University of Florida
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
Make Your Sewing Machine
Work For You
MAE B. BARTON
Assistant professor of clothing extension
Pennsylvania State University
These little men will show you how to
have smooth, even stitches with a sew-
ing machine in top working condition.
Later they will show you some tricks
you can do with your machine. Their
aim is to save you precious minutes of
time. If you follow their suggestions,
you'll finish each garment more quickly
__h and you'll have more professional results.
The more you use your machine, the
more you must oil it. A good rule to
follow is: Oil after eight hours of
stitching. Apply one or two drops of
machine oil to each point as shown in
the instruction manual of your ma-
chine. Lubricate an electric motor ex-
actly as directed in the instruction
Look at the belt on your machine. If
it's too tight, the machine runs hard
and the belt wears out; if too loose,
the belt slips and half your effort is
wasted. Shorten the belt a bit when
it becomes too loose.
Does the thread keep breaking? Do
the top and bottom stitches look dif-
ferent? Are you using thread of the
same number top and bottom? Then
check the tension. Changing the up-
per tension usually does the trick; ad-
just bobbin tension screw only as a
Keep your machine clean. Wipe off
excess oil, for it catches dust. If left
undisturbed, lint packs around the
bobbin and feed, clogging the ma-
chine. Brush it out or remove it with
a pin or tweezers.
Fine fabrics need fine stitches; heavier
fabrics need longer stitches. Adjust the
stitch and test it on a scrap of material
before you start sewing. You usually
keep stitches the same size when making
A seam guide is helpful for stitching
even seams. It insures the same seam
allowance throughout, which is essential
in making a garment. The guide usually
comes with a box of attachments.
To avoid breaking needles, see that the
presser foot or attachment is fastened
securely by thumb screw. When chang-
ing needles, be sure the needle goes
through center of hole in throat plate.
Turn the balance wheel and hold nee-
dle down in center of hole. Fasten with
You can keep an old or much-used
machine in good working condition
with an occasional cleaning and ad-
justing of parts. Information on clean-
ing and adjusting the sewing machine
may be obtained from your county
Extension home economist.
To get the bobbin thread out, take the
thread that comes from the needle
in your left hand. With your right
hand turn the balance wheel so the
needle goes down and comes up once.
Now you're ready -
you're off to a good start
A Smart Trick
SI Knot threads at the beginning and end of
seam by raising dresser foot slightly. Stitch
two or three times in the same place to lock
threads; this makes several knots to keep
seam from ripping. Caution: If you raise
presser foot too high, you will have a series
of loops or jam the bobbin thread.
A Quick Trick
Machine-basting has many uses. It is
a big time saver, and is more accurate
and quicker than hand-basting. Some
women consider hand-basting old- /j
To do machine-basting, use colored nb
thread and the longest stitch on your
machine. This is a good time to use
up odds and ends of thread. You can
use one color on bobbin and another
on top. Do not change the tension.
After you have marked garment on wrong side of
material with dressmaker's carbon or chalk, re-
Imove pattern and machine-baste center front,
center back, pockets, and buttonholes. Be sure
to knot thread at beginning and end. These
markings are important in making a garment.
Machine markings are not practical for fabrics
which are likely to show pin or needle marks,
such as taffetas and rayon jerseys.
Stay-stitch to prevent pieces of gar-
ment from stretching. Do this after
markings are machine basted. Ma-
chine-stitch through single thickness
using matching thread. Stitch in di-
rection indicated by arrows. A be-
ginner should stay-stitch one-fourth
inch from cut edge. Experienced per-
sons may stay-stitch on seamline.
Do you have trouble getting both sides
of pockets to look alike? Use seam
guide to help you, and stay-stitch with
matching colored thread on seam al-
lowance. Fold on machine stitching,
then both sides will be the same.
Machine stitching stays in and gives
a firm edge to the outside of the
Machine-Baste for Fitting
Set seam guide for seam allowance.
Pattern allows for a five-eighths inch
seam. Pin and machine-baste top of
garment together when not sure of
fit. Complete this unit and machine-
baste skirt together for fit. Your seams
and stitches will be even so you can
see exactly how the garment will look.
Machine-Baste for Gathering
Set guide and stitch with longest
stitch. Caution: Pull the bottom thread
for gathering; the top thread breaks
A trick that will save you time when
putting in and letting out the hem of
the growing girl's cotton dresses is
this: Use a gauge to measure hem.
Press down top of hem about one-
fourth inch. Now press the hem down
and pin. Machine-baste around the
top to hold hem firmly in place.
Now fold hem back until one-eighth
inch of hem extends beyond crease.
Set machine for eight stitches to one
inch. Make three or four stitches into
extended hem, then one in dress, now
three or four stitches in hem, and one
After hem has been completed, take
out bastings and press. Only a small
stitch shows on the right side. When
you need to take out this stitching,
pull the bottom thread and it will
come out easily. With practice you
may be able to use this quick machine
hem on a slightly flared skirt using
tape at top of hem.
Machine attachments will be a big
help in your sewing, but you will need
practice to use them well. Follow di-
rections given in your machine man-
ual for using them.
For best results with your sewing machine
Keep it in top working condition.
Oil regularly and keep machine clean.
Follow instructions in machine manual.
Keep a steady even pace while operating machine.
Test fabric and stitch length before sewing.
Know how to use machine attachments.
Learn new ways to use your machine.
This is a reprint of Pennsylvania Extension Service Circular 366
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director