Did you get a new sewing machine recently? If so, how exciting! Even if it isn’t your first sewing machine, there are a few things you should do before getting started that will make sewing so much easier. A little bit of prepping will save you several headaches during your first few projects, we promise.
Read The Manual
It’s tempting to skip this and dive right in. Maybe you prefer to figure things out on your own as you go along, but we promise it’s not worth it. Not all machines are the same and the fancier the machine, the more you want to know about it.
You’ll need to know how to properly tread your machine as well as the steps for buttonholes, hem stitches, and most importantly, cleaning and maintenance. Keep it right next to your machine so it’s handy whenever you need it. When you run into issues, check your manual before you make a bunch of random adjustments.
Identify Parts And Accessories
What use are all those fancy parts and features if you don’t know what they do?! Know the feet, needles, accessories, screw drivers, and controls. You want to be sure you use the correct foot for the stitches you select. For instance, a zigzag stitch will move the needle side to side quickly, using the incorrect foot could cause the needle to hit the foot and snap off.
TIP: Keeping extra needles on hand in case one breaks or it’s time to change. You’ll want to change your needle after about 12 hours of sewing. Universal needles 90/15 are sold in a pack of 5 and are useful to have on hand. (Schmetz is a good quality that will last.)
Set Up Your Sewing Area
Sewing is significantly less fun when you don’t have a proper area to use your machine! You want to set up at a table that is sturdy with a chair that is at a comfortable height. Be sure you have good lighting as not all machines will have great lighting built-in. Plug the machine in an outlet that it can reach (obviously) but is out of the way and won’t be a tripping hazard. Always unplug the machine when you are done sewing and use a surge protector if you’ll be sewing through bad weather.
Have all the tools you might need nearby so you won’t have to go searching for them every couple of minutes. Keep scissors or thread snips handy and a small basket for clippings by your machine. A pin cushion or other storage device should always be used to keeps your pins off the floor. The last thing you want is a husband, child, pet, or yourself stepping on a pin!
Thread the Machine And Bobbin
You’re almost ready! This is where reading the manual comes in handy. Now that you know how to thread your machine, thread choice is your next step. Use different thread with the same weight (50) and fiber (cotton) on top and on the bobbin. Buy new thread if necessary because older thread will frustrate you by breaking. Coats & Clark Dual Duty all purpose is fine for sewing. Aurifil 50 wt cotton is my favorite for accurate patchwork. Every machine is different so try several different to see what you like best. Gutermann, Superior, and Mettler are good brands to try.
TIP: Do not buy serger, polyester, rayon or ‘quilting’ thread at this time. Do not buy cheap or bargain thread either because you could damage your machine.
You’re ready to go! Set your machine on slow and keep your fingers away from the need when it’s moving. You want to check your stitches before you go crazy sewing for miles. Start by sewing a good length, lift the feed dogs, pull away from the needle and clip the threads. Check the stitches for evenness, smooth with no drawing up, and straight lines. Make adjustments as needed. (See #1.) Feel free to try some of the fancy stitches and lean how to make several zigzag variations before starting your first official project.
Trouble Shooting Tips
- Most of the time two simple steps will clear a beginner’s jam:
- Turn the machine off.
- Rethread the machine (the top and bobbin).
- To prevent tangles of thread at the beginning of a line stitching, pull the bobbin thread up with the first stitch and hold it firmly when starting the line of stitching.
- If your bobbin threads are loose, tangled, or knotted on the wrong side of your fabric, rethread the machine and pay attention to the top thread.
- It’s time to change the needle if the bobbin threads become uneven or the top thread isn’t in a straight line.
Your first project should be an easy one. Something easy will allow you to learn the little quirks of your machine without the stress of a complicated or time intensive project. Embellishing a pillowcase with fancy stitches, rickrack or applique touches is a great first project. It’s not the difficultly that will make your project wonderful, it’s more about having fun, finishing it, and the sense of accomplishment.
Need sewing inspiration? Visit our Sewing Projects or New Project Releases for free projects and downloads. If you need more fabric (and who doesn’t
want need more fabric) visit your local Joann’s, A.C. Moore, or Hancock’s for some easy to use pre-cuts!