I’m guessing you’re new to sewing and wondering how to use a sewing machine? Right?
This is the question we all have…
But how in the world do you actually get started?
I hope that this blog post will provide you with all the information you need to quickly and confidently start your sewing journey!
But what if you could get all the information below AND MORE sent right to your inbox?
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- What's Included in the Sewing Machine Box
- 1. The Sewing Machine Itself
- 2. Accessories
- 3. Foot Pedal
- 4. Power Cord
- 5. Sewing Machine Manual
- Sewing Machines Have Two Threads!
- How to Wind the Bobbin Thread
- How to Thread the Top Thread
- The Two Types of Bobbins
- How to Thread a Top Load Bobbin
- How to Thread a Front Load Bobbin
Step 1: Unbox Your Sewing Machine
This may seem like an obvious first step, but it may not be as straightforward as it seems.
I have heard many people say they were so excited to learn how to start sewing that they immediately bought a machine. But once they got home and unboxed it, they were so intimidated and overwhelmed by it that they put it back in the box and shoved it in a closet.
Out of sight, out of mind.
And that’s still where it’s sitting, collecting dust…
Now I don’t tell you that to judge anyone. Learning how to sew can definitely feel overwhelming. I felt the same way when I first got started.
But I believe in you. I know you can learn this hobby if you just take it one step at a time.
So if your sewing machine is still in the box, this is your first step.
What’s Included in the Sewing Machine Box
If your sewing machine is brand new or still in the box, you will typically find the following:
1. The Sewing Machine Itself
This is the actual machine that we will be using to sew all of our projects!
These are all the bonus attachments that your machine came with.
The most common ones are:
- Standard Presser Foot (this is the one you’ll sew with 90% of the time)
- Zipper Foot (used to sew zippers)
- Button Foot (used to sew on buttons)
- Buttonhole Foot (used to sew buttonholes)
- Spare Sewing Machine Needles
- Extra Bobbins (I’ll explain what bobbins are a little further down)
- Mini Screw Driver (for sewing machine maintenance)
- Mini Brush (for sewing machine maintenance)
Your machine may come with more accessories or less but it’s a good idea to spend the time right now checking what items you have.
That way as you move forward in your sewing journey, you’ll know exactly what you have in your sewing tool box.
3. Foot Pedal
This is the part of the sewing machine that actually moves the needle when you’re sewing.
It’s made of plastic and works the exact same way as the gas or brake pedal in your car.
The harder you press on it, the faster your machine will sew.
The less you push on it, the slower your machine will sew.
4. Power Cord
Now the power cord can either be a separate cable all by itself or it can be connected to the foot pedal (like the one shown above).
Whichever version you have, it all works the same way.
You’ll plug your power cord into a wall socket to provide electricity to your machine.
And the last item you’ll find in your sewing box is…
5. Sewing Machine Manual
This is one of the most overlooked sewing tools but don’t be fooled.
I know that with most of our appliances, we throw the manual in the box and never look at it again.
But don’t do that with your sewing machine!
Literally any question you have about your sewing machine, such as:
- Where is the X button on my machine?
- How do I thread my sewing machine?
- Where do I plug in the power cable?
- What is this accessory that came in my sewing machine box?
Can all be answered by reading your manual.
I’ve been sewing for over 15 years and I still reference my manual just to make sure I haven’t missed anything.
How to Find Your Manual Online
Now I know some people may have already thrown away or lost their manuals, or maybe you bought your sewing machine second hand and it didn’t come with one.
I have a really easy trick to help you find your manual online.
Just head to Google, or your preferred web browser, and type in the brand and model of your machine.
So mine for example is a:
- Singer (brand)
- 3232 (model)
So in Google, I’ll type Sewing Machine Manual for Singer 3232.
This will pull up tons of places where you can download the exact sewing manual for your sewing machine.
Step 2: The Basic Sewing Machine Parts
Now that our sewing machine is out of the box and we’re familiar with all the accessories that came with it, let’s turn our focus to the machine itself.
Remember that manual that I mentioned earlier?
We’re going to be using it to find out what all the crazy knobs and buttons on our sewing machine are called.
So the photos below are directly from my manual.
You should be able to either:
- Compare my photos directly to your machine (most sewing machines are really similar)
- Or find the same buttons/knob/feature on your machine using your manual
Features on the Front of the Machine
I will give a brief description of what each features does, just so you can start to understand your machine a bit better.
Please remember that while I am covering A LOT of information in this blog post, you are not expected to remember all of this right now.
Save this blog post for future reference, come back when you need it, and remember to just take this journey one step at a time.
Most of the features listed below also have separate blog posts that explain them in greater detail.
I recommend simply reading through them here and finishing this blog post, then coming back to reference the additional blog posts if and when you need them.
Thread Tension Dial: used to adjust the tension of the upper thread
Thread Take-Up Lever: used to adjust the tension of the upper thread
Thread Cutter: used to cut the thread after you’re finished sewing
Presser Foot: used to hold your fabric in place while you’re sewing
Needle Plate: metal plate with holes that allows the needle to pass down through the fabric
Removable Accessory Storage: a place to hold extra sewing supplies (such as needles, presser feet, etc)
Reverse Sewing Lever: allows you to sew backwards
Bobbin Stopper: used in winding the bobbin (more on that later!)
Stitch Width Dial: used to adjust the width of your stitches
Stitch Length Dial: used to adjust the length of your stitches
Pattern Selector Dial: used to choose which type of stitch you want to sew
One Step Buttonhole Lever (optional): used for sewing buttonholes.
You will only have this feature if your sewing machine has a one-step buttonhole function
Automatic Threader (optional): used for threading your needle
You will only have this feature if your sewing machine has the automatic threading function
Features on the Back of the Machine
Horizontal Spool Pin: holds your top thread during sewing
Bobbin Winding Spindle: used in winding the bobbin (more on that later!)
Handwheel: used to manually move the needle (This is one is really important as a beginner!)
Power and Light Switch: can you guess what that feature does?
Main Plug Socket: where you plug your power cable into your machine
Bobbin Thread Guide: Used in winding the bobbin
Upper Thread Guide: Used in threading the top thread on your sewing machine (more on that later!)
Face Plate: the plastic housing on the left side of your sewing machine that surrounds the needle
Handle: the correct place to pick up and carry your machine
Presser Foot Lifter: small lever used to move your presser foot up and down (This is one is really important as a beginner!)
Foot Speed Control: the pedal used to control how fast you are sewing (we talked about this earlier)
Power Cord: supplies the power to your machine
Step 3: How to Thread Your Sewing Machine
Threading a sewing machine is CRUCIAL to sewing.
If your sewing machine is not threaded correctly, you won’t be sewing anything.
Now, I’ve already written really detailed blog posts on threading your machine so I will link them for you below!
Sewing Machines Have Two Threads!
You may not know this yet, but your sewing machine uses two threads to sew.
One goes through the eye of the needle and is sewn onto the top of the fabric when you’re sewing.
This thread has a very boring name and is simply called the top thread.
The other thread is called the bobbin thread and it actually comes up from the bottom of your machine. And it is sewn along the bottom of the fabric when you’re sewing.
These two threads knot around each other each time the needle goes down into the fabric and that’s what holds your sewing project together.
So hopefully it’s starting to make sense why threading your machine is so important.
And the first step of threading your sewing machine is…
How to Wind the Bobbin Thread
You typically buy the top thread at the same store where you bought your fabric.
But you can’t buy bobbin thread.
You have to make or wind it yourself.
And before we can thread our machine, we need to have both the top thread and the bobbin thread ready.
That’s why the first step is winding the bobbin.
How to Thread the Top Thread
Now you should have the store-bought top thread and the bobbin thread you just made.
You are so darn impressive already!
It’s now time to start threading your machine!
And the first thread that we will work with is the Top Thread.
The Two Types of Bobbins
Oh my goodness, you are so nearly there!
All that’s left is to thread the bobbin.
But, before we can do that, we need to figure out if you have a Top Load Bobbin or a Front Load Bobbin.
Look at the images below and compare them to your sewing machine to figure out which kind you have.
So which one do you have?
Scroll down to the appropriate bobbin tutorial for your sewing machine.
How to Thread a Top Load Bobbin
How to Thread a Front Load Bobbin
You did it!
Now that your bobbin thread is loaded, you can finally start sewing!
Step 4: How to Start Sewing
First, you need to set up your sewing machine the right way.
If you’re not sure how to do this, check out my how-to video below.
Once your sewing machine is set-up correctly, you’ll start by taking a scrap piece of fabric and folding it in half.
This will give you two layers of fabric to sew through (like you would normally have if you were actually sewing a project).
Next, you’ll want to position your fabric under the presser foot, like in the photo below.
But you may not be able to do this yet
If you’re not able to get your fabric under the presser foot right now it’s because either:
- Your needle is down
- Your presser foot is down
How to Manually Move the Needle
To move your needle up and out of the way, you’ll want to turn the hand wheel.
The handwheel is the large circular knob on the top right side of your sewing machine.
ALWAYS TURN THE HANDWHEEL TOWARDS THE FRONT OF THE SEWING MACHINE!
How to Raise and Lower the Presser Foot
Now that your needle is definitely up and out of the way, you still may not be able to get your fabric under the presser foot.
If that’s the case, it’s because your presser foot is down.
To move your presser foot up and down, you’ll need to use the Presser Foot Lever.
This lever will either be located:
- Directly to the right (and above) the needle
- Directly behind the needle
Now all you need to do is move this lever down to move the presser foot to the down position.
But to get our fabric under the presser foot, we need to move the lever up so that the presser foot is in the up position.
Now that the presser foot and the needle are both up and out of your way, you should be able to easily slide your fabric into position.
Next, we want to focus on the position of our fabric under the needle.
You’ll want to line up the edge of one side of your fabric with one of the lines on your sewing machine.
Now, in these photos I’m using a mini sewing machine so I don’t have any other lines but most standard sewing machine have a series of lines next to the needle (as shown below).
These lines are measured to be a specific distance away from the needle:
For practice you can use any of these lines, but when you’re sewing an actual project, the instructions should tell you how wide the Seam Allowance should be.
Seam Allowance is the distance between the needle and the edge of the fabric.
So if you line your fabric up with the 1/4″ line, you’ll be sewing a 1/4″ seam allowance.
If your sewing machine doesn’t have any lines like my machine, you can measure your own lines and use tape or rubber bands to mark them.
Now that your fabric is under the presser foot and lined up, you can lower the presser foot and begin sewing.
To get your sewing machine moving, gently press down on the foot pedal.
Keep your eye on the edge of your fabric and try to keep it lined up with the seam allowance line on your sewing machine.
Don’t look at the needle. It will make you dizzy and will make it much harder to sew straight.
And once you start sewing you may notice:
- Your stitches are causing your fabric to become wavy
- Your stitches are super tight
- Your stitches are super loose
Or any other number of tiny issues that prevent your stitches from looking perfect.
And that’s where tension comes in!
Step 5: Sewing Machine Tension
This section is coming soon! I’m still working on getting the written blog post version finished.
In the meantime, you can grab the video version of this section inside of my 5 Steps to Sewing Confidence Mini-Course below!
Want to know the fastest way to start sewing?
Get step-by-step video tutorials of the content I covered in this blog post, plus early access to the Tension for Beginners content.
- Learn to Sew Straight Worksheet
- Learn to Sew Curves Worksheet
- Tension for Beginners Cheat Sheet
- And Much More!