Friday, January 12, 2018

Very Beginning Sewing Lesson #6 (Stitch Length and Width)

Most sewing machines have a way to adjust stitch width and stitch length.  Some machines will only do a straight stitch, so they only have stitch length.  Adjusting the stitch length determines how far apart your stitches are.  The largest distance between stitches would be for a basting stitch, so it is easily removed.  A small stitch length would be when the stitches are so close together that they are difficult to remove, which is a good thing at the end of a dart, around a sharp angle or at the beginning and end of seams so they don't come apart.  Quilters also use a small stitch length because their seam allowances are only 1/4", and this helps to hold them, even on small pieces of fabric.

The average stitch length is about 2.5, which comes out to be 10-12 stitches per inch.  For a basting stitch you may use 4, for piecing a quilt maybe 1.8.  If your machine has different numbers for you to choose from it may be an older machine, so refer to your manual or experiment with your machine to see what stitch length  you wan to use.

When your machine has a zig-zag stitch or decorative stitches you can adjust how wide those stitches are.  Also, on some machines, you can move the needle position by adjusting the stitch width and keeping it set to a straight stitch.  This means that you can have the needle come down to the right or left of the usual center needle position.  Of course, the presser foot you use has to have some width to the hole for the needle or else the needle will hit your foot.  Also, some machines have multiple needle plates.  That is the plate that surrounds your feed dogs, and has the hole that your needle goes down into when you are making stitch.  Some of those needle plates only have a small round hole for straight stitches in the center needle position.  If you want to adjust your stitch width you need to make sure the needle plate you have on your machine has an oval hole for the needle to go into, rather than a round hole.

If you can't find a way to adjust stitch width and stitch length, and you have looked in your manual, don't fret.  Some basic machines have this built in so that when you choose your stitch you also choose your stitch length and width (the Janome Jem Gold for example).

Get to know your machine and try all the different options you have for stitch choices and how you can change the way they look by adjusting the length and width.  Knowing exactly what your machine can do will give you confidence to try more things!

Happy Sewing!


  1. I love the detail. Great job organizing this into lessons! I wouldn’t know where to start!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Very good advice about knowing your machine. Guilty of just jumping in then having a mess to rip out. On my old machine, do you know how many needles I broke, because I forgot to change the plate? Oh ya, I'm ditzy like that. LOL


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