Craft & Design Yarncraft

We’re about halfway through our Sew & Sew theme this month, and I’m reminded of a great little resource we published back in April 2007 in CRAFT Volume 03: “Anatomy of a Sewing Machine” by Christine Haynes and Kent Bell. This handy little feature showcased the illustration above, done by Kent, and the corresponding descriptions below. Useful when you’re just getting started working with sewing machines as well as when you’re troubleshooting. Enjoy!
1. Pedal The speed of the machine is controlled by the foot pedal.
2. Slide plate This plate slides open to reveal the bobbin.
3. Bobbin One of the two threads used to make a stitch is stored in the bobbin, which is located under the needle and throat plates. Bobbins are either built-in or removable. Most built-in and all removable bobbin cases have an adjustable tension screw. Using a screwdriver, turn the screw clockwise to increase or counterclockwise to decrease the tension.
4. Feed These little metal teeth pull the fabric through so that it can be stitched.
5. Throat plate The throat plate stays in place while the needle penetrates through a hole to pick up the bobbin thread underneath.
6. Presser foot This foot, which is interchangeable with other specialty feet, holds the fabric in place.
7. Needle Most projects will utilize one of four types of needles. The sharp point needle is used most often with woven fabrics. The ballpoint needle is ideal for knits; the wedge point needle is used for leather and vinyl; and twin or triple needles are
used for decorative topstitching.
8. Foot pressure dial Correct foot pressure results in even feeding of the fabric. Some machines automatically adjust tension and pressure to the fabric. Always check tension and pressure on a scrap of fabric before starting to sew. Generally, the lighter the weight of fabric, the lighter the pressure needed.
9. Stitch tension dial The stitch tension dial sets the amount of tension on the threads while sewing. Too much tension results in too little thread fed into the stitch, causing the fabric to pucker. Too little tension results in a loose stitch.
10. Bobbin winder thread guide On a machine with an external bobbin winder, the thread loops around this guide between the spool and winder.
11. Stitch selection dial This is where you choose between the many different stitches: straight, zigzag, and other decorative stitches.
12. Needle position If you are sewing a zipper or doing other specialty stitching, you might need to move the needle from the center position to a left or right position.
13. Spool pin Your spool of thread sits on the spool pin. Some machines have more than one for decorative stitching. The thread goes onto thread guides and to the needle.
14. Bobbin winder The empty bobbin sits on this winder to be threaded. When winding bobbins, always start with an empty bobbin so the thread will wind evenly.
15. Flywheel This wheel spins as you push down the pedal. Most machines disengage the flywheel when winding bobbins.
16. Stitch length dial The stitch length dial is on a “per inch” scale from 0 to 20 per inch, a metric scale from 0 to 4mm, or a numerical scale from 0 to 9. Most regular stitching uses 10 to 15 stitches per inch.
17. Stitch width dial When you use decorative stitches and zigzag stitching, this dial can determine the width of the stitch.
18. Reverse stitch button If you want to secure your stitch at the beginning and ending, sew a few stitches in reverse by pushing this button down.
Remember, you can still pick up back issues of CRAFT Volume 03 over in the Maker Shed and add this classic to your bookshelf!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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