Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Finishing Seams: Zigzag Stitch


The zigzag stitch on your sewing machine can neaten the seams on your sewing projects and help prevent the fabric from fraying. It's a great option for beginners as it's relatively simple to do and particularly useful if you don't own an overlocker. It's how I was first taught to finish my seams and is a technique I used all the time before I began overlocking.


I would recommend getting an overlock foot for your sewing machine. They have a little flap of metal which helps guide the raw edge of the fabric and makes it easier to get the stitching in the right position.

Here's how to zigzag finish your seams:


1) Stitch your seams as normal, then trim them down by a few mm (don't go crazy here, you need some width to accommodate the zigzags).


2) Set your machine to the zigzag stitch setting. Put your overlock foot on your machine. Test the width and tension of your stitch on a scrap of fabric and adjust if necessary (it's different for different machines, your manual will tell you how).


3) With the raw edge of the fabric touching the little flap of metal on the overlock foot, stitch along one of the seams. If you're using lightweight or sheer fabric, you may want to stitch both seams together as one, otherwise you can do each seam separately. The right-hand point of each zigzag should just reach the edge of your fabric. Don't back tack at either end - instead...


4) Tie the loose threads at either end in a double knot to secure them, and trim.


5) Press the seams either open or to one side (depending on whether you stitched them separately or as one).


And that's it! A simple way to finish your seams.

16 comments:

  1. This is a really good tip. I would love an overlocker and my seams always end up looking a little tatty, I will try my zigzag stitch in the future and let you know how I get on.

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  2. good tip. i recently bought an overlock foot but it doesn't seem to like the overlock stitch on my machine so i went back to zigzagging. i think i will give it a try with a normal zigzag stitch

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  3. I just did this the other day when I was too lazy to change the broken needle on my serger, hehe ;)

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  4. I'm surprised that you don't mention that this will not work with light ans soft fabrics. I often tried that before I owned my serger, but some fabrics (chiffon! satin!) which are prone to fraying and need seam finishing just rolled under the stitches or frayed away... In these cases I used staytape or french seams, but I think you should mention these fabrics in a beginners guide!

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    1. I don't advocate using chiffon or similar fabrics for beginners as they're so tricky to handle.

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  5. If you want to press the seams open anyway, I find it easier to finish the edges before sewing the seam.

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  6. This post came just in time. I've been sewing bras and one thing that I can't get to work is the zigzag stitch on the hook and eye closure - there are skipped stitches. It doesn't happen anywhere else on the bra except for the hook and eye. I've tried all different kinds of needles and thread but now I'm going to give the overlock foot a try. Thanks!

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  7. I agree that finished seams look so much nicer and also help to keep the garment from fraying. I have an overlocker, but I hardly ever use it as it is so hard to thread and it seems to require re-threading several times when I am using it. It takes 4 spools of thread and seems unnecessarily complicated. Good tip.

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  8. I'm going to have to find an overlock foot. I don't have a serger and have been zigzagging inside the seam allowance and then pinking off the edge to make it look a little better, but it's still not great. Thanks for the tip!

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  9. Thats a great tip, even better than the regular zig zag is the 3 step zig zag stitch one down from your regular zipzag in the your picture of your stitches on the machine.

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  10. I purchased a used machine a couple years back and this foot came with it...I had no idea what it was so Thank You very much for a great tip! I have an overlocker and still don't use it, LOL!

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  11. i've had trouble figuring out the spacing for raw edge stitching, and i'm hitting my head that of course there is a separate foot attachments that helps guide that in a standardized way. thanks so much for bringing that to this new sewer's attention!

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  12. Well explained, now if only my machine did a zigzag stitch :)

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  13. This makes me curious! I'm from Sweden, and my impression is that in Europe people use about 1 cm seam allowance (most people eye balling this), while in the US you use 1,5 cm and is most often included in the pattern. And now when I see your blog entry, I'm understanding a little bit why you don't use 1 cm, at least if this is the normal procedure, because what I've always learned in school (we still have sewing and wood crafting in elementary school), is that you first zig zag - then sew it together with straight stitch. But if you only have 1 cm this would be a lot more difficult. So now I know. :) (but then there's always exceptions...)
    /Agneta

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    1. Agneta, yes! I'm from Sweden, too (but living in London for many years), and this is how I was taught from my mum. And when you mention it, this is what we were taught in school, too. Straight after we had cut the pattern pieces, all edges were zig-zagged. So we finished the seams before sewing the pieces together with the straight seams. It sped things up no end. We'd check the zipg-zag length and width appropriate to the fabric to make sure it didn't pucker and pull, however light the fabric was. I'm so glad you mentioned this, as I haven't seen this way of doing things in any posts on the internet, and was wondering why my mum did it this way around.

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  14. huh, so that's how you do it. ok! i think i have that foot in my machine drawer. thanks for this you've saved my sanity~

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