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Basic Sewing Machine Stitches

Basic sewing machine stitches

Basic stitch guide

It is best to practice on a piece of scrap material before any project to find the best length and size of stitch for your fabric.  Below is a guide to the basics stitches that you will find on most sewing machines, and what you can use them for.

How to use stitches on your sewing machine

1) Straight stitch – This is your basic lots of straight stitches in a row.  It’s the equivalent of the running stitch by hand but much stronger and more accurate when done by machine.  You can use this for pretty much anything and it will be your most used stitch.

2) Zig zag stitch – This is commonly used on stretch fabric, or for over sewing edges to stop them fraying (see zig zag seam finish).  Varying the width and length can provide a lot of flexibility with this stitch.  It can also be used decoratively too or for applique.  It is a very forgiving stitch for beginners, I’ve used it instead of straight stitch for things like attaching edges of ribbons, bias binding etc.

3) Three stitch zig zag – This has similar uses to the zigzag stitch, but it is even more stretchy, this makes it good for sewing things like elastic.  You can also use it for finishing seams on synthetic fabrics which are prone to puckering when stitched.  It’s also good for darning or mending tears.

4) Overlock/overedge stitch – This stitch mimics the overlocker and wraps itself around the edge of the fabric.   It stitches and overcasts at the same time giving you a row of straight stitches as well as a thread wrapped around the edge of the fabric.  Best used with an overedge foot.

5) Blind hem stitch – This stitch is commonly used for long straight hems such as curtain hems or any hems where you don’t want to see the stitching on the right side.  However, it is not suitable for curved hems at all.  If you pop over to my blind hem tutorial you will see how to do it on your machine.

Buttonhole Foot

Buttonhole stitches
 – Most sewing machines come with different stitches for sewing buttonholes. Many new machines now have an automatic buttonhole setting.  It’s best to refer to your manual to see how your machine does a buttonhole stitch as it varies a lot from machine to machine.

You can do a manual buttonhole using the zig zag stitch as per the image below.  You start with a narrow zigzag stitch down one side, then widen it to double width at the bottom and do a couple stitches as a tack at the bottom.  Pivot around 180 degrees, narrow the stitch again and stitch back beside your first row of stitching leaving a small gap in between the rows.  When you get to the bottom do a few more double width stitches and then a lock stitch to finish.  Using your seam ripper slide it into the gap between the 2 rows of stitching and slit between them.

Simple buttonhole tutorial

The fabrics used in this tutorial are from Tula Pink’s Foxfield collection.