The Anatomy of a Sewing Machine

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Hey, you!

It is time to get very friendly with your sewing machine–your new best friend forever (BFF).

And since she is going to be your BFF, of course, you want to know everything about her, right?! After all, isn’t that what best friends do?!

By the end of this article, you will know the parts of your sewing machine and their functions.

Please don’t submit to overwhelm. Because after a week or so of dedicated together time with your sewing machine, you will know it as well as you do the back of your hand. I promise you…

Now, let’s get close and friendly with our sewing machine, the most important sewing tool in our arsenal for dreaming, sewing, and flaunting insanely pretty dresses…

NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!

The Anatomy of a Sewing Machine

While every sewing machine brand and model has its own personality, these are the parts they all have in common.

But before we begin, get your owner’s manual out so that you can follow along.

Now, that you’ve got your owner’s manual, let’s begin at the top…

Top View of a Sewing Machine

top view of the janome dc2014 sewing machine

Bobbin Winding Thread Guide (1)

The bobbin winding thread guide guides the thread between the spool thread and the bobbin winder.

And, do you also see the very helpful diagram on how to wind a bobbin and thread your sewing machine?! Yes, many machines will include these helpful diagrams. Sweet!

Bobbin Winding Shaft (2)

This is where you place your EMPTY bobbin so that you can fill it with high-quality thread. It is located to the right of the bobbin winding thread guide.

Bobbin Winder Stopper (3)

When you are ready to wind your bobbin, simply press the bobbin winding spindle towards the stopper. This will engage the bobbin winding system, allowing the machine to wind a bobbin.

Horizontal Spool Pin & Spool Cap (4a) + Hole for Additional Spool Pin (4b)

This where your needle (or spool) thread sits when you are sewing or winding a bobbin.

Spool pins can be horizontal or vertical.  Every machine has at least one. If you’re lucky, your machine will have two.

I’m lucky a vertical seamstress. My Janome DC2014 has a horizontal spool pin and a hole for an additional, vertical spool pin.

Keep in my that a horizontal spool pin will require a spool cap.

Thread Takeup Lever (5)

This is the metal lever that the needle (or spool) thread passes through. It moves the needle (or spool) thread up and down to form a stitch.

When a stitch is completed, the takeup lever will be in its highest position.

Sew easy tip: To avoid a tangled hot mess down by the needle and throat plate, you need to ALWAYS make sure that your takeup level is in its highest position when you have completed a stitching line. This is the correct way to complete a stitch.

Handwheel (aka Flywheel) (6)

See the description below.

Right Side View of a Sewing Machine

OK, now it is time to move on to where most of the action on a sewing machine takes place...

Handwheel (aka Flywheel) (6)

It is a knob located on the right side of the sewing machine. It allows you to raise your sewing machine needle or to take a manual stitch.

On some machines, it is also how you engage the bobbin winder.

Sew easy tip #1: ALWAYS turn the handwheel towards you if you don’t want a tangle of threads. And you don’t!

Sew easy tip #2: That pink label is how I remember what needle is currently taking up residence in my sewing machine. When I took this picture, I was using a universal 80/12.

Power Cord (7)

This is where you plug in your machine to get electrical juice.

Power Button (8)

Once you’ve plugged in your machine, this is the button you press to commence making dreams come true.

Foot Control Pedal

sewing machine foot pedal on a square of nonslip rug pad

This is how you control how fast or how slow you sew a stitching line. It works in much the same way that the gas pedal in a car does. Press it all the away to sprint. Ease up on the foot pedal to slow down.

Left Side View of a Sewing Machine

left side view of a janome dc2014 sewing machine

Thread Cutter (10)

This cutter is not on all machines, but if it is, it is usually located on the left side of your machine. It allows you to quickly cut the threads after stitching a seam by pulling both threads to the back and over the blade.

Rear View of a Sewing Machine

closeup needle area janome dc2014 sewing machine

Presser Foot Lifter (11)

This lever allows you to lift and lower your presser foot.

Needle Clamp Screw (12)

This is the screw you turn to change your sewing machine needle.

Presser Foot Release (13)

This can be a button or a lever on the back of the presser foot holder.

OK, now it is time to move on to where most of the action on a sewing machine takes place…

Front View of a Sewing Machine

front view of janome dc2014 sewing machine

Menu Screen (14)

On computerized machines, the menu screen displays stitch type, length, width, and/or tension. Yep, this is sewing in the 21st century!

Stitch Type + Length + Width Selector (15)

With computerized machines, you select stitch type, stitch, or width from the menu screen or a push pad. On mechanical machines, you select using a dial or slider(s).

Tension Dial (16)

This controls how much tension your discs will apply to the needle thread. The default tension is 4! Click HERE to learn all about tension!

Speed Control Slider (17)

This allows you to set the speed of your foot pedal when it is depressed to slow, moderate, or racehorse fast. Slide the slider all the way to the left to slow down your machine.  And slide it all the way to the right when you feel confident enough to sprint!

Needle Position Button (18a) + Reverse Button (18b) + Start/Stop Button (18c)

needle position, reverse, and start/stop buttons

The needle position button (18a) is usually standard on most modern computerized models and is handy when pivoting or sewing curves. Pressing this button TWICE sews one stitch.

The reverse button (18b) allows you to sew in reverse to secure the start and the end of a stitching line so that it does not unravel. Click HERE to learn how to secure a stitching line!

The start/stop button (18c) is available on some but not all computerized models. It allows you to operate your sewing machine without a foot pedal. On some machines, the button is actually labeled start/stop. Sadly for me, neither of my machines has this feature. But you can bet that my next machine definitely will!

Higher end computerized machines come a sweet feature: a automatic thread cutter. If your machine has this to-die-for feature, you will see a button with a picture of a pair of open shears located in close proximity to the three operational buttons described above. Press it and your machine completes the stitch and cuts the threads for you! I know, so sweet!

Throat Plate (aka Needle Plate) (19)

This is the metal plate on the bed of your sewing machine that is home to your feed dogs. Throat plates can have a single hole or have a wider (all-purpose/zigzag) opening.

The throat plate with the wider, all-purpose opening allows the needle freedom to move from side to side when you zigzag or do decorative stitching.

See, those markings or line notches on your throat plate and to the right. Those are your seam allowance guide. This guide is ONLY accurate when the sewing machine needle is in the CENTER position.

diagram on bobbin cover of how to insert drop in or top-loading bobbin

Closeup of Other Areas

free arm and bobbin case

Flat Bed Attachment (20)

The flat bed attachment contains the accessory box. The accessory box provides storage for small sewing supplies, such as a seam ripper, a screwdriver, presser feet, and extra bobbins.

You can remove the flat bed attachment to access the free arm (22).

Bobbin Case (21)

The bobbin case holds the bobbin and can be (1) top-loading (aka drop-in) or (2) front-loading. Click HERE to learn all about bobbins and HERE to learn how to thread your bobbin!

Free Arm (22)

Remove the flat bed attachment (20) to access the free arm. This will allow you to sew armholes, sleeves, and hems (closed circles).

automatic threader and feed dogs

Automatic Needle Threader (23)

This is a nice feature, especially if you are older and/or have poor eyesight, available on most modern machines. Click HERE to learn how to use this feature!

Feed Dogs (24)

If you look closely right below the presser foot, you will see tiny little feet. This is your feed dogs. They move your fabric through your machine and regulate how much fabric is “fed” with each stitch. Click HERE to learn all about stitch length!

The End

Anyhoo, there you have it: a list of the most important parts of your sewing machine and what they do.

The best way to learn your sewing machine is to read your owner’s manual cover to cover several times. And before you know it, you and your sewing machine will be best friends now and forever.

And if your sewing machine manual has gone AWOL, then click HERE and get a copy.

Or, you can Google your sewing machine model with or without quotes and see if you can download a copy for free. You need it!

searching for a sewing machine manual pdf

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn all the essential sewing tools you need to begin sewing insanely pretty dresses!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn everything you need to know about your sewing machine!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn the basic skills you need to sew insanely pretty dresses!

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