The Guys Guide to Sewing Machines




Introduction: The Guys Guide to Sewing Machines

About: im just a regular guy that like regular things

Yes Im A Guy and yes I know how to sew. My Mom taught me when I was a kid. Most guys think that a sewing machine is made for a woman but in actuality it is just a tool just like anything else.

You are not less manly because you know how to sew. My uncle went to Vietnam and the army taught him as part of his basic training so he could sew socks or anything else in the field... or Im guessing maybe an arm back on or what ever.

Did you know that the first sewing machine was designed because in the 16th century a king tired of his minions complaining about having to sew peoples fingers together (as punishment for stealing) by hand, commissioned a group of people to design a machine to do the task automatically so that he could streamline the process and get less complaints as well. One of those people were Edward Singer and he went on to design what we now know as the first Singer Sewing Machine. So in actuality you are using a mid evil torture device to sew stuff. Doesn't that make you feel more manly?

Is it true? Of course not.

So tell them that story and they will not only be impressed by the machine but in the fact that you are so well learned about torture devices that they wont want to mess with you anyway.

Not to mention it if they think about it most tailors are men, and most of your top designers are men... Ralph Loren, Tommy Hilfinger, David T. Abercrombie, Ezra Fitch, Levi Strauss. Most of the clothes men wear were designed by men.

How the hell they think those guys do it? By hand? I dont think so!!!

So here we go... the Big bad scary sewing machine in all its glory... ok maybe not but by the time your done it will at least be another tool in an arsenal of tools to help you on this great site we call

Step 1: Finding the Bobbin

Ok, so the hardest part of using a sewing machine is the threading of it. once it is threaded the machine pretty much runs itself.

In a sewing machine you have two pieces of thread knotting themselves on every stitch you make in some way or another. One is located under the fabric and one is located above it.

As the machine runs a piece inside the machine loops the two threads together and then pulls them tight. It continues doing this at a speed you cant even see. when you think about it it is really an interesting and amazing machine.

Anyway the first thing we will need to do is locate the bobbin. Most of the time the bobbin is still in the machine from last time but if not your looking for a piece that looks like a wire spool in miniature form. (Picture 1)

Ok, first thing is first, set up the machine so that the needle is on your left and all of the controls are on your right.

So now where is the bobbin? It Should be located under a plate by where the needle is. (My picture needs to be spun so the actual pictures bottom is on the left, sorry.)(Picture 2)

Step 2: Removing the Bobbin

Ok now that we have found the plate we need to remove it. the plate covering the Bobbin should just pop off. I have never seen it screwed down. Just put your thumb in the thumb hole and pry up. it should just pop up. It is only held in by a tension spring.(Picture 1)

Once the plate is up we should see the bobbin sitting there (Like in picture 2) with either the wrong color thread or no thread either way you need to remove it. (if it has the right color and enough to do the job then just leave it and skip the refilling the bobbin step and go straight to the threading of the bottom thread through the plate.

To remove the bobbin just pull it out. Its just sitting there.

Step 3: Refilling the Bobbin

Ok now that we have the bobbin out we need to refill the bobbin with thread. Basically we are making a mini spool of thread.

On the back right of the machine is a post. This is where your spool of thread goes. If there is a piece that looks like half a flying saucer on the post remove it then put the thread spool on the post then the flying saucer thing back on with the small part of the flying saucer closest to the spool.

The flying saucer thing is to keep the thread from snagging on the spool it self and helps a lot if you have one but if not no big deal.

Ok now that we have the thread on, there should be a little pig tail looking thing right above where you put the spool on the back.(Picture 1) Just put the thread through the center of the hole. you can wrap it and it is a lot easier than just threading the hole but if you cant figure it out just put the thread trough the hole. It is possible that your machine just has a clip here. If thats the case just clip it in from right to left.

Now almost right above where the needle is located on the left part of the machine in the back again, is another pigtail looking thing just like the first one. Thread it as well.

Ok now on the top of the machine in the front, accross from the pigtail looking thing you just thread is a hooky looking thing with a roller on it. (Picture 2) you want tho put the thread on this so that the thread is in front of the hook but behind the roller and the thread is heading towards the back of the machine. It should wrap counter clockwise around the roller and only be wrapped enough to change the direction of the thread, do not make a full revolution around the roller.

Now we are looking for a post on the top right of the machine that has a clip next to it. (picture 3) Place the thread through the hole on the bobbin so the thread is coming from the part were all the thread will go and then to the outside. This way as it is spinning you can hold on to it until it is wrapped enough to hold itself you only need like an inch or so.

Now put the bobbin on the post. You may have to pull the tensioner clip back to get the bobbin in place. Once the bobbin is in place, put the tensioner clip up against the post inside the bobbin.

The tensioner clip does two things:
a.) it keeps tension on the thread to make it spool nice and evenly.
b.) once it pops off. it shuts off the gears so you cant overfill the bobbin.

Now that you have the bobbin in place you are looking for a giant knob on the right side of the machine. When you turn the knob the needle moves. if you pull on the knob it will pull out about a quarter inch. (see pictures 4 and 5)

Now instead of the needle moving when you turn the knob the bobbin should spin.

Now there should be a peddle hooked to the machine somewhere , mine is plugged into the same cord that you plug into the wall. (Picture 6) Unless of course you have a treddle machine in which case you just push your foot up and down to operate the machine.

When you press the peddle, it will spin the bobbin and fill it up. At this point you can floor it and it wont hurt nothing. Plus its really cool.

Once the tension clip pops your done. Stop pressing the peddle and push the knob back in so you can operate the machine like normal again. Now using scissors or if you really want to a razor sharp survival knife so you feel manly, cut the thread about an inch from the bobbin and let the rest of the thread just stay where it is for now... DO NOT UNTHREAD WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY THREADED!!!!

Cut the little piece of thread you originally held onto as close to the bobbin as possible.

Step 4: Threading of the Bottom Thread Through the Plate: Part One

Now that you have a full bobbin we can put it back into the machine.

Just drop it back into the hole so that the thread will unwind in a counter clockwise fashion. Make sure you hold onto the thread itself as you will need it to rethread the machine.(Picture 2)

Now look for a notch towards 6 or 6:30ish around the hole.(Picture 2) you need to place the thread into the notch and under the metal piece there. Now just pull off about 3 or 4 inches and pull it off to the left.

Step 5: Threading the Top Thread Throught the Machine

Ok so we have already threaded part of the top so we could rethread the bobbin. At this point the thread should go from the spool to the first pig tail to the second pig tail and around the hooky looking thing with the roller on it.

Now just below the hook looking thing is tension knob.(PICTURE 2) It basically looks like a v-belt type pully with a knob hooked to the outside with a bunch of numbers printed on it.

We want the thread to go clockwise around this and back towards the top of the machine.At the top of the v-belt knob thing is a spring like wire. place the thread through this and back down to a hook on the side of the v-belt knob (I just realized that in the video I forgot to do this step. To be honest I forget it a lot and it doesn't seem to affect much but technically it should be done)

Now right above the v-belt knob is a hook. Place your thread through the hook.

Now we want to look for a closed hook type thing. (PICTURE 3) it should be all the way at the top if it is not turn the knob until it is. Now just hook the thread over the hook going from right to left.

Now go back down towards where you hooked the first hook after the v-belt knob thing and there should be a second hook. (PICTURE 2) Put your thread through that hook.

Under that hook should be a clip thing just push your thread through the clip.

Now just thread the needle going from front through needle to back. and pull about 3 or four inches out the other side.

Once your needle is thread technically there is one more hook to hook your thread to located towards the top of the needle.

I never hook it and it doesn't hurt anything but I guess if someone put it there, it was put there for a reason but I'm a man... If I'm not skipping a step somewhere, I'm not doing it right!!!

We'll just consider that an extra part, like when I took apart the engine and put it back together and still had parts left. Extra parts are a fact of life and there is nothing we can do about them ... but then again your a man so I don't have to explain this to you.

Step 6: Threading of the Bottom Thread Through the Plate: Part Two

Ok now that we have the top done we can finish the bottom. While holding both threads to the left of the machine turn the knob clockwise until the closed hook thing goes to the bottom and is all the way back to the top again.(Picture 1)

As you spin the knob you will see the thread from the needle wrap around the thread from the bobbin and pull it back into the machine. This is the knotting process I was talking about earlier.(Picture 2)

Now just pull the thread connected to the needle and the thread connected to the bobbin will pop up through the hole. (Picture 3)

Now just put the plate you removed earlier back on and you are ready to sew.(Picture 4)

I know that it looks long but the whole process takes about 2 minutes from start to finish. its real easy, and once you've done it once you will be able to bang it out in no time.

Watch the video to see what I'm talking about.

Step 7: Learning to Setup the Machine.

Now that the machine is threaded we need to learn a few things about the machine itself.

On the right side of the machine is two knobs and a leaver. The two Knobs control the length and pattern of the stitch and the lever controls either forward or reverse.(Picture 1)

There are two basic stichs I usually use:
1.) - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The first one is for your heavier material like denim and stuff like that. A straight stitch is usually ok for most things as the thread wont rip through the fabric so you are ok.

The second one I usually use on stuff like light cotton or felt because it can rip so easily that I want to cover as much of the fabric with stitch as I can to spread out the distribution and give it a less chance of ripping through. Although most of the time it is just whatever you prefer anyway.

The top knob usually has pictures on it and is what the stitch will look like once sewn onto the fabric. the bottom one usually has numbers and how long the pattern is before it repeats so if you want it to be a giant zig-zag you would turn the top one to VVVV and the bottom to L (Long) and if you wanted it to be a short straight stitch you would turn it to ---- and S (short)

Its not that hard.

The lever is for forward and reverse.... basically its the transmission. If you don't touch it it will be in forward. If you pull down on the lever it will be in reverse until you let go then it will go back into forward. Imagine hooking a bungie cord to a gear shifter in a car... you put the car into reverse but when you let go the bungie cord shifts it back into drive.... same thing.

The next important thing is a lever on the back of the machine located on the left side. It operates the needle foot thing. Up is foot up, down is foot down. Its not rocket science.

The last important thing is the v-belt knob thing.(Picture 2) It controls the tension of the thread. if it is too loose you get sloppy stitches if it is too tight you get broken thread.

You want to adjust this every time for optimal performance according to what fabric and thread you are using. basically if you keep breaking thread turn the tension down and if you look at the stitches and they look like they are not tight turn the tension up.

Step 8: Actually Sewing.

Ok now the machine is set up and you are ready to sew. If everything goes right you should have gotten this all done in less than 3 to 4 minutes.

Now all you have to do is take two pieces of fabric and put them under the needle foot. (Picture 2)

Put the needle foot down so it holds the fabric in place.

Now this is gonna be hard to believe but you are done... well sorta. Your only job now is to guide the machine it does all the hard work for you. When you push the peddle it pushes the needle through, knots the thread, pulls the needle out, and moves the fabric for you. Technically in an ideal world you can just push the peddle and hold onto the fabric to make sure it goes through correctly.

Step 9: Sewing Tips

some tips:

1.) When you first start sewing go forward about a half inch and then pull the reverse lever to go backwards over the same spot till you get to the beginning. I usually do this a few times. This keeps the thread from undoing itself. Also do this step at the end when you are done so you lock it in as well.

2.) Whenever possible turn your stuff you want to sew inside out first then sew it then when you turn it right side out again it will look better.

3.) Never completely sew something shut if it is inside out . Leave about 2 inches or so , so you can feed the material back through to turn it right side out again when finished.

4.) Although it is nice to have a perfect stitch. it isn't as critical as you think. Most of the time when you turn it right side out again you cant even tell it was messed up.

5.) If you do mess it up to much, a sharp razor blade will fix it just by cutting the thread and redoing it. Just make sure not to cut the fabric.

6.) If your machine keeps locking up it probably needs oiled. read the owners manual on exactly wear to oil it but usually it is where the bobin goes. if you look while turning the know you will see where it is getting hung up. put a very small amount of oil right there and you are good to go for a while.

7.) if you are breaking needles you are either pulling to hard on the fabric, the fabric is too thick for that needle or the needle is too small for that fabric or you are going to fast. try slowing down first, but if that doesn't work... If you are sewing leather dont use a lace needle get a big beafy one.

8.) Just cause it will fit under the foot doesn't mean the machine can sew it. Although if you are careful enough you can usually sew most things with a standard sewing machine.

9.) Patterns aren't always needed but they are helpful.

10.) Just cause you have a pattern doesn't mean it will turn out exactly how you want.

11.) Using pins to hold stuff together helps a lot, just make sure you take them all back out or you WILL find them later when you don't want to.

12.) Sewing machines should not be used to make hybrid animals like gerbil/cat or cat/dog by sewing two animals back to back. This is usually best done by hand as the animals tend to squirm to much when the machine starts running cause they are scared.

13.) You may have to sew an inch or two by hand sometimes. This is not abnormal. the sewing machine is there to help but you will have to get your hands dirty once in a while.

14.) The harder you press the peddle the faster it will go. However it isn't race car, sometimes it wont help to go faster. ( I know by saying this I may get my man card put into probationary status but it is true)

15.) You dont have to pull or push the fabric. the machine does that for you . Most of the time you can just hold it and make sure the fabric is out of the way of the needle and in position where you need it to be.

16.) Always have a little bit of fabric on both sides of the foot. A lot of times when you start your stitch you will form a knot if you don't have enough fabric. Don't ask me why. If you don't believe me try it but I warned you.

Things I have sewn with my Kenmore, run of the mill, bought it for a dollar at an auction, had to oil it and it worked fine, sewing machine

a.) Seat to a motorcycle. It had a huge rip,so i jut cut out a piece of another seat and sewed it in place. dint look perfect but most couldn't tell.

b.) Clothes for Xmas. This year I made Snuggle blankets for everyone with hoods and arms. In stores I couldn't touch them for less than 40 bucks I made mine for about 16 bucks a piece.

c.) Cat/dog hybrid... just kidding I did that by hand. You should see them try to fight.

d.) Remote control holder for my chair.

e.) Patches onto a leather jacket. I had to go slow but it did it like a champ.

f.) Made stuffed animals for nieces and nephews.

g.) Made a pillow for my chihuahua dog so she would stop sleeping on my blanket. (side note: It didn't work she still sleeps on my blanket)

The possabilities are endless........................

Yes I know hooky looking thing with a roller on it, pig tail looking thing and flying saucer looking thing are not the correct name for the parts as well as other parts I don't use the right name for. Frankly I don't care.

First off this is an instructable made by a man, I don't need to know what the name of a piece is to know I need to use it.

Second, both the pigtail thing and the hooky thing are both called a thread guide. Wouldn't it be more confusing if i just called them all the same thing. Would most people know what a spool cap was?

And third and most importantly, I DON'T CARE WHAT THEY AR CALLED!!!

Well I hope this helps some of the guys out there to get over there fear of the Sewing machine.

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    4 years ago

    I recently taught myself to sew with a machine. They are getting so affordable now, why not?

    With that said, onwards to the comments about this instructable: Man! Next, you need to learn how to operate your phone camera!

    Also, nomenclature IS important. Especially for technical subjects. "Doomaflatchie" and "Thingamajig" really isn't acceptable if a machine of any kind is going to be described and discussed.

    Another thing I have learned about sewing close to an edge: Use an overcast foot. It is designed to prevent the "knots" mentioned above and it seals and finishes so that the edge won't unravel.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great 'struable! Names are useful when working with someone to troubleshoot so they can get the proper parts, otherwise . . . just keep your finger away from the stabber thingy.

    I made my daughter a fleece lap quilt, scarf and hat for Christmas. My first real sewing project was making curtains for my apartment. Was too cheap to buy them. I still have the 1952 Singer 201 I bought at a thrift shop to make them on, and, uh, I've kinda lost count . . . because I got into restoring vintage sewing machines. It was small work I could do in an apartment. and I've got too many "I'm an gunna." machines I haven't parted with.. One guy I knew took a small machine to college and it helped pay a lot of bills!

    Keep your eyes open for a non-plastic machine at thrift stores, yard sales, etc. For what most people do, a straight stitch will work just fine. As Cann0n says, most just need lubrication and there are many, many Yahoo groups web sites etc. with instructions. You would be surprised at what can be un-ceased. Or what can be fixed by reversing the needle!

    Old Japanese "clones" of Singer 15 series machines are great, easy to use, and most were simply "badged" with the retailers name and very generic. Just don't believe the eBay hype. A machine is a domestic or industrial. And most industrial machines are purpose built, A machine for sewing shirts won't sew leather. At least not for very long. Most taylors just use a decent domestic machine. A Singer 1200 is simply a 201 with a knee lift for the pressor foot.

    LOL, the stitch ripper/razor, etc. is your friend, I sadly just broke the one I've had since 1987 :-( When learning use the fewest stitches per inch available, like 6, so it is easier to rip things out. Get cheap fabric on sale and make a set of scrubs or a shopping bag. Have fun. Great for apartment living fun.


    8 years ago

    I'd also like to suggest that like all machines, moving parts require lubrication. I will be sexually bias when it comes to machines and oil... Lubricate your machines. If any women see this post, go check your cars engine oil right now. And make sure the air filter box is properly clothed. I'm amazed how bias women are when it comes to the dirty interworking parts of a car. I find sewing machines much more complex than a vehicle.


    8 years ago

    Blurry pictures and poor grammatical structuring decrease the value of anything found on the web.

    I'm glad to see an increase of "seamsters" representing the ability to create in any means or medium. As an artist, I can respect any form of art. I recently acquired an old Kenmore 12 Stitch from the late 70s. I learned to sew when I was about 12. I never got good due to the lack of practice. I was teased enough growing up. Later in life, before the plaid shorts trend-revival in the early 2000's back when stores didn't carry them, I bought a size 24 pair of old, very unique blue, purple and yellow plaid pants from a thrift store. I cut, expanded to size 38, stitched, sewed, hemmed, and added belt loops. Shortly after I wore them to school the next day, everyone loved them. Within the next 2 years, stores started carrying more and more plaid shorts. I'm not taking credit for the trend, but I'd like to think I sparked it.

    I am a profession skateboarder. I rip and tear every article of clothing I own. It's nice to be able to repair clothes. I've also gained browny points fixing clothing for women. I know people that throw away a nice button-up shirt due to the loss of one button. It's sad.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Well, you had me going about the sewn fingers, but just in case anyone isn't paying attention, the Singer who is associated with early sewing machines was and American, Isaac Singer, and he wasn't born until 1811. He didn't invent the sewing machine, but made some improvements and was successful at mass producing and marketing. Btw, I belong to a quilting forum, where there are quite a few men among the almost 78,000 members.There's no guessing how many, but they appear frequently. The point needs to be made that many of these guys are artists who create beautiful as well as utilitarian items with sewing machines. It's time for all of us to quit using gender bias to limit human potential.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I too man up at the sewing machine with pride (in fact I found this 'ible while researching what machine I need to buy - time to get a decent one).

    The sew man of men in my opinion (a little preferentially biased but still): Look at this -->


    12 years ago on Step 9

    Knew of a male celebrity who knitted and he was approached by a big burly biker dude who asked if he was knitting.  When he timidly said yes the got looked at him and said yeah well I do needle point. Have a basic Brother model machine myself. I haven't used it yet. My daughter has and it worked fine. Still haven't been able to figure out how to load the bobbin in mine yet. Despite several read of the instructions. Guess I'll have to get my daughter to show me when I get the fabric I want for the costume I need. I'm sure it will be done with a lot of sighing about the old man not knowing anything. 

    Phil B
    Phil B

    13 years ago on Introduction

    My wife has always done a lot of sewing for herself and for other people. Often someone brings her a machine the owner cannot make work properly. Cleaning and oiling are always good first steps. A wad of compacted lint under the bobbin plate can make a mess. But, most often the larger problem is an imbalance between the tension on the bobbin thread and the tension on the needle thread. Once the tension settings are correct, the machine usually works perfectly. Naturally, the machine's timing cannot be out of adjustment, either. (The timing puts the bobbin in the right part of its rotation when the needle goes down through the plate covering the bobbin.)


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhh eeeeeeeeeeekk Don't touch the tension unless you are really mechanically gifted like ! Repeat after me. "Thy shall NOT touch the tension."


    13 years ago on Step 9

    thanks dude, nice Instructable!, I have a couple of sewing projects for my kids in school, just one more question what do you think about buying a used machine for a novice like me? are breakdowns easy to solve ? or do you think I am better off with a new one , how do you feel about brands!, thanks again. ... oh and about that man card. (for whoever is wandering, if you have something hanging in between your legs you are a man and thats that, if you doubt it you or your sister can come and do an oral check on mine any time)


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    The high school I went to had sewing classes for both girls and boys (back in 1976) The machines were used all day and after school. All the machines were Husqavarna, and I don't ever recall a repair person hanging about. My last machine was a basic zig zag straight stich Singer (circa 1976) I loved it, but after about 20 years it had some "issues" so I now have some generic brand that is "So -So" (no pun intended.LOL) If I had the cost of a Husquevarna in my budget, I'd choose that. BTW, my husband knows how to knit and I think it's cool


    13 years ago on Introduction

    I just acquired a new (to me) sewing machine. It is a Singer Sewing machine from 1902, model 31-15. It is cast iron, weighs 26 pounds and have a 3 HP motor (it is an industrial) and I believe it could sew through my hand if I weren't careful. Yes, I'm a guy and yes I sew. This "new" machine is for sewing leather goods.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    I'm getting my mom to teach me how to sew today. I'm a guy just incase you didn't notice


    13 years ago on Introduction

    I grew up a fat kid and couldn't find clothes that fit or i liked, so i started sewing. Once i grew up i found it was an invaluable tool. My favorite is after someone is done laughing and calling me a sissy for knowing how to sew they usually ask me if i can fix this or that. Who's laughing now.


    13 years ago on Step 9

    That is awesome man. Hey, where did you get that desktop pic?


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    I got it in a desktop pic pack I got had thousands of pics. actually that is only one of my desktops. I have a program that rolls my desktop so i have like twenty then every ten minutes it changes the desktop pic.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Shhh don't tell anyone but I also have my own sewing machine :) Reason is I sometimes need to fix clothes and I am just too darn lazy to use a needle and thread for anything more than sewing a button back on.