How to Use a Sewing Machine
Sewing machines can be so intimidating. I taught myself to sew after college. And I remember one time in high school I was babysitting and the girl I watched had gotten a machine for Christmas. I pride myself on having a fair amount of common sense so I was sure I could make this machine work. Wow, was I wrong! There are so many things to learn when you are just starting to use a sewing machine. I laugh when I think back to that unfortunate episode because I was utterly clueless. If you are like I was back then don’t worry I am going to put everything out there in this post so you don’t have to be overwhelmed and confused!! Is it hard to sew? Not really as long as you take your time and really get to know your machine and how it works.
How to Use a Sewing Machine
So you want to learn to sew? If you already have a machine, great, keep reading. But if you are looking for the best sewing machine for starting out check out THIS post for all the details on my favorite beginner sewing machines.
If you get lost reading through this post you might need to check out my beginner sewing terms definitions HERE.
One of the most important things to do when you are just starting to sew is to find the manual for your sewing machine.
Psst…you can find all this info in video form in my Sew With Alicia course.
The manual is your go to place for everything you could possibly need to know about your specific sewing machine. If your machine is a hand me down you can almost certainly find the manual online. Google the brand and model of your machine or go straight to the website of the sewing machine company. You can print it out, store it on your computer, or request a paper copy be sent to you (this last one might have a charge attached.)
Get to know your machine:
It is important to get to know your sewing machine. In your manual you will find a diagram that breaks down each and every piece and part of the machine. It will tell you where everything is located. There are a few things to take special note of on your machine.
The hand wheel – this wheel advances your needle down into the machine. It is important to note that you should never turn the wheel away from you. You always want to turn the wheel towards you or you risk damaging the inner workings of your machine.
Needle threader – check your manual because your machine might have a handy little gadget right there by the needle for automatically threading the needle. This can be super helpful if you don’t have a steady hand or you just find it difficult to thread the machine. This is super helpful and you might not have even known it was there!!
Thread cutter – less fancy machines(like my machine!) have a little notch on the side of the machine that cuts the thread for you after you are done sewing. Super fancy machines will cut it for you when you prompt them to, but I certainly don’t have anything that fancy!
Stitch selector – read through your manual to see what stitches are included with your machine. You are guaranteed to learn a few things about sewing after reading through the different stitches and their uses in your manual. I STILL learn new things when I check back in with my manual in this way!
How to Sew with a Sewing Machine:
There are several steps to getting your sewing machine ready for sewing.
1. Thread the top thread. – When you thread your machine you always want to use the same thread in the top that you used in the bobbin. Don’t try and mix and match brands or textures, seriously don’t! You can use two different colors if you are using the same brand and fiber. For example if you use Gutermann 100% polyester Sew All in white as your top thread you can also use Gutermann 100% polyester Sew All in gray as your bobbin thread.
2. Wind and thread the bobbin. – A few notes to remember about the bobbin. Bobbins are not universal! Each machine uses a different type of bobbin! You can see how many different types of bobbins there are here! Make sure that you have the right bobbin for your machine! Check that manual that you read…you read it right?!?!?
Once you have wound the bobbin you are ready to thread it into the machine. This is another time when your specific manual is key. There are top loading machines where the bobbin is placed down into the machine just beneath the needle. There are also side loading machines where you remove the front side of the machine and place your bobbin inside. Your manual will have specifics and give you instructions for loading the bobbin into the machine.
Still confused about threading your machine, I have an entire post on it HERE.
TIP: Once your have loaded the bobbin and the top thread there is one more step before you are ready to sew. Hold the end of the top thread in your hand. Then with your other hand turn the wheel towards you until it completes one full cycle. Now gently pull the thread in your hand and it should pull the bobbin thread up and out.
I had a friend call me once so confused about why her machine wasn’t working. She didn’t know about that ^^^ step! So don’t worry if you have been banging your head against a wall after missing that step!
It is also worth noting that some newer or more expensive machines pull the bobbin thread up for you for you or don’t require this step. But the machine I use, that you saw in the best machine for beginners post, will do it for me but I also have the option to do it myself.
My last big tip is when you are ready to sew you will want to pull the top and bottom threads out a few inches, then hold them in your hand as you start sewing. If you don’t do this, the top thread might pull back into the machine causing you to have to rethread the needle, which super SUCKS am I right?
How do you use a sewing machine safely?
Practice is a key part of safety when sewing. Sew slowly and carefully especially as you are starting out. One of the biggest reasons I like my Brother is because it has a start/stop button which allows me to focus solely on using my hands. It takes out the foot part of the sewing which is just one more brain distraction. The machine also has a speed regulator so you can sew as slowly as you like which is also helpful to keep your hands clear of the machine workings and needle.
Be sure you are always using a presser foot. This might go without saying but trying to use the needle without a foot just gives your hand more room to get beneath the needle. With you standard presser foot you have a fair amount of space before you get close to the needle.
Sewing with caution cannot be emphasized enough. Take your time and don’t sew when distracted or flustered. Taking a step away when you are having difficulties is a technique even the most seasoned sewists have to utilize. Sometimes we just need to step away and come back to ensure safety and quality.
Is it hard to sew?
Starting to sew can certainly be challenging. There is a steep learning curve but persistence is guaranteed to result in a rewarding creative experience.
I almost guarantee you will run into some unforeseen issue. My dear friend Monica has two videos that help troubleshoot a few problems. But if these don’t solve your problem leave me a comment here and I will respond. I check these comments daily and will respond as quickly as I can. You can also shoot me a message on my Facebook page HERE, and I will get back to you as quickly as I can!
Find a supportive community to help you with your woes along the way. I have a great group of sewing fanatics over on Facebook who are happy to help any step along the way. Don’t be scared to ask questions and make mistakes. Practice makes perfect!
This one about thread tension: