Congratulations! You just got a machine, and you’re excited to get sewing BUT….where do you start?
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Learn HOW to Set Up your Sewing Machine
Hello beginners, time to learn how to set up your sewing machine and spend time learning the basics of a sewing machine while practicing with scrap fabric. After you get familiar with the machine you’ll be ready for some beginner sewing projects.
Don’t have any scrap fabric? No worries, cotton broadcloth is an inexpensive fabric that would be great for practicing. Some fabric stores also have a ‘clearance’ section. I’d suggest practicing on a plain piece of fabric (no design) with a contrasting color of thread so you can see your work and check to see if tension needs adjusting.
Sewing Machine with a Manual
If your machine has a book you are off to a great start! All you need to do is set apart some time and start with page one of your book while you are sitting AT your machine.
Take time to USE your machine and be familiar where the different stitch buttons are. Practice threading your machine and needle. Make sure to have scrap fabric for sewing practice, it’s very exciting to see the stitching on your fabric!
Sewing Machine without a Manual
If you bought/received a machine and it doesn’t have a book, you have a bit of a challenge but NOT impossible. Look on the web for a manual to download or request to receive a manual in the mail.
I’d first go the the website of your machine brand name and search manuals for the model name/number; or do a general search for SEWING MACHINE MANUALS. I did see an interesting site, while doing my own search, which is called manualsoncd.com- looks like these manuals are PDF downloads and some cost $. I’ve never used this site and can’t speak to the quality of what you’ll receive but it looks to be full of sewing machine manuals. If you do try this site, send me an email and let me know what you think!
Want to start using your machine and don’t want to wait for a book– I’ve listed some very basic steps to help you use your sewing machine until you find a manual.
The sewing machine that I use in my images-it’s currently called a Baby Lock Crafter’s Choice. (I bought mine about 6 years ago and it was called a Baby Lock Tempo. Looks to be the same machine just different name.
Basic Steps for a beginner to help Set Up your Sewing Machine
Sewing Machine Basics
Find out where you turn you machine on, most machines have the power switch on the right side of the machine. After turning on the machine, does a light automatically turn on? IF so- awesome! If not- many older machines have a separate light switch.
Connect Foot pedal to the machine
Most connections are also located on the right side somewhere by the power switch. If your machine is on and your foot pedal is connected, you can press on the pedal just to see what happens…go ahead! **Just one note of caution- If there is a needle already in the machine use the hand wheel to turn the needle up and down to make sure needle is freely moving up and down in the machine BEFORE using the pedal; even better- just take the needle out. There is a knob to turn to loosen up the sewing machine needle.
New Needle and New Thread
Make sure you are starting off with a new needle and new thread. You don’t know how much the needle in the machine has been used or what fabric it was used on SO just start with a NEW needle. Use a size 70/10 OR 80/12 universal sewing machine needle for medium weight fabrics. Old thread can degrade and break down and lose its strength. Use newer good quality all-purpose thread; I use Gutermann, Dual-Duty and Sewology. (Sewology is a Hobby Lobby brand)
Winding the bobbin and Threading the machine
First- Prepare bobbin for winding
Usually you take the thread thru the first one or two of the same thread guides used for threading the machine/needle and then a few more guides to take thread over to the bobbin.
Two ways to add thread to bobbin that I’ve seen are…
After Placing bobbin on bobbin holder…
wind thread around the bobbin 3 or 4 times and slide thread thru the last guide and move bobbin into a locked position to begin winding the bobbin.**
Bring thread thru a hole in top of bobbin then…
set bobbin on holder while still holding onto the thread. Slide bobbin holder to the locked position. Keep holding onto that thread… as the bobbin starts winding, the thread you are holding will snap off!**
** Some bobbins will slide into a locked position for winding, like image above.
Some bobbins will stay where they are and you’ll push a button or switch that will lock bobbin in its place.
One more thing…Press the foot pedal to make the machine wind the bobbin.
After bobbin is moved into that locked position, that tells the machine to move the bobbin round and round at a high rate of speed! Whee-Whee-WHEE!! (sounds like a geico commercial-the one with the piggy holding his wind toy out the car window, my favorite! HaHa!)
Second- Thread the machine and insert new needle if you’ve not yet done this.
Locate the place where you’ll insert the needle- there is usually a knob to turn that loosens and tightens the needle.
You’ll notice the sewing machine needle has a flat side, this flat side will face away from you as you insert the needle up into the needle holder; twist the little knob until the needle is clamped and secure in the machine.
After placing the thread on the thread holder, most machines have arrows of where to guide the thread thru the machine to end up at the needle for threading.
Look at the following two images:
Finding the straight stitch
Digital Read Sewing Machines
On Sewing Machines with digital screens you could have a guide that shows you the stitch type and the corresponding number for the stitch OR images of each stitch next to a button you’d touch to select the stitch. Find tips for Stitching a straight seam line…
Turn-Dial Sewing Machines
Sewing machines that have turn-dial knobs have little pictures that you’ll turn to your chosen stitch.
Reverse Button/knob for Backstitching
The Backstitch button usually has a curved arrow that looks like a U-turn arrow. See if you can locate the back stitch button in some of the previous images.
Thread Tension Settings
All the thread tension setting dials I’ve seen are a disc- with numbers showing. You can find this circle like disc in the two photos labeled ‘Threading the Sewing Machine”. The Thread Tension Dial adjusts the upper thread tension. Most newer machines have automatic lower thread tension adjustments- really nice!
If you have an older machine, you may have an extra thread tension dial for the lower thread OR you may have to use a screw driver in the bobbin holder.
These general steps I’ve given should help you enough to set up a sewing machine, get you experimenting with learning about your machines. I’ve tried to make all this easy enough for the very sewing beginner. If you have ANY questions- send me an email!
Thanks for reading and Happy Simple Sewing to You!
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