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.

I often hear things similar to, “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 use to sew, but they never taught me. I have the 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 is boss? LOL

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 most likely will not need to be adjusted until you start using different weights of thread. Until that time, don’t move the dial and 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.

This is some serious concentrating!

Generally 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 the thread is coming off the correct side of the bobbin (determines if the bobbin will turn clockwise or counter clockwise). If you don’t get it in correctly, you will learn how to clear threads from the shuttle. If that happens, remember it is only a machine and you are not going to let it intimidate you!

Bobbin is in and next you will thread the machine. Like the bobbin, pay attention to the path the thread takes and if the thread enters the needle from the left or right if the needle is inserted for the side of the needle facing you. Some machines the needle hole faces the front of the machine, so the thread goes front to back.

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 2 layers and place it under the foot (machines, not yours); lower the foot to rest on the fabric. Hold both bobbin and spool thread ends with one finger as your finger tips are on the sides of the fabric. Once the machine makes a stitch or two the thread is secured in the fabric and will not be pulled under the fabric and make a rats nest. (By now you must be loving all the new words and phrases!) You no longer have to hold onto the thread ends.

With your dominant foot, press on the peddle slowly to start the stitching! As long as you hear no loud knocking noise and the fabric isn’t bunching up, continue to increase the pressure on the foot peddle and soon you will see the stitches appear from the back of the foot. Pretty cool! You are sewing!

Experiment with all the different stitches, practice sewing in reverse 3 or 4 stitches and again forward. That is called locking your stitches so the seam you just made will not come apart.

If you feel lost, or something is not covered in the manual, check on You Tube. Not sure how we ever survived without technology! There are also lots of great videos to help you get started sewing something other than on scrap fabric. If you do better in a class setting, check your local fabric stores to see if they offer classes. Often adult continuing education through the community colleges offer classes. Also, check with stores that sell sewing machines. I know if you purchase your machine from a dealer/representative, free classes on how to use your machine are usually included. Take advantage of these classes if you can because the instructors are taught by the manufacturer and know tricks your machine can do that are not shared in the manual. Plus, it is always nice to get to know the staff in stores where you shop. They are a great sources of information from where you will locate items in the store to explaining how to safely and correctly use tools. Plus, it is always 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 different reasons why or why not as there are people around you!

I hope I have taken the fear out of using your sewing machine and provided some avenues to finding 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 most friendly 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”!)

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

PS – The answer to prewash or not – do what you want! Really!