There are so many guides out there on how to set up a sewing machine as a beginner. I did a bit of Googling myself when I first started a couple of years ago, and I bet we both encountered the same problem: they’re all quite confusing, especially when you read more than one of them.
I’ve decided to come up with this article: the simplest guide to setting up any sewing machine for beginners — a piece of all-included information on how to get your machine up and ready for your first sewing project, from introducing the parts to guiding you on the essential prep works.
So if you’re here for the most straight-forward, clear-cut guide on putting together your sewing machine, read on!
Overview of Sections
Before we go into the various sections of setting up a sewing machine, we’re going to look at an overview of them. Depending on what sewing machine you have, the set up is different. Every sewing machine model is different. There’s no one way to going about it — on other guides, it can get quite confusing as they have different information showing different sewing machines.
The best way to figure out your sewing machine is to give the manual book a thorough read; every sewing machine comes with its own manual book, and it contains the most specific instructions that apply to you.
However, there is a general overview of each section. With our simple guide, all you need to do is understand the general parts that make up the machine and how to tackle setting them up, and the key thing is to take the information here and combine it with the information in your sewing machine manual book for the most accurate steps.
Here are the basics to setting up a sewing machine:
- Prep The Machine’s Parts: looking at the controls of the machines (power, engine, etc), setting up the foot, and controlling the speed with the pedal
- Threading the Machine: how to get the thread working together with the machine to stitch, and threading the needle of the machine
- Bobbin: everything to do with the bobbin, from loading it to winding it
- Stitch Settings: adjusting the tension, width and length, as well as the various stitch types
Prep The Machine’s Parts
As mentioned earlier, sewing machines differ from one another, so it’s hard to give the most detailed description without leaving some people confused. But to set up every machine, you first have to prep a few initial parts even before you can get into setting up the materials.
Under this section, we’ll look at the machine controls, the foot and how to manage it, and the pedal and speed control.
Most machines use a cable to connect the socket to the machine. For some machines, you can unplug the cord from the machine and put it away separately; others have the cord attached to the machine. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Both ways include two cords: a power cord and a foot pedal cord. Most of the time, this would be near the on/off switch.
There’ll also be the hand wheel where you can use to manually move the needle up and down — this is used for when you want the most accurate needle placement or an extremely slower needle movement.
The first step to setting up your sewing machine is to see if the engine is working — press on the pedal and see if the presser bar moves, or you can use the hand wheel.
Setting or Changing the Foot
Now we’ll have to set the foot. Included with the sewing machine that you bought is a standard foot. Various sewing machine models have various types of foot, but there are generally two kinds: a snap-on foot or a screw-on.
For a snap-on foot, it’s extremely simple: all you have to do is…snap it on the snap-on bar! If you want to change the foot, there would usually be a lever to unsnap the foot from the presser foot holder. Make sure you have the foot lever up — the lever should be down when you’re sewing, and up when you want to turn your fabric, remove your fabric or remove your foot.
For a screw-on foot, you would most likely need a special type of screw, usually known as a thumb screw or a presser foot screw, that’ll secure the footer in place. To change the foot, you’d have to unscrew it when the lever is up, swap out for the desired foot, and screw it back on.
Inserting the Needle
Inserting the needle is quite standard for all machines — you’d need to screw it in. The screw depends on the machine, and sometimes it’s just like a knob built into the machine. Other times, you’d need a small screw for it.
When placing the needle in, take note of the flat side of the needle. Depending on your machine, you would have to insert the flat side facing the left or right. If it’s facing the left, thread your thread from right to left. If the flat side is facing the right, thread it from left to right.
Pedal & Speed Control
It was mentioned briefly, but to get the machine going, you’d have to press on the pedal. This is basically how to get the presser bar and the needle going.
With this pedal, you can control the speed of sewing with some machines. If you apply gentle pressure, it’ll go slower. If you press on the pedal harder, it’ll be faster. For those of you who know how to drive, it’s kind of like that.
For some other machines, you can set the speed of the pedal on the computerised screen or another wheel. It greatly depends on the kind of sewing machine you have, but the most common way to control is by its pedal.
Threading The Machine
After you’ve familiarised yourself with the machine controls, you should now thread the machine. Similarly, the exact way to thread the machine depends on the model — it can vary quite a bit. Usually, on the machine itself, there’ll be step-by-step instructions of how to thread the machine. Alternatively, the manual will show you the way.
A typical Brother sewing machine threading will look like this:
Basically, you’d have to put the thread roll on a spool pin then have the thread go through a few loops before threading it to the needle.
Threading the Needle
Now, how to thread the needle? There are two ways to go about it: the manual way or automatic way.
The manual way of threading involves you taking the thread and inserting it by hand into the tiny, tiny hole. You could use a tool to assist you in this task, like a needle threader, but I personally haven’t used it.
Some machines have automatic threaders built into the machine — it has a device where all you have to do is hook the thread and it’ll basically thread the needle for you.
A bobbin is one of the most crucial parts to a sewing machine — it’s just as important as the thread itself. Well, it basically is containing thread, too. A stitch consists of a top layer and a bottom layer, so the bobbin is the one that carries the thread which stitches the bottom layer.
We’ll look at how to load the bobbin into the sewing machine and how to wind a bobbin.
Loading the Bobbin
Loading a bobbin is pretty simple. There are two ways of loading a bobbin, depending on your machine: there’s the side loading, and the top loading.
A machine that requires a side loading bobbin would need to have a bobbin case — which is exactly how it sounds: a case for the bobbin. You would have to hook the thread onto a loop in the case before inserting it into the sewing machine.
If the machine you have is a top loading machine, you don’t need a bobbin case. Simply put it in and hook it onto the loop in the machine.
Winding the Bobbin
Don’t insert the bobbin empty! You’d have to wind it up first — this means to fill it up with thread. Most machines have a bobbin winder function where you would put the empty bobbin into the given spool, lock it and press on the pedal. It’ll automatically wind it up for you till it’s full.
You’re almost all set up for your sewing machine! The final step before sewing your first project is to check the stitch settings. This is one to pay attention to as it’s arguably the most important step of all — depending on how you want to stitch something or what you’re stitching, this is where you change the settings.
We’ll look at adjusting the tension, width and length as well as the various stitch types.
Tension, Width, Length
Getting the right tension, width and length are extremely important. If you don’t get the perfect combination, your stitch might be too loose or too tight, and it can ultimately ruin your sewing project.
To check your stitch settings, find the knobs on the machine. If your machine is a computerised one, you can check it on the digital display. Check your manual for the most accurate stitch setting combination for your machine — various types of fabric requires a different combo.
Here’s a general outline:
- Standard tension should be at 4.
- Standard length is 2.5mm (for medium-weight fabric light cotton)
A short stitch can be 1.8-2.55mm for voile or other lightweight fabric, and a long stitch can be 2.5-4mm for heavier fabric like denim.
The most basic stitch type you would need is the straight stitch. I use this 95% of the time since I’m sewing clothes and accessories. If you’re doing other types of sewing projects, you might need various stitch types like the zig-zag stitch. Quilting and embroidery may require other stitching types.
Most machines now offer tons of stitch types, and some even over 100! Oftentimes, buttonhole stitches are also one of the offered stitch types — in various sizes as well — and they do come in extremely useful if you’re sewing clothing and accessories.
It really all depends on what you’re sewing and what projects you’re looking at. Make sure you get a machine based on your interests, and you can read our guide for the best sewing machines here, including which ones are great for stitch types.
And that wraps up the simplest guide on how to set a sewing machine as a beginner, covering everything from the essential parts of the sewing machine to how to prep it before starting your very first sewing project.
Now that you know how to set it up, why not read up on how to sew? We have a “how to learn sewing” guide, similar to this, that covers all the essentials and more!