Knowing Your Machine

Your sewing machine will come with an owner's manual. This is your best source for information about your particular machine. Yet there are some things that will be the same on all sewing machines.


Sewing machine: Learn the name and use of these parts of your machine.


Needle area: More parts to learn.

Identifying Basic Parts

Use the diagrams of the sewing machine (FIGURE 1-1) and the needle area (FIGURE 1-2) to locate the following parts on your machine:

  • Thread take-up lever: Controls the thread as it is fed to the needle.

  • Tension discs: Keep the thread at just the right tautness for perfect stitches.

  • Presser foot: Holds the fabric against the fabric feeds.

  • Fabric feeds: Move the fabric.

  • Presser-foot lifter: Allows you to raise and lower the presser foot.

  • Needle clamp and screw: Hold the needle in place. Loosen the screw to change needles.

  • Needle plate: Surrounds the fabric feeds and has a hole, which the needle goes through to carry the thread to the bobbin thread.

  • Somewhere on the top of your machine you'll find the spool pin. There may be a bobbin pin or spindle on top or at the base of the trunk for winding thread onto your bobbin. The balance wheel, which is used to raise or lower the needle, will be on the right side of the machine.

    Your machine should also have a light under the body of the machine. Generally this light comes on automatically when the machine is switched on. Like all light bulbs, this one can burn out. Check your manual for replacement instructions.

    You will also have a foot pedal, which plugs into the machine and operates much like a gas pedal on a car. A few machines have knee press levers instead.

    Making Adjustments

    Every machine has a few things that can be controlled or adjusted. Exactly where these controls are and what they look like will vary with each machine. They may be touch pads, buttons, dials, or knobs. They will probably be labeled on your machine.

    The tension adjustment control is often found near the tension discs. To see if you need to adjust the tension, sew a straight stitch with contrasting thread in the bobbin. If the stitches on the top and bottom of the cloth look alike except for the color, the tension is balanced. If the bobbin thread is visible on top, the thread tension is too tight and should be loosened. If the top thread shows on the bottom stitches, the tension is too loose. Make tiny adjustments and test again.

    The reverse stitching control allows you to backstitch. This control is often found near the base of the trunk of the machine.

    Stitch length and width controls regulate the size of the stitches. Width refers to the width of zigzag and other stitches for which the needle moves from side to side.

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