Parts of the Sewing Machine (38 parts you need to know)

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The sewing machine is the most important requirement when it comes to sewing. It is used for stitching fabrics to make garments. Through innovation, sewing machines have evolved from the handheld sewing machine to computerized machine for home or commercial use.

It is therefore imperative that you understand the different parts of the sewing machine and its functions. This will equip you with knowledge to better operate it and identify problems when they arise.

Just like any other machine, its performance depends entirely on you and how you operate. The sewing machine in turn will perform as much as you utilize it. This article will take you through the different parts of the sewing machine and their functions.

1. Start and Stop Button

In an automated sewing machine, this button will allow you to control functions like embroidery. You can do this by starting or stopping the machine and you can also sew without the foot controller.

2. Handle

This is the uppermost part of the sewing machine designed to move the machine from one point to another.

3. Bobbin

It is a spindle on which thread is wound. The bobbin thread loops with the needle thread to form stitches on your fabric. Your sewing machine uses a specific bobbin size so always consult with your manual before purchasing one. There are front load and top load bobbins. The type and brand of machine affect the positioning of the same.

There are plastic and metallic bobbins. The metal bobbins are more resilient compared to the plastic bobbins. Any slight damage to your bobbin will affect your project. Be sure to check for indents, nicks or cracks and replace if you notice such.

4. Bobbin Case

This houses the bobbin. It consists of a hook rotary system and it allows the bobbin thread to be pulled around it through the needle plate. You will need to clean the bobbin case once in a while to remove lint and debris.

Cleaning ought to be done using a brush to ensure that the tiny pieces of fabric are all removed. When working with those fabrics that fray easily such as fleece, cleaning should be done after every sewing session.

5. Bobbin Tension System

The bobbin has a tension system that usually comes factory set. As a beginner you don’t need to interfere with the tension. But as you gain experience and become comfortable operating your sewing machine, you can alter the tension to suit your needs.

The user manual that comes with your sewing machine will demonstrate how to check and adjust the bobbin tension.

6. Bobbin Winder

This is usually built-in and it loads the thread on to the bobbin. When wounding the bobbin thread, ensure it is even, has no knots or tangles. No end should be thicker than the other. If you notice any of these, you will have to start all over again.

7. Bobbin Winder Stopper

This comes in handy when winding thread on your bobbin. It stops further winding once the bobbin is full. If your sewing machine lacks this feature, you will have to stop it manually. You can easily do this by releasing the foot pedal when the bobbin spool is almost fuu.

8. Balance Wheel or Handwheel

This is found on a handheld and semi-auto sewing machine. It sets the sewing machine in motion. It is used to operate the sewing machine manually.

You should turn the hand wheel towards you and not the opposite direction. This will move the needle up and down.

Other mechanical sewing machines may come with two handwheels. The one on the right moves the needle. The other enables you to choose between different stitches on your sewing machine.

9. Needle

The sewing machine cannot function without a needle. They come in different sizes and types for different types of fabrics.

You have to use the correct type of needle for the right fabric together with the right thread. The needle has different parts which include the shaft, point scarf, shank, front groove and the eye. It is advisable to change your needle after every project. You should also be able to identify when the needle is dull or broken.

10. Needle Screw

The needle is attached to the sewing machine using a screw. It needs to be tightened to make sure that the needle does not fall of the machine during stitching. Older models of sewing machines came with bigger dials allowing users to tighten the screw with their hands. Newer models, however, do not have this provision. They come with small screw drivers to help users in tightening the screw.

11. Needle Plate

It covers the bobbin case and the feed dogs and comes specific for each sewing machine. It comes with etching to keep the seam straight. It has a hole to allow the needle to go through the bobbin casing. This part is removable to allow users to access other parts of the machine lying underneath it.

12. Thread Cutter

Located behind the needle of the sewing machine, this part is convenient when the fabric has been stitched to the end and the thread has to be cut.

13. Needle Clamp

The clamp holds the needle in place when sewing. If you need to replace the needle, you will be required to loosen the clamp.

14. LCD Display

If you have an automated sewing machine, it comes with a digital display. This displays information such as the tension level, stitch width and stitch length.

There are more advanced models. The LCD display can also show you images of the stitches and gives you an idea what you are doing. For the mechanical sewing machine, there is no digital display. The settings are done using the handwheel.

15. Button Shank Plate

It has always been a norm to sew on buttons by hand. This feature changes that; you can easily do it with a sewing machine. It is used to attach buttons even when working with heavy fabric. It also prevents uneven stitches when sewing thick seams.

16. Feed Dogs

They are teeth like within the needle plate. When sewing, it regulates the length of stitch. It also grabs on the fabric pulling it through the sewing machine to produce quality stitches.

When working on your project in a free motion, ensure that you drop the feed dog. This will disengage it to avoid damage to your fabric. If your sewing machine lacks this feature, then install darning plate for free motion when sewing.

17. Feed Dog Lever

The feed teeth lever makes it possible for machine users to sew in free motion. This is done to ensure that the teeth do not pull the fabric when stitching is initiated. Same applies to when a button is being sewn. Disabling the teeth also allows one to sew in any direction they want to. Lowering the teeth is essential therefore, if one does not want interference from them.

The lever does not have a precise location that it is placed in sewing machines. Different manufacturers place it on different parts of the sewing machine. The manual should be able to indicate where one can find this part.

18. Felt Cushion

Just as the name suggests, this is a cushion placed on the spool spin to enhance its performance. It is not however a requirement for your sewing machine and you can work without it.

19. Foot Pedal

This determines the speed of your needle. It ensures better operation and good control of your sewing machine. You must use the correct foot pedal for your specific sewing machine.

As a beginner, the foot pedal may be difficult to control while sewing at the same time. This however gets better as you gain more experience.

20. Foot Pressure Dial

It allows you to customize the physical pressure you need to apply on the fabric. You can adjust the pressure for fabric control and better seams. It is also very useful when working with different types of fabrics.

21. Zigzag Foot

You are probably going to use this for all of your sewing projects. It is also known as the general purpose foot which means it is the most utilized feature. You can do satin stitching, straight stitching.

22. Reverse Button

This part will enable you to back stitch every seam to lock in the threads at the beginning and end of your sewing project. This will reinforce each seam and prevent it from bursting open when under tension.

23. Extension Table

The part is removable to allow for more working space especially when working on circular projects. You can also use it as a storage compartment. It is also important when working on larger projects such as quilts.

The table supports the extra bulk of the fabric and distributes weight evenly. Extra weight on one side will pull and stretch the fabric.

24. Needle Threader

Threading a sewing machine can be a task that you may dread. For computerized sewing machines, this feature does the needle threading for you. The machine comes with a built in needle threader.

The threader inserts the needle for you and you won’t have to strain your eyes. It is quick and efficient and also prevents accidents that arise when threading a sewing machine. You can also self-threading needle. This will allow you to thread your needle without finding its eye.

25. Stitch Selection Dial

Your sewing machine may come with a knob to turn when selecting stitches. For a computerized machine, the stitches are on the LCD display. The stitches also have numbers unlike in manual sewing machines.

26. Thread Take-Up Lever

The lever is above the presser foot. It plays an important part when threading your sewing machine. It catches the thread and pulls it from the spool through the machine and out of the cloth when sewing.

If at one point your sewing machine forms a nest of thread beneath the fabric, it could be the take-up-lever is acting up. For manual sewing machines, you will need to manually thread the take-up-lever.

This process is however different and more simplified for automatic sewing machines. The machines are equipped with a slot that allows you to slide the thread and it will position itself.

27. Spool Pin

Your sewing machine will not function without this. It holds the spool of thread to allow the threading mechanism of your sewing machine to function. It provides stability for the spool. It also allows it to turn during sewing without being yanked off the machine.

It is made of either plastic or metal. The specific designs may vary by the direction they point to. It could be vertical or horizontal. It could be placed on top of the machine or at the back. Your sewing machine can also have two spool pins.

28. Power Switch

This is found in electric sewing machine. It is located on the front or back of the machine. It powers the sewing machine when plugged to power. You should always remember to unplug your machine when not in use to avoid electrical damage.

29. Presser Foot

It is used to keep the fabric in place while sewing to keep it in place. There are many types which include, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, satin stitch foot, rolled hem foot and many more.

30. Presser Foot Lifter

It allows for you to raise the presser foot in order to insert a fabric easily. There are sewing machines that have pressure control. This is a plus when working with heavy or thick fabric because you can lift the presser foot all the way up. It also comes in handy when one is working on bulky seams that need extra space to be worked on.

31. Race Hook

It is a circular groove that houses both the bobbin and the bobbin case. It guides thread from the bobbin when sewing. It also directs extra thread to be wound on the bobbin with each stitch. It collects debris and lint quickly. This will require constant cleaning for better performance.

Use a small brush to clean out the race hook and oil it regularly. The needle may break and lodge itself into the hook. To avoid further damage to your machine, remove the parts immediately and dislodge the needle.

32. Speed Control Dial

The dial replaces the foot pedal. You can now set the speed of your sewing machine by a dial. The dial fits with other sewing machines so you will not require the specific model for your machine.

33. Speed Control Lever

This feature allows you to adjust the speed of your sewing machine. It is measured by the number of stitches your machine will do per minute. The number of stitches range from 800 to 1200 stitches per minute. If you are working on long fabrics, you can set the machine at high speed to finish your project quick.

34. Reverse Button

This button will enable you to sew in reverse as far as you need. The button has a curved arrow above the needle. You will use this feature at the start and finish of a seam to reinforce it. You can go back to sewing normally after releasing the button.

35. Metal Guide for Upper Thread

When threading your sewing machine, you need to ensure the thread goes through the guide. This is done before inserting it around the take up lever. This way, your sewing machine will be threaded properly and avoid mishaps while sewing.

36. Tension Dial

The tension of your sewing machine is very important when it comes to sewing. The upper and lower thread need to have the correct tension before starting your project. The dial allows you to adjust the tension of the upper thread.

For the older machines, you may need to do this manually. The automatic machines can adjust the tension for you and you won’t have to worry about it. Use your user manual when setting the tension to guide it correctly.

37. Pattern Selector

When sewing, machines allow users to pick on the type of stitch that they would love to use. The pattern selector is the part of the machine responsible for this action. The type and brand of the sewing machine determines the variety of stitches available. Some of the common stitch types that machine users will come across are; straight, zigzag, or embroidery stitches.

38. Tension Disks

This part of a sewing machine controls the pressure applied on the thread. Tension disks are vital as they ensure that the thread is being fed in a uniform way. The other functions it performs are; align the positioning of the thread to needle, control the flow of thread and passage, and maintaining smoothness when stitching. There are two types of tension disks. These are direct and indirect tension devices.

This part of the sewing machine is essential as it ensure that the stitches are even on both sides of the fabric. For contemporary machines, the tension dials allow for adjustment of the tension from low to high to suit the needs of the user.


Whether your sewing machine is manual or a digital one, all the parts mentioned here are typically the same. The only variation may be the location on your sewing machine. Take your time and learn your machine and it will perform to the maximum.

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