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Know Your Sewing Machine

Identifying Basic Parts

• Thread take-up lever: Controls the thread as it is fed to the needle.

• Tension discs: Keep the thread at just the right tautness for perfect stitches.

• Presser foot: Holds the fabric against the fabric feeds.

• Fabric feeds: Move the fabric.

• Presser-foot lifter: Allows you to raise and lower the presser foot.

• Needle clamp and screw: Holds the needle in place. Loosen the screw to change needles.

• Needle plate: Surrounds the fabric feeds and has a hole, which the needle goes through to carry the thread to the bobbin thread.

Somewhere on the top of your machine you’ll find the spool pin. There may be a bobbin pin or spindle on top or at the base of the trunk for winding thread onto your bobbin. The balance wheel, which is used to raise or lower the needle, will be on the right side of the machine.

Your machine should also have a light under the body of the machine. Generally this light comes on automatically when the machine is switched on. Like all light bulbs, this one can burn out. Check your manual for replacement instructions.

You will also have a foot pedal, which plugs into the machine and operates much like a gas pedal on a car. A few machines have knee press levers instead.

Machine Presser Feet

The most common attachments available are alternate presser feet. There are dozens available. Some will make a task easier, while others will make it possible to do things with your machine you couldn’t do otherwise. The one most likely to be included with your machine is the zipper foot. A zipper foot is narrow with a groove on either side for the needle, instead of a hole or slot in the middle. This allows you to stitch close to a zipper without having the zipper’s teeth under the presser foot.

Another common foot is the straight stitch foot. The all-purpose foot, which is generally on the machine when you buy it, is used for either straight or zigzag stitching. The straight stitch foot is only necessary when close control is needed, such as topstitching or stitching delicate fabrics.

A buttonhole foot is included with most machines. This might be a special clear plastic foot with markings that help you stitch on either side of a buttonhole line you’ve marked on your fabric, or it might be a onestep buttonhole foot that sews the buttonhole almost automatically. A button fits in a sliding slot; the machine uses that to determine the size of the buttonhole that’s needed for it.

Your machine attachments may also include a satin stitch foot. This foot has a groove on the bottom, behind the needle hole, to keep it from getting hung up on the bulky zigzag stitches.

Needle Plates

Most of the time the needle plate on a machine is actually a zigzag plate. Leaving it on allows you to switch from straight stitching to zigzag without switching plates. However, occasionally it is preferable to use the straight-stitch plate. The only difference is a round or narrow needle hole instead of an oblong one designed to accommodate the needle during zigzag stitching. Use the straight-stitch plate along with the straight-stitch foot when special control is needed. For instance, if you are sewing with delicate fabrics that tend to follow the needle down the hole, using a smaller hole decreases the problem.

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