What are the different parts of a sewing machine?
The sewing machine is an interesting piece of engineering which looks simple enough on the outside. Remove the outside casing and you would find a collection of gears, cranks, cams and belts, all driven by a solitary electric motor. When first learning how to sew, it is useful to know what the different parts of your sewing machine are and how they work. Without knowing what to look for when following sewing directions, the whole process can quickly become frustrating.
The Parts and Their Functions
The following is a list of sewing machine parts and their functions:
- head – The whole sewing machine without its carry case or cabinet.
- bed – The flat surface of a sewing machine, such as in a flat-bed model which has only one level on which to sew. A free-arm bed model has a detachable U-shaped portion of the bed. When this part is removed it reveals an arm or tub which is used for stitching hard-to-reach areas, such as pant cuffs or sleeves.
- hand wheel – A wheel located on the right side of the machine which is driven by the motor; although it can be turned manually to adjust the height of the needle.
- bobbin winder – The mechanism used to wind the bobbins.
- bobbin – The spool underneath the bed that provides the lower thread.
- bobbin case – The device which holds the bobbin and helps control lower thread tension.
- take-up thread lever or thread-tightening arm – An arm that alternately creates slack in order to form a loop of thread under the fabric and takes up slack in the thread to tighten the loop after it is released from the shuttle hook.
- thread guide – A device with an opening through which the thread can be passed in order to guide it to the next step in threading.
- upper tension control – Mechanism that controls the tension in the upper thread to produce evenly locked stitches.
- lower tension control – Mechanism found in the bobbin case which controls the tension of the lower thread.
- presser foot – When lowered this mechanism presses down on the material to steady its movement as it is fed under the needle.
- feed dog – Mechanism which feeds the fabric under the presser foot as you guide it. The feed dog also regulates stitch length according to how much fabric is passing under the presser foot as the machine stitches.
- needle plate or throat plate – A plate under the presser foot with an opening through which the needle moves up and down during stitching. This plate has seam guides engraved into it.
- shuttle hook – A device under the needle plate that grabs the thread from the needle, so the loop that has formed, can be tightened to create a finished stitch.
- feed drop – An adjustment used to disengage the feed dog for free hand work.
- stitch length knob – A mechanism which allows the stitch length to be adjusted so stitch length is neither too long (will not hold) or too short (may distort the fabric).
- stitch width knob – A mechanism which allows the stitch width to be adjusted as with a zigzag stitch.
Electronic and Computerized Sewing Machines
Electronic sewing machines have all the features of a mechanical machine and more. Electronic machines, such as the Kenmore Drop-in Bobbin Sewing Machine, have electrical impulses that shoot and return the needle to the appropriate place to correspond with the feeding device to create patterns. The Kenmore machine has 90 stitch functions and a one-step automatic buttonhole.
Computerized sewing machines, such as the Brother NX-600, contain microprocessors that allow the machine to accept information, usually from a card that contains patterns. Computer machines can be used like a mechanical machine or you can set them up to produce designs automatically generated by the computer program. Once you decide where you want the pattern, the machine does everything automatically. Another example of a computer machine is the Singer XL-1000 which is capable of embroidering or sewing 750 stitches every minute.
Sewing machine designs will differ between manufacturers and from model to model. Knowing the parts of your machine and their functions allows for a more pleasant sewing experience. When learning, take it one step at a time and start with something simple.