Sewing machines are simple machines that work in a very straightforward way. They use two threads and one needle with a rhythmic up and down motion to form a stitch. No matter how complicated a sewing machine looks, this is the basic principle by which it works. All the various parts work together to form stitches.
If you have been wondering how a sewing machine works, here is the long and short of it: the sewing machine needle has a hook beneath it that captures the thread from above it. It then loops this thread around the second thread, which reels in from the bobbin below it. The two threads interlock around the fabric, binding them together and forming a stitch.
In this guide, we shall highlight some of the main parts of a sewing machine and how they work. We shall also give examples of special types of sewing machines and how they function. Hopefully, this will help you understand how various sewing projects come to be.
How Does a Sewing Machine Stitch?
The sewing machine motor rests at the bottom on the opposite side of the machine away from the needle. It relies on a pulley arrangement to drive the handwheel and the power shaft. The power shaft in turn drives the crankshaft and a wheel that moves the needle up and down.
The needle mechanism, the bobbin and shuttle mechanism, and the feed dog mechanism in the sewing machine are carefully coordinated, allowing it to make perfect, equidistant stitches. The top thread, or the needle thread, pokes through the eye of the needle as the bottom thread feeds in from the bobbin below. The up and down motion stitches the material together. The bobbin sits inside a rotating shuttle with a hook extending from it. Everything works together systematically to form stitch after stitch.
Here is the step-by-step process of how a sewing machine stitches:
- The needle starts from above and moves down towards the fabric. As it does, it also feeds a length of thread into the material that will become the next stitch.
- The needle punctures the fabric and goes through it with the thread. At the same time, the shuttle under the fabric rotates as the hook approaches the needle thread.
- The needle starts to rise again, leaving a thread loop begins. This is the beginning of the next stitch. The hook on the shuttle catches this loop.
- The shuttle hook drags the thread loop and locks it around the bobbin thread.
- The needle tightens the thread as it pulls upwards, removing it from the shuttle hook.
- By the time the needle reaches the top position once more, the stitch is tightened. Both threads are locked together and the process is repeated to make another stitch.
How Do Sewing Machine Bobbins Work?
A bobbin is the part of the sewing machine that holds the thread and feeds the stitching under the fabric. It can either have the same color thread as the top stitch or you can choose to use a different color thread depending on your project.
The stitches from the bobbin thread will remain on the bottom side of the fabric. They will usually only be visible when you turn the finished outfit inside out.
The way a sewing machine bobbin works is pretty simple: as the stitches are made on the top side, the bobbin thread secures the stitches from underneath. This creates new anchors for the thread. It does this to prevent the stitches from coming out.
Tightness and looseness for both the top and bottom stitches are usually determined by settings on the sewing machine. Lower settings make it easy to remove the top stitches while higher settings make this harder to do. You may want to use lower settings in special situations, for example when basting two fabric pieces together.
How Does a Sewing Machine Speed Controller Work?
The speed controller was introduced to replace the sewing machine’s foot pedal. To use it, all you have to do is plug it into the same port as the foot pedal. This allows you to operate the machine using the speed controller instead of the foot pedal.
The speed control ensures that the machine operates at a constant, steady rate. It does not change speed with your machine’s movement on the frame. It is up to you to balance your working speed as you push the carriage with the speed you have set on your speed controller.
How Does a Sewing Machine Foot Control Work?
A sewing machine foot control allows you to have your hands free as you sew. It does this by letting you use your feet to control when the needle starts and stops as well as its speed.
The sewing machine’s foot control sits on the floor. It is connected to the sewing machine through a cord. To use it, you press it downwards with your foot like you would a car gas pedal. This starts the stitching process. The harder you press down, the faster the needle will move. If you take your foot off the pedal, the needle stops.
How Does a Sewing Machine Clutch Motor Work?
The sewing machine clutch motor system is made up of three parts: the clutch, the belt pulley, and the tri-phase induction motor. The induction motor is simply a normal AC motor that uses a three-phase AC supply to work.
A clutch motor system allows the sewing machine to gain speeds of up to 2850 RPM within a few seconds. Once the machine is running at full speed, the clutch motor system will also keep it running at that speed whether you have the pedal pressed or not.
This means that whether your needle is moving or not, the motor is rotating at its rated speed and consuming electricity. For this reason, sewing machines with clutch motor systems are better suited for creating longer seams, for example when you have to sew a bed sheet or table linen. They are also particularly useful when working with overlocks where not much skill is required.
Clutch motors will also come in handy in special projects that require the use of heavier or thicker materials. For example, they work well when making leashes, saddles, harnesses, and more.
When working on normal projects, using clutch motors usually results in higher power losses. This is because when you are working at lower output speeds, the rotation of the motor remains constant even when you change the speed of rotation of the shaft. The clutch output is changeable while its input is constant, resulting in power losses at lower speeds.
How Does an Overlocker Sewing Machine Work?
An overlocker sewing machine is different from a standard sewing machine in one major way. Instead of relying on a bobbin and top thread to form stitches, overlockers work with loopers and needle threads. This leads to the formation of an overlocking stitch.
Overlockers, or sergers as they are also popularly known, use between 2-12 threads to complete the raw fabric edge with an overcast stitch. At the same time, they trim away the seam allowance. They do all this at very high speeds of up to 1700 stitches a minute.
Typically, overlockers are used to clean seam allowances. Modern overlockers can do a lot more than this, though, and they are quite easy to operate. They also have a lot of stitch capabilities and are very economical.
That said, overlockers are not meant to replace standard sewing machines. They are only used to clean-finish raw edges, giving them a professional appearance.
A lot of overlockers also have built-in stretch, which makes them work well for seaming knit fabrics. The looper eyes are also larger than sewing needle eyes, which means you can use thicker decorative threads with them.
How Does a Hand Crank Sewing Machine Work?
Hand crank sewing machines are special sewing machines that are operated by turning a handle. Most hand crank sewing machines are old models that are no longer in production, although there are newer models as well.
Hand crank sewing machines work well for projects where you need close control of your stitches for the best results. For example, when making purses or doll clothes. You can use it to close the edges of purses around the handles, for instance.
Hand crank sewing machines are also a great way for beginners to learn how to sew. This is because of the slow speed of the machine and the fact that it works well for high-precision projects. Perhaps this explains why a hand crank sewing machine was the first machine for many a great seamstress.
To use a hand crank sewing machine, you have to turn the handle while sewing at the same time. After a bit of practice, you should be able to turn the handle without looking at it. Instead, keep your eye on the foot of the presser and your other hand on the fabric.
Working like this allows you to look at what you are doing and speed up or slow down as needed.
The key to using it effectively is feeding fabric through it straight. The machine will usually pull the fabric in evenly. However, sometimes it may not. When this happens, the issue is usually that the tension is too tight or too loose. This is what causes the fabric to distort. You will usually be able to correct any problems by correcting the tension and slowing down to guide the fabric correctly.
How Does a Chain Stitch Sewing Machine Work?
Chain stitch sewing machines make chain-like stitches on fabrics. It is commonly used in embroidery projects to speed up the sewing process, which would have otherwise taken a very long time to do by hand. This process would take even longer if you are planning to do double chain stitches. A chain stitch sewing machine can do all this in a fraction of the time.
The process of how a chain stitch sewing machine works is simple: just like sewing by hand, you stab the needle with the thread into the fabric and run it over the material. Except for this time, the stitches will be extremely accurate and you will get exactly the result you are going for because a machine is doing all the heavy lifting.
In a single needle chain stitch, the sewing machine sews as you move the fabric. Single needle chain stitch sewing machines use up to two threads at the same time. They make single-chain stitches.
Some chain stitch sewing machines can create double chain stitches. A double chain stitch has two interlocked stitches. To make it, the machine first selects two parallel lines, one on the left and the other on the right. The needle then starts going through the fabric from the lower end until it gets to the starting point.
At the starting point, an open stitch is created. The machine now goes through the first parallel line. The needle then goes inside the loop to catch the current thread. With the thread caught, the machine goes through the next stitch loop.
This process is repeated until the stitch is complete.
How Does a Lockstitch Sewing Machine Work?
A lockstitch sewing machine is a type of sewing machine that binds fabric together using two spools of thread and a needle with the eye at its base. It is different from a chain stitch sewing machine because it makes strong, straight seams.
Lockstitch sewing machines were the first commercial sewing machines to be patented and enter commercial manufacturing. To this day, they are still the most prevalent sewing machines in many households.
A lot of homes have lockstitch sewing machines. This is because the basic stitch of these machines can be used in many different applications.
Lockstitch sewing machines work by interlocking two threads from two bobbins. This makes them more difficult to unravel, unlike chain stitches. You can control the length and tautness of the stitch using a dial.
On the locksmith sewing machine, the first spool sits on top. The thread runs through a tension arm to ensure that it is fed smoothly as it threads into the needle’s eye at the base of the machine. This needle attaches to a foot that presses the fabric against the feed.
The second thread is located on another bobbin. This second bobbin is located in a hidden compartment under the foot. This second thread is pulled on a shuttle, looping it around the first thread.
The needle moves up and down to stitch. This movement is controlled by either a manual foot treadle or a motorized pedal depending on your sewing machine’s make and model.
How Does a Blind Stitch Sewing Machine Work?
A blind stitch sewing machine is used to do blind hem stitches. These can typically be found in trousers pants, dresses, skirts, and shirts. Blind stitches are special types of stitches that are designed to be invisible when viewed from the outer side while simultaneously being almost invisible when viewed from the inner side. They are also called ladder stitches or slip stitches.
The blind stitch sewing machine makes stitches by moving the needle from side to side instead of up and down like most other sewing machines. Blind stitches are important because they allow you to connect folded edges while ensuring that the thread is only visible when the fold is removed. This is how pockets, facings, and trims are attached to clothes discreetly.
With a blind stitch sewing machine, you will be able to fix a lot of garment problems because of its ability to create stitches that cannot be seen. You can use it to make soft toys from scratch or fix them so they look like new. You can also use it to mend torn seams or close holes in garments before topstitching. Additionally, blind stitch sewing machines also work great for pillows, allowing you to close one up using a seam that cannot be seen.
How Does a Computerized Sewing Machine Work?
A lot of modern sewing machines come with built-in computer systems. Computerized sewing machines also have small monitor displays that assist in performing main operations. They rely on a computer to control several motors, which gives you the ability to move the needle bar, tensioning discs, and the feed dog, among other parts precisely.
Because of this, a computerized sewing machine can produce hundreds of different stitches. The motor also allows the computer to control the speed of the machine. This makes it possible to move the needle bar up and down or from side to side at just the right speed which will allow you to get the exact stitch pattern that you need.
Computerized sewing machines also have programs that allow you to store different stitches, create your stitch patterns, or even download existing patterns online.
Apart from sewing, a computerized sewing machine can also serve as a computerized embroidery machine. This is because it can create complex patterns on fabrics. Machines with this ability come with a work area that is designed to hold the fabric in place under the needle assembly.
These machines also have sensors that tell the main computer how all the different components are positioned. The computer system then moves the work area back and forth or side to side in precise motions as it adjusts the needle assembly as needed. This allows it to create an almost infinite number of elaborate lines and shapes.
Working with a computerized sewing machine is very easy. As the sewer, your only job will be loading patterns from the machine’s memory, downloading new ones, or creating your own. The computer will then take over and convert your loaded patterns into a finished piece. It will also automatically prompt you to take action and make any adjustments as needed, for example when you need to feed it more threads.
How Does an Embroidery Sewing Machine Work?
Embroidery sewing machines use a needle and a threat to stitch designs onto embroidery blanks. Embroidery blanks can be almost anything, from cotton fabric to paper to balsa wood.
Embroidery machines are great for personalizing your favorite items. You can also invest in a commercial embroidery machine and start a business adding embroidered logos, designs, and names to shirts, hats, hoodies, and so on.
The way an embroidery sewing machine works is simple. It has a set of plastic or metal embroidery hoops (depending on your machine). These hoops secure a piece of stabilizer backing along with the fabric you wish to embroider.
The machine’s internal computer then takes over. You feed it files of digitized designs that you want to be embroidered. The computer then directs the needle by telling it when and where to stitch. The stitches are made directly on the hooped blank you added.
You can either make your designs directly on the machine, manually transfer the files to the machine, or download the files from the internet and transfer them to the machine. Totally up to you.
How Does a Long-arm Sewing Machine Work?
A long arm sewing machine is the specialized tool of choice for quilters. It is designed to help you make the quilt top, quilt backing, and quilt batting. It then combines these three into a finished quilt.
A typical long-arm sewing machine is 10 to 14 feet long. This length is made up of the sewing machine, the table, and the rollers. The table is made of layered plastic. Under it is the pantograph. The rollers are where you would attach the fabric layers and batting during the quilt construction process.
At its core, a long-arm sewing machine is a very simple sewing machine. It is designed to only give you a single stitch. It does not have needles moving up and down or feed dogs to keep an eye on. It is only powered by a single motor, and all you have to do is move the fabric for it as it does its magic.
They are big sewing machines, which makes them easy to use and very effective to work with. Because of their size, it is easy to sew even the biggest quilts.
To use a long-arm sewing machine, place the fabric beneath the sewing head. Then attach the various quilt layers to the different poles on the table, creating a fabric sandwich. This makes it easier to stitch the layers together.
There are two rollers on either end of the machine. These are called feeder bards. They have muslin leaders. Use sewing pins, zippers, or a snap system to attach the fabric firmly to the stretch.
With the fabric in place, you can now use the long arm of the machine as a pen to draw unique patterns on the fabric like you would on a piece of paper. Some long-arm quilting machines even support computer designs, which allows you to load your design into the computer and the machine will recreate it on the fabric.
You can use a stitch regulator to control the movement of the machine. This allows you to determine how fast or slow the machine gets to move.
For beginners, the best starting point is to do free-motion quilting. Learning how to use the pantographs and rulers will take some time.
How Does an Industrial Sewing Machine Work?
Industrial sewing machines are used to mass produce garments. They are power-driven and run at very high speeds.
There are different types of industrial sewing machines. Typically, the motors on these machines are separate and mounted on the underside of the table, unlike home machines. This makes them easier to replace when they break down.
Industrial sewing machines are also more specialized in how they work. There are machines designed for heavier work like stitching on canvas, and others built for lighter materials like dresses.
A lockstitch is the most common type of stitch on industrial sewing machines. This is where the top and bottom threads work together to form a stitch. Basic industrial dressmaking sewing machines have one kind of feed: bottom feed dogs. Others have needle feeds as well and are used to work with tricky materials such as slippery or nappy fabrics. The only downside is that these versions are more expensive.
Additionally, most industrial sewing machines have an allowance for multiple threads. Basic models start from 5 threads. You can use them to make a 3-thread overlock seam with a chain stitch alongside it. They also have a servo that allows them to run quite smoothly and quietly.
Industrial sewing machines are sold when they are already threaded. This is done to ensure that the unit is operable before shipping it. To change threads in an industrial sewing machine, clip the thread at the spindle without pulling it out. Then tie on the new thread with a basic knot. Unthread the needle then pull the thread through the channels until your knot feeds through. Clip it and rethread the needle.
How Does a Quilting Sewing Machine Work?
Most quilting sewing machines are long-arm sewing machines. Long-arm quilting sewing machines are not complicated. They work like simple straight stitch sewing machines, except this time, they are bigger.
You can only get a straight stitch from a long-arm quilting sewing machine. This simple stitch and the powerful motor combined with the unique way the quilter chooses to move it over the fabric is what leads to the creation of beautiful quilt designs.
The way a quilting sewing machine works is simple. A standard machine is mounted on wheels on a long table that is usually between 8 to 14 feet long and 5.5 feet wide. The layers of the quilt are attached to different poles on the table, creating a quilt sandwich.
This positioning allows the long arm to have unimpeded access to the entirety of the quilt, stitching any location and creating the quilt as you move the arm.
How Does a Cobbler Sewing Machine Work?
Cobbler sewing machines are special sewing machines that are used to sew and repair shoes. They can work with thick materials like leather, rubber, and canvas.
Most cobbler sewing machines have a needle that moves in an up-and-down motion just like standard sewing machines. The only difference is that they use special needles and have more powerful movements, which allows them to pierce thicker materials. They do all this in a noiseless, efficient, and sturdy way.
How Did the First Sewing Machine Work?
The sewing machine was invented in 1755 by Charles Fredrick Wiesenthal. It has a double-pointed needle with an eye at one end. The sewing machine design that we know today was introduced much later in 1790 by Thomas Saint, an English inventor. It was designed to be used on leather and canvas and had many practical features that are still found on modern machines such as an overhanging arm, a feed mechanism, a vertical needle bar, and a looper.
The first sewing machine used chain stitches to make simple stitches on fabric. It had a stitching awl that pierced the material and a forked point rod that threaded the hole to be hooked underneath before moving to the next stitch location, repeating the cycle.
The first American lockstitch sewing machine was invented in 1832 by Walter Hunt. It used a needle that has an eye to carry the upper thread and a falling shuttle to carry the lower thread. The curved needle went through the fabric leaving the loop. The shuttle passed through the loop, interlocking the thread.
You Might Also Like:
- What is a Sewing Machine Used For? (Different Types Uses)
- How Big Are Sewing Machines? (Helpful Guide for Beginners)
- How Much Electricity Does a Sewing Machine Use? (for Beginners)
- How Much Does a Sewing Machine Weigh? (10 Brands Models Weight)
- Can Sewing Machine Oil Go Bad? (Explained and Quick Facts)
- Do Sewing Machines Need Oil? (Explained for Beginners)
- How Long Do Sewing Machines Last? (Explained for Beginners)
- How Long Do Sewing Needles Last? (Explained for Beginners)
- Is Sewing a Good Skill? (10 Reasons Why and Benefits)
- Is Sewing an Expensive Hobby? Machine and Material Costs
- Is Sewing Difficult to Learn? (3-minute Read for Beginners)
- Is Sewing a Good Career? (How Much Can You Earn)
- Do All Sewing Machines Use the Same Thread? (for Beginners)