Introduction: Basic Sewing

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Sewing can be a little intimidating to get started, but once you know the basics of setting up your machine, it's super-easy to start sewing things together!

Most sewing machines are pretty similar as diagramed on our Janome 11706. This machine is super-simple, durable, and inexpensive and was recommended by SLO MakerSpace's first sewing instructor as a great starter sewing machine. Here is the operation manual for reference.

First of all, how does this magical machine work? A sewing machine takes thread from two sources, the spool and the bobbin, and weaves them together as the needle goes through the material. Stare at the animated GIF for a few minutes and you'll get it!

For further study, nananextdoor has a video instructable on the same Janome machine here!

Step 1: Winding the Bobbin

Winding a bobbin is always your first task, providing the source for the bottom thread in the sewing process.

Most machines come with a few empty bobbins, but it's good to have a bunch, since you'll end up with extra thread on them after projects and you can just save a wound one for the next time you use that particular thread.

1. Place your thread in the spool holder and look for markings for threading the bobbin, most machines have some basic guides for where your thread goes.

2. Hook the thread around the bobbin winding tensioner, thread it through the top hole on your bobbin (whichever side you're holding up, that is), and push the bobbin onto the bobbin winder. Push the bobbin winder to the right, from sewing position into winding position.

3. While holding the thread that's through your bobbin up with some tension, slowly press down on the pedal and the bobbin should start winding. You may need to guide the thread a bit so that it spreads evenly on the bobbin, and let it go until you've filled it or gotten enough thread for your project. The bobbin thread directly follows your line, so you'll need a little more than 10 ft if you're sewing a 10 ft length of fabric.

4. Cut the thread, remove the bobbin, and push the bobbin winder back to the sewing position.

Step 2: Threading the Needle

Again, most sewing machines have diagrams and arrows stamped on the casing that show you where the thread should go.

1. Hook the thread from the spool holder around the upper thread guide

2. Follow the arrows to loop it under the lower guide then back up through the thread take-up lever. To cycle up the thread take-up lever in order to hook it, turn the hand wheel on the right side of the sewing machine towards you.

3. Hook the thread through the lower thread guide above the needle.

4. Thread the needle! Thread cut with decent scissors is generally pretty easy to get through the eye of the needle, but if you have trouble you can use a needle threader.

Step 3: Threading the Bobbin

On the inside of the bobbin compartment are instructions on threading it, but this is the process that most people are scared of.

1. Pull the small lever on the bobbin holder out and remove it from the bobbin compartment.

2. Position your bobbin as pictured in the diagram, with the thread direction to the right, and slide it through the slot.

3. Gently slide the thread back along the groove until it comes out in the space near the lever-like thread guide.

4. With the thread to the left of the guide, place the bobbin holder back into position. Make sure you have at least 6 inches of extra thread coming out of the bobbin.

5. Gently turn the manual wheel towards you. Watch as the needle goes below the needle plate and the thread is picked up and looped around the bobbin holder. It should sweep up the bobbin thread and bring it in a loop back up above the needle plate.

6. Sweep your scissors under the presser foot to bring out the bobbin thread and the main thread to the left of the foot assembly as shown.

7. Close the bobbin compartment and now you're ready to sew!

Step 4: Making Your Seam

Depending on your pattern or lack thereof, you may have pinned your pieces together or you may be pinching them together for dear life and adjusting on the fly. Whatever your method, let's sew something!

1. Stitch type - There are many types of stitches, but you can put most things together with a straight stitch (A, B, or C on this machine), or zig-zag stitches (E, F, G) for stretchier fabrics. Don't worry about this now, let's just get sewing!

2. Tension - This can be a touchy issue and some machines are tougher than others to properly adjust. The upper thread tension is controlled by the tension dial, and the bobbin thread tension (which is rarely adjusted) can be adjusted with the small screw on the bobbin holder. Wikihow has a decent explanation on troubleshooting tension here. For a straight stitch on setting A, the tension should work well set at 1.

3. Place your two pieces of fabric together and slide them under the presser foot to your starting point.

4. Lower the presser foot.

5. Gently press down on the foot pedal to start sewing!

6. To "knot" the beginning and end of seams, after a few stitches, hold down the reverse stitch lever to go back a few, forwards a few, then back a few again before heading off on your seam.

7. Adjust your speed to your comfort with the foot pedal so you can control the fabric as it passes.

8. Do another "knot" at the end, make sure the needle is out of the fabric (use the hand wheel to raise it up), raise the presser foot, slide out your piece, leave a tail of thread for the machine and you're done!

*You can do a sharp angle or 90 degree turn by stopping with the needle in the fabric, raising the presser foot, gently turning the fabric to your new heading, then putting the presser foot back down.

Stay tuned for other tutorials and projects!

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