The next three articles are going to be about how to sew using your machine. Though the stitches are usually the same when you use your machine, the way you move the fabric under the needle defines how your finished product will look. The three most important methods to master are straight lines, corners, and curves. Each of these has a different challenge level and methods. That’s why I’ve decided to devote a separate lesson to each one.
Today, we’ll be going over the most basic, how to sew in a straight line.
For each of these lessons, you’ll need a printer and Adobe Reader. You’ll be given a different document to download and print so that you can follow along.
For straight line sewing, download this document.
These lessons will start off by having you sew without any thread in the needle. That’s how I started; that’s how my daughter started, and that’s how you’ll start. Quite frankly, it’s just so you don’t waste thread. You might want to replace your needle after you’re finished with all of the lessons.
Before we do anything, let’s talk about how to hold your fingers. It’s important to hold your hands in a very specific way to avoid accidents. Let’s call it the triangle of safety.
You’ll want to put one hand on each side of the presser foot and needle and keep your fingers straight and angled toward each other. Your thumbs will point toward each other as well. In this way, you can control the speed and direction of your fabric.
You never want to push or pull the fabric while the needle is moving. This could cause the needle to bend or break, the feed dogs to get jammed, or the needle to go through your finger. As someone who has had the needle go right through her nail and break off in the pad of her finger, I can vouch that you don’t want that to happen at all.
If we go back to our picture of the needle and presser foot, you’ll see that there’s a line down the centre of the presser foot. You can use this to keep your lines straight. I’ll also go over a few more pointers on how to do that before we start sewing our first project.
Starting on the far right of the Sewing Straight Lines Worksheet, align the centre of the presser foot with the printed line on the page.
Lower the presser foot with the centre on the line.
Slowly press your foot down on the foot control to sew down the line. Use your fingers and thumbs to adjust the paper as you go.
When you’re done, you’ll be left with a line of holes that you can see when you hold it against light.
Continue to do this until you have all the lines on the page sewn. If you can’t keep your stitches on the line, print out a new sheet and do it again.
Once you’ve achieved straight stitches, thread your machine and grab a little bit of extra fabric. It doesn’t need to be more than 5 or 6 inches long. Fold it in half and sew down it. A good way to keep a straight line is to align the edge of the fabric with the edge of the presser foot. This will give you a perfect ¼-inch seam allowance.
Once you finish that line, you’ll notice that you can pull the thread out without a problem. It’s like the running stitch in hand sewing. Machine sewing has no knots, so you’ll have to use your reverse button or lever.
The reverse lever serves to do just that – put your machine in reverse. To “tie a knot” on your machine, you’ll sew backward and forward over the same spot. You will need to do the following:
- Go 5 stitches forward.
- Press and hold the reverse lever.
- Go 5 stitches backward.
- Release the reverse lever.
After that, you can continue sewing until the very end of the line. Before stopping, you’ll want to repeat steps 2-4 to tie the end knot. In the following animation (video?) I used a dark thread to demonstrate how that looks.