How to Use a Sewing Machine

Sewing machines come with lots of gadgets. You don’t need to learn all of them at once.


Manuals can get you started and keep you going. No need to learn everything at once. Start slow, you’re in it to win it!

In the past six months I’ve had the fun of helping two 30-somethings take their new sewing machines out of their boxes for the first time. And in less than thirty minutes, they each could say, “I know how to use a sewing machine now!”









In both cases, the machines had been gifts and had stayed boxed up for well over a year. Why so long between owning and using? While sewing itself–at least straight seams or basic hems–is fairly intuitive, figuring out what all the geegaws do can be a little intimidating.

I recently opened the little baggie of gadgets that came with a new machine. What a lot of weird-looking stuff! But here’s the good news. To get started, you don’t need to know everything there is to know about sewing. Here are three good ways to get started.

1. If your machine was purchased in a shop that gives tutorials, take advantage of them. Shop owners know their stuff and are excited to share.

2. If you know someone that sews, invite them over and ask them to show you. If you can master threading, bobbin winding, and straight seams you will be well on your way.

3. If you’re on your own, take out the manual and plow ahead. Go a step at a time. It may take a little longer to get up and running, but all the information is there. Don’t try to learn it all at once. (For one thing, it would be impossible. For another, you’d be too exhausted to sew anything.)

So if you’re one of the lucky ones who received a new machine over the holidays (or the holidays from years past), slide that machine out of the box and make this the year you give it a go.
You won’t be sorry.

For some great tips and techniques, check out Sewing Solutions and Sewing Machine Secrets, both by Nicole Vasbinder. These books are clearly written and illustrated–just what you need when you’re getting started.
And now for some true confessions! If you were given a sewing machine as a gift, did it languish before you got started? Let us know.



Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


How To Sew

10 thoughts on “How to Use a Sewing Machine

  1. My mom left me a sewing machine that was worth more than any car I’ve ever owned.I’m a costume designer, so no stranger to machines, but this one is so new fangled and computerized I was intimidated so I continued on my old machine. When I finally got the courage to try the fancy one (4 years later) I’m kicking myself for not trying it sooner. What a dream machine!

  2. My mom tried to teach me to sew when I was a teenager (more than a quarter century ago!), but I just wasn’t that interested and didn’t learn much. She gave me a new machine seven years ago. It sat in the box for six months before I finally got it out and started playing with it. I fell in love, and now I’M a sewing machine!

  3. My mother gave me a sewing machine out of self-defense! She claimed that I kept messing up the tension on her machine! I still have that machine and use it a lot. I also have two others.

  4. I bought myself a cheapish sewing machine for my nth birthday in December, after a lifetime of hand sewing everything from clothes to curtains. I made a pact with my husband that if kept my machine set-up on the large table in the living room, then I would use it (practising like mad on it in the period before expertise kicked in), and become even more creative. I’ve bought a couple of classes from Craftsy’s large selection of downloadable stuff as an incentive. I’m now low in funds, but high in resources.

    Gill Sutherland

  5. Years ago I was given a machine by my parents as a birthday gift. It was opened immeidately, and I started sewing not too long after that! It did not languish at all. My mother had taught me to sew, hand and machine, when I was very young. So I was not intimidated by a new machine, quite the opposite. I couldn’t wait to use it. It stood by me for many, many years. Now I have a Viking, but I still miss that old machine.

  6. Having been born into a family of sewing enthusiasts I have sewn since I can remember. I was always on the receiving end of an old machine whenever Mom or Grandma upgraded to new machines. This meant that I did not own a brand new out of a box sewing machine until I was 50!
    I admired the box for about half a day, letting my anticipation build…and then ripped that box open and am still using the machine 2 years later.
    Read more about my sewing adventures at my blog

  7. Are you kidding? I couldn’t wait to take that new machine out of the box. I had a few lessons on a treadle machine from my grandmother and I knew this had to be an improvement. I’ve had several new machines since that first one and now teach at our local Bernina shop. I’m always amazed at the women who finally drag themselves in, after finding they don’t know how to do something and are stuck in the middle of a project. What really knocks me flat are the ones who say, “I was afraid to try it.” Hey! I don’t bite and neither do most other sewing teachers. We love to “hook” a new seamstress; Sewing is addictive….and fun!

  8. I really identify with so many of these memories! I reverted to my old, mechanical machine for buttonholes for so many years simply because I knew exactly what to do–and usually by the time I’m at the buttonholes, I’m on the home stretch. One day I just hauled out that manual and mastered the buttonholes on my new machine–and haven’t looked back. (But I still miss a few features on that machine.)

  9. My sister brought me my sewing machine in 2010. I’m a 50+ granny who needed an outlet. She suggested I start learning to sew because i always talked about making clothes (wishing that is). Her and my Husband asked all the time about when I was going to break the machine out and sew something! My work schedule doesn’t allow me to go to sewing classes and I can’t afford it anyway. So to make a long story short, I started researching on the internet about sewing tutorials and blogs. That’s how I found your site, and please I AM! I made my first pajama pants this weekend. Not to bad. Thanks for all the help you give us. Please don’t stop!
    Still a little nervous, But getting there!

  10. I actually finally got the sewing machine that my Dad bought my Mother when they were married. I learned to sew on that machine when I was a teenager. Its in a nice cabinet that folds down in the cabinet. however maybe one day I could get it fixed because my oldest sister loosened the screws from the motor and parts are strung and strode everywhere. I had been asking my husband for a new sewing machine since my mom passed away in 2014. Well my son in law got me a Brother computerized embroidery and sewing machine at Valentines. and I am 52 with so much time on my hands during the week.

    wanting to learn embroidery and sewing should follow,