Basic Construction--Stitching by Machine

After laying out your pattern and cutting and marking the pieces, you're ready to sew. Both machine and hand stitching are involved in most projects. The machine stitching described in this lesson is used on seams, darts, and facings. Machine stitches can also be used to finish seam edges, insert zippers, create buttonholes, and attach trims.


The stitch length you choose depends on the purpose. A medium length is common for most stitching. Basting stitches are very long, while reinforcement stitches are very short. See Fgr. below

1 Stitch Lengths

• Standard stitching. Use these stitches for permanent seams and construction details. For most fabrics, 10 to 12 stitches per inch (2 to 2.5 mm in length) work well. Finer fabrics take a shorter stitch of 12 to 15 stitches per inch (1.5 to 2 mm in length). Heavy fabrics need a longer stitch of 8 to 10 stitches per inch (2.5 to 3 mm in length).

• Basting. Machine basting temporarily holds two or more pieces of fabric together until they're permanently stitched. It can also be used on a single layer of fabric for easing, gathering, and marking guidelines. Use a very long stitch of 6 stitches per inch (2.5 cm in length).

Decrease the upper tension one or two settings for easy removal of basting stitches.

• Reinforcement stitching. These stitches add strength to areas that will be trimmed or clipped close to the stitching. Use a very short stitch, 15 to 20 stitches per inch (2.5 cm in length), to hold the fabric yarns in place.


Stitching guidelines. As you stitch, keep your eyes on the fabric edge and guideline marking-not on the needle. Guide the fabric with your fingers, without pushing or pulling the fabric. As you come to a corner, curve, or the end of a seam, slow down the machine's speed. If you're having trouble with the tension or stitch quality, try a new needle. A good guideline is to use a new needle on every project.


2 Stay-Stitching

3 Directional Stitching


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Wiki Sewing


Pinning is a fast way to temporarily hold the fabric where it needs to be while you sew it in place. Keep the fabric smooth and the pins out of the way of the sewing machine needle.

Position the fabric layers and weave the pin into and out of the fabric with the point of the pin toward the area you'll be sewing. Never place pins in the line you'll be sewing.

Use pins to align dots on a pattern by placing the pin in one dot and then the dot on the other side before weaving the pin back into the fabric. Pinning the fabric will temporarily hold it in place for you to baste. Always remove the pins before sewing at the sewing machine or remove the pins as you approach them.

The needle might break if it hits a pin.

TIP: Pinning Delicate Fabric

Pins can leave holes and snags in delicate fabrics. Try silk pins and pin in seam allowances whenever possible to avoid dam aging the visible side of the fabric.

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To complete a project, you're likely to use a number of machine stitches, each with a specific purpose. Since you'll see the names often in directions, you'll want to become familiar with these stitches.

• Stay-stitching. Prevents stretching as you handle fabric. This stitching is placed along bias and curved edges. See Fgr. 2.It's added after fabric is marked and before pinning, basting, and permanent stitching. Stay-stitches belong on a single layer of fabric 1/8 inch (3 mm) away from the seam line and within the seam allowance. Use standard machine stitching and stitch directionally. Stay-stitching can act as a guideline for clipping and joining curved edges.

• Directional stitching. Helps prevent a seam from stretching or changing shape as you stitch. Directional stitching is produced by stitching with, or in the same direction as, the fabric grain. See Fgr. 3. To determine grain direction, run your finger along the fabric edge. The direction that smoothes the yarns against the fabric is with the grain. Stitch in this direction. If you stitch from the wide part of a fabric section to the narrow part, you'll be stitching with the grain in most situations.

Seams on straight grain can be stitched in either direction.

• Standard seam stitching. Produces a seam that's 5/8 inch (1.5 cm) wide. This stitching is used on almost all patterns. If another seam width is needed, it's marked on the pattern piece.

• Backstitching. Secures the ends of a row of stitching. To backstitch, begin stitching 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) in from the beginning of the stitching line.

Stitch backward to the edge of the fabric; then stitch forward over the stitches you just made. See Fgr. 4. Continue stitching the seam, and backstitch at the other end for 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) exactly over the first stitching.

4 Backstitching



Stitch direction. On a conventional machine, the top fabric layer always feeds slightly faster than the bottom layer.

Therefore, you should stitch with the grain whenever possible. With a serger, you can stitch a seam in any direction.

The serger's presser foot has a firmer pressure, and the loopers interlock the threads across the fabric and along the length of the fabric. Thus, shifting is eliminated on most fabrics.


• Understitching. Keeps the facing or the bottom layer of fabric rolled out of sight. You can create this stitch with standard stitching.

Stitch from the right side, through the facing and seam allowances, 1/8 inch (3 mm) from the seam line.

See Fgr. 5.

5 Understitching

• Topstitching. Provides decorative or functional stitching when placed on the outside of a garment. Topstitching outlines seams, secures facings, attaches pockets, stitches pleats, and holds hems. See Fgr. 6. Using either matching or contrasting thread, stitch on the right side of the fabric with a slightly longer stitch length of 8 to 10 stitches per inch (2.5 cm in length). To keep topstitching even, use the edge of the presser foot, guideline markings, or sewing tape as a guide. See Fgr. 7.

6 Topstitching on Garment

7 Using Guides to Topstitch

8 Edgestitching

• Edgestitching. Holds fabric and seams tightly in place. This row of topstitching is placed very close to a finished edge. See Fgr. 8. You can use edgestitching in many places, such as on zippers and neck edges.

• Stitch-in-the-ditch. Holds two or more layers of fabric together at the seams. With this technique, you can secure neckline, armhole, or waistband facings, as well as fold-up cuffs. This row of standard machine stitching is placed on the outside of a garment in the groove of a seam line. On the outside, stitch directly in the seam groove through all layers of fabric. See Fgr. 9.

9 Stitch-in-the-Ditch

• Zigzag stitching. Used to finish seams, stitch buttonholes, attach cording and elastic, and create decorative designs. See Fgr. 10.

Both the length and width of a zigzag stitch can be adjusted. The stitch can range from very narrow and closely spaced for a satin stitch to very wide and far apart for a seam finish. Most machines can do zigzag stitching.

10 Zigzag Stitching

• Specialty stitches. Serve many purposes, especially decorative, when available on a machine. Refer to your sewing machine manual for specific directions.



For a smooth start, serge a 3- to 4-inch (7.5- to 10-cm) thread chain. See Fgr. A. Then place the fabric in front of the presser foot, aligning the seam line with the needles. The presser foot can be left in the down position because the feed dogs will pull the fabric under the presser foot.

Always remove pins before the knife reaches them. See Fgr. B. For long seams, place the pins at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the cut edge and parallel to the seam line. Then the pins will not come near the cutting blades. See Fgr. C.

To end the stitching, serge off the fabric for about 5 to 6 inches (12.5 to 15 cm). This is called chaining off. Without raising the presser foot, bring the chain and the fabric around so the chain crosses in front of the knife. See Fgr. D. Stitch for a few more seconds so that the knives automatically cut the thread chain.

A. Starting to Serge B. Removing Pins C. Placing Pins on Long Seams D. Ending Stitching

Fgr p504

Removing Stitches

Most serging involves more than two threads. To remove stitches, a seam rip per can be used to cut through the looper threads so the other threads pull free.

Sometimes the needle threads can be gently pulled out, freeing the looper threads. Pulling on the looper thread at the end of the stitching line can unravel a serger chain stitch.

Fgr p505



Before you begin to sew, always check the machine. Practice sewing on two layers of scrap fabric to make sure everything is set correctly and working well. Here's a checklist to follow.

• Is the stitch length correct?

• Are stitches the correct width?

• Is the tension producing an even stitch?

• Is the needle smooth and straight?

• Has the needle been inserted properly?

• Is the presser foot firm and tight?

• Has the bobbin been inserted properly into the case?

• Was the wheel knob tightened after winding the bobbin?


11 Using a Seam Ripper

12 Pulling Out Threads

With your machine in working order, you can start putting a project together. Many experienced sewers recommend unit construction for assembling a project. With this method, you complete individual parts as fully as possible before sewing them together. Because you work on small areas first, they're easier to handle and you can press each part before seams are added.

To do unit construction, first complete all stay stitching. Next, sew any darts, gathers, tucks, or pleats on each piece. Such details as buttonholes and plackets can be completed on small sections.

Interfacing can be applied. Then all pieces are carefully pressed before combining them.


Mistakes do happen. To rip out stitches, use a seam ripper, thread clippers, or small scissors. Cut threads about every 2 inches (5 cm) along one side of the fabric. See Fgr. 11. Pull the thread out on the other side, and then remove the short threads from the clipped side. See Fgr. 12.

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Friday, 2012-06-01 11:23