Monday, 2 January 2012

How to Set Up Your Sewing Machine


This post is part of the Learn to Sew series aimed at beginners.

First time in front of a sewing machine? Stitched before but need a refresher?

This post will walk you through the basic steps to set up your sewing machine.

I've labelled some of the most important parts of the machine in the diagram above. You don't need to learn all the proper names for the different parts of your machine - "that twiddly knob" is fine if you're just talking to yourself - but it's useful to know what all the parts are for at least. Machines vary, so some of the parts on my machine (a Janome J3-18) may be in different positions to yours, but nothing will be that different that you won't be able to work it out.

Ready to sew? Let's go!

1) Plug it in!



Plug the cable into your machine and the power socket. Position the pedal on the floor where you can comfortably reach it with your foot while sitting comfortably. (Note: You don't need to turn your machine on for any of the steps in this post - it's advisable to leave it off so you don't accidentally sew over your hand!)

2) Attach the needle


The needle may already be in place, in which case you can ignore this part if you like. But it's useful to know how to change it in case it snaps (eek!), if you want a different sized one (a thick one for thick material, a fine one for fine fabric, ballpoint for jersey...), or if you just want to change to a fresh, sharp one every so often.

To remove the needle, twist the little knob to its right a couple of turns - this will loosen the needle so you can pull it out. To insert the needle, just push it up into the hole and tighten the knob again. The top of the needle is rounded on the front side and flat on the back side so you should be able to tell which way to fit it.

3) Attach the presser foot


The presser foot is used to hold the fabric down and to guide the needle when stitching. You can get different kinds of feet designed for different stitches and notions, but you don't need to worry about that yet - a standard presser foot will get you far. The presser foot sits on the end of the bar behind the needle. There's a lever on the right which you can use to raise and lower it when you need to.


Some feet are attached with screws. My machine is a "snap on" - raise the bar using the lever on the right, position the foot directly underneath, then lower the lever to click the foot into place. You may need to shuffle it about a little to get it in the right position. Lift the lever again to raise it up. To remove the foot, flick up the other little lever at the back of the bar and the foot will drop right off.

Now read: How to Thread Your Sewing Machine
Like this? Read more Learn to Sew posts. 

40 comments:

  1. Wow, Tilly - these posts must have taken HOURS to write. You saint! Hope you have a very happy 2012.

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  2. Err... they did! I started them six months ago and only just finished four of them. But I think it's worth it if a few new people discover the joys of sewing!

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    1. Tilly, thank you so much for the time you invested in the Learn to Sew series. I am just restarting my sewing journey and all of your material is helping tremendously. I hope you one day have more time to devote to more blogging. Thank you!!!

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    2. I too wanted to say thank you. I have been wanting to learn to sew for years and finally got up the smarts to ask on a livejournal sewing blog. One of the lovely ladies there sent me to you, and this series is immensely helpful. Thank you again for taking the time to do this.

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  3. This is so helpful for me as a beginner. Thank you!

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  5. These learn to sew posts are such a good idea! I have had a sewing machine (hiding away in my cupboard) for ages but your blog is inspiring me to start using it again!

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  6. Really great photography. A suggestion, however, on inserting the needle. The flat end of the shank must be facing outward, the curved end facing you. Many beginners think their machine is broken but it's just that they've inserted the needle incorrectly.

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  7. Thanks so much for these tutorials :)
    For a beginner like me it is so helpful to have the step by step and pictures to match! I am a truly visual and hands on learner so for me the detail is great...thank you.

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  8. As a basic matter of safety, the needle and presser feet should be changed with the machine turned OFF. Same for threading the machine.

    I realize that sewing can seem overwhelming, so if these guides give some sewers confidence, great. But a word of advice:

    READ YOUR SEWING MACHINE MANUAL TWO OR THREE TIMES FROM COVER TO COVER BEFORE TURNING ON THE MACHINE.

    You've heard sewing is a process or a journey? Educating yourself about your machine is part of it.

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  9. Lauralynn, Coby and Jess - I'm so glad you like it!

    Anonymous 1 - indeed, and that's what I said.

    Anonymous 2 - indeed, and I haven't said to turn it on yet. I'm assuming you mention that as you spotted the light on my machine in the photos? Unfortunately I had to put it on to capture the detail of the image in the photo, but wouldn't encourage others to do likewise. Not quite sure why the shouty capitals though!

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  10. thanks for the pictures and tutes. I was a little confused about some stuff like the way the needle went in and when to turn the machine on and putting the feet on but my machine is different i suppose. could ;you do some videos of this - thanks.

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    1. I'd love to do a video of this when I have time. It's on the to do list!

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  11. Ahh thank you! I have been holding off sewing things that needed a different needle b/c I didn't know how to change it haha. Question-I think books I've read said the use a new needle for each project, is that true?

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  12. Ilovecupcakes - it could be that your machine is different (some have screwed on feet, for instance). But if you think I could explain more clearly, let me know specifically what you don't understand and I'll try to help :)

    Jane - I've read that about changing needles for every project too, but I don't do it (ssshh!). I change them for different fabric thicknesses, but if use the same needle for three or so projects because I'm cheap and they're expensive. It hasn't caused me any problems so far, but other people may have had a different experience.

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  13. Thanks Tilly :) It seemed like it would be pretty expensive to get a new needle for each project

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  14. This blog is so great! I was given a new sewing machine for Christmas and my first time sitting in front of it will be while I follow this blog.

    Your clothes creations/tastes are right up my alley, too! I'm so excited to learn.

    Thanks again!
    Samantha

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  15. This is sooo helpful!! where do you get your replacement parts from??

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    1. Luckily I haven't had to replace any parts yet... but if I did, either the manufacturer or a sewing machine repair shop should do it.

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  16. thanks 4 this soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
    helpful and a lifesaver

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  17. Thanks so much for posting these! I have just recently pulled out my sewing machine after about 3 years of not touching it and even the last time I touched it I didn't really know what I was doing. It is a hand-me-down machine so I didn't have a manual. Thanks for the help!

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  18. Thank you so much for this! I have always wanted to sew but it looks so hard and so scary lol. Can't wait to get started! :)

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  19. Thank you thank you! I got a sewing machine yesterday as I'm stuck at home with a broken leg and need something to do! Never tried this before but I can't wait to do something. Are there good websites for buying materials etc? I can't get out to the shops at the moment! :)

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  20. Thank you so much for this, it is brilliant. I got a sewing machine yesterday as I'm stuck at home with a very slowly healing broken leg! Thought doing things like this would keep me from losing my mind! Do you know good websites I can get nice materials from, until I can get out to the shops! :)

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  21. oh, thank goodness I found your site! You are right, the price of private lessons was way out of my budget, so this is a wonderful find. Thank you for these wonderful tutorials, oh my gosh, I can't wait to get started, I'm a new follower!

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  22. Hi, what an inspiring site, so glad i found it. I've been toying with the idea of starting to sew for ages, seeing this has made my mind up that i am going to do it. Just to purchase my machine now! Will keep you posted of my progress x

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  23. Ah! These are as good as the blogger who sent me said they would be. You are making this look so easy. Thanks for your time putting these together!

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  24. Thank you Tilly for all your hard work. You are a super hero in the world of sewing!

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  25. I just had my sewing machine perth last week, and I have no idea how to set it up. Thanks to this simple steps,I'm able to set use my machine now.

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  26. What a total blessing! Maybe just maybe I can do this with your help, thank you so much for all of your hard work!!

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  27. I bought a sewing machine because of these posts and I am going to use them to learn, so thank you Tilly!

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  28. Hi Tilly as a 40 year old male who's never sewn before in his life I guess I'm in a very small minority but I've taken the plunge and bought a machine! As I like quality I bought a basic Bernina 1008 but hopefully that will last me a good few years!

    I've made my first cushion cover from the GBSB book (ironically I saw your blog before the program and didn't put 2 and 2 together at first.

    Long term I want to be making clothes (m and f) but guess I've got a long way to go before I'm ready for my first fashion project!

    Thanks for the blog ��

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  29. Hi!

    I am from Romania and I just bought a sewing machine (I want to learn sewing) and hopefully I found your blog which is really cool and I want to thank you for all this huge effort!!!

    Kind regards,
    Alexandra.

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  30. Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank a million times :) I could not figure out how to sew. Call me a dunce, but I was horrible. But your tutorials have helped immensely. I'm the kind of person where you can show me in person and I won't get it. I need to "figure it out" in my head and your great photos and explanations really help. I can't wait to start making my little one lots of clothes, toys, and play mats. So excited. You are awesome to post this. You have helped me learn to sew! Now I'm on fire!

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  31. I am so glad I found you!! Thank you for sharing. I have not yet even turned on my machine (I finally got one for Christmas) as I am still a bit nervous but am soooo excited and with your assistance I feel much better....I have so many ideas floating around in my head from years of planning :) thanks again!

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  32. I just got my first sewing machine for Christmas and landed on your blog - so glad I did! All of your beginners posts are so helpful. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with the world!

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  33. Thank you so much! I can't wait to get started!

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  34. Your website is fantastic! It is incredibly helpful. This has made me decide to definitely buy a sewing machine now as I don't need to take expensive classes to learn the basics (which means a lot to a student on a student budget). Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and this eye-pleasing website!

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  35. Thanks Tilly! I am making an apron at school and my homework was to research how to set up a sewing machine and howto tread a needle and this website really helped me! So, thank you!

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  36. i have the exact same model of sewing machine, im trying to finish my textile degree work using free machine embroidery on it, i have the right attatchment. just today ive snapped 2 needles although i havent had a problem before HELP!!! whats going wrong? doesnt help that its sunday and i cant get any needles today :(

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