Sewing 101: Sewing Machine Anatomy

Are you a beginner sewist?  Need to understand your sewing machine just a little bit more?  Today's post is for you.  Understanding your sewing machines anatomy or sewing machine parts and functions.  This is a very basics of most sewing machines.  Yours may look a bit different, but you should have all of the same features.

Sewing 101:  Sewing Machine Anatomy
This post contains affiliate links to products I have used and highly recommend.  I do make a portion off any you may purchase.  But I wouldn't link to them if they weren't awesome!  See full disclosure here.


When I started sewing I used a very basic machine, it didn't have all the bells and whistle many of the more expensive machines have.  So I will admit that all sewing machines are not created equally.  That being said, it doesn't matter whether you learn to sew on a cheap machine or the most expensive machine in the world, all sewing machines have some of the same and essential features.  You don't need a fancy machine to start sewing, you just need one that functions and does the basics.  So today we are going to dive into the basic sewing machine parts and functions.




Side Note:  If you ever wondered what I sew on, I will tell you.  Meet "Bernie" my Bernina 830.  She is an oldie but a goodie.  She really is a goodie.  My husband bought her for me several years ago for Christmas.  This is the exact model machine his Mother sewed on when he was growing up.  It is a bit nostalgic, but it runs great and has metal parts which is exactly what I wanted.  So there you have it.  If you are in the market for your first sewing machine, head over to our best beginner sewing machine post for some advice on what machine to get for yourself.



Basic Sewing Machine Parts and Functions

I tried to label each of the parts of the sewing machine below. Your machine should still have all the key anatomy below, where it is located may not be in the same place.  However, a good place to start is to check out your sewing machine manual.  If you aren't sure, you can also google your sewing machine model and find guides and often videos about each of the sewing machines.  

Sewing 101:  Sewing Machine Anatomy

Here are the basic sewing machine parts and their functions to help you get started.

Bobbin Winder:  Often located on the top or the side of the sewing machine, used to hold the empty bobbin to wind thread for use in the bobbin.
Button Hole Control: Used to create buttonholes.  Often on electronic machines, this feature is actual a button your push.
Feed Dogs:  These are the little teeth located under your presser foot.  They help to move the fabric through the machine as you sew.
Feed Dog Control:  This may be located on the outside, but sometimes it is located inside the bobbin compartment.  Why would you need this?  When you are sewing on a button or sometimes when tacking fabric, you'll want to drop your feed dogs so that your fabric doesn't move through your machine.


Sewing 101:  Sewing Machine Anatomy


Foot Pedal:  The foot pedal is just that, the pedal your foot pushes to operate the machine.  The more pressure you place on the foot pedal the faster your machine goes.
Hand Wheel:  The hand wheel is located on the right side of your sewing machine.  This is a great way to "walk" your needle.  Meaning, if you are at a corner or edge and don't want your threads to go to far, you move the hand wheel towards your body and your needle will continue to sew down and up.  ALWAYS move the hand wheel towards your body.
Machine Arm:  This is the part of the machine that "sticks out".  This is where your fabric will usually be hanging out most of the time while you sew.
Needle:  The needle is used to sew the thread into the fabric.  It is sharp enough to penetrate the fabric without damaging it.  For different types of fabrics, you'll want different sizes of needles.  We will cover this in another lesson.
Needle Position:  The needle position controls where the needle is sewing.  If you want to sew closer to the right side you can change the needle position and where your needle stitches.
On/Off Switch:  Turns your machine on and off.
Presser Foot:  The presser foot holds your fabric in place while you sew.  You lower the presser foot using the lever directly behind the presser foot.  Some machines also have an attachment that you can use to lower the presser foot using your knee.  Your machine probably has several different presser feet such as a zipper foot or walking foot.  We discuss those in another lesson. 
Spool Pins:  Located at the top of the machine, sometimes you open the machine to find them as well.  These hold your spools of thread.
Stitch Length:  This button is used to lengthen or shorten the length of your stitches.  Longer stitches are used for basting or gathering.  Short stitches are used on slick fabrics.
Tension:  This adjusts how tight the thread works through your machine.  You have several places to adjust tension.
Thread Guide:  This is where the thread is looped through the machine so it can work through the machine.
Throat Plate:  This is the cover that is over the feed dogs.  This can be removed for cleaning.



Sewing 101:  Sewing Machine Anatomy



Bobbin:  The thread is wound around the bobbin.
Bobbin Case:  Holds the bobbin to be placed in the machine.

And there you have it the basic sewing machine parts and functions.  Most machines will have the same features.  The more expensive and newer machines will have even more features, like the ability to embroider and fun stitch designs.  As your learn your machine you will learn what each of those functions are.  Make sure to take time to look through your sewing machine manual.  You may also want to check out some of the essential tools you'll need to start sewing.


Sewing 101:  Sewing Machine Anatomy