How to Sew a Zigzag Stitch

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Hey, you!

There are three basic machine stitches: the straight stitch; the backstitch; and the zigzag.

And it’s time to give the zigzag stitch its due. Because I think it can be easy to overlook this very useful stitch.

What is a zigzag stitch you ask?

NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!

What Is a Zigzag Stitch

Well, I think of it this way…

A zigzag stitch is a straight stitch with some width.

In other words, a zigzag stitch takes one stitch to the left; this is the zig. And then, it takes the next stitch to the right; this is the zag.

And the coolest thing about the zigzag stitch is that you can vary the width between the zig and the zag. So you can sew a narrow zigzag or wide zigzag.

And it is that zig and zag that gives us a very useful stitch. For example…

Uses of the Zigzag Stitch

I can think of three times when a zigzag stitch can come in very handy…

narrow zigzag or wobble stitch

ONE, we would use the cute narrow zigzag, or the wobble stitch to sew horizontal seams on knits and topstitching knit hems. Because the zig and the zig of this stitch provides stretch; so you avoid embarrassing popped stitches! In other words, this narrow zigzag stitch stretches with you.

To sew a wobble stitch, all you have to do is set your stitch length to 2.5mm and your stitch width to 1.0mm. Click HERE to learn how to sew a plain seam!

TWO, to finish seam allowances on fray-happy fabrics. You can use a plain zigzag stitch or 3-step zigzag stitch.

While the regular zigzag stitch will do the job, I must say that I prefer the 3-Step zigzag. Because it is just so darn attractive!

3-step zigzag seam finish

And THREE, attaching elastics when constructing garments or sewing lingerie.

In fact, the 3-step zigzag is so handsome, you can use it to attach elastic to lingerie as well as for other decorative stitching. So I encourage you to play around with the stitch length and stitch width of this zigzag stitch until you hit on a look that makes your heart sing. Click HERE to learn how to change your stitch width and length!

Zigzag Stitches & Tension

When a zigzag stitch is done right, there is no tunneling and the fabric lies flat under the zigzag stitches.

If you are experiencing tunneling, decrease the tension of the needle thread in half increments until you get rid of that horrible tunneling. You could also try using spray starch.

zigzag stitch with and without tunneling

According to my Janome sewing machine manual, the tension for a zigzag stitch is perfect when the bobbin thread has the good sense to stay on the underside and the needle thread peeks through ever so slightly to the underside.

How to Zigzag

Zig zagging  is easy enough.

FIRST, make sure you have the zigzag presser or all-purpose presser foot in your machine. You need a foot with a wide enough opening to handle the width of the the needle moving from left to right. Failure to do will most likely result in a broken needle or, even possibly, a damaged sewing machine!

The width of the opening will vary from machine to machine. The range for stitch width on home sewing machines seems to between 4 to 7mm. For example:


NEXT, select a zig zag stitch type and use as is. But…

I recommend that you spend some time playing around with various stitch width and stitch length combinations. This will really solidify your understanding of how all this zigging and zagging works. Click HERE to learn how to change your stitch width and length!

For example, keep the stitch length constant but change the width. You can also do the opposite and keep the stitch width constant but change the length.

Plus, by playing around, you are sure to find the perfect zig and zag for the project in hand.

Okay, we are now at…

The End

Well, that’s the zig and the zag of the very useful zig zag stitch.

Don’t overlook this stitch! Keep it in mind when…

  • you’re sewing horizontal seams on knits,
  • you want to attach elastic,
  • you want to do something a bit decorative, or
  • you need a simple way to finish the seam allowances.

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to change your stitch width!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn all the basic skills you need to know to sew insanely pretty garments!

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