Skip to Content

How to Setup and Use a Brother Sewing Machine: Beginner’s Guide

Brother sewing machines are great for beginning sewers, so if you just bought one as your first sewing machine, welcome! Possibly you already visited the local sewing store and bought an armful of pretty fabric for all the projects you plan to sew as well! All of this is exciting, but you’re probably just now sitting down to figure out how to set up and use a Brother machine.

Brother sewing machines help many beginning sewers learn how to sew because they are simple to use. The sewing machine manual and diagrams on the machine clearly show how to thread the machine, turn it on, and begin to sew. Understanding the function of each part of the machine will also help a beginner get started.

In this article, you’ll learn how a sewing machine works, how to set up a Brother machine, and how to take care of your new sewing machine!

How to use brother sewing machine

How Does a Sewing Machine Work, Step By Step?

Sewing machines have many moving parts and understanding how each one works will help you set everything up correctly.

This is just a quick overview to help you know what to look for on your new machine. If you would like to explore any of these topics in-depth, you should check out your user’s manual, the manufacturer’s website, or find a detailed Youtube video that demonstrates specifics in more detail.

Power Cord

This one seems so obvious you’re probably rolling your eyes! Of course, your new Brother machine needs a power source before you can turn it on. On a serious note, though, there are lots of times you should turn off your machine while working on it.


Many of the earliest sewing machines invented had a foot treadle to power the machine. Today, most modern sewing machines run in the direction of the foot pedal that works like the gas pedal in your car. You press it, the machine runs!

Your pedal will come attached to a cord that needs to be plugged into the machine, usually near the power cord connection.

Thread Path

A thread path is a route the thread takes between the spool pin and the needle. Every sewing machine model has a thread path that looks a tiny bit different. The good news is that it is always clearly marked on the machine, and your manual should describe it clearly as well!

Your machine uses tension to hold both the thread and fabric at an appropriate tautness as it operates. This prevents the thread from knotting up or sewing baggy stitches while you sew.


You can easily find the needle on your new machine. Once the thread runs from the spool through the thread path, it is inserted into the eye of the needle. The needle on sewing machines has its eye on the pointy end, which allows it to shove the thread through the fabric fast and repeatedly without the whole needle going through the material.

Some Brother models come with self-threading devices. If yours does not have this option, learning how to thread the needle quickly will help you out in the long run.

Presser Foot

A presser foot looks like a tiny, usually rectangular foot! It pushes down on the fabric to hold it in place for the needle as you sew.


A bobbin is a small wheel and works as an additional spool of thread that provides the thread for the underside of the stitches.

As the needle bears down, pushing thread through the fabric from above, the bobbin thread catches it and holds the thread beneath the fabric when the needle withdraws. This creates stitches!


Without going into too much detail, the thread tension settings on your machine allow you to determine the tightness of the stitches. Different tensions work better on various kinds of cloth.

Stitch Settings

Your new machine can stitch in many different designs! These stitching patterns include options like zigzag stitches, buttonhole stitches, and even fancy designs like leaves and flowers! You can use the stitch setting controllers to tell your machine which stitches to use.

Reverse Button

On most sewing machines, the reverse button is located on the plastic casing somewhere above the needle. It usually has a picture of an arrow looping around to go backward on it. This reverse or “backstitch” option lets you sew over your work, preventing any future fraying.

How to Setup a Brother Sewing Machine

Brother sewing machine settings

First, you need to flip through the user’s manual. This is the thick booklet that will come in the box with your machine. It will describe how to set up and turn on the machine, how to use it, and what exactly it can do!

Before you plug in and turn on the machine, you need to wind the bobbin and thread the needle.

Sewing Machine Manual

Give this a quick read before you do anything else. Even experienced sewers frequently refer to the manual to figure out how something works.

If you bought a used Brother machine, don’t worry! You can usually find the manuals online for free on the manufacturer’s website.

What Else Do You Need?

You need a spool of thread ready to go before you can set up your sewing machine. It also helps to have a soft cloth for dusting off the machine, and a pair of scissors often come in handy as well.

New machines often come with a scrap of fabric, but you may also want to find some unwanted cloth so you can practice using your machine without wasting good fabric.

Wind the Bobbin

Unless you buy preloaded bobbins, you will need to wind some of your thread onto a bobbin before you can start sewing. You probably want to wind your own bobbins most of the time anyway, to make the color of your thread match the color of the bobbin thread exactly!

Brother machines come with clear diagrams printed in the user’s manual. All you have to do is follow the numbered diagram.

You will want to place your spool of thread on the spool pin and keep it in place with the holder. Then wrap the thread through the three holders on the top of your machines, following the order of the numbers assigned each in the manual.

This weaves the loose end of the thread to the upright pin on the top right of your machine. Place the bobbin there, and thread the loose end through one of the holes in the bobbin and around its center a couple of times.

You will then shift the bobbin pin to the right, locking it in place. This sets your machine into bobbin mode instead of sewing mode!

The only other thing you have to do is press down on the pedal for a minute and watch the machine wrap thread around the bobbin, filling it up!

Install The Bobbin

Some machines have a bobbin that loads from the front or the side. Some have a small case the bobbin slots in as well. You will want to follow the pictures provided in the manual to correctly load your bobbin full of thread.

Be sure to leave a few inches of thread free before you begin sewing. Use the manual needle control (usually located on the back of the machine) to raise and lower the needle once. This will carry the bobbin thread up with the needle thread so that you have two loose thread ends in the vicinity of the presser foot.

Thread the Needle

Before you can thread the needle, you must insert your spool of thread onto the spool pin located at the top of your machine. Place the spool holder like a cap at the end of the spool pin. This keeps the spool of thread from flying away as you sew!

Then unwind about ten inches of thread and follow either the diagram in your manual or the numbers printed on the machine to weave the thread through the thread path. You will loop the thread through the first thread guide, wrap it around the tension knob, and wind it over the second thread guide in most Brother models.

You probably remember that a thread path is a route a thread takes to get from the spool of thread to the needle. You can think of this path as a windy racetrack with special pit stops at each of the numbered points in the diagram. These are the hooks and levers that create tension as you sew.

Once you have wrapped the thread carefully through the correct path, the loose end should hang down near the needle. At this point, you can either thread the needle yourself (front to back) or use the automatic needle threading mechanism that comes with many Brother models.

This is the hardest part of getting ready to sew. Once you master threading the machine, everything else seems easy!

Adjust Settings

The remaining settings on your machine allow you to set your preferred stitch pattern and adjust the tension as you sew.

As you start, you probably want to use a straight stitch. You can practice adjusting the tension on your scrap fabric to see what happens when you raise or lower the tension settings.

How to Use a Brother Sewing Machine

How to set a sewing machine

Once your machine is all set up, you get to start sewing! Let’s look at a quick checklist of the steps involved in using your sewing machine.

  • Wind the bobbin
  • Thread the needle (remember to follow the thread path!)
  • Adjust the tension settings as necessary
  • Plugin your machine and turn it on
  • Insert the fabric beneath the presser foot, and press the lever to lower the foot onto the fabric
  • Gently press down on the foot pedal. This will start the motor running and move the needle up and down at the same time as the machine feeds the fabric through the area beneath the needle

Ultimately, you can sew very simple or super-advanced projects using the same sewing machine. If you’re just starting, you should probably begin with a simple project. Sewing a circle skirt, a pillowcase, or a rectangular curtain panel are all projects with lots of straight seams that will give you an idea of how your machine runs.

Once you feel comfortable operating your new Brother machine, you can find sewing patterns that will show you how to create pretty much anything that can be made out of fabric!

How to Use a Computerized Brother Sewing Machine

Many of the set-up steps remain the same with a computerized machine. The main difference is that you will need to use the touch screen to select your stitch pattern.

You will want to refer to your manual for full directions, of course, but the screen will usually also allow you to adjust the stitch width and length. You can often use it to control your tension settings as well.

Some advanced sewing machines even allow you to connect directly to a computer. You can use fun software to design embroidery patterns and then use the computer connection to send the design to the sewing machine!

What Kind of Thread Do You Use for a Brother Sewing Machine?

The kind of thread you should use varies depending on the project you’re working on and the type of cloth you’re using. You do not have to purchase Brother-brand thread to use on your machine. The weight and the kind of fiber the thread is made out of matters much more than the brand.

Most sewing machine thread comes in 40 wt, which is a fine, smooth skinny little thread perfect for the average sewing projects. Some threads meant to use on denim or sturdy fabrics are thicker and come in 50 wt.

Most sewing machines work well with polyester thread. This thread contains just a bit of elasticity that prevents it from snapping and tangling easily. It also does not shed a lot of lint inside your machine.

Much of the thread you see in rainbow rows in any sewing store is polyester. You can check the label to find out what fiber the thread is made of.

Quilters often prefer 100% cotton thread. This works well with all-natural fabric like quilting cotton.

You can also find specialty quilting threads. This thread is thicker and has a special coating to make it extra-durable.

You can also buy a bewildering array of upholstery, embroidery, topstitch, and even elastic thread for certain sewing projects! Most of the time you will do just fine with simple polyester thread, though.

Many sewers prefer to match the shade of the thread exactly to the fabric they use. This is why you can find so many different colors of thread for sale!

Brother Sewing Machine Models For Beginners

Brother has a great reputation as a brand that provides inexpensive machines for beginner sewers.

Today, even basic starter machines come equipped with multiple stitch settings and various presser foot attachments. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t necessarily need every special feature on the market for your first machine.

What do you need to look for in your first machine? You probably want to start with an affordable model. Once you know more about sewing, you can narrow down exactly what features you need and purchase your next machine accordingly.

When you’re starting, it’s a good idea to learn the basics on a less-complex machine, so you don’t get too overwhelmed. The good news is that many basic-level Brother machines come in an $80-$200 price range.

Brother sells a fairly wide range of models with a variety of specializations. Here are a couple of reviews to give you an idea of a great beginner and an excellent advanced machine.

Brother XM2701 Sewing Machine

basic brother sewing machineThis excellent beginner machine has 27 stitching options, including stretch stitches and blind hemstitches. It also comes with great beginner features like an automatic threading device and an instructional DVD. The lightweight, versatile design of this machine makes it the perfect choice for a wide range of sewing projects.

Six different sewing feet and a selection of needles come with your purchase, giving you even more flexibility in your sewing projects. Finally, the whole machine operates as simply as possible and comes with great directions and color-coded parts, making it a perfect choice for beginners!

Brother SE600 Computerized Sewing and Embroidery Machine

how to operate a sewing machineWhen you reach the point that your sewing projects require more complex sewing machines, Brother has you covered! Brother SE600 works as a sewing machine and as an embroidery machine. It features a 4” X 4” embroidery hoop, an LCD touchscreen display, and 80 built-in designs.

This model offers 103 stitches and time-saving options like an automatic needle threader. Its larger arm also makes it a great choice for quilters! Overall this model is a great choice for high-quality, professional-looking projects.

How to Take Care of a Brother Sewing Machine

Proper care and cleaning will keep your Brother sewing machine running smoothly for a long time. Before you do anything more than dusting the outside of the plastic casing, you should check your owner’s manual for care and cleaning directions. This will tell you what parts to oil, what parts to dust, and what parts to leave alone!

Here are a few general tips:

  • Turn off and unplug your machine before performing any cleaning or maintenance. You should also do this when replacing the needle.
  • Like anything with lots of moving parts, dust is the enemy. Your machine probably came with a nice little cover. Try to remember to put this on after you finish sewing.
  • When in doubt, rethread your needle. Taking the thread back through the thread path will often correct any tension issues and resolve problems with the thread knotting up beneath the fabric.
  • If you aren’t sure how something works, watch a Youtube video! Make sure you search for your sewing machine’s brand and model number so you can see someone working on the same machine.


Like most sewing machines, Brother models have a lot of moving parts and require some careful handling. Once you know the basics, you will quickly master threading the machine, inserting the bobbin, and getting ready to sew!

Every Brother model has slight differences, so consider looking for a model designed for beginners if you are just starting. This brand does a great job providing simple, color-coded machines for the beginning sewer.

Have you recently bought a Brother sewing machine, and are you new to sewing? Leave a comment below and let us know if you like the brand!