Thanks to Valerie Bryant for another wonderful Sewing 101 session. You can find more great sewing inspiration and shopping by visiting her blog Threads Thoughts Things and Dottie Adele on Etsy!Welcome to the second course in Sewing 101! In the first course, you learned about all the essential supplies to sew everything you need. Now we’re going to do a little exploration of your sewing machine. It may seem complicated at first, but remember two things: Practice makes perfect, and YouTube holds all the answers.
On Your Machine
Here are a dozen of the most important parts on your machine you should know to get started, all numbered above and then described in detail below.
1. Power Switch - Turns your machine on and off, of course! It may seem obvious, but sometimes it is hiding in a not-so-obvious place. It will probably be on the right side near the bottom.
5. Presser Foot - This small metal piece holds your fabric in place as you sew. It can also change out for other feet with specific functions.
7. Plate - A metal plate surrounds the area around the feed dogs, needle, and bobbin. Likely, your plate will also be marked with various measurements to help you with the width of your seams.
9. Reverse Stitch - Yours could be a lever or a button, but it will be marked with an arrow doing a U-turn. By pushing this lever or button, your machine will sew backwards.
You’ll need a sturdy table (not like mine...a tray table up on blocks is not the most ideal!) and a chair with a back that will put your machine at stomach level or higher (you don’t want to be bending over too far to see your work). Set your table and chair up near an outlet. Also nearby: your ironing board and iron, a good source of light, and a trash can (maybe some snacks and a beverage, too).
YouTube is your greatest ally in performing the following steps. If your owner’s manual isn’t clear, or you just can’t get the hang of the instructions, turn to YouTube to search for your machine type and what you are trying to do (e.g. “Brother machine how to wind bobbin”). Since every machine is slightly different, be sure to search out a video if you get stuck!
Thread your machine. There will most likely be a series of somewhat confusing arrows on your machine that attempt to show you how to do this, but I would turn immediately to your manual or YouTube for this task. The first few dozen times you do it, it will take ages, but you’ll get quicker - practice makes perfect!
Place your fabric. Once you are bobbined and threaded, it’s time to sew! It’s always best to practice a little on a scrap piece of fabric before moving to your actual project. Place your fabric under the foot, and clamp it into place. Your presser foot is controlled by a lever in the back of the machine directly behind the plate/needle/foot area. Hold your top and bobbin threads back with one hand, and use your handwheel to lower the needle into the fabric and bring it up once. There’s your first stitch!
Sew! Your pedal works just like the accelerator pedal in a car; the more pressure you put on it, the faster it will “go.” Be very gentle at first and ease into it, sewing as slow as you need to at first. When you get to the end of a line of stitches, you can use the handwheel to bring the needle up out of the fabric. Then pull the fabric out from under the foot and clip the threads. Try to sew as straight of a line as you can. Experiment as well with the reverse stitches and the zigzag. Use up as many scraps of fabric as you need until you feel comfortable!
Dust is your enemy. Use a tiny brush to clean out dust and lint from all the parts you can reach, and get a can of air to spray in all the nooks and crannies. Always cover your machine when it’s not in use.
*Credit: vintage sewing machine image in post header is from C.H. Holderly