The Parts Of A Sewing Machine Explained
Here’s an explanation of all the different parts that make up the sewing machine.
We have made a photo showing all the parts you see from the front, the back, the top, and around the needle and presser foot. We have numbered each item to make it as easy as possible to name them.
2 ways to use this guide:
1) Check out the image below with numbers for each part and find the name of each part below.
2) Open the “Table of Content” part below and click directly to each part to see how it works and what it does.
We have magnified the area around the needle/presser foot to make it easier to see each part.
In this guide, you learn about all the different parts of the sewing machine. Both the parts under the bed (the lower parts) and the upper parts of the machine around the needle and the presser foot.
Overview of the sewing machine parts
Here’s a list of the names of the parts
- LCD display (only on computerized machines)
- Bobbin winder stopper
- Bobbin winder spindle
- Thread spool pin
- Bobbin winder tension disc
- Take-up lever
- Metal guide for upper thread
- Tension Dial
- Speed control lever
- Reverse button
- Start/stop button
- Needle screw
- Bobbin lid release button
- Presser foot releaser
- Built-in needle threader
- Presser foot
- Feed teeth
- Bobbin lid (transparent)
- Extended Arm
- Presser foot lifter
- Feed teeth lever (lower it for free motion sewing or sewing on a button)
- Electrical Cord
- Function Buttons
- Mode button
- Metal guide for upper thread
- Free arm (great for sewing anything circular like pants hems or cuffs.
- Foot pedal (now shown on the image above)
Explanation of each part of the sewing machine
Turn the handwheel to move the needle up-and-down. Always make sure you turn the handwheel towards you and never the other direction.
On mechanical models, you might find two handwheels. The one at side right side of the machine would move the needle up and down and you will use it every time you stop sewing, to move the needle from the fabric.
You will need to pull the handwheel out before starting to wind of bobbin. This is to make sure that the needle doesn’t go up and down while you wind the bobbin. On some machines should do this a little differently. Instead of pulling the handwheel, you loosen a smaller wheel mounted on top of the handwheel.
The other handwheel is used to choose between the many stitches the machine can do.
2 LCD display (only on computerized machines)
If you have a computerized sewing machine you will have a digital display. On this display, you might find information such as stitch length, stitch width, tension level etc.
On some of the more expensive and advanced computerized models, the LCD display can also show images of the stitches you have chosen. This way you can always see exactly what you’re doing.
If you have a mechanical model, you will not have a digital display and you will choose all the settings with the two handwheels instead.
3 Bobbin winder stopper
Whenever you need to winding thread on a bobbin you will be glad you have this part.
It will stop the winding when the bobbin is full. If for some reason your machine doesn’t have this little bobbin winder stopper you need to be really careful when you wind a bobbin. You should watch it carefully and release the foot pedal manually as soon as the bobbin spool is almost full.
4 Bobbin winder spindle
This is where you put your bobbin when you want to wind it.
You press it down on the spindle and lock it in place by pushing it to the side. Now you are ready to start winging thread to the bobbin, as soon as you have put the thread around the bobbin winder disc (see point 6). Always remember to stop the needle from moving before you start winding (see point 1).
5 Thread spool pin
The spool pin is where you mount your upper thread. Most machines will have two spool pins so you can work with twin needles. With the twins needle, you will have two upper threads.
This is great for sewing hems and for many decorating projects.
6 Bobbin winder tension disc
This little middle part is used when you wind more thread on a bobbin. The thread needs the right amount of tension to work correctly.
First, you put the bobbin on the winder spindle (see point 4) And then you pull out a long piece of thread and turn it around the bobbin winder tension disk. This is to make sure that the thread is kept tight and doesn’t get all tangled up.
When the attention is right you will see the thread moving up and down the bobbin as you started winding. This is to make sure that the thread is winded evenly across the width of the bobbin. You can also control the direction of the thread with the screwdriver, by pushing it a little bit up-and-down while winding.
7 Take-up lever
The take-up lever is a very important part of the machine. You always need to make sure that the top thread goes around this part before you start sewing. If you fail to do so you will absolutely get birdnesting when you start sewing.
The take-up lever will go up and down for its stitch the machine does. And every time it does so it will tighten the stitch to make it perfect. This is exactly why your wicked bird nesting if you fail to use it, Because in that case the stitches would not get tightened.
Make sure always to check with your manual if you are in doubt about how to thread your machine properly.
8 Metal guide for upper thread
You need to make sure the upper fret goes around this part.
You guide your thread this way around before you insert it around the take-up lever. If you’re failing to do so the thread will get messed up on the fabric.
9 Tension Dial
Tension is an important aspect of sewing.
You always need to make sure the upper thread (as well as the lower thread) is having the right tension before you start. The tension of the top thread (the needle thread) can be adjusted with this dial. Some machines would do this automatically and you won’t have to think about tension as much, while on older machines you need to do this manually every time.
The tension is normally set between 3-4 but it can go all the way from 0 till 5 on most machines. If you don’t know how to set it just start out in the middle position (probably 3).
The tension for the bobbin thread, however, is adjusted on the bobbin case with a little screw as we will see later (see point 21).
10 Speed control lever
Most sewing machines will let you adjust the speed of the machine. This is measured as how many stitches the machine will do per minute. Some machines will do 800 and other machines will do up till 1,200 stitches per minute.
If you are selling really long pieces of fabric (like curtains), you can set it at high speed in order to get finished. However, if you buy sewing small fine details you can set the speed to the lowest position.
On new machines like the one above, you would have a reverse button placed around here.
For older models, you will have a mechanical button placed to the right or beside the take-up lever. It would probably say reversed on the machine beside the button.
You will typically use this button whenever you start or finish a seam. Here you want an additional layer of stitches and instead of lifting the footer up-and-down you can simply use the reverse button to go back and forth a couple of times.
By doing so, you make sure the stitches would not come undone when you start pulling them.
Having a start/stop button on your machine enables you to sew without using the foot pedal.
It’s a great option to have especially if your feet start hurting after a while. If you are sewing many hours per day you definitely need a start button on the machine so you don’t have to use the foot. Keeping a constant pressure on the foot pedal can be hard, so it’s a really nice option to be able to use the buttons on the machine instead.
13 Needle screw
This is where you fasten the screw. Always make sure to fasten the screw tightly so it doesn’t fall off while sewing. Otherwise, your needle could fall out of the machine. Older models will have a bigger dial so you can fasten it tight enough with your fingers. Newer models will come with a little screwdriver to fasten the screw.
This is where is your open the lid to the bobbin. The machine above uses the top loaded bobbin. We also have a lot of machines with a front-loaded bobbin system, which will locate the bobbin in a vertical position in front of you.
Many European models will use the front-loaded bobbin system, and in the states, it’s probably 50-50
This is your needle.
You need to make sure you’re using the correct middle size and type. Here you’ll find a guide to everything you need to know about needles.
16 Presser foot releaser
The presser foot releaser will let you lift the presser foot up to be able to access the fabric. On other types of machines, you will change the presser foot by releasing a pretty large screw. Always check with your manual if you don’t know exactly how to do this on your specific machine.
Some crescent feet will have the shank mounted to the presser foot itself. In that case, you need to remove the shank already mounted on your machine in order to mount the new presser foot.
17 Built-in needle threader
This is a really nice option to have on your machine.
The built-in needle threader will automatically thread the needle for you. You simply move the thread slowly down the needle (from the top towards the bottom) and the system will insert the thread into the needle for you. This is a must-have feature on your machine if you are visually impaired.
If you don’t have the option you can also use a self-threading needle to make threading easier. With the self-threading needle (also called handicap needles) you can thread the needle without having to find the eye on the needle with the thread.
18 Presser foot
The presser foot is used to keep the fabric in place when you sew. As the name indicates, it will press down on the fabric to make sure the fabric moves and stays in position.
Normally we will use a universal presser foot (also called all-purpose presser foot) but we also want to have other presser feet to choose from. When you sew with vinyl you need the presser foot to be coated on the bottom so it doesn’t stick into the vinyl.
Other types of presser feet include:
- all-purpose feet
- zipper foot
- buttonhole foot
- button sewing foot
- blind hem foot
- satin stitch foot
- open toe foot
- overcasting foot
- embroidery foot
- rolled hem foot
- straight stitch
- walking foot
- and more.
If you have a basic model it will probably only have a few different feet to choose from. This is just fine. For most sewing projects you don’t need all the special types of presser feet.
19 Feed teeth
The feed teeth (also called feed dogs) are what makes the fabric move along as you stop sewing.
It does so by doing a rotating move up-and-down while pushing your fabric away from you. Every time the needle moves up and down, the feed teeth also do this circular motion to push your fabric just a little bit further.
Because the feed teeth will pull the fabric for you as you sew, you should never force the fabric by pushing or pulling it.
So if you’re sewing machine doesn’t pull the fabric properly you need to make sure that the feet teeth are in the right position (see point 25).
You can use the feed teeth lever (see point 25) to lower the teeth so they won’t pull the fabric along. More about that at point 25.
20 Bobbin lid (transparent)
Newer machines will have a transparent lid into the bobbin area. You can have a transparent lid for top-loaded bobbins as well as front-loaded bobbin systems. It’s a really nice feature as you can monitor how much thread is left on the bobbin.
You want to open the lid once in a while to clean the machine. Every second time you change the bobbin thread you should give your machine a good clean. Lint will constantly build-up as you sew and it can keep your machine from functioning properly.
The bobbin spoon is your lower thread. When the machine is threaded properly you can turn the handwheel toward you to pull up the bobbin thread. The bobbin is inserted in the bobbin case.
On the frontloaded machine you will always have a metal bobbin case And on the top-loaded machine, you can either have a bobbin case made of plastic or metal. We prefer having a bobbin case made of metal as it’s more durable. The needle might hit the bobbin case once in a while and it doesn’t cause as many problems when you have a metal case.
If you want to change the tension of the bobbin thread you can do so with the little screw outside the bobbin case. Normally this is not something you want to adjust But sometimes you will have to if the tension is too loose or too tight. You can read more here about setting the tension of the bobbin.
22 Extended Arm
An extended arm is a neat feature whenever you’re doing projects with big pieces of fabric.
It adds more space and let you keep the fabric in position. Some machines will have a built-in extended armed and on other machines, it’s a separate extended arm that you can take on and off. Long arms are great for quilting projects and on the industrial sewing machine, you will most often find a long arm.
When you slide off the extended arm, you can access the compartment with lots of accessories for your machine. This is where you normally store extra needles, extra bobbins, brushes, the screwdriver, and all that good stuff for your machine.
23 Presser foot lifter
You can use this little handle to lift the presser foot up.
You need to do so whenever you want to move the fabric or maybe you want to change the needle. You also want to make sure the presser foot is up when you are threading your machine.
If you leave it down (while threading) you will jam the machine and you will probably have birdnesting problems. Make sure you lower the presser foot before you start sewing.
Around here you’ll have a little light bulb to lighten up the sewing space.
Some machines will have two lamps installed so you don’t get any shadows. You might also have the option to turn the light up and down. This can be helpful when you’re sewing at nighttime.
The little lightbulbs should be between 15- 20 watts. Always make sure to check your manual so you get the right bulb for your machine.
25 Feed teeth lever
When you want to do free motion sewing you should lower the teeth.
We do that to stop the teeth from pulling the fabric as we start sewing. It’s the same thing when you are sewing on a button. In this case, we also want to disable the teeth from pulling the fabric, so we can sew in the direction we want.
On some machines, the feed teeth lever will be placed elsewhere. If you cannot find it you should check your manual. You want to find the button switch with this symbol:
The triangles symbolize the teeth.
On the first symbol, the teeth are up above the table and will be ready to move your fabric as you sew. On the second symbol, the teeth are lowered and will not touch (move) your fabric when you sew.
The handle is put on top of the machine to make it easy to move it.
27 Electrical Cord
This is where you insert the electrical cord.
It can also be placed on the back of the machine at the bottom. Always make sure your machine is using the right cord and get the right amount of voltage. In Europe, it’s common to use 220 volts and in the states, we use around 110 volts. Some machines will work with 220 volts as well as 110 volts while are other machines can only run at 110 Volts. So make sure to check your manual before you plug in your sewing machine if you are in doubt.
So if you are traveling with your sewing machine you need to make sure you’re not over-powering with the wrong amount of watts.
28 Function Buttons
This is where you choose which type of stitch you will be using.
If you are using an older model or a mechanical model, you will not have these buttons. Instead, you would have another handwheel to choose the stitches. This handwheel will normally be placed at the right side of the front on the machine.
The mode button is unique to this type of Singer machine. It lets you choose between different modes on the LCD screen.
You will find similar buttons on most computerized sewing machines. The computerized models all have different settings and buttons so you will need to check your manual or the instructional DVD that came with your machine.
30 Metal guide for upper thread
Here’s another metal guide to make sure your thread moves correctly.
You need to thread your machine carefully. The thread needs to go around all the little guides and discs. Otherwise, you will get the wrong tension on the thread or you will experience birdnesting as you start sewing.
31 Free Arm
Most sewing machines will have a free arm.
When you move the accessory compartment you will have better access to the arm. This is called a free arm. This is great for sewing anything circular like pants hems or cuffs because you get free access to the needle area.
32 Foot pedal
The foot pedal is not on the picture at the top of the post. You use the foot pedal to control the speed of the machine and when you release it, the machine stops. It will often be made of plastic but in some cases, it’s made of metal. Check out this article, if you had any problems with your foot pedal.
If you have a start button on the machine (see part 12) you can also choose to sew without the foot pedal. You simply use that button to start and stop your machine. It’s a really great option if you are experiencing problems with your feet or if your sewing for long periods of time.
Overview of the sewing machine accessory parts
Let’s take a look at some of the accessory parts that normally come with your machine.
It varies a lot how many parts the company include. For the basic model’s you will not get a lot of stuff and for the more advanced models, like the one we showed at the top of this page, you’ll get a whole bunch of stuff.
But the items below will be included in the box for almost any sewing machine model.
Names of the accessory parts
34. Seam Ripper
35. Screw Driver
36. Extra bobbins
37. Quilting bar
Accessory parts explained
You can use this little brush to clean your machine. It’s very important to never use an air blower to clean your machine. Because if you do so, you will only push the lint and dirt further into the machine, where it can really cost trouble.
Instead, you can use this little brush and you can also gently vacuum your machine around all the moving parts. There are many parts of the machine which are hard to reach with the little brush, so here you can use the vacuumer. Start with the lowest suction setting, and make sure you don’t suck up the bobbin etc.
The bobbin area is especially hard to clean, so we put together a little guide here: Guide to cleaning the bobbin area.
34. Seam Ripper
You can use the seam ripper to remove stitches. The little blade at the tip of the ripper is designed to be pushed into the stitches.
The screwdriver is for fastening the needle.
36. Extra bobbins
Most machines will also come with a few extra bobbins.
37. Quilting bar guide
The quilting bar guide will be used with a special presser foot designed for quilting.
You put it through the presser foot, and the easiest way to do this is to mount it before you mount the presser foot on your machine. After you have installed the quilting bar guide, you can use it as a guide in order to keep the same position while sewing. The bar will let you follow an existing stitch precisely.