How to Use a Sewing Machine: Sewing 101 – Master How to Use Your Sewing Machine in 7 Steps

Our step-by-step guide helps you master the fundamentals of sewing machines. Whether it’s threading the needle or stitching, you’ll be crafting your projects in no time!

Sewing machines can seem intimidating if you’ve never used one before, but once you get the hang of it, they’re very easy to use. You can create beautiful garments and home decor items with a little practice.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of using a sewing machine. We’ll cover everything from threading the machine to sewing a straight stitch, so you’ll be ready to tackle your first project quickly.

Whether you’re a beginner or need a refresher, our step-by-step guide will help you master the art of sewing with a machine. So grab your machine, and let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Parts of a sewing machine
    • Important parts include a power switch, spool pin, thread guide, bobbin winder, stitch adjustment buttons, thread take-up lever, tension dial, needle clamp screw, presser foot and lever, needle plate, feed dog, bobbin cover and release, foot pedal.
  • Setting up the machine
    • Place the machine on a sturdy surface, choose the correct needle for the fabric, and install the needle securely.
  • Threading and placing the bobbin
    • Wind the bobbin with thread, place the bobbin in the bobbin case, and thread the machine following the guide.
  • Threading the needle
    • Feed the thread through thread guides and needle eye.
  • Sewing a basic straight stitch
    • Select the straight stitch setting, line up the fabric, lower the presser foot, press the foot pedal to sew, and backstitch at the end.
  • Sewing seams and corners
    • Pin the fabric’s right sides together, sew a straight seam, and pause with the needle down to pivot for corners.

What is a sewing machine?

how to use a sewing machine

A sewing machine is a device that is specifically designed to stitch fabrics together with the help of a needle and thread. It comprises various components, including a foot pedal, presser foot, spool of thread, feed dogs, sewing machine needle, straight stitch, thread guide, bobbin winder, bobbin thread, spool pin, reverse button, and more. This article will discuss how to use a sewing machine step-by-step, from basic components to the different features.

How to use a sewing machine for basic projects

Learning how to use a sewing machine can initially feel daunting, but even beginners can create practical and useful items with a little practice. Starting small with simple projects is a great way to build confidence and skills. Here are some basic projects that can be done using a sewing machine:

Cloth Napkins

Cloth napkins are an easy and practical beginner project that can be used daily. Choose a high-quality cotton fabric and cut it into squares to make them. Fold the edges down and sew a simple straight stitch along each side. You can add fun decorative touches, such as embroidery or fabric appliques.

DIY Sleep Masks

A DIY sleep mask is another practical and fun beginner project. Start by cutting two pieces of fabric into the appropriate shape. Stitch along the edges with the right sides together, leaving a small opening to turn the mask right side out. Once turned, fill the mask with batting or another soft material and sew the opening shut. Add an elastic band to each end of the mask to hold it in place while you sleep.

Burp Cloths

Burp cloths are another easy and practical beginner project. Cut a soft, absorbent fabric like flannel or terry cloth into rectangles. Fold the edges down and sew a straight stitch along each side. To add a decorative touch, embroider a cute design onto the fabric.

It’s important to remember that the quality of the materials used can greatly affect the outcome of your project. Always choose high-quality fabric and thread to ensure your projects last. Starting small and building skills through practice is key to becoming a confident and skilled seamstress. So, pick a basic project, get your sewing machine out, and start creating!

Types of Sewing Machines

Sewing machines come in various types, each with unique features and benefits. From basic mechanical machines to computerized models, a sewing machine is perfect for every skill level and project. In this article, we will explore the different types of sewing machines and help you decide which one is right for you.

Mechanical machines

If you’re starting with sewing or looking to hone your skills, a mechanical sewing machine may be the right choice. Unlike electronic and computerized machines, mechanical machines are powered by hand or foot and have limited stitch options and control. However, they are still commonly used by professionals and hobbyists and offer unique advantages.

Mechanical sewing machines are powered by hand or foot, which gives the user complete control over the speed of the machine. While this can be a bit more tiring than using an electric machine, it can also be more precise. Additionally, the limited stitch options on mechanical machines can help beginners narrow their focus and learn the basics of sewing techniques.

One of the most well-known brands of mechanical sewing machines is Singer. Singer machines are known for their durability and long-lasting quality. They are also typically priced lower than their electronic or computerized counterparts, making them popular for beginners.

While mechanical sewing machines may not have all the bells and whistles of their electronic or computerized counterparts, they are still an important foundation for learning sewing techniques and skills. Mastering the basics of a mechanical machine will equip you to tackle more complex projects using more advanced machines later on.

If you’re looking for a durable, straightforward sewing machine that won’t break the bank, a mechanical machine like Singer may be the right choice. You can create beautiful projects and develop valuable sewing skills with practice and patience.

Electronic machines

While mechanical sewing machines have benefits, electronic machines have emerged as a popular choice for those prioritizing speed and convenience in their sewing projects. Electronic sewing machines enhance their functionality by incorporating advanced components such as circuit boards and computer chips.

One of the electronic machines’ main advantages is their speed. Thanks to their advanced control systems, these machines often sew faster than their mechanical counterparts. Additionally, electronic machines offer a wider range of stitch options, with some capable of producing several hundred different stitch patterns.

Electronic machines also come with many features that are impossible with mechanical machines. For example, electronic machines often have automated thread cutters trim the thread at the end of a seam. This saves time and eliminates the need for manual thread trimming with scissors.

Another notable feature of electronic machines is the ability to digitize stitch patterns. With electronic machines, you can easily select your desired stitch pattern from a menu on the display. The machine will automatically adjust its settings to create the selected stitch.

Overall, electronic sewing machines offer many advantages over mechanical machines, including increased speed, a wider range of options, and advanced features like automated thread cutters and digitized stitch patterns. These machines are ideal for creating complex and intricate sewing projects with greater ease and efficiency.

Computerized machines

Computerized sewing machines are advanced machines that are operated through electronics or software. Unlike mechanical machines that are manually operated and electronic machines that use a combination of manual and electronic controls, computerized machines rely solely on software to control their functions.

Using a computerized sewing machine has numerous benefits. One of the main advantages is the ability to customize stitch patterns easily. Computerized machines come with many built-in stitch patterns; some even allow users to upload their designs. This allows users to create unique designs for various sewing projects.

Another benefit of using a computerized machine is the convenience of automatic features. Many computerized machines come with automatic needle threading, which saves time and frustration. Some also have automatic thread cutting and bobbin winding features, which make sewing even more efficient.

Popular brands of computerized sewing machines include Brother, Janome, and Singer. Each brand has unique features that set them apart. Brother machines, for example, come with a wide range of built-in stitch patterns and advanced features like automatic tension control and stitch editing capabilities. Janome machines are known for their high-quality performance and user-friendly designs. Singer machines are popular for their affordability and reliable performance.

On a computerized sewing machine, stitch settings can be adjusted easily with the touch of a button. Users can select from basic stitch types like straight, zigzag, and satin and adjust stitch length and width to create custom designs. Some machines allow users to save frequently used stitch settings for quick access during future sewing projects.

Computerized sewing machines offer many benefits and conveniences, making them popular for beginner and advanced sewers. With their advanced features and stitch customization capabilities, these machines make sewing easier and more enjoyable.

Parts of the Machine

A sewing machine is a useful tool for all sewing enthusiasts. It stitches fabric together to create various clothing, accessories, and household items. Understanding the machine’s different parts and how they work together is essential to effectively using it. This article will cover the machine’s various parts and functions.

Foot pedal

The foot pedal is an essential tool to operate a sewing machine. It provides the power to make the machine sew and allows you to control the speed at which it stitches.

To use the foot pedal properly, you must first connect it to the machine and place it on the floor in a comfortable position. Once correctly set up, put your foot on the pedal and slowly apply pressure to start the machine.

It’s important to start slowly using the foot pedal to get a feel for the machine’s speed. Once you’re comfortable, adjust the pressure to increase or decrease the speed as needed.

One of the most important things to remember when using the foot pedal is to keep your foot steady for consistent stitching. Fluctuations in pressure can cause uneven stitching and make your project look unprofessional.

Using the foot pedal is a great way to control the power and speed of your sewing machine. Start slowly, apply consistent pressure, and steady your foot for the best results.

Presser foot

A presser foot is an essential part of a sewing machine that keeps the fabric in place while sewing. As its name suggests, the foot presses the fabric down against the sewing machine bed and helps prevent the material from shifting or slipping.

Several types of presser feet are available on the market, each designed for a specific purpose. The standard presser foot is typically included with most machines and is suitable for most basic sewing projects. However, other presser feet are available for more specialized tasks, such as the zipper foot, which makes it easier to sew zippers, and the buttonhole foot, which helps create neat and even buttonholes.

To change the presser foot, locate the small black release lever that is typically located at the back of the presser foot holder. Depress this lever, and the current presser foot should pop off. Then, gently lower the new presser foot and release the lever to secure it in position.

It is important to select the right presser foot for the material and the type of stitch you’re using. For example, using the wrong presser foot can cause the fabric to bunch or stretch, leading to uneven and unsightly stitching. Take the time to consult your machine’s manual to ensure you’re selecting the right presser foot for the job at hand.

A presser foot is a crucial component of a sewing machine that helps hold the fabric in place while sewing. Various types of presser feet are available, and changing them is a relatively simple process. Choose the right presser foot for the job at hand to ensure professional-looking stitching.

Thread guide

The thread guide is an essential part of any sewing machine. It helps guide the thread from the spool to the needle. It is typically located near the spool pin at the top of the machine.

First, ensure the thread is mounted on the spool pin so that the thread guide is used properly. Then, thread the end through the guide, ensuring it passes through any necessary tension mechanisms or thread paths. Before proceeding, it is important to ensure the thread is not tangled and is feeding smoothly through the guide.

Depending on your machine, you may need to wind the thread around the guide in a specific direction to maintain proper tension. This can usually be found in your user manual, which will provide specific instructions for your machine’s thread guide.

The thread guide ensures that the thread feeds smoothly and evenly through the needle. It helps prevent tangles or other issues leading to uneven stitching or broken threads.

The thread guide is an essential part of any sewing machine. Properly using it and following the instructions in your user manual can ensure that your machine functions correctly and produces high-quality stitches.

Bobbin winder

The bobbin winder is an essential component of any sewing machine and a crucial step before you start sewing. Its primary function is to wind thread onto the bobbin and load it into the machine’s bobbin case. Here’s how to use the bobbin winder:

  1. Step 1: Place the thread spool on the spool pin—To use the bobbin winder, you first need to place the thread spool on the spool pin, which is usually on top of the machine. Ensure the thread spool is secure and in the correct position before continuing.
  2. Step 2: Thread the bobbin winder – The next step is to guide the thread to the bobbin winder. Consult your machine’s manual for directions on threading the bobbin winder designed for your sewing machine. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid any issues with the thread.
  3. Step 3: Thread the bobbin—Once the thread is ready, take the bobbin and slide the end through the small hole in it. Keep holding onto the thread end as you proceed.
  4. Step 4: Place the bobbin in the winder—After threading it, place it on the bobbin winder spindle and ensure it is securely positioned.
  5. Step 5: Slide the bobbin winder into the winding position—The next step is to slide or click the bobbin winder into the winding position, usually located on the machine near the bobbin winder spindle. Once the bobbin winder is positioned, you can begin winding the thread onto the bobbin.
  6. Step 6: Press the foot pedal – Press the foot pedal to start winding the thread onto the bobbin. This will activate the bobbin winder, spinning while the machine winds the thread.
  7. Step 7: Stop winding—Stop winding once the bobbin is full. The machine will automatically stop at this point, or you can manually stop it by releasing the foot pedal and sliding the bobbin winder back to its original position.

That’s it! You’ve successfully wound the bobbin. The bobbin winder is an essential tool in sewing, making it easier to wind your bobbin and get ready to start sewing. Always refer to your sewing machine manual for specific instructions on using the bobbin winder.

Bobbin cover

The bobbin cover on your sewing machine is a detachable plastic or metal plate that covers the bobbin and bobbin case. It is usually located on the front of the machine and provides easy access to the bobbin. Here’s how you can effectively use the bobbin cover on your sewing machine.

First, you must slide or snap off the bobbin cover to access the bobbin and its case. Follow your sewing machine’s specific instructions for removing the bobbin cover to avoid damaging it.

Once you’ve removed the cover, insert a full bobbin, following your machine’s instructions carefully. Now that the bobbin is properly inserted, you can replace the bobbin cover. Ensuring the bobbin cover is securely placed and closed properly before sewing would be best. A loose or improperly closed bobbin cover can cause the machine to jam or malfunction. Make sure to double-check this before starting to sew.

The bobbin cover on your sewing machine is essential to ensure smooth and safe operation. Remember to correctly remove and replace the cover, securely fasten it, and properly close it. By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your sewing machine operates effectively without any issues caused by improper use of the bobbin cover.

Needle plate

The needle plate, or the throat plate, is a crucial component of a sewing machine located beneath the needle and presser foot. As its name suggests, the needle plate contains a small opening for the needle to pass through as it stitches. In addition to the needle opening, there is another opening for the feed dogs to emerge and help move the fabric steadily forward while you sew.

It’s important to note that the needle plate can be changed to fit your needs. For example, if you’re quilting, you may require a plate with a smaller opening to prevent your fabric from being pulled down, ensuring a smooth and even stitch. Knowing what type of needle plate you’re working with is necessary to avoid any potential issues or machine damage. Therefore, you should check your instruction manual or consult a professional to ensure you use the correct plate for your sewing project.

The needle plate is a small metal plate with an opening for the needle and another for the feed dogs. It’s also commonly called the throat plate and can be changed according to your sewing needs. Understanding the importance and function of the needle plate can ensure a smooth and successful sewing experience.

Throat plate

The throat plate is an essential component of your sewing machine. The metal plate sits below the presser foot and has an opening for the needle to pass through. The throat plate often has seam allowance markings, guiding your seams.

When beginning a sewing project, consult the throat plate markings to ensure you’re stitching at the correct distance from the fabric’s edge and following the desired seam allowance. Seam allowance markings can come in varying widths and are critical for ensuring your project’s stitching follows the desired guidelines.

Occasionally, it may be necessary to remove the throat plate to clean any lint that has accumulated beneath it. Your machine manual will indicate the procedure for removing the throat plate, which should be followed carefully to avoid damaging your machine or any of its components.

The throat plate is essential to your sewing machine, as a seam allowance and stitching guidance system. Regularly consult your throat plate markings to ensure that you’re stitching at the correct distance from the fabric’s edge to achieve the desired results in your project.

Metal plate

The metal plate of a sewing machine, also known as the throat plate, is a crucial component. It is located just below the presser foot and has an opening for the needle to pass through. The throat plate is essential to the sewing process, providing a solid base for the fabric to rest on while stitching.

As the needle passes through the throat plate’s opening, the feed dogs hold the fabric in place, moving it under the needle. Occasionally, the throat plate must be removed and cleaned of any accumulated lint to ensure the machine’s smooth operation.

The throat plate also typically contains seam allowance markings that guide sewing seams of varying widths. The width of the seam allowance can usually be adjusted, allowing for customized stitching to accommodate a project’s specific needs.

When selecting a throat plate, you must ensure that it is compatible with your machine’s model and that the seam allowance markings are visible and easy to read. Proper fabric alignment with the throat plate’s seam allowance markings is essential to ensure accurate and consistent stitching.

A sewing machine’s metal or throat plate is a vital component that provides a solid foundation for the fabric to rest on while stitching. It contains seam allowance markings that guide stitching seams of varying widths. The plate should be carefully selected to ensure compatibility and easy visibility of the markings.

Using a Sewing Machine FAQs

What are the essential parts of a sewing machine that I need to know?

The key parts to identify are the power switch, spool pin, thread guide, bobbin winder, stitch adjustment controls, thread take-up lever, tension dial, needle clamp screw, presser foot and lever, needle plate, feed dog, bobbin cover and release, and foot pedal. Familiarizing yourself with these components is crucial for operating the machine properly.

How do I set up the sewing machine correctly before starting?

First, place the machine on a sturdy table at a comfortable height. Next, select the appropriate needle for your fabric and install it securely. Then, thread the machine properly—placing the spool on the spool pin, winding the bobbin, and threading the needle according to your manual’s instructions. Ensure the bobbin is correctly positioned under the bobbin cover as well.

What is the proper way to thread the needle?

After placing the spool on the spool pin, guide the thread through the thread Guide, take-up lever, and thread feed channels, following the numbered paths on your machine. Lastly, thread the needle’s eye from front to back, leaving a few inches of thread at the end. Consult your manual if you have an automatic needle threader.

How do I sew a basic straight stitch?

First, select the straight stitch setting and an appropriate stitch length (2.5-3.5mm is standard). Position your fabric under the needle, lowering the presser foot. Press the foot pedal to begin stitching at a controlled speed, guiding the fabric but not pulling it. Use the reverse lever to secure the start and end of the seams.

What should I know about sewing seams and corners?

To sew a seam, pin the fabric pieces’ right sides together and align the edge with the seam allowance markings on the needle plate (usually 5/8″ or 1/2″). Remove pins as you approach them while stitching. For crisp corners, pause with the needle down, raise the presser foot, rotate the fabric, lower the foot, and continue stitching in the new direction.


Learning how to use a sewing machine may seem daunting initially, but it is a valuable skill that can save money and provide a creative outlet. By following these steps and practicing, you’ll soon be able to create your clothing and home decor. Always be patient, take your time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ll be a sewing machine pro in no time with a little practice and determination.

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