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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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!

2. Accessories

These are all the bonus attachments that your machine came with.

The most common ones are:

  1. Standard Presser Foot (this is the one you’ll sew with 90% of the time)
  2. Zipper Foot (used to sew zippers)
  3. Button Foot (used to sew on buttons)
  4. Buttonhole Foot (used to sew buttonholes)
  5. Spare Sewing Machine Needles
  6. Extra Bobbins (I’ll explain what bobbins are a little further down)
  7. Mini Screw Driver (for sewing machine maintenance)
  8. Mini Brush (for sewing machine maintenance)
Most Common Sewing Machine Accessories



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.

Manual for the Singer 3232 Sewing Machine
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.

Don’t worry.

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.

How to Find Your Manual Online

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

My Singer 3232 Machine
Front View
Diagram from my Manual of the Various Features on the Front of my Machine
List of Names from my Manual of the Various Features on the Front of my 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

My Singer 3232 Machine
Back View
Diagram from my Manual of the Various Features on the Back of my Machine
List of Names from my Manual of the Various Features on the Back of my 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.

Top Thread Pulling Threaded on a Sewing Machine
This green thread is the Top Thread on the sewing machine
bobbin thread in a top load sewing machine
This green thread is the Bobbin Thread on a top load sewing machine
front load bobbin
This green thread is the Bobbin Thread on a front load sewing machine.

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 wind a bobbin
Click here to read or watch the step-by-step tutorial on winding the perfect 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.

threading the top sewing machine thread
Click here to read or watch the step-by-step tutorial on threading 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.

full top load bobbin with cover removed
This is what a Top Load Bobbin looks like
Front Needle View of a front loading sewing machine
This is what a Front Load Bobbin looks like

So which one do you have?

Scroll down to the appropriate bobbin tutorial for your sewing machine.

How to Thread a Top Load Bobbin

Inserting a top load bobbin tutorial link image
Click here to read or watch the step-by-step tutorial on how to insert a top load bobbin

How to Thread a Front Load Bobbin

inserting a front load bobbin for beginners
Click here to read or watch the step-by-step tutorial on how to insert 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.

https://youtu.be/GSdiz5m7xqI



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!

If your needle is down in the machine like this…
Turn the handwheel towards the front of the machine...
Until the needle is up and out of your way

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.

Presser Foot in the Down Position
Presser Foot in the Up Position

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
Presser Foot Located to the Right of the Needle
Presser Foot Located 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.

Press the Presser Foot Lever down to lower the Presser Foot
Pull the Presser Foot Lever up to raise the Presser Foot

Start Sewing



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:

  • 1/4″
  • 3/8″
  • 1/2″
  • 5/8″


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.

Standard Seam Allowance Lines on a Sewing Machine
You can use rubber bands to mark seam allowances
Or you can use tape to mark seam allowances

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!

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5 Super Simple Steps to Start Sewing...

even if your sewing machine is still in the box!

This free how-to video series will give you everything you need to unbox your sewing machine and get you sewing with confidence in just a few short hours!

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