Sewing Machine Lingo for the Novice Machinist

As all the following terms actually relate to your sewing machine (nearly all the different types will have these parts) I am concerned about information overload.  It really looks overwhelming but when it is all together it is truly a beautiful machine working so well to give you stitches you could never do by hand, professional finishes, great repairs and some truly original designs if you are gifted in a creative way.

So let’s not worry too much suffice to say this is just a way of getting to know your way round your machine.  A good instruction manual will show you by way of a numbered diagram all the different working parts of your sewing machine. Have a look here for a broad overview of sewing machines and manuals.

It is a good idea to be able to identify the parts if things go wrong, you hardly want to be referring to the thingummy jig (presser foot) that holds down the whatsit (fabric?), to put it very simply, it is good to know if things do go wrong.  You can phone a friend or an engineer and explain exactly which part seems to be malfunctioning.  The chances are it is not a machine malfunction but human error!

Bobbins

  • Brother-CS6000i-Feature-Rich-Sewing-Machine-With-60-Built-In-Stitches-7-styles-of-1-Step-Auto-Size-Buttonholes-Quilting-Table-and-Hard-CoverSewing machines need two threads to make a stitch, the bobbin thread is like a spool coming up from the bottom of the machine where it sits, the thread needs to be wound around the bobbin and you will be pleased to know that it is done by the machine
  • Some older sewing machines have the bobbin loaded on the side in metal casing and this does help to control the tension in the thread
  • More modern machines may have a drop-in bottom with a clear cover so you can see how much thread you have

Side plate

  • A rectangle shaped plate which helps to remove the bobbin case without lifting the machine

Free arm

  • A free arm is a cylinder on the bed of the sewing machine which will allow you to sew pockets and sleeves
  • It works by detaching a part on the base of the machine with the arm protruding

brother-sewing-machine2Knee filter

  • Some machines have a lever which can be pressed with your knee called a knee filter so you can lift the presser foot without taking your hands of your work
  • That is helpful for moving the fabric around freely for quilting, sewing curves and embroidery
  • You will benefit from two hands when working with larger pieces of fabric

Feed dog

  • Metal teeth and a metal plate make up the feed dog mechanism beneath the metal plate which feeds the fabric front to back
  • As the needle comes out after stitching , the feed dog teeth rise and grip the fabric against the presser foot then slide back pulling the fabric
  • This whole process automatically feeds the fabric while you just need to guide it with your hands
  • Some machines have a function to drop feed dog
  • Without feed dog you can manually move the fabric around any which way you want so it is very useful for things like embroidery and repairs

SingerSewingMachine1Presser foot

  • The presser foot holds the fabric flat under the needle and in place against the needle plate
  • It stops the fabric from moving about
  • A presser foot is specialized for different jobs, such as inserting a zip or blind hemming
  • Some are held in with a screw or even easier if they are clipped in place

Sewing bed

  • Whilst the free arm is for tubular smaller pieces like sleeves the sewing bed is like an extension table fixed around the free arm for larger pieces of fabric

Spool

  • A spool is cylindrical plastic for holding thread (spool pin is fitted on top of the arm to hold the reel)

Thread guide

  • Holds the thread in position from the spool to the needle

sy-sewing-machine__0134990_PE291762_S4Needle plate

  • The needle plate fits over the feed dogs on the base and covers the bobbin
  • It also has a hole where the needle passes through
  • The plate may have guidance lines etched into it to show the distance away from the needle

Needle bar

  • A needle bar is the metal bar to hold the needle with a clamp
  • Giving the up and down action of the needle

Tension disc

  • Two concave discs placed together with the convex sides facing each other
  • Tension is adjusted by spring and nut

Now you know the jargon or the many parts of your sewing machine!  Hopefully if you have purchased a new machine you will be able to identify all these parts and some more as well from the instruction booklet.  It will give you troubleshooting scenarios as well.  Just following a few safety tips, maintenance advice and keeping it all clean and oiled will make your hobby or career as a seamstress or machinist much easier.

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