The Stitch Length is the length of every stitch that your sewing machine makes.
When you change the stitch length the feed dogs also adjust. The movement of these feed dogs controls how much fabric pulls through with every stitch. A shorter stitch length means there is less fabric getting pulled through. In a longer stitch, more fabric is being pulled through.
In modern sewing machines, the stitch length control measures one stitch per millimeter. It means that a length of 3.0 means the stitch is 3mm long (or below 1/8 inch). The stitch length ranges from 0 to 5. It can sometimes be up to range 7, depending on your machine.
The older or vintage sewing machines may show a stitch range of 4 to 60. These machines have such range because the calibration is in the number of stitches per inch. It means the bigger the range, the smaller the stitches because more stitches can fit in one inch (2.54 cm.) of sewing.
Here is a simple formula to convert the stitches per inch and mm.:
stitches per inch = 25.4 ÷ stitch length millimeter
stitch length in millimeter = 25.4 ÷ stitches per inch
|Kind Of Stitch
|Stitch Length (mm)
|Stitches Per Inch
|Standard Stitch Length
|2.5 – 3.0
|8 – 10
|5.0 – 7.0
|4 – 5
|1.5 – 2.0
|8 – 12
|Top-stitching – light/medium weight
|3.0 – 3.5
|7 – 8
|3.5 – 4.0
|6 – 7
|16 – 18
|2.5 – 3.0
|8 – 10
|Free motion quilting
You may need to adjust the stitch length of your machine for the following reasons:
If you want to sew basting for your project, you need longer stitches that are easier to remove as well.
Sewing Vinyl or Leather
For these kinds of materials, you need longer stitches. This will result in minimal holes punched into the materials.
Many seamstresses prefer longer stitch lengths. This is because long stitches look more professional, neat, and faster to sew.
Light and Sheer fabrics
You may need to adjust your stitch length if you are going to sew lightweight and sheer fabrics. Short stitches are great for light and sheer fabrics. It prevents the fabric from gathering or pulling together.
Longer stitch also works better for heavy and thick fabrics. If you are using thick threads, use longer stitch length. Meanwhile, shorter stitch length works well on smooth edges and curves. You must also keep in mind that shorter length is more difficult to remove in case of stitch mistakes.
List of Contents:
How Do You Adjust Stitch Length On A Sewing Machine?
If you own a mechanical or non-computerized sewing machine, you notice a dial on the front of the machine. Written next to it is the word “length” or a series of short to long dash lines. This is where you can adjust the stitch length.
When you have a computerized machine, you have a touch screen. From there you can see a tab where you press to increase and decrease the length of the stitch.
In case you do free motion quilting, you can set the stitch length to zero. This will make the feed dogs drop. Your hand movement will now determine the length of the stitches.
It is best to test your stitch first on a scrap of fabric. Then, adjust to the fabric or the thread according to your liking.
Causes Of Uneven Stitch Length
There are a few reasons why you may encounter uneven stitches. The following are some guidelines that you may consider.
- Not letting the feed dogs pull the fabric
This is common among sewing beginners. They tend to pull the fabric while they sew, rather than allow the feed dogs to do the pulling.
- Too low presser foot pressure
When the foot pressure is too low, the feed dogs will not have a grip on your textile or fabric. You only need to add foot pressure on your presser. If you are not familiar with this, you can check the manual of your machine.
- Loose upper thread tension
Another possible reason for uneven stitch length is the loose upper thread tension. You can tighten the thread tension by threading the tension disc well.
- No or tangled thread in the bobbin
Make sure that you thread the bobbin well.
- Needle size
Needle size may also cause uneven stitches, so change your needle.
What Is The Stitch Width On A Sewing Machine?
The stitch width is the distance the needle moves from side to side as it creates a stitch. The stitch width for straight stitches is 0 because straight stitches do not have width. Most machines determine the stitch width in millimeters (mm). Some models have a stitch width range of 4 to 6 mm. Some sewing machines like Bernette and Janome create a stitch width as wide as 9 mm.
Every sewing machine varies. There are machines that you need to set the Stitch Width dial where the needle is at the center of the stitch plate. This will provide the most precise seam allowance.
When you find it difficult to adjust the needle in the center, you can check the machine owner’s manual. Another option is to stitch a seam with a 1/2 inch (12.7 mm.) seam allowance. Then use a ruler to measure the seam allowance. You may adjust the Stitch Width dial when necessary.
In simple terms, the stitch width is how wide your machine can make in every stitch. Stitch width can be narrow or wide. This allows your machine to make straight lines to narrow and wide zigzag stitches.
Basic Machine Stitches
You can use the straight stitch for topstitching, basting, and seaming. The stitch width is set to 0.
To make a zigzag stitch your machine will add width to a straight stitch. The zigzag stitch is great for stitching around buttonholes, appliques, and embroidering. The zigzag stitch is practical and has many uses.
- Three-step zigzag
If you set the machine to the widest width, your ordinary zigzag stitch will pull the fabric into a tunnel. This will make the fabric roll under the stitch and it does not look pleasing. To solve this problem, you need to do the three-step zigzag stitch.
This allows the needle to take three stitches to one side and then three on the other side. This happens while keeping the fabric tunnel-free. You can use the three-step zigzag for mending fabric tears.
You can use it for sewing elastic textile or finishing raw edges. You can also apply this technique to create decorative textures on your fabric.
- Blind hem and stretch blind hem
This type of stitch is great for hem woven fabrics. This allows stitches to look invisible, especially when you look at the right side of the fabric.
Meanwhile, the stretch blind hem stitch features one or two extra zigzag stitches. They both create invisible hem knits on the material.
In today’s machines, the overlock stitches are for stitching and finish seams in one step. This is common among ready-to-wear clothes. Overlock is great for woven fabrics and knits.
Decorative stitches have two categories. The first category is the closed, satin-type stitch. The second category is the open, tracery-type stitch. Many newer machines have settings that combine these stitches with other types.
You might have a few more questions about stitches, stitch length, and width. Here are the answers to common questions that beginners ask:
1. What is a stitch selector on a sewing machine?
Stitch Selector is the part of a sewing machine that allows you to choose the specific stitch. Your sewing projects may need different stitches. You may also use this dial to choose one of the decorative stitches built in your machine.
2. What is the best stitch length for sewing a straight stitch?
For lightweight fabrics, satin, and decorative stitching, You can use short length stitches. The 2mm stitch length works best.
For medium weight fabrics, it is best to use a range between 2.5 – 3 millimeters (mm) in length.
For topstitching and basting, you can use length range between 4 – 5 millimeters (mm)
3. What is the normal stitch width?
The normal or average stitch length is 2.5mm. It is the typical setting on newer models of sewing machines. The older machines have a length range of around 4 to 60. This tells you the number of stitches in every inch.
The 2.5mm stitch length has about 10-12 stitches per inch.
4. What is the number of stitches in a sewing machine?
To get the number of stitch functions of a sewing machine, you need to do a little computation. You multiply the number of built-in stitches by stitch width and stitch length.
It means if your machine has:
- 40 built-in stitches
- 0 to 7mm. stitch width
- 0 to 4mm. stitch length
You multiply these figures as 40 X 7 X 4 = 1,120 stitches (stitches functions.
5. What is the longest stitch on a sewing machine?
Most machines have stitch length from 0 to 5 millimeters. Some machines have 0 to 7 millimeters length range. Based on available data, 7 millimeters is the longest stitch length.
What Tension Should My Sewing Machine Be On?
The needle thread and the bobbin thread affect your sewing machine tension. Either of these two gives tension or strength on the threads as they form a stitch. You can adjust the sewing machine tension through the needle thread or the bobbin thread. In some instances, you need to adjust both.
There are two instances that your sewing machine tension is not in proper adjustment:
- Bobbin Thread Is Visible on Top of the Project
- Needle Thread Is Visible on the Bottom Side of the Project
Bobbin Thread Is Visible on Top of the Project
There are two reasons why the bobbin thread is noticeable on top of the project:
- The tension or strength controlling the thread from the needle is too strong. This pulls the bobbin thread to the top.
- The tension or strength controlling the thread from the bobbin is too weak. This then allows the needle thread’s tension to take over.
Needle Thread Is Visible on the Bottom Side of the Project
When the needle thread is visible at the bottom of your project or quilt, it could mean either of these:
- The tension or strength controlling the thread from the bobbin is too strong. This pulls the needle thread under.
- The tension or strength controlling the thread through the needle is too weak.
Here are some handy steps to solve these issues.
- Get your sewing machine user’s manual.
- Remove the top thread of your sewing machine. This is the thread that goes through the needle.
- Take out the bobbin and its case. Then, clean the bobbin area of the machine. Follow the cleaning guidelines given in the machine manual.
- Check if there is no blockage in the pathways of the upper thread.
- Double-check your needle. Are you using the right size for your project? Or Have you been using the same needles for all your projects? You might need to change it now.
- Check the threads that you are using. Is it the right thread for the project you are working on now?
- Again, following the user manual, rethread your machine. The presser foot and the needle must be in an upward position.
- Take out the bobbin from its case and check if the thread is flowing in the proper direction. Then, put it back into the machine. Make sure that there is a bit of thread sticking out.
- Using the hand crank, take the needle downward. Make sure that it caught the bobbin thread. Then, pull it to the top.
- You must pull the needle thread and bobbin thread to create short tails.
Finally, sew another seam while holding on to the two-thread tail. Check if you now have balanced stitches.
Understanding the functions of your sewing machines is crucial in your sewing venture. The same goes for the different stitches. Knowing these will help you sew projects with ease.
Knowing the right stitch length and width is necessary for every project you will make. It will lessen the chances of mistakes. It will also prevent you from wasting your materials, time, and effort.
If you are serious and passionate about sewing, these things are easy to remember. You’ll see, as you progress with your hobby, all these will be part of your instinct.