If you were thinking about learning how to use a sewing machine, the time has come now. It is not that difficult to learn how to sew using a machine, but if you grasp the basic knowledge at the start, it will make a lot of difference in your journey to learn and use your new skill.
The Structure of a Sewing Machine
If you are wondering what are the essential steps in the beginning to start learning the sewing machine, we have the answer. It starts by learning the working of the machine itself.
It does not matter if you went out to a store and bought a shiny new one, or your old aunt Bettie gave you her old one, it is important for you to learn the fundamental language and working of your brand-new machine. It will help you in getting to know the machine before you start using it. Things will be much simpler and easier when you anticipate the majority of the surprises before.
As a novice, just starting out in the process of understanding the working of a sewing machine, you need to learn about all the bells and whistles inside the machine, from the power switch to the presser foot. Take some time to read the manual and check through each item before you start “sewing”. Look for simple yet basic points like your posture, direction of light, etc. It may seem obvious, but it will a lot of difference in your journey of how to sew clothes using a machine.
Parts of A Sewing Machine
I/O Switch: The most secure way to start learning a new machine is by getting to know the on/off switch. Usually, it is on the side of a machine where it can be reached easily from either side.
Bulb: There is a bulb in the needle area. Before start sewing, try it out. If you think the light is not enough, you can install a new light at your workstation or you can move the apparatus set up near the window where you can get all the natural light and enjoy the outdoor scenery.
Pedal: In a sense, the foot pedal that operates the sewing machine is your accelerator. Get a hold of the speed regulator so that things never get out of your hand and remain in the limit. There are some models that have a regulator switch near the pedal that allows you to go fast and slow with your sewing.
Stitches: You need to earn command over stitch length and width buttons which includes decorative stitches and zigzag. There are many cost-effective beginner model machines that will have preset stitches and lengths. However, more professional or expensive machines will let you set length and width independently such as buttonhole stitch settings.
There is so much basic stuff in this area that you need to master before you can start sewing. It is better to pay heed to the basics.
Tension Wheels: Generally, they are at the top or front of the machine. They play a key role in getting good symmetrical stitching without any loops.
Needle: There is a small screw attached to the needle that holds it in its place. In order to change the needle, you need to remember where the screw goes in.
Bobbin: It is, essentially, a lid that reveals bobbin case and the bobbin itself.
Bobbin Tension Screw: In the case of front-loading sewing machines, they are found on the bobbin case.
Oiling: If you want your machine to operate properly, you need to know where the oil marks are and make sure to get the right lubrication oil. Some newer models of sewing machines are sealed and don’t need oiling. So, before start squirting oil all over your machine, double-check the sealings for oil inlet.
Threading A Sewing Machine
There are many dimensions to how to use a sewing machine but the most common are the upper and lower ones. Now keep in mind: The upper threading and sewing machine tension are attached to the needle and the lower threading and tension are attached with the bobbin.
Before going pro on the wheel and presser, start reading the manual and start the trace by looking at the upper threading. At the top of the sewing machine where the spool goes in its place, the thread starts and then descends to the bottom where it meets the needle. Again, learn the path of the upper thread and learn how to keep proper tension.
Most of the machines in the market right now, follow the same source through hooks and tension wheels until they reach the needle. To keep your work seamless, the thread must enter the needle from the front to the back and should come out nicely with a little bit of tension but not too much.
If you don’t have a manual for your sewing machine, you can browse through several online resources that will help you in getting to know your apparatus better. This will result in increased productivity.
Lower Threading – The Bobbin
Contrary to the upper thread, the lower thread and tension are linked to the bobbin. There are a lot of options in bobbins and casings, so it is always better to consult the manual before starts working. You can insert the bobbin from the top of the front of the machine.
In the case of top-loading bobbins, they go straight into a case that is attached to the machine. As far as the front-loading bobbins are concerned, they go inside a case, and then the case is loaded into a machine. Winding a bobbin is an important part of the learning process and you need to learn how to wind a bobbin.
The most effective way to wind a bobbin is by placing your main thread on the spool pin and wind it around the thread guide and run it across the bobbin winder. There is a hole in the top of the bobbins through which you can pass the thread at the start. Make sure to keep the optimum tension in the thread for firm winding.
Now start winding by pushing the bobbin winder across. In some machines, it is required from the users to disengage the flywheel while you are winding the bobbin to prevent the needle from going up and down idly.
How to Operate A Sewing Machine
Now, you have gone through the basics and understand them pretty well, it’s time to floor the accelerator of your machine and start running the wheel.
Step One: Join Both Upper & Lower Threads
It is high time to join the upper and lower threads together after they are sorted out and start the learning process for the sewing machine.
The large round wheel on your right is called flywheel or it may be termed as handwheel in your machine’s manual. Turn that wheel towards you as it will help the upper threaded needle to reach the level of the bobbin.
When you do that, you will see how seamlessly the upper thread curls around the lower one and pulls it up to the upper level of the machine. Now, pull the lower thread out and keep both the threads at the back of the machine so you have all the room for work.
Pro Tip: Always keep in mind to keep the wheel turning towards yourself until you see the lower thread emerging and getting to the upper thread portion.
Step Two: Start Your Stitching with Cloth Scraps & Rugs
The best way to check the working and proper calibration of your machine are by starting on a sample fabric first. Stiff cotton is one of the best pieces to get started. Also, if you can get your hands on quilting cotton, it is always easy to sew and can be purchased in fat quarters. It is essentially a small piece of pre-cut fabric. For beginners, Calico is also a cheap and easy material to sew on. It is a bit stiff and off-white in color which is perfect for novices such as yourself. You can make notes on the sample as your work on them because of its light color.
Double Fabric: While you are testing and honing your skills at scraps and rugs, make sure to learn how to sew double fabric. It is because sewing seams and making articles to revamp the look and feel for your home requires double fabric sewing. Mostly, a little thickness is much easier to handle.
Speed: Now before you do anything with your sewing machine, check if your pedal has a regulator for speed control. A popular brand, Janome, has a fast and slow switch that can be easily adjusted. This is not available in all machines but if your machine has it, it will make your first seams a lot easier to handle and sew.
Pro Tip: If you have a speed switch, set it slow. But if there is none, gently place your foot on the pedal when it is time to sew.
Settings: If you are about to sew your first seam, adjust your machine on a straight stitch with a length of 3.0 and a width of 0. If your machine is not adjustable with preset settings, use a medium length straight stitch for smooth and seamless work.
1. LIFT FOOT: A presser foot is usually a lever to the back or side of the machine and lifting it will make space to put fabric sample underneath. In most sewing patterns, it will be specified how far from the raw edge you will be sewing. For instance, it says that the seam allowance is ½ inch (around 12mm). If you are testing out your skills, put the fabric 5/8 underneath (15mm) from the right side of the foot. This will give you more real estate and will be easier for a novice.
2. PULL: Pull the threads to the back of the machine for smooth operation. Otherwise, the threads would get tangled and stop us from sewing forwards. Caught under feet or dog feet, threads can cause machine jams which could a serious mess for you.
3. LOWER: The important part is to lower the presser foot. Forgetting to lower the presser foot when needed is one of the common mistakes that beginners make.
4. RELEASE: For a smooth start, hold the threads for the first few stitches. When you get the hang of it, you can let them go.
5. SECURE: After getting several stitches out of the way, press the reverse pedal and get back a few stitches to the point where you started. This will prevent your stitches from coming oof easily from the start and the end. In sewing terminology, it is called backstitching.
6. STITCHING: Release the reverse stitch once you cover the already sewed area and start stitching forwards.
7. FINISHING: To secure the seam at the end of the line, press reverse again, and do some stitches backward.
Kudos! Now, that your first stitch is out of your way, it’s time for more exciting adventures in the sewing land. In the sewing and stitching industry, you don’t need any license but skills, and any mistake can be nullified using an unpicker or a seam ripper. Never go so hard on yourself if you have to unpick some stitches. There are days when even experienced sewers need to use a seam ripper.
Step Three: Checking the Tension
You can check the tension in your row of stitches and adjust if needed. This is not some technical task but just looking and assessing if the stitching looks firm and flat. If you can see loops showing on either side of the top or bottom of the fabric, you need to adjust the stitches and or maybe need to unpick some seams.
If you have come this far and are confident about your stitching game, there is still room for error in the future. And if you have run into trouble several times, you can explore online to learn how to cope with these problems.
The most common issues in the sewing machines are:
1. Sewing Needle Keeps Breaking
2. How to Clean a Sewing Machine
3. Sewing Machine Thread Keeps Breaking
4. Sewing Machine Skipping Stitches
5. Seam Puckering when Sewing
6. Sewing Machine Manuals
7. Sewing Safety Tips for Beginners
8. Sewing Machine Troubleshooting
9. Sewing Machine Tension
10. How to Thread a Sewing Machine
There is always room for error in sewing but unlike other crafts, there are not hard penalties to pay when you run into trouble. You are always free to experiment with new stitches and improvise with a variety of fabrics and sewing machines. Consult the manual of your machine and it will guide you in the steps to sew buttonholes and other decorative stitches such as zig-zag.
More importantly, always test your fabric scraps and learn how to gather and finish the seams properly. There are always exciting turns and tricks in the sewing work that you can explore.
Beginner Sewing Tutorials
If you bought your sewing machine from a company dealer, there should be a how-to guide to help you in getting started with your new passion. You can reference and try new stitches and other techniques by consulting that guide.
In the virtual sphere, you can always checkout blogposts for sewing and troubleshooting for specific tutorials.
Beginner Sewing Projects
There is no harm in trying your hand on some easy projects, once you have learned the basics of how to operate a sewing machine. It is always a good idea to try new designs and techniques on scraps before putting the real fabric under your machine.
There are a lot of easy, but useful, projects that a a beginner can take. Apart from them, you can try whatever grabs your fancy. Some of them are as follows:
- Cloth Napkins
- Sleep Mask
- Hair Ties
- Tissue Cover Pattern
- Gift Bags
- Baby Blanket
Learning the craft of how to use a sewing machine is the the first step in an amazing right direction. Your new skills will bring you pleasure because it is a creative and practical hobby that will help you grow in an artistic fashion. You may not be a formula one racing car driver ready to take the world by storm, but with your foot on the pedal, you can race up the path of practical stitching and will love every milestone of your journey.