How to Select Stitch Length when using Your Sewing Machine

Learn how to select stitch length when using your sewing machine from founder Cynthia Mann in this Howcast video.

Hi, I’m Cynthia Mann and we’re here today at Birch Fabrics in Paso Robles, California. This is also the home of Hi, I’m Melissa Lunden; I’m the resident seamstress here at Birch Fabrics. I teach sewing lessons here, prepare blog tutorials and sew samples of Birch’s line of organic cotton. And I am here today to talk to you about sewing. So now we’re going to talk about how to select stitch length with tension on your machine. Every machine is a little different but most have a range from 0 to 5 which directs the stitch length. 0 being the smallest stitch, no length at all, five being the longest. You’ll use a smaller stitch length when you want very small, strong stitches or when you are adjusting the stitch width as well. Usually you’ll use, in a range between 0 to 5, about a 3.5 for your universal stitch. That way, it’s nice and tight, but it’s also not so small that it will take forever to get through your machine. And then the longest stitch length, which is 4 and a half to 5, is good for non-permanent stitches like basting when you are just sewing 2 pieces together temporarily until you do the permanent stitching. And then you have upper tension and lower tension. The upper tension is what’s going to control how easily the thread moves through the machine from the spool up here. Lower tension is for when the bobbin which you don’t really mess with that often. When you need to adjust your stitch width, on my machine it’s a little button, and that’s going to affect whether your machine is sewing a straight stitch or a zigzag stitch. And zigzag is great for a lot of different things like using elastic or finishing seams and you’ll end up kind of coming up with different combinations of width and length to affect your different zigzag. But a basic zigzag stitch is going to look something like this. And the wider your stitch width, the wider your zigzag. So you can see here kind of a standard zigzag. Here, the zigzag’s a little bit wider because it’s a longer stitch width. And here, the zigzag is here and there because the width is so small.