Today I’m starting a new Series, called Sew Basic! Here on SergerPepper I’m talking about Sewing Machines, while on TitiCrafty (hi Cami!) I’m guest posting about Fabrics, plus a tutorial for a simple (but useful) sewing task: take a glance to my Beginner’s HeatPad DIY photo tutorial there!

Back to us…I’ve seen around the web that a lot of interest involves sewing beginners, and I think this is GOOD! I really feel like the Black Sheep when I say that I’ve sewn something I’m wearing and they look at me widening their eyes as I was doing something weird, looking at me like I had an ear growing in the middle of my forehead!

As opposite, I truly love to meet (virtually) other sewists and be able to swap my tips and tricks (and fails, why not, and obsessions too… fabric hoarder anyone?) with their!

Hugs, ladies <3

I’m trying to collect all the Sewing blogs I found around the web into a Pinterest (my other addiction LOL) Group Board called

All Star Sewing Blogs“, would you like to help me? I can add you as a contributor, just ask!


 As a logical consequence (and after receiving some specific question from my readers), I’ve decided to start sharing some basical information about this huge world called sewing, in this new Series called “Sew Basic” that will run here on SergerPepper plus, once a month, on TitiCrafty, with a special Monthly Guest Post, starting today. What do you think of it? I have to say that I’ve learnt some new term me too, doing my researches for this Series, so I’m pretty sure that could help some not-that-beginner too! Today’s topic is:

Getting to know your Sewing Machine (part 1)

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine Title

part 2 is coming soon getting to know your sewing machine part 2 is here!… I’ve decided to split this topic in two, because of his length… I hope you won’t mind!

…well, in fact you’ll know MY sewing machine… but they’re all similar… and this carry us to the first of today’s things to know :

User’s Manual

If you’re in doubt, always consult your Sewing Machine User’s Manual. … What? You can’t figure out where is it? Not a problem! Tip: How to find your Sewing Machine User’s Manual if you have lost your one.  Click to Tweet This! We have some good link right here: Sewing Machine ManualsInternational Sewing Machine Collectors’ SocietySew It Works – Manual – Sewing Machine Manuals

What’s his name?

You don’t need to learn the specific names of every component, knob or lever on your sewing machine, to start playing with it (I have to confess that, until today, I didn’t know a couple ehm-or-more-ehm of them); you can call them “this one” or “that ugly piece of steel” or whattheheck… I’m sure it’s the same… but it’s easier for me to explain if we use the same terms!

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine all

Sewing Machine: Dissected!

Sometimes an image worth more than thousand words…

Lockstitch .. ok, I could stay here, looking at it for hours… by the way!

 Let’s talk about all those little things that makes your (my) sewing machine:

  • Presser foot

I’d like to start from here, because this is the part of your sewing machine you will see more, while you sew! It is supposed to guide your fabric below the needle, keeping it flat and with the right tension. Here you can see how to engage it (lowering the white back lever) and disengage it (pulling the white lever up): this feature helps you put the fabric below it when you start to sew and take it out as you finish, or to relocate it as you reach a corner and need to pivot with your needle or while sewing sharp bends.

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine engage presser foot

With your sewing machine, you have at least two presser feet: the general purpose or standard (that is also called 1/4” foot) and, usually, the standard zipper foot. To switch from one to one other, you need to touch the little silvery lever behind the foot and it will fall down (in other machines, you only simply have to snap it down). To add the other one, simply put it above the sewing plate right below the needle and engage the foot, lowering the back lever: if you’re in the right position a “clack” will tell you it’s fixed!

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine change your foot

Well, in fact is too much simple to pull a foot out…. Last summer I’ve lost mine because I was a “sewing on kitchen table” kind of crafter… and my sewing machine was here and there… and it fell off, right in time for my sewing time: I had to sew everything with my zipper foot and, believe me, topstitching with a zipper foot is a task you don’t want to perform, never ever in your life!

You can find a wide range of specific presser feet, like piping, ruffler, blind hem, invisible zipper, buttonhole, darning…

  • power cord/foot pedal

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine power cord and pedal foot

This is where you give power to your machine. Usually there’s a cord that goes from the plug to the machine and from the machine to the pedal. A sewing friend had recently a problem with a too-short power cord (hi Amy!) do you know any solution to this problem? Please tell me in comments!

  • hand wheel

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine hand wheel

This is a knob that you will use a lot! It’s really useful:

  1. when you start and stop sewing
  2. when you try to sew together many thick fabric layers (like hemming jeans, when you reach the flat felled side seam)
  3. to sew really slowly (and accurately), as near corners

When you are a beginner, you’d like to sew faster than light but, believe me, sometimes slow is so much better!

  • needle

To sew you need a needle, and this is a fact. There’s a huge chance that your sewing machine is a home machine and uses the 130/705 H series of needles, which has a half rounded, half flat shank (the thicker end that you have to put in the machine and this shape helps you put it in the right position)

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine needles

You have to close the screw very well (but not too much) so it won’t fall down as you sew (ask me why I know that…)

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine screw closed


  • spool and bobbin

The other essential supply for sewing is… thread! A sewing machine usually uses two threads: one is on the spool (upper thread), the other on the bobbin (lower thread).

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine spool bobbin

You can buy your spool in various sizes (they range roughly from 250 to 10000 metres, depending on material and thickness of thread). You can change spool tension by turning this little wheel, that is normally on auto (strange, isn’t it? LOL): higher number equal more tension, and vice versa. Right tension is an important thing: if it’s not correct, you’ll and with weak and/or curly seams. A rule of thumb is that zig-zag need a lower tension than straight stitches, but you should always make a sewing test before starting, using the same fabric (and the same number of layers too) and adjust settings here. The bobbin is the little spool (plastic or metal) that goes below the needle plate. Mine is placed horizontally, while others are placed vertically. This second type also has a metallic bobbin case that allows you to change bobbin tension too: that said, I’ve never found myself in the situation where I needed to change my bobbin tension, so I really don’t know if this is a “never without” feature!

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine bobbins

I will show you how to fill a bobbin soon, into one of the next Sew Basic episodes.

  • Feed Dog

Feed dog are those metal toothed parts (they used to make them in rubber) that feeds your fabric under the presser feet. You usually don’t need to pull your fabric as you sew, only guide it so it goes straight, or you’ll end damaging the needle and the machine too. They decide the stitch lenght too, by moving more or less fabric.

Serger Pepper Sew Basic Series Sewing Machine feed dog

They can be lowered or covered in free-hand sewing and you can help them with a walking foot (that I’d really like to buy) that moves the fabrics on her upper layers, at the same speed, helping with knit fabric and thick multiple layers. And that’s all, for now. We’ll go on dissecting our sewing machine next week, on Getting to know your Sewing Machine – part2 I hope you appreciate this post, please stay tuned because next topic will be threading a sewing machine… it’s easier than threading a Serger, but can hide some problem if you approach it in the wrong way!

I’d love to hear from you! What topic would you like me to talk about next? (sewing related, please… don’t ask me to talk about my mother in law… no horror stories here ;))