How to Start a Stitch on a Sewing Machine

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Brought home your first sewing machine? Well, it’s time you roll those sleeves up and get stitching! Stitching using a sewing machine can be super easy or a real pain – it all comes down to how well you learn the basics of the craft.

To start stitching as a beginner, you need to have good knowledge of the anatomy of your sewing machine, how to set it up, how to prepare for stitching, threading, and lastly, start stitching.

In today’s guide, we’ll be covering the steps of how to start a stitch on a sewing machine. From there, you can move on to learn all sorts of stitch types including straight, zigzag, back, and lock stitches.

Step 1: Set Up Your Machine

  • Positioning – the first thing you should do is find a proper place to park your sewing machine. A sturdy table or desk will do the trick.

Then, sit on a chair at a comfortable height and position the machine so that the body is on the right and the needle end is on the left.

  • Mounting the needle – consider two things when you’re mounting the needle: the groove direction and the flat side of the needle. The latter should be facing backward whereas the groove should face the direction of threading the needle.

Once you insert the needle, be sure to tighten the thumbscrew to secure the needle in place.

  • Winding the bobbin –  there are 2 threads used in a sewing machine: the top thread and the bobbin thread from below. To wind the bobbin, place the bobbin onto the bobbin winder (located at the top of the unit) then wrap the thread around the bobbin through the thread guide.

Turn on the bobbin winder (it’ll shut off automatically when the bobbin is fully threaded), then put the bobbin back to its original position. Don’t forget to look at your owner’s manual for any special instructions.

  • Threading the machine – locate the thread spool, usually found on top of the machine. Then, unwound the thread and follow the thread guide on your machine through the takeup lever till you reach the needle.
  • Get the 2 threads out – before you can start any stitch, the top thread and the bobbin thread should be positioned together just below the needle and angles towards the back.

To get both threads out, hold the needle thread towards your left and with your right hand make one complete revolution by turning the handwheel towards you. Pull the needle thread you’re holding with your left hand.

The bobbin thread should now be looped over the needle thread. Pull the looped bobbin thread out by passing a pair of scissors between the presser foot and plate.

Now, you have the ends of 2 threads; one from below the bobbin and one from the needle.

  • Turn on the machine.

Step 2: Choose Your Fabric

There are lots of different types of fabric out there, but for beginners, cotton is probably a good starting ground. Cut your fabric to make a long strip then fold it at the half-line to create a crease.

As an alternative, you can download our Printable Sewing Practice Sheets and stitch on paper. Save your money for fabric!

Step 3: Set the Stitch Type and Length

As a start, you want to set your sewing machine to straight stitch and medium stitch length. To do this, turn to your owner’s manual as different machines often carry different settings. As a rule of thumb, the straight stitch is the first stitch on the machine and the medium length stitch is either 2.5 or 3.

Step 4: Position the Needle and Fabric

In general, you should always start and finish with the needle at the highest position. Don’t forget to set the presser foot in the upper position as well.

As for your fabric, be sure to carefully lay it under the needle. The needle target should be just by the crease of the fabric.

Lower the presser foot to level out the position of the fabric with respect to the needle. This will also help achieve a continuous feed movement when sewing.

You can use the handwheel to lower the needle in case you have trouble putting the fabric in line with the needle.

Step 5: Position Your Fingers

Now, carefully put your fingers on the fabric to help guide it as you sew down the line.

Step 6: Start Stitching

To start stitching, proceed to press the foot pedal gently.

Once you’re done stitching the line, release the foot pedal (the needle should be in the highest position). Lift the presser foot and slowly pull your fabric out. Cut the threads but make sure the 2 threads are hanging about 6 inches backward.

Wrap Up

There you go, a simple guide for beginners on how to start a stitch on a sewing machine to help you get the basics in check.

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