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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Technique Tuesday: Zig Zag Stitching

When I purchased my first sewing machine, I was so confused by all of the stitches that came standard on my sewing machine.  They were a major selling point for me, but once I opened the box, I had no idea what I'd ever use many of them for.  Three years later, and I've discovered many useful applications for many of the stitches.  Today we're just going to talk about a few of them...mainly the zig zag stitches.

There are three main zig zag stitches that are found on most sewing machines: The standard zig zag, a narrow zig zag stitch, and a two or three point zig zag stitch.  So they sound similar, and they look similar, so why would one need three different stitches?  Well, you probably could get away with a standard zig zag stitch, but having the additional stitches really can come in handy.  

So let's get down to the nitty gritty shall we...

The standard zig zag stitch: can be used to do a variety of things, including but not limited to: overcasting raw edges, attaching appliques, working with stretch fabrics, and creating decorative details.

Three Point Zig Zag Stitch: Overcasting on stretch or medium weight fabrics, darning, attaching elastics (Sheer Thing Skirt). I use it most often when attaching elastics.  The multiple stitches in the zig zag help the seam hold up to greater stress and strain.

Narrow Zig Zag Stitch:Sewing stretch fabrics, and creating decorative details.  Because this stitch is narrow, you can sew seams on stretch fabrics with it.  The angle of the stitches prevents the thread from breaking as the fabric stretches, and the seam is stressed.  I used the narrow zig zag stitch on the side seams of my swimming suit.  I also like to use it when sewing with knit fabrics.

If your sewing machine doesn't offer three point or narrow zig zag stitches, you can generally adjust the stitch to meet your needs.  By adjusting both the stitch length and width, you can create a large variety of stitches to meet your sewing needs.

Decorative Application

By shortening the stitch down to next to nothing, you can create a satin stitch.  Satin stitches are often used as decorative details (especially when done using specialty threads).  The stitches fall right next to one another, creating a satin like appearance.

Practical Overcasting Application

Before I had a serger I had a sewing machine, and my good ol' zig zag stitch was my best friend as I finished off the raw edges of my fabrics.  To do so, you just want to make sure that the needle drops just off the side of your fabric when it is in the right position.  In this case, my zig zag stitch is at it's preset settings.

Overcasting raw edges prevents fraying and gives the garment or project a more polished finish.

Appliques can be attached to projects by using an overcast zig zag stitch.  The stitch length and width can be adjusted to fit the size and shape of the applique.  In this case I narrowed the stitch, but didn't shorten the stitch length much.  If your fabric frays easily, you may want to shorten it to create more of a satin stitch.

 Hope that helps understand a few practical applications of the zig zag stitches.  What do you use your zig zag stitches for?  Any particular projects, techniques, or materials that you like to use them for?


Tara Knight said...

Zig great post! I didn't know about the narrow zig zag, I love the 3 point though I use it all the time!

Betty Minnes said...

Thanks for the tutorial. Very helpful pictures.

GracefullyCreated said...

Thanks for the tutorial, I don't have the narrow zig-zag on my machine, it looks very usefull, When I try doing overcasting though My thread always gets tangled, any advice on that?

Lisa Johnson said...

I have needed to learn to zig-zag stitch! Thanks!

Emily said...

Nice! I also like the labels on your pictures. :) I only have one zigzag stitch and I use it on the edges of every seam (since I don't have a serger) and anytime I'm sewing with knits or elastics. One of these days I will applique something. :)

Laura Bray said...

Thanks for the tutorial! I'm just starting to venture into using different stitches on my sewing machine and this is super helpful!