So you’re ready to start sewing, and you're feeling pretty darn proud of yourself. Until you pull out your machine and notice a bunch of funny looking symbols printed along the top. Secret hieroglyphic messages from a lost race of master seamstresses? Unfortunately not. These are pictures of the stitches included on the machine. We’ll help you figure out what each of them means, and more importantly, when you should use them.
The first, most basic stitch is the straight stitch.
This stitch is used for all basic sewing. If you’re creating a simple hem or sewing two pieces of fabric together, this is the stitch you want to use. You'll notice the dotted line goes right through the middle of an oval. This oval is meant to represent the opening in your needle plate where the needle goes in and out. With a regular straight stitch, the needle hits right in the center of the opening and all seam measurements are calculated from this center point.
Zig Zag Stitch
The zig zag stitch is basically a straight stitch modified to contain some width.
This is the stitch you want to use for appliqué (sewing something on top of something else) or for buttonholes. You can also use this stitch like a straight stitch when you're working with knits, to allow some stretch in the seaming. The zig zag stitch can be loose, or you can shorten the stitch length to make it tight.
Blind Hem Stitch
This stitch is used for securing hems that shouldn’t be seen (hence, 'blind').
The stitches are sercured in the back of the fabric, which aren’t visible from the front. This is a great stitch for hemming drapes. It does require a special technique, which we cover in another article along with other suggested uses for this very cool stitch.
The basting stitch is just like the straight stitch, but set to an extra long length.
It's used to secure items together temporarily – so they stay in place as you plan for final sewing. The basting stitch can also be manipulated in a special way to create gathers. I talk more about gathering in another article. Gathering, like ruffles, not collecting your family members for a group photo.
Finally, this stitch is our defense against the raveling edge.
The overcast stitch is similar to the zig zag, but is normally used on the edge of a seam to prevent fabrics from fraying at the raw edges. It can also be used to finish a hem edge. Check the seams of some of your ready-to-wear knit clothing; you'll find an overcast edge that encapsulates the seam to prevent fraying.