Welcome to week 2 of the Learn to Sew series! If you survived Week 1 you are going to breeze right through Week 2 because it’s not too much different. You’ll still be sewing a straight line, but with a zigzag stitch instead of a straight stitch this time.
Now, let’s talk about how to sew a zigzag stitch.
How to Sew A ZigZag Stitch:
First of all let’s talk about what a zigzag stitch is and why you would use it. A zigzag stitch is just that-a stitch that zigzags. It looks like this:
Pretty basic right? But why would you use a zigzag? There are a couple of reasons:
1. A zigzag is a more sturdy stitch, so if you need something held extra tight, a zigzag is the stitch to use. That’s what I use when attaching the hood on my hooded towels because I know it will hold nice and tight.
2. A zigzag can be used to prevent fraying. If you are sewing clothing or something that you want to have be really nice and you don’t want any raw edges to fray, you can zigzag them first. (That is if you don’t have a serger.)
3. Zigzags are used in applique and button holes. We are going to learn about those more in Lesson 7.
So, let’s get started sewing.
To sew a zigzag stitch you are going to start out just the same as you did with your straight stitch from Lesson #1. Thread your bobbin and your machine. Somewhere on your machine is going to be a way to change from a straight stitch to a zigzag. Up above you can see a picture of how mine does it (mine is computerized). It may be a picture of a zigzag or it may be a number or letter that indicates what stitch you are doing. Check your manual for help on this. (See also the Meet Your Machine post.)
Set your machine to zigzag. The basic zigzag stitch is going to be of average length and average width:
But you will be able to change the stitch width and the stitch length as needed. Here are some examples:
On this one I have adjusted the WIDTH of the stitch to be larger. See how the zigzag is very big and wide?
But on this one I adjusted the LENGTH of the stitch-making the stitches long and farther apart:
Here they are closer together, meaning I adjusted the LENGTH again and in this case I also adjusted the WIDTH and made it a little smaller:
And on this one I adjusted the LENGTH almost as low as it could go:
When you have a really tight zigzag where the stitches are right up next to each other, that’s called a Satin Stitch.
Are you getting a sense of how you can adjust your stitches? Find where you do this on your machine and play around with it a little.
Now, typically when using a zigzag you can just keep your stitch width and length at a nice average setting. But it’s good to know how to change it as needed.
To sew a zigzag, LOWER your presser foot and your needle into the fabric. Make sure your machine is set on zigzag and sew an inch forward. Just like with the straight stitch, now push the reverse button and sew an inch backwards (back-stitching) and then go forward again. You have now knotted your thread and can continue sewing. Again, you can still use the edge of the presser foot or the seam guides to help you sew straightly.
One more thing to note. You’ll notice that sometimes that zigzag will make the fabric kind of gather in a tunnel underneath it. This can happen on lightweight fabric. There is a way around this. On your machine, the setting next to zigzag will look like a zigzag but dotted. This will do a zigzag but with three stitches per zig to help prevent the tunnel effect.
And that’s it. Not too hard is it? Do you have questions?
This week’s project to practice this skill is a basic hooded towel. These projects that I assign each week are of course optional, but are a good way to practice your skill. If you don’t want a hooded towel, that’s ok, find another project that you can practice on. But here’s the hooded towel tutorial for you: