Sewing Terms That Make Using Your Machine Easier

Sewing terms

If you’re interested in sewing, especially if you are going to be using a machine, you might want to learn some of these sewing terms to help you along the way.

Can you point to the ‘feed dog’ on a sewing machine? Learn these sewing terms and you’ll be a smarter shopper and sew with more confidence. Viewpoints has defined the most common parts of a sewing machine.

Product definitions


The flat surface of the sewing machine.  There are two types of beds: A flat bed, which has a single platform to sew on and a free-arm bed, which allows the user to more easily sew hard to reach places, such as pant cuffs and sleeves.


A spool housed in a compartment below the needle which that provides the lower thread.

Bobbin case

Housed in a compartment below the needle, the bobbin case holds the bobbin and provides tension to the lower thread.

Bobbin winder

Located at the top of the sewing machine, this mechanism used to wind bobbins.

Feed dog

Controls the motion of the fabric.

Hand wheel

Located on the right side of the sewing machine, this wheel is driven by the motor to adjust the needle height, but it can also be turned manually.


The entire sewing machine without the carrying case.

Lower tension

Controls delivery of the bottom thread.  This tension is provided by the bobbin case.

Needle plate

Located just under the pressure foot, the needle plate allows the feed dog to reach the fabric.  It also provides an opening for the needle to move up and down.

Pressure foot

Located on the bed, the foot presses down on the fabric to stabilize its movement.

Thread guide

Located on top of the machine, opposite the bobbin winder, this guides the top thread to a certain location.

Thread take-up

Arm that reduced slack in thread.

Upper tension

A knob located above the needle which controls delivery of upper thread.

Amanda Bryant (56 Posts)

Amanda Bryant is a design professional with an interest and expertise in products for the home and office. She is founder and principal of HangItUp Chicago, a fine art rental business partnering exclusively with Chicago-area companies.

  • thrashin

    Thanks Amanda! I am just new to sewing (got my first machine, a Husqvarna Viking Emerald 116, just yesterday) and this guide has been very handy to help understand some of the common terms I’m coming across! Cheers. :)