Here I will explain some of the key features common to most types of machine.
If you are thinking of buying a sewing machine, or you have been given one, it can be a little daunting if you haven’t used one before, or not used it very much.
- Threading the sewing machine is relatively easy, and most sewing machines are similar. There are usually marks on the machine that will help you to thread it up successfully. Winding the shuttle up is also fairly simple if you follow the ‘guides’. The shuttle is located either underneath the footplate or just in front of it. If it is at the front it will have a fixed shuttle case and the shuttle will slide easily into it. If the shuttle case is located underneath, you will be able to pull out the whole shuttle case, pop in the shuttle, wind the cotton around and pop it back in again.
- One of the main problems when the sewing machine will not ‘go’ properly, is that the stitch might be too loose, rattles, or stops totally, it is usually because the machine threading has jumped out of place, so trace it back and check that its all ok. Then check that the thread on the bobbin is not trapped, and if so free this off. The other problem may be the shuttle: undo the casing and check that this is free as well and if it is snarled up, take the shuttle out, check there is cotton in there, and reinsert it- this should solve the problem. If it doesn’t then just check the housing of the shuttle in case it is dusty and may just need cleaning out. Also check the tension, sometimes this is a bit out and may need adjusting
- With more modern sewing machines there should be a range of ‘feet’ with the sewing machine. These are designed to help you with some more trickier tasks, like button holes, zips or edges. Look at your instruction manual, it should tell you how to use the feet, so practice these as they will help you to get a more professional look to your work.
- There should be a ‘reverse’ lever: use this to finish off ends of seams so that they won’t come undone easily.
- At the back or side of the needle housing, there should be a lever that lifts the ‘foot’ up and down. By lifting the foot you will get the fabric underneath and in the correct position to sew. You will also use the lever to change the feet.
- When beginning to sew start slowly, there is no rush, use the hand wheel to help you place the needle and practice on a spare piece of cloth. If you are doing corners you may need to snip the fabric a couple of times to allow it to ease a bit.
- Use the guides on the plate underneath the ‘foot’. There are measurements which are useful, like 5/8” is the usual seam allowance on most patterns, this is indicated so you can follow the edge as you sew. These guides are handy to help you sew in a straight line.
- Some machines have a little needle threader, these are quick to use and great if your eye sight is poor. Use the hand wheel to bring the needle up as far as it can go. Bring down the needle threader as far as possible then locate it close to the back of the needle. Hold the cotton and hook it around the left hand side of the threader then across under the little locator hook (which should be through the eye of the needle), then release the threader which should pull a loop through the eye.
- There should also be a knob that enables you to change the ‘stitch’ and a guide as to the letter to use to create that stitch. If you lift the ‘foot’ up (using the lever located at the back or side or the foot housing and make sure your needle is in the ‘up’ position then you should be able to turn the knob and change the stitch easily.
- Some models of machine also have knobs that will enable you to change the width and length of the stitch, this allows more creativity and only playing with it, or checking with your book for trickier tasks, like button holes will you begin to understand how to use it.
- If you are sewing stretchy fabrics use a small zigzag stitch, this allows a little ‘give’ in the seams.
- When inserting zips use the zipper foot, this will give you a seam which is closer to the zip.
- Choice of needle is important as well, use a finer needle for finer cloth and a bigger needle for a heavier weight.
- Take care of your sewing machine, keep it clean, and give it a drop of oil now and again, it will work a lot better if you do 🙂