This post is part of our How to sew series of advice for everyone who's new to sewing, quilting or dressmaking, and all those who are looking to expand their skills.


1. Match threads for even tension

Use the same type (or 'weight') of thread in the top and bottom spools, as this will help you to get a more even tensions you stitch.

2. Match thread colours too

Use the same colour of thread in the top and bottom spools for most of your stitching – only use different colours for decorative stitching.

3. Prepare your fabric

Always ensure your fabric is flat and smooth, as you will get neater stitching. Pressing all of your fabric before you start sewing is a good rule to work by.

4. Try a practice swatch

Always work a few stitches on a spare scrap of the same fabric you will be using before you begin, to make sure the tension is correct. Different thread and fabric need different tensions. If the stitches are loopy or overly tight then you need to change the tension so that the top and bottom thread loop together evenly. Read your machine manual to see how to change the tension as each machine differs.

5. Straighten up

The most important thing about a lot of machine stitching is keeping your stitching straight. Machines come with marked measure lines on the needle plate – keep the edge of your fabric running along it as you stitch to guarantee a straight line. Stitch very slowly to start with and increase your speed as you gain confidence.

6. How to get neat curves

If you are stitching curves, stitch very slowly and gradually ease the fabric round using both hands so you stitch a neat curved line.

7. Keep it clean

Don’t forget to clean your machine regularly as fluff gets caught under the teeth and this will stop your machine working smoothly. Your manual will show you how to remove the needle plate and get all the fluff out. See our guide to how to clean a sewing machine

8. Book in for a regular service

Get your sewing machine serviced regularly or if you don’t feel it stitching the same as usual – it will make a great deal of difference! Look online to find your nearest machine service or repair shop, or ask at a fabric shop for recommendations.

9. Cover up

Keep your sewing machine covered up when you’re not using it to keep the dust out, and protect it from accidents. With your new-found skills you could even make your own pretty cover!

10. Play around with your stitches for best results

Have a look at all the different stitches your machine can do and read your manual, which will tell you what to do with them. Mostly, you will only use the straight stitch for seams and hems, but the zig-zag stitch can be just as useful – it’s brilliant for working along the edge of a fabric to stop it from fraying. You can alter the length and the width of the zig-zag using your machine dials, so adjust it to suit your fabric weight. The zig-zag stitch can also be used for decoration so have a practice to see which different effects you like.

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11. It's all about the needle

Change your needle regularly – they become blunt with use, and your machine won’t stitch as well. Make sure you buy the correct needles for your machine. You'll be amazed how many times sewing machine glitches can be fixed why changing the needle!

How to use a sewing machine for beginners


Zoe WilliamsLaunch Editor,

Zoe is the launch Editor of She has over a decade of craft publishing experience under her belt. She's a quilter and sewist who works with the UK’s best-selling craft magazines including Today’s Quilter, Love Patchwork & Quilting, Simply Sewing and The World of Cross Stitching. Zoe loves being immersed in Gathered’s quilting content, tweaking our tutorials and publishing new patterns. Zoe has previously written for, Simply Knitting and The World of Cross Stitching and was previously Deputy Editor of Papercraft inspirations magazine. She has guest-lectured at Bath Spa University. She’s a keen quilter with 5 projects in progress at any one time and another 12 or so planned.

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