Mandatory “Accessories” - needles & feet
The sharp thing with thread that’s needed to sew with 😉. For most of my sewing and piecing I use an 80 Microtex chrome, but universal is a great option for sewing and quilting. If you're going to be sewing other materials besides cotton or flannels you'll want a needle guide to help you choose which one will work best for your project. For quilting and binding I recommend a 90 Topstitch chrome to get through all those layers easier.
Feet (aka Presser Foot)
Our sewing feet… they vary by usage. For quilting I recommend having 1-3 for sure… a ¼” foot, a walking foot (if you can get this with ¼” markings that’s GREAT and can replace the other ¼” foot), and an open-toe foot—optional but helpful (check out this blog post for more info).
Threading Your Machine
Usually, your spool is going to be middle to right on the top of your sewing machine. And depending on your machine the spool may be standing upright or laying on its side with the spool-base toward the right and feeding thread to the left.
Typically, the thread goes over to the left, just above the needle, then in a near vertical (it sometimes makes and “N”) line with the needle.
For many machines you have plastic or painted arrows that guide you on how to thread your machine. Either way it’s a really good idea to refer to your machine’s manual to help guide you as you thread your sewing machine for the first few times.
Check out this video on threading your sewing machine.
Sewing Machine Manual
If you don’t have your manual, you should be able to look it up online, then download, and print it. Not only will your manual show you how to thread your machine, but it will be able to guide you through other various troubleshooting techniques. Not to mention, giving directions on getting started, loading & threading the bobbin, and information about your machine, in general, and how to use it.
Here are a couple decent resources for finding your sewing machine manual online:
- All-UserManuals.com – you search directly from the home screen.
- If you have a Singer sewing machine this should be a great site for you! Find your model and click on its link where it will take you to another page where you can then download the pdf.
- ManualsLib.com has numerous manuals, but definitely not all of them.
- Last, but not least is ManualsOnline.com they seem to have a good selection of brands, so hopefully they have yours.
Sewing Machine “Rules” - thread
I talked about thread in this blog post and which seemed to be very informational for my readers (Yay!!). In it I talk about quality thread, but one thing I forgot to mention (and probably need to amend) is that thread has a twist to it… they’re 2-4 threads are twisted together (the ply) and in a certain direction.
Why does this matter? It matters for you because the direction you thread your machine is the direction your thread always needs to go; if you go in the opposite direction, you’ll be causing your thread to shed off more of its lint into the “guts” of the machine, which in turn, can cause future problems if it doesn’t get cleaned out.
You’re probably saying, “Tracy, I’ll just go clean that out. No problem.” I wish I could say you’re correct, but unfortunately, you’re not able to access all the guts of your machine. Yes, you can clean some of your bobbin area, your needle area, and your tension guides (check this blog post to see what I’m referring to), but there are still areas you can’t access… deeper in your bobbin area and inside the “free arm” area of your machine—those are places your repair person has to access or you will likely void your warranty.
In short, keep your thread going in the direction of its normal route of travel for sewing, this will prevent lint build up.
To change thread, you’ll want to snip your thread near the beginning of where you start threading your machine and pull the thread out through the needle area. I know it’s a bit of a waste, but it’s definitely better than the alternative (and much less expensive than a repair bill).
Sewing Machine “Rules” - hand-turning
Generally speaking, the handwheel is not to be cranked backwards (clockwise); in my initial instruction when learning to sew I was told not to hand crank the wheel backwards… something about it being bad for the machine—I didn’t question my teacher back then but wish I had picked her brain a bit more as to why.
Although hand cranking is not a normal action done when sewing, as the foot pedal does most of that work automatically. There are, however, just a couple times when we do need to hand-turn the handwheel. One is when we have thick fabric we are working with or bulky layers that we’d need to help the machine chug along. I will hand crank the handwheel in these cases to ensure my stitches stay even.
The only other time I use the handwheel is when there’s a “rat’s nest” under the throat plate and have no other option but to wiggle the handwheel back and forth to loosen things up enough to be able to cut the rat’s nest out. (Make sure to remove any excess threads that should be showing up.
Hint: there should only be two—one from the needle and one from the bobbin.)
Tips - bobbin thread
“Slow is fast” when it comes to winding… Another gem that was shared with me when I was learning to sew is to go slower when bobbin winding. Going slow will allow the thread to be more organized going onto the bobbin, so more thread will be able to fit onto the bobbin, thus having a longer bobbin life and more sewing time for you! Slower is faster. 😃
Also… your bobbin thread and upper thread should be of the same weight. If I’m piecing with 40wt thread through the needle that is also the weight I would typically want in the bobbin. The reason I mention this is because sometimes—usually when quilting and binding—I will have different colored thread in the top and bottom to match my top or binding and the backing.
When quilting or doing embroidery it is acceptable to have a higher (thinner) weight thread in the bobbin and lower (thicker) thread coming through the needle, just be aware you may have to adjust the tension on the machine. The reason the different weights is acceptable is because the lower thread is finer and so won’t come up and be seen on the quilt top. (The reverse of this—thicker bottom and thinner top—will not work as you will see the bottom thread on the top of the quilt and that’s not pretty.)
As you can see there is quite a few things the store probably didn’t mention to you when you purchased your sewing machine, but all the above are good things to read and remember. Do you have any more tips you think should be mentioned? I’d love to hear them! Comment below with your thoughts and I’ll update this post. If you’re a Quilty Club Member you’ll find out when I make updates, plus you get my Free Quilting Block & Unit Reference Guide by becoming a member here, if you’re not already a member.
Thank you sew 😉 much for joining me here! I look forward to hearing from you and getting your thoughts!
If you like this post, you may find these ones interesting as well:
- Sewing Machines Pt. I – Parts of a sewing machine
- Sewing Machines Pt. II – A guide for purchasing your sewing machine
- Basic Quilting Tools
- Let’s Talk Thread
- Casserole Hot Pad/ Trivet Tutorial
Warmth & Love,
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