How Does A Sewing Machine Work?

While they may seem unassuming, sewing machines are an incredibly integral part of our everyday lives. Without them, we wouldn't have clothes, shoes, and a ton of other everyday objects.

Sewing by hand is time intensive and incredibly labor intensive.

To most people, the inner workings of a sewing machine aren't something you go out of your way to find out more about, but we are a little crazy here at Just Sewn.

So, how does a sewing machine work?

In this article, we are going to take a quick look into how a sewing machine works, from the most straightforward beginner sewing machines to advances computerized sewing machines. Let's get started!

Breaking Down Sewing Machine Basics

Just like cars, there are a wide variety of sewing machine models. They each have their own minute operational details, but for the most part they all function in about the same way.

In the same way that cars are based around the core mechanism of the internal combustion engine, the majority of what makes a sewing machine a sewing machine is the loop stitching system.

With hand sewing, you take the thread and pass it through the fabric from one side to the other again and again until you get the desired outcome. This is nearly impossible with a machine. For a machine to accomplish it, it would have to be able to push the needle through, catch it on the other side and push it back again.

Here's some more specifics about the inner-workings of a sewing machine.

How A Sewing Machine Stitches & Types of Stitches

  1. The Loop Stitch: When you're stitching by hand, to do a loop stitch, you essentially feed a piece of thread through the eye of a needle, and pass it through two pieces of fabric. By passing through the fabrics, you attach them. For a sewing machine, this is impossible. Sewing machines make a loop stitch a little differently. With a sewing machine, the eye of the needle is at the bottom, and rather than passing all the way through the fabric, a sewing machine only passes through it part way. As the needle passes through the fabric, it pulls the loop to one side of the fabric, where another mechanism then pulls the loop around another piece of thread to create a loop stitch. 

  2. Chain Stitch: Chain stitches are a piece of cake for a sewing machine, but a trickier type of stitch to do by hand. With a chain stitch, the sewing machine holds down the fabric with a presser foot, and at the beginning of each stitch, it creates a loop. The looper mechanism underneath the fabric grabs the loop, and the needle moves back up. Once the needle comes back down again, it does so in the middle of its previous stitch, and the looper mechanism grabs that loop, and wraps it around the the following loop created by the needle. This stitch is called a chain stitch because the stitch itself looks like a chain, where one piece holds onto the next.

  3. Lock Stitch: This is one of the sturdiest types of stitches, and is common on just about every type of sewing machine. Similar to the chain stitch, the lock stitch, the needle is used to create a loop, but rather than being attached to other loops, with a lock stitch, you use the bobbin to add more thread, which is used to lock this type of stitch into place. 

Sewing Machine Mechanics - How a Sewing Machine Works

The specific mechanics of a sewing machine willl vary from machine to machine, but the basic principles of how the machine itself works will stay generally the same. Manual and electric sewing machines all use some sort of power (either electric, or human power) to move gears in a coordinated sequence to create a stitch.

Fancier mechanical sewing machines can come with a variety of stitch types that you can choose from, but the basics of how a sewing machine stitches is the same from stitch to stitch.

Rather than passing the thread back and forth, a sewing machine passes the needle only partially through the fabric.

On a sewing machine, rather than having the sharp end on one side and the needle eye on the other, a sewing machine needle has them together as one piece. The needle is attached to the needle bar, which is mechanically driven up and down.

When the needle point passes through the fabric, it pulls a tiny loop from one side to the other. The mechanism under the fabric then grabs the loop and wraps it around another piece of fabric on the same piece of thread.

Depending on the type of sewing machine, you can choose from a variety of loops.

Check out the video below for a visual on how a sewing machine works.

How A Sewing Machine Works in Slow Motion

Did you learn something from this post? Let us know in the comment section below!

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