Learn to Sew: How to Understand Sewing Equipment


Sewing machines can seem really
intimidating but in this lesson we’ll help you understand the basic functions
and features of a domestic sewing machine and we’ll help you set up a
pressing station. Why do you need a pressing station? Keep watching to find
out. Much like a car, sewing machines vary from brand to brand, and model to model,
but also like a car they all have some of the same basic features, even though
these features might look slightly different from machine to machine. Here
in the studio we use Bernina, so I’m going to show you this on our machine
here. In this lesson we’re like your guide, not your instruction manual. We
can’t show you every machine but we can help you get oriented. The Golden Rule
with your sewing machine is to refer to your manual. This is gonna help you
identify each of the following features on your machine. We recommend that you
spend a day with your machine, going through the manual and getting familiar.
You can even label the different parts on your machine with post-its while
you’re still getting used to everything. So all you have to do is get out some
scraps of fabric and try things out until you feel comfortable. Once you are
familiar with your machine set a calendar reminder each month to go in
clean it out, get it oiled if you need to, and just make sure that everything is
working well. This is really gonna pay off in the long run. First let’s talk
about threading your machine. This is where some people begin and end their
sewing adventure. But once you learn how to thread your machine, you can
practically do it in your sleep. Again you’ll need to consult your manual to
get the specifics, but you’re essentially pulling your thread so it runs here from
the spool along the thread guide and the take-up lever that moves up and
down as you’re sewing, all the way down into the needle. Threading is simple
after a few times and YouTube is full of videos to help you thread if you just
look up your specific machine. Next let’s talk about stitches. Most domestic sewing
machines come with a variety of stitches, some have dozens. How many do you really
need? That depends on the types of projects that you want to sew. If you
want options for heirloom and specialty stitches that might be a priority for
you with your machine, but for sewing garments you really don’t need that many
different stitch types. The most commonly used
stitches in garment construction include a straight stitch, a zig-zag stitch, and a
buttonhole. For the Bo top and the sew along you just need a straight stitch,
but we’ll talk more about stitches later. Sewing machines usually come with the
ability to change the width and the length of each stitch. There’s a wide
variety of reasons to change your stitch length and width but when you are just
starting to sew a woven garment a straight stitch width the length of 2.5
is a good place to start. All sewing machines have a backstitch button or
lever. This will allow you to stitch in reverse. Backstitching at the beginning
and end of each row of stitches will secure them. If you don’t back stitch
your seams might come undone while you’re wearing your garment and nobody
wants that. Sewing machine tension controls the amount of tension put on
the thread while it’s running through your machine. If your tension is too
tight it will result in tight gathered stitches, but if your tension is too
loose it will result in weak loopy stitches. If you encounter tension issues,
again, you’re gonna want to consult your machine’s manual and test everything out
on scrap fabric until it’s balanced. Are you sensing a theme here? It’s all about
practicing and testing. This is the hand wheel which you can use to manually
crank your machine. It’s really handy if you need to work slowly or precisely.
This is the presser foot. The presser foot holds the fabric down and against
the feed dogs, which are the small teeth that pull the fabric through the sewing
machine as you sew. You’ll raise and lower the foot with a lever here. As you
progress in your sewing adventure you’ll find that you need different feet for
different jobs like installing a zipper or sewing piping. Many machines come
stocked with the basic feet that you’ll need to get started so don’t stress,
but the presser feet can also be purchased separately. Just make sure it’s
compatible with your machine before you purchase them. A bobbin is a small metal
or plastic spools that’s loaded with thread before you start your project and
it’s inserted into the lower part of your sewing machine. There are two types
of bobbin housing: a top-loading bobbin and a front-loading bobbin. Both have
their advantages. A top-loading bobbin is slightly easier to set up, you can also
see your bobbin through a small plastic door making it easier to tell when
you’re running low on bobbin thread. Front-loading bobbins like we have on
ours here require a few extra steps when
you’re threading your machine but they do offer more control over bobbin
tension. Some machines come with a speed control setting that allows you to slow
down or speed up your sewing machine. It’s really handy. Some machines also
come with a thread cutter. They can be kind of hidden in weird places on your
machine so just make sure to look out for those. And those are the basic
machine parts. Don’t forget to read your manual to learn all about what your
machine has to offer, but next we’re gonna talk about ironing or as we like
to call it in the sewing world pressing. You have two important work stations in
your sewing space whenever you make a project you’re going to spend almost the
same amount of time sewing as you are pressing. Really quick there is a
difference between ironing and pressing I’ll show you. Ironing is a back and
forth motion and totally cool to use on your finished clothes, it will stretch a
piece of fabric though so you don’t want to iron your fabric before you cut it or
iron your seams while you’re sewing, you want to press! Pressing is an up and down
motion. By pressing up and down you don’t risk stretching your fabric got it? You
will use your iron almost as much as your machine. Pressing not only makes
your fabric look good it also aids in the construction of garments. Look for an
iron with good adjustable steam and temperature. This will allow you to
fine-tune the amount of moisture and heat that you need for different kinds
of fabrics. Some fabrics require a lot of steam,
other fabrics don’t need any steam at all. An ironing board is also essential
for achieving a crisp professional finish on your garments. A standard full
size ironing board will allow you to press cuts of fabric as well as full
garments. Most of them are adjustable so you can find the height that works best
for you. A tailor’s ham and a sleeve roll are totally optional, but really handy
tools. Since garments form 3D shapes, a ham and a roll can make pressing those
curves even easier. When you’re pressing your fabric you want to protect it from
heat damage and any water stains so you’re just gonna want a press cloth. A
press cloth is simply a piece of fabric that you place over your garment when
you’re pressing and it will take any risk of damage. Cotton muslin,
cotton canvas, or even wool are all good options for a press cloth. Just have a
piece handy whenever you’re pressing. Here’s a little tip: having a spray
bottle handy will allow you to add more steam power when you’re pressing
stubborn wrinkles or really thick seams. There are a bunch more tools you can add
to your sewing space but these are all that you’ll need to get started for your
pressing station. All right so now that you know all about your sewing machine
and you’ve set up a pressing station, it’s time to gather some other handy
notions. In the next lesson we’re going to learn about creating a sewing toolkit.

1 thought on “Learn to Sew: How to Understand Sewing Equipment

  1. This is so good for beginners! It can be so threatening at first, so I love this friendly guide!

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