How Does A Sewing Machine Work?

Not everyone can use a sewing machine, but anyone trained and has skills on how to work with one can easily operate it and some perfect sewing projects. It is, therefore, crucial to understand some basics that a beginner needs to have for proper sewing. Here is everything you need to know before you kick off your sewing process.

How can a machine sew?

It can be exciting to use a sewing machine when you have the required knowledge to handle it. However, it can be overwhelming, too, especially when interacting with it for the first time. If you are interested in learning how to sew, you will first need to understand how the sewing machine works through its working principle.

Different sewing machines have different working principles; however, others have the same principle. Both manual and electric sewing machines use either of their powers to make their gears move to bring about the coordinated effort that leads to the upward and downward movement of the needle threading your fabric. The handwheel in both the electric and manual sewing machine performs the same purpose.

What is a sewing machine?

It a machine designed to sew fabrics and cloth materials with a needle and a thread. There are many sewing machine models for stitching different materials such as leather, denim, silk, and any other fabric type. The type of sewing machine needle and thread determines the type of fabric you will work on; sewing machines can stitch up to twenty various stitches and above. They have been made in a way that one person can manage to use each sewing machine at a time using a single stitch.

However, the modern sewing machine is more advanced as the sewing process has been automated to make the fabric quickly glide in and out of the sewing machine without interfering with thimbles, needles among other hand sewing materials. There are industrial sewing machines that are relatively larger and faster, the cost, appearance, and the tasks they perform are more complex than the other sewing machines.

How does a sewing machine stitch?

Sometimes it looks more magical how a sewing machine can stitch; the question many people don’t understand is; how a sewing machine makes various types of stitches. The inside of a sewing machine has many people don’t know about, and what is inside the machine is what makes it able to stitch. Here is how several stitches are made:

The loop stitch

Creating a loop stitch is different from the other ordinary stitches; loop stitches can be hand sewed and machine sewed; let’s focus on creating a loop stitch with a sewing machine. A sewing machine allows only the needle to pass and part-way through the sewing material or fabric, where the machine’s needle eye is behind the sharp point instead of being at the end. Once the needlepoint goes through the fabric, it manages to pull out a small loop of sewing thread from one side to another. After achieving this, the fabric’s mechanism grabs the produced loop and wraps it around another thread or loop on the same thread.

The chain stitch

It is a sewing technique that incorporates embroidery where various series of loop stitches make a chain-like pattern. There are two types of chain stitches, that is; basic chain stitch and double chain stitch. When sewing the basic sewing stitch, you first have to pass the needle down through the fabric; the needle will rise upward, forming a small loop beneath the fabric from the friction brought about by the thread against the sewing fabric. A circular needle beneath the work catches the loop, while the machine moves the fabric forward to project the loop on the lower side from the prior stitch, then drop the next needle through the previous loop making the circular needle to release the first loop picking up a new loop, the process repeatedly happens until the desired loops are achieved.

The double chain stitch is simpler to stitch; it uses two threads; however, currently, people do not stitch it on the latest sewing machines except when working on ornamental projects since it uses a lot of threads. The double chain stitch is mostly found on heavy material packaging for closing big bags, making it easy to open bags.

The lock stitch

Creating a lock stitch is not far different from how the other stitches are made; once you engage the sewing machine, it pushes the needle down through the sewing material. When the needle gets to the furthest and deep level, it starts to rise upwards through the fabric, as the needles start pulling up the friction brought about with the needle against the fabric forcing the thread to come out of one side of your needle, resulting in a loop.

The groove on the needle enables the thread to slip without any friction hindrances easily; since the thread only makes it slip on one side of the needle, one loop is created at a time on the groove opposite side. The bobbin shuttle has a hook responsible for catching the thread of thread and interlocking it with the thread feeding off the bobbin. Now the two threads automatically interlock around the fabric pieces, leading to the creation of a lock stitch.

How does the sewing machine work step by step?

Proper preparations, interest, and skills determine the experience you will have with your sewing machine; that’s why you will find someone explaining how easy it is to work with a sewing machine while others can’t even make a single stitch. Here is a guideline that will ensure you learn everything you need to know about how a sewing machine works and the basics you should not be away from:

The Sewing machine set up

How you will set up your sewing machine will highly determine how effective your sewing process will be; therefore, it is important to understand the following required basics in this:

Power switch

Find out where your machine is turned on; popularly, sewing machines have their power buttons on the right side. Try the power switch whether it automatically runs when you turn the power switch on.

Connect the foot pedal to the sewing machine

Most machines have their connections near the power switch on the right side; once you have connected the foot pedal and turned on the machine, press the pedal to see what happens after that. If there is a needle on the machine, turn your needle up and down using the handwheel before you could start using the foot pedal. It could be better to take the needle out by turning the knob that will loosen your sewing machine needle.

Set up a new needle and a thread

Ensure that you start your setup and sewing process with anew thread and needle; this is essential because you might not be aware of how long the needle has been there or the type of fabric it works on. On the other hand, old threads can easily downgrade, break down, or by any chance, lose their strength.

2. Sewing machine operation

However, sewing machines come with different options on how to use them, but the operation is always similar on all sewing machines. To properly know how your machine operates, always refer to the manual it comes with, which will be able to show you the following:

Check on the sewing machine’s manual. It is always important to check the sewing machine manual as it does not only help you know how to operate the machine but also enables you to understand some tricks on how to properly care for your machine and handle different issues that might come along.

Find a strong a stable working table where you should place your sewing machine, ensure you get comfortable, and the chair you choose fits well in the cabinet, giving you enough legroom.

Insert your sewing needles on the sewing machine, ensure that you understand the type of needle needed to sew the current fabric you want to work on.

Wind and install the bobbin to get the underneath threads for perfect stitches.

Put your spool of thread in the spool pin and get the machine threaded; however, you can skip this step if the machine was already threaded, but when it comes to changing colors, you have to do it.

Then put the thread in a needle and get the bobbin thread off the underneath bobbin cover.

Finally, plug your sewing machine in and turn it on using the power switch and get started; work on different projects, only changing needle and thread colors where necessary.

However, different sewing machines might need different operations, making it important to always refer to your manual.

How do Sewing Machine Bobbins Work

Bobbins are small metallic, wooden, or plastic wheels designed to hold the thread; the thread gets wrapped around small cylinders attached to thin walls on either end. In a standard sewing machine, the bobbin is used to make sure the bottom thread is held in place; it is located just above the needle in a bobbin case. Many sewing machines make use of the bobbin and the top thread technique to make complete loops while sewing.

It is evident how the needle easily reaches the bobbin case when one is sewing and pulls threads from the cycles, then loops the thread with the upper thread creating a complete sew on your pressed fabric. This feature makes a bobbin one of the essentials things you should have for a successful sewing process.

The Inner Works of a Sewing Machine

Generally, looking at your sewing machine, you do not see everything displayed and how it works to achieve the best stitches; once you decide to pull off the whole thing, you will see more than what your eyes met the first time. There are a lot of pulleys, gears, belts, cranks, among many other kinds of stuff beneath your eyes. All the internal parts are run by the electric motor attached to the drive belt; the latter is responsible for moving the drive wheel, which then keeps the upper drive shaft rotating. The upper drive shaft then makes a lot of the mechanical parts attached to it move.

The crank is among the internal moving parts, which in turn moves the needle up and down to enable the sewing process to take place. The belt inside acts as a connection between the upper and lower drive shafts ensuring that the lower drive shaft moves all the mechanical parts connected to it. The two drive shaft’s connection causes the needle and the shuttle to move together.

Key parts of a sewing machine

The following are the key parts of a sewing machine; every sewer should always understand:

Presser’s foot.

It is located below the needle, meant to press down fabric against the feed dogs, thus keeping the fabric from sliding.

Power switch.

It is used to either turn the sewing machine on or off; it has its location near the power cord.

Foot pedal.

It is responsible for speed control, as in how fast or slow your sewing machine should work.

Needle plate.

It is a flat metal plate situated under the needle to cover the bobbin.


It is made to enable one to lower or raise the needle and also remove it.

Feed dogs.

They are small metal ridges in the center of the throat plate that pulls your fabric through the sewing machine.


It is the main spool for the bottom thread located on the lower side of the sewing machine. It is housed by the bobbin case inside the sewing machine.

Who invented the sewing machine?

The sole inventor of the sewing machine is the question most people always ask, here is it, in around 1790, an Englishman known as Thomas Saint came up with the first sewing machine. It was described as being powered by a hand crank and can be used to sew leather and canvas.

A brief history of sewing machines and clothing

Initially, the development of sewing machines was meant to be used in clothing industry production lines and enable clothing to be produced in large masses. The first functional sewing machine was invented by a French tailor known as Barthelemy Thimonnier in 1830 to be used in his clothing factory. It only used a single thread to hook the needle and form a lock stitch.

The need and urge for clothing mass production called for more invention and revolution on the sewing machine. The need for women to fasten their ability to make clothing for their families also played an important role in coming up with ideas of upgrading the invented sewing machine.


Understanding how a sewing machine works is attractive and fascinating; not only does it help you operate the machine, but it also enables you to know how to repair and take care of the machine. Knowing each essential part of your sewing machine increases your chances of perfect work, fewer mistakes, and more saving on various related costs.