For machine-piecing, a sewing machine is only required to sew a forward straight stitch. A reverse stitch can be used, but is not necessary.
If you like machine appliqué, you will need a machine that can stitch a neat zigzag or satin stitch.
For machine-quilting, a straight-stitch machine will do the job, but some machines don't work as well as others for this task. An even-feed or walking foot will help keep layers together when stitching. An open darning foot may be used to do freehand quilting designs.
Whether you own the most up-to-date computerized machine or still use a treadle, it is most important to keep your machine in the best working order.
Discard and replace sewing-machine needles after about eight hours of cumulative sewing. At the same time, remove the bobbin and bobbin case (if applicable). Clean the lint from the tension mechanism, from the needle shaft above the removed needle, off the surface of the feed dogs, and around the removed bobbin case. Use the soft brush in your machine's attachment set to brush lint off the top of the feed dogs and the underside of the needle plate. Replace the bobbin case and the bobbin, and insert a new sewing-machine needle.
Some new machines are permanently lubricated and do not require oiling, but if you need to oil a machine, use only the sewing-machine oil recommended by your dealer for your machine. Do not substitute another lubricant. After oiling, wipe off all excess oil and sew on scraps to remove any excess oil before resuming sewing projects.
Get to know your sewing machine by reading its manual from beginning to end. Write notes in the margins of the manual for future reference.