5 Best Sewing Machine Stitches

When purchasing a sewing machine, it’s important to opt for the model with the most features within your budget. Higher-end machines typically offer a wider array of Sewing Machine Stitches options. But once you have all these stitches at your fingertips, how do you know which ones to use and when?

Before diving into any project, it’s crucial to test your chosen stitch on a scrap piece of fabric. For instance, if you’re working on a garment with a continuous neckline, you’ll want to ensure the stitches align properly at the end. Practicing on a similar length of scrap fabric is the best way to guarantee precise stitch placement. 

Let’s explore the five essential stitch types you should be familiar with when operating your sewing machine.

5 Best Sewing Machine Stitches

1. Fancy Stitches

 While many sewists don’t utilize all the decorative options their machines offer, these stitches allow for boundless creativity. Experimenting with various thread types can expand your decorative stitching repertoire. For example, using a lighter weight thread in the bobbin when sewing decorative patterns can help prevent heavy thread buildup on either side of the fabric.

In many instances, you may need to use stabilizers – backing materials that prevent fabric from puckering or stretching during stitching – to achieve smooth, consistent decorative work.

Removing Fancy Stitches

Keep in mind that many decorative stitches are densely sewn and can be challenging to remove if you’re unsatisfied with the result. Always test your chosen fabric, thread, and stitch combination on a sample before applying it to your project.

2. Basic Straight Stitch 

The straight stitch is the workhorse of construction sewing. It creates a strong, linear seam with an upper thread and a bobbin thread interlocking at regular intervals.

You can modify a straight stitch by adjusting its length. Shorter stitches create a tight seam that’s harder to remove, while longer stitches are easier to undo. The longest straight stitch is typically used for basting and is designed to be temporary.

 If you notice your fabric puckering with a straight stitch, try increasing the stitch length. Thread tension can be adjusted via the upper thread mechanism on your machine and the screw on the bobbin case. Always consult your machine’s manual before making any adjustments.

Many machines allow you to change the needle position when using a straight stitch. This feature enables you to alter your sewing guide, ensuring straight lines exactly where you want them. The range of needle positions varies by machine model, with most offering at least three options: left, center, and right.

3. Zigzag Stitch

 The zigzag stitch resembles a continuous series of W shapes. It’s commonly used to enclose raw edges as a seam finish, preventing fraying by encasing the fabric’s edge within the stitch.

Both the length and width of a zigzag stitch can be adjusted. Shorter stitch lengths create a more compact W pattern, while the width setting determines how broad the W formation will be.

The zigzag stitch can also function as a stretch stitch when other options aren’t available. Using a narrow zigzag for seams allows the stitching to flex with stretchy or knit fabrics.

Manual buttonholes often employ zigzag stitches of varying widths and lengths. The reinforced ends (bar tacks) use a short, wide stitch, while the sides are created with a narrow, short stitch.

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4. Invisible Hem Stitch

 While not universal, the blind stitch is a common feature on many sewing machines. It’s used to create nearly invisible hems, potentially saving hours of hand-sewing time.

Your machine may offer both a straight blind stitch and a stretch blind stitch. The fabric type determines which version to use – stretchy fabrics require the stretch blind stitch, while woven or non-stretch fabrics use the straight version. For the best results, consult your machine’s manual for specific instructions on using the blind stitch.

5. Stretch Stitch 

Not all machines include built-in stretch stitches, though some offer several options. This stitch type is ideal for sewing stretch fabrics, as it allows for flexibility without thread breakage – a common issue when using regular straight stitches on stretchy materials. Stretch stitches are also useful for bias seams, which tend to stretch over time.

If your basic machine only offers straight and zigzag stitches, you can create a makeshift stretch stitch by using a narrow zigzag. Some machines may have a triple stretch setting (often indicated by three horizontal lines), which provides even greater elasticity for both thread and fabric.

FAQs About Sewing Machine Stitches

1. What are the 5 best sewing machine stitches for beginners?

The 5 best sewing machine stitches for beginners are typically:

  • Straight stitch
  • Zigzag stitch
  • Buttonhole stitch
  • Blind hem stitch
  • Overlock stitch These stitches cover a wide range of basic sewing needs and are easy to master.

2. How do I choose which stitch to use for my project?

Choosing the right stitch depends on your project’s needs:

  • Use a straight stitch for most seams and topstitching
  • Choose a zigzag stitch for stretchy fabrics or finishing raw edges
  • Select a buttonhole stitch for creating button closures
  • Pick a blind hem stitch for invisible hems on garments
  • Use an overlock stitch for finishing seams and preventing fraying

3. Can I create these 5 essential stitches on any sewing machine?

Most modern sewing machines can create these 5 essential stitches. However, some very basic or vintage machines may not have all of them. The straight stitch and zigzag are nearly universal. For the others:

  • Buttonhole stitches may be manual or automatic depending on your machine
  • Blind hem stitches are common but not on every machine
  • Overlock stitches might be called “mock overlock” on some machines, or you may need to use a combination of stitches to achieve a similar effect

Always check your machine’s manual to see which stitches are available and how to use them.

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