How Does A Sewing Machine Work - All Things You Need To Know

How Does a Sewing Machine Work?

The sewing machine is a miracle in the clothing and fashion industry. This machine is the core element of textile manufacturing. A tailor is useless without a sewing machine. Since 1814, this machine made revolutions step by step. The sewing machine was invented in France. Till today in 2022, this machine has had a great impact on our life.

Like any other textile machine, the sewing machine is related to helping a tailor with sewing fabrics and other stuff. But, it does not work that simply like any other machine. It is a bit complicated.

As it is told, you might think, how this small machine can affect this amount of impact. What does it do? How does this mechanism work? And, what are the parts it has? To know all this, you need to keep your attention on this article till the end.

Key Takeaways

  • The history of using the sewing machine and how it makes our life easy.
  • Use of sewing machine, how it works with all the body parts.
  • A few mechanisms to understand.
  • Sewing machine has categories to work differently for different purposes.
  • Stitching with the sewing machine.

Preface and Establishment of Sewing Machine

Before the discovery of any usable machine for sewing, everything was sewn by hand. Many early efforts tried to establish a hand-sewing method for universal use but did not work properly. Embroidery also uses a needle to produce decorative stitches but not for sewing the fabrics.

To finalize any garment or clothing depends on how the different components are attached together. Any variation in sewing leads to defective material. So, sewing must be accurate and errorless.

In this article, our main focus is on the sewing machine, its parts, its mechanism, and how it works. The main purpose of sewing machines is to mechanically stitch two or more pieces of material, mainly fabric, together using thread and a needle. Sewing machines reduce the amount of manual sewing in preparing a garment or any other clothing. Sewing machines help the tailor in getting the work done quicker with better accuracy and much more consistently.

How Does a Sewing Machine Work properly?

How Does a Sewing Machine Work
How Does a Sewing Machine Work

A sewing machine is uniquely intended to use for stitching different parts of fabric together to make garments products. It is used in both the leather and textile industries. The main function of this machine is sewing fabric or any other parts of the materials.

A sewing machine is a total of a few mechanisms. This sewing machine has an electric motor connected to a mechanical system that operates a needle for sewing clothes. The sewing process is to push a needle up and down through the fabric. This creates the sewing that produces clothes and accessories. Sewing machines ensure the thread is used efficiently and quickly enough to save tons of time and effort. Many important parts make the machine whole.

This mechanism keeps sewing cotton by raising and sinking its needle. It is quite impossible to pass the thread back and forth without getting all tangled up. To understand that, you need to know what parts and mechanisms a sewing machine has.

Important Parts of the Sewing Machine

There are many important parts of a sewing machine that must be mentioned. By expert calculation, there are 27 parts to a sewing machine. You can understand just by seeing most of them. A few can be described.

1. Bobbin and Bobbin Case

The bobbin is coiled with the yarn that will frame the underside of a machine stitch. Machines have either a top-drop stylish bobbin or a front-loading bobbin. The bobbin case holds the bobbin. It is usually not changeable between machines.

Bobbin and Bobbin Case
Bobbin and Bobbin Case

2. Slide Plate or Bobbin Cover

Depending on the machine, a slide plate or a bobbin cover allows access and protection to the bobbin.

3. Presser Foot

This detachable foot keeps the fabric in place as you sew. Different presser feet are appropriate for different sewing techniques or fabrics. For example, a zipper foot is for installing a zipper, and a roller or nonstick foot is for sewing leather and oilcloth smoothly.

Presser Foot
Presser Foot

5. Throat Plate

This plate is a metal made. It is also called a needle plate. Sits below the needle and presser foot. A small entrance in the plate allows the bobbin thread to come out and the needle to pass through to make stitches. Most throat plates have little lines notched to the right of the presser foot. The plate can be removed to clean the underneath.

Throat Plate
Throat Plate

6. Feed Dogs

These small metal teeth pull the fabric between the presser foot and throat plate. The feed dogs also control the stitch length by adjusting how much fabric passes through at once. As you guide, the fabric always allows the feed dogs to move the fabric. Physically pulling or pushing may cause the needle to bend or break.

Feed Dogs
Feed Dogs

7. Tension Regulator

This knob controls the tension on the top thread. With proper tension, the top and bobbin thread will join together in uniform stitches. If the tension is set too tight, the stitch will wrinkle and break. If it is set too loose, the stitches will not grip. For machines with a manual dial, turn the dial anticlockwise to decrease tension, and clockwise to increase tension. For machines with computerized tension which has a display, press the control to a higher setting to increase tension and a lower setting to decrease it.

Tension Regulator
Tension Regulator

8. Take-Up Lever

The top thread passes through a lever. This metal lever moves up and down in tandem with the needle. Depending on the machine, this take-up lever may bulge from the front or be hidden inside the plastic casing. Before engaging the fabric under the presser foot, raise the lever completely. This will keep the needle from ripping the fabric.

9. Bobbin Winder Tension Disk

On machines that have an external bobbin winder. The tension disk relieves the thread between the spool and the winder.

10. Bobbin Winder

An empty bobbin is located on this winder to be filled with thread from the spool. To ensure that the thread winds evenly and always start with an empty bobbin.

Bobbin Winder
Bobbin Winder

11. Thread Guides

From the spool pin, the thread clearances through these metal loops help regulate the tension of the thread.

12. Spool Pin

This small pin holds the thread. Some machines have several spool pins for various types of thread spools and decorative or twin-needle sewing. Spool pins can be both horizontal and vertical. But horizontal pins provide a smoother thread feed.

13. Flywheel

This knob also called a hand wheel that raises and lowers the take-up lever. Always turn it toward you. It will also move by pressing the foot controller.


14. Stitch Selector

On old machines, a dialer allows you to choose between different machine stitches manually. Modern machines have buttons to select stitches.

Stitch Selector
Stitch Selector

15. Stitch-Length Selector

Use this dial or lever to set the size of the stitches on manual and some electronic machines. Stitches are measured according to the machine. The stitches may be measured per inch, usually ranging from zero to 20. For general sewing, use medium-length stitches for fine fabrics, and shorter stitches. For heavier fabrics, when basting or gathering, use long stitches.

16. Stitch Width-Selector

On manual machines as well as some modern electronic machines, this dial or lever controls the width of decorative stitches.

17. Reverse-Stitch Button

This button will converse the direction of the stitches and allow you to secure the thread at the beginning and end of a seam. Some manual operators call this a back stitch button.

18. Foot Controller

The speed of the stitches is partially operated by pressing on this foot pedal.

19. Menu Screen

On modern electronic and computerized machines, there is a menu screen that allows you to adjust functions and stitches. Sometimes changing the separate stitch, stitch-width, and stitch-length selector dials.

Mechanism of a Sewing Machine

A sewing machine has a few mechanisms to talk about.

Needle System

The first mechanism you will see is the needle system. It is made of the upper shaft, which drives a wheel, and the lower shaft which pushes the needle up and down. These shafts transform the motor motion into up-and-down.

While the motor makes a rounding mechanism, the upper shaft takes it and drives a wheel. Then, that wheel connects to the lower crankshaft, which transforms the motion into give-and-take movement. Then, the needle can move up and down.

Obviously, the needle needs a thread. This yarn goes into the needle eye and comes directly from the thread bobbin.

Needle System
Needle System

Bobbin & Shuttle mechanism

The shuttle system releases thread from the bobbin into the needle and then the fabric. The bobbin starts and switches to deliver the thread to the needle. This thread is drawn out of the bobbin by a hook from under the stitching plate.

Below the needle, there are a few gears that move a shaft. This shaft attaches to the hook that grabs the thread when the needle goes down.

Bobbin & Shuttle mechanism
Bobbin & Shuttle mechanism

Feed-Dog mechanism

As it calls, this feeds the machine with the fabric for the threading to go on. And even though it sounds simpler, it is actually the most complex mechanism in a sewing machine.

This system has a forward and upward movement at the same time using two mechanisms from a primary shaft. The shaft has an egg-shaped wheel. This wheel makes a lever roll that rocks back and forth. The lever connects to a crank that moves the other part of the shaft. When this part moves, the egg-shaped wheel hits the lever again. This confirms that the lever moves back and forth consistently.

The shaft moves up and down while the lever rocks back and forth. The two-character mechanisms make it possible for a set of teeth to move the fabric. It moves upwards and forwards to the material on top.

Feed Dog mechanism
Feed Dog mechanism

Different Kinds of Sewing Machines

Sewing can be broadly classified into two categories. Solo sewing and machine sewing. These two different sewing needs their own kind of sewing machine. So, there are two kinds of sewing machines.

1. Industrial Sewing Machines

These are the machines used in manufacturing anything. From fashion companies to outdoor accessories, and many others, they use industrial sewing machines in general.

Industrial sewing machine uses a clutch motor that is automatic and produces constant stitching. Similarly, it drives the fabric along to make the sewing process faster. These machines are typically reliable in their speed and strength.

Among these sewing machines, you can find models like flat-bed, cylinder-bed, post-bed, and off-the-arm, etc. Each one has a purpose and type of operation.

Industrial Sewing Machines
Industrial Sewing Machines

2. Domestic Sewing Machines

These are the ones used in domestic areas like houses. So, they are not reliable on speed or strength but on precision and stylistic stitching. Mostly used by DIY passionate and professional tailors.

Domestic sewing machines use a servo motor. It is operated fully manually. So it is slow and not as powerful as an industrial motor. However, it delivers extra accuracy and can be adjusted to provide all kinds of stitches.

Domestic sewing machines can be manual, electronic, computerized, and overclocking models. They all have different purposes and different ways.

Domestic Sewing Machines
Domestic Sewing Machines

How does a Sewing Machine Stitch?

How does a sewing machine stitch
How does a sewing machine stitch

The technique used is called running stitch. Running a stitch is like joining two pieces of flat material together. Thread a needle with a length of cotton, press the two pieces of material together, then simply push the needle through them, so it takes the cotton with it.

Pull the needle right through, then move it along with the material a little bit to form a stitch. Then push it back through the material in the opposite direction. Left some of the thread behind. In hand sewing, you use a single thread and the stitches form consecutively on the upper and lower sides of the material.


What controls the movement of the sewing machine?

A balance wheel or flywheel controls the movement of the sewing machine is very important. It also controls the operation of the machine.

What controls the stitch length?

If you have an automatic model, your stitch length will most likely be controlled by turning a knob. The smaller number is the shortest stitch length, and the larger number is the longest. Turn the knob to control the length of the stitch.

How do you know what tension to use when sewing?

For testing, if the tension is correct, insert a bobbin in the bobbin case. Then hold it up close to the thread. The bobbin case should not move. Give a little shake on the thread and if the bobbin case slides down slightly, then the tension is perfect. If it drops easily, then it’s too loose.

Final Thoughts

Working with a sewing machine is easy and fun if you know how to work with it. The innovation of this machine has already made our life easy and comforting. Now a day, everyone has a sewing machine. So, to have your sewing machine, you need to understand this machine’s important parts, the mechanism uses for sewing, stitching, and which kind of sewing machine is suitable for you. Keep these instructions in mind and happy.


Hey I’m Sherry Howes an expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, and embroidery. With a passion for fiber arts and a talent for crafting, I Have spent years improving my skills and sharing knowledge with others. Whether teaching a class or creating a new project, I’m always excited to share my love of crafting with the world. I like researching new techniques and trends in the crafting arts community.

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