Sewing Machine Basics Everyone Should Know

Jun 13, 2020 8:07:00 AM / by Emily Tindall

Did you know that June 13th is a special day? No, it’s not Flag Day and it’s not Father’s Day this year - it’s National Sewing Machine Day! National Sewing Machine Day was established to honor and recognize the invention of the first sewing machine. To celebrate National Sewing Machine Day, I’ll start off by giving you some history, and then I’ll share with you some sewing machine basics everyone should know! 


Scrappy Throw Connector Quilt Emily


Hi, I’m Emily and I have been using sewing machines for as long as I can remember. My mom actually has a machine that’s as old as I am and it still runs like a dream! 


Sewing Machine History:

In England in 1790, Thomas Saint filed a patent for the very first sewing machine. There is very little information about that original machine, and it was never actually built until 84 years later when William Newton Wilson found the patent and made Saint’s great ideas come to fruition. 

In the United States, the first sewing machine patent was filed in the mid 1840s by Elias Howe. 

sewing machine


Personally, I am so grateful for these inventors who paved the way! I often wonder if they would have even dreamed up the sewing machines we have today with all the fancy gadgets, tools, bells and whistles! 


Now to the good stuff - let’s see if you already know these Sewing Machine Basics! 


Sewing Machine Basics Everyone Should Know


1. How to clean your sewing machine 

Taking adequate care of your sewing machine is essential to provide it with a long & happy life! Since each machine is different, it is best if you refer to your owners manual to find the exact specifics of how to take your cover off to get to where all the lint and dust builds up.



2. How to thread your sewing machine

Now this is SUPER basic, but it can be tricky! Every machine is a little different but they all have the same basic parts. You’ll have your main spool of thread up top, and then your bobbin on the bottom, which you insert either into the front or drop in under your throat plate.



3. How to adjust sewing machine tension

Normally we don’t think of tension as a good thing, but in sewing we need exactly the right amount of tension! It can be a bit of a headache until you get the hang of it, but it doesn’t have to be confusing. In order to get nice, even, straight stitches you want your machine to have even tension on the bottom thread compared to the top thread.


You can adjust the top tension on a dial or disc on most machines, and some of the more expensive machines even have features that can auto-adjust tension for you! If your machine has a manual dial for the top thread tension, find what works the best as a “default” and consider even marking it with a permanent marker. Depending on the type of bobbin your machine uses, you may also have the option to adjust the bobbin tension. Refer to your owner’s manual for the specifics! (If you don’t currently have an owner’s manual, many are available for digital download online. Simply search for the make & model of your machine to see if it’s available.)

Walking Foot Husqvarna Viking


4. How and when to use a Walking Foot (also called an even-feed foot)

While the walking foot is technically not the sewing machine, and more of an attachment for it, I just have to make sure you have one and know how to use it! I was quilting for 4 years before anyone told me about this magic tool called the Walking Foot, and my life has changed for the better since learning how to use it. For more tips about quilting with a domestic sewing machine, check out these 3 Quilting Hacks for Straight Line Quilting.


5. Where to buy a Sewing Machine

While there are TONS of sewing machine options online, I’ll always recommend that if you are spending more than a couple hundred dollars on it, you should visit local dealers near you. The relationship you have with a dealer can be super important with learning how to use all the features on it and many dealers even offer free classes for a certain time frame after you make your purchase. 



6. What’s the difference between a sewing machine and an overlock machine?

An overlock machine, often also referred to as a “serger” typically uses 4 threads to finish edges while sewing. If you look in the seam of the shirt you’re wearing right now, there’s a good chance an overlock seam was used along the sides. In contrast, a sewing machine normally only uses 2 threads and has more flexibility with types of stitches or functionality. Most sewing machines will offer at least a handful of different stitches, and tons of other features too like button holes, ability to adjust needle position, and many more.


How many of these basics did you already know? Leave a comment if you learned something new!


Topics: sewing machine, GO! Getter, Quilting Tips

Emily Tindall

Written by Emily Tindall