Stitching a nice straight seam is important, but sometimes you want to break out of the box. For you, there is the liberation of decorative stitches. Imagine it; you just push the foot control and out come swirls, leaves or diamonds in a row. I love to break them out for cool accents on pillow fronts and linens, but they also have their practical uses, like hiding seams or mistakes.
There are a wide range of decorative stitches available on sewing machines today. In general, as you go up the "bells and whistles" scale on machines, more decorative stitches are included. Basic machines traditionally offer just basic stitches, like a zig zag and satin stitch. Mid-range machines often include stitch packages of 20-40 decorative options. Really advanced machines will offer dozens and dozens of stitches, plus alphabets and even memory capabilities so you can create and save stitch combinations: star-leaf-star-diamond-paisley-star-leaf-star-diamond-paisley ...
If you want to drool over a truly amazing set of stitch and design options, take a look at the stitch chart for Janome's top-of-the-line Memory Craft 11000 Special Edition. Wipe you chin when you return.
Decorative Stitching Tips
Sewing with decorative stitches is different than sewing a traditional seam because the point is to see the stitches when you are done. Because of this, they require some extra attention. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Create guide lines on your fabrics. Decorative stitches don't sew straight – the needle often moves right, left and backwards as the machine creates each stitch, so it can be difficult to keep the stitches in a straight line. Following a guide line will help you to keep things straight. Using a clear ruler, decide exactly where you want your line of decorative stitching to appear and draw a line right on the fabric. You need to use a special fabric marking pen that erases or washes away.
You may find it helpful to use a special foot when sewing with decorative stitches. One that is clear is good because the transparency of the foot allows you to see the stitches, for extra assurance that you are sewing exactly where you want to. Janome's satin stitch foot is a good choice.
When sewing decorative stitches, don't watch the needle; watch the foot. As I said above, the needle will move around quite a bit as the machine makes the stitch. The presser foot is your best guide for the placement of the stitch – the center of the foot will indicate where the center of each stitch will be sewn.
It's a good idea to use stabilizer when sewing decorative stitches, especially if you're working with a lightweight fabric. Like the name implies, stabilizer gives stability to your fabric, and keeps your stitches from bunching or distorting.
But the number one most important technique for sewing successfully with decorative stitches is: experimentation. Take some scraps of fabric and play!