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Parts of a Sewing Machine

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  • 0:04 Your Sewing Machine
  • 0:29 Needle & Thread
  • 1:53 Fabric Movers
  • 3:01 Advanced Settings
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

This lesson introduces the basic parts of a sewing machine. The parts selected include the most common elements across machine models and parts people must know to effectively operate a sewing machine.

Your Sewing Machine

Most likely you likely already know that a machine involves the use of a needle and a place to attach the thread, but there's so much more to these devices that will enable you to work with many types of fabrics and stitch types to create refined projects. We'll skip over certain obvious parts, like the on/off switch, power cord, and wall plug, which are intuitive or clearly defined in your owner's manual.

Needle & Thread

On a sewing machine, you'll find various parts to hold and feed thread and control the needle speed or type of stitch. Let's go over them.

The thread spool pin sits on top of the machine and holds the spool of thread, allowing it to spin as needed while the machine is on. You may notice that a spool of store-bought thread has a little hole, sometimes hidden under the stickers. This hole fits right over the pin.

The bobbin is a second, smaller spool of thread placed inside the machine, below the needle. When the machine makes a stitch, the thread from the needle and the thread from the bobbin loop around each other. The needle clamp screw can be tightened or released to remove a needle and install a new one. It's kind of like changing a drill bit on a power drill.

As you can probably guess, you'll need both hands to properly control the fabric you are stitching. So how do you control when the needle starts and stops, or how fast it goes? This is where the foot controller or foot pedal comes in. It's a pedal connected to the sewing machine by a power cord, as it sits on the floor. Just like a gas pedal in a car, you press down on it to make the needle go. The harder you press, the faster it moves. When you let go, the needle stops.

The hand wheel allows you to manually raise or lower the needle. While you won't use it for regular sewing, you will use it to control the needle's location when you want to remove the fabric.

Fabric Movers

As a sewing machine operates, it mechanically moves the fabric forward or backward while the stitching mechanisms move the needle and feed the thread. Three parts control these operations.

The feed dogs sit under the fabric and, with the help of the presser foot, force the fabric to move forward or backward. They're located in the needle plate, the metal rectangle below the needle and presser foot on which the fabric rests. Sometimes, you need to drop the feed dogs and manually move the fabric for complicated stitch patterns, like those used in quilting.

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