Got a sewing machine for christmas or new year but too scared to tackle setting it up? Take a quick look at our guide on sewing machine basics and get your machine ready, we promise it's not too bad. (And once you've got the hang of it, you'll never stop stitching on it!)

National Hobby Month: Setting Up Your Sewing Machine

The Golden Rule: 

Read your instruction manual before you start! Although you may not understand all of it, they often have useful diagrams and ensure that you don't start trying to pull apart bits that aren't meant to pull apart...

As every machine is slightly different, it is best to refer to your manual alongside whatever guide you are using to find the correct part and action to take. For example, some machines disengage the needle by pulling out the wheel, others by just moving the bobbin winder - you don't want to be pulling out the wheel if it's not meant to come out!

What's What on your Machine

Reminder: your machine may not look exactly the same (unless you have the same make and model!) so the different parts may be located in slightly different places or look slightly different - refer to your manual for help in finding these parts if you get stuck.

How to Change the Presser Foot

For a lot of machines, presser feet are relatively easy to change as they just snap on, although some use screws to hold them in place. Remember to do this with your machine turned OFF - you don't want to accidentally start sewing over your hands!

To replace or change a snap-on foot, simple raise the footer using the footer lever to the right of it (usually black plastic). This should bring it up to give a little bit of space underneath to get your fingers under. 

There is usually a metal lever at the back of the footer bar that goes up and down. If you flick it up, it will release your current footer. 

To attach the new footer, raise this lever whilst you position the footer in place under the bar, then lower it to grab hold of the footer and "snap" on. This can be a bit tricky to position so just bear with it and do a bit of shuffling to get the footer into the right place. 

How to Insert a Needle

A lot of machines come with a needle already inserted nowadays, but this is useful to know as you may need to change the needle if it snaps or when you are sewing with fabrics that require a special needle.

Simply turn the black screw to the right of your needle a couple of times to the right, to loosen and allow you to pull out the needle. To insert the new one, ensure that it is facing the right way - rounded side facing towards you, flat side facing the back of the machine, on the top of the needle - and place it into the hole, then tighten the screw. 

How to Wind a Bobbin

Winding the bobbin is an important technique to know how to do, as you'll need to do it every time you change to different colour threads. As always, each machine is slightly different so refer to your instruction manual to begin with. 

To begin, place your spool of thread on the spool holder if you haven't already and attach the bit of plastic that holds it in place. Take the loose end of your thread and bring it over to the thread guide on the top of the machine - most newer machines have a little diagram showing you where exactly to put the thread for winding the bobbin. 

Most of the time, it sits under the lip of what looks like a screw. Draw your thread to hook around this and pull back over towards the right of your machine.

Next you will need to disengage the needle and engage the bobbin winder. Quite often this involves pushing the bobbin winder (metal pole thing on the top) to the right. As always, check in your manual for specifics as this is where machines tend to differ the most in method.

Now thread the end of your thread into your bobbin, from the middle out through one of the holes. Place your bobbin on top of the metal bobbin holder, keeping hold of the loose thread end which should be coming from the top of the bobbin.

To begin winding, switch your machine on and simply put your foot on the pedal. The thread should begin winding itself onto the bobbin at a reasonable pace. Keep going until you are sure you will have enough on the bobbin to complete the project - quite often I just wind them on for ages so I don't have to keep winding thread on for every project, although this means you may have to buy new bobbins for each colour. 

How to Insert a Bobbin

For most top loading bobbins, it's relatively easy - quite often instructions are printed on the bobbin cover in the form of a diagram. 

Remove your bobbin cover and place your bobbin in with the thread drawing to the right. Then hook the loose end of the thread back around the metal section highlighted on the bobbin cover, and back up towards the top of the bobbin tray. With the loose end sitting out the edge of the bobbin tray, replace the bobbin cover. The loose end should be trapped between the edge of the bobbin tray and the bobbin cover. 

How to Thread a Sewing Machine

This is often the part that most people find daunting when setting up their machine the first time - my word of advice, it only gets easier the more you do it! Begin by placing your spool of thread on the spool pin, and hold in place with the spool holder cover. 

Next, simply follow the numbered guide on your machine to help you with threading. Firstly, bring the loose end of your thread spool around the thread guide on the top of your machine, and down the gap. 

At the bottom of the gap, follow the arrow to pull it back up in the parallel gap to the left of the first one. At the top you will see a hook - pull the thread around this and back down the gap, making sure the thread is round the hook the furthest it can go in.

Now you need to thread the needle. Most machines come with a built-in needle threader, so you can either use this or thread it by hand. To use the needle threader, draw the thread to the left and then secure under the two hooks to the right whilst holding down the needle threader lever in place. 

Hold the end taught when you release the lever and the thread should be drawn through the needle. Simply untangle the end to let it sit freely over towards the back of your machine. 

Now you need to thread the bobbin in. Insert your bobbin according to the instructions above, or your own instruction manual (the process is different depending upon the type of bobbin loading your machine uses - front or top loading). With the needle in the raised position, draw the needle downwards by twisting the wheel on the side of your machine. Hold your spool thread (the one inserted through the needle) taught as you continue turning the wheel - this should draw up your bobbin thread through the metal plate on your machine. 

When you see it, grab hold of the end of the bobbin thread and untangle, placing it facing towards the back of your machine like your needle thread. It should look like this (with the bobbin cover on): 

Hope this helps and happy sewing everyone! If you have any questions, leave a comment or email us!