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Sewing Machine Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Operates or tends sewing machines to join, reinforce, decorate, or perform related sewing operations in the manufacture of garment or nongarment products.

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster Manufacturing Production pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Monitors machine operation to detect problems such as defective stitching, breaks in thread, or machine malfunctions.
  • Places spools of thread, cord, or other materials on spindles, inserts bobbins, and threads ends through machine guides and components.
  • Positions items under needles, using marks on machines, clamps, templates, or cloth as guides.
  • Matches cloth pieces in correct sequences prior to sewing them, and verifies that dye lots and patterns match.
  • Guides garments or garment parts under machine needles and presser feet to sew parts together.
  • Starts and operates or tends machines, such as single or double needle serging and flat-bed felling machines, to automatically join, reinforce, or decorate material or articles.
  • Records quantities of materials processed.
  • Inspects garments, and examines repair tags and markings on garments to locate defects or damage, and marks errors as necessary.
  • Mounts attachments, such as needles, cutting blades, or pattern plates, and adjusts machine guides according to specifications.
  • Selects supplies such as fasteners and thread, according to job requirements.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves bending or twisting your body more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Seeing clearly up close

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Appliquer -- Operates sewing machine to sew appliques, monograms, embroidery, or lace on designated places of garment to decorate or reinforce garment.
  • Bow Maker -- Folds and shapes ribbon sections to form decorative bows.
  • Drapery Seamstress -- Operates sewing machine to join precut pieces of material to form finished draperies.
  • Dressmaker -- Makes women's garments, such as dresses, coats, and suits, according to customer specifications and measurements.
  • Embroidery Worker -- Tends semiautomatic sewing machine with multiple-sewing heads controlled by pattern chain that embroiders designs on garments or garment parts.
  • Tailor -- Makes, alters and repairs tailored clothing.
  • Upholstery Sewer -- Operates sewing machine to join cut fabric parts to fabricate upholstery coverings for aircraft, automobile, boat, household, and railroad furnishings.
  • Monogram Machine Operator --
  • Quilter --
  • Seamstress --