How to Master the 2 Most Important Stitches on Your Sewing Machine

Start Sewing Machine Stitching

There are a few basic machine stitches that you will use on a regular basis. When you first get your machine it is important to understand how the dials or buttons work. You need to know what result you will see when you change stitch style and change the length of stitches.  I like to get a darker scrap of leftover fabric and a contrasting light colored thread, so that the changes you make will be obvious.

Straight Stitch- Sewing Machine Stitching

The most basic stitch you will use is the straight stitch.  The length of this stitch will change depending on what you are sewing and the end result you are looking for.  When sewing a seam you will be using a straight stitch, about 10-12 stitches to the inch.  Your machine will probably look different from mine, and that is why it is important to try it out before you begin your project.

This straight stitch can be lengthened if you are going to be pulling up stitches to gather, this is often called basting.  It may be shortened if you are anchoring a seam at the end.

(There are other ways to anchor your seam.  You will have a reverse button on your machine so you can back stitch 2-3 stitches or you can simply pull your bobbin thread to the top and tie a knot.)

Sewing Machine Stitching

Zigzag- Sewing Machine Stitching

The zigzag stitch is the next most commonly used.  If you are overcasting the seam allowance I like to use a more narrow zigzag, about 10 stitches to the inch. Overcasting a seam allowance means the very top of your zigzag stitch will fall just off the fabric, thereby enclosing your raw edge in the stitch.

Sewing Machine Stitches

When you zigzag you will be adjusting both the width of the zigzag and the number of stitches to the inch.  Be sure that you are familiar with the direction you are turning your dials or adjusting your levers.

Stitch Length

The other common use for the zigzag is when attaching elastic to a waistband.  In this case you would use a slightly wider stitch and a few less stitches to the inch.   This gives your waist the stretch it needs.

sewing machine stitching

As your confidence grows you may find projects that call for different types of stitches.  Most machines have basic stitches built in that make it easier to adjust to your particular need.

Be sure that before you use any of the built in stitches you do a practice run on a scrap of leftover fabric.  It is always good to practice on the same fabric that you will be sewing on.  This will allow you to use the same thickness as your final project, as this may also alter the look of the stitching.

So as you begin your sewing adventure, all you really need is a basic machine with a straight stitch and a zigzag.  These two stitches can be adapted in almost any combination to do many different things.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Pam August 27, 2012, 7:16 pm

    Until about 10 years ago, I used an OLD machine that only had two stitches… straight and zig zag and I could make anything I needed with those two stitches. Now-a-days, with machines having lots of fancy stitches, the two stitches you mentioned are still the ones that are used the most.

    • onceuponasewingmachine August 27, 2012, 8:24 pm

      Agreed! You can really be quite successful with just these basic stitches.

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