The best sewing machines in 2021

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Sewing machine glossary


Brother; Gilbert Espinoza/Business Insider


Here are common sewing terms you need to know when buying or using sewing machines.

Mechanical machinery: One of two types of machines, a mechanical sewing machine is a manual model with stitches controlled by buttons and dials. Mechanical machines tend to be less intimidating, with no mysterious lights or error messages. These also tend to be sturdy and durable as there is no complicated motherboard involved. If something goes wrong, chances are it can be fixed locally without having to call tech support or send your machine back to the company for repair.

Computerized machines: It comes with preloaded stitches and has many automated features to help you save time cutting threads, making buttonholes, and more. It doesn’t do all the work for you, so you still have to run the fabric through the machine and move it around, but it makes sewing a lot easier.

Automatic needle threader: This is a small lever next to the needle that threads the needle for you instead of having to push a thread through the needle eye with your hand. This is a great feature, especially if you have trouble seeing the needle eye or threading a needle by hand.

Needle up/down function: If your machine has this feature, you can program the needle to stop in the up or down position each time you stop sewing. This is very useful if you want to sew sharp corners as you can stop with the needle in the down position, raise the presser foot and pivot the fabric with the needle still in, lower the presser foot again. presser and continue sewing to make a precise turn.

Presser foot: This is the part of the machine that holds the fabric while you sew. There are a ton of optional presser foot attachments that can help you install zippers, sew buttonholes, hem, ruffle fabric, sew neatly along an edge , to apply trims or cords, and more.

Walking Foot / Uniform Feeding Foot: This is an optional presser foot that “walks” while you sew, so the presser foot and the feed dogs both move the fabric. This is good for thick fabrics, quilting or matching designs as it means the top and bottom layers are moved through the machine at the same time so there is no shifting or pulling.

Reel: A small spool of thread that goes into the arm of the machine, under the feed dogs, and forms the stitches on the underside of the fabric.

Feeding the dogs: These small metal teeth are visible under the presser foot and move to guide the fabric through the machine.

Automatic Thread Cutter: This feature automatically pulls the top thread to the side of the bobbin and neatly cuts both when you’re done sewing, saving time and creating a very neat finish.

Knee lift: A knee lifter allows you to raise and lower the presser foot with your knee, so you don’t have to let go of the fabric.

Straight stitch: The most basic sewing stitch and the one that most seamstresses will use most often. The needle moves up and down without moving from side to side, and if you hold the fabric straight, you can sew a long straight line.

Zigzag stitch: The needle moves from side to side and creates a zig-zag. This is an essential stitch if you are sewing stretchy garments as it allows the fabric to stretch and come back without breaking the threads. It’s also a strong stitch, so if you want to tie something really tight, a zig-zag is useful. You can also create a zigzag stitch along the cut edge of your fabric to prevent it from fraying.

Buttonhole: A slit in the fabric to pass a button. It looks like a rectangle with sharp corners and the edges are finished with closely spaced stitches to prevent the fabric from stretching or fraying.

Keyhole buttonhole: Instead of two square ends, a keyhole buttonhole has one round end. This is a sturdy buttonhole that is useful with thicker, heavier fabrics, especially if you are using a button that is not flat in the back and has a shank.

Throat/harp length: The throat or harp of a machine is the space between the needle and the vertical part of the sewing machine. A larger throat area makes it possible to sew large things like quilts without having to reposition the fabric as often.

Arm length: Similar to the throat, the arm is the free-standing area around the base of the machine that allows you to sew anything tubular, such as pant legs, sleeves, etc. Quilters will want a longer one, but that’s often an expensive feature.

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