How to Understitch & Why You Need it in Your Sewing Arsenal

how to understitch

Do you know how to understitch? If you make clothing or other items that have a lining or a facing, then this is one technique you need to know.

It may sound intimidating, if you’ve never done it before. But it’s actually really easy.

What is an Understitch?

Understitching is a finishing technique for garments, handbags, and other items that have a lining or facing. Understitching keeps the lining or facing from peeking out and ruining the appearance of the item.

Essentially, an understitch is a line of stitches close to the edge of a facing that keeps that facing from rolling outward. You’re stitching the lining (or facing) to the seam allowances – both its own seam allowance and that of the outer fabric.

It’s not difficult to do, and it can make your finished garment look tidy and professional.

What You Will Need 

tools you need to understitch

Before you begin, collect your tools. 

Are you ready? Let’s learn to understitch!

Tips to Bear in Mind Before you Begin

Understitching isn’t hard, but there are a few tips and tricks that can help you to get more professional results.

First, grade the seam allowances. What does this mean? It means to trim them, but not to the same width. You’ll be trimming the seam allowance of the facing a bit closer to the seam than that of the outer fabric.

Next, keep your fabric taut while you understitch. While you’re stitching, gently pull the fabric to each side. This will keep the seam nice and flat.

Also, sew your understitching line parallel to your seam. No one is going to see your understitching line, but this step will give the item a tidier finish.

If you’re understitching a corner, sew into the corner, but never out of it. This means once you reach the corner itself, stop, back tack, cut your threads, and reposition the work to sew into the other corner. 

Step by Step Instructions

So, how do you understitch? We’re glad you asked.

Step 1: Attach Your Facing or Lining

Lay your facing piece and your outer piece together, right side to right side.


Now, stitch them together. 

understitch sewing machine

A ⅝ inch (0.625 inch, or 1.58 centimeters) seam allowance is considered the standard.

understitch sewing

Step 2: Press Your Seam

Press the seam allowance toward either the facing or the lining (your choice).

understitch press

Step 3: Trim Your Seam Edges

You’re going to be trimming the seam allowances closer to your stitch line. This will keep the seam from being bulky. 

understitch trim

Don’t trim them too close to the stitch line, because you’re going to need a bit of seam allowance yet for grading.

Step 4: Grade the Edges

“Grading” means trimming the seam allowances relative to one another. Specifically, you’ll be trimming the seam allowance of the facing closer to the stitch line than that of the outer fabric.

grade edge understitch

Step 4: Clip or Notch

If you’re sewing a curve, for example an arm hole or a round collar, clip the seam allowances close to, but not across, the stitch line. This will allow them to move as necessary.

clip notch understitch

Trimming, grading, and clipping are all important steps if you’re working with curves. Skipping ahead, you can see the difference that each step makes below.

Finished curve with clipping, grading, and notching.

curved understitch

Finished curve with no clipping, no grading, and no notching.

finished curve understitch

Finished curve with clipping, but no notching or grading.

understitch curve finished

Finished curve with clipping and grading, but no notching.

curve understitched notching

Step 4: Make Your Understitching

Stitch the lining or facing to both seam allowances. Make this line of stitching on the inside of your item. It will not show on the outside. Stitch between 0.125 inches (.32 centimeters) and 0.25 inches (.63 centimeters).

sewing understitch presser foot

Here’s what it will look like on the inside of your garment. This line of stitches should not show on the outside.

under stitch

Step 5: Press Again

Now press the facing toward the lining.

pressing an understitch

See how nice and neat it looks from the other side?

Here’s what it looks like on the outside of the garment.

finished understitch curve complete

Want to see the whole process from beginning to end? This video can show you how it’s done.

Final Thoughts

Understitching is one of those finishing touches that can make the difference between a homemade item that looks homemade, and one that looks professionally done. 

Do you have any tips for making understitching easier or more successful? We’d love to hear it!

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how to understitch guide
About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

Hemming A Dress By Hand: No Sewing Machine, No Problem!

how to hem a dress by hand

You’ve bought the perfect dress…if only it were a bit shorter. Or perhaps a lot shorter. But there you are without a machine. Don’t worry. It’s not hard to hem by hand. In fact, if you don’t sew regularly, hand sewn hems may even be quicker than machine sewing. 

Check it out.

Hemming a Dress by Hand, How Hard is it?

Sewing dress hems (and, by extension, making hems for your own pants) can be fast and easy, even with minimal sewing skills. But first, it’s important to have the right equipment. You should also understand how different types of hem stitches work. 

We have you covered.

What You’ll Need

Your essential equipment includes:

And, of course, your garment!

Step-by-Step Guide to Hand Hemming Your Dresses

In order to hand sew your new dress hem, you should familiarize yourself with some essential vocabulary.

Hand Stitch (Hand Sew)

To hand sew is to make stitches by hand, with a needle and thread, rather than by machine.

Hem Fold 

The folded hem edge, where the raw edge is turned up on the wrong side of the fabric, is also called the hem fold.

hem fold

Blind Hem

A blind hem is one that’s stitched in such a way that the stitches don’t show on the right side of the project. You can make this type of hem by hand or by machine. When hand stitching, you can achieve this effect with several different stitches.

blind hem

Slip Stitch

A slip stitch is sometimes called a blind stitch or a blind hem stitch, though it’s only one of several stitches that you can use to make an invisible hem. A slip stitch works well with any weight of fabric. 

You can learn how to make this stitch from this great tutorial on Youtube.

Catch Stitch

Catch Stitches are a special type of stitch for hand stitching an invisible hem on knit fabric. This technique produces slanted stitches that are visible on the fabric’s wrong side. This technique is for knit fabrics with a folded (not flat) finish.

Watch how to make a catch stitch here. 

Fell Stitch

The fell stitch is a strong, flexible, stitch often used for sewing linings inside garments. You can also use it for hemming. It’s a versatile technique that works well with any fabric weight. It’s not, however, appropriate for thread covered edges, such as serged edges.

This video shows you how to sew fell stitches.

Rolled Hem

A rolled hem is a finishing stitch that uses tiny stitches to roll the raw hem edge under as you sew. It’s a good stitch to use if you’re sewing silk, chiffon, or another fine fabric. Keep in mind that a rolled hem isn’t an invisible stitch, as the stitches are visible on the wrong side of the fabric.

rolled hem

A rolled hem is generally made with a serger or other machine, but you can also make a rolled hem by hand. You can watch how below.

How to Hem a Garment, Step by Step

Now, here’s how to hand stitch that hem.

Step 1: Mark the New Hem Edge

The first and probably most important step is to decide where you want your new hem to fall.

Try on your dress. Use your tailor chalk or a pin to mark where the new hem should fall. This is easier to do if you have someone to help you, but you can do it yourself if you’re careful.

mark hem

And speaking of careful, don’t cut just yet. You’ll need to allow yourself plenty of room to turn up the edges and finish your hem.

Take the dress off, turn it inside out, and mark your new hemline. 

mark inside hem

Use your ruler to make sure the new hemline is the same distance from the bottom edge all the way around.

measure hem distance

Step 2: Draw Another Line Two Inches Below the New Hemline

Now, use your ruler to make a mark two inches (five centimetres) below your new hemline. This will be the cutting edge — the very edge of your garment, which you’ll be turning up.

two inch hem

Once you’ve made your mark, use your ruler to mark a cut line all the way around the circumference of your hem.

mark the cutline of the hem

Step 3: Cut Away the Excess Fabric (if Necessary)

If you’re going to cut off excess fabric, this is the time to do it. Cut all the way around the circumference, along the cutting line that you marked in step 2.

cut the fabric along the mark

Step 4: Fold the New Hem Under and Tuck the Raw Edge

Now, fold the raw edge up about one inch, all the way around the bottom of the garment. Press the single fold into place with the iron. 

press raw edge of hem

Fold the fabric again the same way, again with a one inch seam allowance. Press again.

press hem again

Step 5: Pin the New Hemline in Place

Using your sewing pins, pin your new hemline in place.

pin your hem

Step 6: Thread Your Needle

Grasp the end of your thread and pull the thread out to arm length (any more, and you will have an unwieldy amount of excess thread). Thread it through the eye of your needle, pull it halfway through, and loop the ends into a thread knot.

make a knot

For my example, I’m using a contrasting thread because it’s easier to see. However, if I were sewing a real hem, I’d use a thread that’s similar in color to my fabric so that any stray stitches will be harder to see on the right side of the garment.

Step 7: Start sewing

First, decide which stitch you’re going to use to secure your hem:

  • Blind stitch (slip stitching)
  • Catch stitch
  • Felling stitch
  • Rolled hem

There are a few more options here.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use slip stitching.

Insert your needle at the side seam. This will give your stitches a firm foundation in a thicker part of the garment. At the same time, the seam will make your first stitch invisible on the outside of the garment.

make your first stitch

Pull the thread until the knot catches.

start stitching hem

Use your needle to pick up a few threads above the folded fabric edge and gently pull the thread through.

slip stitch for hem

Now, with your needle pointing to the left, pick up a tiny bit of the folded hem edge, and pull the thread through beneath the fold.

hemming by hand

Now go back and pick up a few threads above the folded edge, one quarter to one half inch from where the previous stitch ended.

Continue along in this way until your hem is finished.

Hand Hemming FAQs

It’s natural to have questions. Fortunately, we have answers!

What’s the Best Stitch to use When Hemming by Hand?

If you’re looking for an invisible finish on the right side of the fabric, slip stitching, fell stitching, and catch stitching can be great choices.

However, slip stitching is the most versatile, as it can be used on any fabric weight.

Are There any Fabrics You Can’t Hem by Hand?

Not really, though some fabrics may be more difficult to sew by hand than others.

However, there are a few fabric types that require special treatment.

Knit fabrics need a stitch like the catch stitch, which stretches with the fabric. This will help keep the thread from breaking.

Also, when working with ravel prone fabrics (fabrics where the edges fray easily), never try to work with a raw edge. Instead, fold the edge under and sew your hem on the fold.

Lightweight fabrics like silk and chiffon do well with a rolled hem or slip stitching.

Use a sharp needle with fabrics whose appearance or structural integrity may be compromised by needle holes.

The thickness of vinyl, as well as its vulnerability to needle damage can make it a hand sewing challenge. Use clips, rather than pins, to secure the layers. Pin holes can damage vinyl and make it prone to ripping. Use a sharp needle and a thimble to protect your thumb.

Finally, always choose your thread and needles carefully, as different fabrics work best with certain needle and thread types.

What Kind of Needle Should I Use for Hand Hemming?

This depends on your fabric. Just as you should take care selecting your machine needles, you should also be careful selecting a needle for hand sewing. And the principles are similar, too.

Use a ball point needle for knit fabrics and woven fabrics with a loose weave. A ball point needle has a blunt tip that won’t damage fibres as it passes through.

Thick fabrics like denim need very sharp needles. There are also special needles with a chisel point for hand sewing leather.

You’ll also find that hand needles come in a variety of thicknesses. In general, use thicker needles with heavier fabrics, and thinner needles with lighter weight fabrics.

What Kind of Thread Should I Use for Hand Sewn Hems?

When it comes to a successful hem, your thread choice can be as important as your needle choice.

With thread, it’s all about fiber content. Try to match synthetic fabrics with synthetic or partially synthetic threads (ie; polyester with polyester). Synthetic thread will stretch along with synthetic fibres, while a natural thread may break when stretched.

Likewise, choose natural threads for natural fiber fabrics.

Do I Need to Double Thread When Hand Hemming?

Not necessarily.

A good rule to remember is that you use a single thread when you don’t want the bulk of a double thread to ruin the appearance of your project. If you’re working with a light fabric like silk or chiffon, then you’ll probably want to use a single thread.

The purpose of a double thread is to provide strength and stability. You can already guess that if you’re putting a hem on a jeans skirt or something made from vinyl, a single thread probably isn’t going to hold. So in this case, a double thread is definitely the better choice.

Why does my Thread Keep Twisting?

We’ve all experienced it, and it’s super annoying. No matter how careful you might be, the thread twists and knots while you’re sewing.

Why does this happen?

Believe it or not, when most of us sew by hand, we unconsciously twist the needle a little bit every time we pick it up or put it down. To counteract this, try smoothing the thread out each time you pull it through.

And if the worst happens and you do get a knot, you can often loosen it with your fingers, or with the point of your needle.

No Sewing Machine? No Problem!

It’s pretty easy to hem your garments by hand. Now that you have this new technique in your arsenal, what will you do with it?

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hem a dress by hand
About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

How To Shorten A Dress: Temporary And Permanent Alterations

how to shorten a dress easily

A dress can be an incredibly versatile garment. It can be even more versatile if you know how to raise and lower the hem. If you know how to make a dress shorter without sewing, you can greatly expand your wardrobe without buying a thing.

And if you want a permanently shortened dress, we can help you with that too. 

Reasons Why You Might Want to Shorten a Dress

Why might you want to shorten a dress?

Well, let’s start with an obvious one. Most of us have a formal dress that we acquired for a prom, wedding, or other function. We justified the expense saying we’d wear it again, even knowing how unlikely that would actually be.

However, if you could convert that formal gown into a shorter dress, there are all sorts of occasions where you could wear it. You could, of course, shorten the dress permanently to the new desired length, or you could temporarily shorten it. 

Either way, that expensive formal gown can find a new life.

You might also find a dress or skirt that would be just perfect…if only it were a bit shorter. Or even a lot shorter. Knowing how to convert any dress or skirt to the desired length means that you can make it fit you.

How to Make a Dress Shorter Temporarily

There are several ways to alter the length of a dress without cutting it, and to make a temporary hem. From hem tape to safety pins, here are the tricks.

Hem Tape

So, you want to make a long dress shorter temporarily. Hem tape could be a solution. Iron-in hem tape is semi-permanent, but double sided removable fabric tape can give your old dress the quick change makeover that it needs.

Use a Belt

Would you like to know how to make a dress shorter without sewing or making a temporary hem? Simply belt the dress at your natural waist and pull the fabric up a few inches over the belt in the waist area. This works best with a maxi dress or other loose fitting dress.

Tie a Knot

Another way to shorten a loose-fitting dress without hemming it is to tie a knot at the hem or at the waist. You can make the new length pretty much as long as you like, and take it out when you’re done.

This video can give you a few ideas.

Secure with Safety Pins

Safety pins are another way to make a temporary hem. It doesn’t take very many safety pins to do the job. In fact, this video shows you how to do it with just a few safety pins.

The last thing anyone wants is a safety pin showing in their dress, so be sure to hide your safety pins in the waistband or side seams of your dress.

How to Permanently Shorten a Dress

Of course if you want a permanently shortened dress, that’s pretty easy, too. No machine? No problem! It’s pretty easy to hem that dress by hand.

Before You Begin

The first thing to do is to determine if your dress has a straight hem or a curved hem. You can make a shorter hem for either type of dress, but hemming a curved hem dress requires an extra step.

First, lay your dress flat. Now look at the bottom edge. Is it curved like this?

make a dress shorter

Or straight like this?

shorten dress

If your edge is curved, you’ll need to square it.

First, sew a line of long, loose basting stitches along the line where you want the new hem to be. You can do this by machine or by hand.

dress shortening

Next, gently pull the stitches until the side seams appear to be straight, parallel lines leading down to the bottom edge of your dress.

dress shorten simple

Now, flip your shortened hem up and secure it to the inner part of the dress with pins.

easy ways to shorten dress

Now you can complete the hem using one of the methods below.

Hand Hemming

Hemming your dress by hand may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not. In fact, if you’re not a regular sewing machine user, sewing by hand may be faster and easier.

Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Put on your dress.

Step 2: Use tailor chalk to mark where you want the new hem to be.

simple ways to shorten a dress

Step 3: Take the garment off, turn it inside out, and lay it flat.

Step 4: If you need to square the hem, use the method described above. If not, continue on to the next step.

Step 5: Turn the hem up along the chalk line. Secure it to the wrong side of the fabric with pins. Use a measuring tape to make sure that the hem is the same length all the way around.

how can you shorten a dress

Step 6: Press the new hem with an iron.

Step 7: If you’re shortening your dress by one inch (2.54 centimetres) or less, then you won’t need to cut. However, if you’re shortening by a lot, chalk a second line half an inch (1.27 centimetres) above the new hemline.

ways to shorten a dress

Step 8: If you’re cutting, cut along the new chalk line and remove the extra fabric.

dress shortening tips

Step 9: Fold the new edge under by a quarter inch (.635 centimetres), press with your iron, and secure with pins.

shorten dress pins

Step 10: Secure the two layers of the folded edge to the back of the fabric using a blind stitch, as shown in the video below.

Using a sewing machine

If you want more than a temporary fix, a sewing machine can help you to make a robust, permanent hem for your dress.

Prepare your garment as above. Square your hem if necessary, then follow steps 1 through 9.

Once you have the correct length, use your machine to stitch the hem to the inside of your dress. 

You can use a straight stitch if you don’t mind your stitching showing on the front. Some sewing machines also have a blind hem stitch, which is less visible.

Keep your seam ripper handy in case you make a mistake!

Fabric Glue

Some types of fabric glue make a permanent bond that’s ideal for hemming your garment to an ideal length.

To glue a shortened hem, first, square the hem if needed. Then follow steps 1 through 9 above.. 

Instead of sewing, apply the fabric glue per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Shortening Specific Dress Types

Many hems are fairly straightforward, but some types of dresses may require a few extra steps.

How to Shorten a Dress With a Curved Hem

A lot of loose, flowing dresses, for example prom dresses and maxi dresses, have a curved hem. Simply flipping the edge up and stitching a straight line can result in buckling and pleating. You can avoid this by squaring the edge to gather the extra fabric, as described above.

Remember to use a measuring tape to make sure that the new hem is the same length all the way around, before trimming away the excess fabric.

How to Shorten a Ruffled Dress

There are a few different ways to shorten a ruffled dress.

First, if the ruffle is on the bottom edge, and you don’t want to keep it, you can simply unpick the seam holding the ruffle to the dress, fold up the new edge, and sew, tape, or glue it into place.

If you do want to keep the bottom ruffle, but you want the dress to be shorter, then unpick the seam holding the ruffle, fold the raw edge back against the inner part of the dress, pin the ruffle back on, and secure according to one of the methods described above.

And if you want to shorten a dress without a ruffle, then add a ruffle to it, check out this video.

How to Make a High-Low Dress Shorter

Most dresses are one length all the way around the bottom. A 

A high low dress, aka a mullet dress or waterfall dress, has different lengths. That is, the hem is higher in some places than in others. Often, the hem is very high in front, and very low in the back. 

Making a new hem on a high low dress is easier in some ways than making a new hem on a regular skirt, and more difficult in other ways.

Have your measuring tape ready.

First, lay your dress out on a flat surface. You’ll want to lay it out so that the high edges meet the high edges, and the low edges meet the low edges. The hemline will have an “S” shape.

Next, mark your new hemline with pins. You might want to experiment a bit with the dress on, first, to find the perfect mix of high and low. Once you have the hemline where you want it, use your tailor chalk to mark a line half an inch below the pin line.

Now flip the dress over and chalk the new hemline on the other side.

Use scissors or a rotary cutter to cut along the chalk line.

Double fold the raw edge, pin, and press. Finish using one of the methods describe above.

You can also finish the raw edge with a serger, as in this video.

How to Shorten a Dress With Attached Lining

This is actually easier than it sounds, and there are a few ways to do it.

For the first method, unpick the hems of both the dress and the lining. If the lining is attached to the dress inside, unpick the stitches that hold it there. Fold or cut both the lining and the dress as needed, then re-hem both using one of the methods above.

Remember that the lining should be shorter than the dress itself.

This video shows another easy method.

How to Make a Tiered Dress Shorter

Many times you can simply unpick the seams holding the tiers. Once you have the length you want, secure the new edge using one of the above methods.

How to Shorten a Dress With a Zipper

If your alterations cross over a zipper, don’t worry. If you know how to shorten the zipper itself, it’s not that complicated.

Check this out.

Now that you understand the process, mark your zipper as directed in the video, and whipstitch the new end point. Make sure that the new end point is above the cut you’ll be making across the middle of the garment. 

Now shorten according to the directions for shortening from the middle (below).

Best Ways to Shorten a dress From the Middle

Sometimes it’s easier to shorten a dress from the middle than from the bottom. As with hemming from the bottom, this type of alteration can be permanent, or temporary (without sewing). [1]

First, put the dress on and figure out where you want the shortening line to be. Mark it with pins. Now flip the dress inside out, and use chalk to mark your line.

Now it’s time to choose your method.

Sew It

Cut along your chalk line. Shorten as desired, then re-attach the two pieces by sewing.

Tape It

Pinch the chalk line, and draw as much fabric into the fold as needed. Secure to the inside of the dress with tape.

Pin It

Exactly as above, but secure with safety pins.

Whatever your method, measure carefully to make sure your alteration is even.

Dress Shortening FAQs

Still have questions? We have answers!

Can You Remove Stitches Used to Shorten a Dress?

With your handy seam ripper, you can remove practically any stitches that you’ve sewn.

Can You use Regular Tape if You Haven’t Got Hem Tape?

That depends on the tape and the fabric.

Regular sticky tape may not be strong enough to hold heavy fabrics for a long time. Duct tape is strong enough, but it might not be the best choice for your garment. Some commercial double sided tapes work great. Experiment with what you have on hand to find the best fit.

Can a Short Dress be Formal?

It depends on the event and the host.

If a strict dress code isn’t specified, then an elegant shorter dress made from opulent materials may be appropriate. On the other hand, if a dress code is specified (for example black tie or white tie) then it’s best to follow the rules. [2]

That’s How to Shorten a Dress!

Did you like our alterations tutorial? Do you have ideas for more tips for our readers? Drop us a line!

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how to shorten a dress
About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

  1. Sewing Machine Buffs | How to Shorten Your Dress From the Middle |
  2. Sew Guide | Dress Code: The Basic 10 Dress Codes Defined |

How To Hem A Dress Without Sewing At All: No Needles Needed!

how to hem a dress without sewing

Making a skirt or dress shorter should be easy, but if you don’t know how to sew, or don’t have access to a sewing machine, it may not seem simple at all. 

Would you like to know how to hem a skirt or dress without sewing? 

There are actually several methods of no sew hemming that you can use to make that perfect dress perfect for you. 

Why Go Down the No-Sew Route?

Sewing your hem is a high quality, permanent solution to the problem. But there are times when you might not want to sew. And that’s okay.

No Machine

Not everyone has a sewing machine at home. Hemming by hand isn’t difficult (in fact, our article on hemming by hand shows you how), but it can be a bit of an ordeal, especially if you’re short on time.

You Need a Quick Fix

Sewing a hem can be time consuming, whether you do it by hand, with a simple slip stitch, or with a sewing machine. If you need that skirt or dress in an hour’s time, sewing it may not be the best way.

Lack of Confidence in Your Sewing Skills

We all know someone who grew up sewing, and can whip up amazing things from scratch. Most of us are not that person. 

Making a skirt or dress hem isn’t rocket science, but it does require some sewing skills, especially if you’re working with a stretchy, slippery, or delicate fabric.

If you’re not fully confident in your sewing abilities, don’t worry. There are other ways to shorten that hem, no sewing required.

You Only Want a Temporary Solution

Why might you want to temporarily shorten a garment? If you’re borrowing that skirt or dress from a taller friend, you don’t want to permanently alter it. 

Also, you can get extra wear out of formal dresses (think bridesmaid dress or prom dress) or your maxi dress by changing up the length.

The great thing about a temporary fix is that it’s, well, temporary.

Before You Start

Before you launch into your alteration, there are a few things to consider.

Hem Type

Do you know what kind of hem your garment has?

A skirt or dress may have a squared hem or a circular hem. A maxi skirt or maxi dress more often than not has a circular hem.

A squared hem means that the entire hem is a straight line. 

no sew hem

A circular hem means that it’s curved, as in this maxi dress.

curved maxi dress hem

Hemming a square hem is pretty straightforward, but hemming a circular hem requires an extra step.

To determine the shape of your hem, lay your garment flat. Now examine the edge. Is it a horizontal line, or is there a curve to it?

A round or curved hem may pleat if you try to hem it by simply turning up the edge. 

hem without sewing

Gathering the fabric before hemming can prevent this. Here’s how.

First, thread a needle. Baste along the bottom edge, one quarter inch (.63 centimeters). A basting stitch is a long stitch, rather than a tiny stitch. You can also machine baste if you prefer. Don’t worry about being tidy. You’ll be removing these stitches later.

no sewing hem

Gently gather the fabric. 

dress hemming no sewing

Fold the edge over to your desired hem length and distribute the gathers evenly. Your hem should now be a straight line.

create hem without sewing

Iron the crease of your hem. 

Now you’re ready to shorten your item in one of the ways described below. Once you’ve shortened it, you can remove the basting stitches.

Fabric Type

Garments come in a multitude of fabrics, and not every fabric is suited to every product or technique. Ask yourself:

  • Can my garment withstand the heat of an iron?
  • Will glue ruin the look, feel, or drape of my item?
  • Will pins leave marks in the fabric?

When in doubt, try out your technique on an inconspicuous part of your garment.

Three Ways to Hem a Dress Without Sewing

There are three basic ways to hem a dress without sewing. 


1. Hem Tape

Hem tape is one of the quickest and easiest ways to achieve that desired length. There are a couple of different products you can use, depending on how permanent a solution you’re looking for.

Iron-In Hem Tape

Fusible hem tape is a semi-permanent solution. It bonds two layers of fabric together using heat to melt a thin layer of plastic between them. In theory, you can pull the layers apart once the tape has cooled. In practice, however, you may risk damage to the garment.


  • Semi-permanent
  • Strong hold
  • Fast
  • Easy


  • Bond may be stronger in some places than in others
  • May leave a sticky residue or stain on the fabric
  • May be difficult to remove in some places
  • Use caution with sheer and lightweight fabric, or stretchy material
How to Use Fusible Hem Tape 

Hemming is always easier with a friend, but you can also do it alone, if you’re careful.

Your materials:

  • Your hem tape
  • Iron
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Measuring tape 
  • Sewing pins

Step by Step:

  1. Preheat your iron. Follow the tape manufacturer’s directions with regard to temperature.
  2. Put on the shoes that you’ll be wearing with the dress, skirt, or maxi skirt. This will ensure that you’re hemming the garment to the right height.
  3. Put the garment on. Stand with your feet flat on a flat surface. 
  4. Use the chalk to mark the bottom edge of your new hem. 
  5. Take the garment off and lay it on a flat surface.
  6. Decision point: If your garment has a rounded edge, follow the instructions in the previous section to deal with the excess fabric. Otherwise, continue to step 7.
  7. Fold the edge of your garment up to the desired length and secure with sewing pins.
  8. Use a measuring tape to make sure that your hem is the same all the way around the bottom. [image 7]
  9. Press the altered hem with your iron.
  10. Now, try the garment on to make sure the altered hem is exactly how you want it.
  11. Decision point: If you have a lot of extra length at the hem, you may want to carefully cut it away. Do this half an inch (1.2 centimetres) above the fold line, securing the alteration with pins before cutting. Fold the raw edge under for a double fold, and press. Now continue to the next step. 
  12. Cut a length of hem tape equal to the length of the hem, and insert it beneath the folded edge on the dress inside. 
  13. Press with the iron. You may want to use a pressing cloth to keep stray plastic off of the surface of your iron. 

Double Sided Sticky Tape

You can also use double sided sticky tape to make a dress shorter. Double sided sticky tape is a better solution if you know you’ll be taking your hems down again, and don’t want to damage the fabric.

This is a great way to give that bridesmaid dress a makeover for a less formal event. 


  • Super easy
  • Won’t damage most fabrics
  • Holds reasonably well
  • Truly temporary solution


  • Not suitable for sheer material 
How to Use Double Sided Sticky Tape

Follow steps 2 through 10 as above. 

Remove the covering from one side of the sticky tape, and place it on the wrong side of the fabric, sticky side down, lining the bottom edge of the tape up with the crease of the new hem. Press it down with your fingers. 

Remove the covering from the top of the sticky tape. Lay the folded edge over the sticky tape and press it down with your fingers.

Finished! No sewing required.

Everything you ever wanted to know about hem tape and more can be found in this helpful video.

2. Safety Pins

Yes, you can pin your hem up with safety pins! Just be careful that:

  • The pins won’t leave holes in the fabric (as they will with, for example, a satin bridesmaid dress)
  • Your alteration doesn’t show on the right side of the garment
  • You’re using safety pins, which lock, as opposed to straight pins, which may fall out, ruin the alteration, and poke you.


  • Super easy
  • Very temporary


  • Pins may damage some fabrics
  • Pins may show through the fabric
How to Alter a Hem with Safety Pins

First, complete steps 2 through 10 in the first section.

Next, pin your new hem in place. It may take a bit of practice to secure the shorter hem without the pins showing through on the right side.

Remember that a safety pin has a locking mechanism that will protect both you and your alteration.

3. Fabric Glue

There are two kinds of fabric glue you can use for a no-sew hem. As with hemming tape, the one to choose depends on how permanently you want to alter your garment. You can also use it to secure a raw edge.

Fabric glue creates a permanent or semi-permanent bond that can stand up to machine laundering. 

Basting glue washes out, so this is the better choice for a temporary alteration.


  • As temporary or as permanent as you want it to be
  • Easy to apply


  • Not all products may be suitable for all fabrics. Check the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
How to Use Fabric Glue

Follow steps 2 through 10 in the first section.

Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply glue to the crease of your new hem. Press it down gently with your fingers, and allow to dry.

Which No-Sew Method is Best for Hemming a Dress?

That really depends on how permanent you want the bond to be.

For a quick, temporary alteration that you plan to remove later, double sided sticky tape would be our choice. It’s fast, it’s super easy, and it won’t harm most fabrics.

For a more permanent solution, iron-in hem tape works a treat. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, check to see that the product you use is suitable for the fabric of your garment, and use a press cloth to protect your iron.

There you go: no sewing required!

Did you find our tutorial helpful? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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hem a dress without a sewing machine
About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

How To Hem A Dress With A Sewing Machine: Step-By-Step Guide

hemming a dress with a sewing machine

There are several ways for hemming a dress or skirt both temporarily and permanently. But if you want a lasting, high quality dress hem, a sewing machine is the fastest, easiest way to get it.

Can You Hem Dresses at Home?

Absolutely you can — whatever your sewing skills. And there are plenty of ways to do it, depending on your needs. 

This article will discuss altering dress and skirt hems with a sewing machine, but for other ideas, please check out our articles on temporary vs. permanent hem alterations and no-sew hemming techniques.

What You’ll Need to Hem Your Dress

Of course you’ll need a few things, first.


A hemming foot isn’t strictly necessary, but it can make the job quicker and easier. A hemming foot turns the raw edge under while you sew, saving you a step. You can see how it works in this video.

Likewise, bias tape is an extra that can give your finished garment a more professional finish, but you can certainly hem your dress without it.


You can simply turn your hem under and secure it. But there are a few techniques that can give your new hem edge a more professional finish.

Blind Hem Stitch

A blind hem stitch combines a straight stitch with a zigzag stitch to invisibly secure the folded edge of a hem to the skirt or dress inside. An intermittent tiny stitch is practically invisible on the right side of the garment. Here’s how it works.

Twin Needle Hems

A twin needle sews parallel rows of stitches. This can provide a professional-looking hem edge, though you may have to practice your technique a bit first. A twin needle can also be a good choice for hemming knit and stretch fabrics. You can see how it works in the video below.

Hem Tape

You can use double folded fabric tape for a more professional finish for your skirt or dress.

It can also help you to avoid puckering when you’re hemming a skirt or dress with a circular hem. We’ll discuss circular hems in a bit, but you can get a sneak peek in this video.

Here’s How to Hem a Dress With a Sewing Machine

If you can follow a recipe, you can follow these easy steps to hem your dress or skirt. 

Resist the temptation to skip steps and cut corners. Organization and preparation can mean the difference between a great hem and a ruined project.

Step 1: Determine What Type of Hem You Have

Some garments have a square, or straight hem. Others, such as a prom dress, maxi dress, or circle skirt, have a round, or curved hem.

hemming by machine

Hemming a square hem is straightforward, but hemming a curved hem requires an extra step to avoid puckering, creasing, and uneven hems.

sewing machine hem

Step 2: Choose Your New Hem Length

Put on the shoes you’re most likely to wear with your dress or skirt, and put the garment on. 

Stand on a flat, even surface. Measure from the top of the waistband to where you want your new hem to sit. Take the item off and mark the new line on the fabric with tailor chalk.

machine hem

Decision Point: Square the Hem Edge or No?

Lay your garment out flat, and examine the hem. Does it lay straight? Or does the hem have a curve?

If you’re working with a curved hem, mark your new hemline on the wrong side of your garment. Baste a line of stitches one half inch (1.27 centimetres) below that line. 

This will give you a quarter inch (.63 centimetres) seam allowance, plus another quarter inch to turn the rawn edge under.

Gently tug on the basting stitches in that area to gather the excess fabric. See how it’s done in the video below.

Step 3: Press and Pin Up the Bottom Edge

Turn your hem up along the fold line that you’ve marked with chalk. Measure around the entire hem to make sure that it’s even. Now use a sewing pin or two to pin the hem into place. 

sewing a hem with a machine

Press the new hem with your iron.

Decision Point: To Trim or Not to Trim?

If your raw edge is fairly small, turn it under and press, then fold it over again, pin, and press with your iron.

hemming a dress using sewing machine

However, if there’s a lot of extra fabric after you’ve secured your new hem, you might want to trim it off.

First, press the new hem edge. It should still be pinned in place.

pressing a sewn hem

Next, use a measuring tape and tailor chalk to mark the wrong side of the fabric, one half inch (1.27 centimetres) above the new hem edge.

hem sewn with sewing machine easy

Now, carefully cut along the chalk line.

cutting a hem

Turn the new raw edge under, press, and pin.

pinning a hem sewing machine

Decision Point: Bias Tape or No?

You can skip this extra step, but if you want a smooth, professional finish inside your garment, this is how to do it.

Open your double folded tape, and lay it along the bottom edge of your dress, right side to right side. Stitch parallel to the hem, one quarter inch (.63 centimetres) from the bottom edge.

Now, fold the tape over side hem. Fold the hem up to the desired length, and secure with pins.

Stitch along the top edge of the tape to form a new hem, which is covered by the tape. This will also cover the side seams, which gives them extra stability.

Watch the entire process here.

Step 4: Stitch Your New Hem Into Place

Now it’s time to stitch your new skirt or dress hem. Sew along the folded edge on the wrong side of your fabric. You can sew with a simple straight stitch, or you can use the two alternate techniques described above.

Dress hemming FAQs

Still have questions? We have answers!

How Hard is it to Hem a Dress Yourself?

Have you heard the expression ‘measure twice, cut once’? It’s true. Preparation is key. 

The truth is, it’s easy to hem a dress badly if you cut corners and skip steps. But if you work patiently and methodically, hemming a dress well isn’t that hard at all.

Here are a few hints.

  • Lay out your fabric and materials, so you’ll have everything to hand
  • Consider the fabric you’re working with and possible issues it may present
  • Make a plan
  • Pin, baste, and press to get everything the way you want it before cutting and sewing
  • Double check everything before making any permanent changes to the fabric

The extra steps may take time, but they’ll save you frustration, and possibly a ruined garment, in the end.

Which Type of Stitch is Best for Hemming Dresses?

90 percent of all sewing can be accomplished with a straight stitch, and that includes hems. A straight stitch works great for stable, medium weight fabrics. But some types of fabric work better with different techniques.

If your garment is made from a knit or stretch fabric, for example, a zigzag stitch is often the best choice. Unlike a straight stitch, zigzag stitching allows the fabric to stretch without breaking the threads. [1]

Stitching a blind hem is a good technique when you want to minimize the appearance of stitching on the right side of the fabric.

Using a double needle creates a professional looking double row of parallel stitching on the right side of the fabric.

How Do You Hem a Dress by Hand?

Hemming a dress by hand is very similar to making hems with a sewing machine. The fabric and garment preparation are the same. [2]

  • Measure and mark your new hemline
  • Square your round dress edge if necessary
  • Pin and press the hem along the new hemline, on the wrong side of the fabric
  • Cut if desired
  • Fold the raw edge of the fabric under once, or twice, as desired
  • Press and pin

Now here’s where the hemming process differs.

It’s pretty easy to hand sew blind hems using a slip stitch. The secret is sewing inside the fold. 

First, thread your needle with a single thread and knot it. Start with the needle inside the hem allowance fold.

machine a hem dress

Bring the needle out. Pick up just a few fibres from your fabric. If you do this carefully, your stitches will be practically invisible on the right side of the fabric.

sewing machine hem dress

Now bring the needle back inside the fold. Repeat the process until finished. It doesn’t take long. Depending on your garment, it could take less than half an hour.

hem dress sewing machine stitch

This video makes the process crystal clear.

Where Should a Dress Hem Fall?

The best thing about doing your own hemming is that the length is totally up to you.

Where would you like your skirt hem to fall? Do you like a higher hemline or a lower line?

Experiment with different skirt lengths by pinning the hem in different places. Which length looks best on you?

That’s How to Hem a Dress at Home!

Hemming a skirt or dress at home may sound complicated, but if you make a plan, prepare your materials, and proceed step by step, it may be easier than you think. And it may not take very long at all.

Did you find our skirt hemming tutorial helpful? Tell us about it!

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About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

  1. Craftsy | Stretch Your Skills: How to Hem Knit Fabric Five Different Ways |
  2. WikiHow | How to Hem a Dress by Hand |

What Is Stay Stitching And How Do You Sew A Stay Stitch

what is stay stitching

Stay stitching is a stabilizing technique for curved areas and ravel-prone fabrics. It’s an invaluable technique for sewing necklines, armholes, and other important parts of a garment, as well as for stabilizing edges.

If you know how to stay stitch, you can help your pattern pieces to retain their form and avoid distortion.

What is Stay Stitching?

Stay stitches are a line of straight stitch sewn along a curved or bias edge. The stitches keep woven fabric from stretching, and help to prevent distortion of your fabric pieces. Knit fabric doesn’t need to be stay stitched, as it has no bias.

Stay stitching isn’t visible in the final product; rather it’s sewn into the sewing line. Stay stitching is only necessary on a single layer of fabric.

You can do your stay stitching by hand or with a sewing machine.

Where is Stay Stitching Most Often Used?

Use a stay stitch anywhere you want to keep fabric from gaping or stretching, or to ensure that the pattern piece you’ve cut out remains the same size and shape.

Here are some common places you can use this technique.


A curved neckline, slash neck, or v neck can easily stretch without your even noticing. By stay stitching along the raw edge of the neckline, you’ll ensure that it retains its shape.


Curved areas like armholes are another place where the seam line can stretch and warp. Stay stitching within the seam allowance can keep that from happening.

Pocket Openings

Whether you’re making a slash pocket or a curved one, stay stitching within the seam allowance can help that pocket keep its shape.

Shoulder Seam

If the shoulder seams of your garment cross the bias grain line, then stay stitching them can help to keep the shape stable, so that both shoulders turn out the same size and shape.


Style lines are seams made for visual, rather than structural effect. In some cases, you may want to stay stitch your stylelines before sewing them. For example, if:

  • Your style lines aren’t ongrain with the straight grain of the fabric (more on this in a bit)
  • The style lines are diagonal seams that cross the bias grain of your fabric
  • You’re making a princess seam
  • The fabric is a loose weave

Stay stitched style lines will hold their shape better.


Stay stitching facings and linings that cross the bias grain will help to keep these stable as well.

Raw Edges

The raw edges of some fabrics are prone to fraying and ravelling. Stay stitching along the edge of this type of fabric can help to prevent this.

A Few Definitions

Before we begin, we should clarify a few terms.

Fabric Grain refers to the way threads are arranged in a woven fabric. In woven fabrics, warp (lengthwise) threads are arranged perpendicular to weft (up and down) threads.

On Grain means that the warp threads and weft threads are perpendicular in your piece of fabric.

Bias or on the bias means diagonally, at a 45 degree angle across the grain. Bias cut fabric gives a garment a lovely drape, but is prone to stretching and distortion. Crossing the bias grain means cutting or stitching across warp and weft threads on the diagonal.

Directional Stitching means your stay stitching line goes in a specific direction. Often this direction is specified in the pattern instructions.

It’s important to follow the direction indicated in the pattern instructions if you want your pattern pieces to remain the same shape as they were when you cut them out.

You can learn more about grain lines and stay stitching in this video.

How to Sew a Stay Stitch

Stay stitching is pretty easy. You can do it by hand or with your sewing machine.

First, look at the instructions for your pattern. If they specify that sewing needs to follow a specific direction, make sure that you stitch in that direction throughout the sewing process.

Mark your stay stitching line on the outer edge of the seam allowance, 1.58 millimeters (one eighth inch) from the raw edge. You’ll only be sewing on one layer of fabric.

Keep your stitch length short: about two millimeters (.07 inches). This is stitch length 2 on most sewing machines (consult your manual’s instructions if you’re unsure). Use a straight stitch.

Now sew your stay stitching.

Helpful Hints

  1. Staystitch immediately after cutting your fabric pieces. This will give them the best chance of retaining their form.
  2. Use a straight stitch, as a line of straight stitch sewn can be easily shortened if needed, unlike a zigzag stitch.
  3. If you’re stay stitching by hand, take care not to stretch the fabric while sewing.
  4. When staystitching a neckline, sew from one shoulder down to the center front (or center back) then stop. Snip the fabric in the center front then repeat from the second shoulder. Sewing from one shoulder to the other shoulder can stretch and distort, especially along curved cuts.
  5. Deep v neck necklines may require additional stabilization, such as stay tape. You can also use stay stitching to reinforce the point of the v.
  6. When stay stitching armholes, start at the front shoulder and stitch down to the underarm point. Repeat on the back, sewing from the shoulder down to the other underarm point.

Stay Stitching FAQs

Want to know more?

Do You Remove Stay Stitches?

No. The stitches will be hidden inside the seam, so there’s no need to remove stay stitching.

How Long Should a Stay Stitch Be?

Stay stitches are very short. They should be about two millimeters (0.7 inches) long.

Which Direction Should I Sew In?

Check your garment pattern carefully for instructions regarding stitch direction. Some patterns will indicate a specific stitch direction, and some will not. If your pattern specifies a direction, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully.

Do You Need to Backstitch to Stay Stitch Well?

Backstitching means stitching back and forth a few times over the same few stitches. It’s a way to secure rows of stitching at each end, as well as to strengthen areas of a garment that take a lot of stress.

You do not need to backstitch your stay stitching rows.

Can You Stay Stitch Without a Sewing Machine?

Absolutely! Just make sure to keep your stitches short.

How does Stay Stitching Differ From Basting

A basting stitch is long and loose. Stay stitching uses tighter, smaller stitches.

Also, the purpose of basting is to temporarily hold two pieces of fabric together. One only does stay stitching on a single layer of fabric, to prevent gaping, distortion, or fraying.

Finally, basting stitches are eventually removed. But you don’t need to remove stay stitching, as the stitches will be hidden inside the seam line after sewing the garment together.

How Far From the Edge Do I Sew a Stay Stitch?

Sew your stay stitch line one eighth inch (1.58 millimeters) from the fabric’s edge.

Stay Stitching Explored and Explained!

We have to admit, we have a slight “bias” when it comes to stay stitching. It’s a small extra step that can make a huge difference when it comes to curve cuts and ravel prone fabrics. And it’s one of the most powerful tools you can have in your sewing arsenal.

Did you enjoy our tutorial? Or do you have any advice that might help our readers? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

Baby Blanket Size Guide: Your Crib To Car Seat Cheat Sheet

baby blanket size guide

Is someone in your life expecting a new arrival? Or perhaps you’re interested in crafting for children’s charities. Maybe you simply don’t have the equipment, or the desire, to embark on a larger project. A baby blanket can be a great compromise.

But first you have to decide what size of baby blanket to make. 

What Are Baby Blankets?

baby feet poking out of blanket

A baby blanket is a smaller blanket made for infants. It sounds simple, but baby blanket size often isn’t. 

The term “baby blanket” covers a wide variety of products, including:

  • Crib or stroller blankets
  • Car blankets
  • Swaddling blankets
  • Security blankets
  • Receiving blankets
  • “Lovies” (smaller security blankets)
  • Larger blankets for floor play or tummy time
  • Preemie blankets
  • Burp cloths
  • Nursing cover-up blankets
  • And more

And each of these is a different size? You bet. We’ll discuss each of these in detail in a bit.

What Size Should a Baby Blanket Be?

What size is a baby blanket?

The short answer is that the average baby blanket dimensions for a blanket you might buy in a store or online is around 30 inches by 40 inches (76 centimeters by 107 centimeters). This is a good, all-purpose size that goes well in a crib, car seat, or stroller.

But there’s more to baby blanket dimensions than this.

A swaddle blanket may be around this size (it could also be larger), but that’s way too large for a burp cloth. If you’re spreading a blanket on the ground for tummy time, you’ll probably want something even larger. 

And security blankets are typically square, while a crib blanket is often rectangular.

Here are a few average baby blanket sizes for different types of baby blankets. 

baby blanket sizes cheat sheet

Please note that these are guidelines only. 

Also, if you’re crafting for charity, specific organizations often give exact instructions for blanket sizes, materials, safety features, and more. So check with them before you start crafting.

Why Selecting the Right Size for Your Baby Blanket is so Important

Babies need a lot of equipment. This means that carers need to figure out the most efficient way to store this equipment, and, in many cases, to carry it with them.

Every carer learns quickly which things are useful, and which will go quickly into the “donate” pile.

You want your gift to be one of the useful ones. 

One of the best ways to ensure that your gift is used and appreciated is to make sure that it’s the right size and fit for purpose.

We’ll talk more about materials and craftsmanship later. For now, lets talk a bit more about size.

Baby Blanket Dimensions Explained

baby laying on a blanket

Here are some common types of baby blankets, their dimensions, and special features.

Crib Blanket Size

As you might guess, a crib blanket (or crib quilt) goes in a baby’s crib. It may lie decoratively like a bedspread. You might also use it as a swaddle blanket. 

Crib blankets are often a bit wider (but not longer) than the crib mattress, so they can hang over the sides or be tucked under.

The average crib mattress measures around 27.25 inches by 51.25 inches (69.2 centimeters by 130 centimeters), with a thickness of about six inches (15.24 centimeters). A mini crib mattress is slightly smaller: 24 inches by 38 inches (61 centimeters by 96.5 centimeters).

Crib blankets measuring the average size of 30 inches by 40 inches can be tucked under either mattress at the sides. 

Some people prefer larger crib blankets, though. Other common sizes include 36 inches by 54 inches (91.4 centimeters by 137 centimeters) and 40 inches by 60 inches (101.6 centimeters by 152.4 centimeters).

Car Seat Blanket Size

A car seat is much smaller than a crib, and, let’s face it: room in a family car is limited. You also don’t want a blanket that will interfere with a car seat’s safety belts.

The average size blanket for a car seat is around 30 inches by 17 inches (76 centimeters by 43 centimeters).

Security Blanket Size

A security blanket, or blankie, can be any size. Children generally choose their own favorites. 

Ideally, a security blanket should be large enough to snuggle, but small enough that a toddler won’t trip over it while carrying it around. A 15 inch (38 centimeter) square is a good size blanket for a blankie.

Swaddle Blanket Size

Swaddling is a time honored practice of wrapping a baby in a blanket so that its limbs are cuddled close. This keeps a baby warm, and also gives them a feeling of security. This video from UC San Diego Health shows the correct technique for making a “burrito wrap.”

Swaddle blankets should be large enough to wrap a newborn baby securely, but not so large or fluffy that they keep a baby from lying flat on its back. Simple muslin or soft cotton are popular choices for a swaddle blanket.

You can use a receiving blanket to swaddle a newborn baby, but larger babies may be more comfortable with a larger blanket, for example 47 inches (119.4 centimeters) square.

Receiving Blanket Size

Newborn babies may be wrapped in receiving blankets at the hospital. They also make popular baby shower gifts. A receiving blanket is often square in shape and made from a soft, breathable cotton that is gentle on a baby’s sensitive skin. 

A common size for receiving blankets is a 36 inch (91.4 centimeter) square.

Stroller Blanket Size

If you’re taking baby out for a walk on a cool day, a stroller blanket can help to keep them warm. Many stroller blankets measure 30 inches by 40 inches (76 centimeters by 107 centimeters), though this can vary.

Bassinet Blanket size

A bassinet is a smaller crib for newborn babies to around four months of age. A bassinet often sits by the side of the parents’ bed. Unlike a cradle, which rocks, a bassinet stays still.

A bassinet blanket generally measures around 22 inches by 25 inches (56 centimeters by 64 centimeters). 

Coverlet Blanket Size

A coverlet is a blanket for older babies, so it’s a bit larger than a receiving blanket or a bassinet blanket. 

Coverlet blankets are typically around 36 inches by 45 inches (91 centimeters by 114 centimeters).

Preemie Blanket Size

On the opposite end of the scale, preemie blankets are made for premature babies, and are thus a smaller blanket. A popular size for preemie blankets is 18 inches by 24 inches (45 centimeters by 61 centimeters). 

Please note that hospitals and charities often have very strict rules about preemie blanket size, materials, and other features. This is for the safety of the babies, so check carefully before you start to work.

Lovey Blanket Size

A lovey blanket is a small blanket that a toddler may take to bed with them. It may rest on the pillow beside them, and during the day, they may carry it around or tuck it into a pocket. You might also want to make more than one, in case it gets lost.

Many loveys are square, and measure between 12 inches and 14 inches (30.5 centimeters and 35.5 centimeters) on all sides.

Cradle Blanket Size

A cradle bed is smaller than a crib, but larger than a bassinet. It’s made for newborns and small babies.

Unlike a crib, a cradle doesn’t have high walls. It’s also often closer to the ground than a crib. Unlike a stationary bassinet, a cradle often rocks gently.

A standard cradle mattress is 18 inches by 36 inches (45.7 centimeters by 91.4 centimeters). The typical cradle blanket is 14 inches by 30 inches (35.5 centimeters by 76.2 centimeters).

Floor / Tummy Time Blanket

“Tummy time” is when a baby is placed, awake, on its tummy for a short, supervised period of time. This helps a baby to strengthen the muscles of the head, neck, shoulders, and arms. [1]

Naturally, most people won’t want to put a baby directly onto the floor, so a lovely blanket can give them a soft, clean surface for their activity. A soft baby quilt with contrasting colors can make an excellent tummy time mat.

A generous size for a tummy time blanket is 50 inches (127 centimeters) square.

Round Baby Blanket Size

A round baby blanket is another option for tummy time. Look for a diameter of around 50 inches (127 centimeters). 

You can also use a small round baby blanket for making a burrito wrap.

Baby Quilt Blanket Size

A quilt is a three layer blanket: a “sandwich” of two outside layers with fluffy batting stitched in between. A baby quilt is any baby blanket that’s made by this process.

How large should it be? It depends on the purpose of the blanket.

Burp Cloth Size

Parents use burp cloths to clean up during or after a baby eats. They may put a burp cloth over one shoulder to protect their clothing while burping baby after a meal.

Burp cloths are small, typically measuring around six inches by nine inches (15.25 centimeters by 23 centimeters). If you’re going to make burp cloths, make several, and make them easily machine washable.

Nursing Cover Up Blanket Size

Many women like to use a cover-up blanket while nursing in public. A common size for a cover-up blanket is 28 inches by 39 inches (100 centimeters by 70 centimeters). 

A cover-up should be made from a lightweight, breathable fabric.

Toddler Blanket Size

Many toddlers sleep in their big-kid beds, which means you’re going to need a bigger blanket.

Toddler bed mattresses may be the same size as a crib mattress, or parents may opt for a standard twin sized bed. A twin sized blanket typically measures 65 inches by 90 inches (165 cm by 229 cm). 

Sew, Crochet, Knit, or Quilt?

Let’s start with the obvious: few of us can do it all. Which craft you’ll use to make a baby blanket will depend on which craft or crafts you’re comfortable with. But some crafts lend themselves better to some types of blankets than others.

Knit / Crochet

Crochet is one of my favorite crafts, because it’s simple — just a single hook and your yarn — and with the right crochet pattern, you can make something gorgeous. 

Knitting can be slightly more complicated, depending on your pattern. But it’s also a classic craft for making baby quilts.

At the same time, when making blankets for babies, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, use the right fiber. 

Expensive exotic fibers like alpaca may catch the eye, and they’re delightfully soft. But baby and toddler items get dirty. You can’t machine wash alpaca, and few new parents have the time or inclination to hand wash expensive fibers.

Wool can be luxurious and warm, but it can also be scratchy.

A soft acrylic is comfortable, washable, and inexpensive.

It’s also important to use the right pattern.

Avoid any pattern with holes that can catch and injure little fingers.


If quilting is your thing, we recommend soft, washable cotton in fun colors. Natural batting is always a good choice, but synthetic batting is easy to launder.

Avoid any sort of add-ons, like buttons or ties, which could be choking hazards. 

No-Sew Baby Blankets

Even if you’re not a crafter, you can still make a baby blanket. 

You can cut washable fleece into any shape or size you like. The edges won’t fray, and you can even fringe them.

Soft Minky fabric is cold-water washable, non-fray, and oh-so-lovely to touch.

No-sew baby blankets make a great project to do with kids or service clubs.

What Fabrics Work Best for Baby Blankets?

Baby blankets need to be durable, soft, and washable.

Some fabrics that work well include:

  • Fleece
  • Quilting cotton
  • Minky

It’s also a good idea to ask parents if there are any allergies in the house.

Baby Blanket Sizes…Done!

Whether there’s a baby in your life, or you want to make baby blankets for charity, it’s important to know your blanket sizes.

What’s your favorite baby blanket to make? Tell us all about it!

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baby blanket sizes
About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

  1. Healthline | Tummy Time: When to Start and How to Make Tummy Time Fun |

How To Remove Fabric Glue From Your Clothes And Elsewhere

how to remove fabric glue from clothing

Fabric glue can be a time saver. But it can also make a bit of a mess. If you’re going to use it, it’s a good idea to know how to remove fabric glue from clothes, tools, and other items. Just in case.

Removing fabric glue can be difficult, especially because there are different types of glue, and different types of fabric. Removing fabric glue stains from dried glue can be even more difficult.

Learning ahead of time how to remove glue can save you frustration…and it may even save your project.

What is Fabric Glue?

how do you remove fabric glue from clothing

The short answer is that fabric glue is exactly what it sounds like: adhesive for sticking fabric together. However, there are several different kinds of fabric glue — and glue that can be used to attach fabrics, even if that’s not its main purpose.

Permanent Fabric Glue

Permanent fabric glue bonds fabrics together permanently. It’s a fantastic tool for when you want a lasting, unbreakable bond.

Temporary Fabric Glue

Temporary fabric glue provides a temporary bond. Removing glue is often a matter of washing or rinsing it out.

Fabric Glue Tape

Some fabric glue comes in tape form. Fusible hem tape is one example. This type of fabric glue makes a semi-permanent bond.

Waterproof Fabric Glue

Waterproof fabric glue is meant to stand up to a trip through the washing machine.

Hot Glue

You might recognize this kind of glue from other crafts. It’s a plastic based glue that is extruded through a “gun.” You can use it to add embellishments to fabrics and DIY projects. In a pinch, you can also use it to bond fabric pieces together.

Super Glue

Super glues like Krazy Glue are made to form an unbreakable bond. Generally these glue types are less effective on porous materials like textiles, but some brands have a special version for fabrics.

Why Would You Want to Remove Something You Added?

We can think of a lot of reasons you might want to know how to remove fabric glue after you’ve applied it.

First, if you’ve made a mistake, you’ll want to take the work apart and try again.

If you’ve spilled or dripped or used too much, you’ll obviously want to remove glue from where it doesn’t belong. And you’ll want to remove fabric glue from any clothing, furniture, or items that it may have contaminated.

Different Types of Fabric Glue May Require Different Methods

how to remove fabric glue from anywhere

Knowing how to get glue out of clothes isn’t always intuitive. There are a lot of factors that can make it easier or harder to remove fabric glue from items, including the type of adhesive. And, of course, it’s important to consider the fabric, and what it can tolerate.

Don’t worry. In the next section, we’ll teach you how to remove a variety of different types of glue from fabric and other items.

How to Remove Fabric Glue From Clothes and Other Materials

There are numerous methods for removing glue, but not all are fit for all glue types, or all fabrics. Always remember to check the manufacturer’s instructions for the glue, and the care label for your fabric, before starting.

Remove Fabric Glue With an Iron

Heat loosens some types of glue, especially heat set glues, so that they can be lifted free of the fibres. A very hot iron is great for this. Here’s how to do it.

First, make sure that your fabric is heat tolerant. This generally means natural fibers like cotton or linen. The item should also be able to go through a hot or warm water wash cycle.

  1. Preheat your iron to the cotton setting. This will be one of the higher settings.
  2. Place a clean cloth or paper towel on top of the glue. This will protect your iron. It will also absorb the glue once it begins to melt.
  3. Run the hot steam iron over the glue.
  4. Once the glue melts and loosens, lift the cloth. The glue should come away as well. Remove all the glue, or at least as much glue as you can.
  5. You can also gently scrape at this point.
  6. If there are any glue stains left, apply a pre-wash stain remover.
  7. Wash the fabric with warm water in the washing machine.

Use Another Form of Steamed Heat

Hot steam can also help to remove unwanted glue. You can use a clothing steamer or an iron set to a steam heat setting. Again, make sure that your fabric can tolerate both heat and moisture before you begin.

Once the glue has softened, scrape it off. This video shows another steam heat method.

Dry Cleaning Can Remove Certain Adhesives

Dry cleaning is a chemical cleaning process that can work for fabrics that can’t tolerate either heat or moisture. Dry cleaning chemicals can break down certain types of fabric glue, but it may take several applications to completely remove all residual glue from fabric.

This is a good way to remove fabric glue from polyester and other heat sensitive synthetic fibers. You can take your item to your local dry cleaners, or save some money by buying a dry cleaning kit to use at home.

Here’s how that works.

Soak in Cold Water

A cold water soak is a safe, easy method for removing fabric glues that are water based, sticky, or come from a glue gun. Make sure that your item can tolerate both moisture and machine washing.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Spoon, dull knife, or stiff brush
  • Freezer or ice cubes
  • Cold water
  • Cotton ball or a clean cloth
  • Liquid laundry detergent

First, you’ll want the glue to be dry. A way to speed up this process is to put the item in the freezer. You can also rub ice cubes over it.

Next, use your dull knife, spoon, or brush to break away as much frozen glue residue as you can from the fabric. Remove glue stains by flushing them with cold water. Now, set the item in cold water overnight.

The next morning, dab on a bit of liquid laundry detergent with a cotton ball, then wash the item in cold water.

Wash on a high heat

Another way to remove fabric glue: wash it in the washing machine on high heat. As always, make sure that your fabric can take both machine washing and hot water.

Use Laundry Detergent to Get Rid of Adhesive

A mixture of laundry detergent and warm water can be useful for removing glue from carpet and some types of fabric.

First, scrape off as much of the fabric glue as you can. Then mix one tablespoon of laundry detergent with two cups (500 milliliters) of warm water. Use a clean cloth to apply the mixture to the glue. Then rinse with cold water and blot dry with a dry cloth.

Or, Try Fabric Softener

The surfactants in fabric softener can be helpful for removing fabric glue or a glue stain.

First, mix equal parts of fabric softener and warm water in a spray bottle. Spray it onto the glue, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Rinse. You can also use this method for removing wallpaper glue.

Try Baking Soda

They say that nothing can break the bond made by super glue. We beg to differ. Baking soda can be a big help in removing glue, especially if you want to remove super glue.

First, lay the item out on a flat surface.

Next, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda over the glue spot.

Pour white vinegar into a small container, and use a toothbrush or other stiff brush to apply vinegar over the baking soda.

Scrub gently.

You may have to repeat these steps a few times.

Finally, send the item through the washing machine with a small amount of detergent.

Use a Paste of Baking Soda and Coconut Oil

Before using this method, test the paste on an inconspicuous part of the fabric to make sure that the oil won’t cause a stain or other damage.

Mix two parts baking soda to one part coconut oil. Gently rub the area with a toothbrush or other stiff brush. You may have to do this a few times to get all of it.

Remove Glue From Fabric With Vinegar

Vinegar alone, or mixed with soap and/or water can help with removal of some glue types. This works best if there’s a small amount of excess glue. It’s less effective for a large amount of glue.

Although food grade vinegar isn’t poisonous, it can cause the colors of some fabrics to run, so exercise caution. Always do a test swatch first.

Soak paper towels in vinegar. Lay them over the glue, and let the vinegar soak in for five minutes or so. Remove the paper towel then scrub gently with a toothbrush. You should be able to peel away excess glue with your fingers.

Let the spot dry, then wash the item as usual.

You can also use a combination of soapy water and vinegar to remove sticker residue.

Use Acetone to Get Glue off of Clothes

You can use acetone nail polish remover to remove different types of glue (particularly to remove super glue) from different types of fabric, including polyester and leather.

Please note that acetone is dangerous if ingested, breathed in, or absorbed through the skin. So only use it in a well ventilated area, and wear acetone resistant protective gloves. [1, 2]

Another danger is to your fabric. Acetone can potentially dissolve or discolor some types of fabric, so make sure to test the chemical out on an inconspicuous part of your item before starting.

Now here’s how to remove fabric glue with nail polish remover.

Put a small amount of nail polish remover on a cotton swab or cotton ball. Apply the nail polish remover to the glue. Wait a bit, while the nail polish remover softens the bond.

Next, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe off the nail polish remover and the glue. Finally, take a new cloth, wet it with a small amount of warm water, and wipe off any remaining residue.

Dry the entire area with a dry cloth.

This video shows you how.

Scrape the Glue Off

This is a good method for removing temporary and semi-permanent glue from fabric, glass or plastic.

Use a dull knife, plastic scraper, or even a credit card to scrape glue from fabric. That’s it.

Use Rubbing Alcohol to Remove Glue From Fabric

Rubbing alcohol (aka isopropyl alcohol) can dissolve glue from fabric or plastic. Again, test the alcohol on an invisible part of your item to make sure that it won’t damage the fabric.

As with acetone, you should use rubbing alcohol in a well ventilated area and make sure not to get it in your eyes or mouth.

Wet a cotton ball, cotton swab, or cloth with a small amount of rubbing alcohol. Place it over the glue, and let it sit for two to three minutes. After that, the glue should be easy to scrape off.

Alternatively, you can use vodka or vinegar.

How to Remove Fabric Glue From Certain Materials

Different fabrics respond differently to various removal techniques. Protect your fabrics!

How to Remove Fabric Glue from Silk

Silk may feel like one of the more delicate fabrics, but it’s actually quite strong. To remove fabric glue from silk, do the following:

  1. Soak the item for half an hour in liquid hand detergent or a mild clothing detergent for half an hour.
  2. Wash according to the manufacturer’s directions. Some silks are hand wash or dry clean only, while others can go into the washing machine.

How to Get Rid of Adhesive From Polyester

Methods for removing adhesive from polyester include:

  • Freezing the garment and scraping off the glue
  • Boiling the item in water
  • Dry cleaning
  • Cleaning with acetone
  • Cleaning with isopropyl alcohol

Remember that polyester is a synthetic fabric, so don’t use one of the heat methods.

How to Shift Fabric Glue from Cotton

First, scrape as much of the glue as you can from the fabric.

Next, use a solution of two cups (500 milliliters) of warm water plus one tablespoon of liquid detergent. Apply the solution with a cloth, and gently rub until the glue is gone. Rinse.

How to Wipe Glues From Leather

The acetone method described above works best for leather.

How to Lift Glue Stains From Woolens

Lifting glue from woolen fabric requires the same process as removing it from cotton. Apply a solution of two cups (500 milliliters) of warm water plus one tablespoon of liquid detergent. Rub until the glue comes off.

If there’s any glue left, you can repeat the process using a solution of two cups of water plus one tablespoon of ammonia.

How to Get Fabric Glue off of Chiffon

For many types of glue, use steam heat. For super glue, you should purchase a commercial super glue remover.

How to Remove Fabric Adhesive from Denim

Denim is a heavy cotton fabric. Follow the procedure for cotton (ie; a solution of detergent and water).

How to Clean Fabric Glue From Canvas

Canvas is a hard wearing natural fiber. Follow the same process for denim and cotton.

How to Remove Adhesive Material From Nylon

First, try freezing the glue and scraping it off. If that doesn’t work, try acetone nail polish remover or isopropyl alcohol.

How to Get Rid of Glue From Velvet

There are two methods.

First, you can use vegetable oil, baby oil, or WD-40. Apply it only to the adhesive. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then wash away with a solution of dish soap and water.

You can also dab on isopropyl alcohol to disintegrate the glue. 

For either method, test your solution on an inconspicuous part of your item first.

Removal From Fabric by Glue Type

best way to remove gorilla fabric glue

Different glues need different removal techniques:

How to Lift Gorilla Glue from Clothing

To remove Gorilla Glue, use acetone, vinegar and baking soda, or isopropyl alcohol.

How to Remove Hem Tape Adhesive From Fabric

Hem tape is a heat-set adhesive, which means that heat can loosen it up, too. Use an iron to melt the residue then scrape it off.

How to get Super Glue off of Clothes

Again, use acetone, vinegar, or isopropyl alcohol.

How to Remove Elmer’s Glue From Material

Elmer’s is water based and washable, so you can rinse it out with water.

How to Clean Eyelash Glue From Your Garments

Use oil or steam, depending on your fabric. Always test a swatch first.

How to shift Krazy Glue From Fabrics

To remove Krazy Glue, use isopropyl alcohol or acetone nail polish remover.

How to Get Glitter Glue off of Clothing

Don’t use hot water, as it may cause the dye in glitter glue to stain your fabric. You can scrape off dry glitter glue, or soak your item in cold water for 10 minutes. You could also use an oxygen bleach and water solution, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to Remove Tear Mender From Fabric

Tear Mender can only be removed with one of two medical adhesive removers: Detachol or Uni-Solve. [3]

How to Clean Beacon Fabri-Tac From Clothes

Dry cleaning is the best method. You could also use acetone. [4]

How to Clean Waterproof Glue From Fabric

It depends on the fabric and also on the type of glue. Use acetone or isopropyl alcohol if the fabric can tolerate it. You could also try dry cleaning.

Getting Rid of Fabric Glue From Other Surfaces

What if your glue goes somewhere other than on your project? Don’t worry.

How to Clean Fabric Glue off of Plastic

Scraping is the go-to method for this. You could also use isopropyl alcohol, vodka, or vinegar.

How to Lift Fabric Glue off of Carpet

Scrape off as much of the glue as you can. Then wash with a solution of warm water and laundry detergent.

How to Shift Fabric Adhesive From Glass

Apply nail polish remover or WD-40 then wipe away the residue.

How to Get Fabric Glue off of Wood

Moisten a paper towel with virgin olive oil. Let it sit on the wood for a minute, then wipe the glue away.

How to Clean Fabric Glues off of Your Skin

Soak the area for five minutes in a solution of detergent and water.

Now You Know How to Remove Fabric Glue From Almost Anything!

Did we answer your questions? Let us know in the comments!

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About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

  1. Healthline | Acetone Poisoning |
  2. Sciencing | What Gloves Should be Used for Handling Acetone? |
  3. Tear Mender | Removal Directions |
  4. Beacon Adhesives | FAQ |

Why Does My Sewing Machine Needle Keep Breaking?

why do sewing machine needles break

It happens all the time. You’re sewing along happily, and then Ping! The needle breaks. It’s always annoying, and sometimes it’s even dangerous. So, why do sewing machine needles break, and what can you do about it?

Why Would a Needle Break on a Sewing Machine?

frustrated woman with a broken sewing machine needle

You might be surprised at how many answers there are to that question. Here are some of the most common ones.

You’re Using the Wrong Needle

Did you know there are many different types of sewing machine needles? Well, now you do. Using the wrong needle is a very common cause of sewing machine needle breakage. 

When choosing a sewing machine needle for your project, consider:

  • The purpose for which the needle was designed
  • The fabric you’ll be using
  • The weight of the thread you’re planning to use

Here are a few guidelines.

For heavier fabrics, use a thicker needle with a sharp point.

Lighter fabrics need a thinner, lighter needle, also with a sharp point.

For sewing knits and stretch fabrics, use a ball point needle, as this will lessen the chance of damage to the fabric.

Lighter threads require a lighter needle. Conversely, thicker threads require a heavier needle.

For more information about sewing machine needle types, check out our article on how to identify sewing machine needles.

Your Needle Isn’t Inserted Properly

When you insert your sewing machine needle, it’s important to make sure it’s inserted as far into the needle bar as it will go. If it’s not inserted far enough, it could strike the needle plate, or even the bobbin case and break.

Your Needle Isn’t Positioned Correctly

The shank of a sewing machine needle, that is, the part that inserts into the needle bar, has a flat side and a rounded side. On most machines, the flat side of the shank should face to the rear of the machine.

If your needle is inserted properly but facing the wrong direction, it could break.

Your Needle is Damaged, Dull, Old, or Bent

broken bent sewing machine needle

Many experts recommend changing your sewing machine needle before starting a new project. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, if you’re mostly working on small, short projects. However, after a certain amount of time, use takes its toll on the needle. 

If your needle tip has grown dull, the needle could break during sewing. Sewing can also cause nicks, chips and dents, which can likewise lead to breakage. Bent needles are also likely to break.

Your Sewing Machine Isn’t Threaded Correctly

Sewing machines have a single correct way that they need to be threaded. Incorrect threading can cause the thread to tangle. This, in turn, can lead to a broken needle.

Your Thread Tension is Too Tight

If your top thread tension is too tight for the type of sewing you’re doing, it could put undue pressure on the needle and break it.

How can you tell?

If you can see bits of your bottom thread on the top of the fabric, then your top thread is too tight. If your top thread is being pulled onto the reverse side of your project, then your top thread isn’t tight enough.

You can adjust the tension using the thread tension adjustment wheel.

You’re Using the Wrong Thread

There are different types of needles, and there are also many different types of threads. If you use the wrong thread, it can cause numerous problems, including broken needles.

First, it’s important to match your top thread and your bobbin thread. Wind your bobbin from the same spool you’re using for your top thread. If you must use different threads, at least make sure that they match in terms of weight and fibre composition.

It’s also important to match your threads with your fabric. This means:

  • Sew synthetic fabrics with synthetic thread and natural fabrics with natural thread
  • Match your thread weight to your fabric weight: heavy with heavy and light with light

This, too, can help you to avoid breaking your needles.

Your Thread Isn’t Properly Secured on the Spool Pin

The spool pin holds your top thread. If your sewing machine has a horizontal spool pin, you’ll need to secure the spool with a spool cap. Most sewing machines come with a few spool caps, but if yours doesn’t, you can buy them cheaply and easily.

Your Sewing Machine Hasn’t Been Properly Maintained

Like all machines, your sewing machine needs regular maintenance by you. [1]

This can include:

  • Using a brush to remove dust, fluff, and bits of thread especially from the bobbin case
  • Checking the bobbin mechanism to make sure it’s moving smoothly and correctly
  • Checking the bobbin tension and adjusting if necessary
  • Testing the bobbin winder to make sure it’s winding bobbins tightly
  • Lubricating your sewing machine if necessary

Sewing machines also need regular professional servicing. Servicing includes all of the above, plus:

  • Testing and examining the electronic components
  • Checking the timing and adjusting it if necessary

If your machine hasn’t been maintained properly, this, too, can lead to needle breakage.

Bobbin Case Full

If your bobbin case is too full, or if it’s full of dust or fluff, this can also cause broken needles.

You’re Pulling the Fabric

It can be tempting to hold the fabric tightly during sewing, especially if you’re working with something stretchy or slippery. But putting pressure on the fabric can put pressure on the needle, and putting pressure on the needle can break it.

If you’re working with tricky fabrics, consider using a temporary fabric stabilizer, extra pins, or sewing clips to hold it steady.

You’re Sewing Over the Top of Something

Speaking of pins and clips, it’s easy to break a needle if you accidentally sew over them. The same holds true for pins, zips, poppers, and so forth.

You’re Using the Wrong Throat Plate

The throat plate sits beneath the fabric, on your machine’s sewing surface. A throat plate generally has a hole for the needle to pass through, and other holes through which the feed dogs rise to move your fabric.

There are a number of different kinds of throat plates, with different configurations of holes. The different designs correspond to different sewing tasks. Using the wrong throat plate for your sewing type can cause the needle to break.

Your Needle Clamp Needs Tightening

If your needle clamp isn’t tight enough to hold the sewing machine needle in place, the needle may come out of alignment. This, in turn, may cause the needle to break.

You’re Using the Wrong Bobbin

There are different types of bobbins, and although they may look very similar, they are slightly different in size. Using the wrong size bobbin can cause the needle to break.

Your Bobbin is Out of Position

Ordinarily, the bobbin and the needle don’t interact when the machine is in operation. However, if your bobbin is out of alignment, the needle may strike it and break.

What do you do When Your Sewing Machine Needle Breaks?

When your sewing machine needle breaks, one of two things may happen. 

First, the broken bit of needle may fall clear of the machine. It may end up on your fabric, or even still threaded on the top thread. In this case, all you need to do is carefully remove the point, then remove the shaft of the needle from the needle clamp.

Alternatively, the tip may fall through the holes in the throat plate and into the bobbin box. In this case, you might have to go into your machine to remove it. See below for instructions.

How do you Get a Broken Needle out of a Sewing Machine?

If the broken tip of your needle falls through the throat plate, it’s not hard to get it out, but you will need to know how.

First, turn off your machine and unplug it.

Next, remove the shaft of the broken needle from the needle bar. Discard it. Use the hand wheel to move the needle bar into its highest position. This will give you plenty of room to work.

The next few steps will be different depending on the position of your bobbin case.

Instructions for a Top Loading Bobbin

If your machine has a top loading bobbin, use a screwdriver to unscrew the throat plate. Remove the throat plate.

Now remove the bobbin. Do you see the bit of needle? If so, remove it. You may need to use tweezers.

If you don’t see the needle tip, you may have to remove the bobbin case to get to it.

Once you’ve retrieved the needle tip, replace the bobbin case and the bobbin box. Put the throat plate back on, and secure it with its screws.

Instructions for a Front Loading Bobbin

If your machine has a front loading bobbin, open the front of the machine and remove the bobbin. If you can reach the broken bit of needle, remove it. If not, then remove the bobbin case, as above.

After you’ve retrieved the needle tip, re-install the bobbin case and the bobbin, and close the front hatch.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of reasons that your machine needle can break. If you know how to avoid it, you can greatly decrease the chance of it happening. It can also help you to keep your machine in good repair.

Did you find this article helpful? We’d love to hear your opinion!

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why does my sewing machine needle keep breaking
About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

  1. P Leriche | How to Service a Sewing Machine |

How to Sew With Elastic: A Step-By-Step Sewing Guide

how to sew with elastic

Do you know how to sew with elastic? It’s very useful, though the process isn’t always straightforward. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks to make sewing with elastic easier.

Why All Sewists Need to Learn How to Sew With Elastic

Sewing elastic is a wonderful tool to have in your sewing arsenal. 

You can use elastic functionally, to make clothing more comfortable and easier to wear. You can also use it decoratively, to add shirring or gathering.

If that’s not enough, learning how to sew with elastic will teach you a lot about different types of materials, and will make you a better sewist.

Choosing Your Haberdashery Elastic

sewing elastic guide

There are many types of elastic, and each serves a different purpose. 

Here are a few of the most popular types.

Baby Elastic

Baby elastic is a lightweight braided elastic. It’s used for face masks, baby clothing, doll clothing, and sleeves.


Braided elastic is made from numerous elastic strands braided together. The braiding makes this type of elastic strong and durable. At the same time, it rolls easily and can lose stretch when you sew through it.

For this reason, braided elastic is a more common choice for use in casings rather than sewn directly to fabric. 


Clear elastic is a strong, soft, transparent film. It comes in a variety of widths, including elastic cord. Clear elastic is a popular choice for beading and jewelry making, while wider varieties of clear elastic are often used in garments and swimwear.


The term “flat elastic” refers to any type of elastic that lies flat. It’s a good choice for garment making, home furnishings, general crafts, and more. 

Fold-Over Elastic

Fold-over elastic has a channel running down the middlet. You can use this channel as a fold line, and fold it over the raw edges of fabric to seal them. Swimwear is the most obvious application for this type of elastic. You’ll also see it quite often around the waistband and leg holes of underwear, as well as in the manufacture of headbands.


Knitted elastic refers to any sort of elastic where the fibres are knitted together, as opposed to woven. Knitted elastic is softer than woven elastic. It also stands up well to needles. 


Lingerie elastic, or lace lingerie elastic, is a lightweight elastic that often has a pretty finish. Its main use is in lingerie.

Shirring (Elastic Thread)

Shirring means sewing multiple, closely spaced rows with elastic thread in the bobbin and regular thread in the needle. You can use shirring elastic to add a decorative touch to items, or to create a customized silhouette on garments. [1]


Elastic for swimwear is often made from polyurethane, rather than rubber or polyester. Polyurethane stands up better to chlorine, salt, sunlight, sunscreen, and heat.


You can tell woven elastic by its vertical and horizontal ribbing. Because woven elastic retains its width when stretched and doesn’t roll very easily, it’s a good choice for waistband casings.

Which Needle Should You Use to Sew With Elastic?

stretch needles for elastic sewing

You should use a needle made for stretch fabrics when sewing with elastic. Stretch needles have a blunt point that pushes between threads rather than piercing them. Piercing elastic threads can make your elastic less stretchy.

For more on information on needles and how to select them, check out How To Identify Sewing Machine Needles once you’re done here.

What Stitch Do You Use to Sew Elastic?

There are several stitches you can use.

Many sewists like to use a zig zag stitch. A zig zag stitch is made to stretch, unlike a straight stitch. If your machine has a three-step zig zag stitch, that’s even better. 

Some sewists like to use an overlock stitch, as it mimics the effect of using a serger. It’s also quite strong.

Some sewists also like to use a honeycomb stitch.

Do You Stretch Elastic When Sewing?

That depends on what you’re trying to do.

If you want to gather your fabric, as you might for a waistband, then you should cut the elastic a bit smaller than the length of the fabric edge and stretch it while sewing.

On the other hand, if you’re using clear elastic as a stabilizer, then cut it to the same length as the fabric edge and don’t stretch it.

How to Make a Casing for Elastic

A casing is a fabric tube into which elastic is inserted. The elastic is typically shorter than the length of the tube, which causes the fabric to gather. You’ll often see casings used for waistbands, gathered sleeves, and gathered trouser cuffs.

Here’s one way to make a quick, easy casing.

Step 1: Finish the Raw Edge

Finish your raw edge, either with a serger or by folding it over and stitching it with a ¼-inch (six millimeter) seam allowance.

Step 2: Fold 

Fold the edge of your fabric over onto the wrong side. 

If you used a serger to finish the raw edge, fold the fabric the width of your elastic plus ⅛ inch (three millimeters) for ease.

If you folded the raw edge over and stitched it down, fold the fabric the width of your elastic plus ¼ inch (six millimeters).

Now press it and pin it down.

Step 3: Stitch

Stitch the casing down close to the edge, leaving a gap through which to insert the elastic.

Step 4: Trim the Elastic

Trim your elastic to the desired length.

Step 5: Insert the Elastic

Depending on your elastic, and your fabric, this might be easier or harder. One way of making the job easier is to pin a safety pin through one end of the elastic. This will give you something solid to pull through the casing. 

Step 6: Complete the Loop

The elastic should now be threaded all the way through the casing, with both ends sticking out of the hole. Place the ends one on top of the other, and use your sewing machine to stitch them together.

Step 7: Finish

Use your sewing machine to close the hole where you inserted the elastic. You could also hand stitch this part.

How to Sew Elastic With a Sewing Machine

It’s not hard, but it can be fiddly. Here’s a quick step by step.

Step 1: Cut Your Elastic

Do you want the elastic to gather your fabric? If so, then cut it a bit shorter than the length of the fabric. If you want the elastic to provide stretch without gathering, for example on the leg holes of swimwear, your elastic should measure a bit longer than the length of the fabric.

Step 2: If You’re Making a Loop

If the elastic will form a loop, for example in a waistband or around a sleeve or leg hole, stitch the ends together. You can stitch the ends one on top of the other. 

Step 3: Pin 

Pin your elastic to the wrong side of the fabric. You’ll be making four equally spaced anchor points.

First (for a loop) pin the seam of your elastic to the seam of your fabric. Make sure the top edge of the elastic is about ¼ inch (six millimeters) down from the edge of the fabric.

Next, find the opposite point of the elastic loop and pin it to the fabric at the corresponding point on the fabric. 

Now, find the two halfway points on the elastic strips between the pins, and pin them accordingly.

Step 4: Sew

Set your machine to a zig zag stitch. A zig zag stitch can move and stretch with your elastic, and keep the thread from breaking when the elastic stretches.

Place the fabric into the sewing machine, elastic side up. Your pin should be even with the needle.

Lower the presser foot and needle. Grasp the fabric and elastic behind the needle with one hand, while holding the second pin in front of the needle with the other hand. 

Stretch the elastic so that it lies flat together with the fabric.

Start sewing. When you reach the pin, stop, remove the pin, then grasp the next pin and continue.

Why Won’t My Sewing Machine Sew Through Elastic?

There are a number of reasons, including:

  • Using the wrong needle
  • The upper thread tension is too high
  • The bobbin tension is too high
  • Presser foot pressure is too high

How to Sew Elastic by Hand

Sewing elastic by hand is similar in theory to sewing it by machine. You’ll still need to join your ends, pin it to the wrong side of your fabric at four equidistant points, and stretch while sewing.

 This video shows you how to make a zigzag stitch by hand.

How Do You Sew With Elastic Thread?

To sew with elastic thread, you’ll be using elastic thread in your bobbin, and regular thread for the top thread.

Can I Use Elastic Thread in My Sewing Machine?


First, wind your bobbin by hand. Don’t stretch the elastic. Insert your bobbin as usual.

Next, thread your top thread with regular thread.

Now, set your stitch length for 3 or longer. Always sew a few test rows!

Never use a sewing machine’s automatic thread trimmer to cut elastic thread, as it will cut the ends too short.

How to Sew Elastic Directly to Fabric

Make sure to cut your elastic to the right length: longer for no gathers, or shorter for more gathering. Anchor the elastic to the fabric

How Do You Sew Elastic Around Fabric?

The best way to do this is by making a casing and running the elastic through it. Check out this video to see how it’s done.

How Do You Sew Elastic to Itself?

There are two ways to connect pieces of elastic. 

First, you can lay one end over the other end and stitch them together using a zigzag stitch.

Alternatively, you can connect the ends of the elastic using a piece of fabric. This creates a very strong bond, and won’t give you a lump like you might get from simply sewing the ends together.

See how it’s done in the video below.

What’s the Best Way to Sew Elastic Together?

A lot of people prefer to connect the ends using a piece of fabric, as it gives a strong, smooth finish.

How to Sew Elastic Ends Together

You can either layer one end on top of the other, or squeeze the two ends together.

Either way, it’s best to connect them with a zigzag stitch.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to sew elastic can take your sewing to a whole new level. You can attach elastic to fabric by hand or by machine.

Now you should know how to:

  • Sew a casing
  • Attach elastic directly to fabric
  • Join two pieces of elastic
  • Sew elastic ends together

Did you enjoy this tutorial? Let us know in the comments!

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learn how to sew elastic
About The Author:
Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday learned to sew as an act of teenage rebellion. Her mother always hated to sew, so Jess took up the hobby to prove a point! It has since turned into a satisfying lifelong hobby. When not sewing, Jess enjoys trail running and martial arts. She’s even written a novel or two!

  1. Katie Whittle | A Guide To Shirring |

Serger, Coverstitch, Coverlock Machines…What’s The Difference?

difference between serger coverstitch coverlocker machines

You’ve probably heard the term serger and know it’s a type of sewing machine. You might also have come across the terms coverstitch serger and coverlock machine. In fact, some people use these terms interchangeably but, as we’ll find out in this post, this is a mistake.

TL;DR – What’s The Difference Between Sergers, Coverlock, Overlock, and Coverstitch Machines?

Firstly, sergers and overlock machines are the same thing. Americans use “Serger”, but almost everywhere else the same appliance would be referred to as an “Overlock Machine” or “Overlocker”.

Coverstitch machines are standalone pieces of equipment, typically used by sewists to hem garments made with stretch fabrics to a professional standard. Although somewhat similar to sergers, they’re actually quite different. There’s no blade and many will have three needles, not two. It also operates with just a single looper.

Coverlock machines are essentially serger / coverstitch hybrids. While no device can truly do everything, coverstitch machines offer those looking to save either space, money, or both an attractive alternative to purchasing both a serger and a coverstitch machine.

Sergers (or overlockers, as these are indeed different names for the same type of machine) and coverstitch sergers are distinct pieces of equipment. Although there’s a tiny bit of overlap in their functions (both can hem a garment, for example), they perform these functions differently. 

Not only that, neither of them can do the things you’re used to doing with your regular sewing machine — at least not in the same way. What’s more, an overlocker cannot make the same kinds of stitches that a coverstitch machine makes. The reverse is also true.

So, what exactly is a serger? What does it do? How are coverstitch machines different? And what on earth is a coverlock machine?

Most importantly, do you actually need any of them? And if you decide that you do, how do you choose a good one?

We’ll lay it all out.

What is a Serger?

Have you ever admired the sealed edges inside of commercially made garments? Or, perhaps you’ve wondered how to sew perfect, flat seams on stretchy knit fabrics? Maybe you want to try your hand at decorative edgings?

These are some of the things you can do with a serger.

Other Names for a Serger

“Overlocker”, “Overlock Machine”, and “Overlock Serger” can all be used to describe the same kind of device. Serger synonyms, if you will.

How Does a Serger Work?

A serger uses multiple needles and multiple threads to sew overlock or overcast stitches. 

This means that the needle or needles sew a straight row, while a looper or loopers wrap additional threads around the raw seam edges to seal them.

There are several different kinds of overlock stitches, and below is an illustration of how a three-thread overlock stitch works. The pink thread is the needle row, while the blue and white threads are made by the upper and lower loopers.

three-thread overlock

And here’s what a three-thread overlock stitch looks like on fabric.

3 thread overlock stitch
Image taken from our post on the different serger stitches an overlocker can perform

Most home overlockers have two needles and can sew with two, three, and four threads. 

You might find some budget models that only sew with three and four threads, but you can also find premium models that sew with up to eight. 

How People Use Their Sergers

Can’t you make seams with a regular sewing machine? Of course you can. Some regular sewing machines even have a mock overlock stitch that can reinforce the edges of fabrics prone to fraying.

But if you’re making a lot of garments, or if you’re using primarily knit fabrics, then a serger can make your work faster, stronger, and better.

Here are a few of the things that a serger can do.


A serger’s main job is construction. Whether you’re making garments, housewares, or accessories, a serger can give you strong, flexible, professional-looking seams and edges.

Serged seams not only stand up well to stress and strain. They also protect your fabric edges from fraying.

You can also use a serger for invisible hems on garments, as well as rolled hems on scarves and other accessories.


Edges are a serger’s specialty. Whether it’s wrapping seam edges to make a stronger seam, or creating different types of edgings on a single layer of fabric, edges are what a serger does best.

Have you ever seen a delicate, wavy edge on blouse cuffs or scarves?

lettuce edge finish

That’s a lettuce edge, and it’s made with a serger. You can make a lettuce edge by combining a narrow stitch width with increased differential feed (that is, increased stretch).

A rolled edge is a common way to finish light, ravel-prone fabrics. 

light scarf

Some sergers have a built-in rolled hem setting. With others you may have to manually adjust your machine.

Knits and Stretchy Fabrics

Sewing knits and stretchy fabrics can be tricky. Even if you match your thread to your fabric (as we spoke about in our article on how to sew seams), knits and stretchy fabrics can still bunch and warp.

As we’ve already mentioned, sergers have a feature called differential feed, which allows you to stretch or compress the fabric while you sew. This can help you to make perfectly smooth, flat seams and edges, even on stretchy knit fabrics. 

And if you want to bunch, gather, or warp your fabric edge, you can do that, too.

Serger Special Effects

A serger isn’t all function and no fun, however. You can use overlock stitches to create some dazzling serger special effects.

We’ve already talked about decorative edging, but you can also use a serger to create:

  • Ruffles
  • Gathers
  • Pleats
  • Pintucks

And check this out. You can even use a serger to make your own lace and custom trims. It’s relatively easy, too, once you get the hang of it.

Heavy vs. Light Fabrics

Although stretchy fabrics and knits are a serger’s specialty, you can use your serger to work with a variety of fabric types and thicknesses.

As a rule, if you’re working with ultralight fabrics, you’ll need a serger that can sew with two threads. For heavier-than-average fabrics, you’ll want to sew with a minimum of four threads.

Distinguishing Features of a Serger

What makes a serger different from a regular sewing machine? Quite a few things. Let’s have a look.

Multiple Threads

A regular sewing machine sews with a top thread on a spool and a bottom thread on a bobbin. 

A serger has no bobbin. Instead, it sews with one or more needle threads and one or more threads guided by loopers. We’ll talk more about loopers in a bit.

You can use spool thread with a serger. However, overlocking uses a lot of thread. For this reason, many serger users prefer thread that comes on large cones, as cone thread is more cost effective.

And if you’re wondering whether you can transfer thread from those enormous cones onto spools to use with your regular sewing machine, the answer is yes. Here’s how.


Your regular sewing machine uses one needle. Most modern sergers have two needles.

The two needles provide a way to adjust the stitch width. Sewing with the left needle only creates a wide stitch. Sewing only with the right needle makes a narrower stitch.

Four-thread stitches use both needles to create parallel rows of straight stitches while the loopers cast thread around the fabric edges.

Not sure which one to use for what? Check out our article on how to identify sewing machine needles for a simple explanation of all the different types available.


We keep talking about loopers. What on earth are they, anyway? Let’s loop back to that now.

Loopers cast loops of thread over fabric edges to seal them and most sergers have two. The upper looper loops thread around the top of the fabric edge. The lower looper loops thread around the bottom edge.

You thread loopers just like you thread your needles. 

Some stitches use both loopers. Others only use one. 

Cutting Blade

One of the best features of a serger is its cutting blade. 

Every serger has a blade that trims the fabric edge as you sew. Some sergers have more than one blade, and those blades work together.

But there are some types of stitching, like a rolled hem, where you don’t want to cut your edges. For this reason, many models allow you to easily retract your blade to keep it out of the way.

Differential Feed

A regular sewing machine has one set of feed dogs. The feed dogs sit below the fabric and move it through the machine.

baby lock accolade feed dogs
A close up shot of the feed dogs found on the exceptional Baby Lock Accolade

A serger has two sets of feed dogs, and they can move at different speeds. The differential feed mechanism allows you to adjust the speed of each set of feed dogs relative to the other.

For normal sewing, the feed dogs should move at the same speed. But sometimes you might want to stretch the fabric, compress it, or prevent the fabric from stretching while you sew.

Adjusting the differential feed can help you achieve this.

High Speed

The average speed of a domestic sewing machine is around 850 stitches per minute. The average speed of a serger is around 1,300 stitches per minute.

This increased speed makes easy work of seams and edges.

Drawbacks of Using a Serger

An overlocker is a specialized machine. You’ve seen some of the things it can do, but it can’t do everything. 


An overlocker does overcasting, full stop. It’s a specialized tool for making sealed seams and decorative edges.

You can’t use a serger for topstitching, and you can’t sew a line down the middle of fabric. Straight stitching only? Nope. And there are no decorative embroidery stitches on a serger. A serger also cannot attach buttons or zippers.

Finally, although you can use a serger for woven fabrics, serged seams are weaker for this type of material than the lockstitched seams made by your regular sewing machine.

For these reasons, a serger should complement, rather than replace your standard sewing machine.


An overlocker is a complicated piece of equipment. Sergers are often difficult to set up, and they can be extremely temperamental.

Much of the complexity comes down to threading. 

You must thread the various threads in a specific order. Like on your regular sewing machine, each thread follows a path through a series of thread guides. Some of those guides can be difficult to access.

Worse, your machine can come unthreaded at the most inconvenient times.

Some higher-end serger models are self-threading. Mid-range and lower-end machines often have color-coded thread guides. Once you get your machine threaded and working, you can save yourself a lot of aggravation by using this quick threading trick.


Overlockers are expensive. A budget serger will generally cost you the same as a mid-range sewing machine. And when it comes to high-end models, there’s no upper limit.

Do you actually need a serger? We’ll help you decide right now!

Do You Need a Serger?

Do you need an overlocker? Or can you get by without one? And if you’re ready to take the plunge, how can you get the best serger sewing machine for your needs and your pocket?

It’s always fun to buy new equipment, but it’s easy to mistake excitement for need. Do you need a serger? Ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do you work primarily with knits and stretch fabrics?
  • Is your regular sewing machine’s mock overlock stitch no longer cutting it?
  • Do you need to make a lot of secure seams fast?
  • Are you planning to do a lot of decorative edging?
  • Do you like learning new technologies?
  • Do you have a high tolerance for frustration?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, then there may be a serger in your future.

How to Choose the Best Serger for Your Needs

If you’ve decided that a serger is the next addition to your arsenal of sewing tools, then you need to know how to choose a good one. Here are a few features to look out for:

Number of Threads

Three and four threads are all you need to create many of the seam types for which home sewists most often use their serger.. For most kinds of garment construction, a 3-4 serger will do just fine. As a bonus, 3-4 sergers are often less expensive than those with the ability to handle more threads.

On the other hand, if you think you might be working with ultralight fabrics, then you definitely want a serger that can sew with two threads as well.

Conversely, if you anticipate working with heavier than average fabrics, you’ll want a serger that can sew with a minimum of four threads.

Built-in Stitches

Just like a regular sewing machine, a serger comes with a variety of built-in stitches. And, just like a regular sewing machine, those built-in stitches can vary from device to device.

Just about every serger can do a three-thread and four-thread overcast stitch. In addition to these, though, you might also want:

  • Two-thread overcast
  • Two and three-thread rolled hem
  • Two, three, and four-thread flatlock
  • Decorative edgings, such as picot edge
  • Blind hem
  • Safety stitch and mock safety stitch

To name a few.

Built-in Rolled Hem

A rolled hem gives a fancy finish to a single layer of fabric. You’ll see it often on scarves.

With some sergers, you’ll have to remove parts or switch them around in order to make a rolled hem. But some models have a switch that makes the adjustments for you.

Stitch Width Selection

Your regular sewing machine has a knob or buttons that allow you to select the width of your stitches. With many sergers, however, stitch width comes down to three different types of adjustment:

  • Moving, removing, or switching out the stitch finger
  • Adjusting the cutting width
  • Choosing either the right or the left needle

Some sergers, however, come with a convenient knob that makes the appropriate adjustments for you.

Free Arm

Do you really need a free arm on a serger? Some people use it, and some people don’t. But if you use your serger for adding collars and cuffs, this feature may come in handy.

Convenience Features

Sergers can be fiddly and temperamental. So manufacturers have come up with different features to make them easier to use. Here are a few of our favorites.


You won’t find a self-threading serger on the budget shelf. This is a premium feature, but it’s still worth mentioning.

Self-threading sergers use a clever combination of air jets and tubes to make threading as simple as pressing a button.

Most other sergers, however, will give you a color-coded threading guide, which also helps quite a bit.

Needle threader

An automatic needle threader is a common feature on most regular sewing machines. Less so on a serger, but a few models do have one. Given the sometimes inconvenient placement of serger needles, it’s a nice feature to have.

Auto tension

After threading, tension is one of the more complicated parts of using a serger. Adjusting the tension of your looper and needle threads is the key to creating certain types of stitches, such as a flatlock.

Some sergers allow you to choose a stitch design, then they automatically adjust your tension. It’s very convenient.

Built-in thread cutter

Most sergers don’t have a built-in thread cutter, you have to use your snips. However, some models have a nifty little blade that you can raise to trim your thread ends.

Retractable cutting blade

For some types of serger sewing, for example rolled hems, you don’t want to trim the edges. Many models have an easily retractable cutting blade. With some models, however, you may have to remove the blade altogether.

Trim trap

A serger cuts seam edges to fit your seams. It’s an important feature, especially when it comes to determining stitch width. 

But it also creates quite a mess.

Some sergers come with a built-in trim trap to catch the trim before it falls in your lap, on your table, and on the floor. 

You can, however, make your own. It’s easy, and it’s actually many people’s first serger project! [1]


How much do sergers cost? That’s a bit like asking how much a car costs. There are budget models that may run you as much as a mid-range sewing machine, and there are premium models that could cost as much as a used car.

Don’t choose a serger based on price alone. The available features can vary widely by model, so it’s best to look for one that does everything that you need it to, and worry about the price later.

Two of Our Favourite Models

Here are a few of our favorite models to get you started.

Singer X5004HD

singer X5004HD heavy duty serger

For more than a century, Singer has been America’s sewing machine company. They have a reputation for well-made, budget-friendly machines. And if you’re looking for a budget serger model, the Singer X5004HD is one to consider.

For the price of a low-end regular sewing machine, this model delivers:

  • A heavy duty metal frame
  • 2-3-4 thread serging
  • 1300 stitches per minute
  • Built-in rolled hem
  • A decent variety of built-in stitches

This is a straightforward, user-friendly serger that is exceptional value for money.

Singer Professional 14T968DC

singer 14t968dc serger machine

The Singer Professional 14T968DC will cost a bit more than the base model. However, considering what you get for that money, it’s an outstanding value. Features include:

  • 2, 3, 4, and 5 thread stitching
  • Self-adjusting tension
  • Four built-in rolled hems
  • 1300 stitches per minute stitching speed

If you’re already thinking ahead to advanced projects, this could be your new favorite sewing machine.

What is a Coverstitch Machine?

A coverstitch machine is sometimes also called a coverstitch serger. This is misleading, as a coverstitch machine isn’t a serger at all. Even though the two machines share some features, they are different machines for different types of sewing.

How Does a Coverstitch Machine Work?

A coverstitch is a two-sided stitch. On the right side of the fabric, there is a double row of straight stitches. On the underside, a chain stitch connects them. 

You can see the right side and wrong side parts of a coverstitch in the image below.

both sides of a coverstitch

Some coverstitch machines allow you to use the chain stitch alone in much the same way as you would use a straight stitch on a regular sewing machine.

How People Use It

A serger and a coverstitch machine can perform some of the same tasks, for example:

  • Sewing a blind hem
  • Sealing off raw fabric edges
  • Certain types of decoration

But it’s important to note that they do these tasks differently and that the results look slightly different.

Additionally, there are some things that a coverstitch machine can do that a serger can’t — and vice versa.

Here are some of the most common uses of a coverstitch machine:


As we said earlier, you can’t use a serger to do topstitching. But a coverstitch machine is made for this.

Topstitching is both functional and decorative. You can use this technique for securing facings and creating a sharp edge on collars, cuffs, hems, and bindings.

Yes, you can also do topstitching on a regular sewing machine. However, a coverstitch machine also seals off any raw edges on the reverse side of the fabric. This creates a secure, professional-looking finish.


You can also use a serger or a regular sewing machine to make a hem. But for a coverstitch machine, hemming is it’s primary function.

How is a coverstitched hem different?

Instead of sewing along the fabric edge, you fold the fabric over on itself and topstitch. The right side of the garment will have one or two neat, parallel rows of straight stitches. On the back, a chain stitch connects the rows and binds off the fabric edge.

A coverstitch machine can also come in very handy for attaching trims.

Knits and Stretchy Fabrics

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine has a differential feed. This makes it a similarly good choice for working with knits and stretchy fabrics.

Decorative Stitching

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine can create decorative effects. But the special effects a coverstitch machine can create are different.

Sergers sew along fabric edges. A coverstitch machine sews on the top of fabric. 

You can use a coverstitch machine’s multiple needles to create two or even three rows of parallel straight stitches, such as you might see decorating the pockets and waistbands of blue jeans.

decorative stitching on blue jeans

You can also sew the fabric face down in order to use the stitch decoratively.

Because a coverstitch machine has a differential feed like a serger, you can use it to create pleats and other embellishments. Check it out.

“Regular” Sewing

It’s a bit of a stretch to say that you can use a coverstitch machine just like a regular sewing machine. But you can use a two-thread chain stitch to do some of the tasks for which you would use your sewing machine. These include:

  • Basting 
  • Making a seam
  • Decorative stitching

Here’s how it works.

Distinguishing Features of a Coverstitch Machine

Sergers and coverstitch machines share a number of features, which is one reason that it’s easy to mistake one for the other. However, if you look closely, the differences are pretty easy to spot.

Multiple Needles

A regular sewing machine sews with one needle. A serger generally uses two. A coverstitch machine, on the other hand, generally has three needles (though some budget models have two.)

Multiple Threads

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine sews with multiple threads. Most coverstitch machines can sew with two, three, or four threads. Some can sew with five or more.

Chain Stitch

One of the main differences between a coverstitch machine and a serger is the chainstitch. You can use the chain stitch like a straight stitch for construction. You can also use it for basting your seams. Chain stitches can also be used decoratively.

A few modern sergers have a built-in chain stitch, but it’s not typical.

Just One Looper

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine uses a looper thread in place of a bobbin thread. But sergers typically have two loopers that loop thread around the top and bottom of fabric edges.

A coverstitch machine only loops thread on one side of the fabric. Therefore it only needs one looper.

No Cutting Blade

A coverstitch machine doesn’t trim the fabric edges as it sews. It has no cutting blade.

Differential Feed

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine has two sets of feed dogs. Also like a serger, a coverstitch machine has a differential feed mechanism so that you can adjust the speed of each set relative to the other.

High Speed Sewing

A coverstitch machine is a high-speed sewing machine with an average sewing speed of 1,300-1,500 stitches per minute.

Extended Workspace

Another place where sergers and coverstitch machines differ is in the size of the workspace. 

A serger sews only on the fabric edges, and it trims these edges as it sews. The cutting blade sits immediately to the right of the right needle, and there isn’t room for anything else. You don’t need it.

Many coverstitch machines, on the other hand, are built more like a regular sewing machine. They have no blades, and they don’t trim the fabric edges. 

Also, because a coverstitch machine isn’t limited to sewing fabric edges, you might need extra room to the right of the needles to accommodate fabric. A coverstitch machine provides this.

Drawbacks of Using a Coverstitch Machine

For hemming and topstitching, there’s nothing like a coverstitch machine. But it’s not the ideal tool for every task.

A coverstitch machine won’t serge off your seam edges for you. Neither can you use it to create decorative edgings, rolled hems, or lace, like you can a serger.

You can use the chain stitch decoratively. However, a coverstitch machine doesn’t do decorative embroidery stitches like many regular sewing machines. 

Also, although threading a coverstitch machine is easier than threading a serger, the single looper still has a learning curve.

Finally, coverstitch machines tend to be pricey. If you’re thinking of buying one, you’d do well to make sure that you really need it and will actually use it.

Do You Need a Coverstitch Machine?

Honestly? Probably not. 

Much of what you can do with a coverstitch machine, for example topstitching and blind hems, you’re probably already doing with your regular sewing machine.

However, you might want to invest in a coverstitch machine if:

  • You have a small business making garments and/or housewares
  • Much of your work involves hemming and finishing
  • You work primarily with knit or stretchy fabrics

For professional garment finishes, there’s nothing like a coverstitch machine. And if you’re sewing a lot of clothing for your family or amateur drama group, for example, it could be a good investment.

How to Choose the Best Coverstitch Machine For Your Needs

Many of the same features by which you’d judge a serger apply to a coverstitch machine. There are, however, a few other things to consider, as well:

Stitch Selection

That handy chain stitch is what makes a coverstitch machine what it is. Other than that, though, you’ll need to think about other types of stitches you may want. Some common coverstitch machine stitches include:

  • Narrow three-thread coverstitch
  • Wide three-thread coverstitch
  • Four-thread coverstitch

Throat Space

Another major difference between a coverstitch machine and an overlocker is the throat space. How much space do you need to the right of the needle? 

A regular sewing machine generally has between seven and nine inches of space to the right of a needle. A serger has almost none.

For a coverstitch machine, five inches is around the max. 

Convenience Features

Again, many of a serger’s convenience features make coverstitch sewing a bit easier, too. But here are a few coverstitch-specific things to look for.

Auto tension release

A common user complaint is that it’s difficult to remove work from a coverstitch machine once you’ve finished your row. This comes down to thread tension.

An auto tension release means that when you raise the presser foot, the thread tension slackens, so it’s easier to remove your work.

Adjustable presser foot pressure

You’ll find this feature on many regular sewing machines, as well as some sergers and coverstitchers.

The presser foot holds fabric against the feed dogs, which feed the fabric through your machine. Most presser feet hold fabric with a standard pressure, but being able to adjust that pressure means more control over fabrics of different weights and thicknesses.


Some accessories that will make sewing with your coverstitch machine more fun and efficient include the following:

Extension table

Because you can use a coverstitch machine for some regular sewing tasks, some people use it for quilting and decorative stitching. A removable extension table supports larger work and makes it easier to see your stitching in the context of a larger section of it.

Knee lifter

A knee lifter is a boon for quilters, and some higher end sewing and coverstitch machines may include one.

A knee lifter is a metal lever that slots into a special port. Some machines have this port, but most do not. The knee lifter allows you to raise and lower the presser foot with your knee while keeping both hands on your work.

Presser feet

Some presser feet that may come in handy for coverstitch sewing include:

  • Beading foot
  • Blind hem foot
  • Cording foot
  • Cover chain stitch foot
  • Elastic foot


Coverstitch machines are specialized pieces of equipment, and that doesn’t come cheap. As with a serger, consider your needs before considering price, as features vary from model to model. One of the only things worse than paying more than you planned is buying a cheaper machine that doesn’t do what you need it to do.

Some of Our Favourite Models

Ready to buy? Here are a few of our favorite coverstitch machine models.

Brother 2340CV

brother coverstitch 2340cv

If you’re looking for a first coverstitch machine, and don’t want to drop a month’s pay, the Brother 2340CV could be one to check out.

This is a three-needle 2-3-4 coverstitch serger. It has color coded threading and adjustable presser foot pressure, which can help when sewing fabrics of different weights and thicknesses.

Brother excels at making budget-friendly, well-made equipment. So for a budget option, the 2340CV could be a good choice.

Baby Lock Cover Stitch

On the other end of the price spectrum, you’ll find the Baby Lock Cover Stitch. This premium coverstitch machine features:

  • 2-3-4 thread stitching
  • Self-threading looper
  • Thread cutter
  • Knob tensioning
  • Auto tension release

If you want a machine that will do all of the tedious adjustments for you, leaving you free to create, this could be your model.

So What is a Coverlock Machine, Anyway?

Regular sewing machine, overlocker, coverstitch machine…that’s a lot of sewing machines!

As much fun as it is to buy new equipment, few of us have infinite space in which to store it all. Even fewer people have bottomless funds.

For this reason, a coverlock machine might provide a happy medium.

A coverlock machine is basically a hybrid, combining some of the features of a serger with some of the features of a coverstitch machine. 

Though no machine truly does it all, a coverlock machine can be a good compromise. More importantly, it can save you money and space.

Other Names For Coverlock Machines Include…

Coverlock machines have many different monikers, including: “Coverlock serger”, “Coverlocker”, “Coverstich/Serger Combination”, “Hybrid”, and “Combo”. Be warned, though, Hybrid and Combo are terms also used to describe sewing machines that have embroidery functions built in, too.

How Does a Coverlock Machine Work?

A coverlock machine can do many of the things that a serger can do. It can also perform some coverstitch tasks. The exact combination of features can vary from model to model. However, most coverlock machines can:

  • Do a chain stitch
  • Sew overlock stitches
  • Topstitch seams
  • Serge off edges
  • Hem garments
  • Create decorative edging including rolled edge
  • Do special effects like ruffles and pleats

Although no machine can do everything, a coverlocker sure comes close.

How People Use It

A coverlock machine can be a terrific solution for anyone who wants maximum functionality in a single machine. Here are a few things people do with their coverlockers.


The chain stitch is one of the most useful and distinctive features of a coverstitch machine. And every coverlocker does one.

You can use your chainstitch like a regular sewing machine’s straight stitch, to baste or sew seams, or to add a decorative touch to your project.


Because a coverlocker has an overlock mode, you can use it to create strong, stretchy, overlocked seams. Putting together clothing and housewares is a snap. 


A coverlocker can hem garments in two ways: like a serger and like a coverstitch machine.

If you want a sealed or decorative hem, like a lettuce edge or a rolled hem, a coverlocker in serger mode can do that.

On the other hand, you can use a coverlocker in coverstitch mode to create professional, topstitched hems.


A coverstitch serger is a topstitching machine, and a coverlocker carries on this function, too. Whether you’re topstitching a collar, a hem, or a pair of cuffs, a coverlocker can get the job done.

Decoration and Special Effects

Do you want to do serger special effects like ruffles, pintucks, and making your own lace trim? A coverlocker can do that.

Perhaps you’d prefer some decorative chainstitching or three-needle decorative stitching instead? A coverlocker will have you covered.

This is perhaps the best part of an overlocker/serger combo: you get all of the fun parts of both.

Distinguishing Features of a Coverlock Machine

As you might expect, a coverlocker has features of both a coverstitch machine and a serger. Here are some of the things you might find on a combo machine:

Two Modes

Overlocking and coverstitching are two separate, mutually exclusive functions. They use different parts of the machine and use the workspace differently. Therefore, most coverstitch/serger hybrids have a way of adjusting your machine to work either as a coverstitch machine or as a serger.

Three Needles

Like a coverstitch machine, most coverlockers have three needles.

Multiple Threads

Most (but not all) hybrid serger/coverstitch machines can sew with two, three, four, or five threads.

Two Loopers

Like a serger, a coverlocker has two loopers that loop thread around seam edges.

Differential Feed

Both sergers and coverstitch machines have a differential feed mechanism. Therefore, you’ll find one on every coverlocker combo.

Cutting Blade

A hybrid overlocker/coverstitch machine has a blade for trimming seam edges while in serger mode. 

Extended Workspace

Like a coverstitch machine, a hybrid will have a larger workspace to accommodate fabric on the right side of the needle.

High Speed Sewing

Like both sergers and coverstitch machines, a coverlocker is a high-speed instrument that can reach an average speed of 1,300 stitches per minute.

Drawbacks to Using a Coverlock Machine

Wow. I know what I want for my next birthday. But, as with everything, there are some drawbacks to owning a coverlock machine:


More functions mean a more complex apparatus. And this means a serious learning curve. 

A coverlocker has two loopers, and we’ve already talked about what that means. In addition, users must master the functions of two distinct pieces of equipment.

Is it worth it for the additional functionality? Many people think so. But this is not a piece of equipment for the frustration-prone.


Although you can find some hybrid machines at the budget level, a coverlocker with the full complement of serger and coverstitch functions is going to cost you. 

How much? Well, a budget model with a few crossover functions may run you as much as a mid-level regular sewing machine. And a premium model? Well, that could run you as much as a used car.

What’s more, the available features can vary from machine to machine.

So if you’re serious about buying a coverlocker, make a list of your must-haves and check product specifications carefully before pressing “buy.”

Do you Need a Coverlock Machine?

Seriously, who doesn’t need a coverlock machine? Well, that may be overstating the case a little, but if any of the following sound like you, then there might be a coverlock machine on your horizon:

  • You need both a serger and a coverstitch machine
  • You’re primarily working with knits and stretch fabrics
  • Your equipment budget is limited
  • You want to minimize your number of separate machines

Is this you? Then let’s do it right.

How to Buy the Best Coverlock Machine For Your Needs

There are a lot of advantages to a coverstitch/serger combo: versatility, value for money, space savings.

There is one main disadvantage, though. 

The available features for coverlock machines vary from model to model. And they can vary by a lot.

So before you start shopping, it pays to have a list of your dealbreaker features, and to double-check the specs of any model that you might be considering.

Many of the features that make a great serger or coverstitch machine will improve your experience with a coverlocker. Here are a few additional things to watch for:

Stitch Selection

You can count on your coverlocker coming with a selection of cover stitches, a chain stitch and, most likely, three and four-thread overlock stitches built in. However, beyond that, it will behoove you to check the specs.

Other stitches you might want include:

  • Flatlock
  • Rolled hem
  • Two and more-than-four stitch overlock

And that’s just for starters.

Number of Threads

As with sergers and coverstitch machines, consider how many threads you’ll want to work with. Three and four threads come standard on most coverlockers. But you might also want two threads for lightweight work, and five or even more threads for heavier work.

Speed Control

A coverlocker is a multi-purpose machine. Some models can have quite a bit of overlap with a regular sewing machine.

Although few sergers have a slider for controlling stitching speed, some coverstitch and coverlock models do have it. It can certainly come in handy for trickier bits of stitching.

Some of Our Favourite Models

Now for the fun part. Let’s check out some of the best coverlockers on the market:

Juki MO-735

juki MO-735 coverlocker

Juki made some of the first home overlock machines, and they’re a well respected name in both domestic and industrial sewing equipment.

The Juki MO-735 is a combination overlock and coverstitch machine with the following features:

  • 2-3-4-5 thread stitching
  • Two and three needle coverstitch
  • Chain stitch
  • 5-thread safety stitch
  • Simplified chain looper threading
  • Retractable upper knife
  • Built-in rolled hem

There’s quite a range of prices for coverlock machines, and this model comes in around the middle of the spectrum. If this is the combination of features you’re looking for, then this model could be a decent, cost-effective option.

Baby Lock Ovation

Baby Lock machines are often the “when money is no object” option. The Baby Lock Ovation is a top-of-the-line serger/coverstitch combo that does almost everything short of washing and folding your clothes. You will definitely pay for your thrills, but what thrills they are. Check it out:

  • Self-threading
  • Auto tension
  • 2-3-4-5-6-7-8 thread stitching
  • Two proprietary decorative stitches
  • Five inches of throat space
  • Knee lifter
  • Speed control 

If you want a machine that can very nearly do it all, and you’re ready to pay for it, the Baby Lock Ovation could be your sewing room’s new best friend.

Serger, Coverstitch, Coverlock Machines…What’s The Difference? Now You Know!

The field of sewing machines is a crowded one, even when you’re looking at more specialized equipment. Labeling and marketing conventions don’t always make the distinctions clear. The last thing you want is to pay a lot of money for a machine that won’t do what you need it to do.

So remember:

  • A serger is for edging, internal seams, and certain types of decoration
  • Coverstitch machines’ main job is hemming
  • Coverlock machines have features of both, but those features vary from model to model

Do you have a favorite machine? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

what is the difference between serger coverlocker coverstitch machines


  1. Clever Betty | Scrap Catcher Tutorial |

Serger Stitches: Overlock Stitch, Flatlock, Rolled Hems & More

serger stitches

A serger, or overlocker, is a specialized sewing machine that uses multiple threads to create strong, flexible, overcast seams and decorative edges. Like all sewing machines, a serger is built to make certain stitch designs, and these stitches can vary from machine to machine.

What are the most common types of serger stitches? How do you create them, and what are they used for? We’ll lay it all out for you here in today’s post.

Serger Stitches: An Overview

If you’ve used a regular sewing machine, you’ll know that each machine comes with built-in stitches. Some machines, like a straight-stitch quilter, have only one built-in stitch design. Others, like the Quantum Stylist 9960, may have hundreds.

In addition to the built-ins, there are ways of expanding your machine’s catalog of stitches by adjusting parameters like stitch length, stitch width, and so on. You may, for example, recognize that a zigzag stitch with zero width can be used the same way as a satin stitch. 

Some manufacturers call this second type of stitch a “stitch option,” “stitch function,” “stitch configuration,” and suchlike.

The stitch catalog of a serger is very similar. Each machine comes with a complement of built-in stitches. By making adjustments to these, you can create additional stitches.

Like the stitches of a standard sewing machine, the different serger stitches have different uses.

Serger Stitch Parameters

With very few exceptions, sergers are mechanical. That is, you make adjustments with knobs, levers, switches, and sliders. There is rarely an onboard computer. Some adjustments are made in the same way on a serger as on an ordinary sewing machine. Others are made differently.

On a serger, these are the parameters you’ll need to adjust.

Number of Threads

We mentioned that sergers sew with multiple threads. But exactly how many?

Most home sergers can make stitches using two, three, and four threads. Some budget models sew with three or four threads only. A very few sew with two or three threads, and you can find premium models that sew with up to eight.

SINGER | Professional 14T968DC
The Singer Professional 14T968DC is a fine example of a 2-3-4-5 serger suitable for a home sewing room

In general, the heavier your fabric, the more threads you’ll want to use. So delicate edgings on ultralight fabrics most often consist of two-thread stitches. Stress-bearing garment seams, on the other hand, will do better with three, four, or more threads.

Number of Needles

janome mod 8933 needle plate presser foot
The two needles of Janome’s MOD-8933 serger in action

Most sergers have two needles and two loopers. Needles sew straight rows, while loopers cast thread around seam edges to seal them off. 

Some serger stitches use both needles and both loopers. Other stitches may use only one needle and either one or both loopers.

Choosing the right or left needle is one way of adjusting the width of a serger stitch. There are others, though, and we’ll discuss those in a bit.

Stitch Length

Stitch length adjustments are very similar on sergers and manual sewing machines. Most will have a stitch length adjustment knob or dial.

Stitch Width

baby lock celebrate adjustable stitch width
The stitch width dial on the excellent Baby Lock Celebrate serger

Stitch width adjustments, on the other hand, can be very different. A few sergers have a stitch width adjustment knob. However, on most sergers, you’ll have to use one of these other methods.

For single-needle stitches, using the right needle makes a narrow version of the stitch, for instance, a narrow rolled hem. Using the left needle makes a wider version of the same stitch.

You can also adjust the cutting width, that is, the amount that the cutting knife trims off the edge. 

Some models will require you to adjust the stitch finger. You might have to move the stitch finger, switch it out for a different one, or remove it altogether.

Thread Tension

brother 1034d tension dials
The colorful tension dials of the Brother 1034D

On a regular sewing machine, you generally adjust the tension of the top thread. Occasionally, you might address the bobbin thread tension. But on a serger, every thread has its own tension dial. And adjusting the thread tensions relative to one another is another way to create different stitches.

Differential Feed

Janome 634D MyLock differential feed
The differential feed ratio indicator window (A) and the differential feed dial (B) on a Janome 634D

A regular sewing machine has one set of feed dogs that feed your fabric through the machine. A serger has two. The differential feed adjusts the speed of the two sets of feed dogs relative to one another. This, in turn, increases (or decreases) the amount of stretch or compression of the fabric during sewing.

Adjusting the differential feed makes it easier to sew knits and stretch fabrics. But it’s also how you create special types of decorative effects like lettuce edges, ruffles and pintucks.

Serger Stitches and How to Use Them

So, what are the most commonly used serger stitches? And if they’re not already built into your machine, how do you create them from the stitches that are?

It’s time to find out!

Overlock Stitches 

The overlock stitch is the fundamental serger stitch. Almost every serger will come with three- and four-thread overlock stitches built in. A 2-3-4 serger, like the SINGER 14HD854 for example, may also have a built-in two-thread overlock. 

You can adjust your stitch parameters to create narrow and wide versions of all of these. You can also adjust the tensions of different threads in order to create variations on the overlock stitches.

Two-Thread Overlock

A two-thread overlock stitch provides a sealed seam that’s ideal for lightweight fabrics. It’s also a good one to use if you want to minimize bulk in your seam. 

Two-thread overlock stitches are made using oneneedle thread and one looper thread.

Use your right needle to create a narrow two-thread overlock stitch. Use your left needle to create a wide two-thread overlock stitch.

Three-Thread Overlock

3 thread overlock stitch

A three-thread overlock stitch is one of the go-to stitches for garment construction. This stitch creates a strong, stretchy seam that’s great for use with a variety of fabrics.

Three-thread overlock stitches are created with one needle thread and both looper threads.

As above, use your right needle if you want a narrow three-thread overlock stitch, and your left needle if you want a wide three-thread overlock.

Four-Thread Overlock

4 thread overlock

A four-thread overlock stitch creates a sturdy seam that’s fit for use with a variety of thick and heavy fabrics. If you’re making bluejeans, for example, this is your stitch.

To create a four-thread overlock, you’ll be using both needles and both loopers.

Overlock Variations

You can adjust your machine’s parameters to create a few variations on the different overlock stitches. You may have to experiment a bit to get the stitches exactly how you want them. Your serger manual should have suggestions for exact settings.

Try these.

To create a two-thread overlock wrap stitch, use your right needle. Increase the tension on the needle thread and decrease the tension on the lower looper thread. Again, choose the right needle to create a narrow stitch, and the left needle to create a wider stitch.

To create a three-thread stretch overlock stitch, use your right needle. Increase the needle thread tension and the tension for the lower looper, while decreasing the tension for the upper looper.

3 thread stretch

Flatlock Stitches

3 thread flatlock -1

The flatlock stitch, as the name implies, creates an attractive, flat seam. The looper threads completely enclose the fabric edges, and the entire seam lies flat. It’s an excellent choice when you need a strong, enclosed seam but want to minimize bulk.

The original purpose of the flatlock stitch was to imitate a cover stitch. Today, you often see a flatlock stitch on seams for athletic wear. Flatlock stitches can also be used decoratively, as they create an attractive “ladder” effect on the reverse side.

3 thread flatlock -2

You might also know this stitch as a safety stitch or a ladder stitch.

Sergers can create flatlock stitches with two, three, or four threads. As with overlock stitches, you can make narrow and wide versions of one-needle flatlock stitches by choosing either the right or left needle.

You can create a flatlock stitch by threading your serger for an overlock stitch. Then:

  • Increase the needle thread tension, and
  • Turn the upper looper thread tension to zero, and
  • Increase the lower looper thread tension to the near-maximum setting

Tension control settings can vary from machine to machine. Your serger manual should be able to give you specific information about creating this stitch with your machine.

Rolled Hems

A rolled hem is an attractive way to secure the edges of a single layer of ravel-prone fabric. You often see a two-thread rolled hem on delicate scarves, for instance. The rolled hem is also the basis of a decorative lettuce edge.

3 thread rolled hem

Some sergers have a built-in rolled hem setting, which makes the necessary adjustments for you. However, if your serger doesn’t have a built-in rolled hem, it’s not difficult to make the adjustments yourself.

Rolled hems come in two-thread and three-thread varieties.

First, disable or remove the cutting blade. A rolled hem rolls the edges out of the way, rather than trimming them. Many sergers have a retractable blade, but even if yours doesn’t, it should be easy to remove it.

Next, choose a needle. Whether you’re sewing a two-thread rolled hem or a three-thread rolled hem, this is a one-needle stitch. The same rule applies as in the stitches above; use the right needle for a narrow rolled hem or the left needle for a wider rolled hem.

If you’re making a two-thread rolled hem, you’ll also want to use the upper looper converter that came with your serger.

serger upper looper converter

Mock Safety Stitches

The mock safety stitch comes in three-thread and four-thread varieties. This is a strong, flexible stitch used for stress-bearing garment seams. The mock safety stitch is meant to emulate a five-thread safety stitch. It’s not quite as strong, but it does very well for itself.

The mock safety stitch uses both looper threads and either one or two needle threads

The mock safety stitch is a built-in type stitch, which comes with some, but not all overlock sergers.

Decorative Stitch Examples

Sergers are made primarily for construction, and generally do not come with decorative stitches, however, there are always exceptions. Though you won’t find a serger with a large selection of decorative designs like the best computerized sewing machines, you may come across a serger with one

Here are a few examples.

Picot Stitch

3 thread picot

The picot stitch is a delicate scalloped shape that can give a lovely finish to cuffs, collars, scarf edges, and so on. It comes as a built-in stitch on a few serger models. 

You can also create a picot edge on a regular serger.

First, set your machine to do a rolled hem. For this example, I’m doing a three-thread picot stitch.

Next, increase your stitch length. I’ve set mine to 4, which is the maximum length on my serger.

Now increase your lower looper tension so that it pulls the upper looper thread around to the other side. I’ve set my lower looper tension to my machine’s maximum setting.

And don’t forget to retract your cutting blade!

Wave Stitch

The Wave Stitch is a proprietary stitch that comes built into some Baby Lock machines, like the Baby Lock Imagine Wave BLE3ATW. You can see what it looks like here.

The wave stitch can be used on its own, but you can also use it as the basis for other stitches, such as a wave flatlock stitch. 

Two Blanket Stitches

3 thread blanket

The blanket stitch is a popular edging on, unsurprisingly, blankets and appliqué pieces. This is a wide two or three-thread stitch, and it’s easy to make on any serger.

First, remove the right needle.

Next, set your machine for a rolled hem. That includes retracting your cutting blade.

Now, set the needle tension to a standard, or middle setting. Set the upper looper thread to its maximum, and the lower looper thread to zero. This will pull the lower looper thread to the top side of the seam to give your blanket stitch its characteristic look.

You may have to experiment to get it where you want it to be on your machine.

Chain Stitch and Cover Stitch

The chain stitch and cover stitch are the two fundamental stitches you’ll find on a coverstitch machine. In general, a serger will not make either of these. This is because sergers are typically used to make seams, while a coverstitch machine’s main job is hemming. (Confused? Check out our post on the differences between sergers, overlockers, and coverstitch machines)

However, there are hybrid sergers that do both overlock sewing and coverstitch sewing. So it’s worth understanding what these stitches are and what they’re used for.

Chain Stitch

If you do embroidery or crochet, you’re already familiar with a chain stitch. A machine chain stitch is very similar. It can be used on its own or to connect two rows of straight stitching on the reverse side of the fabric. You can also use a chain stitch decoratively on the right side of the fabric.

Watch how it’s done here.


A coverstitch is a compound stitch consisting of two parallel lines of straight stitching on the right side of the fabric connected by a chain stitch on the reverse side. This creates a professional sealed hem that is both strong and flexible.

Serger Stitches: Which Overlock Stitch Do you Love The Most?

Every serger comes with a catalog of built-in stitches. These built-in stitches vary from machine to machine but, with few exceptions, every serger will make a three-thread and four-thread overlock stitch. 

By altering parameters like stitch length, stitch width, and the relative tensions of each of the threads, you can create additional stitch designs and extend your repertoire.

What are your favorite serger stitches? Do you have any advice for our readers? Tell us all about it in the comments!

overlocker stitches

Decorative Serger Stitches: 5 Easy Overlocker Special Effects

decorative serger stitches

A serger can help you to power through garments and housewares by making strong, flexible seams and edges. But did you know you can also use your serger for decorative sewing? You can! In fact, there are several fun and easy decorative serger stitches you can do on any overlocker to spice up your projects.

A Bit About Decorative Sewing

One of the main differences between a regular sewing machine and a serger is decorative stitches. Most computerized sewing machines have at least a dozen stitches that you can use to decorate your work, as you can see by the example stitch chart below:

singer 7258 stitch chart
The extremely popular SINGER 7258 stitch card shows a wealth of decorative stitches

Even when you look at the best sergers on the market, most don’t have decorative stitches.

There are exceptions, of course. Some Baby Lock machines can do Baby Lock’s proprietary wave stitch, for example, but the majority lack in the decorative stitching department. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use a serger for decorative sewing. You can. A serger just creates different types of decoration. And for the most part, serger decoration is fun and easy.

Decorative Sewing With a Serger

So, what can you do with a serger, and how do you do it?

We’ll show you. But first, we want to talk a bit about your machine.

Serger Techniques

In addition to knowing the steps to perform a certain technique, it always helps to understand the steps themselves.

There are five different adjustments you’ll be making when doing serger decorations: differential feed, stitch length, thread tension, cutting blade, and stitch finger.

Differential Feed

The differential feed adjusts the degree to which your machine stretches or compresses the fabric while you’re sewing. Increasing the differential feed stretches the fabric, while decreasing it compresses the fabric.

Stitch Length

Stitch length on a serger determines how close together the stitches are. For some rolled hem-based effects, like a lettuce edge, a very small stitch length is key.

Thread Tensions

Adjusting the tensions of your needle and/or looper threads in different ways can create different shapes and effects.

Cutting Blade

For many (though not all) serger special effects, you’ll want to retract or disable your upper cutting blade.

Stitch Finger

Many special effects begin by setting your machine for a rolled hem. Depending on your machine, this may mean moving or switching out your stitch finger.

5 Decorative Serger Stitches

Enough chat! Let’s get down to the decorative serger stitches, shall we? Oh, and don’t forget to check out our other article on some of the more common types of serger stitches once you’re done here.


One of the easiest and most recognizable special effects you can make with your serger is the humble ruffle. 

woman in dress with ruffles

A ruffle is made by compressing the fabric while you sew. Here’s how you set it up.

First, set your serger to an overlock stitch. You can do a two-thread, three-thread, or four-thread overlock.

Now, adjust your stitch length to a longer stitch. On my machine, the maximum stitch length setting is four, and this is what I used.

Turn your differential feed to at least 2. Two is the maximum on my machine, but some machines go to 2.25.

Finally, adjust your thread tensions. When you set your thread tensions for an overlock stitch, you set them all to the same number. On my machine, that number was 3, which is a medium tension.

Experiment with the tension of your needle threads. Greater needle thread tension means more ruffles.

For my example, I started with a seven-inch piece of fabric.

ruffles base fabric

Then I set my machine:

Stitch: four-thread overlock

Stitch length: 4 (the maximum on my machine)

Differential feed: 1.5 

Thread tension: 3

This was the result. A seven-inch piece of fabric ruffled down to six inches.

serger overlocker ruffles

But I wanted more ruffles, so I increased the needle thread tension to 5.

serger ruffles 3 inch

Then, I wondered what would it look like if I cranked the thread tension up even more. This was the result after putting the needle thread tension at my machine’s maximum. 

4 inch ruffles serger

Another way to increase the number of ruffles is to increase the differential feed.

Remember: increasing the differential feed compresses your fabric during sewing. This is how it looks with maximum thread tension and maximum differential feed.

finished ruffles overlocker

If your machine allows you to loosen your presser foot, this too will make more ruffles. The presser foot pressure adjustment is a small screw on the top left of some machines.

Settings Summary

  • Set your machine for an overlock stitch
  • Choose a maximum or near-maximum stitch length
  • Set your differential feed a bit higher than neutral

To increase the amount of ruffling, make one or more of the following adjustments:

  • Increase the differential feed
  • Increase the tension(s) of the needle thread(s)
  • Decrease the presser foot pressure

Settings can differ between makes and models, so play with your settings and experiment.

Serger Lace

This video has been getting a lot of attention lately. It shows a technique for making lace trim with your serger.

Very pretty, but how easy is it, really?

In the interest of science, I gave it a try.

First, set your serger for a four-thread overlock stitch. Your stitch length should be average (two to three on my machine.) Your stitch finger should be set at “S,” that is for stitching, not a rolled hem.

Make sure to retract your cutting blade. You don’t want to trim off the lace you’re creating.

Your thread tension should be at a medium setting (3 on my machine) and the same for all threads and loopers. The differential feed should be set to neutral (or 1 on my machine).

Now, line your fabric edge up with the cutting line. Make sure that your fabric edge is straight, and go slowly and carefully to stitch evenly along it.

how to make serger lace

Once you have a single row of stitches, you can begin the second row. In the video, the presenter works on a circular piece of fabric, which makes it easy to continue right along with subsequent rows. 

But if you’re working on a square edge, simply snip your thread ends at the end of the row as normal, then place your work back in the machine.

Either way, make sure that your left needle will be sewing along the right needle thread line for the previous row. In my photo, the right needle thread is the red thread.

Sew slowly and carefully, repeating the process until you have as many rows of lace as you like.

lace stitch serger 4 rows

Two words of warning. First, this is not as easy as it looks or sounds. Practice will make it easier, however, so give yourself plenty of time to warm up.

Also, if you’re not working in the round, the lace you create will be very, very delicate until you secure the edges by serging over them.

serger lace stitch
finished overlocker lace

Helpful Hints

  • Make sure your fabric edge is straight
  • Sew slowly and carefully to get your lace rows straight, as well
  • Be careful 
  • Be patient
  • Do lots and lots of practice

Also, I used four different colors to illustrate the positions of the different threads. However, using a single color for the lace will give you a prettier, more polished-looking lace.

Settings Summary

  • Set your machine for a four-thread overlock stitch
  • Stitch finger at “S” (that is, stitching, not rolled hem)
  • Medium thread tension
  • Thread tension should be the same for all needles and loopers
  • Retract the cutting blade
  • Your stitches should have a medium length
  • Select a neutral differential feed setting

Machines and their settings can differ. Make time to experiment with these settings to find the one that best suits your project.


Pintucks are another type of decoration you can create with your serger. Pintucks are a series of parallel rows where the fabric is tucked and stitched. There are a few different ways of making pintucks. This is one.

First, use a ruler to draw the lines where the tucks will go. A heat-erase fabric pen is a great way to go with this, as you’ll be ironing the tucks anyway.

how to stitch pintuck

Next, fold your fabric along the lines and press.

pintuck iron

Now, set your serger for a two-thread or three-thread rolled hem.Set the stitch finger and retract your cutting blade.

You’ll be using your right needle. Set your stitch length to 1 (or R, or whatever your machine’s minimum length is.)

Your thread tension should be at four, or the average setting. All threads and loopers should have the same tension.

Set your differential feed to 1, or neutral.

Now sew, keeping the fold at your machine’s guide line.

pintuck finished

Again, I used brightly colored and differently colored thread for visibility purposes. For your own pintucking, you will probably want to match your thread to your fabric.

Settings Summary

  • Set your machine for a rolled hem
  • Retract the cutting blade
  • Use the right needle
  • Stitch length set to 1 (or your machine’s minimum)
  • Differential feed at neutral (or 1)
  • Average thread tension
  • Thread tension the same for all threads and loopers

As always, you may have to play with your settings a bit to get the appearance where you want it.

Lettuce Edge

lettuce edge serger stitch

A lettuce edge is a wavy, thread-covered edge. It’s a popular finish for shirt sleeves and hems. For the most dramatic waves, use this finish on knit fabrics. You can also use it with wovens, but the results will be more subdued.

Here’s how to make your lettuce edge.

First, set your serger for the rolled hem of your choice. Move your stitch finger to “R” (or your machine’s rolled hem setting) and retract your cutting blade.

Your stitch length should be zero to one. 

Set your thread tensions like this:

  • Needle thread: 2
  • Upper looper: 5
  • Lower looper: 8

Again, you may have to experiment a bit to find the settings that give you the amount of wave that you want for your particular project.

Picot Edge

decorative 3-thread picot stitch

A picot edge has a delicate scalloped appearance. It gives a lovely finish to collars and cuffs.

To make a picot edge, first, set your machine for the rolled hem of your choice. For more delicate fabrics, a two-thread rolled hem will work best. I’m working with three threads for my example.

Retract your cutting blade, and move your stitch finger into the rolled hem position.

Now, increase your stitch length. I’ve set mine to 4, which is the longest stitch on my serger.

Increase the tension of your lower looper so that it pulls the upper looper thread over to the other side. In this example, my lower looper tension is on 9, which is the maximum for my machine.

Settings Summary

  • Rolled hem setting
  • Cutting blade out of the way
  • Use one needle (your choice)
  • Stitch length at maximum
  • Needle thread tension: average (I used setting 3)
  • Upper looper thread tension: a bit lower than average (I used setting 2)
  • Lower looper thread tension: near maximum (I used 8)
  • Differential feed at neutral (or 1)

As always, practice and experimentation will help you to get your settings just right.

Decorative Serger Sewing: More Than Just Seams and Edges

Your serger is more than just a tool for making seams and edges. You can use its unique features to create spectacular decorative effects, as well.

What’s your favorite serger decoration? Tell us about it in the comments!

decorative serger stitches how to

What Is A Serger Sewing Machine Used For? An Overlocker Overview

what is a serger

What is a serger? A serger, also called an overlocker or an overlock machine, is a specialized sewing machine that uses an overcasting stitch to simultaneously sew a seam and seal the raw seam edges.

This makes it a powerful tool, one that allows you to create strong, professional-quality seams and edges.

At the same time, a serger is quite different from a regular sewing machine and there are some tasks it cannot do. An overlocker, therefore, should augment, rather than replace, your regular sewing machine. 

TL;DR – What Is A Serger?

A serger (or overlocker, overlock machine) is a sewing machine that uses multiple threads to overcast a seam or fabric edge. Serging is very common in garment construction and finishing. Home sewists can likewise use a serger to create strong, professional-looking seams and unique decorative edges.

How is a Serger Different from a Sewing Machine?

The first difference you’ll notice is appearance, but sergers also have features, such as loopers and differential feed mechanisms, that regular sewing machines do not have.

A overlocker accomplishes different functions from a standard sewing machine as well, and we’ll get to those shortly.

Anatomy of a Serger

You’ll know an overlock machine by its shape and size. Sergers are generally smaller than regular sewing machines and many also have a squarish shape to their outer casing.

serger anatomy - brother 1034d parts
Image, and subsequent descriptive text list, courtesy of Brother USA [1]
  1. Thread tree
  2. Handle
  3. Presser foot pressure adjustment screw
  4. Spool pin
  5. Spool support
  6. Thread take-up cover
  7. Needles
  8. Upper knife
  9. Presser foot
  10. Material plate cover
  11. Spool stand (thread tree support)
  12. Left needle thread tension dial
  13. Right needle thread tension dial
  14. Presser foot lifting lever
  15. Hand wheel
  1. Upperlooper thread tension dial
  2. Lowerlooper thread tension dial
  3. Front cover
  4. Material side plate (for overlock stitch)
  5. Main power switch and light switch
  6. Stitch length adjustment dial
  7. Differential feed ratio adjustment lever
  8. Lowerlooper threading lever
  9. Stitch finger
  10. Stitch width lever
  11. Upperlooper
  12. Lowerlooper
  13. Free-arm cover
  14. Bed extension
  15. Knife lever

Sergers have multiple thread spools for, you guessed it, multiple threads. You can find overlockers with two, three, four, five, or even more threads. Often, overlockers use cone thread, rather than thread on spools.

An overlock machine also uses multiple needles. Generally speaking, one needle sews a straight row, while the other interacts with the looper (or loopers) to wrap thread around the seam edges. These two actions happen simultaneously and a serger has no bobbin thread.

Regular sewing machines have one set of feed dogs, while overlockers have two. You can use a serger’s differential feed mechanism to adjust both sets of feed dogs, so that they move their portion of fabric at the same speed or at a different pace to one another. [2]

This can come in useful for:

  • Preventing puckering while sewing lightweight fabrics
  • Intentionally gathering your fabric while sewing

A serger also has a knife or blade (sometimes it has both!) for trimming seam edges while you sew.

Here’s a look at a simple Singer serger.

What are sergers used for?

As we’ve already touched upon above, an overlocker is used differently to a regular sewing machine. 

You might use a regular sewing machine for:

  • Sewing
  • Buttonholes
  • Topstitching
  • Decorative stitching
  • Quilting
  • Monogramming and embroidery 

A serger cannot do any of these things. Instead, an overlocker does overcasting, and you can use this for various sorts of tasks, including:

  • Overcast seams
  • Rolled hems
  • Sewing stretch fabrics and knits
  • Creating pleats, gathers, and pintucks
  • Making “lettuce” edges

Why Do Sergers Have Multiple Threads?

overlocker thread cones

Sergers use anywhere between two and eight threads. The most common arrangement is three or four threads. 

One thread sews a straight stitch, which creates the seam. The remaining threads zigzag and loop around the seam edges. This seals the edges and keeps them from fraying. It’s particularly useful when working with knit fabrics.

A regular sewing machine uses a top thread and a bobbin thread. A serger machine, on the other hand, uses one or more looper threads instead of a bobbin thread.

How many threads do you need?

serger thread

That depends on the task you wish to accomplish. A three and four thread serger can accomplish most jobs. But there are times when you might want a two-thread overlocker, or one that uses more than four threads. [3]

Here are some common uses of different serger types:

Two threads

  • True safety stitch
  • Decorative edging
  • Finishing edges of light fabrics
  • Mock flatlock stitch
  • Blind hem
  • Two-thread overlock

Three threads

  • Stretch fabrics
  • Strong, wide serged seams
  • Pintucks
  • Rolled hem
  • Mock safety stitch
  • Three thread overlock

Four threads

  • Simultaneous chain stitch while overcasting seams
  • Simultaneous safety stitch while overcasting seams
  • Four thread overlock

More than four threads

  • Chain stitch
  • Simultaneous strong seam and heavy-duty seam finish

In general, you should use no less than four threads to serge items that will be subject to heavy stress.

Why Do Sergers Have Knives?

Many overlockers have a knife that trims the seam edges while you sew. Some models have two blades, which work like scissors to accomplish this task.

Some overlock machines allow you to choose between using the knife or not, depending on your task. For example, with some kinds of decorative sewing, you may not want to use it.

Are serger knives safe?

A serger’s knife is absolutely safe, provided you follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions.

What Do Sergers Do Well?

woman using overlocker

People use sergers for two primary reasons: creating strong, sealed seams, and preventing fraying of fabric edges. Overlockers are also excellent if you’re working with knits and stretchy fabrics.

However, an overlocker is also good for different types of decorative edging and you can also use it to create rolled hems. An overlocker’s differential feed mechanism also makes it easy to do pintucks and gathers.

Check out our article on creating decorative edges for more special effects info.

What Can You Not Do With a Serger?

Although an overlocker is a powerful tool for certain jobs, there are other tasks for which you’ll still need your regular sewing machine. These include:

  • Decorative embroidery stitches
  • Straight stitching
  • Buttonholes
  • Topstitching

In addition, there are certain projects, like quilts, where the reinforced seams created by a serger are too bulky, or otherwise undesirable. In these cases, a regular sewing machine is still the best choice.

Should Every Sewing Room Have a Serger?

woman using serger

An overlock machine, as you can see, is a specialized piece of equipment made to do a specific set of tasks.

Does every sewing room need one? Probably not. If your main craft is quilting or machine embroidery, then you probably won’t use a serger very often.

On the other hand, if you sew mainly clothing and housewares, an overlocker can make your life a lot easier, and your projects a lot more polished.

So, should every sewing room have a serger? It’s fair to say that owning an overlocker isn’t necessarily vital for everyone who enjoys sewing.

A more salient question is to ask whether your sewing room needs one. And only you can answer that!

What Is A Serger? Final Thoughts

overlocker side view

A serger is a specialized sewing machine for making strong, sealed seams and decorative edges. It can make your garments and housewares more robust and give them a professional finish. And once you get the hang of using an overlock machine, it can be a lot of fun.

At the same time, a serger can’t do everything. It’s not a replacement for your regular sewing machine. Rather, it’s another tool for your crafting arsenal.

Do you enjoy using an overlocker? What are some things our readers should know about working with them? Please tell us in the comments below!

what is an overlocker


  1. Brother USA | 1034D Product Catalog |
  2. FPO | Differential Feed Mechanism for a Sewing Machine |
  3. Insook Ahn | Selecting an Overlock Sewing Machine |

How To Sew A Seam, Either By Hand Or With A Sewing Machine

how to sew a seam

A seam is a line of stitching that joins two pieces of material. Sounds simple, right? But there are many different types of seams, and each has its own procedure, appearance, and usage. You can sew a seam by hand or by machine. Either way, it’s not hard if you have the tools and know the techniques.

Different Types of Seams

decorative seams

So you need to join your pattern pieces. Of course you want to do it in a way that’s both effective and attractive. That means it’s time to choose the type of seam that you’re going to use.

Decorative Seams

Decorative seams, as you probably guessed, are there to enhance the appearance of your project. This type of seam may join pattern pieces, but in addition, they may:

  • Add shape to a garment
  • Enhance the structure of part of a garment or other item
  • Add color, texture, or other visual interest

Decorative seams are made to be seen, so technique and attention to detail are important. Some types of decorative seams include:

  • Princess seam
  • Channel seam
  • Linen seam
  • Pleated seam
  • Abutted seam

Want to seam what we’re talking about? Here’s a princess seam before, during, and after construction.

Functional Seams

Functional seams hold your item together. They’re meant to bear weight, stress, and strain. They should be strong, but they can also be decorative. Some examples of functional seams include:

  • Straight seam
  • Lapped seam
  • French seam
  • Flat felled seam

Here’s how to sew an attractive and functional French seam.

Single Seams

A single seam is a single row of stitching that joins two pieces of material. The seam edges may or may not be finished, but they will always end up on the inside (or reverse side) of your item. Depending on your fabric, you may want to finish your seam edges by pinking or serging them off, or by using a finishing technique like the Hong Kong finish, shown in the video below.

Double Seams

You’ll know double seams by their two parallel rows of stitching. The double rows make the seam very strong. They can also add a decorative touch. You can use a double row to seal off seam edges, too. This can be especially helpful if your fabric is prone to fraying. 

The flat felled seam, shown below, is a common double seam used in bluejeans.

Open Seams

Open seams leave the seam edges exposed. This is fine if the edges will end up on the inside (wrong side) of your project. It’s also acceptable if you’re working with a fray-resistant fabric.

On the other hand, if your fabric is subject to fraying, or if you simply want a tidier finish, you might want to use a closed seam.

Closed Seams

Closed seams enclose the seam edges within the seam. Some examples of closed seams include:

  • French seam
  • Lapped seam
  • Flat felled seam

Have you chosen your seam? Great! It’s time to get sewing!

How to Sew a Seam by Hand

If you don’t have access to a sewing machine, or don’t have the time to learn how to use a sewing machine right now, don’t worry! You can sew a seam by hand. 

What You’ll Need

  • The appropriate needle for your fabric
  • Your thread (remember to match synthetics with synthetic thread and natural fabrics with cotton thread)
  • Scissors or snips
  • Pins
  • Tailor’s chalk or a fabric marker (optional)
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Beeswax (optional)
  • Needle threader (optional)
  • Pinking shears (optional)
  • Iron (optional)

Step 1: Prepare Your Fabric

Mary Poppins once said, “well begun is half done.” When it comes to sewing, it’s absolutely true. By setting up your fabric and your tools, you’re setting yourself up for success.

First, if you’re working with fabric that’s prone to wrinkles, iron it to make sure it lays flat. This will ensure that your pattern pieces fit together the way they’re meant to.

Next, line up your fabric edges. Don’t be sloppy, or your finished product will be sloppy as well.

Pin your pieces together. This will keep them from slipping and sliding around while you sew.

Finally, mark your seam line with a washable fabric pen or tailor’s chalk. Use a ruler for extra precision. It’s a lot easier to sew along a line than to try to eyeball your seam while sewing. 

If you take the time to be organized and precise, your project will have a greater chance of turning out the way you want it to.

Step 2: Prepare Your Needle and Thread

Step 2 is optional, but many people find it helpful.

First, start with the right needle. For fine fabrics, use a thin, sharp needle. This will minimize damage to the fabric. For thicker fabrics, you can use a thicker needle.

Snip your thread end at an angle. This will decrease the fuzz at the end, which can make it hard to thread the needle.

Dabbing beeswax onto your thread end can make the thread stiffer, which also makes it easier to poke it through the needle’s eye.

You can also use a needle threader. This is especially helpful if you’re working with a very small, very thin needle.

Now, thread your needle. You can choose to sew with a single thread, or, for a stronger stitch, pull the thread halfway through your needle, so that your needle is sitting halfway between your thread ends. Now, knot the thread ends together.

Step 3: Choose Your Stitch

There are a number of stitches you can choose from, but often the most straightforward stitches are the best. They’ll get you where you need to go quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

The straight stitch is the most basic sewing stitch. Some people also call this stitch a running stitch. It’s easy. Up and down in a straight line, from beginning to end. Here’s how it’s done.

A backstitch is another simple stitch. You might use this one if you want a stronger row of stitches.

Step 4: Sew Your Seam

Fabric prepared? Stitch chosen? Needle threaded? Now you’re ready to sew!

Before you begin, secure your thread end. If you’ve already knotted the ends together, this will suffice. You can also use one of these techniques.

Now, using your chosen stitch, sew along the line you marked earlier.

Step 5: Tie off Your Stitch

When you’ve completed your seam, it’s time to tie off your stitch. There are a number of ways to do this, including:

  • Tying a knot
  • Using a finishing stitch
  • Making a French knot
  • Using a backstitch

For a detailed photo tutorial of these and other methods, check out our article, How to Tie Off a Stitch.

Step 6: Finish Your Edges (Optional)

If you’re working with a fray-resistant fabric, or if you’ve chosen a seam that encloses the seam allowance, then you don’t have to finish your edges. 

But if your fabric is likely to unravel, or if you simply want a tidy finish, then you might want to finish your edges. 

If you’re sewing by hand, the easiest way to do this is to trim the seam allowance with pinking shears. 

Advanced finishing techniques like a Hong Kong Finish are easier with a sewing machine. But if you have the time and patience, you can also adapt the technique to hand sewing.

Step 7: Iron Your Seam (Optional)

Ironing your seam on the right side of the fabric will help it to lie flat. This, in turn, will make your item look more professional and attractive.

How to Sew a Seam With a Sewing Machine

If you have a sewing machine, it’s easy to make a fast, strong, and precise seam.

What You’ll Need

  • Your sewing machine
  • The appropriate sewing machine needle for your fabric
  • Suitable thread for your fabric
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Beeswax (optional)
  • Pinking shears (optional)
  • Fabric stabilizer (optional)
  • Sewing machine needle threader (optional)
  • Iron (optional)

Step 1: Prepare Your Fabric

Preparing your fabric for machine sewing is similar to preparing it for hand sewing. You’ll need to:

  • Iron the fabric, unless it’s wrinkle-resistant
  • Line up your fabric edges
  • Pin your seam together

You might want to mark your seam line at this point. You could also use the guide on your sewing machine’s feed cover plate to eyeball your seam line.

Also, if your fabric is slippery, lightweight, or doesn’t hold its shape well, you might want to stabilize it. If your fabric is machine washable, you can use a wash-out spray stabilizer. If it’s not, you can stabilize your fabric by pinning tissue paper, tracing paper, or a commercial tear-away stabilizer to the back.

Step 2: Prepare Your Needle and Thread

Always use a new needle for every project.

In addition, there are a bewildering number of needles on the market. It’s important to choose the right sewing machine needle for your fabric.

  • Universal needles work well for many, but not all fabrics.
  • For woven fabrics, use a ballpoint needle to minimize fabric damage.
  • Use a stretch needle (jersey needle) for stretch fabrics.
  • Thick materials like denim or leather need a sharp needle rated for that material.
  • Lighter fabrics need a smaller, thinner, lighter needle.
  • Match your needle size with your thread weight.
  • Also match metallic thread with a metallic thread needle.

Regarding thread, match your thread to your fabric. Choose synthetic thread for working with synthetic fabrics, and cotton thread for natural fiber fabrics.

Also, polyester thread has a natural stretch, so use this, rather than cotton thread, if you’re working with a stretchy fabric.

Just like when threading a hand sewing needle, using beeswax on your thread end can make threading a sewing machine needle easier.

You can thread your needle using your sewing machine’s automatic needle threader. If your sewing machine doesn’t have one, however, you can use a sewing machine needle threader.

Step 3: Choose Your Stitch

A straight stitch is most people’s stitch of choice. However, if you’re working with stretchy fabrics, then choose one of your sewing machine’s stretch stitches

If your sewing machine has an overlock or serging stitch, you can also use this to simultaneously sew your seam and finish your edges.

Here are some other types of stitches and their uses.

Step 4: Sew Your Seam

Line up your fabric with the appropriate markings on your feed cover plate. Alternately, if you’ve marked your seam line, line that up with your needle and sew your seam.

To secure your row, sew a locking stitch at the beginning of the row and at the end. Here’s how.

Step 5: Finish Your Edges (Optional)

As with hand sewing, you can finish your raw edges to keep them from fraying, or to give your item a more professionally finished work.

Here are a few different ways to finish your edges.

Step 6: Iron Your Seam (Optional)

Again, ironing your seam on the wrong side will help it to lay flat, and give your project a more finished look.

It’s Easier Than it “Seams”

It might look like a lot of steps for a straightforward task. But if you use the right tools and take the time to do it right, it’s easy to make a strong, attractive seam.

What’s your favorite seam? Do you have a technique that can make it easier for our readers? Tell us all about it in the comments!

How To Sew A Seam By Hand Or Sewing Machine

How To Tie Off A Stitch: End & Finish Your Sewing Like A Pro

how to tie off a stitch


To end a stitch when you’re sewing by hand, stop with several inches of thread left. Bring the needle under your last stitch and make a loop large enough to insert your finger. Now, bring the needle through the loop and pull it tight to form a knot. Finishing stitches on a sewing machine is just as easy. You can lock the stitch or tie it off. We’ll explain how.

It sounds so simple: finish your row of stitches and tie it off. You might even think about skipping that step. Don’t! The truth is, though, there are many ways to secure your stitches, whether you’re sewing by hand or by machine. Some work better than others. Confused? No worries. We’ll show you several different ways to secure your stitches.

What You’ll Need to Complete This Tutorial

If you’re sewing by hand, both the tools and the technique will be different than for machine sewing. 

Tools for Ending a Row of Hand Stitching

Tools for Ending a Row of Machine Stitching

  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Scissors or snips (optional if your machine has a thread cutter)
  • Your project

6 Ways to Tie off a Stitch By Hand

The simplest way to tie off a row of hand stitching is to make a knot at the end. There are several ways to do this.

Tying off a Double Thread, Method 1

My mother taught me to always use a double thread for hand sewing. It makes the stitches stronger, and it’s easier to tie off when you’re finished. There are actually a few ways of tying off a double thread. Here’s the first.

Step 1

Make the final stitch in your row. Make sure to leave a few inches of thread at the end. You’ll need this to make your knot.

Step 2

Now, separate the two threads. Bring one of the threads over the other then under. Pull just enough to bring the threads to the edge of the fabric. Don’t pull too tightly, or it will pucker the stitches. This is the first part of your first knot.

Step 3

Repeat Step 3, pulling the knot tight.

Step 4 (optional)

I like to make at least one more knot after this. Some people even make two more.

Step 5

Snip off your thread end.

Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 2 (Finishing Stitch)

Here’s a third method to tie off your double thread sewing and keep your stitches secure.

Step 1

Finish your row of stitches, leaving a few inches of thread at the end.

Step 2

Bring your needle down through the fabric near the end of your final stitch. Don’t pull it tight. Rather, leave a loop.

Step 3

Now bring your needle back up, very close to where you brought it down. 

Step 4

Insert your needle through the loop and gently pull it down to the fabric. Don’t pull too tightly! Leave a smaller loop.

Step 5

Now bring your needle through the loop again and give it a final pull.

Step 6

Snip off your thread end.

Watch this method in action below.

Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 3 (Back Stitch)

With this method, you’ll be using the previous stitch to secure your finishing stitch.

Step 1

Sew the final stitch in your row, making sure to leave a few inches of extra thread at the end.

Step 2

Bring your needle back under the last stitch, forming a loop.

Step 3

Now, pass your needle through the loop. Pull gently until the knot settles onto the fabric.

Step 4

To secure the row, repeat steps 2 and 3 to make a second knot.

Step 5

Now, snip your thread ends.

Confused? This is how it’s done.

Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 4 (End-Off Backstitch)

An end-off backstitch, or back tack, is an easy and secure way of tying off a row of hand stitching. 

Step 1

Finish your stitching, leaving several inches of extra thread at the end.

Step 2

Now, bring your needle around, inserting it back into the fabric just after the end of your last completed stitch.

Step 3

Bring the needle back up through the fabric, very close to where you brought it up at the end of your row of stitches. Now you have a loop. Pull the thread gently until it sits against your fabric.

Step 4

Repeat steps 2 and 3 twice more. But do not pull your last loop tight.

Step 5

Finally, bring your needle through the final loop. Now pull it tight.

Step 6

Snip your thread ends.

This is how it’s done.

Tying Off a Double Thread, Method 5

This is a quick and dirty way of tying off your thread. It may take a bit of practice to get the knot to sit perfectly on your fabric, though.

Step 1

Stitch until the end of your row, leaving a few inches of thread at the end.

Step 2

Bring the needle around to form a loop large enough to insert your finger.

Step 3

Now, holding the loop to your fabric with your finger, double back with the needle. Bring the needle through the loop and pull gently. Use your finger to keep the knot snug against your fabric.

Step 4

Repeat the knot if you like. This part is optional.

Step 5

Snip off your thread end.

Tying off a Single Thread

There are occasions when you’ll want to use a single thread instead of a double thread. You can tie off your single thread stitching using the finishing stitch, backstitch or end-off backstitch methods above. You can also try this.

Step 1

End your row of stitches, leaving several inches of thread at the end with which to make your knot.

Step 2

Bring your needle back over the last stitch, like you would for a backstitch or end-off backstitch. 

Step 3

Insert your needle behind your last stitch and gently pull to form a loop.

Step 4

Run your needle through the loop. Now do it again.

Step 5

Pull your knot tight and snip your thread ends.

Watch how it’s done here.

How to End a Row of Machine Stitches

If you’re using a sewing machine, there are a few ways to secure your stitches. 

Method 1: Making a Lockstitch

A lockstitch is an easy way to secure a row of stitches using a sewing machine.

Step 1

Sew three to five stitches forward. Stop.

Step 2

Reverse over those three to five stitches. Stop.

Step 3

Sew back over the stitches one more time. 

Step 4

Now you can snip your threads with confidence.

Want to see how it’s done? Check this out.

Method 2: Using the Auto-Finish Function

Some sewing machines have a lockstitch button. This button makes a lockstitch for you, automatically, so that you don’t have to manually sew, reverse, and sew again. Some even fancier machines, like in the video below, will allow you to program lockstitches into sequences of stitches.

Method 3: Tying Off by Hand

Can you tie off a row of machine stitches by hand? Absolutely! We would use Method 5, above.

Specialty Tie-Off Techniques

Sometimes a regular tie-off isn’t exactly the right thing. Here are a few specialized tie-off techniques for tricky situations.

Hiding Your Knot Between Layers

With a lot of hand sewing projects, it’s fine to leave the starting and finishing knots on the wrong side of your project. But some projects, for example quilts, don’t have a wrong side. Hand quilting takes a lot of effort, and you don’t want to ruin that effort by leaving unsightly knots on either surface.

Here’s how you hide a finishing knot between fabric layers.

Step 1

As always, leave four to six inches of thread after the final stitch in your row.

Step 2

Loop your needle around to the end of the previous stitch, as if you were making a backstitch.

Step 3

Now, bring your needle through the loop and pull it snug but not tight.

Step 4

Now, loop your needle again, going the opposite direction, that is, from the end of the stitch you just made to the beginning.

Step 5

Bring your needle through the loop and pull snug.

Step 6

Now, insert your needle through the middle of the stitch and bring it under the top layer of fabric only. Gently pull.

Step 7

Finally, snip off your thread end and smooth your fabric so that the attached thread end is hidden underneath the top fabric layer.

Watch the process here.

Another Way to Hide a Knot

Here’s another way to hide an end knot. You don’t have to have multiple layers of fabric, but it helps.

This method uses a quilter’s knot to secure the row of stitches. Quilters use this knot at the beginning of a row of hand quilted stitches. You can also use it at the end.

Step 1

Finish your row of stitches, leaving several inches of extra thread.

Step 2

Wrap the thread three times around the needle.

Step 3

Now, while holding the knot, reinsert the needle back into the fabric close to where it came out, and pull it tight. It may take a bit of practice to make the knot, but keep working at it.

Pull it until the knot disappears back beneath the top fabric layer. 

Step 4

Now snip your thread end and gently pull the fabric until the thread end disappears.

Here’s how it’s done.

Hiding Your Finish in a Seam

If your row of stitching finishes in a seam, you can use any of the above finishing methods then hide the knot and thread ends inside the seam.

Final Thoughts

If a job is worth doing, it’s doing right. And there are a lot of right ways to finish off a row of stitching! Whether you’re sewing by hand or sewing by machine, the right technique can keep your stitches secure and attractive.

Did you enjoy our tutorial? Do you have a favorite technique that might help our readers? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

how to end a stitch

What Is A Seam? Different Types & How To Use Them Correctly

what is a seam

What is a seam? The answer might “seam” simple at first. It’s a row of stitching that joins two pieces of fabric or material. But there’s a lot more to it than that. There are different seams for different purposes. There are also a variety of techniques for joining fabric in different ways. Knowing which seam to use and how to form it can help you to make the most of your project.

What is a Seam, Exactly?

The simplest definition is this: a seam is a row of stitching that joins two pieces of fabric or material. But after that, things get a bit more complicated.

There are functional seams, which make up the construction of a garment. There are also decorative seams, which shape and decorate that garment.

Flat seams sit, well, flat, while ridge seams form a ridge or bump. Inconspicuous seams hide on the inside of the garment, while conspicuous seams are meant for the world to see.

And on top of that, each of these categories contains a number of different seams, each with their own purpose and technique. 

How are Seams Used in Garments?

The first division is functional and decorative seams. It’s a bit of a misnomer, as decorative seams, too, serve a function. Let’s have a look.

Garment Construction

Most clothing consists of fabric pieces joined together with seams. 

Side seams go up the side of a garment, attaching front and back pieces. Back seams (and sometimes front seams) join left and right pieces. A shoulder seam holds a top together at the shoulders. An inseam runs along the insides of trouser legs, joining the pieces there.


“Decoration” sounds frivolous, but it’s not. Decorative seams don’t just add visual appeal to a garment. They also give the garment shape and help to shape it to the body.

One type of decorative seam that does a lot of heavy lifting is the Princess seam. Princess seams are most often seen in women’s wear. They shape the bodice of a garment to a curved bust and waistline, eliminating the need for darts.

The linen seam joins two pieces of material at the edges using a decorative or embroidery stitch. It’s not particularly strong, but it is pretty.

A channel seam forms an open channel over a contrasting piece of material, so that when the wearer moves, the seam opens to reveal a flash of color or pattern.

These are but a few examples.


Pleats are folds sewn into a garment, for example a skirt. They add fullness to the garment, as well as shape and movement. It’s a clever way to add space to a garment without increasing its width.

pleated hem

Pleats can be vertical or horizontal. They may be crucial to the structure, or they may be primarily decorative. Either way, though, a seam is crucial for securing the pleated piece and attaching to the garment.

Seam Guide: Different Types of Seams

We’ve examined seams by function, and seen some of their applications as far as garment making. Let’s have a look at specific seam designs.

Single Seams

Single seams involve, you guessed it: a single row of stitches. Here are some common ones.

Plain Seam

A plain seam is exactly what it sounds like: the simplest possible joining of two pieces of fabric or material. 

Plain seams typically use a straight stitch or tight zigzag stitch, and leave a seam allowance of one-quarter, three-eighths, or half an inch. 

To make a plain seam, place your fabric pieces together with the right sides facing.

flat seam

Line up your fabric edges with the seam guard markings on your needle plate. Stitch, and then press your seam flat.

Clipping your seam allowance after stitching will reduce the seam’s bulk. If you’re sewing on a curve, clip wedge-shaped pieces from the seam allowance along the curve.

seam flat

Lapped Seam

A lapped seam is both decorative and functional. On the surface, it looks similar to a flat felled seam. However, it’s a single seam rather than a double one. Also, a lapped seam doesn’t enclose the seam edges. Rather, you serge off the seam edges on the wrong side of the fabric once you’re finished.

Lapped seams are excellent for:

  • Non-fraying fabrics and materials, such as vinyl
  • Reducing bulk (unlike a French or felled seam)
  • Adding a decorative touch

Here’s how to make a lapped seam.

  1. Lay your first piece of material flat, right side up.
lapped seam 1
  1. Decide on your seam allowance.
  2. Lay the second piece of fabric on top of the first, wrong side up, lining up the edges. Right sides should be together.
lapped seam 2
  1. Fold the top fabric back along the seam allowance so that the right side of the top fabric is showing. 
lapped seam 3
  1. Press if you desire.
  2. Stitch along the folded edge.
lapped seam 4
  1. Turn your work over and serge or overlock the seam edges.
lapped seam 5

Confused? Don’t be. This video will make it clear.

Double Seams

Double seams use two rows of stitches. They tend to be very strong. Many also hide raw seam edges.

Welt Seam

To make a welt seam, first make a plain seam, as above. Then on the back of the fabric, press the seam allowance to one side, and secure it to the fabric with a second row of stitches.

French Seam

A French seam is a double seam that encloses the rough edges of both pieces of fabric. It’s a great seam to use when:

  • The fabric edges fray easily
  • You don’t want the fabric edges or your seam to show

French seams protect the edges, keep them out of sight, and provide a double-strong seam. 

They’re not difficult to make, either, though the setup is a bit different from a plain seam. You may also have to adjust your pattern’s seam allowance.

Here’s how to sew a French seam.

  1. Start with the wrong sides of your fabric pieces together (rather than the right sides).
  2. Stitch the first seam. The video below recommends a half-inch seam allowance, though you might prefer a different allowance.
French seam 1
  1. Trim the seam allowance to around one-quarter inch.
  2. Press the seam flat.
  3. Fold the fabric over so that the right sides are now facing.
French seam 2
  1. Press flat again.
French seam 3
French seam 4
  1. Sew the second seam to encase the raw edges.
French seam 5
  1. Press the new seam to one side.
French seam 6
French seam 7

Watch the entire process below.

Flat Felled Seam

A flat felled seam is a double seam that encloses the raw fabric edges. It’s very strong and durable. For this reason, it’s a favorite on garments meant for heavy wear, such as denim trousers and jackets.

A flat felled seam is similar to a French seam, however there are a few extra steps. The topstitching at the end gives the flat felled seam its very recognizable appearance.

Felled seam 1

Here’s how to make a flat felled seam.

  1. Start with the wrong sides, rather than the right sides, of your fabric pieces together. You will be working on the right side of the fabric.
  2. Stitch the first seam using the seam allowance of your choice.
Felled seam 2
  1. Decide which way your seam will lie. The seam allowance that will be on top is the top. The part of the seam allowance that will lie against the garment unseen is the bottom.
  2. Trim the bottom seam allowance by half.
Felled seam 3
  1. Fold the top  seam allowance over the bottom one to enclose the edges.
  2. Press again to form a sharp crease.
Felled seam 4
Felled seam 5
  1. Now press the entire enclosed seam against the face of the garment.
Felled seam 6
  1. Finally, topstitch the seam down, as close to the folded edge as you can.
Felled seam 7

Want to see the process from start to finish? Check this out.

Slot (Channel) Seam

The slot, or channel seam is a way of adding a pop of color to your project. Structurally, it’s like a double lap stitch, with the laps facing one another.

channel slot seam

The slot seam is both decorative and functional. Here’s how to make it.

  1. Place your two fabric pieces together, right sides touching.
  2. Baste along the seam allowance. You’ll be removing this row of stitches later.
channel slot seam 1
  1. Turn your fabric over and press your seam open.
channel slot seam 2
  1. Now, pin your contrasting strip over the open seam edges.
channel slot seam 3
  1. Turn your work over, and sew two rows of stitches, one on each side of the basted row. How far apart you sew them is your choice, but they should be equidistant from the center.
slot channel seam 4
  1. Take your seam ripper and remove the basted center row.
channel slot seam 5

Here’s another video showing you how it’s done:

Shaping Seams

These are a few types of seams that you can use to add shape to your garment.

Princess Seam

A Princess seam is a way of shaping a top, bodice, dress, or coat to complement a curved bustline and waist. The seam begins at the shoulder, curves slightly inward over the bust, coming back out again at the waist. 

The Princess seam is both structural and decorative. It connects the front panels of a garment, and also adds shape.

Viennese Seam

A Viennese seam is similar to a Princess seam. It’s a curved seam that connects the front panels of a garment, and accentuates a curved waist and bustline. 

Unlike the Princess seam, however, the Viennese seam begins at the armhole, rather than at the shoulder.

Decorative Seams/Seam Finishes

Decorative seams add visual appeal to a garment or project. They may be structural, also. However, many of them are not very strong.

Abutted (Butt) Seam

An abbutted seam joins two pieces of fabric together without overlapping them. There is no seam allowance. Instead, you sew a zigzag stitch over the fabric edges, joining them this way.

abutted seam

It’s not a very strong stitch. However, it’s a good stitch for when you want to reduce bulk, such as when sewing lingerie.

Sheet Seam or Linen Seam

A Sheet Seam, or Linen Seam is a type of abutted seam. Instead of a zigzag stitch, however, you join the pieces together with a decorative stitch.

linen seam

Hong Kong Seam

A Hong Kong seam isn’t so much a seam as the way to finish one. It’s often called a Hong Kong finish.

To add a Hong Kong finish to your seams, you either serge off the seam edges or bind them with seam tape. Using a seam tape of a contrasting pattern or color can add a luxurious touch to the inside of your garment.

This technique is most often used in unlined jackets and garments.

Here’s how to do it:

Knowing What Type of Seam to Use

So now that you have an idea of some of the many seam types out there, how do you know which one you should be using? A good way to tell is to think about what you’re trying to accomplish.

Shaping Your Garment

If you want to shape your garments for a curved body type, think about these.

  • Princess seam
  • Viennese seam

When You Want to Hide the Edges

If you want to hide your raw seam edges, try these.

  • French seam
  • Flat felled seam
  • Hong Kong finish

Securing Fabrics that Fray

If you’re working with a fabric that’s prone to fraying, and you want to secure the edges, these are the seams to think about.

  • French seam
  • Flat felled seam
  • Welt seam 
  • Hong Kong finish

Heavy Duty Seams

For seams that will take a beating and stay strong, you want one of these.

  • Flat felled seam
  • French seam

Decorative Seams

To add some flair to your project, check these out.

  • Channel seam
  • Linen seam
  • Abutted seam
  • Lapped seam
  • Hong Kong finish

Seam Finishes

The “finish” of a seam refers to how you deal with the raw edges of the seam allowance. When using non-fray materials such as vinyl, you can leave the edges raw. However, if you have a fabric that frays easily, you will definitely want to finish those edges. Finishing your seam edges can also add a professional touch to your project.

Pinked Edges

Pinking shears cut the edges of your fabric in a zigzag pattern.

pinking shears in use

You can pink your seam edges for a neat finish, if:

  • The fabric is not overly prone to fraying
  • Your garment will not be worn a lot
  • You won’t be washing the garment often

Zigzag Finish

You can finish most seam edges with a zigzag stitch, as long as the fabric is relatively strong and stable.

Serging Off

If you have a serger or an overlock stitch, you can also serge off your seam edges. You can even do this before sewing your seam.

Clean Finish

If you have a generous seam allowance, you can use this technique to give your seams a professional touch.

On the wrong side of your garment, press your seam flat. Now fold each side of the seam allowance in half, so that the raw edge is on the underside. Press and secure with a straight stitch. Then finish the other side. You can also finish your edges before you sew the seam.

What is Seam Allowance?

When you look at many patterns, you’ll notice that the pattern pieces are larger than you might expect from the measurements of the finished garment. This comes down to seam allowance. Seam allowance is extra width which will accommodate your stitching.

After you’ve stitched your seam, the seam allowance will not figure into the measurement of the garment. You might finish off your seam allowance using one of the finishes we discussed above. You might also trim it.

Seam allowances vary from pattern to pattern. Here are some different standards and when you might use them.

  • A ⅜ inch or half-inch seam allowance is a good general standard.
  • A ¼ inch seam allowance is good for curves, as it doesn’t add a lot of bulk.
  • If you’re serging or overlocking your seams, many experts recommend a ⅜ inch or ½ inch seam allowance.
  • If you’ll be adjusting the fit of your garment, a ⅝ inch seam allowance will give you room to do that.
  • Use a ⅝ inch seam allowance for French or Flat felled seams also.

Seam Sewing Tips

So, now that you know how to choose your seam, and the basics of how to produce it, how can you get the best possible results?

Choose Wisely

Choose the right seam type for your purpose. Do you:

  • Want to hide your edges?
  • Need a strong seam?
  • Plan to sew structure into your garment?
  • Want to add a decorative touch?

If so, there’s a seam for that. So find it.


If you’re working with a fabric that doesn’t like to hold its shape — think chiffon or similar — consider using a stabilizer, such as:

  • A spray-on, wash-out stabilizer
  • Iron-on interfacing
  • Tissue paper pinned to the back of the fabric and removed later

Make Friends with Your Guide Lines

sewing machine seam guide lines

The guide lines are those measurements marked on the needle plate of your sewing machine. Line your fabric edge up with the appropriate line and keep it there while you sew. This will ensure that your seam is straight, and that the measurements of the garment will match the pattern measurement when you’re done.

Take Your Time

It’s just a straight line, right? Wrong! Don’t hurry through your seams, especially if you’re using a complicated or decorative design. Slow down and take the time to do it right.

  • Dial down your sewing machine speed to ensure consistent, high-quality stitching.
  • Remember the old saying, “measure twice, cut once” — or, in this case, stitch once.
  • Check and double check your guide lines.
  • Press your seams and creases.

Clip Your Allowance

If you want to reduce bulk once you’ve sewn your seam, you can clip your seam allowance closer to your line of stitches. If your seam is curved, you’ll want to cut notches along the seam allowance in order to facilitate the curve.

Finish Your Seams

In a lot of cases, you can leave your seam edges raw. After all, they’re on the inside of the garment. No one’s going to see them. 

On the other hand, why not take that extra step and give those edges a nice finish? It doesn’t take that long. It can help your garment to last a bit longer, and to look more professional, too.

For more advice about specific techniques, don’t miss our upcoming article, How to Sew a Seam.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably learned more about seams than you thought there was to know. And this article only scratches the surface!

Seams play a variety of different roles in project construction. From assembling the pieces of a garment, to giving it shape, to adding strength or decorative flair, seams are at the heart of any project. 

What’s your favorite seam to use? Do you have any tips or tricks for people who might want to learn it? We’d love to hear about it in the comments. And if you enjoyed this article, please share it!

different types of sewing seams

Sewing Machine Tension Tips: How To Set Yours Perfectly Every Time

how to set sewing machine tension

It’s probably happened to you: skipped stitches, breaking thread, puckering fabric around your sewing line, or even thread nests on the back of your fabric. As diverse as these problems might seem, they all come down to thread tension. Do you know how to adjust tension on a sewing machine? It’s easy, and it can save you a lot of aggravation.

Why Sewing Machine Tension is Important

Your sewing machine has two threads: a top thread and a bottom, or bobbin thread. When you sew, your machine interlocks these two threads to form a chain.

Machine Case GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Your sewing machine holds each of these threads taut as it pulls them through the machine. This helps them to work together to form tight, even, consistent stitches. But if the tension of either thread is off, it can cause problems with your stitching.

When it comes to tension problems, the top thread is usually, though not always, to blame. But many sewing machines allow you to adjust the tension of both threads. We’ll show you how to do that in a little while.

Some sewing machines have an automatic thread tension feature. This feature sets the tension for the type of sewing you’re doing at any given time. However, there will be times when you want to do that fine tuning yourself. Specifically, certain fabrics and thread types may require a bit of manual adjustment to get your stitches just right.

Fabric Type and Thread Tension

The thickness, texture, and fibre composition of a fabric give that fabric its specific qualities. They determine how a fabric feels to the touch, how it drapes, whether it stretches, and how it moves through the sewing machine. They also determine how a given fabric will interact with the thread. Different fabrics, therefore, will work best with different thread tensions.

In general, lightweight fabrics will require finer threads and tighter tension. Conversely, you’ll need to sew heavier fabrics with thicker thread, using looser tension.

Thread Type and Thread Tension

Many kinds of thread are made to work at a variety of tensions. The important thing, however, is matching.

Always match your top thread and bottom thread in terms of weight and fibre composition. Use polyester thread with polyester thread, cotton with cotton, lightweight with lightweight, and so forth.

Likewise, match your thread to your fabric. Lightweight fabric needs lightweight thread; heavier fabric needs heavier thread. Also, sew synthetic fabrics with synthetic thread and match natural to natural.

Also, please note that poor quality thread can damage your sewing machine’s tension disks in a number of ways. It can leave dust and debris on your disks. It can also knot in the tension mechanism and cause wear and tear on your disks.

A Few Words About Needles

The wrong needle can cause problems with your sewing machine tension. 


Well, the needle pokes a hole in the fabric then guides the thread through. If the needle is too large, the hole it creates will be too large to hold the thread optimally. This, in turn, can affect the top thread tension. It may cause puckering or other problems related to unbalanced stitches.

To Sum Up

  • Use only high quality thread
  • Use the same thread for top and bottom
  • Match your thread to your fabric type
  • Use the right needle
  • Lighter fabrics require tighter tension; heavier fabrics need looser tension

What Number Should the Tension Be on a Sewing Machine? 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. First, different types of sewing require different tension settings. Also, not every sewing machine manufacturer follows the same labeling convention for its tension adjustment mechanisms.

However, there are a few guidelines that may help.

Most sewing machine tension dials will be numbered 0 to 9 or 1 to 10. As you might guess, lower numbers mean lower tension. Likewise, a number in the middle, like 5, means a medium tension, which is a good, general-purpose tension setting. 

sewing machine tension dial

If your tension dial has an “A,”, that’s the automatic setting. This can mean a few different things. 

Higher end sewing machines have sensors that measure your fabric thickness and other variables so that your machine can select the correct tension. 

Other machines may adjust the thread tension to fit the stitch type. These adjustments don’t take into account fabric type or thickness, however, so you may still need to make manual adjustments.

Mechanical and lower-end computerized machines may have one universal or “automatic” tension that works well for a variety of different kinds of sewing. But again, you may still have to adjust for fabric type and thickness.

When in doubt, do a series of test stitches. If your fabric puckers, the tension is too high. If the stitches are loose, the tension is too low.

Incorrect tension can cause other problems, too, and we’ll discuss them in detail in our troubleshooting guide. Because knowing how to fix sewing machine tension can eliminate a whole range of problems.

How to Adjust Upper Thread Tension

If you’re having problems with thread tension, most of the time, the problem will be with the top thread. Fortunately, most sewing machines make adjusting the top thread tension easy.

First, check to see that your tension mechanism is working correctly. Lower your presser foot and give the upper thread a gentle tug. If the thread is tight, the mechanism is doing its job. If not, then it may be time to consult a sewing machine repair professional.

Next, determine whether your problem is stemming from too much tension or too little. 

Now, use your sewing machine’s dial or knob to adjust the tension. Remember: the larger the number, the higher the tension.

Sew a few test stitches after each adjustment to gauge whether further adjustments are needed.

Your stitches should be even, with no looping or nesting on either side. There should be no puckering around your line of stitches. The bottom thread should not show through on top, nor vice versa.

How to Adjust Bobbin Tension 

As we said before, the majority of tension problems will come from the upper thread. Even when the problem appears to be with the lower thread, such as loops on the fabric surface or the bottom thread showing through on top, the problem may not be the bobbin thread, but the relative tightness of the threads to one another.

The top thread is easier to adjust, so start there. Also make sure that:

  • Your bobbin is wound correctly
  • You have threaded your sewing machine the right way
  • The tension mechanism is clean and free of debris
  • You’re using the right needle for your thread and fabric
  • The thread matches both the fabric and the bobbin thread

If you’ve determined that the lower thread really does need to be adjusted, here’s how to adjust tension on a sewing machine bobbin.

How to Adjust Tension on a Side-Loading Bobbin

Remove the bobbin case. You will find a small screw on the side. With the bobbin still in the case, tighten or loosen the screw very gradually. Start with a quarter-turn at a time.

How to Adjust Tension on a Drop-In Bobbin

The bobbin case on a drop-in bobbin sewing machine looks a bit different from the metal bobbin case of a side-loading bobbin. However, this is also the place where you’ll be making the adjustment.

Take the bobbin case out of your sewing machine. With the bobbin removed from the case, find the screw. It will be in the front, near the spring that holds the thread. Adjust slowly and gradually, between one quarter-turn and one half-turn at a time. 

Are Tension Adjustments the Same for Every Make and Model?

Unfortunately, no. Different sewing machine makes and models will often have slight differences when it comes to thread tension regulation. However, the general principles are the same. And if you understand these general principles, then you’ll be able to understand how to adjust thread tension for your sewing machine.

Thread Guides

The top thread of everysewing machine travels along a path of obstacles from spool to needle. The path is different for different sewing machines. However, the purpose is always the same: to keep your upper thread from tangling, and to regulate that thread’s tension.

Most sewing machines mark the path between thread guides with arrows and numbers. If you’re having tension-related issues, double check your thread diagram to make sure you’ve followed the thread guides properly.

Tension Assembly

Your sewing machine’s tension assembly consists of tension disks and a tension regulator. 

Tension disks are small metal disks through which the thread passes before coming to the needle. The disks squeeze the thread to create tension. The tension regulator controls the amount of pressure that the disks exert on the thread. You can adjust this pressure using your sewing machine’s tension knob or dial.

The principle is the same for all sewing machines, though some machines may have a knob for adjustments, while others have a dial. Also, the numbering may differ on the knob or dial. And some sewing machines may also have an automatic or universal setting that others lack.

If you’re experiencing tension problems, first make sure that your regulator is set to the correct number for the type of sewing you’re doing. Also, check your disks, and, if necessary clean out any dust or debris.

Sewing Machine Tension Troubleshooting

Now that you understand a bit about thread tension and how your sewing machine regulates it, it’s time to consider specific tension-related problems.

First, Make Sure That Tension Really Is the Problem

Before you reach for the tension dial, it’s worth considering whether the problem really lies with thread tension regulation. Thread and stitches can go wrong for a number of other reasons. So consider a few of these first.

Sewing Machine Needle

You should always start every new project with a new needle of the appropriate size and type. Make sure that your needle is not bent or damaged in any way, and that you have installed it correctly. Several problems can stem from a bent, damaged, inappropriate, or wrongly-installed needle, including:

  • Broken threads
  • Loose stitches
  • Uneven stitches
  • Fabric damage
  • Skipped stitches
  • Thread shredding

Check Your Thread

Are you using the appropriate weight thread for your project? Are you matching synthetic thread with synthetic fabric, and natural thread with natural fabric? Do the upper and bobbin threads match? And, importantly, are you using a high quality thread? If not, then you might experience problems like these:

  • Broken threads
  • Fabric puckering
  • Fabric damage

Double Check Your Threading Diagram

Have you threaded your machine correctly? Are you sure? Go back and check. We’ll wait. If you’ve missed out one of your thread guides, not threaded the tension disks correctly, or mixed up the threading steps (it happens!) you might see the following problems:

  • Breaking threads
  • Thread bunching
  • Machine jamming
  • Loose stitches

What About Your Bobbin Thread?

If your bobbin thread isn’t drawing, it’s possible that the bobbin is sitting incorrectly in the case. Have a look and re-insert your bobbin if necessary.

An incorrectly wound bobbin can also cause problems, such as fabric puckering.

Check the Spool Cap

The spool cap holds your thread on the spool pin. If it’s too tight, it may cause your thread to jam or break. If it’s too loose, that can cause problems, too.

sewing machine tension

Is Your Presser Foot Down?

We all forget to lower the presser foot from time to time. The presser foot activates the tension disks, so you can imagine what will happen if you try to sew with it up. That’s right: no upper thread tension. This is what it looks like.

incorrect sewing machine tension

Is Your Machine Clean?

Over time lint, dust, and grease can gather in parts of your machine, including the tension disks and tension regulator. This can impede the flow of thread through your tension assembly. If the thread isn’t feeding correctly, give your tension assembly a good cleaning. Here’s how.

If you’ve gone through these steps and nothing has helped, now it’s worth looking at the thread tension.

Diagnosing Tension Related Problems

So, you’re certain that tension is causing your difficulties. It’s time to narrow that diagnosis down.

Is it the Top Thread or the Bobbin Thread?

Once you’ve figured out that your problem is tension-related, it’s time to decide if the problem lies with the upper thread or the lower one.

Generally speaking, the problem will appear on the opposite side of the fabric from the problem thread. So if the symptom appears on the fabric surface, the bottom thread may be to blame. Likewise, if you see an issue on the underside of the fabric, the cause probably lies with the top thread.

Again, most of the time the top thread will be the culprit. Even when it looks like the lower thread is to blame, it’s worth checking to see if you can remedy the situation by adjusting the tension of the upper thread relative to that of the lower.

Too Tight or Too Loose?

Thread tension requires a Goldilocks solution: not too tight and not too loose. Here’s how to tell which adjustment to make.

Signs that one or both threads are too tight:

  • Bottom thread coming through to the surface (top thread too tight)
  • Top thread pulling through to the underside (bottom thread too tight)
  • Fabric bunching
  • Fabric puckering
  • Broken thread
  • Stitches breaking when stretched
  • Machine jamming

If your top thread is too tight, for example, your bottom stitches may look like this:

sewing machine tension too tight

Signs that one or both threads are too loose:

  • Loops
  • Nests
  • Gaps in the seam
  • Skipped stitches
  • Uneven stitches

If your top thread is too loose, for example, your stitches may turn out this way.

sewing machine tension too loose

10 Sewing Machine Problems and What They Might Mean

A quick guide to common symptoms and what might be causing them.

Fabric Puckering 

Top or bottom thread tension too tight, thread mismatched to fabric, incorrectly wound bobbin

Broken Threads or Stitches

Damaged, incorrect, or incorrectly installed needle, top or bottom thread too tight, machine not threaded correctly, dirty tension assembly, poor quality thread, spool cap too tight

Skipped Stitches

Top or bottom thread too loose, spool cap too loose, machine not threaded correctly, presser foot up; wrong, damaged, or incorrectly installed sewing machine needle

Uneven Stitches

Top or bottom thread too loose; wrong, incorrectly installed, or damaged sewing machine needle, sewing machine not threaded correctly

Gaps in the Seam

Top or bottom thread too loose, spool cap too loose

Loops and Nests

Top or bottom thread too loose, spool cap too loose, sewing machine not threaded correctly, presser foot up

Bottom Thread Showing on the Surface

Top thread tension too tight, or too tight relative to bottom thread

Top Thread Showing on the Bottom

Bottom thread tension too tight, or too tight relative to top thread

Top Thread Not Feeding

Incorrectly threaded sewing machine, dirty tension assembly, spool cap too tight; wrong, incorrectly installed, or damaged sewing machine needle, top thread tension too tight

Lower Thread Not Feeding

Bobbin thread tension too tight, bobbin incorrectly wound, bobbin sitting incorrectly in bobbin case

Does Your Thread Tension Need Attention?

Thread tension problems can be the bane of any project. And once you understand how thread tension works, it can be easy to fix, or even prevent them.

At the same time, lots of things can cause issues that look like tension problems but aren’t. And many tension problems aren’t caused by — or cured by — the tension regulator.

Before reaching for that dial, consider other factors that may affect tension: 

  • Are you using a new, undamaged sewing machine needle that’s gauged for your project? 
  • Have you matched your top and bottom threads to the fabric and to each other? 
  • Is your machine threaded correctly? 
  • And is your tension assembly clean and free of debris?

Most true tension problems come down to the upper thread. However, sometimes the bobbin thread is to blame. Fortunately, neither one is complicated to adjust.

Do you have a tension tip or trick you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

sewing machine tension guide

How To Thread A Needle: Pass Machine & Hand Sewing Needles Easily

how to thread a needle tips

Do you know how to thread a needle? I don’t mean conceptually. That’s easy. Have you ever struggled with pushing a fuzzy thread-end through a teeny, tiny hole? Have you ever thought, there has to be an easier way? You’re right. In fact, there are several. We’ll show you seven. Yes, seven.

What You’ll Need to Complete This Tutorial

There are several different types of needles, and each has its own tips and tricks for threading. Unsurprisingly, each technique requires slightly different tools.

What sort of needle are you trying to thread? And how are you hoping to accomplish it? Let’s have a look.

Threading a Regular Hand Sewing Needle

Threading a Self-Threading Hand Sewing Needle

Threading a Sewing Machine Needle by Hand

  • Thread
  • Your sewing machine needle
  • Scissors or thread snips
  • Sewing machine needle threader (optional)
  • Beeswax (optional)

Threading a Self-Threading Sewing Machine Needle

Threading a Sewing Machine Needle With an Automatic Threader

  • Thread
  • Your sewing machine needle
  • Your sewing machine’s attached needle threader

How to Thread a Needle for Hand Sewing: 3 Different Ways

Do you have your tools? Right. Let’s do this. 

Method 1: Threading a Regular Hand-Sewing Needle

A hand-sewing needle is, of course, what you might carry in your emergency kit in case of a lost button. It’s a simple tool: a thin rod of metal with a point on one end and an eye on the other. The trick is to get the thread through the eye. You probably already know that it can be harder than it sounds. 

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

You will need your needle:

needle wallet

your thread:

orange thread

a pair of scissors or snips:


your beeswax (optional):

beeswax for sewing

and your handy needle-threader (also optional). 

needle threader

A needle threader isn’t necessary, but it does make things a lot easier. This is especially true if your needle has a small, difficult-to-see eye.

Step 2: Prepare Your Thread

You could just try to jam your thread through the eye of the needle. But if you take the time to prepare the thread, it’s a lot easier.

First, snip the end of the thread at an angle. This will do two things. First, it will remove any fuzz or fraying. These are two of the things that make threading a needle difficult. Also, snipping at an angle will make a little point that will guide the rest of the thread through the eye.

snip thread

If you like, you can also smooth a bit of beeswax onto the end of the thread. This will make your thread end stiffer and straighter. And that will help it to go through the eye of the needle easier as well.

Step 3: Your Needle Threader

Needle threaders are cool little tools. They’re cheap, easy to come by, and they work a treat. 

How do you use it? It’s easy! The thin wire “eye” of the threader collapses so it can fit through even the smallest needle eye. So first, poke the wire through the eye.

thread needle threader

See how it expands once it’s through? See how nice and big the opening is? Put your thread through that.

threading a needle with threader

Now, pull the threader back out. The thread will follow. You’re done! Wasn’t that easy?

a threaded needle

Method 2: Threading a Hand Sewing Needle Without a Threader

A needle threader is a wonderful thing, but you don’t have to have one. If you’ve snipped your thread end to a point and applied your beeswax, the thread should go through the eye of your needle pretty easily on its own.

needle with orange thread

Method 3: Threading a Self-Threading Hand Sewing Needle

Self-threading needles, whether for hand sewing or for a sewing machine have a very small gap on one side of the eye. With a self-threading needle, you load the thread from the side. This means no cutting, waxing, or poking.

A self-threading needle doesn’t mean there’s no work to do. But the unique design of that needle’s eye means that the work is a bit easier. Here’s how you thread a self-threading needle.

Simply loop the thread around the body of the needle.

needle threading orange thread

Now slide it up to the eye and pull it down. The thread will slot easily into the eye from the side. Watch the entire process from beginning to end in the video below:

How to Thread a Needle on a Sewing Machine: 4 Ways

Just like with hand sewing needles, there are a surprising number of ways to thread a sewing machine needle. But first, you’ll need to prepare your machine.

Preparing Your Sewing Machine

Threading a sewing machine is a multi-step process that ends with the thread traveling through the eye of the needle. But before you get to that step, you’ll have to thread the top thread and the bobbin thread. Here’s how.

Step 1: Follow Your Sewing Machine’s Top Thread Threading Diagram

Every sewing machine model threads the top thread a bit differently. However, if you look at your machine closely, you’ll find a diagram that shows you the exact path your top thread should follow. The different steps keep the thread flowing smoothly through the machine, help to keep it from tangling, and regulate the thread tension.

Here’s the top thread threading diagram for my sewing machine.

thread sewing machine needle diagram

This video shows how to follow the threading diagram for a Brother mechanical sewing machine:

Step 2: The Bobbin Thread

The bobbin thread is the bottom thread. Every sewing machine will have either a top-loading bobbin or a front-loading bobbin.

For a top-loading drop-in bobbin, remove the bobbin cover. 

Now, slip the bobbin into place. Pay particular attention to the diagram on your bobbin cover. Some machines require the thread to come off the bobbin from the left side, while others require it to come off the right.

thread sewing machine needle

Now, pull the thread through the slot in the bobbin well. Pull it up and to the left.

You can watch the process here:

For a front-loading (or side-loading) bobbin, the process is a bit different.

First, remove the bobbin case. Then insert your bobbin into the bobbin case. Direction matters, just like with a top-loading bobbin. So be sure to follow your manufacturer’s directions.

Guide the thread into the slot, and pull it through the metal band. Now replace the bobbin case and shut the door to the bottom compartment.

This video shows you how it’s done:

Now you’re ready to bring the top thread through the needle.

Method 1: Threading a Sewing Machine Needle with an Automatic Needle Threader

Many modern sewing machines come with an automatic needle threader. The design may be different on different machines, but the function is the same. An automatic needle threader takes the fiddly part out of threading your sewing machine needle. 

You won’t have to worry about trying to poke a tiny thread end through a tiny hole. Likewise, you won’t have to bother with cutting or waxing.

An automatic needle threader looks like this:

automatic needle threader

So, how do you use an automatic needle threader? Again, different sewing machines have different designs, but the steps are more or less the same.

Step 1: Double-Check Your Top Thread

Have you guided your top thread through the threading diagram correctly? Yes? Good. 

Step 2: Open the Needle Threader

Many automatic needle threaders are spring loaded. To open the needle threader, find the button or lever and press it.

Step 3: Load the Thread

Most automatic needle threaders use a hook to either push or pull the thread through the eye of your sewing machine needle. In this model, I’m guiding the thread into the right position in the threader.

using an automatic needle threader

Step 4: Release the Threader

Now release the threader. It will guide the thread through the needle then return, automatically, to its place. It’s easy!

Check out this video of a Singer needle threader in action:

Method 2: Threading Your Sewing Machine With a Hand Held Needle Threader

Some sewing machines don’t come with an automatic needle threader. That can be a pain in the neck, but it’s not the end of the world. 

You can purchase a hand-held needle threader for sewing machine needles. Like threaders for hand sewing needles, these are cheap and easy to find. They work in a similar way to an automatic needle threader. Check this out.

Step 1: Position Your Threader

Hold your threader in your right hand, with the pointy bits facing to the left. The top hook should face up. The needle threader has a plunger, like a syringe. This should be facing to the right, with your thumb on top of it.

using a Machine Needle Inserter & Threader
Image is a screenshot from the featured video

Step 2: Insert the Thread

Place the thread horizontally through the Y-groove. Now, place the loaded needle threader against the top of the needle, above the eye.

Machine Needle Inserter & Threader in use
Image is a screenshot from the featured video

Step 3: Bring the Threader Down

Slide the loaded threader down the needle toward the eye, until the inner wire catches the needle’s eye.

Step 4: Push the Plunger

Once the hook has contacted the eye, press the plunger. This should push the thread through the eye of your sewing machine needle. 

Machine Needle Inserter and Threader being used
Image is a screenshot from the featured video

Step 5: Finish the Job

You were probably wondering what the little plastic hook on the end was for. It’s for pulling the thread the rest of the way through! Simply slip the hook through the loop and gently pull. You’re done!

You can see the entire process from start to finish here:

Method 3: Threading a Self-Threading Sewing Machine Needle

A self-threading sewing machine needle works on the same principle as a self-threading hand sewing needle. There’s a gap in the eye that allows you to pull the thread through without having to squint and poke.

Simply loop the thread around the body of your sewing machine needle. Then pull it gently down toward the eye. Now tug it sideways into the eye. Done!

You can see the process in action below.

Method 4: No Threader, No Problem

The last method is the most straightforward, but, let’s face it: it can be a pain. Nonetheless, there are ways to make it less painful.

Step 1: Prepare Your Thread

A fuzzy, frayed thread end can be a hindrance for threading a sewing machine needle, just as it can with a hand sewing needle. So prepare your thread. Cut the edge at an angle, and, if you like, add a dab of beeswax to the tip.

Step 2: Guide it Through

Now guide the thread through the eye. Many sewing machines require the thread to go in from front to back. Some, however, may require the thread to enter from the side.

Many Ways to Thread a Needle

Who knew there were so many ways to thread a needle? And who knew there were so many tips, tricks, and devices to make it easier? It all comes down to having the right tools and giving your thread a little bit of tender loving care.

Do you have a special trick for threading a needle? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

how to thread a needle

How To Sew A Zipper: Easy Step-By-Step Guide For Beginners

how to sew a zipper beginners guide

It’s happened to all of us. You’re heading out the door, putting on your favorite jacket, and the zipper bites the dust. Time to throw out that jacket? It doesn’t have to be. If you know how to sew a zipper, your favorite jacket, backpack, trousers, or other item can be ready to use again in no time.

What You’ll Need

Fixing your zipper isn’t hard, but you need the right tools for the job. Here’s what you’ll need to follow our tutorial.

A Replacement Zipper

sewing leather jacket zipper

Consider your replacement zipper carefully. You may want to choose something similar to your old zip. Or you might want to choose something better. Either way, think about the following.


Measure different types of zippers differently. Your measurements should include the zipper but not the zipper tape (the part that you will be sewing).

Measure closed-bottom zippers from the bottom stop to the top stop.

Measure separating-bottom zippers from the box (that metal square at the bottom) to the stop pin (that larger bit that keeps the puller from running off at the top).

The resulting measurement will give you the length, in inches or centimetres, of your new zipper. 


Gauge refers to the thickness of the zipper. Heavier items use heavier gauge zippers. The higher the gauge number, the larger the teeth of your zipper. [1]

The gauge number roughly corresponds to the size of the teeth. To measure the teeth, start at the left side and measure all the way across. The millimeter measurement will give you a rough idea of the gauge. If the teeth part of your zipper measures 3.1 to 3.5 millimeters across, for example, the gauge is #3.

Style and Material

sewing a zipper on a bag
A nylon coil zipper

There are a lot of different kinds of zippers out there. Here are some of the most common ones.

The conventional zipper design has individual metal teeth lined up at intervals along the zipper tape.

Coil zippers are made from coils of nylon or polyester sewn into the zipper tape. They’re popular in luggage and camping gear. Their design makes it easy to fix an out-of-alignment zip. They are also very strong.

Invisible zippers disappear into the seam of an item. You might find these in dresses and skirts. Any type of zipper can be an invisible zipper. “Invisible” refers to the way it’s sewn into an item, rather than to a specific zipper design.

Open-bottom zippers (or separating-bottom zippers) open all the way. Jacket zippers are an example. Conversely, closed-bottom zippers stop at the bottom. Trouser and dress zippers are generally closed-bottom zips.

Two-way separating zippers can zip open and shut in both directions. These are common in tents and luggage.

The Correct Presser Foot

You can use an ordinary presser foot to sew a zipper, but it might prove more difficult in tight places. 

A zipper foot is made for this task. It’s smaller than a standard presser foot and you can adjust some of them to either side as needed. Zipper feet also come in a range of sizes.

adjustable vertical needle zipper foot
An adjustable vertical needle zipper foot

The great news is, a zipper foot comes standard with many sewing machines. And if one didn’t come with yours, they’re inexpensive and easy to find.

There are many different kinds of zipper feet, including:

  • Zipper foot/piping foot: the standard, narrower zipper foot
  • Invisible zipper foot for sewing invisible zippers
  • Adjustable zipper foot: can be used on either side of the needle

Check out this zipper foot in action.

You will also need:


  • Scissors for shortening plastic or coil zippers
  • Metal snippers and jewelry pliers for shortening metal zippers (I like this set from WorkPro)

Do you have everything you need? Great. Let’s go.

How to Sew a Zipper Step by Step

How you sew in your new zipper will depend on the type of zipper. Are you replacing an invisible zip? Or will your new zipper show? Either way, the first step is taking out the old one.

Removing the Old Zipper

No matter what kind of new zipper you’re installing, the first step is to take out the old one. For this, you’ll need your seam ripper.

seam ripper
A seam ripper

First, locate the rows of stitches that hold the zipper in place. Now use the point of your seam ripper to gently lift a stitch. Slide the stitch along the curved cutting edge until it breaks. Now remove the rest of the stitches until your zipper comes free.

Prepare Your New Zipper

It’s easiest to buy a zipper that’s exactly the same size as the old one. But what if you can’t find one? Or what if you have another zipper that would look great but is slightly too long? Never fear. You can use that one too.

First, measure your old zipper. Next, use your fabric pen to mark the new length on the zipper tape of the new zipper. Then hand-sew a succession of whip stitches around the teeth where you want the new bottom to be. You can machine sew a bar tack for this part, provided you’re very, very precise about your stitch length. [2]

Finally, trim your new zipper. If you have a plastic, nylon, or polyester zipper, you can use ordinary scissors. If your zipper is metal, you’ll need to use metal snips.

Watch how it’s done below.

How to Sew an Exposed Zipper

Sewing an exposed zipper is a bit easier than sewing in an invisible one. Still, since everyone will be seeing your new zip, it pays to do it right.

Step 1: Mark

You’ll use your fabric marking pen to make two marks on the wrong side of your fabric. First, make a mark three-quarters of an inch from the top of the seam. Then lay your zipper along the seam so that the top of the teeth meet that mark.

sewing a zipper mark

Now, make a second mark right below the box (the metal bottom) of your zipper.

marking fabric for zipper sewing

Set the zipper aside.

Step 2: Stabilize (Optional but recommended)

Stabilize your seam edges by ironing a strip of stabilizing tape or a one-inch wide strip of fusible interfacing onto the seam edges. Do this on both edges, on the wrong side of the fabric.

stabilizing seam for zipper sewing

Step 3: Stay-Stitch

Next, stay-stitch the fabric three-quarters of an inch (1.9 centimeters) from the edge of each seam. [3]

Step 3: Close the Seam

Now, using a ⅝-inch (1.6 cm) seam allowance, sew the edges of the seam together starting ever-so-slightly below where the box (bottom) of the zipper will sit, and ending at the end of your work.

closing seam with allowance

Step 4: Clip and Press

Clip from the edge of the seam to the seam allowance at the base of the zipper opening. Press the seam allowance open.

sewing a zipper guide

Now press open the seam above the cut. Press it open to the seam allowance.

guide to sewing a zipper

Step 5: Pin and Baste

Pin your zipper along the seam, so that the right side of the zipper is facing up through the right side of the fabric. If you want to baste the zipper to the fabric, do so now.

pin and baste zipper seam

Step 6: Trim 

Double-check the wrong side of the fabric. If necessary, trim the seam allowances.

trimming seam allowances

Step 7: Stitch

This step is easier if you begin with the zipper unzipped.

Starting at the top pin, stitch along the right side of the fabric, between one eighth of an inch (3 millimeters) and one quarter-inch (6 millimeters) from the zipper teeth. 

stitching a zipper

When you get to the bottom, stitch around the box of your zipper, rotate your work, and continue up the other side to the other top pin.

zipper seam allowance trim

When you’re finished, remove any basting stitches.

How to Sew an Invisible Zipper

An invisible zipper hides in the seam of a garment. You won’t see any machine stitching on the right side of the fabric. This is a popular type of zipper for different types of garments where a zipper would ruin the line of the garment or the pattern of the fabric.

Sew your invisible zipper in while the pieces of your pattern are flat and unattached. An invisible zipper foot is designed to sew invisible zippers, though you can use a regular zipper foot, or even a regular presser foot.

An invisible zipper foot
An invisible zipper foot

Step 1: Prepare the Seam Edges

If you want to serge your seam edges, now is the time. Alternately, you can secure your edges with stabilizing tape or fusible interfacing.

Step 2: Mark 

As with a visible zip, use your fabric marker to make a mark ¾ of an inch from the top of the fabric, on the right side of both pieces.

Also mark a ⅝-inch seam allowance on the right side of both pieces. You will place the zipper along these marks.

mark for invisible zipper sewing

Step 3: Pin the First Side of Your Zip

Lay the coil (or teeth) of your zipper right on the seam allowance marking. Lay it face down and pin it into place. Pay close attention to the directionality of your zip, because it’s easy to get this part wrong. The teeth should face away from the edge of the fabric.

pinning invisible zipper for sewing

If you want to baste the zipper into place, you can do that now.

Step 4: Sew the First Side

Again, sewing your zipper is easier if the zipper is open.

Place the zipper coil (or teeth) under the groove on your invisible zipper foot. Start at the top edge of the fabric and stitch down until you are parallel with the box. Make a bar tack and cut your thread.

sewing invisible zipper tips

Step 5: Pin the Second Side

Now pin the second side to the other piece of fabric and baste if desired. Again, the teeth should face away from the fabric’s edge. Your zipper will look twisted, and that’s okay. You’ll be untwisting it soon enough.

Step 6: Sew the Second Side

Following the same procedure as in Step 4, sew the second side of the zipper to the fabric. Make sure that the ¾-inch marks at the top of both pieces line up before you start sewing.

Step 7: Take a Peek

Oh dear, it looks rather twisted now, doesn’t it? Never fear. Simply zip the zipper and turn your work over to get a sneak peek at your invisible zipper.

an invisible zipper partly sewn

 Better? Good. Now, on to the next part.

Step 7: Finish the Seam Below the Zip

Return to the wrong side of your work. Moving the tail of your zipper out of the way, bring the fabric edges together at the seam allowance, and stitch the seam together.

seam finish for invisible zipper

Now turn your work over and finish the top.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

All Zipped Up

Replacing a zipper isn’t difficult if you know how. Better yet, doing so can save you money, and save your favorite bag or garment.

Build your zipper replacement tool kit before you need it. Remember, you’ll need to be able to remove your old zipper, mark your fabric, pin a new zipper into place, and sew the new zipper in. You can often use a regular presser foot, but a special zipper foot can make your work easier, especially if you anticipate any tight stitching. 

You might also find it helpful to have a few spare zippers of different lengths and gauges to hand.

Are you ready to fix your zipper? Let’s go!

how to sew a zipper


  1. SBSZipper | How To Measure The Zipper Gauge Correctly |
  2. wikiHow Staff | How to Whipstitch |
  3. Collins | Stay Stitching |

How To Sew A Button: 2-Hole, 4-Hole, & Shank Buttons Explained

how to sew a button

It seems so simple, yet you’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to sew a button. If you’re one of those people, don’t worry. It’s easy to replace a button by hand or using a sewing machine. We’ll show you how.

What You’ll Need to Complete This Tutorial

Most of us have at least some of these things at home already. And if you don’t? They’re cheap and often as close as your local craft store.

Replacement Button

This is the fun part. Think about the button you lost. Do you want to replace it exactly? That might take some doing. If it’s a common sort of button, you might easily find a match at your fabric or craft store, or even in the household section of your grocery. If it’s a specialized button, however, you might have to contact the maker of your garment.

On the other hand, this could be your chance to revitalize your garment with a completely different set of buttons. Different colors, materials, or designs can give an item a whole new character. Take a look at this blouse. How would each of these buttons change its look?

different types of button

Regardless of color, shape, or material, there are three basic types of button: two-hole, four-hole and shank. Two-hole and four-hole buttons are self-explanatory. A shank button, like the wooden button above, has a circular bit on one side. Instead of sewing through the button to attach a shank button, you sew through the shank.


There are a lot of types of needles for hand-sewing. Fortunately, you can use just about any of them to attach a button. However, you should pay attention to the needle’s sharpness and size.

needles for button sewing

A dull needle, like a darning needle, may be able to get the job done. However, a sharp needle will go through cloth easily and with minimal damage. Likewise the needle you choose should not only fit through the holes or shank of your replacement button, but should also be small enough to not damage the fabric of your garment.


Again, there are many types of thread. And again, you can use most of them to sew on a button. If you want to minimize the chances of losing your new button, though, you might consider using button thread. Button thread is a thick, tough thread that’s also used for sewing carpets and upholstery. 

button sewing thread


Using scissors to cut off your thread ends will keep things tidy.

Fabric Marking Pen

A fabric marking pen can help you to remember exactly where you want your buttons to go. It can help you to line up your new buttons nice and straight, and to make sure they line up with the buttonholes. They can also mark your place. This can be a lifesaver if you have to set your work down, or if you drop a button while sewing.

Fabric marking pens come in different colors. Some have washable ink. Others have ink that disappears when exposed to heat. Alternatively, you can use tailor’s chalk, which simply brushes off.

Pin or Toothpick

It might be tempting to sew your new button on as tightly as possible so that it won’t fall off. But you should always leave a little bit of space between the button and the fabric. First, a too-tight button can pucker the fabric, and the garment won’t look right. Also, if your button is too tight, it could actually break off more easily, as the thread is under more pressure. And if the thread is really tight, it might also take some of the fabric with it.

Using a toothpick or a pin can give your new button just enough breathing room. You can also use a paperclip or anything else of similar size. We’ll show you how to do this in a bit.

Beeswax (Optional)

No matter what kind of thread you’re using, coating it with beeswax can make it straighter, tougher and stronger. It will also help the thread to glide more easily through the fabric. This is an old bookbinder’s trick, but it works for sewing fabric, too. Here’s how you do it.

Thimble (Optional)

If you’re pushing thread through thick cloth or multiple layers, using a thimble can protect your thumb and allow you to press harder on the end of the needle.

How to Sew a Button Step by Step

There are two ways to sew a button: by hand and by machine. The process is a little bit different for each kind of button.

How to Sew a Button With Two Holes by Hand

2-hole button
A two-hole flat button

Let’s start with the easiest job: sewing a two-hole button by hand.

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

First, make sure you have everything you need. Thread your needle. A double thickness of thread, as shown in the photo, will make your repair stronger. Tie a knot at the end of your thread, and coat the thread in beeswax.

needle and thread

Step 2: Make Your Mark

Now lay out your item. Smooth the buttonhole down so that it’s right over where the old button sat. Use your fabric marking pen to mark where the new button will go. If you’re sewing on more than one replacement button, repeat this process for all of the buttons.

fabric marker pen

Now open the garment and lay your button down over the mark. Flat buttons often have a ridged side and a smooth side. The smooth side is the back and should sit against the fabric.

Step 3: The First Hole

Holding the button in place with one hand, use your other hand to bring the needle up from the bottom and through the first hole. Some people pull the thread all the way through, so that the knot is snug against the back of the fabric. I prefer to leave an inch or so of thread so that I can tie off my thread at the end.

Step 4: The Second Hole

Now, bring the needle down through the other hole.

sewing a button

Step 5: Toothpick Time

If you’re planning to use your toothpick, now is the time. Slide it gently between your button and the fabric. Alternatively, you could slip the toothpick on top of the button, between your initial stitch and the button itself.

toothpick button sewing

Step 6: Sew!

Now sew the button on. Make a continuous loop, going up through the first hole, down through the second, then back up through the first one again. Do this eight to ten times.

Step 7: Tie Off and Snip

Once your button is firmly attached, knot your thread several times underneath the fabric. You can also “sew off” the thread end by knotting it several times around the bottom of your circle of stitches and securing the knot with a few stitches. Remove the toothpick and snip off the edges. You’re done!

How to Sew a Button With Four Holes by Hand

4-hole button
A four-hole flat button

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

As before, thread your needle, pulling the ends of the thread together so that the needle sits at the midpoint. Now knot the ends and treat the entire thread with beeswax.

Step 2: On Your Mark

Use your fabric markers to mark where you want your button to sit. You can make the location very precise by laying the edges of your garment over one another, as if buttoning the garment, then poking the tip of your fabric through the buttonhole to mark the button’s final place.

Step 3: Holes 1 and 2

Set the button on top of your mark. Remember: ridge side up!

Now, bring your thread up from beneath the fabric, through the first hole. It doesn’t matter which hole you choose. Then bring it down through the hole that sits diagonally to your first hole.

Step 4: Make Some Room

Will you use a toothpick with a four-hole button? You bet you will. Slip it gently beneath the diagonal of thread you just made, or between the button and your fabric.

how to sew a 4-hole button

Step 5: Holes 3 and 4

Your needle should now be underneath the fabric. Bring it back up again through one of the holes that you’ve not yet stitched. Now bring it back down through the hole that sits diagonally to it. You should now have a nice “X” shape.

Step 6: Criss Cross

You will be sewing this “X” over and over again by sewing diagonals. You could sew the diagonal from hole 1 to hole 2 several times, then switch to one between holes 3 and 4. You could also alternate. This video shows you the first way.

Step 7: Finish the Job

Once you have between six and eight complete “X” shapes, knot off your thread or sew it off. Now remove your toothpick, snip your edges, and admire your work!

How to Sew a Shank Button by Hand

shank button sewing
A shank button

A shank button is a bit easier than a flat button. You don’t have to use a toothpick, although I do recommend keeping the thread relaxed.

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

As always, thread your needle, making sure that you have a double length of thread. Knot the thread ends and treat your thread with beeswax. 

Step 2: X Marks the Spot

Use your fabric pen to mark where you want your button to go. Now set the shank of your button down on your mark.

Step 3: Stitch it Up

Hold the shank of the button against the fabric with one hand. Now, use the other to draw the thread up from below the fabric, through the shank, and back down through the fabric. Make six to ten complete loops.

sewing shank button

Step 4: Tie it Off and Snip

When you’re finished, knot the thread and snip off the ends.

How to Sew a Button Using a Sewing Machine

Some people prefer sewing buttons by hand. It’s quick and easy, and you’re not risking either your button or your machine needle. But if you want to sew your button by machine, that, too, can be quick and easy. And if you’re careful, you can do it safely, as well.

You’ll need two extra pieces of kit for this: some sticky tape and a button foot (optional).

button foot
A button sewing foot

Step 1: Secure Your Button

Put your button where you want it and secure it to the fabric with sticky tape.

Step 2: Prepare Your Sewing Machine

You’ll want to do several things.

First, choose your stitch. You’ll want a zigzag stitch.

Next, set your stitch length to zero. You’ll not want your button moving forward through the machine. 

Now lower your feed dogs. Your feed dogs move the work forward through the machine. If your stitch length is zero, it should not be moving anyway. However, lowering the feed dogs will be an added measure of protection.

Set your stitching speed to slow. Better safe than sorry!

Finally, put on your button foot if you have one. A button foot holds your button in place while you sew. This is optional, but it makes things easier.

Step 3: Insert Your Work

Place your fabric and button on top of the feed dogs. Lower the presser foot onto it. 

Step 4: Sew a Test Stitch…Slowly

Use the hand wheel to slowly lower the needle into the first buttonhole. Continuing to use the hand wheel, lift up the needle and continue to turn it until the needle approaches the second hole.

button sewing machine

Does it go directly in? Is the stitch too wide or too narrow? Adjust the stitch width if you need to, then set it.

Sew Your Button

Now, carefully, stitch your button.

Tie and Snip the Edges

When you’re finished, take your work out of the sewing machine. Turn it over and tie off the edges.

Having trouble visualizing the process? Check out this instructional.

It’s Sew Easy!

Replacing a button isn’t difficult, but it’s important to use the right tools and the right procedure. 

What did you think of our tutorial? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

learn to sew buttons

How To Identify Sewing Machine Needles: Needle Sizes, Types, & Tips

how to identify sewing machine needles

A needle is a needle is a needle, right? Wrong! Sewing machine needles come in a variety of sizes, sharpnesses, and materials, and choosing the wrong one could cost you your project.

In short, knowing how to identify sewing machine needles is an essential skill every sewist must have.

Our sewing machine needle guide will give you the scoop on the types of sewing needles and sewing machine needle sizes. We’ll tell you which needles work best for which fabrics and which types of sewing, and help you to determine what sewing needle to use for your next project.

The Anatomy of a Sewing Machine Needle

sewing machine needle anatomy

Sewing needle design hasn’t changed much over time. In fact, archaeologists recently unearthed a 50,000-year-old sewing needle in Novosibirsk, Russia, that you or I could still use for hand-stitching today. [1]

Sewing machine needles, too, have maintained the same basic design. However, over time, variations on that design have evolved to better fit different types of sewing.

So, once you know the fundamentals, working out how to identify sewing machine needles is a breeze. The basic parts of a sewing machine needle include:


This is the “top” of the needle. It may be rounded or flat. This is the part that you insert into the needle bar.


Extending down from the butt is the shank. A needle shank comes in different shapes, which correspond to the type of sewing machine you have. Industrial sewing machine needles may have round, threaded, or grooved shanks. Home sewing machines use a needle where the shank is rounded on one side and flat on the other.


The sloping space between the shank and the shaft is called the shoulder. The shoulders of some sewing machine needles are color-coded to show the usage of the needle.


The shaft (also called the blade) is the main body of the needle. Needle size is determined by the thickness of the shaft.


Sewing machine needles have a groove along the front of the shaft. The length and width of this groove can vary from needle to needle. In all cases, however, the groove helps to make stitches smoother by cradling the thread and guiding it to the eye.


Between the groove and the eye is an indentation called the scarf. This indentation helps the bobbin hook to grab the thread. The size of this indentation is different in different types of needles.


The eye is the hole near the tip of the needle, where you insert the thread. The size and shape of the eye can vary, depending on your needle type.


The point, or tip, of the needle makes first contact with your fabric. The sharpness can vary, depending on which fabric the needle is designed to sew. Heavier materials require a sharper needle. Needles meant for stretch fabrics are comparatively blunt. Universal needles, that is, needles made to sew a variety of fabric types, are somewhere between the two.

Which Needle Do You Need?

Although sewing machine needles may look similar, there are subtle differences in design that can affect your fabric, thread, and stitching.

So, how do you choose?

You need to consider three parameters: the purpose for which the needle is designed, the size of the needle, and the weight of the thread you’re planning to use. 

What’s Your Project?

A universal needle will work for a variety of different kinds of sewing. However, when it comes to special tasks like embroidery or leather work, you should choose a needle purpose-made for your craft. Craft-specific needles will have different features that make them more effective for certain kinds of sewing.

What Kind of Fabric are you Using?

Different kinds of needles have features that allow them to work efficiently with different types of fabric. 

Sewing machine needles for denim look a lot different from the needles you might use for silk, for example. Denim needles are both heavier and sharper. Machine embroidery needles are different from both of these. They have a longer eye and a specially shaped scarf. And the list goes on. [2]

Choose a heavier gauge needle for heavier work and a thinner, lighter needle for light fabrics.

What About Thread Weight?

You’ll also need to consider the weight of the thread you’ll be using. Pair smaller sized needles with lighter weight thread, and larger sized needles with heavier thread. 

The numbering conventions for thread weights can be confusing, especially because they look so similar to needle gauges. We’ll tackle this more in depth in a bit.

What Types of Sewing Machine Needles Are There?

different types sewing machine needle

You might be surprised by just how many types of sewing machine needles there are. Each is a little bit different. Let’s have a look.

Universal Needles

A universal sewing machine needle is made to work with most types of fabric and thread. The shaft is of medium diameter, and the tip is pointed but not as sharp as needles made for heavier fabrics.

Self-Threading Needles

Self-threading sewing machine needles have a gap on one side of the scarf, so that you can slot the thread into the gap sideways, rather than poking it through the eye.

Needles for Heavy Materials

Needles for heavier fabrics have a thicker shaft and a sharper point than universal needles. Here are a few you might encounter.

Leather Needle

Leather needles have a chisel point, so that they can cut and penetrate at the same time. Leather needles come in five different sizes (diameters), which correspond to different thicknesses of leather.

Denim (Jeans) Needle

Denim or jeans needles are also very thick and sharp. You can use them with other thick fabrics, too, such as canvas duck cloth.

Needles for Lighter Materials

Needles designed for use with lighter threads and materials have a small diameter and are often very sharp. This helps the needle to pass through the fabric without damaging it.

Ball Point Needle

A ball point needle, like a ball point pen, has a rounded tip. Most commonly, people use a ball point needle to sew knit or loosely woven fabrics. The ball tip prevents the needle from damaging the fibers of the fabric while passing through. This, in turn, keeps the needle’s action from causing knit fabrics to run. [3]

Jersey Needle and Stretch Needle

Jersey needles and stretch needles are both types of ball point needles. Their special design features improve the quality of stitching with these sometimes difficult-to-sew fabrics.

Both stretch and jersey needles have a medium ballpoint. Stretch needles also have a shorter, narrower eye, a deeper scarf, and a special coating that helps to keep them free of different materials they can pick up from sewing elasticated fabrics. These features help to prevent skipped stitches, which can be a problem with knits and stretchy fabrics.

Metallic Needle

If you’ve ever tried to sew with delicate metallic thread, you know how difficult it is. Metallic needles are designed to make it a bit easier. Metallic needles have a large eye and a larger groove, which helps to protect metallic thread from shredding.

Task-Specific Needles

Some needles are designed to assist with a specific task, rather than to sew a certain kind of fabric. Here are a few.

Twin Needle

Have you ever seen those identical, perfectly parallel rows of decorative stitching on garments? Those were made with a twin needle. Twin needle stitching can also reinforce seams. A twin, or double needle has two needles descending from a single shaft. 

Triple Needle

A triple needle has three needles descending from a single shaft. If you want to take your decorative stitching to the next level, try one of these.

Embroidery Needle

Needles for machine embroidery come in a variety of sizes and weights. There are both sharp and ball-point varieties. All of them, however, have a longer eye than universal needles, and a specially shaped scarf. These features make it easier to work with delicate embroidery thread without fraying or breaking it.

Topstitch Needle

Topstitch needles are a favorite of quilters and sail makers. A topstitch needle has a larger eye than a universal needle. It also has a deeper groove. Many topstitch needles also have a titanium coat. All of these features mean that the topstitch needle can stand up to heavy work and even doubling of thread.

Quilting Needles

You can use a universal or topstitch needle for quilting. However, there are sewing machine needles made specifically for quilting. Quilting needles have a thin, tapered shaft that allows them to pass smoothly through multiple layers.

Wing (or Winged) Needle

A winged needle is a specialty needle for sewing loosely-woven fabrics like linen. This type of needle has flanges on the side that open a wide hole in the fabric. 

Why might you want this? Well, certain kinds of heirloom stitching uses wide holes as decoration. Also, it can facilitate sewing with embroidery thread. Finally, the flanges can help you to seal off raw, easily-frayed hem edges by pushing the edges back through the fabric, forming a seal. Have a look. 

What About the Colors?

Some sewing machine needle manufacturers put a colored stripe across the shoulder of each needle. The color corresponds to that needle’s intended use.

  • A yellow band means the needle is for stretch fabrics.
  • Blue indicates the needle is for denim.
  • A needle meant for use with microfiber cloth may have a purple band.
  • A red band means the needle is meant for machine embroidery.
  • Green bands are often seen on quilting needles.

What do the Numbers on Sewing Machine Needles Mean?

As we’ve already seen, the size of a sewing machine needle can play a big role in the ease and quality of sewing. Size affects the way the needle interacts with your materials, and also affects stitching quality. Also, different sized needles are suited to different types of work.

Needle size refers to the diameter of the needle. You might also hear it described as gauge. If you’re wondering what gauge is a sewing needle, it’s important to understand the numbering convention.

To make it even more difficult, the United States and Europe have different conventions.

American Sewing Machine Needle Numbering

American sewing machine needle sizes range from eight to 19. The larger the number, the larger the diameter of the blade.

European Sewing Machine Needle Numbering

European sewing machine needles come in sizes ranging from 60 to 120. Again, the larger the number, the larger the diameter of the blade. A size 60 needle, for example, has a 0.6 millimeter blade.

What About the Numbers on the Package? 

Since many needle manufacturers sell their wares around the world, packages will often list both American and European sizes, separated by a front slash. The European number comes first. Therefore:

  • 60/8 is for very fine lightweight fabrics like thin silk
  • 65/9, 70/10 and 75/11 work best for lightweight fabric such as taffeta and lining fabric
  • 80/12 and 90/14 work best for medium weight fabrics, linen, and flannel
  • 90/14 and 100/16 are for heavier weight fabrics such as denim, fleece, tweed, and wool
  • 100/16, 110/18, and larger are for heavyweight materials such as leather, vinyl, and canvas ducking

Thread Weight And Needle Size

sewing machine needle with thread

If your thread keeps breaking, shredding, or skipping stitches, it’s possible you’re not using the right size needle for that thread. So, which size needle goes with which size thread?

Confusingly, the thread weight measuring conventions look similar to the measuring conventions for needle gauge: two numbers separated by a slash. But the numbers don’t have the same meaning at all.

Thread Weight Explained

There are several different conventions for describing thread size. The weight standard is one of the most common conventions, so this is the one we’ll be looking at here. [4]

With needle gauges, the smaller the number, the smaller the needle. With thread weight, it’s the opposite: the smaller the number, the heavier the weight of the thread.

Also, unlike needle gauge, which measures needle diameter, thread weight measures weight. Specifically, how many kilometers of thread it takes to make one kilogram. So, if you have a 30-weight thread, that means 30 kilometers of that thread weighs one kilogram.

A 50-weight thread, on the other hand, is lighter, as it would take 50 kilometers of that thread, rather than 30, to make one kilogram.

But what if your thread is “30/2”? What does that second number mean? The second number is the number of plies, or strands, in that thread. 

Here are some examples.

50 and 60 weight thread is good for general purpose sewing.

A lot of quilters like to use 30 or 40 weight thread when they want their stitches to stand out visually. 30 weight thread is also often used for decorative stitching in upholstery.

20 weight thread is for ultra-heavy weight materials.

12 to 18 weight thread is often used for hand embroidery.

Note: another standard, called the Number Standard, labels threads as #100, #50, and so on. Although in this system, like in the weight system, higher numbers describe thinner threads, #50 thread is not the same weight as 50-weight thread.

How to Match Thread Weight to Needle Size

Here’s the rule: the larger the number on your needle, the smaller the number should be on your thread.

The higher the needle gauge, the larger the shaft of that needle will be. Possibly the eye will be larger as well. This type of needle is built for a heavier thread. By contrast, smaller, thinner needles require a finer thread–that is, a thread with a greater thread weight measurement.

Confused yet? Here’s a chart. Please note that this is a rough guide. There are heavier and lighter threads and needles not represented here:

UsageNeedle GaugeThread Weight
Ultra-light fabric, fine silk60/8100 weight
Lightweight fabric70/10100 weight
Medium-light fabric80/1250-60 weight 
Medium fabric90/1440 weight
Upholstery100/1630 weight
Leather and other heavyweight materials100/1620 weight

Tips for Using the Right Sewing Machine Needle Every Time

sewing machine needle and bobbin

Every time? Well, no system is perfect. But these tips can help.

Consider Your Task

What kind of sewing will you be doing? No matter what your task, it’s likely there’s a specific needle for it. A universal needle is fine for most general sewing tasks, however you may want a task-specific needle for:

  • Embroidery
  • Quilting
  • Leather
  • Knits
  • Stretch fabrics
  • Heirloom sewing

Think About Your Fabric

Once you’ve chosen the right type of needle, it’s important to match the gauge of that needle to the weight of your fabric. Lightweight fabrics require a thinner, lighter needle, while heavier materials need a very thick, very sharp needle. Remember that a larger needle will leave a larger hole, so figure this into your calculations.

What Kind of Thread Are You Using?

Now it’s time to match your needle to your thread. This can go hand in hand with your fabric, but it doesn’t always. Lighter, finer threads require a smaller needle. Metallic thread is very fragile, so you should use a needle made for metallic threads. And thick, heavy thread requires a thick needle with a larger eye, of course.

Remember: the smaller your thread-weight number, the larger the needle gauge you will need.

Try to Thread Your Needle

When you’re preparing to sew, pay attention to how easy it is to thread your needle. The thread should pass easily through the needle’s eye. It’s easy to tell if the thread is too thick for the needle. But if the needle is too big, that can cause problems, too.

Your thread should snuggle nicely into the groove of the needle. If it fits well in the groove and passes easily through the eye, you have a better chance of producing even, high-quality stitches.

Make a Few Test Stitches

Before you start sewing, make a few test stitches. Are they tight and evenly spaced? Are they the same size? If not, it could be an indication that you’re using the wrong size needle. (It could also mean that you’re not using the correct thread tension.)

How Often Should You Change the Needle On Your Sewing Machine?

sewing machine needles

A dull sewing machine needle can harm your fabric, cause skipped stitches, snag or even break your thread, and throw your thread tension off. On top of that, it can damage your sewing machine motor. So, how often should you change it?

The amount of time is about the same, but people have different ways of measuring that time. Some suggestions include:

  • After 6 to 10 sewing hours
  • After going through three full bobbins that you wound yourself
  • After two full pre-wound bobbins
  • After completing a single project

Different factors can influence these times, including working with heavier or layered materials and sewing through coated materials.

Sewing machine needles experience a variety of pressures in addition to punching through fabric. These pressures can cause different types of damage. Always check your needle for dullness, chips, abrasion, and other damage before using it.

Sewing it All Up

Your sewing machine won’t speak up when it’s time to change the needle. And it can’t tell you if you’ve chosen the wrong one for your project. Unfortunately, your first sign of trouble may be damage to your project or even to your sewing machine.

Choose your needle carefully. Consider your fabric type, thread weight, and what sort of sewing you’ll be doing. Inspect your needle regularly for damage, and change it often.

What’s your favorite kind of sewing? And what’s your favorite needle to use? 

identifying sewing machine needles


  1. Archaeology Magazine | Denisova Cave Yields a 50,000-Year-Old Needle |
  2. Bernadett Csaszar | Choosing the Right Needles for Your Machine Embroidery Projects |
  3. Wisegeek Writer | What are Uses for a Ballpoint Needle? |

Sewing Machine History: Who Invented It, Why, When, and Where?

sewing machine history

Who invented the sewing machine? The answer is more complicated than you might think. Like a lot of great ideas, the evolution of the sewing machine is a series of inventions, innovations, improvements and hacks. And one can’t simply ask what year was the sewing machine invented, because it took place over a long period of time.

In fact, the evolution continues to this day.

Why Was the Sewing Machine Invented?

sewing pre-industrial revolution

People have been sewing by hand for a very long time. The oldest sewing needle on record is 50,000 years old. The needle is made out of bird bone, and wasn’t crafted by Homo Sapiens, but by the Denisovans, one of two other humanoid species alive at the time. [1]

The sewing machine, by contrast, is a fairly recent development. Although many people were involved in its evolution, and that evolution is still continuing today, we can trace the first sewing machines to the end of the 18th century.

The Industrial Revolution

The 18th and 19th centuries in Europe were a time of rapid and widespread scientific and technological development. The Industrial Revolution saw the mechanization of many handicrafts, as well as a shift from rural to urban life. Nowhere was this revolution more noticeable than in the textile industry. [2]

The invention of new technologies like the flying shuttle (1733), the spinning jenny (1770), and the power loom (1785) made fabric production faster and more efficient. It’s only natural that the market would demand faster and more efficient sewing technology as well. [3, 4, 5]

The Calico Acts

During the 17th century, British factories in India produced around one quarter of the world’s textiles, primarily cotton. Eventually these factories began to produce finished cotton products as well. These imports were less expensive than the wool and linen clothing produced in Britain. This proved to be a grave threat to Britain’s domestic textile and garment industries.

The Calico Acts of 1700 and 1721 banned the import and sale of finished cotton products, though it was still legal to import raw cotton. Eventually a new, cotton-based textile industry developed in Britain. [6]

By the time the Calico Acts were repealed in 1774, Britain had its own thriving cotton goods industry. This new industry fueled the development of new spinning, weaving, and later sewing technologies.

New Markets

In addition to technological and political developments, shifting market forces were at work. The influx of workers to cities meant increased demand for cheaper, ready-made clothing. The rise of a new, urban consumer class also added to this demand. The less expensive fabric was there; people just needed a faster way to turn it into clothing and household items.

Who Invented the Sewing Machine?

Who was the inventor of the sewing machine? It’s difficult to point to a single person, as so many people, from a surprising number of disciplines and backgrounds, contributed to the technologies that led to it. 

Like so many inventions, the development of the sewing machine is a story of good ideas that, more often than not, took many years and many different attempts to catch on. The story of the sewing machine illustrates the sad truth that a good idea doesn’t necessarily translate into immediate market success.

Rather, success is the harmonious convergence of ideas, personalities, and luck. And sometimes a bit of strategic patent infringement.

Let’s have a look.

Charles Frederick Wiesenthal

Charles Frederick Wiesenthal was a German inventor in the 18th century. While living in Britain, he invented the first known mechanical sewing device, though it wasn’t a sewing machine as we know it.

In 1755, he also invented a double pointed machine sewing needle with an eye at one end, for which he received a British patent.

Thomas Saint 

Newton Wilson's copy Saints sewing machine
Newton Wilson’s copy of Saint’s sewing machine (1874).
Image by Panjigalli, CC SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1790, English cabinet maker Thomas Saint designed and patented a hand-cranked device for sewing leather with a chain stitch. His design had the arm that we’re so familiar with, a feed mechanism, a needle bar, and a looping mechanism. Many believe that Saint built a prototype, however, he never built his machine for sale.

Thomas Saints chain stitch used on the first ever complete sewing machine design for leather work. An awl preceded the eye pointed needle to make a hole in preparation for the thread.
Image by Panjigally and shared via CreativeCommons Licence:

In 1874, English engineer William Newton Wilson found Saint’s patent drawings and built a working sewing machine.

James Henderson, Thomas Stone, and John Duncan

1804 was a big year for sewing machine innovation. British engineers James Henderson and Thomas Stone built their version of a sewing machine. It didn’t work very well, unfortunately, and was quickly abandoned.

Also in this year, Scotsman John Duncan received a patent for a multi-needle embroidery machine. It, likewise, failed to catch on.

Balthasar Krems 

In 1810, Balthasar Krems invented a machine for sewing caps. It didn’t work very well, and he never patented it. 

Josef Madersperger 

Josef Madersperger was an Austrian tailor. In 1814, he invented a machine that he called “the Sewing Hand.” This was one of several designs, none of which, unfortunately, caught on.

In 1839, Madersperger tried another design, which used chain stitching to imitate the process of weaving.

 „Nähhand“, Josef Madersperger, um 1830
Image by Reinraum, license CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rev. John Adams Dodge and John Knowles

The Reverend John Adams Dodge was an American pastor and inventor. He invented numerous items related to the production of horse collars. And, in 1818, along with John Knowles, he invented a sewing machine.

Dodge never pursued production, sale, or even a patent for his machine, as his duties as a pastor kept him too busy.

Barthélemy Thimonnier 


In 1830, French tailor Barthelemy Thimonnier received a patent for his sewing machine. The machine used a barbed needle to puncture the fabric and pull the bottom thread back up to the surface. 

Thimonnier started a factory, and intended to use his machine to make military uniforms. However, workers burned the factory down after he received the patent, as they were afraid the machine would put them out of work.

A copy of Barthélemy Thimonnier’s sewing machine from about 1830 can be seen on the left. Image courtesy of Panjigally via CreativeCommons:

Walter Hunt 

Patent_11,161 walter hunt sewing machine
Sewing Machine, patent 11,161 | U.S. Patent Office – inventor Walter Hunt |

American Walter Hunt was a mechanic by trade, but he was also a prolific inventor. In addition to a lockstitch sewing machine (1833), he invented the safety pin (1849), a nail-making machine, a knife sharpener, a streetcar bell, and many other useful things. [7]

Hunt didn’t initially patent his sewing machine, fearing the machine’s production would put seamstresses out of work. Instead, he sold the rights to a businessman who abandoned the design, also without seeking a patent. When Elias Howe patented a sewing machine that contained elements of Hunt’s design in 1846, Howe initiated court proceedings against previous sewing machine designers, including Hunt. 

The case ultimately recognized Hunt as the inventor, but because he never patented his machine, awarded intellectual property rights to Howe. In 1858, Isaac Singer, whose designs owed a lot to Hunt’s original design, agreed to pay Hunt $50,000.

Unfortunately, Hunt died before the first payment arrived.

Newton & Archibold

In 1841, British business partners Newton and Archibold introduced the eye-pointed needle, as well as the new technology of employing two pressing surfaces to hold pieces of fabric in position during sewing. 

John Greenough

In 1842, John Greenough patented the first American sewing machine.

John Fisher 

Englishman John Fisher managed to combine all of the successful elements of previous sewing machine models into a device that resembled today’s sewing machines. He filed his patent in 1844. Unfortunately, the patent office lost his paperwork, which meant that Isaac Merrit Singer was able to patent a very similar machine in 1851, and go on to fame and fortune.

Elias Howe


American Elias Howe created the first American lockstitch machine, which he patented in 1846. But that’s only the beginning of his story.

While in England, drumming up interest in his machine, Isaac Merritt Singer and others were putting forth their own designs, some of which infringed on Howe’s patent in different ways. The resulting court case drew in numerous parties, including Singer and Walter Hunt. Howe won his case, and Singer was forced to pay Howe for a license under Howe’s patent.

Allen B. Wilson 

Meanwhile, American Allen B. Wilson didn’t invent a sewing machine, but he did invent two technologies that improved existing designs. In 1850, Wilson invented the vibrating shuttle. In 1851, he invented the rotating shuttle. 

Later in 1851, Wilson entered a partnership with Nathaniel Wheeler. Together they invented a rotary hook, which would replace the shuttle altogether. Wilson also invented a four-motion feed mechanism that is still part of many modern sewing machines.

Wheeler and Wilson then went into business producing sewing machines. Their enterprise was highly successful.

Charles Miller

Also in the mid-19th century, American Charles Miller invented a buttonhole-stitching machine.

Isaac Merritt Singer

American entrepreneur Isaac Merritt Singer created an improved version of the sewing machines that existed at that time. He was granted a patent for it in 1851.

Ellen Curtis Demorest

Ellen Curtis Demorest is responsible for the invention and development of the paper pattern. She published a pattern catalog in 1860, Madame Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions. The catalog was so successful that by 1865, Demorest had built an all-female sales and distribution force 200 women strong. 

She also used a lot of the profits from her company to support women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. 

Helen Blanchard

In 1873, American Helen Blanchard patented the first zig zag sewing machine. Blanchard would go on to found the Blanchard Overseam Company in 1881. She ultimately registered 28 patents, with 22 of them having to do with sewing machines. [8]

James Allen Edward Gibbs and James Willcox

American James Edward Allen Gibbs, a farmer, patented the first single-thread chain stitch sewing machine in 1867. He partnered with James Willcox to form the Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine Company. The Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine company closed in 1973, but their commercial sewing machines are still in use today.

But Who Invented the Sewing Machine First?

That’s a vague question with a lot of answers. Perhaps it’s time to sharpen the question.

You might ask, who was the original inventor of the sewing machine. Or who made the first working sewing machine? Or who patented the first sewing machine? What about the first sewing machine that went to market? Or the first that was mass produced? 

Each of these questions has a different answer, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of this complex and contentious history. 

Let’s have a look.

What Year Was the Sewing Machine Invented?

The very first mechanical device for sewing was invented in Britain in the mid-1700s. There’s no record that the inventor, Charles Frederick Wiesenthal, ever built a prototype. However, Wiesenthal did patent a sewing machine needle in 1755.

In 1790, Thomas Saint designed and patented a hand-cranked lockstitch sewing machine. He may or may not have built a prototype, but nearly 100 years later, another inventor built a working model based on Saint’s design.

In 1830 Barthelemy Thimonnier patented a sewing machine design and built a factory, but his workers, fearful for their jobs, burnt it down.

In 1846 Elias Howe patented a sewing machine that incorporated elements from previous designs, including one that Walter Hunt had failed to patent. However, while Howe was in England trying to generate interest in his machine, Isaac Merritt Singer beat him to the punch with production.

In 1851, Singer patented his own design, which eventually went into production.

Who Patented the First Sewing Machine?

Ah, now that’s a bit easier to answer. The first sewing machine patent went to Englishman Thomas Saint in 1790.

But that’s not the end of the patent story. Numerous patents were filed in the years after that. A flurry of development in the mid-19th century resulted in a flurry of litigation that had an unprecedented ending.

The Sewing Machine War

In the mid 19th century, sewing machine manufacturers were springing up across the United States and England, and many times their claims to the intellectual property rights of various technologies overlapped. In the United States, the resulting patent thicket turned into a series of lengthy and expensive court battles.

In 1856, several of the major players, Singer, Howe, Wheeler, Wilson, and a company called Grover & Baker, formed a consortium called The Sewing Machine Combination to pool their patents. Other manufacturers had to license technologies covered by these patents from the consortium.

The Sewing Machine Combination, also called the Sewing Machine Trust, was the first patent pool in United States history. It lasted until 1877, when the last patent in the pool expired. The three most important patents in the pool were for the lockstitch, the four-motion feed, and the combination of a vertical needle used with a horizontal sewing surface.

What Role did Isaac Singer Play in the Invention of the Sewing Machine? 

As we’ve seen, it’s not enough to merely have a good idea. And it’s not enough to patent your idea, or even to build a prototype. Success also means being in the right place at the right time, seeing opportunity, and acting on it.

Isaac Merritt Singer didn’t invent the first sewing machine. He didn’t patent the first sewing machine, either. His designs drew heavily upon the many, many sewing machines that had come before — sometimes to the point of patent infringement.

What Singer did do was to design a working sewing machine, patent it, mass produce it and sell it.

Singer’s advantage wasn’t being the first. Rather, he made his machine the most marketable. Singer’s design adapted easily to home use, which opened up a new market of home sewists. He also expanded his sales overseas. I.M. Singer became one of the first multinational corporations, with a factory near Glasgow and offices in Paris and Rio de Janeiro.

With regard to manufacturing, Singer made use of the new ideas of mass production and interchangeable parts for his machines. This cut production costs in half, which allowed him to both lower the cost of his sewing machines and significantly increase his profit margins.

Singer also pioneered the idea of purchase plans, which allowed customers to pay for their sewing machines in installments. The 1944 Education Act, which mandated dressmaking for young women in public schools, further increased Singer’s market reach.

Although Singer did patent a sewing machine in 1851, his innovations in manufacturing and business practices really made Singer a household name in sewing.

Where Was the First Sewing Machine Made?

The first working sewing machine prototype was made in Britain. But it’s arguable whose prototype came first.

  • Charles Frederick Wiesenthal designed a sewing device in the mid-1700s, but there is no evidence that he built it.
  • Thomas Saint designed and patented a hand-cranked leather-sewing chain stitch machine in 1790. A prototype has never been found, but in 1874, an engineer constructed a working model based on Saint’s designs.
  • In 1804, James Henderson and Thomas Stone built a working sewing machine. Scotsman John Duncan built an embroidery machine that year, too. However, neither machine worked well enough to pursue production.

The first sewing machine that was produced for sale was made in the United States by Isaac Merritt Singer.

Sewing Machine History Timeline

  • Mid-1700s Charles Frederick Wiesenthal invents a mechanical sewing device
  • 1790 Thomas Saint designs and patents a hand-cranked leather-sewing chain stitch machine
  • 1804 James Henderson and Thomas Stone build a working sewing machine.
  • 1804 Scotsman John Duncan builds an embroidery machine
  • 1810 Balthasar Krems invents a machine for sewing caps
  • 1818 The Reverend John Adams Dodge and John Knowles invent a sewing machine
  • 1830 Barthelemy Thimonnier patents a sewing machine with a barbed needle, which pulls up the bottom thread.
  • 1833 Walter Hunt invents a lockstitch sewing machine
  • 1839 Josef Madersperger invents “The Sewing Hand” and a chain stitch machine
  • 1841 Newton & Archibold introduce the eye-pointed needle and a technology for holding pieces of fabric during sewing.
  • 1842 John Greenough receives the first American patent for a sewing machine.
  • 1844 John Fisher files a British patent for a sewing machine design, but the patent office loses his paperwork.
  • 1846 Elias Howe patents the first American lockstitch machine. 
  • 1850 Allen B. Wilson invents the vibrating shuttle.
  • 1851 Allen B. Wilson invents the rotating shuttle.
  • 1851 Allen B. Wilson patents the rotating hook, which replaces the shuttle.
  • 1851 Isaac Merritt Singer patents his sewing machine.
  • 1852 Allen B. Wilson patents the four-motion feed.
  • 1852 Charles Miller patents the design for a buttonhole stitching machine.
  • 1851-1856 The Sewing Machine War
  • 1856 The formation of the Sewing Machine Trust
  • 1856 Isaac Merritt Singer founded I.M. Singer & Co.
  • 1858 Singer introduces the first lightweight domestic sewing machine, the “Grasshopper.”
  • 1860 Englishmen William Jones and Thomas Chadwick found the first English sewing machine manufacturing company.
  • 1860 Ellen Curtis Demorest invents the paper pattern and publishes a wildly popular pattern catalog.
  • 1867 Ebenezer Butterick patents paper patterns for men’s and women’s clothing.
  • 1867 James Allen Edward Gibbs patents the first single-thread chain stitch machine.
  • 1873 Helen Blanchard patents the first zig zag sewing machine.
  • 1877 Joseph M. Merrow invents the first crochet machine.
  • 1885 Singer patents the vibrating shuttle sewing machine.
  • 1889 Singer introduces the first electric sewing machine to the market.
  • 1893 The Bernina Sewing Machine Company is founded in Switzerland.
  • 1908 Kanekichi Yasui founds Yasui & Co Sewing Machine Company (later Brother Industries)
  • 1921 The Pine Sewing Machine Company (later Janome) is founded.
  • 1935 Janome invents the round bobbin.
  • 1938 The Juki Sewing Machine company is founded.
  • 1971 Janome releases the first sewing machine with programmable functions.
  • 1975 Singer brings out the Athena 2000, the world’s first electronic sewing machine.
  • 1978 Singer introduces the first computer-controlled sewing machine, the Touchtronic 2001.
  • 1990 Janome releases the first professional-quality embroidery machine for home use.
  • 2003 Janome brings out the first professional-quality longarm quilting machine for home use.

Why Sewing Machine History Matters

The history of sewing and sewing machines is important in a number of ways. First, it helps us to understand how invention is rarely the work of one person at one time. Every invention builds upon earlier successes and failures. Innovations and improvements move design forward. And sometimes the secret to success isn’t in design at all, but in business.

Studying sewing machine history also gives us a glimpse into the personalities, politics, and the lives of everyday people, and how these change over time. Inventors may work alone, but it takes cooperation and new kinds of networks and organizations to build an effective industry. 

And a person may invent the best product, but if they don’t patent, market, and produce it, it remains simply an interesting idea.

The invention of the industrial sewing machine made clothing and fabric goods cheaper and more accessible to more people. The invention of the mass-produced home sewing machine empowered millions to craft their own clothing and unleash their creative potential. And these are just a few examples.

Final Thoughts

It’s a long, winding path from that first 18th-century design to the modern machine sitting on your sewing table. That path is filled with false starts, mistakes, unexpected twists of fate, and outright theft. It’s also filled with flashes of technical genius, small modifications that made a huge difference, and the entrepreneurial skill to build a worldwide industry that continues today.

Who invented the sewing machine? A lot of people did. But invention is just part of the story.

who invented sewing machine


  1. Eric Grundhauser | Found: The World’s Oldest Sewing Needle |
  2. Editors | Industrial Revolution |
  3. Kevin Beck | Description of a Flying Shuttle |
  4. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica | Spinning jenny |
  5. History Crunch Writers | Power Loom Invention in the Industrial Revolution |
  6. Richard A. Webster | Western colonialism |
  7. The Irish Times | Inspiring innovators: Walter Hunt |
  8. National Inventors Hall of Fame | Helen Blanchard |