It doesn’t matter what type of sewing machine you have, there are certain steps you need to take before you begin sewing.
Your sewing machine may be brand new and right-out-of-the-box, or maybe you brought it home from any number of places that sell previously-owned machines.
This article explains the first four steps you should take to set up your sewing machine once it is sitting on the table in front of you.
Note: This post is part of a series called Get Ready to Sew! This series is intended for people who are either new to sewing or are getting back into sewing. It is intended to help you prepare for wildly successful sewing experiences.
There are so many different sewing machines, it is impossible to share with you specific details about your make and model of machine. The goal of this post is to provide you a framework so you can begin learning about your sewing machine regardless of brand or model.
As you continue to read, I’ve described the first four steps I personally take before I use a sewing machine that is new to me.
One – Look at the Paperwork
The first step in setting up your sewing machine is to look at the paperwork. There are several pieces you will want to look at: the safety instructions, quick start guide, instruction manual, and warranty information and registration.
These could be in the manual or on a separate paper. Almost every page of safety instructions I have ever seen begins with a sentence like, “Read all instructions before using your household sewing machine.” If you’ve never sewn before, I would definitely read all the safety instructions.
Most safety instructions are pretty standard regardless of brand or model. I’ve used many different machines and always scan the safety instructions for anything out of the ordinary.
One unusual safety instruction that is in multiple manuals I have read says, “Do not use the sewing machine where aerosol (spray) products are being used or where oxygen is being administered.”
However, most items included in the safety instructions are common sense. They include things like:
- Use the machine only for its intended use.
- Don’t operate the machine if the cord or plug are damaged or have been exposed to water.
- Keep fingers away from moving parts, especially the needle.
- Unplug the machine when it is not in use, when you are lubricating it, or you are performing routine maintenance.
Of course, these are not all of the safety tips, but you get the idea of what I mean by common sense.
Quick Start Guide
If your machine is brand new or previously-owned and has all the paperwork, there may be a Quick Start Guide. It will include the fundamental steps you need to take to get your sewing machine up and running. More than likely it will include:
- Getting your machine connected to electricity
- Preparing the bobbin
- Threading the sewing machine.
My suggestion is to scan through the information on the Quick Start Guide then continue reading the rest of this post.
Note: If your machine is previously-owned and didn’t come with an instruction manual, more than likely you will be able to find it online. To do this you will need to search using the brand/manufacturer and model of the machine. You can contact the manufacturer of the sewing machine directly or search online for a third party distributor of sewing machine manuals. Depending on the sewing machine, the manual may be free or you might have to pay a small fee. Regardless, if the machine you will be sewing with doesn’t have an instruction manual, you will be saving yourself a lot of frustration if you take steps now to get one.
If you do have the instruction manual, scan through the table of contents to familiarize yourself with the different sections of it.
There a couple of specific sections you will want to focus on first – the parts of the sewing machine and the accessories that came with your machine.
Parts of the Sewing Machine
Find the section that shows and lists the parts of your sewing machine. More than likely there will be more than one page. Focus now on finding out about the accessory box. It may also be called a removable storage compartment, an accessory tray, or even part of the extension plate. Regardless of the name, it will be located near the base of the machine by the needle plate. Remove the accessory box.
Sewing Machine Accessories
Now locate the section in the manual that tells you what accessories came with your machine.
Accessories that were included with your machine should be listed, and maybe even pictured, in the instruction manual. Make sure they are all with your machine if it is new. Then put your accessories in the accessory box and put it back on your machine.
If you are missing any accessories on a brand new machine address it immediately. I would start by looking through your paperwork to see if there is customer service/contact information. If not, try contacting the place where you purchased your sewing machine. They should be able to guide you on the steps to take.
If your machine is not brand new, you need to make sure you have the right bobbins for your machine and at a minimum, a standard/all-purpose presser foot before you’ll be able to sew.
Warranty Information and Registration
If your machine is brand new, locate the information on how to register your sewing machine for the warranty. Somewhere in the paperwork, there should be an explanation of warranty details.
After you register your machine, put this paperwork in a place where you can find it later if you need it.
Two – Connect to Power
The next step in setting up your sewing machine is to connect it to power.
All the machines I have used up to this point in my sewing adventures get their power through an electrical cord that is attached to the foot control (also called a foot pedal).
Connecting your sewing machine to power is pretty straightforward:
- Insert the holed plug into the socket on the side or back of your machine.
- Then connect the main plug to an electrical outlet.
- After that, make sure your sewing machine is receiving power by turning on the main switch. If the light comes on, your sewing machine is getting power. 🙂
If this is your first sewing machine ever, I recommend checking your sewing machine Quick Start Guide and/or instruction manual for the details on how your machine gets power. Also, reference the manual if the foot control and electrical cord are not one piece.
Three – Insert the Needle
After you have connected your machine to a power source, the next step in setting up your machine is to insert the needle.
If your machine is brand new, it may already have the needle in the machine. I recommend continuing reading this section so you are familiar with how you change the needle.
Needles come in different sizes. They also vary by fabric type. Unless you will be working right away with a heavy weight fabric or a knit, a regular point or universal needle will probably meet your needs for light to medium weights of woven fabric.
The machines I’ve used have the same steps for inserting/changing the needle:
- Turn off the machine.
- Lower the presser foot.
- Raise the needle holder to the highest position by using the handwheel (also called the flywheel).
- Loosen the screw that will hold the needle in place. If the needle is already in the machine, hold the needle while you loosen the screw.
- With the flat side of the needle facing the back of the machine, push it up as high as it will go in the needle clamp.
- Tighten the screw to hold the needle in place
If you are at all unsure about inserting the needle and/or this is your very first sewing machine, scan through the table of contents in the instruction manual and look for the section on inserting/changing the needle. You want to be confident that the needle is securely attached in the machine before you sew.
Four – Attach the Presser Foot
Once you’ve inserted the needle, the next step in setting up your sewing machine is to attach the presser foot. Just like with the needle it is a good idea to turn off your machine when you attach the presser foot.
Chances are your sewing machine has several different sewing feet. Looking at the accessory page in the manual, locate the foot that is used for general sewing. It may be called an all-purpose foot, ordinary sewing foot, straight stitch foot, standard presser foot, or something similar. Most of the other presser feet will have a name that describes its purpose, such a zipper foot, buttonhole foot, and darning foot.
Depending on the type of machine you have, connecting the presser foot may require a lever, a screwdriver, be a snap-on, or a combination of all three.
So, scan through the table of contents in the manual and look for the section on changing the presser foot. Follow the directions for your machine to attach the presser foot needed for general sewing.
Safety Tips: It is a good idea to turn off the sewing machine before you change the presser foot. Also, if the needle is in the machine, make sure it is at its highest point by turning the handwheel. Be careful because the needle is sharp.
Bonus – Let’s Sew!
This bonus step is for anyone who is brand new to sewing.
Before we bring any thread into the picture, I want you to experience sewing on your machine.
To do this you will need a sheet of notebook paper. Yep, notebook paper. It is easy to control and has lines on it so you can sew in straight lines.
Sit in front of your sewing machine, turn the flywheel toward you so the needle is in the highest position. Lift up the presser foot and insert the paper under it. Line up the needle with one of the lines on the paper and lower the presser foot.
When you press on the foot control the needle will go up and down and the feed dogs will pull the paper through the machine. Don’t push the paper.
You control the speed of the machine by pushing down on the foot control. To get the machine to go slower only push down a little. The more pressure you give the foot control, the faster the needle moves. When you lift up on the foot control, the machine will slow down or stop.
Sew as many lines on the paper as you want. Experiment with the speed of the machine and how the foot pedal, needle, and feed dogs feel as they all work together.
After sewing on paper you will want to change the needle, so it is sharp for your first project.
Get to Know Your Sewing Machine In Stages
You’re probably feeling super excited about getting ready to sew on your new machine.
After reading the first three articles in my Get Ready to Sew! series you did your research so you have the best sewing machine for you and knew where to buy your sewing machine. After that, you made sure you have the essential sewing tools for a variety of sewing projects.
Now, you finally have your sewing machine at home and it’s sitting on the table in front of you. Before you start sewing, it is important to set your sewing machine up correctly.
The First Four Steps (and a bonus) to Set Up Your Sewing Machine
- You want to look at the paperwork that came with your machine. The safety instructions are the first thing you need to look at. Then look at the Quick Start Guide (if your machine has one). After that, look at the instruction manual specifically for details on parts of the sewing machine, accessory box, and the accessories that came with it. Finally, look for the warranty information and registration and get your sewing machine registered.
- Plug the foot control into your sewing machine and connect it to electricity.
- Insert the sewing needle.
- Attach the presser foot needed for general sewing.
Bonus step: Sew on notebook paper to get the feel of sewing.
Threading a sewing machine and sewing fabric may seem like a daunting task if you’ve never done it before.
To help you, I’ve provided step-by-step guidance spread out over three posts so you can get to know your sewing machine in stages:
- Winding a bobbin on your sewing machine
- Inserting a bobbin in your sewing machine
- Threading your sewing machine
- Understanding sewing machine stitches
- Sewing the straight stitch and the zig-zag stitch
You can read the posts one right after the other. Another option is to read them one at a time as you implement the actions I describe.
Hello, I'm Nicki!
I'm a fabric lover who believes in the necessity of having a creative outlet. My goal is to educate and inspire others in sewing-related projects that are fun, functional, or both. Sign up to receive notice when new posts have been published.