How to Set Up a Sewing Machine Step-by-step For Beginners

While it is second nature for experienced sewers to set up a sewing machine and get working right away, it can be a little tough for beginners. They may not always have the right information and need a little help to make sure their machine is ready for use.

One of the problems that come with sewing machines is that every model is different. You will have more than one way to set up a sewing machine depending on the brand, model, and series it is from. Using your owner’s manual will be an essential part of the setup.

To learn how to set up your sewing machine, just keep reading our article. It will provide as much information as possible for one method and you may need to make alterations to these instructions to set your particular sewing machine upright.

What are The Steps to Setting a Sewing Machine?


There are several steps involved in this process and many of those steps take place before you actually setting up the machine. Like basketball, you need to learn the fundamentals first before you get to the fun part of the game.

The same is for sewing machines. You need to learn different aspects of the machine first before you can set it up and enjoy your new sewing hobby. Here are the steps involved:

  • 1. Get to know your sewing machine - this is done through several sub-steps that follow.

A). Read the instruction manual - if your machine did not come with one, there are plenty of online locations that can provide it for you. But read it carefully as it allows you to know the different parts, how to thread, and other key pieces of information.

B). Read the safety instructions - these may not be part of your owner’s manual and can be found on a different piece of paper. The keywords you will find on this sheet are ‘read ALL instructions first before using your sewing machine”.

C). Read the quick start instructions - these include all the necessary steps you need to take to get your sewing machine ready for use. These instructions tell you about connecting the power, getting the bobbin ready, and threading your machine. If there are no quick-start instructions, they may already be in your owner’s manual.

D). Read your warranty & registration information - you may need it and you do need to know what the fine print says.

  • 2. Connect to the power

This is very easy to do and can be done in a matter of seconds. All you have to do is find the right plug-ins and place the cords correctly.

  • 3. Insert the needle

This is where your owner’s manual will come in handy as they usually have a page or two instructing you how to do this step. When it comes to needles there are a lot of different sizes to choose from. your owner’s manual will guide you here.

They should have a little chart telling you which size should go in your machine and indicate which fabrics those needles are for. These charts are usually at the front of the manual.

  • 4. Attach the presser foot

There will be accessories that need to be put in place before you starting to sew. This is one of those accessories. Depending on the model of your sewing machine, you may only have one standard presser foot to attach or you may have a unique one.

  • 5. Thread the machine - this comes in two parts and both parts should have directions somewhere in the manual. Sometimes they are at the front of the book and sometimes they are in the middle or the back of the manual.

The first part will be the upper thread and there should also be a diagram to guide you with numbers so you can find all the parts the thread needs to go through easily. The second part will be your bobbin and that can be a little more difficult to do than threading the upper thread.

These are the basic steps you will need to follow to get your new sewing machine ready for sewing. It takes a little time at first but once you set it up, you usually do not have to do some of the steps again. The threading of the machine will be done all the time as you change projects, fabrics, and so on.

How do You Set Up a Sewing Machine?


First, we will remind you that these are going to be generic instructions because it is impossible to give detailed information for the thousands of sewing machine models on the market today.

Second, this is why reading your manual is so important. You may have the same brand as a friend but their model may be different and their instructions may not be the same for your machine. Your owner’s manual will provide the right instructions for your model of sewing machine.

Third, you should make sure the sewing machine is oiled and clean. This is vital when you are buying a used machine and not so vital when buying a new one.

There are some more steps in this segment than the last and none of these should be left out of your setup process.

  • 1. Checking the machine out - This involves making sure the 2 power cords are attached correctly to both the machine and the outlet. There is the regular power cord which brings in the electricity and then there is the foot control. Both need to be attached firmly and correctly.

Sometimes the main power cord is already attached to the machine so it saves you a step in the process. Next, check to make sure the hand wheel turns without a problem. If it doesn’t turn easily then you may have a problem already.

The hand wheel helps you raise and lower the needle and gets your needle in a more accurate position. After that, turn your machine on via the power switch located near the power cord plug-ins. Start the motor to make sure it is in good working order. You can press on the foot pedal to see if the presser bar moves or not.

  • 2. Attach the foot - this is done after you have made sure you have power and all the important parts are in fine working order. Unplug your machine for this step as you do not need any surprises as you work.

There are two basic types of feet you can put on a sewing machine. One is the screw-in model and the other is a snap-on type. The snap-on is very easy to do and doesn't need any real explanation. The screw-in type may need a screwdriver if you can’t reach it too well.

You will have to unscrew and then re-screw this screw every time you change the feet. It is like undoing a normal screw you find anywhere else and re-tightening it.

  • 3. Inserting the needle - this can be tricky to do as there is usually only one correct way to get this done even though the needle may insert in a variety of ways. This step is supposed to be standard for all machines and you will need to loosen and tighten the needle screw to insert and then lock it securely in place.

The type of screw will be different on different models and one type may be a thumb screw and another may need a screwdriver. All screws act the same way. The design of the needle is important as it tells you how to insert the needle into your machine.

the flat side is important and depending on the direction it is to face, will tell you which direction to thread your needle. Your owner’s manual will have the specific direction for your specific sewing machine.

  • 4. Checking the speed of the machine - most machines are variable speed. That means you can press on the foot pedal gently and have your sewing machine move a lot slower. The harder you press the faster your machine will go.

Turn your machine on now and test the foot pedal to make sure you have a proper connection and the different speeds react correctly to the pressure you place on the foot pedal.

Also, there are sewing machines that have a speed control dial or a speed control function on the touchpad. You can adjust those to get the speed you are most comfortable with.

  • 5. Familiarize yourself with the controls - A lot of sewing machines come with numerous dials and levers. You should familiarize yourself with where they are and what their purpose is. This is vital when you want to sew in reverse and may not know where the reverse lever or button is located.

Knowing where the controls are and how they work makes your sewing time go more smoothly.

  • 6. Threading the machine - there are basic ways to thread every sewing machine. The biggest difference is where all the parts your thread needs to go through are placed. They are not always in the same position on every model.

This is where you will need to use your owner’s manual to help you. They print a diagram with numbers and a legend, along with arrows to show you how to thread your machine correctly.

If you do not have a manual and can’t find one on the internet, you can always ask your local sewing machine repairman how it is done. They are a good backup option to have.

  • 7. Thread the needle - this comes after you have finished threading the rest of the machine. Oh and be careful not to miss a part when threading the machine as some sewing machines will not work if you do.

Threading the needle depends a lot on which direction the flat side of the needle is facing. If it points to the left then you thread right to left; if it points to the right, then you go left to right. However, some machines may have you threading front to back.

This is where your sewing machine manual will be most helpful again. it will tell you which way to thread your needle. Some sewing machines have automatic threaders so you won’t have to worry about this step if you buy one of those.

  • 8. The bobbin - we will deal extensively with the bobbin in the next section so we will skip the instructions here. Suffice it to say that the bobbin son different sewing machine models can be tricky and difficult to work with.
  • 9. Selecting the stitch patterns - this will be the next step after you have threaded the machine, needle, and bobbin. many sewing machine models have a dial to select the stitch pattern and all you do is turn that dial.

Some other models may have a touch screen or a push-button system and you need to push the right button, etc., to get the pattern that you want. What makes this portion of setting up your machine difficult is that the different manufacturers use symbols and they do not always explain those symbols.

  • 10. Stitch details - this would include setting your tension, and the average s between 3 and 4 for tension and there is a dial to turn. So no problem...except that you have to alter the tension when you change fabric weights and styles. It can be tricky to do but do it. You must as the wrong tension will ruin your sewing project.

The stitch length and width also have dials to use to set them. The standard length is 2.5 mm but short stitch lengths hold the fabric better. The width of the stitch depends on the type of pattern you are using and a straight stitch needs to be set at 0.

The straight stitch may be the one you use most of the time. Picking the right thread is important and you cannot have a thread that is too thick for the eye of the needle. Depending on the fabric you are using you can use a variety of threads as long as they work with the fabric style and the needle.

Set Up a Sewing Machine Bobbin


The bobbin s one of the more important parts of the sewing machine. It provides the thread to complete the stitch and it covers the bottom. The wrong tension can pull this thread up to the top but that is not where the bobbin thread is supposed to be.

When that happens you need to adjust the tension so the bobbin thread stays at the bottom of the fabric. Generally, you use the same thread for the bobbin as you do for the top thread. There may be exceptions to this rule but those are rare.

There are two types of bobbin systems on sewing machines. One is the side loading and the other is the top-loading option. The side-loading feature requires a bobbin case and that case simply holds the bobbin.

To thread the side loading bobbin correctly, the thread has to hook onto a loop on the case before you can insert it into the sewing machine. A top-loading bobbin does the same thing except that there is no bobbin case. The loop is built into the machine itself.

Before you get to that step in the bobbin loading process, you have to wind thread onto it. You can’t put an empty bobbin into your sewing machine, you will have nothing but problems if you do.

Winding the bobbin is simply placing thread onto the little part and some sewing machines have automatic bobbin winders to help you. All you do here is place the empty bobbin in place hook up the thread and press your foot pedal and the winding is done for you.

If your machine does not have this time-saving tool, then you would have to wind it by hand. The key to winding by hand is to make sure you get the right amount of tension as you wind.

Once you are done, simply insert it into the bobbin case or the top loading bobbin area. Just so you know, the bobbin needs to be inserted correctly into its spot as well. If it isn’t you may see a lot of problems when you start to sew.

How to Set Up a Sewing Machine for Quilting

  • 1. The first thing to know about using a sewing machine as a quilting machine is that it runs all the time and it can get hot. You will need to check to see when and if it needs some oiling to keep the machine from overheating.
  • 2. Also, you will run through several bobbins so make sure you wind a few before you get started. Then check the machine to see if it needs cleaning. A dirty machine can create a lot of common sewing issues that take time away from your quilting hobby.
  • 3. If you need to change threads, cut it close to the spool, then pull the cut piece of thread through the needle. This prevents lint from being drawn up through the tension disks.
  • 4. Next, while the machine has the power, as a beginner you need to go slow and become good before you go fast. Set your sewing speed to a slower level and take your time.
  • 5. Before you start to sew, make sure your machine is placed near or on a large flat surface. You will need this area to handle the weight of the quilt and to be able to maneuver the material through the needle easily.

You may need to go out and buy some folding tables to ensure you have an area large enough to hold your quilt flat.

  • 6. Positioning your quilting tables is important. You want them next to the walls so that the quilt cannot fall off and start pulling in the opposite direction. Look at your sewing room or the room where you will be making your quilt and see what can be done to make sure your quilting tables are next to the walls.

Use the corners as well as that gives you double the protection.

  • 7. You will need to adjust your tension settings. The best way to do that is to run some scrap material that mimics your quilt style through the sewing machine and sew what the results look like.

If the results are not balanced then you will need to make adjustments to the tension. Usually, the adjustment is made to decrease the tension not increase it.

  • 8. Lower your feed dogs, change to a darning foot, and set your stitch length to 0. This enables you to do free quilting and your stitch length will be determined by your hand speed and the needle speed.

Also, the darning foot is known by the names free motion or hopping foot. When you go to lower your feed dogs, look for a button or a lever on your machine. Moving the lever one way will lower them and reversing the movement will raise them.

Other adjustments will depend upon the type of sewing machine model you own and how new it is. Some more modern machines have greater features on them that older ones will not have.

Some Final Words

It sounds like a lot of work to set up a sewing machine. But once you have done it a couple of times, it will be easy and old hat. Take your time so you can master this important process.

Leave a Comment: