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Quick Tip: Test Your Stitches Before You Start to Sew

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It’s always exciting to begin a new sewing project. We’re eager to get started, and test stitching can feel like a roadblock to the creativity to come. However, ripping out a bad seam or ruining an expensive piece of fabric with a gnarl of thread is an even greater roadblock. Taking just a few minutes at the beginning of every project to test your stitches is another Quick Tip that leads to a pro finish. 

Thread up your machine with the thread you’ll be using for your project. If you already have scraps of the actual fabric you’ll be working with, use one of those. If not, grab something out of your stash. We like to keep a variety of weights handy.

If you’ll be working with very delicate fabric or a substrate that is known to be “tricky,” such as a laminate or one that has a pre-embellished surface, it’s worth taking the time to cut out your pieces first in order to generate scraps of the real fabric to use for your test stitching.

  1. Cut a small chunk of fabric. You can leave it as a single flat layer, although our choice is to fold the piece in half for a better “bite” and more similarity to the layers of stitching that will be coming up.

  2. Start by testing a standard straight stitch. This will immediately show you if you have a threading issue with your top or bobbin thread or if your tension seems off.
  3. If all looks good, move on to a zig zag to insure the needle moves smoothly side to side.

  4. If you’re planning to use a decorative stitch in your project, run a test of this option as well.

  5. Finally, re-set back to your standard straight stitch and run through one more test seam.

  6. Look over your test. Check both sides of the fabric. Stitches should lay flat against the fabric and neither pull nor pucker the fabric. You shouldn't see any loops of loose thread. Adjust stitch length and tension appropriately if you spot issues. Your sewing machine’s manual will have specific directions on adjusting stitch length, style, and tension.

  7. Re-thread, re-set, and re-test as many times as needed to produce a smooth stitch line.
  8. Leftover pre-cuts, like charm squares are another great fabric option for test stitching. They’re small and easy to work with, and their straight edges can help you test aligning a seam.

  9. Now you can be confident your machine will be ready and waiting for you to start your new project.
  10. Look before you leap – test before you take off.

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Comments (6)

Carrie said:
Carrie 's picture

Thank you for the wonderful reminder to first check our stitches on our sewing machines.  I often forget to do this especially when I am using my new machine.  It needs to be done on any machine you will be using.  I love Sew4home!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Carrie - Thank you! Sometimes it's the easy stuff that makes all the difference in the long run.

Suez said:
Suez's picture

The video ad you have at the bottom of this page makes it impossible for me to enjoy your site.  Each new ad causes my page to zip down to the video.  In the middle of reading and looking at what you have posted I am forced to look at the ad.  This is not pleasent not conducive to enjoying what is on your page.  Especially when I am forced to look at the same two ads over and over.  I have only read about half a paragraph and would love to know what the rest of it says.  I had to keep coming back to the comment box as I typed because of the forced viedo ad as well. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Suez - We don't use video ads on the site, so we're trying to track down what you might be seeing. At this time, we are not findining any issues at all on our end, but we're continuing to check as we want to be 100% sure. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Doloris -- yes! for everything it's the best first step