Sewing machines have only been around for the last 150 years or so, but they have made a huge difference in all of our lives. Before sewing machines were invented people would have to make clothes from scratch or pay tailors to make their outfits, but the sewing machine has made the whole process a lot quicker and easier and it has allowed the mass production of clothes to flourish.
If you are new to sewing (or you’re just curious) then you may be wondering how the machine actually works. Sewing machines may seem complicated and there is a lot of jargon and terminology that may confuse you, but the reality is really pretty simple. Read on to find out how sewing machine work!
There are many difference types of sewing machines with different features, designs and price tags, but they are all built around the same basic concept.
Threading The Machine
When someone sets up their machine they ‘thread it’ before they can start sewing. Firstly you would need to put your main spool of thread on the spool pin located at the top of your machine. This pin may be either vertical or horizontal depending on the type of thread you are using. The thread will normally need to be released counter clockwise.
You can thread your machine by pulling the thread from the top spool, through the thread guide (which is normally a little silver hook at the top of the machine), pull the thread down, loop it around the tension disc, and then loop it back up so you have formed a U shape. Your sewing machine should have arrows which will show you exactly where the thread needs to go. Refer to your user manual if you are unsure.
After you’ve moved the thread down and back up in a U shape, you will have to wind the thread around the take-up lever and bring it back down to the needle. Once the thread is level with the needle you will need to thread it through the needle eye and then pull it down so it is pulled through the tiny metal foot underneath the needle.
There is a small circular spool called the ‘bobbin’ which will be located underneath the sewing machine. This part is vital because it creates the underside of your stitch. In order to use your machine, you will first need to wind your bobbin. You can do this by putting your bobbin on the bobbin pin, sliding the lock and either winding the bobbin via the foot pedal or by a specific bobbin winding button. The winder will normally stop of its own accord when the bobbin is full.
You will then need to unwind a few inches of thread away from the bobbin and pop the bobbin into its place at the bottom of your machine. You should have a user manual which will tell you where everything is, but it should be fairly easy to find as it is underneath the needle and the small metal foot in an accessible compartment.
You will need to pull a bit of thread out of the bobbin so you can feed it to the feed dogs. When you pop the bobbin into place you should hear a click which shows that it is engaged with the tension. Now take the piece loose bobbin thread, draw it through the feed dogs, wind your handle to move the lever, and you should end up with two ends of thread (one from the bobbin and one from the top spool) which are now level with each other. When you have done this you are able to start sewing.
So How Does The Sewing Machine Make A Stitch?
The actual sewing process is fairly simple.
It involves the two pieces of thread (one on the top of your machine and one wrapped around the bobbin at the bottom of your machine) which end up looping together around the bobbin hook and come back up to form a stitch.
When you start the machine, there will be a take-up lever which brings the top thread down through the feed dogs towards the bobbin.
As the take-up lever is doing that, the sewing needle will be going down into your fabric.
These two processes will release the tension and allow the top thread to reach down and become hooked on the bobbin hook.
The thread will then form a loop with the bobbin thread.
As this loop is formed, the take-up lever and the sewing needle will both be going up. This will tighten the bobbin thread as it comes back up to the fabric. You will now have a tight loop.
The loop will then form a stitch and the process will repeat until you have created the total amount of stitches that you needed.
This process is very easy to understand if you see it with your own eyes. This isn’t easy with your standard sewing machine (not least because they operate so quickly), but there are several videos on Youtube which slow down the process so you can see how the two pieces of thread loop together to form the stitch.
The sewing machine in question might be old, it might be brand new, it might be mechanical, it may be computerised, it may be budget or it may cost thousands of pounds, but they all essentially do the same thing. There are a few different stitches which may look and operate in slightly different ways, but they ultimately follow the same basic process.