Blog, Sewing Machine Hardware

A Guide to The Parts of a Sewing Machine

By Jessica Strohlson

There are 19 main parts to a sewing machine. Though this may sound intimidating at first, do  not let this scare you off from the wonderful world that is sewing. These days, sewing machines  have been made to be easier and more efficient than ever before. While there are many  different models of sewing machines, each model operates similarly to the other while containing  the same basic parts to each sewing machine. So, what are the 19 basic parts to the sewing  machine and how do you identify them? Great question! Let’s go ahead and get started so that  you can be on your way to sewing your first masterpiece! 

Identifying the Parts of a Sewing Machine

Spool Pin

spool pin

The spool pin can be found at the very top of your machine. This is what holds your  spool of thread. Seems easy enough! 

Bobbin Winder Spindle

bobbin spool pin

Located just next to the spool pin. The bobbin is placed here during winding. Always  start with a bobbin to ensure that your thread winds evenly and smoothly. 

Bobbin Winder Stopper

The bobbin winder will stop winding the bobbin when it reaches capacity. 

Stitch Width Dial

This dial can be found just underneath the spool pin and bobbin winder spindle. This dial  is used to control the width of your stitch. 

Pattern Selector Dial

Used to set the symbol of the desired stitch pattern. As there are typically two dials, this  can usually be identified as the first dial, also labeled as “selector”, on your sewing  machine. Newer, computerized sewing machines will have you select your stitches on a  screen. 

Hand Wheel

hand wheel indication on a sewing machine

This can also be referred to as a flywheel and can be found on the side of your sewing  machine underneath the Bobbin Winder Stopper. This knob raises and lowers the take up lever and should always be turned towards you. 

Stitch Length Dial

The stitch length dial controls the length of your stitch. As you learn more about sewing,  you will find what stitch needs to be used for each fabric. Shorter stitches are for finer  fabrics while long stitches are for heavier fabrics, basting and gathering. This will  typically be the second dial, located under the pattern selector dial, also labeled as  “Length”.

Reverse Stitch Lever

This lever, or sometimes button, allows your machine to sew backwards. This is used to secure your thread at the beginning and end of a seam. This can also be referred to as  the “backstitch button”. 

Power Switch

This off-on switch will typically be located on the right side of your machine, underneath  the handwheel and towards the bottom of the sewing machine. 

Bobbin Winder Thread Guide

Located at the top of your sewing machine, the thread guide is used when a bobbin is  being wound. 

Thread Tension Dial

This dial is used to control the tension on the top thread.  

Thread Take-Up Lever

The top thread passes through the thread take-up lever and moves up and down with  the needle. To use the take-up lever correctly, always tie the lever completely with the  needle at its highest point before placing your fabric down on the presser foot in order  for your fabric to not be snagged. 

Needle Clamp Screw

The Needle Clamp Screw holds the needle in place and can be found just above the  presser foot. 

Presser Foot

presser foot

The Presser foot holds your fabric in place. This is typically removable as different feet  are necessary for different sewing techniques as well as different fabrics. One example  would be a zipper foot. You would change your presser foot to a zipper foot when you  need to sew a zipper onto your item. 

Bobbin Cover

The bobbin cover protects the bobbin holder while sewing. 

Bobbin Cover Release Button

This release button is used to release the cover for access to the bobbin. 

Feed Dog

This piece pulls the fabric forward while you are sewing. The small teeth allow the fabric  to be pulled between the presser foot and throat plate while also regulating the stitch  length by controlling how much fabric can pass through at one time. Never manually  pull or push your fabric, let the feed dog handle this or your needle may break.


The needle is used to push the thread through the fabric to form a stitch. Needles are  removable and come in a variety of sizes. 

Needle Plate

The needle plate is the metal plate located just beneath the needle and presser foot.  This plate has an opening for the needle to pass through as it stitches. Most needle  plates, also referred to as throat plates in some manuals, have small lines that serve as  guides for seam allowances and for sewing straight lines. The needle plate, just as many  other parts of the sewing machine, can also be removed when needed. 

As previously mentioned, machines made now-a-days are more high-tech in hopes to make  using the machines easier than before. With that being said, here is an extra part, or the 20th part, of a sewing machine (if applicable): 

The Menu Screen

The menu screen can be found on computerized machines, Brother is known  to sell some of the best computerized sewing machines. The menu screen can be used to adjust  functions and stitches thus replacing the Pattern Selector Dial and Stitch Length Dial as  mentioned above.

Continue Learning

Understanding the basic functions of your sewing machine will allow you to get the most out of  your sewing experience. This will also lead to less frustration, less damage and less injuries (hey,  needles are sharp). If you find that you need additional help or information on how to properly  use your sewing machine, there are a few books and video tutorials to help with this as well. A few  examples of these books and videos include: 

• A Beginner’s Guide to Machine Sewing. This manual has a variety of lessons, 50 to be  exact, and 15 sewing projects to get you started! It also includes 3-full size patterns.  Thank you! 

• Beginner’s Guide to Sewing (Episode 1): Understanding Your Machine. This YouTube  series by Sewing Parts Online is a typical favorite for beginners who are interested in  sewing. They are fully aware that understanding the sewing machine is the first step in  the process.

Now that we have a general understanding of the parts to a sewing machine, keep in  mind that though they are similar, most sewing machines differ from one another. With that  being said, you are now ready to explore the world of sewing machines and find the best model  for you (if you do not already own a sewing machine, of course). 

You have already completed  the first step, this! Doing your research on the parts to a sewing machine. Next, consider your  options based on your project. Final tip, consider how you might use the machine when your  skills improve. Sure, starting off with a more affordable model is great but if you are truly  determined to grow your skill, consider your options and invest in the best machine for you!  Here’s to happy sewing and a great relationship with your sewing machine!

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