Sewing Machine Parts ( A guide)

Learn about the different parts of a sewing machine including the different sewing machine feet available and their uses in stitching clothes.

parts of a sewing machineThe basic purpose of a sewing machine is to stitch different materials together with a thread. That is probably all that concerns you anyway. But if you are curious about the wonders of a sewing machine that stitches up beautiful clothes, you will need to know the parts of the sewing machine which help in this work.

For details on this, check out the post “How to sew with a sewing machine and how it sews” 

You may use some of these names every day when sewing, like feet, foot pedal, etc. Some terms may be not-so-much ( I learned when I wrote this post), like the rotary hook and the stop motion screw.

The main parts of a sewing machine are its Head, arm, handwheel, needle bar, spool pin, bed, presser feet, presser foot lever, thread cutter, bobbin winder disc, needle plate, Feed dog, Presser regulator, Thread take up lever, thread guides, needle, bobbin case, reverse sewing lever, stitch length dial, Free arm, stitch selector, Rotary hook, bobbin winder, stop motion screw, and the foot pedal.

All these parts of your sewing machine should work optimally in tandem for you to sew.  Just a little lint can clog them all up and stop the whole machine, so do not be hesitant in keeping all of these parts clean all the time (Cover your sewing machine pronto; dust is a killer to sewing machine parts).

Check out this post on sewing machine maintenance for taking care of your sewing machine properly ; And also make this sewing machine cover to keep it dust free and working in good stead.

parts of a sewing machine

Sewing machine parts

and their uses 

sewing machine parts


1. Head

This refers to the complete sewing machine (not the stand).

2. Arm

This is the curved part of the sewing machine with the mechanism for driving the needle and handling the upper thread.

3. Hand Wheel

Hand wheel is at the right of the head. It is used to manually move the needle up and down. Also called Balance wheel.

TIP : The hand wheel should always be turned towards you, even when using a reverse stitch.sewing machine bed, presser foot, needle, needle bar, needle plate, feed dog, bobbin case

4. Needle bar

The upright bar at the lower end of which the needle is attached.A needle clamp screw on this bar holds the needle in place.

5. Spool pin

The upright metal rod fitted on the top of the arm where your spool of thread sits while you sew.

6. Bed

Bed is the name for the flat portion of the head under which is the shuttle, feet and lower thread handling mechanism.

7. Sewing machine foot (Presser foot)

This is a detachable portion of the sewing machine which holds the fabric or material in place while sewing. It keeps the material flat and tight for proper sewing and lets you guide the needle smoothly through the fabric. Different types of presser feet are available with different functions – zipper feet, buttonhole, feet etc.

TIP : When you start to sew, pull some 4 inches of thread behind the presser foot. This tail is needed so that the machine does not ‘eat’ the thread.

It is the type of stitch you are going to make that determines the sewing machine foot you are going to use. 

The type of foot you buy also depends on whether your sewing machine is high shank or low shank or snap-on.

You have a low shank machine if the distance between the presser foot screw and the bottom of the feet is about 3/4 inch.

You have a high shank machine if the distance between the presser foot screw and the bottom of the feet is about 1 1/4 inch .

Snap-on feet just snaps itself to the lever. 

TIP : Keep the presser foot on down position for sewing. 

8. Presser foot lever

The presser foot lever is attached to the presser bar to control the up and down movement of the presser foot. This lowers the presser foot into place when you are ready to sew, and to lift it up when you want to move your fabric. This has to be lifted to take out the material from the machine.

9. Thread cutter

Thread cutter is a sharp tool fastened to the side of the presser foot bar, to cut the thread as you sew.

10. Bobbin Winder Tension Disc (Tension angle)

Keeps your thread taut when you’re winding a bobbin

11. Face plate ( Needle plate / Throat plate)

A semi-circular flat disc with a hole to allow the needle to pass through it. It is situated below the needle. It usually has a seam guide that can help you in guiding the fabric edges as you sew.

Tip : If you look at the seam guide as you sew instead of the needle you will be able to sew a straight line with even seam allowance. 

drop in bobbin and seam guide

12. Feed Dog

Feed dog is a device consisting of metal strips with little teeth that stick up from the needle plate and move your fabric along as you sew. When the machine is working the feed dog moves upwards and advances the fabric as each stitch is made. They move faster or slower depending on how hard you press the foot pedal.

For some sort of stitching, you may want to pull the feed dog down – there will usually be a lever/switch in your machine for this.

feed dogs down

TIP : The feed dog will move your fabric automatically. You do not have to pull the fabric from the back – ofcourse, you know this. But once upon a time, I didn’t.

13. Presser Regulator (Tension regulator)

Presser regulator is a mechanism fixed to the face plate, which adjusts the amount of presser that the presser foot uses to hold your fabric down as you stitch. It controls the quality of stitches. The greater the pressure, the lighter the stitch.

14. Thread Take-up Lever

The thread take up lever which is fitted to the body of the arm, moves your thread up and down as you sew. It feeds the thread to the needle. The thread goes through this lever when you thread your sewing machine.

This lever is always at the top when you start sewing and end the sewing.

15. Thread Guides

Thread guides are different points located in your sewing machine that keeps the sewing thread in place as you sew. If the order of guiding the thread to the needle is wrong the stitch will form tangled.


Sewing machine needles come in different sizes.Twin needle is a very useful addition to your sewing accessory kit. 

Tip : Keep most of the fabric to the left of the needle so that you can look at the seam guide as you sew. 

  • Change the needle after 8 -10 hours of use.
  • Turn the machine switch off when changing the needle.
  • When changing the needle the flat side of the needle should be facing away from you and the curved side of the needle should be facing you.

17. Bobbin case / Shuttle

Bobbin case and shuttle holds the bobbin thread inside the sewing machine.

Bobbin cases vary with different models of sewing machines in that some bobbin is inserted through the front, in some cases from the top (drop-in) . Some have a separate case; some machines come with inbuilt bobbin cases.

18. Reverse Sewing Lever/Button

This is the lever or button which allows you to sew backward when pressed.

19. Stitch Length Dial

Stitch length dial is a regulator with which you can change the length of your stitches. Graduation marks present in the lever indicates the length selection choices.

20. Accessory box

The accessory box is located around the free arm under the needle. It is a storage for your sewing accessories like feet, bobbins, etc., and an extended table for your fabric to rest when sewing when attached to the machine.

21. Free arm

This mechanism allows you to sew tubular items like pant legs, sleeves, armscye, seams, etc. It has the stitch plate, feed dog, and bobbin case built into it and is revealed when you remove the accessory box.

22.Stitch Selector

Stitch selector allows you to choose different stitches available with your machine like the zig zag stitch, as well as the width of the stitches.

23.Rotary hook (Oscillating hook)

Rotary hook is that part of the sewing machine, that enters the loop or needle thread and carries it around the bobbin case to form the lock stitch.

24.Bobbin Winder

Bobbin winder is mechanism for winding thread on bobbin. It fills the thread evenly on the bobbin.

25. Stop motion screw

Stop motion screw is used while winding the bobbin with the bobbin winder, so that stitching is temporarily stopped when the screw is pressed.

26. Foot Pedal

This is the device you manage with your feet, used to apply power to the sewing machine and control the stitching speed. You should always maintain an even and steady speed throughout

27. Needle Clamp & Screw

This is the portion of the sewing machine which connects the needle bar and needle. This is attached with the help of a screw.

27. Presser Bar

The presser foot is attached to this bar.

28. Presser Bar spring

Presser br spring is a spring which controls the pressure asserted by the presser bar.

29.  Thread tension disc

Thread tension disc is a disc through which the upper thread is passed while threading the sewing machine so that the thread does not get knotted.

30. Stop Motion wheel screw

Stop motion wheel screw is the smaller screw seen inside the balance wheel/ hand wheel. This can be used to stop the machine from working.

Different Sewing feet and their functions 

What I got from the sewing machine showroom ( the basic presser feet) is enough for me to sew just about anything with my sewing machine, but just like a girl can never have enough dresses, a sewing girl can never have enough fabric and sewing accessories.

You will be getting some very handy feet when you buy the sewing machine. But other special ones you may have to buy separately. There are some feet like the walking foot and blind hem foot which once you have them you wonder why you didn’t earlier.

The main types of sewing feet you should be having with your sewing machine are –

Rolled hem foot

This one is also called a baby hem foot. You get to sew cute rolled hems which are really narrow with this foot. You just need to guide your fabric edge into it and this feet will do the job for you. Checkout the post on properly using the rolled hemmer foot

different types of pressure foot

Button hole foot

You can make buttonholes of any size with this foot . Even the smallest buttonhole sewing is possible with this one. 

Zipper foot

My second favorite foot. This one is the one you use to stitch zippers, obviously – It lets you stitch very close to the zipper coils. It has small notches on either side that allows the needle to pass through without hitting the foot. You must change the position of the feet ( left and right sides) according to the side you are stitching.

zipper foot

zipper pressure foot

Straight stitch foot

Zig zag foot

This is the all-purpose foot with a slight opening that allows all widths of zigzag and other decorative stitches. I use this foot all the time even for straight stitching. Read more on zig zag stitches here.

Walking foot

A walking foot is also called the even feed foot. As the name suggests it walks the fabric smoothly into the needle.

This even feed helps greatly in sewing difficult fabrics easily, like satin and thick fabrics and thick layers of fabrics.This is a great alternative to what I do now because I don’t have this foot- what I do is I diligently apply all my concentration and pressure with the fingertips in controlling the difficult layers of fabrics to the feed. This foot does a better job.

Read more on walking foot here.

Blind hem foot

This is used for blind hemming and for stitching tucks. It is especially useful in blind hemming difficult fabrics like knits . The stitch guide in this foot is also helpful for top stitching where you need really straight stitches.

Checkout this post for tutorial on sewing a blind stitch

blind stitch foot

Button sewing foot

Another oh-so-great foot that allows you to sew buttons in seconds. A zig-zag stitch is used to sew the stitches that attach the button.

Checkout this post for more details on sewing buttons with this foot

Gathering foot

This one is used to gather fabric and make ruffles. This is an optional one, but if you frequently gather and if you are the type who lose patience easily get this one. Read more on gathering foot.

Piping foot

If you do a lot of piping on your clothes, get this one. It allows you to sew as close to the piping as possible. You can also use a Zipper foot to sew the piping. Checkout this post for learning how to make and sew piping.

Darning Foot

This feet is used for darning stitches that will repair any hole in your favourite dress.

sewing pressure foot sewing pressure foot

Pintuck Foot

Sewing pintucks takes a lot of maths and accurate sewing, but with this convenient foot, you can make perfect pintucks without any difficulty. You need to use a twin needle with this one.

pintuck pressure foot

Cording foot

This is a convenient foot if you need to add cording to a garment, especially one sewn with a heavy fabric.

sewing pressure foot

Applique foot

This foot has a clear plastic covering that makes you see where you are stitching.

sewing foot

Teflon Foot (Non stick foot)

Have you tried to sew vinyl or laminated cotton for any of your sewing projects and ended up beating your head in frustration? All because you do not have this darling little foot. Leather, Faux leather, ultra suede, and oil cloth, all sew like magic with this foot. The plastic coating on its base helps it glide over these materials and makes stitching them easy.

sewing machine feet  

Invisible zipper foot

This foot makes sewing invisible zippers very easy and professional looking.

sewing machine feet

More details on Pressure feet are given in the post – Sewing Machine Pressure feet guide

Even the most grandiose-looking sewing machine works with these same parts. Different machines have these parts placed slightly differently from each other, that is all.

Look out for these sewing machine parts in your sewing machine and read the Sewing Machine manual you got for a more thorough understanding of your particular machine’s structure and workings. In fact, I recommend reading it at least twice, cover to cover, before starting to sew.

Related posts : How to repair a sewing machine at home. ; Common stitching problems in a sewing machine


sewing machine problems  sewing machine thread

Photo of author
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

7 thoughts on “Sewing Machine Parts ( A guide)”

  1. Good information. Thankyou. One comment: do not interchange “pressure” and “presser”. A presser foot is never a pressure foot. Sometimes the article and accompanying illustrations/photos have this correct and other times not. Pressure is how much the presser foot presses down on the fabric. Pressure is controlled manually on some machines, and automatically on others. Presser feet are controlled up or down, by the presser foot lifter. The presser foot lifter also opens and closes the tension disks where the thread passes between.

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