A Guide to {Sewing Machine Parts }

parts of a sewing machineBasic purpose of a sewing machine is to stitch different materials together with a thread. That is probably all that concerns you anyway. But if you are curious about the wonders of a sewing machine that stitches up beautiful clothes, you will need to know the parts of the sewing machine which helps in this work.

For details on this check out the post “How to sew with a sewing machine and how it sews” 

You may be using some of these names every day when sewing, like sewing feet, foot pedal etc., some terms maybe not-so-much ( I learned when I wrote this post) like the rotary hook and the stop motion screw.

All of these parts of your sewing machine should work in tandem optimally for you to sew.  Just a little lint can clog them all up and stop the whole machine so do not be hesitant in keeping all of these parts clean all the time ( Cover your sewing machine pronto; dust is a killer to sewing machine parts).

Check out this post on sewing machine maintenance for taking care of your sewing machine properly 

Table of Contents

    sewing machine parts


    Sewing machine Parts and their uses 

    This refers to the complete sewing machine ( not the stand )

    • 2.Arm

    This is the curved part of the sewing machine with the mechanism for driving the needle and handling the upper thread

    • 3. Hand Wheel

    Wheel at the right of the head, used to manually move the needle up and down.Also called Balance wheel

    TIP : Hand wheel should always be turned towards you, even when using a reverse stitch.sewing machine

    • 4.Needle bar

    The upright bar at the lower end of which the needle is attached.A needle clamp screw on this bar holds the needle in place.

    • 5. Spool pin

    The upright metal rod fitted on the top of the arm where your spool of thread sits while you sew

    • 6.Bed

    The flat portion of the head under which is the shuttle, feet and lower thread handling mechanism

    • 7.Sewing machine foot (Presser foot)

    This is a detachable portion of the sewing machine which holds the fabric or material in place while sewing. It keeps the material flat and tight for proper sewing and lets you guide the needle smoothly through the fabric. Different types of presser feet are available with different functions – zipper feet, button hole feet etc.

    TIP : When you start to sew pull some 4 inches of thread behind the presser foot. This tail is needed so that the machine does not ‘eat’ the thread.

    It is the type of stitch you are going to make that determines the sewing machine foot you are going to use. 

    The type of foot you buy also depends on whether your sewing machine is high shank or low shank or snap on- You have a low shank machine if the distance between the presser foot screw and the bottom of the feet is about 3/4 inch. You have a high shank machine if the distance between the presser foot screw and the bottom of the feet is about 1 1/4 inch . Snap on feet just snaps itself to the lever. 

    TIP : Keep presser foot on down position for sewing. 

    • 8.Presser foot lever

    The lever attached to the presser bar to control the up and down movement of the presser foot. This lowers the presser foot into place when you are ready to sew, and to lift it up when you want to move your fabric. This has to be lifted to take out the material from the machine.

    • 9.Thread cutter

    This is a blade fastened to the side of the presser foot bar, to cut the thread as you sew.

    • 10.Bobbin Winder Tension Disc (Tension angle)

    Keeps your thread taut when you’re winding a bobbin

    • 11.Face plate ( Needle plate / Throat plate)

    A semi-circular flat disc with a hole to allow the needle to pass through it. It is situated below the needle. It usually has a seam guide that can help you in guiding the fabric edges as you sew.

    Tip : If you look at the seam guide as you sew instead of the needle you will be able to sew a straight line with even seam allowance. 

    sewing machine parts

    • 12.Feed Dog

    This is a device consisting of metal strips with little teeth that stick up from the needle plate and move your fabric along as you sew. When the machine is working the feed dog moves upwards and advances the fabric as each stitch is made. They move faster or slower depending on how hard you press the foot pedal

    TIP : The feed dog will move your fabric automatically. You do not have to pull the fabric from the back – ofcourse you know this. But once upon a time I didn’t.

    • 13.Presser Regulator (Tension regulator)

    This is a mechanism fixed to the face plate, which adjusts the amount of presser that the presser foot uses to hold your fabric down as you stitch. It controls the quality of stitches. The greater the presser the lighter the stitch.

    • 14.Thread Take-up Lever

    This lever which is fitted to the body of the arm moves your thread up and down as you sew. It feeds the thread to the needle. The thread goes through this lever when you thread your sewing machine.

    This lever is always at the top when you start sewing and ending the sewing.

    • 15.Thread Guides

    These are different points located in your sewing machine that keeps the sewing thread in place as you sew. If the order of guiding the thread to the needle is wrong the stitch will form tangled.

    • 16.Needle

    Sewing machine needles which come in different sizes.Twin needle is a very useful addition to your sewing accessory kit. 

    Tip : Keep most of the fabric to the left of the needle so that you can look at the seam guide as you sew. 

    Change the needle after 8 -10 hours of use. Turn the machine switch off when changing the needle. When changing the needle the flat side of the needle should be facing away from you and the curved side of the needle should facing you.

    • 17.Bobbin case / Shuttle

    This holds the bobbin thread inside the sewing machine. Bobbin case vary with different models of sewing machines in that in some bobbin is inserted through the front, in some case from the top ( drop in) Some have separate case, some machines come with in built bobbin cases.

    • 18.Reverse Sewing Lever/Button

    This is the lever or button which allows you to sew backwards when pressed

    • 19.Stitch Length Dial

    This is a regulator with which you can change the length of your stitches. Graduation marks present in the lever indicates the length selection choices.

    • 20.Accessory box

    This is located around the free arm under the needle. It acts as a storage for your sewing accessories like feet, bobbins etc. and also acts as an extended table for your fabric to rest when sewing when attached to the machine.

    • 21.Free arm

    This is  a mechanism that allows you to sew tubular items like pant legs, sleeves, armscye seams etc. It has the stitch plate, feed dog and bobbin case built into it and is revealed when you remove the accessory box.

    • 22.Stitch Selector

    This allows you to choose different stitches available with your machine like the zig zag stitch, as well as the width of the stitches.

    • 23.Rotary hook ( Oscillating hook)

    The part which enters the loop or needle thread and carries it around the bobbin case to form the lock stitch.

    • 24.Bobbin Winder

    This is mechanism for winding thread on bobbin. It fills the thread evenly on the bobbin.

    • 25. Stop motion screw

    This is a mechanism used while winding the bobbin with the bobbin winder, so that stitching is temporarily stopped when the screw is pressed

    • 26.Foot Pedal

    This is the device you manage with your feet, used to apply power to the sewing machine and control the stitching speed.You should always maintain an even and steady speed throughout

    27 Needle Clamp & Screw

    This is the portion of the sewing machine which connects the needle bar and needle. This is attached with the help of a screw.

    27 Presser Bar

    Presser foot is attached to this  bar

    28 Presser Bar spring

    This is a spring which controls the pressure asserted by the presser bar

    29  Thread tension disc

    This is a disc through which the upper thread is passed while threading the sewing machine so that the thread does not get knotted

    30 Stop Motion wheel screw

    This is the smaller screw seen inside the balance wheel/ hand wheel. This an be used to stop the machine from working.


    Different Sewing feet and their functions 

    What I got from the sewing machine showroom ( the basic presser feet) is enough for me to sew just about anything with my sewing machine but just like a girl can never have enough dresses a sewing girl can never have enough fabric and sewing accessories.

    You will be getting some very handy feet when you buy the sewing machine. But other special ones you may have to buy separately. There are some feet like the walking foot and blind hem foot which once you have them you wonder why you didn’t earlier.The main types of sewing feet you should be having with your sewing machine are

    • Rolled hem foot

      This one is also called a baby hem foot. You get to sew cute rolled hems which are really narrow with this foot. You just need to guide your fabric edge into it and this feet will do the job for you.Checkout the post on properly using the rolled hemmer foot

    different types of pressure foot

    • Button hole foot

      You can make buttonholes of any size with this foot . Even the smallest buttonhole sewing is possible with this one. 


    • Zipper foot

      My second favourite foot. This one is the one you use to stitch zippers obviously – It lets you stitch very close to the zipper coils. It has small notches on either sides that allows needle to pass through without hitting the foot. You have to change the position of the feet ( left and right sides) according to the side you are stitching.

    zipper foot

    zipper pressure foot

    • Straight stitch foot

    A Guide to {Sewing Machine Parts }

    • Zig zag foot

      This is the all purpose foot with a slight opening that allows all width of zigzag and other decorative stitches. I use this foot all the time even for straight stitching.


    • Walking foot

      This also called the even feed foot. As the name suggests it walks the fabric smoothly into the needle. This even feed helps greatly in sewing difficult fabrics easily, like satin and thick fabrics and thick layers of fabrics.This is a great alternative to what I do now because I don’t have this foot- what I do is I diligently apply all my concentration and pressure with the finger tips in controlling the difficult layers of fabrics to the feed. This foot does a better job.

    • Blind hem foot

      This is used for blind hemming and for stitching tucks. It is especially useful in blind hemming difficult fabrics like knits . The stitch guide in this foot is also helpful for top stitching where you need really straight stitches.Checkout this post for tutorial on sewing a blind stitch

    blind stitch foot

    • Button sewing foot

      Another oh so great foot which allows you to sew buttons in seconds. A zig zag stitch is used to sew the stitches that attaches the button.Checkout this post for more details on sewing buttons with this foot

    • Gathering foot

    This one is used to gather fabric and make ruffles. This is an optional one but if you frequently gather and if you are the type who loose patience easily get this one.

    • Piping foot

      If you do a lot of piping on your clothes get this one. It allows you to sew as close to the piping as possible. You can also use Zipper foot to sew the piping. Checkout this post for learning how to make and sew piping.

    • Darning Foot

    This feet is used for darning stitches that will repair any hole in your favourite dress.

    sewing pressure foot sewing pressure foot

    • Pintuck Foot

      Sewing pintucks takes a lot of maths and accurate sewing but with this convenient foot you can make perfect pintucks without any difficulty. You need to sue a twin needle with this one.

    pintuck pressure foot

    • Cording foot

    This is a very handy foot if you need to add cording to a garment especially one sewn with a heavy fabric.

    sewing pressure foot A Guide to {Sewing Machine Parts }

    • Applique foot

      This foot has a clear plastic covering that makes you see where you are stitching.

    sewing foot

    • Teflon Foot ( Non stick foot)

    Have you tried to sew vinyl or laminated cotton for any of your sewing projects and ended up beating your head in frustration. All because you do not have this darling little feet. Leather, Faux leather, ultra suede, oil cloth all sew like magic with this feet. The plastic coating on its base helps it glide over these materials and makes stitching them easy.

    sewing machine feet  

    • Invisible zipper foot

    This foot makes sewing invisible zippers very easy and professional looking

    sewing machine feet


    More details on Pressure feet are given in the post – Sewing Machine Pressure feet guide

    A Guide to {Sewing Machine Parts }

    Even the most grandiose looking sewing machine works with these same parts. Different machines have these parts placed slightly differently from each other, that is all.

    Look out for these sewing machine parts in your sewing machine and read the Sewing Machine manual you got for a more thorough understanding of your particular machine’s structure and workings. In fact I would recommend that you read it at least two times cover to cover before starting to sew. 


    sewing machine problems  sewing machine thread

    Comments 7

    1. Good information. Thankyou. One comment: do not interchange “pressure” and “presser”. A presser foot is never a pressure foot. Sometimes the article and accompanying illustrations/photos have this correct and other times not. Pressure is how much the presser foot presses down on the fabric. Pressure is controlled manually on some machines, and automatically on others. Presser feet are controlled up or down, by the presser foot lifter. The presser foot lifter also opens and closes the tension disks where the thread passes between.

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