Functioning of Sewing Machines

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Computerized Sewing Machines

In the previous section, we examined the mechanics of a conventional electric sewing machine. One vital improvement to this basic design is the ability to sew various kinds of stitches. The typical stitch choices for a conventional sewing machine are different variations of the zig-zag stitch. The zig-zag stitch is a stitch with a jagged line.

Producing this zig-zag stitch is comparatively simple. All one has to do is move the needle assembly side to side at the same time as it moves up and down. In a conventional electric machine, the needle bar is connected to an extra linkage, which is moved by a cam on the main drive shaft. When the linkage is engaged, the rotating cam shifts the linkage from side to side. The linkage tilts the needle bar back and forth horizontally in synch with the up and down motion.

The modern machine works differently. High-end home sewing machines of today come with inbuilt computers, as well as small monitor displays for easy use. In these models, the computer directly controls various motors, which precisely move the needle bar, the tensioning discs, the feed dog, and other components in the machine. With this precise control, it is possible to produce hundreds of different stitches. The computer drives the motors at the right speed to move the needle bar up and down and from side to side in a particular stitch pattern. The computer programs for different stitches are generally stored in removable memory disks or cartridges. The sewing-machine computer may also hook up to a PC to download patterns directly from the Internet.

Some electronic sewing machines also have the ability to create intricate embroidery patterns. These machines have a motorized work area that holds the fabric in place underneath the needle assembly. They also have a series of sensors that inform the computer how all of the machine components are positioned. By precisely moving the work area forward, backward and side to side while adjusting the needle assembly to vary the stitching style, the computer can produce an infinite number of elaborate shapes and lines. The sewer simply loads a pattern from memory or creates an original one, and the computer does almost everything else. The computer prompts the sewer to replace the thread or make any other adjustments when necessary.

Undoubtedly, this sort of high-tech sewing machine is much more complicated than the fully manual sewing machines of 200 years ago, but they are both based on the same simple stitching system: A needle passes a loop of thread through a piece of fabric, where it is wound around another length of thread. This ingenious method was one of those rare, inspired ideas that changed the world forever.

To learn more about sewing machines, including their history, check out the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

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More Great Links

  • Home Sewing Association
  • Sewing.com
  • Sewing Machine Collector
  • Sewing machine pioneer Elias Howe
  • Glossary of ISO Stitches

FAQ

1. How do sewing machines work?

Sewing machines work by using a needle to create a stitch in fabric. The needle is attached to a machine that moves the fabric under it, creating a straight or zigzag stitch. The machine also has a bobbin, which holds the thread that creates the bottom of the stitch. The top thread is threaded through the needle and the machine’s tension system, which controls the tightness of the stitch. The fabric is fed through the machine by the feed dogs, which grip the fabric and move it along as the needle creates the stitch. Sewing machines can be manual or electric, with the latter using a motor to power the movement of the needle and fabric.

2. What are the different types of sewing machines?

There are several types of sewing machines, including mechanical, electronic, and computerized machines. Mechanical sewing machines rely on a manual hand crank to create the stitch, while electronic machines use a motor to power the needle and fabric movement. Computerized machines have programmable settings and can automatically adjust stitch length, width, and tension. There are also specialized sewing machines for quilting, embroidery, and serging, which create finished edges on fabric.

3. How do you maintain a sewing machine?

Maintaining a sewing machine is important to keep it running smoothly and prevent breakdowns. Some basic maintenance tasks include cleaning the machine after each use, oiling the machine regularly, and changing the needle after every project. It’s also important to use the correct type of thread and needle for the fabric being sewn, and to adjust the tension and stitch length as needed. For more complex machines, it may be necessary to take the machine in for professional cleaning and servicing.

4. What are some common problems with sewing machines?

Some common problems with sewing machines include thread breaking, uneven stitches, and jammed bobbins. These issues can be caused by a variety of factors, such as using the wrong tension or needle, threading the machine incorrectly, or having a dirty or damaged machine. To troubleshoot these problems, it’s important to check the machine’s manual for specific instructions and to make sure all settings are correct. If the problem persists, it may be necessary to take the machine in for professional repair.

5. Can sewing machines sew through thick fabrics?

Most sewing machines can sew through thick fabrics, although some may require special needles or settings to do so. Machines with a stronger motor or heavier-duty construction may be better suited for sewing through thick materials like denim or leather. It’s also important to use the correct needle and thread for the fabric being sewn, as well as to adjust the machine’s tension and stitch length to accommodate the thickness of the material. With the right tools and settings, a sewing machine can sew through a variety of fabrics and materials.

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