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 parts is an essential lesson in your sewing journey.  

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.

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.  

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 my probably 4 years ago for Christmas.  This is the exact model machine is Mother sewed on when he was growing up.  

I tried to label each of the parts of the machine.  Now, 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.

Sewing 101:  Sewing Machine Anatomy

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. Basic sewing machine anatomy.  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.  

Sewing 101:  Sewing Machine Anatomy


  1. Good stuff! I also sew on a Bernina 830. It's the one my mom used as I grew I'll and until this past Christmas when she got an industrial machine. I love it!

    1. Love finding another fellow Bernina 830 user. Great machine!

  2. Great post!! When I started teaching my daughter to sew (oops we need to get back to that) one thing we talked about was the anatomy of the sewing machine. I will have to save your post for her and my other daughter who now wants to learn too.

  3. Your article contain good knowledge about sewing machine and it really help me to learn new things regarding sewing.I have one suggestion for you related to sewing i have created my own Embroidery Library here you can see creative and unique stuff.Hope you like it.