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Sewing Basics: Anatomy of a Sewing Machine

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Learn all about the anatomy of a sewing machine. In this sewing basics series for beginners, you’ll learn all about the anatomy of your sewing machine!

Sewing machine anatomy diagram

Way back in February, I shared with you my Sewing Machine Buying Guide. This Guide was designed to help you select a sewing machine that will best meet your needs. There are so many different makes and models of sewing machines on the market, that it can be quite daunting to try to figure out even which machine to buy, let alone actually sew!

I gifted my old Singer sewing machine to our oldest daughter and I’ve spent some time re-introducing her to sewing. And now that everyone is trying to sew face masks and teaching themselves to sew at the same time, I thought it would be appropriate for me to pick up where I left off on my sewing basics series.

Sewing Basics

Like I said, I have designed a series of tutorials that are specifically geared towards the beginner sewist. In my first post in this series, I talked about all the important things to consider when purchasing a sewing machine.

In this series for beginning sewers (or is it sewists??), I hope to provide a complete course in mastering the basics. I’ll walk you through sewing fundamentals, from the anatomy of a sewing machine, to threading your machine through attaching buttons and zippers.

sewing machine buying guide with picture of Janome sewing machine, scissors, tape measure and thread

The topics explored in this series are perfect for new sewers or for those looking to brush up on the basics of sewing. Lessons include hemming, attaching buttons and zippers, how to iron, sewing mitered corners and even how to read a pattern – plus more!!

But, first……

Step One: Read the Manual

sewing machine manuals

So, now that you’ve made your sewing machine purchase, what’s next? I’m glad you asked! The very first thing you will want to do after purchasing your sewing machine is to READ THE MANUAL.

Reading the manual will help you in so many ways. Even now, after all these years of sewing, I still find that I sometimes refer to the manual when I want to find out things specific to my sewing machine.

Inside each sewing machine manual you should find a diagram of the anatomy of your sewing machine. What you may not know is that all sewing machines have the same basic anatomy. Others may have more features, but there’s a certain set of features that will be consistent across all sewing machines.

Sewing Machine Anatomy

Now that you’ve read your manual, the below picture of a sewing machine should look somewhat familiar to you.

Depending on what make and model of sewing machine you own, it may look slightly different than the above illustration. Which, again, is why reading your sewing machine manual is so important. Having said that, let’s take a look at the main parts or what I like to call the anatomy of a sewing machine.

Sewing Machine Front Anatomy

1 – Bobbin Winder

Used to wind the thread onto the bobbin. The bobbin is used as the lower thread.

2 – Spool Pin

Holds the spool of thread.

4 – Tension Knob or Dial

Controls the tension of the upper (spool) thread.

5 – Thread Guide

The thread guide is used when winding the thread onto the bobbin and/or when threading the sewing machine.

6 – Thread Take-Up Lever

The thread is usually wrapped around this lever, which moves up and down, when threading the sewing machine.

7 – Thread Cutter

A blade that is used to cut threads. On some sewing machines, the thread cutter is located along the left side near the back of the sewing machine. On others, it may literally be on the back of the machine. Some machines do not have a thread cutter and some have a built-in thread cutter. My machine has a built-in or automatic thread cutter. The thread is cut simply by pressing a button.

19 – Presser Foot Holder

Holds the presser foot, usually with a screw.

20 – Presser Foot

The presser foot applies pressure consistently on the fabric as it is sewn. There are different kinds of presser foots. Be sure to select the correct presser foot for your fabric type and sewing application.

21 – Feed Dogs

The feed dogs feed the fabric under the presser foot.

Sewing Machine Back Anatomy

11 – Handwheel

The handwheel is used to manually raise and lower the needle.

12 – Power Switch

Turns on the power and light on and off.

13 – Jack

Where the plug on the power supply cord is plugged into the sewing machine.

14 – Foot Controller Jack

Where the foot controller is plugged in to the sewing machine.

15 – Feed Dog Lever

The purpose of the feed dog is to pull or “feed” the fabric through the sewing machine. The Feed Dog Lever allows you to lower (disengage) and raise (engage) the feed dogs. Make sure your sewing machine needle is in the up position before lowering/raising the feed dog.

16 – Presser Foot Lever

The presser foot lever is used to raise and lower the sewing machine’s presser foot.

17 – Foot Controller

Most sewing machines are equipped with a foot controller. You simply plug in the foot controller into the sewing machine and press on the foot controller to begin sewing and to control the speed at which the machine sews a stitch. (I forgot to take a picture of the foot controller, but you can see it in the below diagram.)

Your Sewing Machine May Look Different

Although your sewing machine may look different than the diagrams, the features should be similarly located and the functionality of each feature is essentially the same. And, of course, if you have a higher end sewing machine, serger or combination sewing/embroidery machine, you may have additional features and functionality.

However, this sewing machine basics tutorial was designed with the new or beginner sewist in mind. I hope the review of the anatomy of a sewing machine will help you become more familiar with your sewing machine. Afterall, the more you know and the better you understand your sewing machine, the more confident you’ll become in your sewing journey.

If you liked this sewing machine anatomy tutorial, you might also like these other sewing projects from The Birch Cottage blog:

You’ll find even more sewing ideas here. Happy sewing!

Pam from The Birch Cottage

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