JUN 29, 2015

A glossary of sewing machine terms

Some of the jargon used in the sewing machine industry can be a little confusing, especially to a beginner just starting out in their new hobby. If you’re looking to buy your first sewing machine don’t let all the different terms overwhelm you, read on to find out what everything means...

  • Bobbin: Sewing machines form stitches using two separate threads; the needle feeds the thread from above, and the bobbin feeds the thread from the bottom of the machine. A bobbin is a small metal or plastic spool that holds the thread in the bottom of the sewing machine, and sits underneath the needle plate.
  • Feed dog: If you look closely at the needle plate you should see small metal teeth sticking up through it. These teeth are what feeds the fabric across the metal plate from the front of the sewing machine to the back.
  • Free arm: This is a cylinder on the bed of the machine which enables things such as pockets and sleeves to be sewn. Part of the machine’s base is detached, leaving the arm protruding.
  • Knee lifter: Some machines feature a lever that can be pressed with your knee. This allows you to lift the presser foot without having to take your hands off your work. Knee lifters are particularly useful for completing detailed embroidery.
  • Needle plate: This plate sits over the feed dog and conceals the bobbin. It has a small hole that allows the needle to pass through so it can pick up the thread from the bobbin. Needle plates usually have lines etched onto them, indicating distance away from the needle.
  • Presser foot: This holds the fabric flat under the needle, keeping it in place on the needle plate. It prevents the fabric from moving freely during sewing. Different presser feet are available for different jobs, such as inserting a zip or sewing blind hems.
  • Sewing bed: The base of the machine, where the bobbin is housed, is known as the sewing bed. It consists of the free arm, and the extension table; a tool that allows you to create a wide, flat area and support larger pieces of fabric.
  • Spool: The plastic tube that holds the thread which feeds the needle.
  • Stitch selector: This controls where the needle needs to be in order to achieve the desired stitch. Basic sewing machines use a dial to select stitches, while computerised machines have buttons or a touch pad to do the job.
Created on 29th June 2015
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