Sewing is an art. But it does rely on science and technology as well. And then there's math with all those fractions and geometry. But most importantly... there's your machine! A good machine makes the difference – not only in the sewing experience but in the professional look of the finished project. Janome America is the exclusive sewing machine sponsor of Sew4Home and we love our studio Janomes. When you have a great machine, you can literally forget about it, and put your full concentration on the art of sewing. To borrow a line from Janome that explains this phenomenon: the easier the tools, the more creative you become. Janome machines are precise and reliable from the top of the line to the most basic entry level model. One of the very first articles we did on Sew4Home explained the parts of a basic sewing machine. We've updated that article to benefit of all the new sewing enthusiasts out there. Plus, it never hurts for any of us to dust off our skills and knowledge.
We're using one of Janome's mid-line Magnolia machines. You can visit Janome.com to see the full range sewing machines and sergers. Let's open up our machine and find out what's inside.
Your machine will come home with you in its shipping box. Make sure, as with anything you get in a shipping carton, there is no damage to the outer box. Most dealers have inspected their shipments previously, but a quick once-over is always a good idea.
Open up the box. Your machine will be packed securely.
Remove the packing materials and carefully lift the machine out of the box. Remember... lift with your knees. This model came standard with a hard cover, which is in place over the machine in the box.
Pull out any separately wrapped items, such as the manual, parts and/or cords.
Remove the cover. There may be additional packing materials within the machine itself. Our foot control was packaged in the center opening and there was an additional styrofoam piece protecting the needle area.
Pull out the manual. It will list all the elements that should be included. Your first job is to identify all the presser feet and accessories to make sure everything is there and you know what's what.
If your machine has a free arm option, this is accessed by pulling away part of the sewing table. Often there is additional parts storage within this removable section. Our buttonhole foot was stored inside the accessory bin. When setting up your machine, use this bin to hold your most used presser feet and other handy tools.
Setting up the machine
Place the machine on a flat, sturdy surface.
Most machines have two things to plug in: a power cord (on the right below) and a foot control (on the left below).
Turn on the machine. This is a computerized model so it has a LED screen that will come on showing stitch selection.
If you are working with a manual model, all your stitches are likely to be printed on the front of the machine and/or on a pull-out guide and/or on buttons or dials. Whichever the method, you'll have a way to navigate to all the included utility and decorative stitches.
Our sample model also had a handy plasticized stitch chart that could be attached to the top of the machine. It's a great quick reference, and you simply slide it out and fold away the holder when not in use.
Models and makes of sewing machines differ in layout and features, but the basic parts are similar. Your machine's manual should show a detailed diagram of your specific model. If you don't have a manual, check the manufacturer's website. Often, manuals can be found online and downloaded. Consult your machine's manual for specific instructions on use and care. Below, we've called out the main parts to identify:
- Spool pin: Holds a spool of thread.
- Bobbin winder spindle: Bobbin is placed here during winding.
- Bobbin winder stopper: Stops winding the bobbin when it reaches capacity.
- Stitch width adjustment buttons: Controls the zigzag stitch. Depending on your machine model, this may be a dial.
- Pattern selection buttons: Allow you to move through the various utility stitches, decorative stitches and buttonholes. Each stitch number will appear on the menu screen. Depending on your machine model, this may be a dial.
- Handwheel: The large knob on the right side of your machine. Manually raises and lowers the needle.
- Stitch length adjustment buttons: Controls the length of the stitch. Shorter stitches for finer fabrics, longer for heavier fabrics, basting and gathering. Depending on your machine model, this may be a dial.
- Reverse stitch button: The machine will sew in reverse while the button is pushed. Depending on your machine model, this may be a lever.
- Speed control slider: Slide from left to right to speed up the stitching speed.
- Needle up/down button: Push once to drop the needle, push again to raise the needle. This also programs the default action while stitching. Most people prefer "needle down," which means when you stop, the needle stops in the down position. This is not an automatic option on all machines.
- Lock stitch button: Push to create a neat knot at the beginning or end of your seam. Use this instead of backstitching to lock your seams. Great for topstitching. You may or may not have this option on your machine.
- Start/Stop control: Unplug the foot control to activate this feature. Start and stop your stitching with the push of a button rather than with your foot. You may or may not have this option on your machine.
- Power switch: The off-on switch is usually located on the right side of the machine, beneath the handwheel.
- Bobbin winder thread guide: A thread guide drawing to make sure you have the bobbin inserted correctly.
- Thread tension dial: Controls the tension on the top thread. If too tight, the bobbin thread appears on the right side of the fabric. If too loose, the needle thread loops on the underside of the fabric.
- Thread take-up lever: The top thread passes through the thread take-up lever. It moves up and down with the needle.
- Needle clamp screw: This clamp holds the needle in place.
- Presser foot: When lowered, using a lever on the back side of the machine, this foot holds fabric in place.
- Bobbin cover release button: Releases the cover for access to the bobbin.
- Bobbin cover: Covers and protects the bobbin holder while sewing.
- Needle: A needle pushes the thread through the fabric to form a stitch.
- Feed dog: The "teeth" directly under the presser foot that pull the fabric forward while sewing.
- Needle plate: The metal plate beneath the needle and presser foot. It has one opening for the needle to pass through as it stitches, and others for the feed dogs to emerge and help move the fabric forward during sewing. Also called a throat plate. Handy guidelines on the needle plate help you keep your seam allowances straight and true.
Find that manual again to confirm the threading pattern for your machine.
Janome models also have handy guide marks embossed in the plastic and/or printed on the machine, making it super easy to follow and remember.
Thread the top of the machine first. Then drop in and thread the bobbin.
Your machine will likely come with an empty bobbin in place.
Wind the appropriate thread on the bobbin and drop it back into place or insert a pre-wound bobbin.
Pull up the thread and pop the cover back into place. Again, refer to the manual for more detail.
Pull both the top and bobbin thread through and cut the tails on the built-in thread cutter.
The next step is to test your stitches. This is not only an important thing to do when you first unpack your machine, it's also a great idea to do before any project or whenever you change your settings.
We always check our needle, usually changing to a fresh needle, and test the stitch settings on a scrap of fabric.
Do some straight stitches, some zig zag stitches, and just make sure everything is running smoothly. Even if you're an old hand at sewing, you can mis-thread, which will mess up your stitches. You don't want to start off your project with skipped stitches or thread tangles so take the time to test!
Don't ignore the manual
Do pay attention to your manual. Yes, most people find it the least interesting thing in the world to read, but you'd be amazed at how much work goes into putting one together. One thing we've learned in our work with Janome is the tremendous amount of effort on the part of the factory technicians in Japan as well as the education department at Janome America to make sure the information you need to stitch successfully is included in that trusty manual. Obviously, the more advanced your machine, the more information (and pages) in your manual. Take advantage of it. Any time you are having a problem, the manual is the first place to turn.
So there you have it. You're ready to go right out of the box to make stitching magic.