Today we are talking about stitch length. Many of my students are beginners and are not sure what their machine settings should be on for sewing. This post may also be helpful for those who have sewn before but have never really thought about their stitch length too much in depth.
When we sew, we use the straight stitch on our machines almost 90% percent of the time to sew seams, topstitch, put in zippers, etc. This stitch is the most commonly used one and is the one I introduce or reacquaint students with at our first lesson.
Every machine is different in terms of how to adjust your stitch length. Some of the very basic sewing machines today do not allow you much variation in stitch length. You may have 4-5 different straight stitch choices and that is it. On other machines, you have much greater control in choosing what you want your stitch to be. Here is a non-computerized machine with the standard dial for stitch length:
Here is a picture of a computerized machine and the stitch length setting:
The stitch length is the upper right hand number on the right side of the screen. The picture next to it looks like a dotted line which represents the stitch length (the number below it is the stitch width which we will talk about later). On this Brother machine, you can press the "-" or "+" button from .2 to 5.0 mm so there are a lot of variations of stitch length on this machine as well. Is it better to have a machine that will allow you to adjust the stitch length so much? I have to say from my experience that yes, it is.
If you are not sure how to adjust the stitch length on your sewing machine, please take a look at your machine manual. This little guide can really be your friend!
So what number should my machine be on for "normal" sewing? If you did not already notice, both machines were set on 2.5. That number is in millimeters so it is 2.5mm. This is a pretty standard stitch length for sewing together two pieces of medium weight fabric.
Now, let's say that you are hemming a pair of denim jeans. You will want to increase that number thus increasing your stitch length. I often set my stitch length to 3mm when hemming jeans. You will need more thread in your stitch length to go through more fabric. Does that makes sense? The opposite is also true. You may sew on very fine fabric and may need a stitch closer to 2mm. You don't need as much thread to make a stitch because the fabric is thinner.
If I sew on a fabric that is a different weight than what I am use to, I often sew on a scrap piece of fabric first to make sure that my stitches look okay. If my stitches are not long enough, my fabric might come out wavy. If I have too much thread, my stitches might look raised and bumpy.
I hope that this information on stitch length helps. This topic came to mind recently when someone did some sewing at home and then brought their work in to show me. The stitches were SO tight and close to together because the machine was not on the right setting. If your stitch length is properly set, you will have great looking seams and topstitching.
Please feel free to post any questions in the comment sections!