In the first part of this series, I talked about all of the tools you'll most likely need in order to do some basic machine sewing. Today I''ll talk about the most important tool you'll need: the sewing machine!
There are all different brands of machines you can be working on, and since we're all going to be using different one I won't go into anything too specific to my own machine, but I'd like to just talk about a few helpful principles and tips to getting your machine ready to sew.
Needle and thread:
First, you need to string your thread. You'll have to consult your machine's manual for exact threading of your own machine, but they're all pretty much the same. The thread spool belongs on the top right. It doesn't really matter if you unwind the thread off the back of the spool or off the front, though I tend to have it unwind from the back.
The thread continues along the top to the left side where it's looped around a small circle, then down the front, under the guard, back up to slip into a metal crook inside the machine, and then down to the needle. One important slot that's often forgotten is right where the needle is inserted. There is a small "wire" open on the left side that helps keep the thread taut. Be sure not to forget to use this slot before threading the needle.
Next is your bobbin. Again, you'll have to consult your machine on how to wind and load your bobbin, but the bobbin will fit into the bobbin case and both parts will snap into your machine under the front.
The thread should always come off toward the right when loading the bobbin case, so when it's inserted in the machine the bobbin can spin clockwise.
To catch the bobbin thread, make sure the thread comes off to the right of the bobbin case arm. Holding both the upper (needle) thread and lower (bobbin) thread in your left hand, turn the advancing wheel (on the right side of the machine) toward you. This will lower the needle down into the bobbin housing and will catch the thread in a loop. Keep advancing until the loop comes through the slot in the needle plate. Pull the loop through, making sure the two strings are not intertwined.
Once you have your threads ready to go, slide your fabric under the needle, align it with a guide, and pull the presser foot down to hold the fabric. Make sure your threads are coming straight off the side of your fabric and aren't tangled underneath, and make sure the upper thread is fully under the presser foot.. This will help keep them from being sewn into your seam.
To start sewing, manually lower the needle into the fabric and advance it one or two stitches. This also helps keep the threads from getting caught in the seam.
Your sewing machine may come with built-in thread snipping blades. Mine has two: one on the side and one on the back of the needle shaft. They're handy if you're working quickly, or can't find your scissors.
Buttons and settings:
Your machine will come with a varying number of stitch settings, but you will basically be using your straight stitch and your zig-zag stitch. Each stitch is given a number, which corresponds to a number on your stitch selection dial.
This dial will have numbers that correspond to the types of stitches. Above, you can see that straight stitch is number three, so my stitch dial (below) is set on three. When changing your stitch type, always make sure your needle is lifted out of your fabric. Changing the stitch can cause the needle to jump and it needs freedom to move.
The stitch length dial tells your machine how long or short to make the stitch. The higher the number, the longer the stitch. The general stitch length is 3.
The stitch height dial sets how tall more intricate stitches, like a zig-zag, will be. The higher the number, the taller the stitch. When in straight stitch, use L, M, R to set how you want your needle positioned- to the left, in the center, or off to the right. The general setting is in the middle.
The backwards button allows you to sew backwards, usually to double back over a set of stitches you want to be more secure. Pressing this button down will make the fabric slide in the opposite direction.
Most importantly, you have to be able to master control over the food pedal. Until you are comfortable with that, you will have problems sewing with your machine. If you step too hard, your needle is going to get away from you and start sewing too fast for you to control. You want to learn to maintain a nice, easy, steady rhythm.
Homework for this week:
With that scrap 8 x8 inch piece of fabric I told you to find in Part One, I want you to take a half hour or so and play around with your machine. If you are someone who is already comfortable with your machine and can sew without it getting away from you, just see what you can do. Try out some different stitches, change the stitch length and height, practice backing over the same length of stitches.
If you are someone who can work the machine but never feel like you were doing it quite right, and the needle takes off on you and makes you feel kind of jumpy, just sit and practice running a straight stitch. Do it over and over again until you can control the foot pedal and are able to run a series of stitches at a nice, easy pace. You may have to make 100 lines or more, but it is worth it to feel like you have control of the machine. Try and do this a few times over the next week, and then once you gain control, change the stitch, change the length, etc. to try out your machine's settings.
For the next part of the series, you'll need to pieces of fabric that are preferably at least 6 x 6 inches. Same kind as today- cotton and non-stretchy is the best. It can be scrap fabric, as we'll try a few things before making a project.
If you have questions or comments, please leave them below!