Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting Started with your Sewing Machine

            The first step in learning to sew with your sewing machine and using it properly is understanding how it works.  When your sewing machine is brand new, it will always come with a "User's Manual".  It is important that you look through it, read it, and refer back to it often.  But like myself, I received a "hand-me-down" sewing machine.  I love it- it works well, however, it didn't come with a manual.  Some times you can find it on the internet- or take it down to a local sewing repair place an get a copy of a manual.  So be sure to find one and read it, you will be glad you did.
            Sewing machines form interlocking stitches, with a main (top) thread forming the top of the stitches, and a bobbin forming the bottom of the stitches.  The sewing machine needle, which has an eye on the sharp end, instead of the blunt end like a hand-sewing needle, pushes the main thread through the fabric, where it is caught by the bobbin thread.  Sewing machine needles are VERY different then hand sewing needles.  
            The next is understanding the parts of your sewing machine.  Although sewing machines are all a little different, they will have the a sort of the following features:

v      Manuals.  Manuals are important to read through, since all machines are a little different, it is important to know your own machine.  If you have lost or simply never received a manual, they can be online.  If you have a Bernina® one site you could refer to is: http://www.berninausa.com/news-n486-sUS.html  
      or if yours is a Singer® you may try:  http://www.singerco.com/accessories/manuals.html
      you can try other sites they may have your brand and a downloadable free copy of your manual.
v      Spool pins/ Spool Holder. These are short posts on the top of your sewing machine, usually near the right edge. They hold the main spool of thread. There will be at least one, but possibly two.
v      Top Thread guide. This is a small hook/disc/slot/guide near the top of the machine on the left side, some times they are located right on top, and others are located on the top/back of the machine.
v      Take-up lever. When the machine is facing you, you'll see a long, vertical slot running down the front of the machine with a lever sticking out. This is the take up lever, through which the top thread passes on its way to the needle.
v      Presser foot. The attachment near the needle is the presser foot. You can lower the presser foot to hold your fabric in place as it goes through the machine.
v      Bobbin winder. Next to the spool holder/pins, you'll see another short post. This is where you will place your bobbin when winding thread onto it.
v      Throat plate. This is a silver plate which covers the area under the presser foot. It has an open area in the center, through which the needle passes to grab the bobbin thread. There are several different types of throat plates, depending upon what kind of stitches you use most.
v      Bobbins are a small spool which is only about 3/4" high. These hold thread that will be placed at the bottom of the sewing machine in the bobbin casing.
v      Bobbin case and casing.  Under the throat plate there is a opening, inside here the bobbin casing, and the bobbin case is removable.  Place the bobbin in the case on some machines- on other machines you simply place the bobbin into the casing- you will have to refer to your sewing machine manual.
v      Hand wheel. This is a wheel found on the right side/end of the machine. turn it counter clockwise (pull it towards you)  It allows you to raise and lower the needle by hand, so that you can position it properly when you begin a stitch.
v      Tension regulator.  The tension regulator is the devise used to form even, flat stitches, the tension between the main thread and the bobbin thread needs to be equal. If your tension is too tight, your stitches will pucker. If it's too loose, the stitches can knot up underneath and ball-up under your fabric.  It is important to refer to your Sewing machine's user guide for the correct settings.
v      Foot pedal. The foot pedal is placed on the floor, this is what you will use to start and stop the machine.  It is also used to help you control the speed in which you sew.
v      Other features. Your machine will also have ways to select stitch length, stitch width and stitch type. Depending upon your machine, these may be manual levers, dials, or they may be accessed through buttons or a computerized screen.
v      Needles. Your machine will take a special type of needle. Be sure to read your manual and know the type it needs.  Knowing what type to get and use will take away a lot of frustration later when you sew different projects.  Sturdy cotton, silk, knit, and denim all take a different type of needle- Using the correct types will help create a better finished product and lesson the breakage of needles and other problems of sewing while you create your projects.

Be sure to take time to look at your sewing machine's owner manual.  It is important that you are familiar with your machine, so that your projects are fun and not frustrating.  So get familiar with your sewing machine!

Happy Sewing!

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