How to pin
Usually you’ll be pinning two pieces of fabric right sides together. Place your pins about a half an inch away
from the edge of your fabric. And you can place pins into your fabric either parallel to the edge or
perpendicular to it.
Be sure to remove each pin before it reaches your machine needle. Sewing over a pin could damage your Seam Allowances
machine or break the needle, which could be dangerous.
The seam allowance is the distance you sew your seam from the raw edge of your fabric. Most patterns are
designed with a 5/8” seam allowance (check your pattern instructions to be sure). Therefore, you’ll be
stitching 5/8” from the raw edge of your fabric unless otherwise instructed.
Most machines have seam guides – lines etched into the throat plate (the metal part that sits beneath your
presser foot) to help you sew straight seams. As you sew, just place the raw edge of your fabric against
the appropriate seam guide.
If your machine doesn’t have seam guides, you can make your own by sticking a piece of tape onto your
throat plate, with the edge of the tape 5/8” from the needle.
This is just sewing in a straight line.
One way to practice stitching straight is to sew along the printed lines of a piece of notebook paper with an
Practice stitching before making your first project. Take a good-sized square of cheap fabric, fold it in half,
and just sew. Experiment with all the different types of stitches your sewing machine can make, adjusting
both length and width.
And as you start to sew a new seam, pull the two thread tails away from you for your first couple of
stitches. This helps keep the front edge of your fabric from getting pushed down into the throat plate by
the needle and possibly jamming the machine.
Sometimes you’ll need to stitch fabric sections together temporarily. You can do this with a basting stitch -
a straight stitch that has a very long stitch length. The longer length of these stitches makes them easy to
remove. Try the longest stitch setting on your machine for basting.
Ending a Row of Stitching
At the end of a row of stitching, you’ll usually want to anchor your seam to keep it from coming loose. The
most common way to do this is to backstitch. After making your last stitch, stop, leave your presser foot
down and put your machine into reverse. Sew two to four stitches in the opposite direction.
Stitching Around Curves
Curves can be a bit tricky to navigate. When you stitch a curved edge, it’s important to make sure the raw
edge of your fabric stays at the seam guide. Take your time around curves until your skill develops. And
although it can be tempting, don’t stretch an inner curved piece of fabric into a straight edge to make it
easier to sew. You’ll end up stretching your fabric out of shape.
To stitch a corner, as you come to it, slow down and stop 5/8” (or whatever your seam allowance is) from
the edge of your fabric. Leave your machine needle down in your fabric, lift your presser foot, and pivot
(turn) your fabric until the next fabric edge is against your seam guide. Place your presser foot back down
and continue sewing.
For stitching a very deep angle that will be turned, such as in a shirt collar, stop stitching slightly more than
5/8” (or whatever your seam allowance is) from the edge of your fabric. Leave your needle down in the
fabric, lift your presser foot, and pivot your fabric about forty five degrees. Put your presser foot down and
make one to two stitches. Leave your needle down in your fabric, lift your presser foot again, and pivot
your fabric until the next fabric edge is against your seam guide. Put your presser foot down and continue
sewing. The stitching will be squared off at the tip of the corner instead of coming to a sharp point. This
actually helps create a sharper point once your item is turned right side out.
A zigzag stitch is created when your machine needle makes a side-to-side motion while your fabric moves
forward. It can be used for decorative topstitching, to finish a raw edge, or as a stretch stitch when sewing
knits. You can use a fine, dense zigzag stitch to make buttonholes if your sewing machine doesn’t have a
buttonhole stitch. Both the length and the width of a zigzag stitch are usually adjustable.
Learn to Sew Lesson #10: Learn to Stitch
|Sewing Information, Advice, How-to