Decorative Machine Stitches – Examples & Tips

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Decorative machine stitches are fantastic ways to add some detail or character to something you have made. It is such a pleasure to be able to get the most out of your sewing machine. Sewing machines have developed decorative stitches that go beyond the original zig-zag and hemstitch The modern computerized sewing machine has a wealth of fancy stitches. However, it does not matter if you have an old faithful brand from several years ago or the latest state-of-the-art new model sewing machine; there are some great tips and suggestions for getting the best performance from a sewing machine that can sew decorative stitches.

Decorative Machine StitchesPinDecorative Machine Stitches


Decorative Machine StitchesStart with a Zig ZagMake SamplesTypes of Decorative MachineStitchesOpen Decorative StitchesDense Decorative Machine StitchesUses for Decorative Machine StitchesDecorative Machine Stitches – In Conclusion

Decorative Machine Stitches

Start with a Zig Zag

The best place to start with learning about decorative machine stitches is to understand the simple zig-zag stitch. It is really the most basic of all stitches and can be done with your all-purpose sewing foot or a zig-zag foot. Learn how to zig-zag with different adjustments available on your machine including the width and length. Different brands of machines will have different steps to take to adjust your zig-zag stitch. Learn all those different ways to manage the zig-zag, and you will be more at ease with other stitches and variations of decorative machine stitches.

Decorative Machine Stitches - The Zig-ZagDecorative Machine Stitches - The Zig-ZagPinDecorative Machine Stitches – The Zig-Zag

Make Samples

The next most useful piece of advice for sewing decorative machine stitches is to make samples of your work. Buy some cheap calico or seed cloth and a marking pen. As you experiment with your different stitches, write down the stitch settings and any other information you think might be useful. 

Put all the same stitch type on one fabric sample and add to this as you develop your repertoire of decorative machine stitches. Sew a row of the stitch and write underneath the stitch selection to achieve the size and tension of the stitch in the future.

For example, W.5 = width choice and L.2 = length choice. Together with the decorative stitch you like, these notes will help you remember how you made that particular stitch. This will enable you to repeat that stitch again whenever you need it.

This stitch sampler or journal will become a handy guide to the stitches you used and the exact machine instructions you chose. Add in other information like the best foot or thread, and soon you will have your own personal sewing encyclopedia. Sewing machines that have multiple options may be more daunting at first, but most modern machines come with lessons and detailed handbooks.

Make a Sampler of Decorative Machine StitchesMake a Sampler of Decorative Machine StitchesPinMake a Sampler of Decorative Machine Stitches

Types of Decorative MachineStitches

Decorative machine stitches fall into two categories. They are known as dense or satin-type stitches or less dense but open types of stitches.

The dense stitches sew close together and have many repetitions to create a stitch or pattern, while the open style of decorative stitch is like a series of small stitches repeated in a single design to create a pattern. Look at the following information about these two categories of stitches and some tips to help get the best out of these variations on your machine. Once you understand the basic concept, you will look at decorative stitches with a trained eye and know the principle behind the stitch.

Open Decorative Stitches

These decorative stitches are made up of single stitches repeating themselves to create a design. Some machines may create letters if the machine has that function as part of its program. Open decorative stitches benefit from special foot attachments that allow the machine needle to reverse easily or provide you with an open area in front of the needle. This foot makes it easier for you to see what your pattern is doing.

Open Decorative Machine StitchesOpen Decorative Machine StitchesPinOpen Decorative Machine Stitches

Here are some stitch tips to help create open decorative stitches effectively.

Check the machine needle required: The needle you use for the decorative stitches is an essential part of getting the perfect stitch. Use a new needle and a needle-type suited to the fabric you are using.Choose a stabiliser to suit the project: Stabilizing your fabric beforehand will make all the difference to the firmness and security of the fabric. An iron-on stabilizer or a spray-on starch will prevent puckering or irregular stitches under soft fabrics.Check the settings of themachine: It is a good idea to take a scrap of fabric you plan to decorate and test out the stitch and the different settings. A simple change of width or length could make all the difference to the end result. If you have started a file of stitches, add this to your file for future reference. It may seem rather tedious at the time, but you will appreciate being able to flip through that file and find the settings you used before you try them out again.Refer to the manual: When a stitch is new to you, turn to the machine manual to understand how to use the stitch. Manuals often give suggestions of fabrics to choose from. The manual may recommend the correct cotton to use or the most suitable foot for the smooth running of the stitch.Practise lettering, if it is offered on your machine’s decorative menu: It is wonderful to personalize things you make, but lettering by machine is a skill of its own. Not all machines offer this facility. If you do have lettering available, there are a multitude of uses for this decorative stitch adaptation. You will need to know where to start and how wide it is or its length to fit accurately into the area you have set aside for the letters. Use guidelines: A guide to follow as the center point of your stitch, matching it up with your machine foot, will make a huge difference in keeping the stitch design straight. The needle of these open decorative stitches can change direction and hop from side to side. The best way of keeping in a straight line is to have a guide to follow with the front of the machine foot. A wipe-out marking pen is ideal for drawing the line, and a clear quilter’s ruler helps see where the pattern needs to fit in with other designs and the fabric.

Dense Decorative Machine Stitches

A clear appliqué foot and embroidery foot are useful additions to your little toolbox for sewing dense decorative machine stitches. These stitches are called dense because the stitches are made with the thread sewn close together. They are based on the zig-zag concept as the needle moves from side to side to create the pattern. An embroidery foot allows the thread to build up under the foot to give more room for the stitch to develop its density. Other feet suited to dense embroidery have a wider opening under the foot at the back to make turning corners, as you decorate, easier. 

Dense Decorative Machine StitchesDense Decorative Machine StitchesPinDense Decorative Machine Stitches

Here are some stitch tips to help create dense decorative stitches effectively.

Check the sewing machine needle: Checking the machine needle is a vital part of using decorative stitches correctly. Having a new needle and the correct needle for your fabric will make all the difference.Test out the stitch: Taking a test drive with the needle, fabric, and stitch is very important. The different settings on your machine can change the size, length, and intensity of the stitches. Unpicking a dense decorative stitch is a lot more intense than an open stitch decorative stitch.Check the thread you are using: The thread used for embroidery stitches on a sewing machine is an important aspect of dense or satin stitch embroidery. The bobbin thread, in particular, needs to be finer if the stitch is thick and close together. The bulk of the thread can affect the stitch and the tension.Use a good stabilizer: A good stabilizer is an important part of ensuring the stitches do not pucker up or cause the design to bunch up and ruin the effect of the decorative stitch. Practise, practise practise: This is a precious tip for decorative machine stitches. Try out the stitches you have available and try ‘mix and match’ effects to create borders. Think of different places you would like to enhance with some decorative stitches. They are so quick and easy once you have tried them out.

Uses for Decorative Machine Stitches

Now it is time for some fun with your decorative machine stitches! You can add a few decorative stitches onto so many items and just give them that wow factor. Think about every room in your home, from tea towels in the kitchen to the table cloths and serviettes in your dining room. Decorate cushions and table mats in the lounge. Delicate curtains can look good with some decorative ribbon. Pillowcases and pajamas for the bedroom area. Bath towels and facecloths in the bathroom. 

Really there is not a single item around your home that would not look good with some decorative machine stitches. Birthday gifts with a personalized monogram and even Fido would love to have his bandanna decorated with your creative stitching.

 Here are some interesting suggestions of how you could use decorative machine stitches.

Bindings: Adding a binding to a project does not have to be just a practical straight stitch approach. Brighten up your binding with some interesting decorative machine stitches. Couching: Decorative stitches can add originality to the way you attach braid or ribbon to something you have made. A decorative machine stitch can take the boredom out of always using a zig zag stitch.Stitch in the ditch and quilting: Be adventurous and use a decorative machine stitch to ‘stitch in the ditch’ of a new quilt. Some decorative stitching will add extra color and texture.Adding texture: Decorative machine stitches can add little creative touches to pockets, yokes and other parts of a garment creating interesting textures.Appliqué: Instead of using a zig zag for appliqué try out some decorative machine stitches. They will do the job of attaching the fabric shape to the garment or home furnishing. At the same time the decorative machine stitch adds originality and texture.Adding ribbon strips: Ribbons or lace or any trim for that matter will look interesting and unique with some decorative machine stitches. ry them out on a scrap first of all to be sure the stitch fits the ribbon or fits in with the lace pattern.

Decorative Machine Stitches – In Conclusion

Decorative stitching is really a modern addition to most machines and something to take advantage of. A sewing machine that can decorate with attractive stitches is often underutilized. Don’t waste a single opportunity to maximize the decorative stitches on your machine. Start with a sampler, and you will not regret your decision. 

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