Let’s first talk about the most basic thing: your stitching machine, how to use it and then we’ll start some easy exercises: stitching straight. I know you want to start straight off, with your first quilt, but let’s do first things first, I told you, it is a very basic course from scratch.
Before you even go close to your machine: those of you with long hair, put it together, you don’t want your hair to be caught, in between needle and fabric… believe me!
Let’s have a look at our main tool:
What is what exactly?
- Needle plate:
Will protect the inside of your machine, but more important for you, has seam guides so you’ll know how far from the edge of your fabric you’ll be stitching.
- Needle:Have a good look at the needle in your machine. Once it breaks, you’ll have to replace it! So do you see it has a long and a short groove on the opposite side. Don’t panick it won’t break that easily and when it does: put the needle holder in the highest position, just unscrew, take it out, take the reserve needle and put it, with the long groove facing you, as high as possible in the needle holder, whilst inserting. Screw tight and off you go again.
- Tension control: top thread!
It helps you to adjust your stitches when too loose or too tight.
- Take up lever:
Moves your thread up and down whilst sewing, alongside the thread guide that keeps the thread in place as you sew.
- Spool pin:
Is where your cotton reel sits while you sew.
- Hand wheel:
Ever so useful for beginners: you can manually move the needle up and down with it. But certainly needed to disengage your needle, whilst winding up the bobbin.
- Stitch selector:
This will help you to choose the stitch you need.
- Stitch length dial:
Will allow you to change the length of your stitches.
- Reverse stitch lever:
When activated, you’ll stitch backwards.
You wind your thread on the bobbin.
- Bobbin case:
Where you put the bobbin once wound up.
When you stitch, your machine actually uses two threads: one from the cotton reel on top of your machine and one from the bobbin at the bottom (hidden) of your machine. Both have to be the same quality thread (otherwise you’re asking for tension trouble).
Your machine is probably a new model, not to be compared to my old nan’s vintage one, so use the instruction manual to do your first tryout! Every machine is different!
To guide the thread up to the needle (long way and has to be done correctly) and to wind up a bobbin, is the first thing to do.
Winding the bobbin:
Wind the bobbin as your manual tells you to and put it correctly in the holder. Put it in the machine the way your manual shows (direction of the thread is very important), attach the thread under the spanner spring, pull the thread and see whether the thread unrolls when you pull, put it in the compartment, close the compartment.
When inserting the bobbin in the bobbin case, make sure the thread rolls in the direction the arrow points in the picture above. Pull the thread through the groove and under the tensionspring, the thread should roll in the arrow’s direction!
Guide the thread up to the needle:
Put the presser foot of the machine in the highest position. Place your big cotton reel on top of the machine and start guiding the thread, do it exactly as the guidelines tell you to, don’t miss a single detail of the path, until the moment you’ve reached the eye of the needle.
Put the thread in your needle (from your side to the back of the machine) and leave a nice long bit hanging, let’s say about 10 cms (easier for later when you start stitching).
Lower the needle manually and pick up the thread of the bottom bobbin ( right hand side picture) and pull that end up by turning the needle back up again.
Pull and the thread will hang down from your machine, make sure it hangs alongside the other thread at the back of your machine (away from you). ( The right hand side picture: the left part shows you in c where you can move the needle from left to right or to the middle and in a how to regulate the width of yur stitches).
We’re ready! Just take a cotton leftover piece, fold it double (you’ll have two layers to work on), lift up the stitching foot of the machine, put the fabric under the foot and put the foot down so the fabric is stuck. Threads (at the back of your machine ) in your hand? Ok do a few stitches manually without touching the pedal, then gently (think the first time you drove a car) put your foot on the pedal and press. The machine will start stitching and you’ll have the feel of it. Don’t worry at this stage about stitching straight. Do a little line, take your foot of the pedal, lift up the foot of the machine, pull the fabric gently to the back (away from the machine) and cut of the threads and pull the threads still hanging on the sewing machine so they hang over the machine again (as at the start).
Now look at each side of the fabric, all the stitches should be equal and you should see no loops! If you see loops, it means sadly that your tension is not ok! Adjust it following your manual and don’t ever touch it again later, once it’s good it’ll stay good unless you work on really heavy fabric (jeans). You have an upper and an under tension, both should be regulated well!
The first drawing shows you a perfect tension. Picture a. shows the result of the upper tension being too loose, so tighten the upper tension more in this case. Picture b. shows the under tension being too loose, so tighten the under tension more in this case.
Virtually it means, when you see loops on top of your fabric (good side) it is actually the under tension that is not okay and vice versa!
I know all this sounds complicated but you have to be able to use your very own machine. Off you go, try just stitching on it’s own, get the feel of it! Next post will be the real first exercises: stitching straight on given lines.
A very curious