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How to Sew (using a sewing machine)

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When I turned 13, my stepmom, Cassandra, got me the best birthday present ever (still, to this day, I feel), a sewing machine! I immediately taught myself to sew and over the next 27 years, created everything from tiny little purses to huge Victorian ballgowns. I want to impart my passion to others and I hope I can spark the creative juices for someone else, no matter their age. :)

This Instructable will serve as an introduction to sewing with a sewing machine. I'm aiming it for an absolute beginner, and am writing this as a really basic lesson. If you're a beginner, and a step isn't clear enough, please let me know.

p.s. There are already several good instructables on how to thread a sewing machine, so I won't be including that part.

 
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Step 1: Tips on Acquiring a Sewing Machine

If you already have a machine, it's imperative to make sure it's been recently serviced. Doing this will ensure your mechanics (such as the Bobbin Tension and Feed Dog - the mechanism that moves the fabric when sewing) are in proper working order and any abnormality in sewing will be "pilot error", which can be corrected through practice.

If you haven't been gifted a machine and are looking to purchase your first machine, here are some hints to help you choose the right one.

a. Start by finding a reputable sewing machine repair shop.
Often they will be attached to a dealership (just like cars!). If you can find an independent repair shop, and you have a good rapport with the mechanic, you might be happier. This guy (or gal) will be straight about repairs and won't tell you to give up your old machine to buy the latest model. Also, s/he will be a good source for acquiring a good, used machine if you're on a budget. If, on the other hand you find that your local sewing machine dealer is fabulous, by all means, use your best resources and go for it.

b. Get a machine with all-metal parts.
Many cheaper model sewing machines have plastic pieces. These parts are the ones that will invariably break first. Replacement of the parts may be cheaper, but you'll end up spending far more for the labor to install new plastic parts that will break again. (SIDE NOTE: my stepmom bought me a Sears Kenmore 12-stitch: all-metal parts. It's still running strong, with only the occasional tune-up, for almost 30 years!). If the choice is an all-metal, simpler sewing machine with "only' 12 stitches and a machine with more bells and whistles (and plastic parts) for the same price, invest in the first machine.

c. When you're first starting out, consider a basic model.
In all honesty, you're likely to never require more stitches than those included with the basic 12-stitch model. If, down the road, you find your sewing becomes detailed enough that you need a more complex machine, look for a machine that'll fit those specific needs. You can then keep your first machine as a workhorse, to just do crafting, or buttonholes, or whatever. Or, you can gift your first machine to a non-profit , like your local Girls & Boys Club.
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Jessie Marie11 months ago
Does the sewing machine automatically tie a knot after you are done, or do you have to?
Lynnaper1 year ago
I am an old dog wanting to learn a new tricks. I have done cross stitch and crocheting since I was a teen. I now have Multiple Sclerosis. My hands tremor uncontrollably when I am doing something that requires fine motor skills. Also my hands are about 70% numb. I need to know if my shaky and numb hands will prevent me from sewing. I can do tedious things (like thread a needle) but it takes me lots of patience and more time than normal.
I know this response is almost a year too late, but I guess better late than never. The numbness and tremors may cause you some pretty severe problems. There was a time I was guiding fabric and got my finger stuck between the machine and the presser foor knob. It was quite painful and I imagine having these issues would intensify the likelyhood of a mishap. I am not you however, and only you and your doctor can judge if this would be something you should pursue. I hope I was helpful. Best of luck to you!
emmae2 years ago
I have bough a brother 6000i and it is so easy to use I would recommend it to anybody - however I want to sew really heavy curtains and find that the machine moves around - any idea on a way to weigh it down?

all the best

Webmaster of brothers 6000i
caltain emmae1 year ago
Just set the machine on a sheet of 1/8" thick neoprene. If you cannot get the neoprene, use non-slip shelf/drawer liner. You should find small rolls of liner in the "kitchenware" section of your local grocery store. It's basically a foam grid. I also use a piece on the front passenger seat of my car (when the seat is unoccupied). It does a terrific job of keeping my cell phone, iPad, books and other slick objects from jumping into the door pocket whenever I turn left and diving into the footwell every 30 seconds in stop-and-go traffic. It's even fairly easy to find in a color that compliments or contrasts your seat color!
These tips are great! I cannot wait to start sewing! Thank you!
Resurrecting an old thread (har har).......

In talking with a friend of mine (that has inspired me to invest in a good machine) he told me he uses seam tape instead of pins but that it gunks up the machine after a few hundred yards of sewing. He's sewing ripstop nylon and said he uses the tape because pinning, by nature of the project would take the finished piece (a kite) to an inch of it's life....too much perforation.

On a dual feed machine will pinning / seam tape still be required or can one trust the dual feed to keep things even if I let the feeders do their job?

(I know I could just try and see but I haven't picked up the new machine yet nor do I have rolls of ripstop nylon around to play with.....yet.)
 I was wondering if you know any good sewing machine brands for a beginner sewer? :) I want one worthwhile, but at a good cost. Maybe under $100? 
In my opinion the Brother CS6000i Sewing Machine is a very good option for beginners as it has all the features you'll need plus the price and quality is right.

You can choose from pre-programmed settings easily and the automatic needle threader with one step quick set drop in bobbin make threading the Brother CS6000I a breeze.

This website has more information you might enjoy.

http://www.topsewingmachinereviews.info/best-sewing-machine-for-beginners

Hope that helps,

Jan



You are gonna want to buy a Brother XL 2700i 25 stitch free arm sewing machine. You can but it at walmart for like 80 bucks :)
Husqvana, Bernina, Pffaf, and Elna are the big four in domestic sewing machines as far as quality and reliability goes. Old all metal Singers are good as are old Necchi's. I'd look in ebay or garage sales for an older machine. Sometimes they've hardly been used. I've heard varying reports about the modern Brother, Janome etc machines. Probably their 'Top-of-the-line' models are OK but rather pricey.
chakra3 years ago
please help!! i have one of those classic-type all metal singer.
i managed to teach myself to stitch all kinds of fabric except those stretchy ones.. whenever i run a stitch i realise it has undone .. how to deal with these pesky fabric types??
.
and hey!! thanks for every little precious instructions!!! ;-)
did you back stitch?
You have to back stitch or it will come apart.
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mjohn383 years ago
Thank you very much for the info. Very helpfull indeed!
jaderham4 years ago
I am wondering if you think it is worth getting a serger?
LindyGirlThay (author)  jaderham4 years ago
A serger is a great time saver, but you have to invest time into learning how to operate it. Because of that, if you find yourself not sewing alot, or not sewing for long stretches of time, you probably don't need one.

Would you consider making video instructions for threading the lower loopers of a 4 thread serger?
LindyGirlThay (author)  LindyGirlThay4 years ago
I should add a caveat. If you keep finding you are very interested in working with stretchy knit fabrics, then a serger is more likely to be a good investment. Using a straight-stich sewing machine on these types of fabrics has been a arduous task with little reward.
Great instructions! I've had a sewing machine for years, but never felt comfortable enough to actually use it, and I can only sew so much by hand. Goal for the summer -- learn to use the machine!

Sorry if this was already mentioned and I missed it, but I can't find the answer anywhere. Once you finish sewing what you want and cut the thread, do you have to knot it? I guess if the tension is right in the stitches the loose ends shouldn't matter... it just seems like they'd eventually pull out, especially where there's a lot of pressure on seams.
LindyGirlThay (author)  purpleturtle1074 years ago
Your machine should have a button/switch/lever that will reverse the direction your machine sews.  If you look at the first image of my machine, you'll see the big  lever just right of my fist. That's my "reverse". I hold that down and the machine runs back up the stitch line. When I release it, the machine will return to its regular sewing direction.

Whenever you start (and finish) a seam, sew forward a few stitches, then "reverse" back over them. This will "lock" down the seam's edges. Then you can snip the loose threads w/o worry of unraveling the seam.
CementTruck4 years ago
Is there a rule of thumb for positioning the bobbin? I have 2 machines, and they bobbins run in opposite directions for each of them, so I can never remember which way the bobbin goes on each machine. I know that a sharpie marker will take care of the issue, but I want to know if there is a way to look at the bobbin housing and be able to immediately tell which way the bobbin is supposed to go.

Thanks.
LindyGirlThay (author)  CementTruck4 years ago
Great question! As you've discovered positioning of the bobbin is crucial in having proper tension between the upper and bobbin threads. 

Someone may correct me if I'm mistaken that this works universally ( I know that it's always been this way in my experience):

When looking at the bobbin casing, you will notice a diagonal slash where the thread comes through once you've insert the bobbin.


Insert the bobbin so that the thread comes off it in the opposite direction of the slash.

Once the bobbin is inserted and thread pulled through the casing, the bobbin will rotate in a clockwise direction if you pull on the thread.

bobbin-housing.jpgbobbin-housing-and-bobbin.jpg
Thanks for the response, and doubler thanks for the images. That clears things up immensely.

Also, you might want to mention that the piece of metal on top of the bobbin has a screw that may be used to put slightly more tension on the thread. If that doesn't do the trick, the metal can probably be removed and bent by hand just a bit more. It is made of spring steel, which usually holds its shape forever, but sometimes an old machine needs just a little more help.
beingv4 years ago
About 7 years ago I spent a little over $600 on a brand new fancy do-it-all (plastic) sewing machine.  I was determined to teach myself to sew.  The machine did everything, including threading the needle  All I needed to do was insert the spool into a cartridge and pop it into the machine and voila!  Several months later my mom purchased a 1940s Singer machine from a thrift shop and asked me to thread it.  I couldn't.  I spent hours watching videos online and reading about these vintage machines and in that short period of time I learned more about sewing and vintage machines than I had in months with my new-fangled $600 paperweight.  I gave up on new machines shortly after and have since been collecting all-metal vintage sewing machines by Necchi (Italian), Singer, Pfaff and 1950s Japanese manufactured machines branded for other companies like Morse and Kenmore, among others.  I've learned to repair and maintain all of my machines on my own and taught myself to sew in the process.  Not knocking new machines, but for me, there's just something very wonderful about using a machine that has lasted or is built to last several lifetimes. The old school craftsmanship is just remarkable especially when compared to manufactured machines of today.  Yahoo Groups has lots of vintage sewing machine groups with great info on various brand machines.
IMG_0601.JPGNecchi Free Arm 2.jpgcylinder.jpgtreadle.jpgcbfc_12.jpgsinger500a.jpgkoyo new home 8033.jpgnecchi_treadled.jpg
richpirate4 years ago
A big issue with sewing machines are the parts are hard to find for many machines. If you need Sewing Machine Parts, you can find most hard to find parts at www.sewingpartsonline.com. They have almost everything you need and the prices are very reasonable! I got my part in 2 days!
A lot of new Singer sewing machines make sewing incredibly easy.  The Drop & Sew bobbin system & SwiftThread features take care of all the menial threading & bobbin tasks for you, so you can spend your time being creative & doing what you really enjoy doing. 
how do you know if a sewing machine works properly? i found a cheap old sewing machine for 13$ at a thrift store but i dont know if it works. the motor seems to work fine but not shure if everything else does.
LindyGirlThay (author)  dirtyyhippie4 years ago
To really check it, you need to thread it and run some fabric through it. Then you can check tension, too. If you don't want to do that much, you can run it unthreaded and make sure, at least, the pedal works and the needle bar moves well. If you get a thrift find ($13 seems like quite a find!), do make sure to have it serviced. Have fun!
duck-lemon6 years ago
It doesn't say how to thread the machine. either that or i missed it.
Here's a trick for re- threading the needle to a new colour of thread: once your thread is properly guided through the various gates, don't take off your thread. Instead, unwind a few iches from the spool that is already set up. Next, put your new thread on the post were your last spool of thread was. Tie a knot to the extra thread you left from the previous spool to your new spool with a knot. Gently pull the old thread through the needle until your new thread makes its way through the various gates that make their way to the eye of the needle. You won't have to try and figure out again the order of the gates your thread has to go through. :0)
LindyGirlThay (author)  duck-lemon6 years ago
informalist5 years ago
Thanks for that, "Don't sew over your pins" note. I broke two needles the first two days I learned sewing, because i thought I remembered someone in my childhood sewing right over the pins. The first needle break wasn't clue enough for me.
You probably did see people sewing over pins. You place the pins so that the head of the pin is inside of the seam. We all sewed like that way back in home-ec class 100 years ago. Just get straight pins that are the lightest weight possible. :0)
Mattrox5 years ago
Mabye stepmums are not that evil.........
mg0930mg5 years ago
I have a sewing machine, passed down from my great-great-grandmother. It is 60 years old, and is fine, until it clogs up. It sews better then most though.
LindyGirlThay (author)  mg0930mg5 years ago
Do you have it tuned up lately? Sometimes the most unruly machine becomes a purring little trooper with regular maintenance from a professional.
I actually put the wrong age. It was made in 1916. I haven't had it tuned up. I may just buy a brand new one.
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