Sewing 101: Sewing Machine Parts

Hello. My name is {insert your sewing machine name here}. Let’s get to know each other, shall we? And it’s OK if you don’t have a sewing machine. Borrow one, like me. I’m telling you. This Sewing 101 Education Week is for super beginners. As in you don’t know anything about sewing or your machine. The bare basics. And if you know this, then you can pretty much make any of my sewing tutorials. As always, please feel free to correct me or add to this.

Sewing Machine Parts

Please, please, please refer to your sewing machine manual. Your machine may be slightly different than this one.

  1. Thread cutter. Rather than using scissors to cut the thread after sewing, quickly pull your threads through the cutter and snip. Fast and easy.
  2. Presser foot thumb screw. Unscrew this to take off and change the presser foot.
  3. Presser foot. There are different presser foots for different types of sewing. Straight stitch, zigzag, satin stitch, sliding buttonhole, zipper foot are the basics.
  4. Feed dogs. The little ridges at the bottom feeds the fabric through while you sew. That’s how it naturally sews straight, let the feed dogs do all the work.
  5. Cornering guides. Helps you to detect 90 degrees angles or corners when you are sewing.
  6. Seam guides. Helps you to measure seams on either side of the fabric. It can also help make sure you are sewing your fabric straight if the fabric is cut straight. It is usually measured in 1/8-inch. The masking tape there was to help guide me at a measurement larger than what the seam guides provided.
  7. Needle clamp screw. Unscrew this to change the needle. Check your manual for specific instructions on how to do that and which needles to get for your specific machine.
  8. Needle plate. The one on your machine probably allows the feed dogs to help pull the fabric through while you are sewing. To have total control of your fabric, without the feed dogs, you can change the needle plate to a darning plate that covers the feed dogs. You would use this for darning or sewing buttons.
  9. Presser foot lever. Not pictured above. Looking at the picture above, you can find it just above the words needle plate. It makes the presser foot go up and down. It holds the fabric in place as you sew.
  10. Reverse stitch control. Not pictured. Usually find it at the front of the machine on your right hand side. That’s the button that makes you go reverse while you are stitching. You can use this as a way to secure the beginning and end of your stitches.
  11. Hand wheel. Not pictured. Located on the right side of the sewing machine. To manually make the needle go up and down, you will turn the hand wheel. Also use the hand wheel to catch the bobbin thread before you begin sewing.
  12. Foot control (pedal). Not pictured. It’s on the floor. It makes the needle go up and down. It’s like driving. The speed depends on the presser you put on the pedal. You will also use it to wind the bobbin.
  13. Bobbin case. Pictured below. It is detachable from the machine. That’s where you put your bobbin in the machine.
  14. Free arm. Pictured below. Some machines have a extension table that you can remove to provide this free arm. This free arm is great to use when you are sewing sleeves, skirts, neck lines or anything that is circular. You can wrap the fabric around the free arm so you don’t accidentally sew different sides together.

» Tell me… Have you read your sewing machine manual yet? Is this list helpful to you?

9 Responses to “Sewing 101: Sewing Machine Parts”

  • Jade @ Tasting Grace

    Man, oh man. I WISH I had the manual to my machine! I have my mom’s old machine, but no manual. I’ve tried looking for it online, but no luck. 🙁 Until I can figure out my machine, I’m stuck sewing my hand. No bueno.

  • Emily

    Check with your machine’s manufacturer. I lost my manual too. I have a White and I ended up calling the White customer service hotline for them to email me a free pdf manual. Not as nice as having the actual manual beside my machine but at least I won’t lose it again.

  • liesl

    I have JUST discovered your blog (thanks one pretty thing) and I am GIDDY! We’re expecting a little girl in August and I am just so excited to be able to make her all the little skirts you’ve tuted! Thank you SO MUCH!! First up is the Ballet Skirt! Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Cook Clean Craft

    I’ve done a reasonable amount of sewing with my machine (and have referred to the manual when things go wrong!), but I never knew about the cornering guides, and I’ll have to check now if I have a free arm (I’ll be so annoyed for not finding out earlier if I do, after making a heap of 90 minute shirts for my toddler!)

    Thanks for the list. I didn’t think I’d learn anything new, but I did!

  • bjahlstrom

    I JUST got a sewing machine, and it’s taking me forever to read the manual, because it is somewhat intricate. I’m itching to sew, but I decided to read the whole manual first, just in case there was something important I needed to know. This was a really helpful reinforcement post! Thank you!

  • Rachel

    I’m loving this 101 series! Thanks so much for this, I’ll be linking.

  • Teresa

    Hi Tiffany! I just used my sewing machine for the first time in years a couple of weeks ago to make a pillow. Part way through, I had to re-fill the bobbin. Uh-oh. I referred to my manual, filled the bobbin, reinserted it in the machine, but then… the stitches on the bottom of the fabric were too loose… 🙁 Does that mean that the thread wasn’t wound tight enough on the bobbin? I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. Do they sell bobbins alredy filled with thread? I feel like a 43 year old clueless rookie! Thanks for any help you can give me! I love your blog!

  • Geraldine

    I agree with (Cook Clean Craft/Angie) about the cornering guides.


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