Learning to use a sewing machine
This is actually something I wrote to a fellow blogger who is learning how to use an industrial sewing machine, but I wanted to share it here as well. While I was writing about industrials, some of the tips apply to using domestic sewing machines too (but not the bit about the position of your feet on the pedal):
Sewing on an industrial will become second nature quite quickly. I switch between my domestic and industrial machines depending on what my project needs/what I feel like using (as I love my old domestic Bernina and Singers :) ) Patience and practice will get you there. Go slowly at first to build accuracy - very much like learning to type.
I was taught (at fashion school) to sit with my right foot forward on the pedal and my left foot back, as I'm right handed, and use the right to accelerate and the left to break/slow/control. Using both feet like this gives me more control over the machine.
You can use the fly wheel by hand to get into tight spots, but experiment with slowing down the machine and getting around corners/tricky bits just with manipulating the foot pedal. If you're using an automatic it will stop with the needle up or down, as you specify, which is great, but I think it's best to learn on a basic machine to gain well-rounded skills.
When I teach beginners, the first thing my students sew is paper, with no thread, to get used to the machine (domestic or industrial).
This website has really great templates that will get you practising everything you need: http://thesewingnotebook.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/practice-machine-sewing-sheet-for.html