how does sewing machine work

How Does Sewing Machine Work

When you look around you, anywhere in this world, you will garments. Everything from what we wear, what we sleep on, what we seat on and so many other things are all the products of tailoring.

The tailor’s basic tool is a sewing machine. Many cloth designs are all done using a sewing machine. One would, therefore, want to know how a sewing machine works. How is it being operated? 

In this article, I have highlighted all the nitty-gritty of how a sewing machine performs its duty. Read on and find out how this small machine works and impacts our daily lives.

How does a sewing machine work?

A sewing machine has several interdependent parts that work together as a team to sew. The three distinctive parts are:

  1. The needle system.
  2. Bobbin system.
  3. The feed-dog system

Other parts which are complementary to the systems are;

  • The pedal
  • Sewing drop amongst some few others

How then does it work? What are the components that make the sewing machine work?

I am going to examine how the sewing system work by looking at the above three systems. Have a look.

The needle system

The needle works by up and down motions. These motions are produced when the shaft is rotated by hand. The shaft is found on top of the sewing machine. These motions are further complimented by the foot pedal.

Most of the motions happening in the entire system is caused by the foot pedal. When the motion from the foot pedal takes place, the systems’ motor rotary produces round and round motion.

To reciprocate this, the needle responds by producing up and down motion. It is this up and down motion that drives the needle and the thread to sew the garment.

The bobbin and the shuttle system

The bobbin and the shuttle system works more or less as the needle system. A notable difference here is that the bobbin is operated by the change of gear levers. For effective functioning, the shuttle has to operate and or rotate at a higher speed as compared to the needle.

If this does not happen, the bobbin thread and the needle thread will miss the opportunity to sew the thread together. The presence of levers or the pulley system in this mechanism is to ensure that the shuttle moves at a high speed. This is an important requirement otherwise sewing will not take place.

The feed-dog mechanism

This system plays its part by moving the fabric back and forth at a steady speed. It also ensures that the stitches are of equal length and spread evenly over the fabric. This system undertakes its work by producing both upwards and forward motion movements which are enabled by the main shaft. The two movements are interlinked and synchronized to enable the stitching to be done.

Having looked at the three systems above, it is now important to understand how the stitching works. The three systems work synchronously to make the stitching happen.

How does a sewing machine stitch?

All the above three components work in a well-coordinated manner to produce a stitch. The stitches produced are of equal lengths and are uniform in appearance. Thread from the needle pokes the fabric from the top while the thread from the rotating bobbin is released from within.

Both are entangled together by the bobbin system to produce a continuous stitch. As usual, the bobbin has to run faster than the needle. This is because it has to make a round rotation to meet with the needle thread.

The process is repeated over and over again until the sewing is complete. This exercise could be to produce some particular cloth, such as a pant.

What are the different types of sewing machines? Does their functionality differ?

Several sewing machines are being sold and used. Each of the sewing machines has some unique characteristics. However, functionality might look like it is different, only that each sewing machine has a special purpose. The result, however, is that no matter the machine type used, sewing has to take place.

The sewing machine types are:

All these sewing machines have different specializations.

Sewing machines can also vary in terms of size and a few other factors. There are smaller versions of sewing machines which are also known as portable or handheld. These types cannot handle heavy fabric and their functions are limited.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does the shuttle of a sewing machine work?

They hold the bobbin stationary when sewing. If it happens to rotate, the sewing will be irregular on the fabric. Shuttles are circular in shape and design, hence holding the bobbin from all the sides. It works by rotating the thread hook continuously around the bobbin. That is why the bobbin does not move when the machine is working.

In the older versions of the sewing machine, the bobbin was not stationary. With the improvement in technology, these types of sewing machines are slowly fading out from the market!

How does a single-thread sewing machine work?

The fabric sits on the metal plate that is below the needle. The presser foot also holds it when you are sewing. When you begin stitching, the needle pulls a loop of thread through the fabric. A looper mechanism grabs it before the needle pulls up. The mechanism works in tandem with the movements of the needle.

If the needle pulls up before the loop scoops it, then the stitch on the fabric will not hold. It will unthread as soon as the cloth moves far from the metal plate.

What type of thread do you need for a sewing machine?

Much depends on the type of fabric that you are sewing. However, I would recommend that you use a 100% polyester thread that comes in a wide variety of colors. You can use it, either for machine sewing or even hand stitching. It is compatible with almost all types of fabrics, notwithstanding the color. The thread is strong, yet very elastic, making it ideal for use in all types of fabrics.

In the absence of polyester thread, you can as well use nylon or a cotton one. They may not have the same qualities as polyester, but they can still work well in most of the fabrics.

What is a hook in a sewing machine?

It is a part of the sewing machine that catches the thread when it forcefully comes out of the needle. When this happens, it creates a stitch in the fabric. Hooks can be of two types, and these are rotary hooks and the oscillating ones.

What is the function of a bobbin thread?

It is to hold the thread that is below the needle. The thread from the bobbin pops up through the metal plate to connect with the top thread. It then creates a firm stitch when the machine is in use. If the bobbin thread is not there, then the sewing machine will not stitch the fabric.

How do you choose the size of the needle to use?

In several instances, and when doing your normal stitch work, I would recommend that you use a standard-sized needle. You should be able to see the features of a needle in the packaging.

If you are dealing with heavy fabrics, you will need a thicker one that can handle them.

Remember to check on the health of the needle every time you finish doing a job. In some cases, it may bend or even break when in use!


Sewing machines work as a system of interlinked parts. Three distinct systems look like they are different in design but do not function in seclusion.

The systems are as explained in the article. While the needle pokes the garment, the bobbin is responsible for intertwining the thread in the fabric. Bobbin has to move faster than the needle for the stitch to be uniform.

There are many types of sewing machines. Each has a special function. But either way, all are meant for sewing.
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