How Well Do You Know Your Sewing Machine?–Beginner Sewing Worksheet 1

As I prepare to post Beginner Sewing Project 3, I realize there is something else that I incorporate with my classes–info worksheets.  Understanding sewing machines, tools, and terminology is important to become an independent sewist.  This first worksheet explains the very basics of motorized machines (electronic machines vary and manuals should be consulted).

Knowing Your Sewing Machine

Sewing machines vary greatly by make and model, but they operate on the same principle with many of the same basic parts. Knowing these basic parts and understanding their functions will help you operate nearly any electronic home sewing machine and is essential to troubleshoot if it’s malfunctioning.

Power/Movement Controls

Most modern sewing machines have a foot pedal and power plug that are part of the same adapter. This adapter plugs into the back or side of your machine and consists of two cords.
The foot pedal is attached to the end of one cord. By stepping on the foot pedal with varying degrees of pressure you make the machine run faster or slower (more pressure equals faster speed). The power plug is attached to the end of the other cord and it goes into an electrical outlet. The hand wheel is on the far right side of your machine. It is driven by the motor but may be turned by hand to adjust needle height or to slowly sew one stitch at a time. This is helpful if sewing on a tight curve or a corner.

Threading Mechanism

Sewing machines operate by a precisely timed action in which a thread from the top of the machine is pushed through the fabric at the same time as a thread from the bottom is looped around to catch it and create a locking stitch.  When it’s said that a machine’s timing is “off”, this is what is being referred to; the timing of the thread and the catching of it are no longer synchronous.  Here is a super cool link that demonstrates an actual visual of how a sewing machine threading mechanism works (courtesy of wikimedia).

The top thread rests in the machine’s spool holder and runs through a series of guides including a thread tension control and a thread take-up lever before it reaches the needle. The bottom thread is a threaded bobbin that’s held in a bobbin case. There is a bobbin winder usually at the top of the machine.

Fabric Feed Controls

The feed dog is the piece located under the needle that has two toothed bars. When you operate your machine, they rise up a little, the teeth grab the fabric, and then they move away from you, taking the fabric with them. At the end of each stitch, they drop down, releasing the fabric, move towards you again, come up and grab and pull the fabric again, over and over. This is what causes the fabric to feed evenly through the machine. The presser foot puts downward pressure on the fabric as it is fed under the needle to hold it firmly against the feed dog. Pressure can be released and the fabric removed or turned by raising the presser foot lever located at the back of the machine.

Basic Sewing Machine Parts/Their Purpose and Function:

1) Bobbin—Provides the bottom thread, the underside of the stitches a sewing machine forms. It is useful to wind extra bobbins at once to save time later on in a project.

2) Bobbin Case—Holds the bobbin and has a specific threading pattern that provides tension to the bobbin thread.  It is either built into the machine or removable–either way, the bobbin is manually placed into it.

3) Bobbin Winder—Takes thread from the top thread spool and winds it on the bobbin. Some sewing machines have a bobbin that is filled in place in the bobbin case. More often it is located on the top of the machine and the empty bobbin must be removed from bobbin case.

4) Feed Dog—Feeds the fabric under the presser foot while you guide the fabric. It regulates the stitch length by controlling how much fabric passes under the presser foot as the machine stitches. Many machines allow the feed dog to be disengaged for hand controlled sewing such as for quilting or mending.

5) Foot Pedal—The speed of the machine is controlled by how much pressure you apply to the pedal. More pressure, machine sews faster. Less pressure, it sews slower.

6) Hand Wheel—Main purpose is to slowly turn the needle by hand.

7) Needle Position Dial—Allows the needle to be positioned left, center, or right.

8) Power Plug—Feeds electrical power to the sewing machine.

9) Presser Foot—Puts downward pressure on the fabric as it is fed under the needle. The feet are interchangeable and are designed for different purposes such as zig-zag, decorative stitching, or inserting a zipper.

10) Presser Foot Lever—Raises and lowers the presser foot. When it is in the upward position, the upper thread tension is released.

11) Pressure Adjustment Dial—Sets the amount of pressure that the presser foot exerts on the fabric. The pressure varies depending on the weight of the fabric being used. The dial is usually located on the top left of the sewing machine, though not all machines have this dial.

12) Reverse Lever—Machine sews in reverse when pressed. Locks in stitches and secures seams so they won’t come apart.

13) Slide Plate—Provides access to the bobbin area and protects the bobbin area from thread and fabric being caught in moving parts when the machine is operating.  Sometimes it is a hinged door that opens down and is located in the same area but on the machine front.

14) Spool Holder—Holds the top thread and is the first step of the thread being evenly fed to the machine needle. There are many different places the spool holder can be but it is usually located on the top of the sewing machine.

15) Stitch Length Adjustment—Adjusts the length of the stitches. The adjustment takes place at the feed dog, not the needle.

16) Stitch Width Adjustment—Allows you to vary the width of the stitches when sewing zig-zag.

17) Take-Up Lever—One of the guides the top thread is threaded through. It moves the needle and top thread up and down.

18) Tension Control Dial—Controls the amount of pressure applied to the thread for an even feed to the machine needle causing an evenly formed stitch.

19) Throat Plate/Needle Plate—The removable plate above the feed dog that has seam guides engraved in it. It is a good idea to train your eyes to watch a seam guide not the needle for straight accurate seams.

Slow, accurate work gets faster with practice. Fast, sloppy work never becomes accurate. Practice makes permanent.”

Here is a sewing machine image you can print to test their “knowing your sewing machine” knowledge and for them to have as a reference.  There are 19 fill-in-the-blanks that correlate with the above.  Some machines vary slightly, but it is still effective.  Let me know if you need help with any of the answers :).

*click on image, then choose your computers print option.  ‘Landscape’ is the best option for paper direction–it will fill the entire sheet.  Portrait will work but prints on closer to a half sheet.

know your machineFill in the blank sewing machine parts

More in my ‘How To’ series of tutorials and worksheets…

*How to Make a Picture Pocket Pillow–Beginner Sewing Project 1

*How To Make A Reversible Book Cover with Pen Holder and Bookmark–Beginner Sewing Project 2

*How To Make A Drawstring Backpack–Beginner Sewing Project 3

*How to Worksheet 2–Basic Tools for Beginner Sewing

*How To Make A Lined Zipper Pouch–Beginner Sewing Project 4



  1. Thank you for this post as I am waiting to purchase my first ever sewing machine and will need all the help possible to setting it up in the first instance, just before Christmas my grand daughter Kate and I started sewing by hand and she really enjoyed the experience of making simple little things , a skirt for her doll and a cushion cover so when we purchase the machine it is nice to know I can post a question on here if I need some advise. Kind Regards Kathy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Kathy! Somehow I missed this comment back when and just came on today for another reason. It is lovely that you are sewing with your granddaughter. I learned to sew from my grandmother as well. Memories of many sewing and cooking weekends are clear to me like they were yesterday. I have some beginner sewing lessons as well posted here. I use them to teach my own students and children. There are five in all. I have three posted so far and one being edited now.
      Anyhoo, thankfully the day did not turn out so bad. When I asked around I was told that the cargo didn’t come because of rough seas. Somehow I have associated rough seas with high winds, but in fact they are not so related. Seems obvious once I thought about it!! Ah well, happy for a decent day. Hope you made the best of it. Talk soon. Melissa Xx

      Liked by 1 person

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