How Do You Use A Sewing Machine


Sewing has long been a popular craft activity, and sewing machines have been in existence for hundreds of years. It can be difficult coming to terms with how to use a sewing machine, but once you understand the basics, you’ll find that it’s relatively easy to make creative projects with them. In this article, we’ll look at how to use a sewing machine and how to get the most out of it. We’ll also explore two more advanced techniques of how to use a sewing machine.

How Does A Sewing Machine Work?

A sewing machine works by using a needle to move thread through fabric to make a stitch. This can be done by hand, or by using a machine to automate the process. When using a machine, the needle is powered by an electric motor and the needle moves up and down as it passes through the fabric. There are also various attachments that can be used to control stitch length, tension, and other settings.

Basic Technique

The basic technique for learning how to use a sewing machine involves starting with the machine on a setting for a straight stitch. Before attempting to use the machine, it’s important to understand the various parts of the machine and adjust the settings accordingly. Once the sewing machine is set up, the needle should be threaded with the type of thread recommended by the manufacturer. The fabric should then be placed under the needle, with the wrong side facing up.
When starting to sew on the fabric, the stitch length should be set to a medium length. The presser foot should be held down on the fabric and the machine should be set to a slow speed. As the machine moves the needle up and down, the fabric should be gently guided with the hands. Once you have gotten comfortable with the basic technique, you can experiment with various stitch lengths, stitch types, and fabric weights.

More Advanced Techniques

Once you have mastered the basics, you can use a sewing machine to create more complex designs. One way to do this is to use a zigzag stitch. With a zigzag stitch, the needle moves diagonally, which allows for more intricate patterns. This stitch can also be used to secure two pieces of fabric together, or to add a decorative edge.
Another more advanced technique is to use a serger. A serger, also known as an overlock machine, is used to neatly finish the edges of a garment. Not only does it give a professional finish, but it can also provide strength to the garment, which is important in high-stress areas such as a waistline or shoulders.

Using The Feed Dogs

When you first get to grips with your machine, it’s often a good idea to use the feed dogs to help you achieve a more uniform finish. The feed dogs are a row of small teeth that help to guide the fabric through the machine. When you use the feed dogs, the fabric is pulled through at an even pace, helping you to achieve an even and consistent stitch.

Preparing The Stitch

Once you have familiarised yourself with how the machine works and have selected the right stitch and thread settings, it’s important to prepare the stitch before starting to sew. The most important thing is to make sure that the thread has been wound properly and is tight enough that the tension doesn’t become too loose. This can be done by winding a bobbin with the thread and then threading the machine as per the instructions.

Maintaining The Sewing Machine

When using a sewing machine, it’s important to remember that regular maintenance is necessary to keep it in good condition. This includes oiling the machine and replacing parts as needed. If you have any questions about maintaining your sewing machine, it’s worth consulting your manual or a qualified technician.

Finishing Seams

Once you have completed the stitching, it’s important to finish the seams correctly. To do this, you need to press the seam with an iron and trim the excess thread and fabric. If you are constructing a garment, you may also need to finish the seams with a serger, or you can use a zigzag stitch to secure the edges.

Adding Embellishments

Once you have mastered the basics of how to use a sewing machine, you can start to experiment with more advanced techniques such as adding embellishments to your projects. This includes adding buttons, zippers, piping, lace, ribbon, and more. By learning how to use these techniques, you will be able to add unique touches to your projects.

Hems, Seams, and Pockets

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start to explore different techniques for creating hems, seams, and pockets. Making a hem is relatively simple and can be achieved by folding the fabric and topstitching it in place. Seams are slightly more complex and can involve narrowing seam allowances, adding darts, and topstitching. When it comes to creating pockets, this involves cutting the fabric in the correct size and sewing them in place.

Advanced Construction Techniques

For more complex projects, you can use advanced techniques such as smocking or pleats. Smocking involves gathering the fabric with thread and is usually done on fabric with elasticity, such as cotton or linen. Pleats are folds of fabric that are sewn into place and can be used to create more intricate designs.

Creative Techniques

Once you have mastered the basics of using a sewing machine, you can start to explore creative techniques such as appliqué, patchwork, and quilting. Appliqué is a process of using fabric shapes to create a design on a fabric background. Patchwork is the process of combining multiple fabric pieces to create a single design and quilting involves stitching together a fabric backing, a cotton filling, and a pattern on top.


Sewing is an enjoyable activity that can be done either by hand or with the help of a machine. While it can be daunting coming to terms with a sewing machine, once you understand the basics and learn how to use it correctly, you can create some beautiful and practical projects. With enough practice and perseverance, you’ll soon be able to produce a wide variety of garments and items with your sewing machine.

Geoffrey Kirby is an experienced author and sewist who has been creating sewn projects for over 20 years. He has a passion for teaching beginners and inspiring more advanced sewists both online and through his writings. Outside of writing about sewing, Geoffrey loves to explore new techniques and styles of sewing that incorporate upcycling fabric remnants into sweet items with personality.

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