New to Machine Sewing?

I think I’ve got this…maybe!

Are you one of those who are intimidated by a sewing machine? Trust me, you don’t need to be. WARNING! You could become addicted to sewing and then you will need a stash! There is a whole new vocabulary to learn, as with any new obsession hobby. To help you out, I put together a vocabulary list at /quilting-vocabulary/.

Establishing Who is Boss

I often hear things like, “I have a brand-new machine still in the box because I don’t have a clue how to use it!” or “My mom/grandma used to sew, but they never taught me. I have a sewing machine somewhere. I’d like to learn, but who will help me since I won’t even know which end of the needle to thread?” My response is “Taking it out of the box (or finding it) is a good starting point and locating the user manual (or if you don’t find it when you find the machine, get online and google what you are looking for and buy or download the user manual) should be step 2.” See how easy it is to let the machine know who the boss is? LOL

Use the Manual to Identify Parts

Open the manual and read while sitting in front of the machine so you can become familiar with all the buttons/dials and moveable parts. I suggest you do not plug the machine in during this initial introduction. The only part of the machine that should be “hands off” is the tension dial. The tension is set by the factory and will not need to be adjusted until you start using different weights of thread. Until that time, don’t move the dial! Buy #50 or all-purpose thread. How will you know which is the tension dial? Refer to your manual page identifying all the parts for you. The manual will also show you the steps that I will be writing about below.

This is some serious concentrating!

Bobbin Identifying, Filling, and Correctly Inserting

The first step in getting your machine ready for sewing will be winding your bobbin. Follow the directions in the manual for winding the bobbin and installing it in the bobbin shuttle. It is important that the thread is coming off the correct side of the bobbin (determines if the bobbin will turn clockwise or counterclockwise). General rule of thumb, if you are inserting the bobbin flat into the bobbin shuttle, the thread should be pulling counterclockwise. Your thread from the bobbin inside a bobbin holder inserted into the shuttle should be pulled clockwise. If you don’t get it in correctly, you will learn how to clear threads from the shuttle. Should that occur, remember it is only a machine and you are not going to let it intimidate you!

Threading the Machine

You will need to pay attention to the path the thread takes from the spool to the needle. Some machines needle holes face the front of the machine, so the thread goes front to back. If the needle hole is to the side, check the manual to see if you thread the needle from right to left or left to right.

While holding onto the thread coming out of the needle, turn the wheel of the machine so the needle goes down and comes back up. If threaded correctly, you should have caught the bobbin thread and can pull it up. Lift the needle thread until you can grab the bobbin thread and pull it until the cut end is now out! If it doesn’t work the first time, try again. You will get it. Your manual may suggest another method.

Getting a Feel for Allowing Machine to Stitch

If your machine has a speed adjustment, set it to slow to begin. Plug the machine in. Take scrap fabric folded so you are sewing through two layers and place it under the foot (machines, not yours); lower the machine foot to rest on the fabric.

With your foot (the one at the end of your ankle), press on the pedal slowly to start the stitching! If you do not hear a loud knocking noise and the fabric isn’t bunching up, continue to increase the pressure on the foot pedal and soon you will see the stitches appear from the back of the machine foot. Pretty cool! You are sewing! Honestly, the sewing machine does the sewing. Think of yourself as the one who oversees where it stitches.

Experiment with all the different stitches, practice sewing in reverse 3 or 4 stitches and again forward. The purpose is to lock the stitches so the seam you just made will not come apart.

Need More Help – You Tube, Sewing Lessons from Dealer, Local Classes

Check on You Tube if you feel lost, or something is not covered in the manual. Search for beginner sewing. Sample several and find one or two people you like to listen to and who give clear instructions/explanations you can follow.

If you do better in a class setting, check your local fabric stores for classes. Check for adult continuing education through the community colleges that may offer classes. Free classes are often offered from the store where your machine was purchased, provided it was not a big box store. If you live within 30 miles of Tacoma, Washington, email me at if you would like private lessons in your home or have friends who would like to make it a class setting.

It is always nice to get to know the staff in stores where you shop. They are a reliable source of information about where you will locate items in the store. Additionally, they can describe how to use tools safely and correctly. Plus, it is interesting to ask at the cutting counter with others around if you should or should not wash the fabric before you sew. You will get at least as many varied reasons why or why not as there are people around you!

Machine plus You = Partners

I hope I have taken the fear out of using your sewing machine and provided some avenues to find help if your manual just leaves you wanting more. Plus, use the comment section below and ask questions. Bet if I don’t know the answer, someone will. People who sew and quilt seem to be the friendliest and sharing group I have ever had the privilege to be affiliated with. (Oh, my English teachers are not going to be happy with me ending a sentence with a “with”!)

Want to make sure you know how to care for your machine? This will give you general information, so also check with your manual.

Check what other educational subjects are covered or are under construction on this website. Education – Sewing and Quilting Related – Sewing with Stitcher . I plan to focus on educational posts including sew-a-longs and other fun sewing projects.

This is Ms. Doe. She is a straight stitch only vintage machine and I love sewing on her.