8 Simple Tips for Better Machine Sewing

So you’ve decided that you want to try a hand at learning how to sew, or maybe you just want to brush up on your sewing skills. Here are some tips that will help you get off to a good start.

In this Article: (click ahead!)
1. Your Sewing Machine
2. Study Your Manual
3. Your Machine Accessories
4. Choose the Proper Needle
5. Choose the Proper Thread
6. Machine Care & Maintenance
7. Your Work Area & Storage Space
8. Carry Cases and Totes

1. YOUR SEWING MACHINE:  (Back To Top) Your sewing machine is the most important piece of sewing equipment you will own. It will serve you well in your sewing endeavors: maybe save you money as you sew your own clothes or possibly provide an outlet to unleash some of your inner creativity.

Its also a major purchase, one you may not be replacing for many years. And with so many exciting machines on the market with so many appealing features it can be daunting trying to choose one. Well, whatever your sewing goals are, you will need a sewing machine that is reliable, and by this I mean a machine that won’t give you constant issues. You will also need one that will provide the functions you need. Dont think that you will necessarily need to purchase a machine with the latest cutting edge features and technology. Know what features you are looking for first, (see our article on “What to Look for When Buying a Sewing Machine”) depending on the type of sewing you plan on doing and buy a machine that will meet your needs; don’t pay for features you will rarely use. If you are planning on expanding your sewing skills you can consider buying a machine that you can grow into or you can just decide to upgrade later.

Once you own a sewing machine you will want to become intimately acquainted with your machine: read the owner’s manual from cover to cover; refer to it often. Understand your machine’s basic features and accessories and become well acquainted with its characteristics.

Look after your machine as well. Keep it lint and dust free. Keep it covered when not in use and have it serviced regularly. Be sure to become familiar with the warranty also because if you tamper too much with your machine while it is under warranty then some aspects of service may become void. So take good care of your machine and it will take good care of you. Go To Sewing Machine Reviews.

2.STUDY YOUR MANUAL!:   (Back To Top)
This goes without saying and deserves to be repeated – read your owner’s manual from cover to cover; refer to it often. It is your bible for stress free sewing. In this way you will nip many problems in the bud! Many sewers found that they could have avoided countless hours of aggravation if they had just referred to their owner’s manual more closely.

So get to know your machine and its accessories intimately by studying your manual. It will create a much more rewarding sewing experience for you and will help you to avoid unnecessary problems and pitfalls.

If your machine manual is missing you may contact a sewing machine dealer or the machine manufacturer for a new one. You may also be able to locate a manual online in a downloadable PDF format. Be sure to have your machine’s model number available. You should be able to locate the model number on your machine.

3. YOUR MACHINE ACCESSORIES:   (Back To Top)
Your machine will come with a number of standard sewing accessories or extras. They are useful for helping to keep the functioning of your machine smooth and enjoyable or for replacing worn or used parts, etc. Included among them are:

Extra needles
Extra bobbins
Extra presser feet
Spool holders/caps
Seam ripper
Screwdriver
Lint brush
Soft or hard cover
Manual/instructional booklet and DVD

Many sewing machine manufacturers also provide numerous extra accessories in addition to those parts that come standard with the machine, such as additional presser feet, to perform special or unique tasks. Many of these little extras will become some of your most valuable parts. They will also become important as you try to decide which machine is right for you.

Your sewing machine and all its accessories can provide you with hours of creativity and enjoyment so do take the time to learn about each accessory piece and its function.

4. CHOOSE THE PROPER NEEDLE:   (Back To Top)
It’s important to choose the correct needle for your sewing project. Machine needles may all look the same but their minor differences are what make them best for particular threads, fabrics as well as the stitch selection being sewn. These are the factors that will affect the choice of needle required for the project at hand.

Keep in mind that for general sewing the fabric type will determine the shape of the needle point and the fabric weight will determine the needle size. And machine needles vary in size from 8 for very fine fabrics to 20 for very heavyweight fabrics.

The quality of your stitching will also be affected by the needle size and type. Perfect stitches require, among other things, that you use the correct needle. Dull, bent or burred needles can cause stitch problems as well such as skipped stitches or puckered seams. A good practice to follow is to insert a new needle in your machine before stitching a new project. Always use good quality needles and change a needle whenever you hit a pin.

It’s a good idea to keep a variety of machine needle sizes close by so you’ll always have the right needle when you need it. Most needles are interchangeable from machine to machine although older models may require a special type. Check your owner’s manual for the correct type for your machine. Try to keep your machine’s model number handy when you go shopping for needles.

5. CHOOSE THE PROPER THREAD:(Back To Top)
There are many different types of threads available for all kinds of sewing tasks, and it can be confusing trying to decide which one to choose. Improper or low quality thread can ruin your projects. Using the wrong thread can lead to problems with stitch quality, bobbin and upper thread jamming as well as contribute to problems with broken needles. As you can see the choice of thread is a factor that can determine the success of your sewing project. Here are a few things to consider when choosing the right thread for your project.

FIBER
Some threads are made of polyester while others are cotton; rayon, silk etc. Stick to choosing thread that has a similar fiber content with the fabric being sewn: 100% cotton thread is designed to be used with cotton fabrics; polyester is suitable for synthetic fabrics, silk for silk, etc. Polyester all-purpose thread that has a very slight give is suitable for sewing all types of fabrics and especially works well with stretchy and knit fabrics. Fiber content is important because, for example, if a cotton garment is sewn with polyester thread, the thread may melt in the washing machine if the setting is too hot.

QUALITY
Use good quality thread. You want results for your sewing to be secure and stable with seams that don’t fall apart easily. Strong, sturdy general-purpose thread is necessary for sewing clothes. Decorative threads that have a gloss or texture are also strong and are useful for creative stitching such as embroidery, crafting or embellishment. Thread used for basting does no have to be as strong as general-purpose thread since it is not meant to be permanent stitching; You need to be able to remove the stitching without causing any damage to the fabric. As for basting, its always best to use a contrasting color so that you can see to remove the thread easily.

COLORS
You’ll also want to keep a good selection of threads in a variety of colors. Choose a slightly darker shade of thread than the fabric you’re working on as a lighter shade may be more noticeable on the fabric.
(Resource: 200 Sewing Tips, Techniques and Trade Secrets by Lorna Knight)

6. MACHINE CARE and MAINTENANCE:  (Back To Top)
If you want to keep your machine running smoothly and enjoy it for many years then it’s important that you keep it clean and service it regularly. The amount of service your machine requires will be determined by the amount of sewing you do.

You can begin just by cleaning it regularly to prevent lint and dust buildup in the machine which can affect its performance. As a general rule, whenever you begin any maintenance or cleaning on your machine, make sure that it is unplugged.

The areas that you want to especially focus on are the areas that have contact with the fabric and thread: using the small lint brush that came with your machine clean the bobbin area, around and under the feed dogs and needle plate, in particular, as this is where lint and dust will generally build up. In addition, some machines may or may not require periodic oiling. Always keep your machine covered with a dust cover or hard case when not in use. Then you can store it away.

If you encounter stitching problems when sewing such as thread jams it may be necessary to clean and rethread the machine.

Always refer to your manual for the proper maintenance of your machine. If you are unable to locate your manual ask a local dealer for help.

Here is a great article from Threads Magazine that we found very helpful:

Click here for Preventive Sewing-Machine Maintenance

If you are interested in finding out more about Threads Magazine or purchasing a subscription click the icon below:

7. YOUR WORK AREA and STORAGE SPACE -And Don’t Forget About Lighting!  (Back To Top)
If you are fortunate enough to have the space in your home that you can dedicate to your sewing area –lucky you! If not you will need to find a place to set up your machine where you will be comfortable while you work.

Now your work space doesn’t need to be fancy or elaborate but it does need to be comfortable and functional. Keeping your sewing supplies orderly and accessible helps to create an inviting environment.

If you are like me and already have experience sewing you may have already amassed several sewing machines as well as quite a collection of enough fabrics, threads, books, equipment, accessories, etc. to open your own little sewing shop or fabric store. As these stashes of goodies grow and need to be stored you will need to become creative with your use of space. If you can relate to what I’m saying then you know what a problem storage can be for people who love to sew. If you are just starting out you might want to keep this in mind.

To begin with when storing your sewing machine it is important to keep your machine clean and dust free. Keep it covered when not in use, as this can affect the functioning of the machine. If you don’t have a hard cover then a dust cover of some sort is a good option. Then you can keep it tucked away in the closet. Special cabinets holding sewing machines are also very useful. Totes or sewing boxes for fabrics and notions keeps things orderly and neatly tucked away. You will also want to keep manuals stored together in one place where they, too, will be easily accessible.

And don’t underestimate the need for good lighting. Although most sewing machines come with a built-in light you may still need an additional light source to illuminate the area and avoid eye strain. A tabletop craft lamp  that includes a magnifying glass would be a great addition to any sewing room.

As you sew, keep in mind good posture and sewing ergonomics. Sitting in the same position for a long time will lead to body aches and cramps and you will want to set up your sewing space so that you will be comfortable and able to sew for a longer time (Click here to read our article on The Ergonomics of Sewing).

8. CARRY CASES and TOTES:  (Back To Top)
If you are going to take classes, attend workshops or have a big sewing bee at a friend’s house and plan to take along your sewing machine then investing in a good quality carry case is a wise decision. Now dont confuse a carry case with a hard cover (or soft cover). A hard cover is just that a cover to place over the machine and, although it does provide some protection, it does not provide the protection needed when transporting the machine. A carry case makes transporting your machine much easier and provides better protection. It also provides protection from dust, dirt and debris if you want to pack it up and store it away after each use.

Many cases allow you to set the machine on a tray or base that clips to the lid. A word of advice though: be sure to measure your machine before buying a case. You’ll want to make sure that the machine fits snuggly inside and protects it. If not, the machine may get jostled around inside defeating the purpose of a protective case. Or else, make sure that there is a way to lock the sewing machine into place so it doesnt shift around.

On the other hand you may find the extra space inside a handy way to include extra accessories and supplies. You may just need to add some extra padding to keep everything securely in place. A better feature would be a case with additional pouches or mesh pockets to hold sewing items such as cords, patterns, or other accessories. But however you chose it the case should be easy to pick up with the machine and accessories securely tucked in place.

A case will also protect the machine from dust when its stored after use. Keep in mind that some cases are bulky and you will want to consider the addtional storage space needed in your home especially if you have little space for storage.

If you decide to transport your machine in the trunk of the car, without a case, you can surround it with large pieces of foam to protect it and keep it secure.

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