Tips and Tricks in Stitches Using Your Sewing Machine

Precision and accuracy are the best guiding principles in sewing. Take time to follow each step of the instructions, and you can’t go wrong.

Practice Makes Perfect

Learn how to use your machine by practicing on pieces of cotton fabric (double thickness) on which you’ve drawn straight, parallel lines. Make a backstitch (a few stitches forwards and backwards) at the beginning and end of each line of stitching as you’ll need to do these later on your “real” seams. Experiment by adjusting the stitch length for straight stitch, zigzag, and satin stitch. Use another piece of fabric to sew curved lines, and practice varying the machine speed by depressing and releasing the foot control to get used to the difference.

Practice a little each day. Once you get used to it, you’ll feel comfortable and at ease with your machine.

Straight Stitch

This is the basic machine stitch. Make a backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam. Adjust the stitch size to suit the thickness of the fabric – use shorter stitches for fine fabrics. The thicker the fabric, the longer the stitch needs to be.

To baste, you can use straight stitch at its maximum length and slightly loosen the tension of the upper thread. Don’t make a backstitch so you can remove the stitching easily by pulling the thread on the underside of the seam.

Zigzag Stitch

Zigzag stitch can be used in a number of ways. You can adjust the length and width as required for oversewing, or for edging buttonholes.

Oversew the fabric edges before basting together to prevent fraying. Adjust the stitch length and width to the fabric – longer, more open stitches for thicker fabrics, and shorter, closer stitches for fine ones. When oversewing, the fabric should be held in the center of the presser foot so that the zigzag is along the edge. Alternatively, you can use pinking shears for a quicker edge first if the item is going to be lined.

Tricks of the Trade

Use the same thread for threading the needle and winding the bobbin. Do a preliminary test on a piece of fabric you’ll be using to adjust the size of the stitches and tension of the thread (looser for thick fabrics and tighter for fine fabrics).

Increase the size of the straight stitch on your machine to sew oilcloth, raffia, knitted, and thick fabrics, so as not to weaken or distort the textiles.

To make oilcloth or soft leather slide more easily, or to prevent knitted fabrics from being pulled out of shape, place a sheet of tissue paper between the base of the machine and the fabric. You can also do this to keep fine fabrics from puckering while they are being sewn.

You don’t have to baste every item you’re making. You can pin it together using extra fine steel pins inserted at right angles to the line of the seam at ¾-inch intervals, and then machine the fabric directly. Before you start, make sure that the fabric is not wrinkled or puckered. Remove the pins as you sew.