If you read over some sewing machine reviews, then you are apt to think that these little devices are prone to breaking down. It seems like there is always someone complaining that the sewing machine they are using isn’t living up to the potential they think it should. However, I would say this is more of a problem with the user than it is with the machine manufacturers. Many people simply don’t know how to take care of their sewing machine.
I know this can sound a bit harsh, but it’s true. Many people think of sewing machines as more like work horses than the fine tuned instruments they are. And with any finely tuned instrument, you have to take care of it. Which involves not only using it properly but also doing some light maintenance on it. While I am not going to be telling you how to use your machine today, what I am going to tell you how to do is how to clean it to keep it in pristine condition. Here are some tips for performing maintenance on your sewing machine to keep it in good running condition.
Use A Maintenance Schedule
The first thing you need to do is figure out how much you use your machine on a weekly basis. You don’t need to come up with exact figures but you do need an estimate to how many hours you use in weekly. Once you have come up with an estimate, you can then figure out how often you will need to clean your machine. Most experts and manufacturers recommend that you clean your machine after ever ten hours of use, but cleaning it more often will work as well. You can also use the 2 bobbin rule. This rule states that you should clean your machine after ever 2 bobbin changes. This is a good guide to use as well.
Assemble Your Cleaning Kit
Here are some things you are going to need:
Instruction Manual: This is the most important. Make sure that you have a copy of your instruction manual handy. It gives you specific guidelines for cleaning your particular model. If you don’t have the manual, then either find it on the Internet, get one from a local dealer or contact the machine’s manufacturer. Just be sure you have one on hand.
Lint Brush: A lot of machines come with their own lint brushes, but if yours doesn’t then you need to purchase one. If you need too, you can also use a makeup brush in a pinch.
Needles: You are going to want to change your needles after every cleaning. This will improve sewing performance.
A soft cloth: You can use just about any type of cloth, but I usually prefer to use a high quality muslin cloth.
Now that you understand the reason for cleaning your machine and have assemble all of your tools together, it is now time to get down to the actual cleaning. Please refer to my article, How To Clean Your Sewing Machine-Part Two for the best sewing machine cleaning practices.
The only way that you are going to get better at using your sewing machine is by doing a lot of practice, and I do mean a lot of it. Sure, when you start using it for the first time you are going to make a lot of mistakes, and probably mess up quite a bit of fabric, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the effort. In fact, you will realize that you the more time you put into it the better you become. As with anything worth doing in this life.
Today, I am going to tell you how to perform some of the most commonly asked for stitches that I have seen people ask for in numerous sewing machine reviews and articles. These are the basic ones that will get you started on your goal of becoming the sewing machine master that you want to become. Some of them might seem hard at first, but don’t be discouraged. Perseverance goes a long way in sewing.
The Handy Back Stitch
This stitch is necessary so that you don’t have to spend time tying the front and back ends of your stitch. It’s also fairly easy to do. You simply sew a few stitches forward, and then when you are ready, push the back switch button. The needle will now begin to travel backwards. When you have reached the beginning of your stitch, stop. Keep practicing until you have it mastered.
Dreaded Straight Lines
Sometimes it can be pretty hard to sew a straight line, so a little bit of practice is recommended. When I first began sewing, I found that if I took a piece of fabric that already straight stitch lines, and practiced following them, that I was able to improve the straightness of my lines. I know that it will work for you as well.
Of course, this isn’t the only way to practice sewing straight lines. You can also take a piece of fabric that is striped (like a dish towel) and practice following the lines. Or you can take a ruler and draw some straight lines on a piece of scrap fabric using a market. Then all you have to do is try to follow the line. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work well the first couple of times you try it. You will get better.
On To Advanced Stitching
Now that you have mastered the basics, it is time to move on to something a little bit harder: curved lines. This type of stitching will often give the most anxiety to beginners, but it isn’t as hard as you think it is. You have to sew a little bit slower and use a steady hand, but it’s well worth the trouble.
Well, these are the best sewing machine practice guidelines that I can give you today. Hopefully, these will not only show you how to start practicing your stitches but will also encourage you to start practicing as well.
Most of the best sewing machine patterns I have used have been ones that I have made myself. Sure, I could have bought pre-made patterns or even found free patterns online, but I actually like crafting my own. It indulges my inner artist and gives me a bit of a challenge. It is also extremely gratifying sewing your own unique article of clothing from scratch.
I understand however, that creating your own pattern from scratch can seem pretty intimidating. It was for me at first. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it a try. All you need is a little bit of time, a bit of patience and a plan on how to proceed. Now, I can’t help you with these first two things, but I can help you with the last part. Today I am going to teach you how to make your own pattern.
Before you begin making your own pattern however, you need to understand the basics of clothing construction. This is knowledge that can only be gained from first hand observation. Take some old pieces of clothing and take a good hard look at them. Deconstruct them if you have to. Just make sure that you understand how clothes are put together. You should also have a basic understanding of how your sewing machine handles certain fabrics. This knowledge can come from first hand experience or from reading sewing machine reviews.
Now that you understand clothing construction, it is time to start your first pattern. You should definitely start with something simple and I think I have the perfect project for you. It was one of the first projects I ever did too. It’s turning a plain man’s T-shirt into a onesie.
The first thing you need to do is to fold the onsie in half and place it on a piece of light cardboard material. Then trace the other half of the onsie. This will become your pattern. Be sure to allow for the seam, after all you don’t want it to be tight, and that should about do it. You have your pattern.
You can take this basic approach and apply it to just about anything. You can turn already made pieces of clothing and make them into something else. It is something that I have been doing for quite a long time now and it has never failed me. I’m sure it will work for you as well. Sure, you might have to practice a bit to get everything right and your first few articles of clothing might be a disaster, but if you put in the time and effort I am sure that you will be happy with the result.
Most of the advice I give out is helping people cover the basics of using the machine and becoming comfortable with sewing. Today however, I am going to try something a little bit different. I am going to give out the best sewing machine tips I have in my arsenal that will show you how to use your sewing machine to get professional results. If you want to sew like the pros do—and I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to—then follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to sewing perfection.
Sewing Pillow Covers
If you are sewing something like a pillow cover, then the best advice that I can give you is to keep your stitch length short. This will not only give you a better seam but will also make it less likely to tear or rip apart.
Keeping An Eye On Loose Threads
It doesn’t matter how well you can sew, if you have fraying or loose threads then your entire project is going to look amateurish. So trim those threads and give your project that clean professional look.
Serge The Seams
Serging seams can really give a professional appearance. You can do this either using a serger, which can be bought in any craft store, or by pressing the seams before you start sewing. Trust me, it makes a big difference.
Use A Point Turner
Point turners can either be made of plastic or bamboo and they are made to turn your fabric right side out without damaging it. Using this device can really make your work look professionally done, so be sure to use yours. If you don’t have one, they can be easily purchased online and with minimal expense.
Press As You Sew
This is one of my favorite tips for creating professional looking projects. Instead of pressing your clothing with an iron after you have finished it, why not press it as you sew? I do this with every single one of my projects and it never disappoints me.
Buy A Professional Machine
This may be the best piece of advice I can give you. Make sure that you buy a machine that is capable of producing professional results. You can find a professional machine by asking friends or by reading sewing machine reviews. This will usually give you all the information you need to pick the best machine possible.
You have researched and bought the best sewing machine. You have assembled all of the tools you need and have learned some techniques. Now all you have to do is sit down and sew. Then all of a sudden it hits you. You have spent all of this time buying the right machine, the right thread and the best thread, but you know little to nothing about what type of fabric to use.
To make things even worse, If you walk into a fabric store without any knowledge about fabric, then it can be an overwhelming experience. You are faced with rows and rows of different types of material. And usually the sales person in charge has as little information to offer you on the subject. This can turn what you thought would be a pleasant day buying fabric into some sort of a nightmare. That’s alright because I am going to give you a quick and dirty guide to buying fabric. Here are the basics of what you need to know about fabric.
Okay, let’s start with the basics. When you walk into a fabric store, all of the different fabrics are arranged in bolts. Bolts is a term for fabric that is either rolled or folded. These bolts are then arranged according to the type of fabric they have. Craft fabric is usually in one part of the store and household fabric is in another part. Don’t worry, these areas are usually adequately marked so you can find what you need to find quickly and easily.
There is one quick note I need to add about fabric stores really quickly however, before we move on. Please keep in mind that not all fabric stores offer a general selection of merchandise. Some stores specialize in specific fabric types. Just something to think about while you are choosing a store.
Some of the fabrics you are likely to find in the store include:
Cotton: This fabric will usually shrink when washed, so be sure to buy cotton that has been pre-washed. This material is good for aprons and other household projects.
Canvas And Denim: These materials are not only heavier than cottons, but are also a lot sturdier. These are great for projects that need a higher level of durability such as totes or items that are going to be used outside.
Flannel: This material is most often used for things such as pajamas or baby clothing. It is soft and comfortable, but be advised that it will usually shrink after it’s washed the first few times.
Jersey Knits: This material is like T-shirt material. It is often used for various apparel items. Just keep in mind that since this material stretches, it might be harder to sew.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but it does cover the basics. I do have one last tip before I go, however. Before committing to buying fabric, be sure to read sewing machine reviews to see which machine works best with each material.
If there is one thing that I have learned from reading hundreds upon hundreds of sewing machine reviews, it’s the fact that many beginners don’t know they have to get used to their machines. Most people don’t realize that each sewing machine seems to have its own unique personality, kind of like a pet. It doesn’t matter if it is a brand new state-of-the-art machine that was bought online or if it is an older one that was bought in a thrift store or at a garage sale. If you want to get the most out of your machine, then you really have to get to know its tendencies. It’s really worth the time to get to know your machine—whether its new or just new to you—so that you can get the most out of it.
That is why I am going to give you some tips that will help you familiarize yourself with your sewing machine without all of the headaches involved with such a learning curve. It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or if you are the best sewing machine master on the planet acquainting yourself to a new machine. These tips are going to help you get up and running in a shorter amount of time and without all of the aggravation, trust me.
The first step in this process is locating the manual to your sewing machine. Every single machine on the planet has a manual that shows you how to properly operate it. The manual is an important part of the machine and tells you everything you need to know about it. It tells you how to properly use it and how to maintain it. Therefore, it’s very important that you familiarize yourself with it. Of course, if you bought your machine second-hand, then it may not have come with the manual. That’s okay, because you can find the manuals to almost all but the most exotic brands online, and they are usually offered free of charge by the manufacturer as well.
You may have several bobbins around your house that have been leftover from the machines you’ve previously owned and you might be tempted to re-purpose them for your new machine. I’m sorry but that is not a good idea. Most manufacturers have bobbins that are unique to their machines. Even if they appear to fit, then they might not be right for your model. And that is why I recommend that you get ones that are made specifically for your machine.
The last piece of advice I can give you that will help you get to know your machine a little better is to practice and practice again. Start off by practicing on scrap pieces of cloth. This will give you a good idea of your machine’s tendencies and help you concentrate on controlling its speed and settings. After you have done that, then you can move on to trying to sew simple patterns and eventually move on to putting the machine into full service.
Now that you know that you have to clean your machine, understand the reason behind most negative sewing machine reviews is poor maintenance, and have assemble your cleaning tools—it is now time to dig right in and begin cleaning your device. Before we start I would like to remind you that you are going to need a good hour to follow these steps, so be sure that you have the time set aside for this project so that you aren’t interrupted in the middle of it. With that being said, let’s dig right in and start getting our sewing machine in tip-top condition. Here are the steps in order:
- Unplug your machine. This is something you should do whenever you are cleaning the machine or even when you are just changing the needles. It is just good safety.
- Remove the needle from your machine and toss it. As you do so, be sure to note the direction of the flat side of the needle. In most machines with side bobbins, the flat side usually faces the right. If you don’t have a machine with a side bobbin, then the flat side of the needle will most likely face the back of the machine.
- Read your manual and find out how to remove the needle plate and the presser bar. Remove them.
- Next open the bobbin cover and remove the bobbin as well as the bobbin case.
- Using your lint brush or makeup brush, remove all of the debris from around these parts.
- If you are familiar with how the bobbin race fits into the machine, then you can remove it and clean it. If you aren’t familiar with how this part fits into the machine or your manual doesn’t give you specific directions on removing it, then its best to not remove this part in the first place for cleaning. Take it to a sewing machine repair shop for cleaning. On the other hand, if you can safely remove it, then be sure to give it a thorough cleaning.
- Brush out the feed dogs
- Brush out the area beneath the feed dogs
- Reassemble the bobbin race (if you took it apart that is)
- If there is a side cover on your sewing machine, then you can open it up and clean the thread path and tension disks.
- Take your soft cloth and clean the exterior of the machine.
- Reassemble everything, plug it in and make sure it is working correctly. After you have determined it is working, then you can unplug it and insert new needles in it.
This is the best sewing machine cleaning method I know about. I have been using this method to clean all of my machines and they have never failed me during a stitching job. Follow these steps on a regular basis and I am sure your machine will run just as good as the day you bought it.
Modern sewing machines are wonderful devices that not only make sewing an easier chore to do but have a bunch of features that make them pretty much error-proof. Of course, that is not how it seems to a lot of people. There are quite a few people out there, and maybe you are one of them, that really get tired of their machine acting up in one way or another. If you don’t believe me, then all you have to do is read some of the sewing machine reviews and you’ll see what I am talking about. It seems like there are quite a few machines out there that are rebelling against their users.
It would be easy to blame the machine, but unfortunately it isn’t the machine’s fault—at least nine times out of ten. Most of the common “malfunctions” that crop up during sewing have more to do with user error than a shoddily designed machine. I hate to break it to you but it’s the truth.
Fortunately, it is something that can be remedied. Today, I am going to show you some of the most common sewing machine errors and the best sewing machine remedies for these errors. Fixing these problems as they arise will allow you to solve them quickly and get on with the task at hand.
Problem #1: My Needle Keeps Unthreading
This is the most common problem. You have just threaded your needle and as soon as you start sewing—bam—it comes unthreaded. Fortunately, this is easy to solve. First off, always make sure you have an adequate amount of thread pulled through the needle and out the back of the machine. At least several inches. Second, make sure that your needle is at the highest position possible before you start sewing. You can make sure that the needle is fully raised by checking the top of your sewing machine. If you can see the take-up lever, then the needle is fully raised. If you can’t, then hand crank your machine until you can.
Problem #2: My Fabric Is Hyperactive!
If you are attempting to thread your garment or piece of fabric and it just won’t sit still long enough to finish the task, then you don’t have the presser foot lowered. The presser foot holds down the fabric so you can stitch neatly. If it’s not lowered, your fabric will move with the needle. Don’t let that happen, lower your presser foot.
Problem #3: Uneven Stitching
If you just finished doing a stitch and it looks really loose on one side and really tight on the other side, then you most likely have a tension problem. Check the settings on your machine and make sure that the tension is set correctly. If that still doesn’t fix the problem, then check your bobbin and make sure that it is not only inserted in the machine in the correct way, but that the thread is pulled through those grooves that are in the bobbin case.
This article is for those who are inexperience using sewing machines. It is intended for novices who have basically no knowledge of these devices but want to begin to learn about them. Which means that if you have intermediate or advanced sewing machine knowledge, then you are probably going to be quite bored with it. That’s because today we are learning about the parts of a sewing machine.
Some of you might scoff at the idea that someone needs to be taught the basic parts of a sewing machine, but let me tell you that it isn’t funny at all. This is the kind of knowledge that one needs as they are beginning to use this machine and judging from sewing machine reviews, is a topic that really needs to be addressed. So without further adieu, let’s begin with basic sewing machine anatomy.
The Power Switch
One of the most important parts of a sewing machine, as well as one of the parts that is most frequently used, is the power switch. This turns the device on and off and is located in different places on different models. Usually on the top or the back of the machine.
The Spool Pin
After finding the power switch, you can now look for the spool pin. This is a small pin that is designed to hold your spool of thread. It is usually located on the top of the machine and is made of plastic or metal.
The Bobbin Winder And Bobbin Winder Stopper
Located next to the spool pin is the bobbin winder. It’s a small horizontal wheel that is used to wind thread onto your bobbin. Next to that is a small pin called a bobbin winder stopper.
The Thread Guide
This is a small funny shaped guide with a simple purpose. It’s designed to guide thread from the spool to the bobbin winder.
Stitch Adjustment Buttons
This may be manual buttons or switches or an electronic one, depending on your sewing machine model. However, no matter which one it is, the point of it is the same. To select the length, type and direction of the stitch.
This is the part that moves vertically as you stitch.
This is a wheel with numbers on it. It is usually located near the take-up lever.
Needle Clamp Screw
Located under the arm of the machine. Its used to hold the needle in place while you are sewing.
This is under the needle clamp screw. This holds your fabric or material in place.
This is the plate underneath the needle.
The Feed Dog
Located under the presser foot and on the needle plate. It’s a guide that feeds the fabric while you are sewing.
Bobbin Cover Release
These is the last part on the machine. It releases the cover so that you can access the bobbin and insert or remove it.
And that is all there is to it. This may not be the best sewing machine anatomy lesson, but it is one that will allow you to learn your machine quickly and easily.
If you are like a lot of people, then you have just been using your best sewing machine for simple projects. Just for things like doing seams or stitching a hole. Which is fine of course, but you are really limiting the power of your machine. Perhaps you have been doing things this way because you aren’t sure if you can handle bigger jobs. Well, if that is the case, then I am going to show you some sewing hacks that will make those big scary projects look like child’s play. So if you are ready, then let’s begin.
Sewing Bulky Material
If you have ever been frustrated trying to sew bumpy fabric such as terry cloth, then take heart. I have a trick that will keep your presser foot moving forward at warp speed. All you have to do is place a plastic bag over the material. The sewing machine will sew right through it and you can keep the machine moving forward on a nice smooth surface.
Sewing In A Zipper
Sewing a zipper is often something dreaded by most people. That doesn’t have to be the case. You can install a zipper the easy way. Sew up your seam, put your zipper face down in the seam allowance and stitch it right in place. Now slice open the seam with your seam ripper and reveal the zipper. Voila!!
The Sure Fire Way To Sew With Metallic Thread
Having problems with that delicate decorative thread? Does it keep breaking as you are trying to sew? Well, if it does, then you can use this trick to fix it. Just use a roll of normal thread with your metallic thread. Thread them both through the eye and the normal thread will act as a support for the decorative thread.
Are You looking for a better way to store your bobbins? Then why not use a toe separator. They will hold several bobbins securely in place and right at arms length.
Easy Way To Mark Your Seam Allowance
If you want to add a seam allowance to your project but don’t want to do a lot of measuring, then just use pencils to draw it. If you have a 5/8” seam, then tape three pencils together. If you have a 1/2” seam, then tape two pencils together. Then as you trace the edge of your pattern, you will get a perfect seam allowance each time.
Hopefully these sewing hacks will get you started on some of those tougher projects. I have gathered these tips and tricks together by pouring through countless sewing machine reviews and noting some of the best advice found in them. I have found these hacks to be very useful to me and I hope they will be useful to you as well.