A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing Machines
From light repairs to detailed embroidery, sewing machines had been a part of world culture forever. Before the time of our great-great-grandmothers and their mothers, everyone used their hands to sew with needles and thread, whether it was a simple napkin or a massive blanket.
Sewing was a time-consuming and difficult task before the invention of the first practical sewing machine in 1846. A few decades after that, almost every household owned a basic sewing machine, making it much easier and faster to sew anything.
From the mid-19th century to today, the personal sewing machine has gone through countless improvements. What started as a sewing machine to make 250 stiches in a minute are now computerized machines that can work out detailed embroideries in less than a minute and comes with dozens of built-in stitches.
Hand Sewing vs. Sewing Machines
Most of the time, when it is simple repair jobs, many of us still use our hands for a quick 5-minute job. Hobbyists, too, prefer to do their embroideries by hand instead of using a computerized embroidery machine like most professionals do.
Still, when it comes to heavy duty sewing, tailoring or professional-grade embroidery, everyone relies on the help of a sewing machine these days. From the different types of sewing and embroidery machines available in the market, you can choose any one that suits your needs and the projects you have at hand.
Both methods have some pros and cons in their basket.
Speed: There’s no doubt that any kind of sewing machines are way faster than sewing with your hands. What takes us hours to complete using our hands, a needle and some thread can be completed in a few minutes with a machine. Even the most experienced tailor can only make around 60 stiches in a minute whereas the basic sewing machines can make up to 1100 stitches in the same time.
So, if you are in a hurry or if you have a lot of work on your hands, there’s nothing better than using a sewing machine.
Quality: Even an experienced tailor or embroider can make mistakes in their stitches, but a sewing machine won’t. Missed stitches, uneven length, wrong stitches – these are the problems we might face when sewing with our hands. A sewing machine will rarely make any mistakes of its own, unless the user is making a mistake operating the mistake.
The quality of sewing will, of course, definitely be better with a sewing machine. Every single stitch will be exactly of the same length and breadth, and there would be no chance of a missed stitch or a wrong stitch with a machine.
Diversity: While we are completely capable of learning a few dozen different stitches, any sewing machines comes built-in with at least a fifty of them. From the basic stitches to the complicated ones needed for embroidery or repair jobs, any sewing machine these days already have them built into the machine so that we don’t have to learn them.
Therefore, if you want diversity in your work, a sewing machine is a better option than simply sewing with your hands.
Professionalism: Any sewing done by a sewing machine is going to be a much better fit if you have a business or if you are sewing for profit. All stitches done by a machine usually comes out flawless and perfect, compared to being done by hand. It is specially in cases of basic ones such as the straight lockstitch that go wrong when tried with hand. These kind of stitches require a straight line and is quite difficult to achieve when sewn by hand.
Cost: Of course, when it comes to cost, even the most basic sewing machines are quite expensive. There are some cheaper and lesser-quality machines available in the market but they are still expensive compared to buying needles, thread, embroidery hoops and other simple sewing tools and accessories.
Control: It’s true that you won’t have a lot of control on your sewing machine when working on a project. With a hand-sewn embroidery, you can make your stitches as short or as long as you want to, or you can make them different from each other. With a sewing machine or an embroidery machine, on the other hand, all the stitches are going to be mostly identical.
Evolution of Sewing Machine
When it was first introduced in 1846, even the most popular sewing machines were completely different than the ones we see today. The first sewing machine was designed mainly to stitch buttons, hem and cross-stitch fabric, sew bags and cut down on time needed to make clothes.
However, it was in 1850, when Isaac Singer built the first commercially successful sewing machine. This machine was powered with a foot paddle and almost resembled the basic sewing machine we are all familiar with. While all the previous models had the needles move from side to side, the sewing machine made by Mr. Singer had a needle that moved up and down.
It wasn’t until 1889 that a regular household could afford to buy a sewing machine for personal use. Electric sewing machines were also introduced in the same year, making them widely popular in homes.
During the early 1900s, sewing machines became a common household item. Almost every adult female in a family knew how to use a machine to sew fabrics, make and repair clothes. Singer sewing machines, manufactured by the company founded by Isaac Singer, was the most popular brand worldwide. It was closely followed by Kenmore and Brother – two other brands that are still popular today.
In 1978, Singer invented the first ever computer-controlled sewing machine, the Touchtronic 2001. It had a hands-free operation and came with an adjustable stitch length and width, and an adjustable presser foot pressure, as well as a drop-in bobbin and a one-step buttonhole.
The first computerized embroidery sewing machines were invented in the 1980s, both for homes and businesses. Although quite different from the embroidery machines used today, these computerized embroidery machines could stitch quilts, lace, leather and cutwork in a very short time.
For almost 200 years, sewing machines have been a popular household appliance for men and women all over the world. Although most people prefer to buy their clothes these days, sewing machines are still popular to people who love sewing and embroidering.
Different Types of Sewing Machines
From when household sewing machines were first introduced back in the middle of the 19th century, we’ve seen a number of different variations of this popular appliance. From the basic sewing machines to the large industrial ones, here are the most popular types of sewing machines we see even today.
- Mechanical or the Domestic Sewing Machines are the simplest and most inexpensive versions of sewing machines used for basic tailoring, repairing and sewing. The latest models have more than one in-built stitch patterns, are hand operated and works on most regular fabrics. These are completely manual and works with a hand lever or a foot paddle.
- Electronic Sewing Machines run on electricity and come with a few built-in stitches, with some special provisions for buttonhole stitching, quilting, embroidering, hemming and reverse stitching. They are usually smaller than mechanical sewing machines and easy to repair or find replacement parts for.
- Computerized Sewing Machines can be connected to a computer or the Internet, and also to cards loaded with pattern designs. They can have up to 200 built-in stitches, which makes them quite expensive. These are also big machines that can be used for quilting, making clothes, embroidering, smocking and repair jobs.
- Embroidery Sewing Machines are manufactured for complicated, detailed and even heavy duty embroidery work. Although most electronic and computerized sewing machines can be used for embroidery, these machines can guarantee professional-grade work with no errors. Embroidery sewing machines are mostly used by professionals, designers and businesses.
- Sergers or Overlocker Sewing Machines are also used by tailors, fashion designers and professional garment-manufacturers. They are used for sewing the edges of two or more fabrics together as securely and permanently as possible, i.e. in making clothes and garments.
- Industrial Model Sewing Machines are perfect for garment-manufacturers as they can sew through multiple layers of fabrics at the same time and keep on working for hours at a time without the motor getting heated. These machines can be even used to sew through upholstery, leather, denim, jeans, rubber, canvas and plastic.
- Handheld Sewing Machines are the latest addition to the evolution and immensely popular as they are small and compact. These sewing machines are perfect for instant repairs around the house, and even for quilting and various DIY projects. Most of the time, they run on batteries or electricity and are so lightweight that they can be carried around in your bag.
Some other kinds of sewing machines include:
- Long Arm Quilting Machines for quilting purposes;
- Button Sewing Machines for putting on buttons;
- Buttonhole Machines for making buttonholes;
- Bar Tack Sewing Machines for only making bar tacks on specific parts of garments;
- Flat Seam Machine for binding but edges;
- Safety Stitch Machines for edge neatening and seam stitching, and more.
These specialized sewing machines are more required in the garment industries and businesses.
Important parts of Sewing Machines
A sewing machine, even the simplest ones, might seem complicated to any user if this is the first time you are using one. However, once you know what the important parts are and what they do, they will all seem reasonable to you.
These are the most important parts on any sewing machine:
- A spool pin is a long vertical or horizontal pillar on top of the sewing machine that holds the thread.
- A Bobbin Binder Spindle is a smaller version of the spool pin that holds the bobbin during winding.
- A Bobbin Winder Stopper stops the bobbin from winding when the bobbin reaches its maximum holding capacity.
- The Pattern Selector Dial helps to select the stitch you want to work with.
- The Stitch Width Dial controls the zigzag pattern.
- The Hand Wheel is the dial mostly situated on the right side of the sewing machine and helps to raise and lower the needle, causing the machine to work.
- The Stitch Length Dial controls the length of the stitches.
- The Reverse Stitch Lever sews in reverse.
- Bobbin Winder Thread Guide are needed during winding of the bobbin.
- The Power Switch is used to turn the sewing machine on and off.
- The Thread Tension Dial controls the tension of the top thread.
- The Presser Foot holds the fabric in place while sewing.
- The Needle, of course, is used to make the stitches. The needles used in a sewing machine is different than the ones used for hand sewing.
- The Needle Plate covers the needle and the presser foot, and helps to move the fabric during sewing.
- The Feed Dog pulls the fabric forward.
- The Needle Clamp Screw holds the needle in its place.
- The Thread Take-up Lever moves with the needle and takes the thread up and down while stitching.
- The Bobbin Cover covers and protects the bobbin holder.
These are only some of the important parts of a basic sewing machine. With machines that has more features, there will undoubtedly be a few more buttons, levers and dials.
Tools Needed in Sewing Machines
Although the sewing machine is going to be your main appliance, there are some other tools that are going to be helpful.
- First of all, you’re definitely going to need a pair of scissors to cut your thread and fabric. A pair of scissors is indispensable when you are sewing.
- A measuring tape is also quite necessary when sewing or working with fabrics. Measuring tapes can be of different types and they usually have both centimeter and inch measurements on them.
- Sewing needles are different from the needles we need for hand sewing, i.e. the needles used in sewing machines have their eyeholes nearer the tip of the needle.
- You’ll need some pins to keep your fabrics together while cutting or sewing, and a pin cushion to store all the pins.
- A household iron is enough to iron your fabric before and after sewing. Sewing your fabrics makes them flat and crease-free, and easier to sew. After sewing, ironing makes the thread meld into the fabric, which makes the garment comfortable to wear.
With an iron, you might also need a press cloth which is a piece of scrap cloth to put between the iron and the fabric, an iron board and a pair of pressing gloves.
- A thimble is more necessary when you are sewing with your hands, because it protects your thumb from getting pricked by the needle.
- A needle threader is quite helpful in putting your thread through your needles.
- Most sewing machines use cotton and polyester threads, but also threads made of metallic, rayon, silk, nylon and wooly nylon. These are the kind of threads are necessary when sewing with a machine.
- Rulers are great for taking straight measurements, even when you have a measuring tape. Rulers are available from 6”x1” to 6”x24” in size.
- You’re going to need a seam ripper to cut through wrong seams. A pair of scissors can be used for the same job, but a seam ripper does it better and faster.
- Chalks are important for marking on your fabrics, as they are easily removable after washing.
- A lint roller and a thread catcher do the same kind of service to your fabric, which is to clean stray fits of thread and fiber from the clothes.
- A sewing gauge can measure and mark the depth of the ham, draw circles and scallops, and helps in evenly placing buttonholes.
- Rotary cutters and cutting mats are extremely important when making a quilt, but they can be used in cutting your fabric for other purposes, as well.
- A tracing wheel leaves a fine imprint on fabrics that can be removed after sewing simply by ironing.
These are only some of the tools and accessories that are going to make it much easier to complete your sewing projects. There might be a lot more that you can end up buying, but these happen to be the most important ones.
Using a Sewing Machine as a Beginner
A sewing machine is one of the simplest appliance you can have in your house, and it is quite easy to learn how to use it.
The inner mechanisms of a sewing machine are easy enough to understand. As a beginner, you just need to follow a few specific steps to learn; the method may vary depending on the model or the type of sewing machine, but they are essentially similar.
Here are some steps you need to follow to use a sewing machine
The first step, obviously, is to turn on the sewing machine. If your machine is an electrical one, you need to switch on the button for this. For a manual sewing machine, there is no on/off switch.
The next step would require you to install the needle to the needle post. The needle post is usually on the left, just adjacent to the base of sewing machine. The needle is attached to the post and tightened by screwing in the thumbscrew by the side of the needle post.
Then, place the bobbin spool on the bobbin winder and turn it on. The bobbin winder will rotate automatically until the bobbin is full. When the bobbin has been wound, it needs to be placed into the bobbin cage, which is below the needle point of the sewing machine.
The next step would be threading the machine. This depends on the model you are using, as threading the machine requires the thread to go through a number of hooks and levers. The exact guideline should be in the user guide that comes with the machine.
The thread also needs to go through the needle attached to the needle post.
At the same time, two pieces of thread works together to make stitches on a sewing machine: the thread from the needle and the thread from the bobbin. Pull them both together and keep a part of the thread outside the sewing machine before you start sewing.
Select the kind of stitch you want to work with, as well as the length of individual stitches. These will be both available on the body of the sewing machine depending on the model and all you need to do is to select your choices.
Place a piece of fabric under the needle. If you are a complete beginner, you can practice by sewing on a scrap fabric. For hemming and sewing practices, layer two pieces of fabric, one on top of another, and place them both together under the needle. You can lock the two pieces of fabric with a few pins.
Use your hand to lower the pressure foot of the needle, to lock your fabric under the needle.
Make sure the loose ends of the threads from both the bobbin and the needle are clearly visible outside. There should be at least a few inches of thread hanging beside the sewing machine before you start.
Depending on the type of sewing machine, you have to either press on the foot paddle or press a button to get the machine started. As you are a beginner, you might want to start with a slow speed. Your foot pedal, hand lever or the start button will also control the speed of the machine.
Use the reverse button for the machine to sew in reverse, doubling the stitches and making them stronger and more permanent.
Raise the pressure foot to release your fabric. You can cut away the thread to remove the piece of fabric from the machine or turn it around to sew in another direction. In this way, you can choose any stitch and stitch length and sew anything by using your sewing machine.
However, if you are using a computerized sewing machine or an embroidery machine, the steps might be slightly different.
With a computerized sewing machine, you can choose your preferred stitches directly from the LCD screen on the machine or from your smartphone. These sewing machines also come with numerous speed settings that you can also choose from your phone, as well as a start/stop button to eliminate the need for a foot pedal or a hand lever.
If you are using an embroidery sewing machine, the process is almost similar. You can preload a design on your embroidery machine or import one from a computer, and your sewing machine can recreate it exactly on fabric. If you have a computerized embroidery machine, you can choose your designs, as well as the kind of stitch you want, the length and the speed of the stitch from your smartphone or computer. You can download any design from the Internet or create your own designs; your machine will get to work and embroider the same design on your fabric of choice.
A sewing machine makes your work faster, easier, error-free and professional. Although for a lot of people, using their hands to sew or embroider is a relaxing hobby, it can be a rather time-consuming way to make clothes or finish your projects. A high-quality sewing machine, on the other hand, is exactly what you need for all kinds of sewing, repairing, hemming and embroidery projects.
Top 3 Sewing Machine Review
What do you look for when shopping for a sewing machine? The brand, the features or how much you can achieve with a single machine?
Brother is one of the most renowned names around the world when it comes to sewing machines and embroidery machines. The SE600 is a wonderful mixture of both types of sewing machines – one that you can use for both basic sewing, hemming and repairing jobs and detailed embroideries. With this single machine, you can do it all!
This sewing and embroidery machine from Brother comes with 80 preloaded embroidery designs, 6 embroidery lettering fonts and 100+ built-in stitches. What more can you want from an embroidery machine? The Brother SE600 also has a 4”x4” hoop area under the needle where you can fix your fabric for some quick logo or lettering embroidery.
It’s not just that you can do any kinds of stitches with this sewing machine, but also that it has all the important features that will make your life so much easier while sewing and embroidering. This includes a 3.2” LCD touchscreen that you can use to select your designs and stitching options, 7 included feet, an automatic needle threader, 10 styles of auto-size buttonholes as well as a jam-resistant top bobbin.
How fast can this amazing machine stitch, you ask? The Brother SE600 has an amazing speed of 710 stitches per minute! There’s also a 6”x4” extended needle to arm workspace so that you can work comfortably without being cramped for space.
With all the added features and specialties, this sewing and embroidery machine from Brother is indeed one of the best sewing machines you can invest on. For all kinds of embroidery and sewing jobs, this is a machine that can help you with everything. As far as embroidery machines go, you can’t find one better than the Brother SE600.
- 80 built-in embroidery designs
- 100+ stitching options
- 6 embroidery lettering font
- 10 styles of auto-size buttonholes
- 7 included quick changing feet
- 3.2” full color LED screen
- 4” x 4” built-in embroidery hoop
- 6” x 4” needle to arm workspace
- 710 stitches per minute
- Automatic needle threader
- Automatic jam-resistant drop-in bobbin
- Design preview on screen before and while embroidering
SINGER 4423 Sewing Machine
The name of the brand almost says it all, doesn’t it?
Whenever you hear the name “Singer” associated with sewing machines, you know this is a machine you can trust! Sturdy and almost traditional looking, the Singer 4423 is nevertheless one of the best models from the renowned company.
What doesn’t this model have? First of all, the Singer 4423 comes with 23 built-in stitches that include basic, decorative, stretch and buttonhole stitching so that, as a complete beginner, you can work with everything.
This sewing machine also has an astounding 1,100 stitches per minute speed, which is higher compared to most other sewing machines. If you run a business, make your own clothes or sew a lot, you are definitely going to appreciate this speed in a sewing machine! The motor is 60% stronger than other machines as well, which mean you can keep the Singer 4423 running for hours without any kind of damage or strain.
With a heavy-duty metal frame, the Singer 4423 is definitely a sewing machine you can trust with your projects. It’s not only the outer structure and the motor that is sturdy, but the metal interior and all the removable parts are equally trustworthy. As a result, you can sew through any heavy weight fabrics like denim, leather and canvas easily without any strain to the machine.
With the sewing machine, you also get a variety of tools and accessories that are going to be a great help as a beginner to this skill. This includes a total of 4 included feet (all-purpose foot, button sewing foot, button hole foot and zipper foot), a seam ripper, a lint brush, bobbins and needles, an auxiliary spool pin, a screwdriver and a spool pin felt. With all these added accessories as a gift, you won’t have to buy anything except the fabric and thread of your choice.
- 1,100 stitches per minute
- 23 built-in stitches
- 4 included feet
- 60% stronger model than most other models
- Automatic Needle Threader
- Heavy-duty interior and exterior
- Can sew on heavy-weight fabrics
- Comes with an assortment of tools and accessories
- Can keep on working for hours at a time
- Trustworthy and sturdy machine
MagicFly Mini Sewing Machine for Beginners
Overwhelmed by the large and majestic-looking sewing machines when you are just a beginner?
For you specially, the MagicFly Mini sewing machine is a small and portable tool that you can simply carry around in your bag. You can use this mini sewing machine for basic sewing around the house, DIY projects, emergency repair jobs but also for large jobs like making quilts and hemming curtains. If required, you can simply attach it to the extension table that comes with the machine to turn it into a regular sewing machine. At the same time, you can use it as a portable sewing machine to carry around with you.
What does that make the MagicFly Mini?
A 2-in-1 sewing machine that is convenient, affordable and efficient.
This mini sewing machine runs on both batteries and AC/DC power supply; however, this can be a wireless device that can run by charging, or simply by using a foot pedal. There are two speed settings in this sewing machine: “high” and “slow”, which suits both if you are a beginner and if you want fast results. The MagicFly Mini sewing machine works on a double threads design, which means it uses double threads on every stitch, making your sewing stronger and more durable.
With this sewing machine, you get an elaborate 42 piece sewing set with all the accessories you’re going to need for your initial projects. This set includes as many as 36 thread bobbins, a tape measure, 5 pieces of needles, a needle threader, an extension table and a pair of scissors. All of these come together in a bag that can fit everything together.
All things consider, this is quite a handy sewing machine to have with you at home, at work or on your travels for quick repairs and basic sewing projects.
- Compact, portable and lightweight
- Perfect for beginners and young children
- Great for travelling with or quick repairs
- Runs on batteries, power supply, food pedal and charge
- Two speed settings: ‘high’ and ‘slow’
- Comes with an extension table for
- Comes with a 43 piece sewing set
- Always uses double threads for stronger stitches
- Comes in a portable bag for carrying
- Uncomplicated single stitch option