Woman working with sewing machine

Sewing 101: Basic Parts of a Sewing Machine

Congratulations! You have a new sewing machine! I bet you are probably excited to unleash your inner Martha Stewart and start your sewing projects from simple pillows, blankets, curtains, to more complex projects like sewing clothes, and stuffed animals. However, the problem is—you don’t know how to sew and how to operate your sewing machine. The first thing you need to learn on your sewing 101 is how to operate a sewing machine.

It can be intimidating at first to use a sewing machine—it has different stitches options, it runs fast, and there are even different types of needles that you should use depending on your fabric. But don’t let your fear prevent you from creating crafts and accomplishing your sewing projects.

In this article, you will learn the basic parts and functions of a sewing machine so you can start using it confidently and create your wonderful textile creations.

So let’s start to learn the basic parts and functions of a sewing machine. It is essential that you learn this because it enables you to use the sewing machine properly, plus when a problem arises, it will be easier for you to perform troubleshooting.

Sewing machine on table in tailor's workshop

Parts of a Sewing Machine

There are 19 different parts of a sewing machine.

1. Spool pin

This is usually located at the top of the sewing machine which main function is to hold the spool of thread correctly in place so that the mechanism works properly. 

2. Bobbin binder spindle

This is where you place the bobbin to wind your thread of choice. You need to wind thread onto your bobbin because this will supply the thread to the needle.

3. Bobbin winder stopper

This automatically helps stop the bobbin winder from winding thread when it is full. 

4. Stitch width dial

You will find a dial with an illustration on your sewing machine that looks like miniature mountain peaks (starts flat and progressively grows taller). This is the stitch width dial, which you can use to control your zigzag stitches

5. Pattern selector dial

This is a dial which main function is to make different stitching patterns. 

6. Hand wheel

A hand wheel is located at the upper right part of a sewing machine. It sets the mechanism of the sewing machine in motion. It can be used to control the movement of thread take-up lever and the needle.

7. Stitch length dial

You will find a dial with an illustration on your sewing machine that looks like a set of different lengths of dash lines. This is the stitch length dial; this function helps you control the length of your stitches. If you opt for a smaller stitch length number, the smaller the stitch your sewing machine will produce. On the other hand, the higher the stitch length number, the wider the stitch will be.

8. Reverse stitch lever

You use this function to reverse the stitching of the sewing machine to perform backstitching. You can use backstitching at the beginning and end of your seam to secure stitches in place and avoid loose threading.

9. Power stitch

Usually located at the front or the right side, this is the power switch button that will let you turn off or turn on your electric sewing machine. 

10. Bobbin winder thread guide

This is used to guide the thread to be inserted onto the bobbin binder spindle during winding. 

presser foot of a sewing machine

11. Thread tension dial

This function helps correct the thread tension of your top thread to ensure consistent stitching on both sides of your fabric. If the thread tension is too tight, it might cause your thread to break. In contrast, if your thread tension is too loose, your thread might get tangled because of the thread looping underneath your fabric.

12. Thread take-up lever

Its function is to pull the thread to the machine as it goes up and down simultaneously with the needle when you sew. 

13. Needle clamp screw

This helps the needle to hold in place. You can remove and insert a needle by loosening the needle clamp screw.  

14. Presser foot

A presser foot holds the fabric flat in place as it goes through the machine for stitching. There are different specialized types of presser feet depending on your needs, but the commonly used are the zipper foot and the all-purpose foot.

15. Bobbin cover

A bobbin cover or bobbin case is a flat plastic (sometimes metal) cover that helps protect the bobbin holder.

16. Bobbin cover release button

The function of this button is to remove the bobbin cover and expose the bobbin so you can have full access on it. 

17. Feed dog

This is a set of two or three metal bars with ridges resembling a dog’s teeth that helps guide the fabric beneath the presser foot when sewing which helps allow the fabric to move forward or backward.

18. Needle

The needle is one of the most important parts of a sewing machine or generally in sewing. A sewing machine needle is a specialized needle for sewing machine use only. Even if it is so small and thin, the sewing machine needle is composed of 10 different parts

  • Butt
  • Shank
  • Shoulder
  • Blade
  • Long groove
  • Short groove
  • Needle eye
  • Scarf
  • Point
  • Tip

19. Needle plate

This is a metal plate under the presser footer and the needle. It is a protective cover of the feed dogs and bobbin casing, and also helps the fabric to move forward or backward. It has a hole for the needles to pass and holes for the feed dogs to emerge and grab the fabric which help it move forward or backward when you are sewing.

Now that you are familiar with the basic parts and functions of a sewing machine, now it will be much easier for you to learn how to sew. Sewing 101 is an online course designed for those who are interested in sewing. You will learn how to thread your sewing machine, cut out fabrics, and more! You will also find tons of online courses that will help you gain skills in sewing by visiting Skill Success.

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About The Author

Esther B.

Esther B.

Esther is a writer whose work focuses on career and personal development. She has also been YourTango’s Expert Partner where she wrote articles mostly for women to encourage them to have a meaningful life and healthier relationships. Her articles were constantly in YourTango’s weekly top ten for highest number of page views and her works have been featured in MSN and POPSUGAR. She also has almost 8 years of experience working for top publishing companies (Wiley and Cengage Learning) helping authors publish their books and research papers. When she is not on the computer, you’ll likely find her in the kitchen busy looking for snacks to eat.