How To Set Up A Sewing Machine

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Last Updated on 20 October, 2020 by Janet

Setting Up To Sew!

Maybe you’ve had a sewing machine lurking in storage for ages, or perhaps you’ve just bought the machine and you’re looking to use it for the first time, but either way there is a problem. You have the machine,  but you don’t know how to set it up!

Janome Portable Sewing Machine Review 2015 - 2016Sewing machines can be really confusing and they can really intimidate you if you’re not used to them. If you've had the sewing machine for a while and you've never successfully used it then you may even be considering giving up on the whole idea and selling your sewing machine on Ebay, but before you do anything drastic take a look at our guide to setting up a sewing machine and give it a fair try. There is a lot of jargon and technical terms floating around on the internet which may seem really complicated and confusing, but sewing machines really aren't that difficult once you get beyond the terminology.

Not every sewing machine is the same and you should refer to your user manual for specific instructions. You should still be able to use this as a general guide, but keep your user manual on you so that you can check and see how your specific machine can be set up. It is also a good idea to check Youtube and see if there are any tutorials for your specific sewing machine as it can be really helpful to watch and copy someone setting up their machine in real time.

So how do you set the sewing machine up? Every machine is a little different, but they all basically serve the same function and use the same components. We are going to go through the basic functions and components of your sewing machine so you get a broad idea of what and where everything is, and then we will proceed to talk you through winding the bobbin and setting up your machine.



Your sewing machine will probably come with a set of needles which should be fine for you to use. If you have a second-hand sewing machine then you may want to purchase some new needles to ensure that they are in good condition. Larger needles are ideal for heavier materials, whereas smaller needles are used for lighter materials so you will need to choose a needle which works for your sewing project. Your sewing machine will probably come with a few different sizes, but if not you can easily buy new sewing machine needles online.

You will need to change your needle every so often as they do get worn out and you don’t want the needle to break in the middle of your sewing job. Check your needles before using them to make sure they are not bent or broken in any way.

Stitch Controls

Some sewing machines look a little different to others, so it is highly recommended that you go get your user manual so you can check and see the instructions for your specific machine.How To Set Up A Sewing Machine

Most machines will have a dial or control which allows you to select the kind of stitch you want to sew. Different stitches may have different corresponding numbers (which you should be able to find on the machine itself or in your manual) and what you will need to do is decide which stitch you want to create and set the dial to the number which corresponds with that stitch. Newer machines may have an interactive screen which you can use to select the stitch number.

You may also have a dial which corresponds to the stitch length and you should be able to further control the stitch you want to sew. Your list of options may be located on the machine itself or in your user manual, and you may have a dial or interactive interface which lets you select the length as well as the type of stitch you want to make.

Reverse Stitch

Your sewing machine should come with a reverse option (usually in the form of a button) which you can use to reverse your stitch. Creating a reverse stitch will strengthen the stitch you have already made and it can help make your creations look more professional.

Manual Controls

Your sewing machine may also come with a dial which lets you manually control the sewing machine needle. This is a good choice if you’re just getting your bearings and you’re worried about the machine going too fast.

Tension Dial

Your machine will probably have a tension dial or tension option which you can change as needed. If you are a beginner you should just set the tension to the setting that your user manual recommends and it should work fine.

On/Off Button

The location of your on/off button will vary from machine to machine. It is very important that you locate this button as you'll need to turn the machine on before you can do anything else!

Now that we have gone through the basics of what you can find on your sewing machine, we will now proceed to talk you through setting the machine up.

Winding The Bobbin

Janome 525S ReviewSewing machines create stitches by looping the needle thread and the bobbin thread together in order to create a stitch.

To thread your machine, you will need to position your main spool of thread onto the spool pin which should already be attached to your machine or may come separately for you to attach yourself. There will also be a spool holder which keeps the spool in place. Your machine may come with a horizontal and a vertical spool pin and the right position will depend on the type of spool you are using.

Once your spool of thread is secured onto the spool pin, you will need to take the thread and wrap it around the tension gage of your machine.

Now it’s time to use your bobbin. The bobbin is a small circular object which should come with your sewing machine. You need to make sure that the bobbin you are using is compatible with your machine otherwise it won’t work properly.

Your bobbin may have a hole in the top of it. If that is the case you will need to take the thread and push it from the inside to the outside of the bobbin through the hole so that the thread goes through the bobbin.

Not all sewing machines have a bobbin winder, but most of the more modern designs should. Check your user manual to see if your machine comes with a winder or if you will need to wind your bobbin yourself. If the sewing machine you are using does have a bobbin winder then you will need to position the bobbin onto the winder and push it down and secure it in its correct place (often you just need to push it to the right).

When you are ready to wind your bobbin you should have enough thread at the top to hold onto and wind it using the instructions for your specific machine. When the bobbin has been winded a bit you can cut off the top trail of thread and continue winding until you are happy with the amount of material you have loaded onto your bobbin. The bobbin stopper will stop you winding the bobbin after it is full. Then push the bobbin back to its original position and take it off the bobbin winder.

Threading The Sewing Machine

This is a broad guide to threading your sewing machine, but as we don’t know which model/which design you are using it is recommended that you take a look at your user manual for more information.

The thread will probably go along the top of the machine, hook under a raised area and then be pulled down. The thread should go down, along slightly and back up again to form a ‘U’ shape. Most sewing machines should have arrows which will make all these things a lot easier to identify. Check your user manual or Youtube for instructions which are specific for your machine if you are feeling confused.

Once you have made your ‘U’ shape and the thread is back up, you should hook it around the take-up lever. If you turn the hand wheel then this lever should move up and down and you’ll be able to see where it is and where the thread should end up.

Once your thread is hooked, you will need to thread it through the needle.

Threading The Needle

Once your thread is by the needle, you will need to pull it through the eye of the needle and then pull it down to the tiny metallic sewing foot.

Now it’s time for the bobbin.  You need to pop the bobbin into the area underneath the bobbin case, hold the bobbin down and pull the thread. The bobbin should be in its place and there should be some loose thread coming out of it. You should hear a click which will let you know that the bobbin is secure and engaged.

Now you need to take the bobbin thread, pull it through the feed dogs, wind your handle to move the lever, and you should end up with two strings of thread which are now level with each other. One piece of thread is from the main spool and the other is from the bobbin. Once you have these two pieces of thread you are able to start sewing!

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