How To Stitch On Your Sewing Machine

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Tutorial No. 3 in the series, Learn To Sew at Oliver Rabbit

This post presumes you have read Tutorial Nos. 1 and 2, How To Set Up Your Sewing Machine and How To Thread Your Sewing Machine.

How very exciting . . . You are about to start stitching! 

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Let's Quickly Review

  • Your machine is set up on a sturdy, well-lit work surface. It is plugged in. Check.
  • It has a needle and standard presser foot securely in place. Check.
  • You have wound your bobbin and threaded the upper part of your machine. Check

New!  Make sure your sewing machine is set on the basic straight stitch setting. Consult your Instruction Manual to be sure.

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Get Ready to Stitch

  • Just under your presser foot, where they come together, pull both your upper thread and the bobbin thread toward the back of your machine about three to four inches. 

TIP:  Hold onto them later when taking your first stitch.

  • Put one piece of your fabric on top of the other, lining up one edge, and place your fabric between the presser foot and your sewing machine table, with the back edge of your fabric just beyond your needle toward the back. 
  • Keep the smallest portion/edge of your fabric to the right; this will be your seam allowance. (Most sewing projects involve securing two pieces of fabric together, forming a seam. The distance from the edge of your fabric to your line of stitching is the seam allowance.)
  • Your fabric will move away from you as you stitch so the area of your fabric toward the front of the needle, toward you, is the area where you will be stitching.
  • Lower your presser foot. It will hold your fabric in place while the feed dogs push it along. (Do not push or pull your fabric.) Your upper thread is between the pressure foot and your fabric and your bottom (bobbin) thread is under your fabric.
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  • Using your hand wheel, bring your needle as high as it can go and then drop it into your fabric. This is where your first stitch will begin.

TIP:  You will notice that as you turn your hand wheel to change your needle's position, the upper thread that you are holding onto at the back of your machine wants to come forward and unthread itself from your machine. Don't let it!

NOTE:  Even though your sewing machine is designed to operate by itself with pressure on your foot pedal, it's OK to work it with your hand wheel. You will learn to use your hand wheel for positioning your needle, beginning a seam, and slowing your machine down around curves.

Let The Stitching Begin 

  • Turn your machine on. Take a deep breath. Guiding the fabric with your hands, slowly press on your foot pedal and you're off!  Whrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Speed

If your sewing machine has a speed setting and you feel compelled to set it, consult your Instruction Manual and set it on a slow speed. This is somewhat similar to setting the MPH speed of your car while you are driving. I never do either one. You will learn to control the speed of your sewing machine with your foot, (this is where being barefoot comes in), and your hand wheel. Over time, you will master speedy stitching and also learn when slow is best.  

Efficiency will come with practice. Sewing machine mastery has a great deal to do with coordinating several tasks at once. You will gauge the speed pressure on your foot pedal, watch and guide your fabric, pull out pins as you go, keep your seam allowance or decorative pattern in line, drop your needle, raise your presser bar, twist your fabric to turn a corner and then remember to lower your presser foot before you resume stitching! It will come, but it takes practice. For now - just have fun listening to the hum of your machine and do all of this slowly.

The End of the Line

Not always, but sometimes you need to secure the end of your stitching. There are two ways to do this. 

  • Back Stitch - You machine has a back stitch button or lever. When you come to the end of your seam, press this lever and allow your machine to take a few stitches backwards. Hold the lever while it goes backwards, then release it and stitch forward again to the end.
  • Stitch to the very end of your seam and stop. Raise your pressure foot and pull your fabric toward the back. Cut your threads, leaving enough to tie a square knot in them.
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TIP: Make sure your needle is just past the upright position, ready to come back down before you pull your fabric away. If you don't, it won't pull away because the bobbin thread is not yet disengaged from the upper thread.

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Homework

You're doing great! Look how quickly you have learned to sew. Now that you know how to use your sewing machine, you need to practice.

Draw lines on your fabric and practice following them. Straight lines. Curved lines.

Try a corner.

  • To turn a corner, stitch toward the pivot point where you want to turn. Slow down as you approach the point. Take the last few stitches with your hand wheel rather than your foot pedal. As soon as your needle dips into the point, stop. Raise your presser foot and turn your fabric 90 degrees so it is going in the other direction. Lower your presser foot and keep going!
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Once you've mastered stitching on your drawn lines, try using the guidelines on your machine to create your seam allowance. Just guide your fabric along the line in your needle plate. See how straight you can keep it.

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I knew you could do it.

Next up - Sewing Projects for Beginners