Sewing Machine Basic Stitch Settings

The basic stitch settings on a sewing machine can be tricky to get right. There are several zigzag settings and several straight settings, but these stitches don’t all do the same thing. It is important to know what you’re doing when you are just starting out with sewing and you are struggling to understand the different basic stitch settings on the sewing machine.

I’m hoping to help you by taking a look at the sewing machine stitch settings and seeing if you can understand them after I’ve explained it. So without much more pomp, let me get straight to what you are here to read.

Lets’s start with the different sides of the sewing machine stitch settings panel. There is a right hand side and a left hand side. On the left is your different stitches and on the right is the stitch length. Let’s look at the left hand side again.

The first stitch (A) is a straight stitch. To reverse this stitch, you need to press the reverse knob on the sewing machine usually located towards the bottom part of the machine or on the side. The reverse works the same for all other stitches.

The next stitch (b) is a basting stitch. This stitch is used for gathering or basting and usually has to be at it’s maximum size to work.

Stitch (c) is a zigzag stitch. This is used to applique or work an edge around the hem to stop it from fraying. Depending on the size of the stitch you may need a pressure foot with a wider hole than the standard pressure foot.

Stitch (d) is a stretch stitch. This is used on knit fabrics so that the fabric can still stretch after stitching has been done. It goes along the stretch of the fabric enabling the fabric to stretch. You would sometimes use a stretchy type of thread for this.

Stitch (e) is called a blind hem stitch. It is used when you don’t want much of the hem stitch visible and is useful for that purpose.

Stitch (f) is a shell stitch which is often used for sewing delicate fabrics and the hems on them.

Stitch (g) is an overcast stitch. It is used for keeping hems neat and tidy. Especially when you struggle with straight stitching! You need a special overcast pressure foot to use this stitch.

Stitch (h) is used for making scalloped hems and is called a scallop stitch. It is a difficult technique to master and I would not try this for a first time sewer.

Stitch (i) is a satin stitch and is used for decorative purposes on satin fabric. It’s a tight type of zigzag stitch to make it look pretty.

On the far left size there are three blue images. These are for the button holes. Turing the wheel (on my machine) or changing the dial on another sewing machine (or a button) would enable the sewing machine to stitch these basic stitches.

On the right hand side you get the different stitch lengths. Depending on what you want to sew, you would have to adjust your stitch length to the correct size. Usually for sewing straight hems and seams, a setting of 2 would work well. For gathering, a setting of 4 or 5 is required. For button holes, you would need to do a small stitch. It really depends on the exact project that you want to make.

I’m hoping this article is helping in making sense of the different stitches that are available. There are tons of research and articles out there on sewing machine basic stitch settings. As usual, happy sewing!

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