Sewing Fundamentals: The Machine

About a year or two after I finished college. I was given a 1960's-70's era second-hand sewing machine that looked like it had never been used. I learned to sew and it changed my life. For the next 20 years I sewed on my trusty White 1099. She was awesome. Every part was metal and every stitch was right.

Not my White...but mine was just like this.
Two years ago my husband bought me my first brand-new sewing machine. Smooth and fancy compared to the old White and she was soon donated to charity. But I still think about her all the time, wondering where she ended up. Hope whoever bought her felt her magic and falls in love with sewing the way I did.

Every serious sewist I know either loves or hates their machine. I was lucky to have fallen in love right at the start. I have not "loved" quite like that since....but things with my Bernina look REALLY, REALLY promising. My new machine has been a very patient companion so far.

When you are first starting out, simple is better. I think that's why my vintage sewing machine with very few bells and whistles was perfect for me. So when shopping for your first machine, keep it simple. You can always upgrade later. Stick with good brands, maybe even try a reconditioned older machine like I had. Like I've said before, it's amazing how many things I was able to make on that old machine with the thimbleful of knowledge I had.

The first thing I am going to tell you is to READ YOUR MANUAL. Cover to cover. Even if you don't understand it all. Just read it. You will refer back to this booklet over and over again. Give yourself some base knowledge before you start trying to thread it. Sewing machines can be frustrating, so knowledge is power. What I am explaining in this series is for the new learner so I am trying not to make it needlessly complicated.

You too can keep the home fires burning.
Let's get into the mechanics of the machine for a minute. There is a wonderful animated graphic here (created by Swiss Miss) that illustrates how the top thread and the bottom thread create the lockstitch. The top thread is fed by a spool positioned at the top of your machine. This is where you run your thread through the mechanisms (where your manual tells you) winding up at the eye of the needle. The bobbin feeds the lower thread.You fill the bobbin (using your machine's winder function) and pop it in it's place beneath the needle, threading it where your manual directs. All machines have a bobbin, and they all thread a little differently so you really need to make your manual your best friend. Here is a nice video detailing the basics of threading, all machines are different but similar enough to help you get the gist:

Learn a little something about the mechanics and threading today...and then next time we can move on to feet and needles!



  1. I love about this machine is that it uses NO bobbin thread! I was lucky enough to acquire one of these machines through Ebay, and I’m in love with it. what is the best sewing machine

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  3. Look vintage. I like this. Great article! I'm linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.

  4. The internet has absolutely no reference on such a machine and without some background knowledge it will be difficult to find the few missing parts in order to restore it.