Let’s go on dissecting our sewing machine!

This is part 2 of a (long) post about getting to know your (my)

sewing machine parts

Serger Pepper - Sewing Machine Parts title

If you missed it, check the first episode with other sewing machine parts (for which I had a wonderful feedback from a lot of my great readers!) or the one about fabrics (plus a beginner’s tutorial for sewing a HeatPad DIY) I Guest Posted on titicrafty.com

We’re now speaking about other controls you have on your machine, that helps you achieve better results on sewing and to solve any problem you can stumble upon (A PROPOS:  have I ever told you I’m on StumbleUpon too? No? Are you in? Leave me your URL, I’ll be happy to follow you!!)

Remember that we’re talking about my sewing machine, but yours will be more or less the same. Check your user’s Manual when you’re in doubt (and remember that you can find it for free on the web – links on part 1)

  •  stitch length AND width: straight and zig-zag

In my Sewing Machine, you can find stitch length and width on the same knob: it made sense, if you think that they’re strictly related!

Serger Pepper - Sewing Machine Parts stitch width - length

–     Length: lowering it, your feed dogs will move less fabric above your presser foot, then you’ll end with shorter stitches and vice versa; I generally use a 2-2.5 for straight construction sewing (this is harder to unpick, much more resistant) and 4 when topstitching (aesthetically more pleasant but weaker). For a zig-zag, it’s better to keep lower numbers: for buttonholes, I stay between 0 and 0,5; for finishing seams a little more, but never more than 2.

–     Width: When using a simple straight stitch this is on zero; increasing this number you’ll sew a zig-zag stitch, the bigger, the wider!

If you use a fancy stitch, playing with length and width settings will help you achieving a perfect result: never throw out fabric scraps, always keep some in hand to try and practice!

Hint: when you try on scraps, always use the same number of fabric layers you’ll sew on your garment!

If you want to keep track of your settings, mark them with a pen onto your scrap: this is useful mostly when you have to sew in sessions (naptimes?) and can’t start and finish a project all in once, or for special fabrics you rarely sew!

  • backstitch

This is one of those sewing machine parts that my mother (my first sewing teacher) didn’t use at all but I’m really loving, lately!

It helps you making start and stop points stronger by locking thread on those points, allowing you to reverse your sewing direction and sewing two-three stitches backward and forward.

Serger Pepper - Sewing Machine Parts backstitch

How-to: start sewing about 1 cm inside the seam, then backstitch until the end of the fabric, then re-start sewing your seam.

It’s really easy to backstitch: in my Singer you have to push down the lever, I’ve seen other models which have a button to push or a pedal function.

But be careful: backstitching isn’t always desirable: sometimes you’d better sew off this point and knot the tails together (like on darts, for example) because backstitching would leave too much bulk.

I wouldn’t suggest to backstitch also when basting, ruffling or when you still have to try your garment or, if you have to unpick the seam, you will be disappointed!

  • fancy stitches

Serger Pepper - Sewing Machine Parts fancy stitches

Nowadays, any sewing machine comes out with a series of fancy stitching, more or less (like mine, that is a basic machine) wide depending on the model. The most commons are:

buttonholes: in my sewing machine, I have a so-called “4 steps buttonhole“, that need you to turn a knob and select the right step each time. There are also automated buttonholes and differently shaped, depending on sewing machine level. To sew a buttonhole you usually need a special feet (often included on your Sewing Machine Starter Kit) and, obviously, you need to have your button!!! On pic: red rectangles on the left

elastic stitches: this is a feature that you’ll end using a lot, if you’re going to sew clothing! Think about adding an elastic waistband or adding a yoga waistband, or sewing with knits or any other sewing task that involves a stitching that have to stretch when worn: if you’re in doubt, choose a triple stitch!
Plus: a straight triple stitch is gold when you have to sew pant’s crotches: elastic and REALLY sturdy! On pic: n° 2-4-11-12

overlock: it makes a straight stitch, side by side with a zig zag that goes over the edge of the fabric, minimizing the fraying. On pic: stitch n° 10

blind hem stitch: you can use it with or without a special feet and makes a hem that doesn’t show on the right of your fabric. It’s useful on elegant clothing where you don’t want a row of stitches running parallel to the hem. On pic: n° 3

  • built-in measuring lines

Serger Pepper - Sewing Machine Parts measuring lines

Have you ever wondered how to sew straigh and always at the same distance from the edge of your seam allowances?

It’s really easy!

On your needle plate (or throat plate) you can find some grooved parallel lines: just align your edge with one of them and keep on sewing with an eye to it and your seam will be perfectly straight!

What? Which one?

Just check your seam allowances width and choose the correspondent one (and measure the distance from your needle, if you haven’t distance grooved too, like on my needle plate!)

Hint: can be a no-brainer help if you stick a piece of masking tape (or a rubber band) at the right distance, it’s simpler than measure every time whichfurrow is the right one!
  • storage/free arm

In my sewing machine I have the chance of slide out the storage drawer, revealing a free arm that is quite useful when it’s time to sew circular things like pant’s hem or hats. I have to admit that this is one of those sewing machine parts that I use a lot, also if for smaller pant legs I have to use a different method that I’ll show you, maybe, sometimes 😉

 Serger Pepper - Sewing Machine Parts storage and free arm

  • built-in thread cutter

Serger Pepper - Sewing Machine Parts thread cutter

I’ve seen a lot of seamstresses that doesn’t use this time-saver feature. Can you guess why?

I think it’s one of my favorite ones…. By pulling your thread high/low and toward the front, you can easily cut your thread tails as soon as you finish a seam, without starting a treasure hunt to find your clippers…

Do you use it? If not, why? Let me know!

Now that you know a little bit more your sewing machine, you’re ready to learn how to thread it… but this will be next week’s post!

It’s easier than threading a Serger, but can hide some problem if you approach it in the wrong way!

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