The Different Parts of a Sewing Machine and Their Functions

There are many different parts to a sewing machine. Each part has its own unique purpose to create a good sewing experience.

It is important to understand each feature as you may run into a problem while sewing, if you are unsure how to use specific parts. Below we go over all of the parts of a sewing machine and explain their exact purpose. We also include some information on common problems sewers might have, how each part causes the issue and how sewers can fix it easily.

Before we get started, if you don’t have a sewing machine, grab one below. Then use this article to learn your sewing machine. It’s best to know your sewing machine inside and out to get the full potential out of it.

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What Are the Different Parts of a Sewing Machine

  • Spool Pin
  • Bobbin Winder Spindle
  • Bobbin Winder Stopper
  • Stitch Width Dial
  • Pattern Selector Dial
  • Hand Wheel
  • Stitch Length Dial
  • Reverse Stitch Lever
  • Power Switch
  • Bobbin Winder Thread Guide
  • Thread Tension Dial
  • Thread Take-up Lever
  • Needle Clamp Screw
  • Bobbin Cover
  • Pressure Foot
  • Bobbin Cover Release Button
  • Feed Dog
  • Needle
  • Needle Plate

Parts of a sewing machine diagram

The Functions of Different Sewing Machine Parts

Each part of a sewing machine has a unique purpose. It’s important to understand the purpose of each to fully utilise the potential of the sewing machine. The below guide explains each function of each part in a simple to understand manner. 

Spool Pin

The spool pin comes with nearly every sewing machine. Its purpose is to hold the spool of thread. Although this seems like a small feature, it is very important. Here’s why.

There are two different types of spool pins.

Horizontal and vertical spool pins do just as the name suggests. They either hold the spool of thread horizontally or vertically. Quite a lot of sewing machines come with both, but some don’t. So why is it so important to get both?

Different threads have different traits when held horizontally or vertically. Let’s take a Rayon thread as an example. When Rayon thread is held horizontally it does not tangle, yet when you hold it vertically it tangles. Now when thread tangles, it can cause stitches not to form right, or the thread to keep breaking. The worst part is, a lot of sewers do not realize why this is happening, but it is because they are not using the thread on the right spool.

Now if you buy a sewing machine that only has a horizontal spool, then you will not be able to use Rayon thread without it causing problems. So it is important to make sure you get both types of spools on a sewing machine so that you can use all types of threads for different scenarios.

Trick: If you do have a sewing machine that does not have both types of spools. You can be creative and tape an object onto the machine like a small stick-like object, either in the vertical or horizontal position to act as a spool Pin.

Bobbin Winder spindle

To keep this short and sweet, a bobbin winder is where your bobbin is placed during winding. Most sewing machines are roughly the same when it comes to this feature so as long as the sewing machines have one then you are good to go! The Bobbin winder spindle is normally located on top of the sewing machine on the side where the sewing machine controls are.

Bobbin Winder Stopper

The bobbin winder stopper is located at the side of the bobbin winder spindle. The purpose of the bobbin winder stopper is to stop the bobbin winding when the maximum capacity of the thread has been reached. It is a useful feature as it essentially prevents you from putting too much thread on the bobbin.

Stitch Width Dial

The stitch width dial has one purpose, it adjusts how wide the stitches will be. A great example of when this is used is with the zig-zag stitches, as the width of the zig-zag stitches and be wider or narrower. The Stitch Width Dial allows you to adjust how wide or narrow it will be.

For beginners, we recommend you play around with the width of the stitches and test it out on the spare fabric. This is so you get familiar with the stitch width when it comes to your projects.

Pattern Selector Dial

The purpose of the pattern selector dial is to allow you to choose which stitch style you would like to use. For example, you may want to use line stitch, then halfway through your project, you might want to use a zig-zag stitch. The pattern selector dial allows you to quickly change from one stitch to another. Sometimes people overlook this feature on a sewing machine, but I find it quite convenient.

Hand Wheel

The hand wheel allows you to raise the sewing machine needle up and down. Most sewing machines do have a foot pedal which allows you to do this. The difference between using the foot pedal and hand wheel is that you have much more control when using the hand wheel. This is because the handwheel moves the needle much slower. It is often used when first setting up the sewing machine for a project, as you need to raise the needle into the up position to be able to thread it. I would never buy a sewing machine without a hand wheel if I am honest, I use it whenever I sew, and I find it extremely important for ease of use.

Stitch Length Dial

Like the Stitch WIDTH dial, the Stitch LENGTH dial allows you to select the length of each stitch with ease. Choosing the correct stitch length is quite important as if it is too short it can cause issues with the project. The stitch length dial is normally a circular dial on the right-hand side of the machine. Although if the sewing machine you have is computerized then it will not have a stitch length dial, it will have a + and – button which allow you to increase or decrease the stitch length.

Reverse Stitch Lever

The reverse stitch lever has one purpose. It allows you to sew in reverse. The reason why you need to sew in reverse is to lock the stitches in place on your fabrics.

So essentially how it works is, you sew your stitches into the fabric. You then push the reverse stitch lever up and continue to sew. Once the reverse stitch lever has been pushed the sewing machine will automatically start sewing in reverse over the stitches already created. It creates a second line of stitches over the current ones which lock the set of stitches into place for extra durability.

Power Switch

This feature of the sewing machine is self-explanatory. With electrical sewing machines, it needs to be turned on and off. To do this you just flick the switch on the side of the sewing machine into the on position! Nice and easy.

Bobbin Winder thread guide

The bobbin winder thread guide is a small mechanism which allows the thread to be guided across the sewing machine into the bobbin. It is an essential feature for those using sewing machines with a bobbin winder on as it guides the thread into the bobbin when the bobbin winder is activated with the foot pedal.

Thread tension dial

The thread tension dial allows you to control the amount of tension the top thread has. Contrary to popular believe, increasing tension of the thread does not mean tighter stitches. The purpose of the tension thread dial is so you can get a good tension to produce a strong balanced stitch. A common issue which occurs if the tension is not correctly set is the stitches start to loop. To rectify this issue just remove everything from the sewing machine and adjust the thread tension dial. Once this is adjusted, set up the sewing machine again and the issue should be fixed.

Thread take-up lever

The thread take-up lever is the part that moves up and down above the needle. The purpose of the thread take-up lever is to take the thread from the spool, down through the sewing machine and then through the fabric and brings the thread back up again to finish a stitch. This is one of the key parts of a sewing machine and quality is recommended here. A good thread take-up lever will provide smoothness while sewing stitches.

Needle clamp screw

This is quite a self-explanatory feature for most people, but for beginners, it might not be that obvious. The needle clamp screw is the clamp that holds the needle in place. It is needed otherwise your needle would not stay where it is. Do not worry though every sewing machine has a needle clamp screw of some form.

Pressure foot

So, the purpose of the pressure foot is to kind of clamp the fabric down to the machine. It essentially holds the fabric in place so when you are sewing you do not accidentally move the fabric out of position. It’s a handy feature that comes with all sewing machines so do not worry about this feature when deciding to buy a sewing machine.

Bobbin cover

The bobbin cover does what it suggests. It covers the bobbin once it is placed in the sewing machine. This is to keep the bobbin safe and to avoid accidental damage to it. Again, most sewing machines come with a bobbin cover. Those that don’t will have an alternative. Just make sure you use the bobbin cover when using your sewing machine!

Bobbin cover release button

To detach the bobbin cover, you will need to press the bobbin release cover button. This is in place so that you do not accidentally knock the bobbin cover off. It will only come off if you intend to take it off.

Feed dog

The feed dog is a convenient feature. You know when your sewing, the fabric kind of moves forward by itself, and you use your hands to guide it? Well, that is what the feed dog does. The purpose of the feed dog is to move the fabric in the intended direction.


The needle is where all the magic happens! This little tool is how the thread gets sewn into the fabric, the needle goes down through the fabric taking the thread with it. Once the needle is down into the fabric, it then crosses over with the bobbin thread which created a loop. The needle then comes back up and created a knot in the thread and creates a stitch in the fabric!

You will need different sewing machine needles depending on the different types of fabric you are using. For example, if you are sewing with cotton, you will require this size needle.

Needle plate

The needle plate is located just under the needle, its purpose is to help move the fabric with the feed dogs to ensure a smooth sewing experience. If you damage your current needle plate you can buy a new one.

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