Wednesday, 3 April 2013

How to Sew in a Straight Line

This might sound a bit of a strange blog post - especially coming from me, as I spend so much time machine stitching in what I call a sketchy style.

sketchy stitching style

I was inspired to write it after a comment from Ali from the Patchwork Fairy, who said she wondered if sewing in my sketchy style would mean people would think she couldn't sew in a straight line (which she says she can't and that's part of the appeal of the sketchy style).


I was taught to sew at school way back in the 1970's when the whole sewing thing was a bit more formal and a bit less relaxed than it is now.  We had to do it "right" or unpick it.  Oh, the action that seam ripper saw!

straight lines

So I'm sharing a quick tip from those days - it's a tip that has stayed with me, because it's so useful!  Sewing in a straight line is not difficult to master - it's all a matter of measuring and marking (and where your attention is focused when you are whizzing that fabric through the machine!)

You need to use a guide for the edge of your fabric - so if you are sewing a 1.5cm seam, the guide should be 1.5cm away from the stitching line.

the edge of the fabric is lined up on the 1.5cm mark

Most new (and also most pretty old) sewing machines have basic stitching guidelines etched into the footplate - if yours is an ancient machine without guidelines (or if you want a much wider seam) all is not lost - you can mark them on.  You can use masking tape, or even a marker pen and you can put your guideline pretty much anywhere you like.


I've used a marker pen on my sewing machine - I can't remember why I wanted the stitching lines exactly there, but at some point I obviously did.  I do regret the (permanent!) marker pen (but not enough to spend time scrubbing it off!) mainly because I take photos of techniques for magazines as well as this blog. I guess what I really need  want is a pretty machine just for photo shoots!

So, once you've marked your sewing machine (preferably with tape so it's temporary) where do you look when you are sewing?  The answer is not your actual stitching for guidance or judgement - it's the edge of the fabric against that mark.  That's what will keep your stitching straight.  But don't be so focused on the straight line that your fingers end up under the needle!

If you haven't tried this before, give it a go. If you are new to sewing, practise slowly, quickly, around corners, curves and straight lines.  You'll be whizzing up and down in straight, precise lines pretty quickly!

straight lines on my filing pockets

And then you may have the confidence to throw a few wobbles in the mix with some sketchy stitching!

wobbly stitching on my scissor pockets

19 comments:

Ali (Patchwork Fairy) said...

This is great Wendy! I am definitely going to try out this method, especiallly when top stitching! The new Sewing Bee programme on BBC2 last night was making the point about sewing straight too but didn't give any tips so this post is very timely. If you missed the programme you can get it on catch up!

Martha said...

thanks for sharing this Wendy. Very useful :)

Natalie Jones said...

I hadn't thought about marking the straight line on the machine - a good tip to use masking tape! Thanks for your help :)

Wendy said...

I'm glad this is useful for people! Sometimes we all forget that we know something that could help someone else! Ali, I've recorded the Sewing Bee programme so am looking forward to watching it! x

Colleen said...

I have all the guides and feet to sew straight lines it is just a matter of following them....can I do that....NO! :)

MadBirdDesignsUK said...

Very handy tip, also taught this at school in the 1960's. Hope you are watching BBC Sewing Bee program. Joan

cherie said...

I fancy myself an artist so being sketchy is a good thing :) My older machines have holes in the bed for screwing in a simple quide and works better than those magnetic thingies.

For straight line quilting, I cut manila folders in various widths and use them as guides. The manila guides also work great for pressing hems and fold over casings.

Wendy said...

Joan - yes, I've just watched the first episode and loved it. Lauren was fab - she was interviewed on this blog a while back!

Cherie, I like the manila folders idea. I always use snippets of card for measuring when I'm pressing hems.

Lyn said...

I was taught to machine stitch at school in the 60's and everything had to be very neat and very straight.
Messy stitching is like a breath of fresh air and so liberating - it is a tad annoying though if someone thinks you can't stitch straight isn't it?

Wendy said...

Lyn, yes, I guess it can be a bit annoying - but maybe we should all care a little less about being judged? (not always easy, I know!)

theoldbutton said...

Great blog. I have the opposite problem - I can sew a straight line (I use the guide lines and I use the edge of the presser foot too) but I find it really hard to do random or sketchy stitching. Find it even harder to do random patchwork - I did a jelly roll race quilt recently where you just stitch together the strips as they come - I ripped parts of it open to rearrangeso they were more symetrical! I'd love to be more free in my creativity!

jenny said...

Thanks alot! itl's very usefull! sometimes, when my eyes tired enough i looked just for a moment at the needle and i missed the straight line ...you are absolutely right...thanks alot.....love from Greece...

Trish said...

Hi there! I also use tape as a guide for stitching--I learned a neato trick of slicing up masking tape on the roll and essentially cutting out a rectangular chunk, so the seam guide is a little thicker--been a miracle help for me. If it loses its tack, I peel off a bit or make another. Also, you can use rubbing alcohol on the Sharpie to remove it, and if that somehow doesn't work, the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser should. :)

AlikiBags said...

What a useful, nicely written post - THANK YOU ! Even the comments are worth reading. Feeling soooo pleased that I found you via @Handbags by Helen.
Kiki ( AlikiBags ) x

Elliott Lee said...

Thanks! That's useful. I'm relatively new to sewing and appreciate the basics

Albert einstien said...

Enormous one blog! I have got very clear picture of the topic you shared here that’s truly amazing! stitcheasy

hely fely said...

Thanks for the effort, keep up the good work Great work, the thoughts you state are truly awesome. I expect you will write several more posts. grandmalikestosew

hely fely said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
textilejewels said...

If I use a fine permanent pen to mark lines/writing on my old Bernina/plastic storage boxes etc., I remove them with nail varnish remover on cotton wool.