Getting to know your sewing machine has got to be number one on the list of any sewer. I think that most of us just plug it in, and learn about it on the way, which is alright. But I think that learning how to use your machine, and becoming friends with it right from the beginning can save a lot of frustration and time down the road.
Take out the book that came with your machine. If you don’t have one, look online. You may find one on E-bay, or contact the company that made your machine and see if you can get one there. Anyhow, book in hand, go through each page and while sitting in front of your machine, review every single page. At the same time, adjust, re-adjust, clean, dust, oil etc every accessible part of your machine.
Go through your presser feet. Review what each one is used for, and then give it a try! Take some scrap fabric, adjust your tension, change threads, wind bobbins, etc until you feel comfortable with each thing you try. Use different types of fabric, sew corners, zig zag etc. Just like test driving a car, you need to see how your machine drives and what it takes to get results that you want, before you tackle your projects.
Also take the time to research additional accessories or presser feet that are available for your machine. A lot of machines have a wide variety of attachments that you can get, that will help when you are sewing special fabrics or adding embellishments. They can make a big difference in how easy or difficult it can be when tackling special sewing techniques.
If your machine does decorative stitches, practice sewing lines, or circles of them. Seeing how they look on fabric will give you some ideas on how you might use them on future projects. Try using different threads (make sure you use the appropriate needle for the thread) and see how your machine operates, adjusting the stitch length, tension etc.
If you purchased your machine from a shop that gives classes on how to use it, take them. A lot of times these are included in the purchase price of your machine. Especially if you have a machine that is programmable, you will get more out of your purchase.
Get to know your machine, and you’ll get many years of enjoyment, rather than frustration, out of it!