In this article, you will learn the five keys to sewing pretty straight lines and how to make it happen from start to finish. First, you will practice using paper, and then using pretty fabric. You will also learn about the four types of straight stitching lines.
Sewing and driving a car have at least a couple of things in common:
- You need to know how to drive or sew straight ahead; and
- You need to know how to maneuver around curves.
So if you’re ready to take the “wheel” of your sewing machine, you need to start with learning how to sew straight ahead.
But before you take control of your sewing machine, let’s get familiar with…
Rule #1: If you want to sew lovely stitching lines, find the middle speed between painfully slow and breakneck fast. A good dressmaker knows that sewing at a moderate pace is one of the keys to pretty stitching lines.
Rule #2: As you sew, keep your fingers at least ONE inch away from the presser foot at all times! PLEASE, get in the practice of sewing safe right from the start.
Rule #3: When you’re stitching, you need to watch the raw edge of your fabric, not the sewing machine needle. Think about it this way: The needle isn’t going anywhere. But the fabric IS moving and you want to make sure that you can maintain an accurate seam allowance (SA).
Rule #4: Sewing is not a game of tug-of-war. Do NOT pull or push your fabric through your machine! Because this can result in ugly stitching, or, even worse, a broken, flying needle! Remember, it is the job of the feed dogs to feed the fabric through the machine, not you. Your job is simply to gently guide the fabric so that you maintain the proper SA.
Rule #5: Do NOT sew when you are exhausted — or drunk. Enough said.
How Fast Should You Sew
If you want to learn to sew, the first order of business is learning what moderate speed feels like.
To do this:
- Using the ball of your foot, press your foot pedal just enough to get your machine sewing.
- Now, press it all the way to the ground. This will give you an idea of how your machine feels at its slowest speed and at its fastest speed.
- Then, find the middle ground between the two extremes. This is the sweet spot that you will sew at from this point forward!
Sew easy tip: If your sewing machine has a speed control lever like my Janome DC2014, then you’ll be able to control how fast your machine sews when you press the foot pedal all the way. I love this feature!
Now is a good time to learn about the…
Four Types of Straight Stitches
There are essentially four types of straight stitches:
- Standard, general straight stitch: Stitch length of 2.0 to 2.5mm.
- Reinforcement straight stitch: Stitch length of 1.5mm. Used on areas of high stress such as the pivot area around corners, V-necks, armholes, crotches, etc.
- Basting stitch: Stitch length of 4.0 to 5.0mm. Used for basting and gathering.
- Topstitching: Stitch length of 3.0 to 4.0mm.
The next order of business is to learn how to sew a straight stitching line…
How to Sew a Straight Line
Or, just get yourself a piece of lined loose-leaf paper. And then, pretend that your piece of paper is actually fabric.
Now, if you’re ready, let’s start stitching…
- Install a new 80/12 or 90/14 Universal needle.
- Set your stitch length to 2.5mm.
- Set your tension to 4.
- Please take your sheet of lined paper and place it under your presser foot. Align it so that the needle is in line with the first line.
- Now, press your foot pedal and begin stitching a straight line. Just gently guide the paper as the feed dogs feed it through the machine.
And keep your fingers at least ONE inch from the presser foot. Please.
If you need to pause between stitches, remove your foot completely from the foot pedal. I don’t want you to accidentally set that needle in motion!
Practice with Pretty Fabric
Now, it’s time for things to get real…
I know people will tell you slum it and buy some cheap fabric like muslin to practice on. And you certainly can.
But I would urge you to spend a few extra dollars and buy a yard of medium-weight, quilting cotton that speaks to you. A piece of fabric you love touching and looking at.
Now that you’ve got your pretty fabric, let’s begin…
Step 1: First, wind your bobbin.
Step 2: Then, thread your machine. And install your bobbin and draw up your bobbin thread.
Step 3: Change your machine needle. The one you’ve used so far to practice on paper is dull. And we don’t sew with dull needles, do we?!
Step 4: Cut a double layer of fabric and press. You want to practice on a double layer of fabric to mimic real-life garment sewing.
Step 5: Raise your presser foot. And place your fabric underneath about ¼ inch from the raw edge.
Step 6: Line up the raw edge of your fabric on the right with the 5/8 inch seam line on your throat plate.
Step 7: To begin a stitching line and avoid a tangled bird’s nest, firmly but gently hold about four inches of the needle and the bobbin thread behind the presser foot and against the bed of your machine.
As you stitch forward, try to maintain a 5/8 inch seam allowance. To do so, keep your eye on the raw edge, not the needle.
Step 8: At the end of your stitching line, lift your presser foot.
Step 9: And finally, pull your fabric to the back and over to the left. Bring both the needle and bobbin threads up and over the built-in thread cutter. Or, you can snip them with your thread snips.
You can repeat this as many times as you want, just align the right edge of your presser foot with the previous line of stitching.
Please stand and do the very happy seamstress dance around the room. Because you’ve just sewn your very first stitching line on real fabric!
Sew easy tip #2: When you complete a stitching line, get in the habit of pressing the needle position button to raise your needle to its highest position. If your machine does NOT have this feature, then turn the handwheel towards you one full revolution until the needle and the takeup lever is in its highest position. This is how you complete a stitch and avoid tangled threads!
RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to sew a pretty plain seam!
Well, look at you…
You can now sew straight lines like a pro.
If you still feel a little unsure, just keep practicing until you get there. It is perfectly okay to go at your own pace. Just don’t ever give up, you hear!
Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!