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Sewing Machine Basics for Beginners

machine sewing sewing techniques

If you're new to machine sewing, these basic sewing machine techniques are the perfect introduction. They will also come in handy for this week's project, which we will be up this Friday ready for some weekend crafting!


Stitching plain seams

Most seams are sewn with a straight stitch on your machine. The most popular is the plain seam, in which the seam allowances are pressed open. To stop a seam from splitting open, you will need to secure the ends of the stitching at the start and finish of each seam, either by reverse stitching, which is the stronger method, or by tying the thread ends together, which gives a neater, flatter finish. Here is how to stitch a simple seam using each of these methods.



machine stitching techniques

Pin and then baste the fabric pieces, then place them under the machine foot, lining up the raw edges with the correct seam guideline. Position the needle on the seamline about ½ in. (1.2cm) from the top edge, and lower the presser foot. Set your machine to reverse, and then stitch backward, almost to the top edge. Change the setting to stitch forward, and stitch along the seamline to the lower edge, keeping the raw edges on the guideline. Set the machine to reverse once again and stitch backward for ½ in. (1.2cm) up the seamline. Cut the threads close to the stitching.

Note: In this diagram we show the reverse stitching alongside the forward stitching, but this is only to make it visible in the diagram. Reverse stitching is actually done in line with the forward stitching.


machine stitching techniques 2

Pin and baste the fabric pieces together, then place them under the machine foot, lining up the raw edges with the correct seam guideline. Leaving long thread ends at the top edge, stitch along the seamline from top to bottom. Cut the threads, leaving long ends. At one end, pull on the upper thread to bring a loop of the lower thread to the top of the fabric; use a pin to pull the lower thread through completely, and then tie the ends together in a square (reef) knot. Repeat at the other end of the seamline and cut off the excess thread.


Zigzag stitch

machine stitching techniques 3

This machine stitch can be used on most woven fabrics. It is the fastest way to finish a raw edge, leaving it neat and flat. As well as seam allowances, it is suitable for other raw edges, such as hems or the edges of any facing.

Using the normal zigzag foot, stitch on a scrap of your fabric before you begin, to double-check the stitch tension and make sure that it doesn’t roll up the fabric edges.

Set your stitch for a medium-width and short-length zigzag, then stitch 1/8in. (3mm) from the edge of the seam allowance. Trim away the outer edge of the fabric, close to the zigzag stitching.


For more machine sewing techniques and beginner's projects, check out Learn to Sew by Emma Hardy.


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