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How to…Get the Best from your Sewing Machine

Even those of us who use our sewing machines daily occasionally uncover a killer trick that makes life easier. Here our experts share theirs, to help you get the best from your sewing machine.

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Machine Sewing Top Tips

Use the same colour of thread in the top and bottom spools for most of your stitching – only use different colours for decorative stitching.

Use the same type of thread in the top and bottom spools, as you will get a more even tension.

Always ensure your fabric is flat and smooth, as you will get neater stitching. Pressing before you start is always a good rule.

Always work a few stitches on a spare scrap of the same fabric you will be using to make sure the tension is correct. Different thread and fabric need different tensions. If the stitches are loopy or overly tight then you need the change the tension so that the top and bottom thread loop together evenly. Read your machine manual to see how to change the tension as each machine differs.

The most important thing about machine stitching is keeping your stitching straight. Machines come with marked measure lines on the needle plate – keep the edge of your fabric running along it as you stitch. Stitch very slowly to start with and increase your speed as you gain confidence.

If you are stitching curves, stitch very slowly and gradually ease the fabric round using both hands so you stitch a neat curved line.

Don’t forget to clean your machine regularly as fluff gets caught under the teeth and this will stop your machine working smoothly. Your manual will show you how to remove the needle plate and get all the fluff out.

Get your sewing machine serviced regularly or if you don’t feel it stitching the same as usual – it will make a great deal of difference! Look online to find your nearest machine service or repair shop.

Keep your sewing machine covered up when you’re not using it to keep the dust out, and protect it from accidents. With your new-found skills you could even make your own pretty cover!

Have a look at all the different stitches your machine can do and read your manual, which will tell you what to do with them. Mostly, you will only use the straight stitch for seams and hems, but the zigzag stitch can be just as useful – it’s brilliant for working along the edge of a fabric to stop it from fraying. You can alter the length and the width of the zigzag using your machine dials, so adjust it to suit your fabric weight. The zigzag stitch can also be used for decoration so have a practice to see which different effects you like.

Change your needle regularly – they become blunt with time and use, and your machine won’t stitch as well.

Machine Stitching

Raise the presser foot and slide the fabric under it where you want to start sewing. Your machine probably has an indicator guide on the plate, giving measuring guides for seam allowances. Line up the fabric edge with this guide.

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As you control the speed of your sewing with the foot pedal, feed the fabric under the presser foot. If you find that you need to support the fabric with a little more tension, hold it in front of, and behind, the foot and ease it gently through.

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It’s easy to turn a corner without finishing your thread. Make sure the needle is down in the fabric at the point where you need to turn, then raise the foot and spin the fabric round to the new direction. Lower the foot and carry on sewing.

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Once your stitching line is done, finish securely by making a few stitches back and forth over your line. With the needle in the up position, raise the presser foot and pull out your fabric. The threads will still be attached, so snip these off.

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