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How Does a Sewing Machine Work

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We all know what a sewing machine is – a device for sewing. The first sewing machines made were made ages ago. They were not like the ones we use today. Older sewing machines were less straightforward and were operated manually. Today, the best sewing machines come in all types, sizes, and designs. There is a vast variety available in the market, from large sewing machines used in factories to smaller ones used by individuals. 

How Does It Work?

If you have even observed a sewing machine, you might have noticed the small needle that moves up and down as the fabric is pushed forward. This is how the stitching is done. But there is definitely more to it. Most of the sewing machines are powered by electricity and have motors. However, there are some that are hand-powered. You have to operate such machines manually. But let us focus on the electric ones.

Pulley Arrangement

A sewing machine has the needle arrangement at one end, and the motor is attached to the other. Just by seeing the device, you can see the pulley arrangement. The machine has a handwheel that is driven by the pulley arrangement. If you want to stitch slowly, you can move the handwheel yourself as well. 

The Handwheel and the Needle 

The handwheel is connected to the needle via a shaft. When the handwheel moves in the forward direction, the needle moves up and down and creates a stitch. The motor’s motion is changed into the needle’s up-and-down movement. 

Role of the Bobbin 

Underneath the needle and towards the lower side, there is a hook that rotates. As it moves, it catches the thread in the needle and loops it into another thread. Where does this other thread come from? There is a bobbin on the lower side that has another thread reel. The sewing machine locks both the threads, and a stitch is made. 

Feed-dog Mechanism 

Using the feed-dog mechanism, the machine makes similar stitches on the material. Feed dogs are referred to as the teeth-like ridges that are present on the lower side of the machine. They emerge as you sew. They help in gripping the fabric. One mechanism allows the feed dogs to move up and down, and the other one slides in forwards and backward. Simultaneously, the motor-driven shaft moves the needle up and down.

How the Machine Stitches

The needle has the thread, and it moves through the fabric, creates a loop, and then moves back up. The shuttle hook catches the loop and locks it with the bobbin thread. This happens underneath the fabric, so you do not see it. As the needle pulls up, it tightens the stitch so that the upper and lower threads are tightly locked. The process continues for all stitches. 


Sewing machines have been in the world since ancient times. They may look simple, but their operation can be complex to understand. Like all other machines, sewing machines have also evolved. They may all not work the same, but the fundamental mechanism remains the same.