourself in front of the sewing machine. Your chair should be just the right height for working. Also make sure you have lots of light to avoid straining your eyes. The needle side of the machine should be to your left while the body should be to your right.



  2. Without plugging the machine in, verify that the needle is inserted, the presser foot lever is installed, and the bobbin is loaded. You can check your instruction manual for these steps.

  3. Thread the top spool; your machine will likely have a guide for this printed right on the machine casing. Generally, this will involve pulling the thread from the spool leftwards, and allowing it to pass downwards against a needle guide, then downwards, into a hook and through the needle.

  4. Hold up the end of the thread after it passes through the needle. Pull on it to check that it feeds smoothly. Keep it in your left hand so that you can use your right to pull the hand wheel (this is typically on the outer side of the body) one full turn towards you.

  5. Take a pair of scissors and use it to hook up the bobbin thread from between the presser foot lever and the plate. At this point, you have two strands of thread, the one coming from the bobbin and the other from the top spool.

  6. Pull on both threads to gain a few more inches in length, enough so that they won’t fall back in completely when you let go.

  7. Plug in the machine, including the pedal so that you are ready to start sewing.

  8. Take a piece of fabric to practice on. Pick a non-stretchy cotton fabric that is neither too light nor too thick. Knits, denims, and jersey are not good choices for practice sewing because they tend to move a lot and can cause the thread to get tangled.

  9. Set the machine to straight stitches, medium stitches. Refer to your owner’s manual for this.

  10. Turn the hand wheel slightly to move the needle to its highest position.

  11. Fold the fabric into two. Lift the presser foot lever up and place the fabric down into the plate, lengthwise. The bulk of the fabric should be towards the left; as you sew, it will move along to the right. Bring down the foot lever.

  12. Hold the ends of the two threads in your right hand. You will need to do this for the first few stitches, to prevent them from retreating into the fabric. Your left hand will gently guide the fabric as you sew. There is no need to pull because the feed dog will automatically move the cloth along as you stitch. Pulling can actually cause your needle to break.

  13. Press the foot pedal gently and slowly, much like stepping on the gas pedal of your car. This will start the machine sewing. Focus on controlling the direction of the stitches, which you can do by turning the fabric a little at a time.

  14. To release the fabric, stop pedaling and turn the hand wheel to move the needle to its highest position once more. Pull away the fabric and cut the thread, remembering to leave a long tail behind for the next time you use the machine.

The next step in learning how to use a sewing machine is to master the backstitch, the sharp corner and the curves. From there you can get started on a simple project like a small gift bag or a pillowcase. You don’t even have to buy new fabric, just look around your house for remnants or old pieces of clothing which you can repurpose.

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