Posted by dummies.com on September 24, 2014
Chances are that your sewing machine has a few tricks up its sleeve — stitches that you almost never think to use. Whether you're getting to know your machine for the first time or you're starting to take your trusty machine for granted, it's time to take a closer look at everything that sewing gizmo can do.
Figure 1 shows the very basic machine stitches. Of course, your machine may offer more, or fewer, of these stitches. Compare them with what's available on your sewing machine. You may find that you have more options than you realized!
Figure 1: Basic machine stitches.
Before taking your machine through its paces, you need to know how to select a stitch, set the stitch length, and set the stitch width.
If your sewing machine does more than straight stitch and zigzag, the machine must give you some way to select the stitch you want to use.
Older machines have dials, levers, buttons, or drop-in cams as stitch selectors.Newer, computerized models have keys or touch pads that not only select the stitch but also can automatically set the stitch length and width. You must consult the Operating Manual that comes with your sewing machine to get the specifics on how to select a stitch type.
The length of the stitch determines the stitch's durability. Short stitches (1 to 3 mm, 13 to 60 spi) are very strong and are meant to be permanent. Longer stitches are usually temporary or are used as a decorative topstitch.
Stitch length isdetermined by the distance the feed dogs move the fabric under the needle. When the feed dogs move with shorter strokes, stitches are short. When they move with longer strokes, stitches are longer.
Feed dogs, sometimes referred to as "feed teeth," are teeth or pads that move the fabric through the machine. The fabric is sandwiched between the presser foot and the feed dogs, and as the needle stitches up and down, the feed dogs grab the fabric and move it under the foot. Feed dogs are not built-in alarms that remind you to stop sewing long enough to feed your pets and family. But, please, don't get so wrapped up in providing clothing that you forget about food and shelter!
Stitch length is measured two different ways — in millimeters (mm) and in stitches per inch (spi). The setting used depends on the brand and model of your machine. Check out Table 1 if you want to compare stitch length in millimeters to stitch length in inches.
Table 1 Converting Stitch Lengths
|Stitch Length in Millimeters||Stitch Length in Stitches per Inch|
|0.5||60 (fine setting)|
Use the following as a general rule for stitch lengths:
The stitch-width control sets the distance the needle moves from side to side while creating a stitch. You don't need to worry about the stitch width when sewing straight stitches — just set it to 0 (zero).
All machines measure the stitch width in millimeters (mm). Some makes and models have a maximum stitch width of 4 to 6 mm. Others create stitches as wide as 9 mm.
Is wider better? When it comes to decorative stitches, it usually is. A 5- to 6-mm width is sufficient for most stitches where you're overcasting the raw edge, blind hemming, or making buttonholes.
You use this simple technique to tack down facings and to tack up a quick cuff or hem. All you do is follow these steps:
1. Place the crack of the seam right side up and perpendicular to the presser foot so that the needle is poised over the seamline.
2. Using a straight stitch, sew so that the stitches bury themselves in the crack of the seam.
Instead of backstitching, pull threads to the wrong side of the project and tie them off.
Topstitching is an extra line of stitching sewn on the right side of the fabric that parallels a seamline or is used to sew a hem. Topstitching is usually visible on a project, so it needs to look good.
Your pattern instructions tell you exactly where on the project to topstitch. To topstitch, simply place the project under the needle, right side up, and stitch at the specified location. Because topstitching is usually an important part of the overall garment design, you usually want to tie off the threads rather than backstitch.
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