How to Use a Sewing Machine

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How to Use a Sewing Machine

Unfortunately, most people are not familiar with the use and operation of the sewing machine. This can be somewhat frustrating for those wanting to start sewing as a hobby or even a potential small business. Rather than purchasing a machine and attempting to use it through trial and error, it is a good idea to learn a little about sewing machine operation. This does not have to involve a lot of effort, just reading up on the parts of the sewing machine, and how to set up a sewing machine before use.

Sewing machines are available in a few different forms for industrial as well as home use. The industrial machine is heavy duty, costs more money, and is hard to find. Household machines are not as strong, but are more affordable, and come with a wider range of stitch options. These types of machines are also easier to use. Sewing machines are available at craft and sewing stores, from sewing machine manufacturers and manufacturer websites, online crafting websites, classifieds, and private seller listing sites, such as eBay.

Types of Sewing Machines

Sewing machines have revolutionised the garment industry since their implementation to the home and commercial market. In fact, these little machines have sped up the sewing process so much that most people do not even need to know how to sew or make amendments to clothing. The average person simply buys brand new, affordable clothing at the store. Those who are interested in sewing at home can find machines with a wide range of options.


The first sewing machines could only create straight stitches, but modern sewing machines are capable of producing hundreds of different kinds of stitches, including specialty designs. Novice sewers can get along just fine with a machine that includes just the basic stitches, such as straight, zig zag, basting, chain stitching, darning stitch, and a buttonhole stitch. The buttonhole stitch is used in combination with a buttonhole foot, which makes creating buttonholes a short and simple process.





Straight line of equal length stitches

Most sewing projects; clothing, topstitching

Zig Zag

Zig zag line of equal length stitches

Used on stretchy fabrics, elastic thread; prevent fraying on edges


Long, loose straight stitches

Secures pattern pieces together before final stitching; helps with tailoring clothing to size


Small, equal sized chain links on surface of fabric

Decorative top stitching; embroidery


Short, irregular, close together stitches; resembles fabric grain

Darning holes, patches on clothing; decorative top stitching


Horizontal, close together, equal length stitches; made with button holer

Creating button holes

Other stitches to consider include various embroidery stitches, blanket stitches, serge stitches, and a blind hem stitch. These styles of stitching are all more complicated, so they require more practise to master even with the use of a sewing machine.

Feed Mechanisms

There are a number of different feed mechanisms used in sewing machines such as a drop feed, needle feed, walking foot, puller feed, and the manual feed. However, the drop feed and the puller feed are the two mechanisms most commonly used in household sewing machines. The drop feed has a mechanism below the metal plate under the presser foot that pulls fabric through the machine as the needle drops down. This mechanism has a serrated surface to help it grip the fabric. A puller feed is used in both household and commercial sewing machines. The puller is an auxiliary mechanism placed behind the needle that grips the fabric and pulls it through the sewing machine.

Using a Sewing Machine

The most complicated aspect of sewing involves learning how to operate the machine. Even though the sewing machine saves a lot of time overall, it does involves some preparation time before getting started.

Threading the Needle

Sewers need to start by threading the machine. A sewing machine has a small rod or sewing spool pin to slide the spool of thread onto. Take the end of the thread and pull it over the top of the sewing machine to the first thread guide. This is usually a small flat, curved arm that provides the initial tension on the thread. It is positioned above the sewing needle at the top of the machine.

Pull the end of the thread down the tension discs at the front of the sewing machine. Then pull it up and down again through the long, vertical slot (again at the front of the sewing machine) making sure to catch on the take up lever inside the slot. Run the thread through any other thread guides.

Catch the thread on the final thread guide positioned just above the needle. Thread the eye of the needle and pull the end of the thread under and behind the presser foot. Make sure to leave plenty of extra length at the end of the thread.

Inserting the Bobbin

The bobbin contains the other thread used to stitch the bottom of the fabric together. This is a small, plastic spool one needs to wind with thread from the larger thread spool. The wound bobbin is then inserted into a small compartment beneath the metal plate in the sewing machine.

Sewing machines are either set up to have a drop-in bobbin or have the bobbin inserted into a bobbin case before placing it into the sewing machine. If the machine is set up for a drop-in bobbin, simply slide the bobbin into place inside the bobbin compartment, making sure to pull the end of the thread up through the plastic or metal plate before shutting it. If the bobbin needs to be placed into a bobbin case, slide the bobbin into the small case, which looks like a rounded metal soda cap. Pull the end of the thread through a small metal plate, also known as the tension spring, on the side of the case, and drop the case into the bobbin compartment. Pull the thread end out when closing the metal plate.

Turn the needle wheel once or twice by hand to pull the bobbin thread up through the metal case. Catch the thread end as it comes out of the centre slot and pull it behind the presser foot.

Getting Started

Before getting started with an actual sewing project, get used to the machine by sewing a few scraps of fabric. Sewers may want to experiment with using each of the different stitch settings, adjust the thread tension to see how different tensions affect sewing, and adjust the stitch length.

The presser foot always needs to be down when sewing to help ensure that fabric is pulled through the sewing machine correctly. Depress the foot pedal that operates the machine gently and slowly at first until familiar with the machine. The further down the pedal is depressed the faster the needle moves. Let up on the foot pedal completely to stop the machine.

Sewers can also hand turn the wheel to stitch slowly, or even reverse stitch if the machine is set up to create reverse stitches in that manner. If not, there is usually a small lever on the front or side of the machine that reverses the stitching when depressed. There may also be a thread cutter attached to the side of the machine to make it easy to cut the thread after stitching.


Most sewing machines come with the bare minimum of accessories to operate the machine. If buyers want to branch out into more involved sewing projects, they may want to consider purchasing additional accessories. These accessories include different types of feet for different types of sewing, such as the buttonholer foot, the zipper foot, and the walker foot. Other sewing accessories are helpful for making one's work go easier. For instance, beeswax can be used to stiffen the end of a piece of thread before threading it through the eye of a needle. It is highly recommended to keep additional bobbins for other sewing projects.

Buying a Sewing Machine on eBay

You can buy a sewing machine on eBay for an affordable price from one of thousands of sellers. Finding the right sewing machine can take time, so consider using the eBay search engine. This search engine bar is available at the top of every page on eBay. It is also simple to use. Just enter in your search term and go. Your search term can be almost anything related to sewing and sewing machines, such as "zipper foot" or "industrial sewing machine". Upon entering your selections, eBay searches through its hundreds of thousands of listings and returns only those that match your search terms.

Local Shipping and Handling

When considering a sewing machine purchase on eBay you might want to buy that machine from a local seller. This way you save a little money on the cost of shipping such a large and potentially heavy item. Buying from sellers in your local area also makes the waiting time shorter on your delivery. There are thousands of sewing machines available on eBay, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding one for sale in the nearby vicinity. To search for local sellers, click on the "Distance" option in the refinements menu. Select the search radius in kilometres and enter your postcode.


Sewing machines are powerful tools for making original clothing and other craft projects. They are also complex machines that require some understanding before mastering the art of sewing. These machines are produced with a variety of options for household and commercial use. The average person typically only needs a sewing machine with a minimum of stitches and one of two types of presser feet. As a sewer becomes more skilled, it may be time to advance to a machine with hundreds of different stitch options.

One must also take a little time to set up a sewing machine before getting started on a project. Sewers need to learn how to thread the sewing machine, insert the bobbin, and get used to the machine pedals and other options. Accessories to use with a sewing machine can also make the job easier, such as using different types of feet for different types of stitching. An abundance of both sewing machines and sewing accessories can be found on eBay.

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