Sewing on a new machine, or even infrequently on an old one might make you wonder how best to learn about it. Even a seasoned sewer doesn’t likely know everything their sewing machine has to offer – and how do you go about planning to learn?

I felt this way a few weeks ago when Janome gave me the opportunity to use their new machine – the Skyline S7. It has so many features it’s hard to know where to start! Short answer is: #allthehearts for this machine…. Long answer is this and the next five weeks of this new series.

Welcome to the first ever The Sewing Diaries – Meet Your New Machine! Janome asked me if I’d like to write about how you can easily learn to use your new sewing machine. I know some of you are thinking, “Why can’t I just start sewing?” And of course you can… but I think it would be helpful to go about it a little more slowly. Try to stop the urge to pick up a project right away – I know you can do it. By step 4 of this week’s process you’ll be a pro at knowing your machine, and the sewing will come easily after that!

This week I am sharing what I think are the best 6 Steps to Unboxing your Machine. This post accidentally became ridiculously long so full of awesome information *winky face* because I am long winded thorough, so I’ve decided to split it into two parts! The overview and first 3 steps today and the last 3 steps and tutorial tomorrow.

During this 6 week series I will talk a lot about the Janome Skyline S7 because, *spoiler alert* these posts are made specifically for it! But, don’t be discouraged, my ultimate goal is to provide you with information about how to learn about your sewing machine, Janome or not! Each installment of The Sewing Diaries will list step-by-step ways you can get to know YOUR amazing machine. I am being extra careful to make each post applicable whether you own a budget basic, or the latest and fanciest model available.

Disclaimer: Janome has loaned me a Skyline S7 for the purposes of writing these Sewing Diary posts.  Please know, as with all products I write about, that I always tell you my own honest opinion. I bought and loved Janome products long before they contacted me and they have not asked me to qualify my opinions in any way. 

The Sewing Diaries – Meet Your New Machine! Overview

This diary and sewn topic-related projects are happening in real time! One topic per week. This gives you a chance to follow along with your new machine. You can see sneak peeks of the projects as they are sewn on Facebook, InstagramTwitter and Pinterest.

Here is what we will talk about: Week 2: Closures ~ Week 3: Heavy/Uncommon Fabrics~ Week 4: Knits (without a serger!) ~ Week 5: Embellishing your Projects (ie. Stitches and Machine Feet) ~ Week 6: Quilting/Piecing

This Sewing Diaries series ends right before the Creativ Festival in Toronto where I am excited to be presenting a Trunk Show once each day. I will be showing off these Skyline projects, some of my older favorites and giving tips and tricks to make your sewing easier and more fun! Plus, the Grand Prize at the Festival is your chance to win a Janome Skyline S7!

Let’s get started!

Meet your New Machine – Step 1: Un-boxing

After you wrangle your new machine out of it’s packaging and up onto your table, *oof* where do you start? To stay organized, first put away all of the extras that came with your sewing machine. That way you have seen them all and can keep track of them while learning the machine.

Putting these pieces away also helps to make sure you have everything you should! For example, when I unpacked the S7 I thought the cord for it’s extra-large foot pedal was missing. A quick consult with the manual shows it wound up neatly in the bottom of the pedal, in it’s own covered compartment – high five for that one Janome! One of my pet peeves is tangled, messy cords.

If you can, store everything in the body of your machine. This way all the pieces stay together when you take your machine out.  If you don’t have a storage area in your machine – find an appropriately sized container (or sew one – just not yet!). Thankfully, the Skyline S7 has a lot of storage space. A flip-down compartment at the front and a shallow tray underneath the extension table. The top of this machine even has a small space I use to hold needle cases for the current needle type I’m using.

Meet Your New Machine – Step 2: Mentally prepare to take care of your investment

This might not be the most fun to think about right away, but I think this step is really important. Taking good care of your machine will help it to last longer. Cleaning your machine and taking it in for maintenance on a regular basis helps you to get great tension and straight stitches every time you sew. It also helps when you all of a sudden *need* to sew that great new project you just found – without any machine issues!

Find your manual and head to the section called Care and Maintenance and look it over. I was really happy to find that the Skyline S7 does not need to be oiled, Hooray! The back of the S7 manual tells how to clean the bobbin (or hook area) and thread guide, and recommends they are cleaned once a month. I figure, if the vacuum cleaner is out once a week to rid my office floor of threads, it can’t hurt to take off the needle plate and get rid of any excess build up there as well!

As a general rule, I found out that these machines work best when regularly cleaned and that machine needles should be replaced after about 8 hours of sewing. These are good guidelines for any machine type. I’ve learned over the last year that changing your needle (and using the right type) can drastically improve your stitches.

Meet Your New Machine – Step 3: What can your sewing machine do?

You probably know this, since you bought the machine – otherwise you wouldn’t have it, right? Even so, there are probably a few things to learn. Take a few minutes to overview the basics by scanning the brochure, manual or even the outside of the box!

Here’s a shortened run-down for the S7:

  • Automatic presser foot lift, 240 stitches, multiple alphabets, 15 included feet, 9mm stitch width, 5mm stitch length. Full colour backlit LCD touchscreen. AcuFeed Flex feeding system (it’s a souped-up walking/even foot and it’s amazing!). Stitch Composer with software for designing custom stitches. Computerized tension, automatic foot pressure, advanced needle threader, free arm, drop feed, thread cutter, adjustable knee lift. It also has an included second needle plate, only for straight stitching a start/stop button and more. *whew!*

Some features won’t be apparent until you scan information about the different feet or read how to use them. A random fact I found out through stalking a few blogs is that the S7 can apparently learn the length you stitch when strip piecing and repeat it, stopping and cutting the threads between blocks. Other things are more subtle, like the backward stitch.  It sews backwards continuously and is great for things like mending a ripped pant leg when you can’t easily pivot to stitch the other direction and need both hands to sew straight.

See you Tomorrow with Part 2!

Now that you’ve collected all this information, only one more step and you will be sewing! Tomorrow I’ll share the rest of this week’s information, a mini-tutorial, and more about the projects I made this past week.