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How Does a Sewing Machine Work?

Apr 05, 2022

A person showing how a sewing machine works

Sewing can be an expensive hobby if you don't know how to do it properly, or how to find the right sewing machine for your needs. The good news is, sewing machines come in all shapes, sizes and prices. The first step to starting a fulfilling sewing hobby is understanding how a sewing machine works. In this blog, we’ll cover some tips on how to find the best sewing machine for beginners, and we’ll explain how these fascinating machines function internally.

What Is a Sewing Machine and How Does It Work?

A sewing machine is a device used to join fabric or other materials together with thread. The machine works by using a needle to pierce the fabric then pulls the thread through the hole. The bobbin is a spool that sits on a rotating arm. When it spins, it pulls the thread from the needle and wraps it around the bobbin, stitching two (or more) pieces together. Sewing machines were first invented in the 18th century, and they’ve come a long way since then.

Sewing machines come in all shapes and sizes, and there are many different features you can choose from. Some machines have special stitches that can be used for different projects, while others have built-in thread cutters or automatic needle threaders.

Parts of a Sewing Machine

There are many different parts of a sewing machine, and each one serves an important purpose. Here’s a breakdown of the most common parts:

  • Needle: The needle is the part of the machine that pierces the fabric and pulls the thread through it. There are many different types of needles, including sharp needles, ballpoint needles and stretch needles.

  • Thread holder: The thread holder holds the thread in place as it is being pulled through the fabric.

  • Bobbin: The bobbin is a spool that sits on a rotating arm, and as it spins, it pulls the thread from the needle and wraps it around the bobbin. This creates a stitch that holds the fabric together.

  • Pedal: The pedal is how you control the speed at which you stitch.

  • Thread guides: These guides help to keep the thread in place as it feeds through the machine.

As you can see, sewing machines are incredibly useful devices that have come a long way since their invention.

How to Thread a Sewing Machine

Threading a sewing machine can be tricky, but with a little practice, you'll be able to do it in no time! First, make sure that the machine is unplugged and that the needle is in the down position. Next, locate the thread holder and the bobbin. The thread holder is usually a small metal cylinder located at the top of the machine, while the bobbin is a small spool that sits on a rotating arm underneath the needle plate. To thread the machine, hold the thread holder in one hand and the bobbin in the other. Then, guide the thread through the following holes: the hole in the thread holder, the hole in the needle, and the hole of the bobbin. The thread will then run through the needle and onto the spool, ready for your next project!

Common Problems with Sewing Machines

Needle Stuck in Fabric

One of the most common problems with sewing machines is when the needle gets stuck in the fabric. This can be a frustrating experience, but there are a few ways to fix it. First, try gently pushing the needle back down into the fabric. If that doesn't work, try using a pair of pliers to pull the needle out of the fabric. If both of those methods fail, you can try snipping the thread with some scissors. Just make sure you don't cut the fabric!

Thread Becomes Tangled

Another common problem occurs when the thread becomes tangled. Fortunately, this is also one of the easiest problems to fix! We recommend checking the thread guides to make sure the thread is going through correctly and that there are no kinks in the thread. Next, you clean out the bobbin case to make sure there’s no lint or debris causing the thread to become tangled. One final potential fix is to rewind the thread. If the thread is getting tangled near the needle, try rewinding it by hand. Hold on to the end of the thread and turn it slowly in a counter-clockwise direction. Make sure to be gentle, as turning it too fast can cause the thread to knot up.

Stitch Size Is Not Adjustable

Some sewing machines don’t have an adjustable stitch size, which can be a problem if you need to make a smaller or larger stitch. If your machine does not have an adjustable stitch size, you can try one of the following fixes:

  • Use a different needle – Sometimes, you can fix the size of the stitch by using a different needle. Try a sharp needle for smaller stitches or a ballpoint needle for larger stitches.

  • Try a different thread – If the needle is not the problem, it might be the thread. Try using a thicker or thinner thread to see if that solves the problem.

  • Adjust the tension – If neither of the above solutions work, you might need to adjust the tension.

Machine Jams

Sewing machines can sometimes jam when the fabric gets caught in the needle or the bobbin. If this happens, you can try to fix it yourself, or take it to a professional to get it fixed. If your sewing machine is jammed, try to clear the jam by following these steps:

  • Turn off the machine and unplug it from the outlet.

  • Remove the fabric from the needle and bobbin.

  • Clear any threads or lint from around the needle and bobbin.

  • Reattach the fabric to the needle and bobbin.

  • Plug the machine in and turn it on.

  • Test to see if the machine is working properly.

Sewing Tips and Tricks

Pin the Fabric Together Before You Start Sewing

One of the most important steps in sewing is pinning the fabric together before you start stitching. This will help keep the fabric in place and make it easier to sew. To pin the fabric together, first lay it out on a flat surface and smooth it out as much as possible. Then, take a few pins and stick them through the fabric, making sure to spread them out evenly. You can also use pins to hold pieces of fabric together that are being sewn on a bias (an angle).

Keep the Needle Sharp

One of the most important things you can do to keep your sewing machine running smoothly is to keep the needle sharp. A dull needle can cause the fabric to bunch up and can also damage the fabric. You can sharpen the needle yourself by using a needle sharpener or a file. Be careful not to damage the needle tip or remove too much of the metal.

Use a Thimble

A thimble is a small, metal or plastic cap that you can wear on your finger to protect it while sewing. Thimbles are especially helpful when sewing with a heavy fabric or a sharp needle. They can also help you grip the fabric better while sewing. To use a thimble, put it on your index finger and press it against the fabric. Make sure to keep your fingers and hands relaxed while sewing. Sewing can lead to tense muscles which can cause pain and discomfort.

Make Sure the Fabric Is Smooth As You Sew

One of the most important things you can do to ensure a smooth and even stitch is to keep the fabric smooth as you sew. This means you should avoid sewing over any wrinkles or fabric puckers. You can do this by using pins to hold the fabric in place, and by using a thimble to help you grip the fabric. You should also use a steady hand and keep your fingers and hands relaxed while sewing.

Use Contrasting Colors

When you're sewing, it's a good idea to use two or more colors that are different from each other. Contrasting colors will make your stitches more visible, and they’ll also add some dynamic energy and make your project more interesting.

Common examples of contrasting colors include black and white, red and green, and blue and yellow. You can also mix different colors together to create your own unique contrast. Just be sure to use colors that look good together and that are easy to see against each other.

How to Shop for a Sewing Machine

If you're looking for an affordable way to bring home a sewing machine, Acima Leasing has you covered. Our lease-to-own solutions* make it easy to get the machine you need, without breaking the bank. Plus, our flexible terms give you control over your lease renewal payment schedule. If you make the number of payments defined under your lease or exercise an option to purchase early at a discount, the machine is yours. If you no longer need it, you can simply return it in good condition at any time without further obligation. So, whether you're just starting out or you've been sewing for years, Acima can help you get the perfect sewing machine for you.

Common Questions About Sewing Machines

What’s the difference between a sewing machine and an embroidery machine?

A sewing machine and an embroidery machine are actually very different. An embroidery machine creates the design in one continuous motion, using a preprinted pattern to cut threads, whereas a sewing machine moves the needle up and down for every stitch. Both machines can create beautiful designs and patterns.

What type of fabric can I sew on a sewing machine?

Sewing machines can sew a variety of fabrics, including cotton, polyester and silk. However, some fabrics are better suited for sewing machines than others. For example, denim is a sturdy fabric that is perfect for jeans, while chiffon is a thin and delicate fabric better suited for hand stitching.

What are the different types of stitches that a sewing machine can make?

Sewing machines can make a variety of stitches, including straight stitches, zigzag stitches and decorative stitches. Each stitch has its own unique purpose. For example, straight stitches are ideal for basic seams, while zigzag stitches are perfect for securing stretch fabrics. Decorative stitches can be used to add flair to your projects and to create simple designs.

What moves the fabric while sewing?

While sewing, the fabric is pulled along by the motion of the needle. The needle is moved up and down by a pedal or a hand crank, while the thread is pulled through the fabric by the rotating bobbin, creating a stitch in the fabric.

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