Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sew Basic Session #2: Getting Started

Ok, class.  I hope you’ve done your homework and have your pieces cut.  If you haven’t, you can catch up here.  This week, we’re going to get your sewing machine threaded and start constructing our pillow cases.

Aaaand away we go!

While all sewing machines are different, most are threaded in the same way.  Since I am a visual learner, I thought that the best way to show this is with pictures.  (Now is a great time to bust out your machine’s manual.  If you don’t have a manual, often times you can find one simply by doing a search of your brand and model on ye old internet.)

Let’s start with winding your bobbin.  This is the little do-dad that creates the bottom portion of your stitch. 
Slide out the extension table.


Then open the cover.


Pull out the bobbin case with the bobbin (mine is clear) inside.  It looks like this.  Remove the bobbin from the case.


Guide your thread through the thread guide.


Place the bobbin on the bobbin spindle, pull thread through
the hole and press the pedal to wind it up! 
It will automatically stop when it is full. 


Then put the bobbin back into the case, guiding the thread along the slot and through the opening.  Pull about 4 inches of thread and return it to its home and close the cover. 


Now we’ll thread the top part of the machine.
Start by placing your spool onto the spool pin, and pulling the thread through the upper needle thread guide.  Then follow the arrows and guide your thread down, catching it on the little hook at the bottom, and back up to the thread take up.  From there, pull your thread down to the needle and thread it from front to back.


Since we’re looking at my sewing machine, you’ll see that it is neither expensive, fancy or high end.  You don’t need top of the line to make beautiful things.  Mine cost about $120 over ten years ago and still works perfectly.

You’ll notice that I pointed out three features above:

Stitch Selector: Most machines have a variety of stitches available, such as a straight, overcasting, smocking and zigzag.  For this project, we are going to use a simple straight stitch.  When changing your stitch, make sure that your needle is in the “up” position so that it doesn’t catch on your fabric and snag it.
Stitch Length: The shorter the stitch, the stronger it will be.  For sewing medium weight fabrics, a 2 or 3 is a good stitch length.  Next week, we’re going to make a ruffle, so we’ll increase our stitch length for that.
Reverse Stitch Lever: This little lever will cause your machine to go into reverse.  It is often used at the start and finish of a line of sewing to “lock” stitches into place so that they don’t pull apart. 

Are you still with me?  Good.  Let’s finish getting the machine ready to go.  We’re almost there.

Turn the knob on the right side of the machine to raise and lower the needle.  This will catch your bobbin thread and pull it up.  Pull both threads to the back, like a little tail.


Ok, now that your machine is set up, take some time and practice.  Get out some scrap fabric and go to town.  If you don’t have scraps, you can use paper!  Seriously!  When I was a kid, my grandma used to let me sew on her machine with a piece of notebook paper, following the lines so that I learned to sew a straight line. 
Practice until you are comfortable and find the right pressure to apply to your foot pedal.
Remember, this isn’t the Indy 500.
Slow down, sister. 
Take your time. 
Experiment with the various stitch lengths and if your machine has a variety of decorative stitches, check those out, too!

When you’re good and ready, place your two large pieces of fabric right sides together.  Pin all the way around.  As you get more comfortable with sewing, you may not need to pin as often.  But I recommend it.


Lift your presser foot and slide your fabric under.  Return the presser foot to the “down” position and line the edge of the fabric up with the 3/8 seam guide on the needle plate.



Are you ready?  Take a deep breath and gently press the foot pedal.  Sew about 4 stitches and then press the reverse stitch lever and then continue sewing.  The reverse stitch is going to hold the thread in place so that it doesn’t come out.  Some people call this “backstitching.”

Let the machine do the work for you.  Don’t push or pull on your fabric.  Your job is to gently guide it.

Take your pins out as you sew.  Some people sew right over them, but I always take them out as I go.  It’s not worth risking a broken needle.  I sew right up to the needle then I remove it.


Keep on going until you get the the end of your length of fabric.  When you are about 1/2 inch from the bottom, stop sewing.  Keeping the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot and pivot your fabric to line up with the 3/8 inch seam guide.  Lower the presser foot and continue sewing.  Do this again when you reach the next corner.


Sew all the way around 3 sides of your pillow case.  When you reach the end, do another backstitch.  I like to clip my corners (but don’t cut into your stitching!) so that when turned right side out, they are nice and pointy.


Open the seams and give them a good press with a steamy iron.  This will make it look much more professional
when you turn it right side out. 


That’s it!  You did it! 
Next week we are going to make a cute little ruffle and learn how to topstitch to keep our seams nice and crisp!


Don’t forget to stop over and visit Meg to check out her progress!

1 comment:

  1. The worse part of sewing for me is threading that stupid bobbin. I can never seem to get it up through that tiny hole and pulled out the back. I usually end up w/a rat's nest in there. And stitch length. I'm terrible at figuring that out.