Zigzag Stitch


The zigzag stitch is the second most used stitch in sewing, right after the straight stitch.

So first, do you feel confident and capable of sewing a good straight stitch?

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What is a Zigzag Stitch?


We all probably learned about zigzag stitches in school, but below is a reference photo of both a standard zigzag and a zigzag stitch.

Just in case you weren’t familiar 🙂

Standard Zigzag
Standard Zigzag
Zigzag Stitch

So instead of sewing in a straight line, the sewing needle moves left and right as the fabrics moved forward to create a zigzag line of stitches.


When to Use a Zigzag Stitch?



There are actually a lot of reasons why you use a zigzag stitch!

Now, judging from this list, you can decide if you actually need a zigzag stitch or not.

If you’re not planning on sewing any of the items listed here, you won’t really need this stitch.

But more likely than not, you’ll find yourself sewing one (or more) of these on your sewing journey, so let’s see how to setup our sewing machine for a zigzag stitch.


How To Sew Up Your Sewing Machine

Correct Presser foot for Sewing Zigzag Stitches



First, you need to make sure that you have the right type of presser foot for sewing zigzag stitch.

Your presser foot needs to have a slot for the needle to move back and forth inside of, not a small hole.

If your presser foot only has a single centered hole, the needle will hit it and either bend or break.

This is not good for the needle and can be a tad dangerous.

Presser Foot with small centered hole for needle
This opening in the presser foot is too small for sewing a zigzag stitch.
Presser Foot with Wide Slotted Hole for Needle
This slotted opening is nice and wide. It’s perfect for sewing zigzag stitches.

Select a Zigzag Stitch

Now that we have the right presser foot attached to our machine, we now need to select a zigzag stitch.

Your sewing machine has a whole bunch of different stitches it can sew and they are typically shown on the front of the machine like this.

Sewing Machine Stitches
All the stitches your sewing machine can make!

To switch between the various stitches, you will either:

  • Turn a mechanical knob (This means you have what’s called a Mechanical Sewing Machine)
  • Or press a pair of buttons (This means you have what’s called an Electronic Sewing Machine)
Mechanical Sewing Machine Stitch Selector Dial
Mechanical Sewing Machine
Stitch Selection Dial
Electronic Sewing Machine Stitch Selection Buttons
Electronic Sewing Machine
Stitch Selection Buttons

Thread Your sewing Machine

Now that we have the right presser foot on our machine and we have a zigzag stitch selected, it’s time to thread the sewing machine.

This is done the exact same way you would thread your machine for a straight stitch.

But if you’re new to sewing and still unsure if you’re threading your machine the right way, then check out my free 5 Days to Sewing Confidence below!


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start Sewing Zigzag Stiches



Perfect! Everything is now set up so we can actually start sewing.

And sewing the zigzag stitch is actually super easy.

It’s done the exact same way you sew a straight stitch.


General Steps for Sewing:

  • Raise your presser foot
  • Place the fabric where you want to start sewing
  • Pull both the top and bobbin threads to the back of the sewing machine
  • Lower the presser foot
  • Sew 3-5 stitches forward
  • Sew 3-5 stitches backward to lock the start of your stitches in place
  • Sew a straight line wherever you want zigzag stitches to be
  • When you reach the end, sew backward 3-5 stitches to lock the end of your stitches in place

Once you’ve sewn a row of stitches, it should look something like this!

Example of a Standard Zigzag Stich sewn with a Sewing Machine

How To Adjust Zigzag Stitches



So now that you’ve sewn your first row of zigzag stitches, I need to let you in on a little secret.

You can actually adjust your zigzag depending on the type of sewing you’re doing.

You can adjust your stitch in two ways:

  • Stitch Length
  • Stitch Width

The height and width will be adjusted using either knobs or buttons depending on the type of machine you have.

You should check your manual to be sure which knobs or buttons you should be using.

This Stitch Length Dial typically looks like this
The Stitch Width Dial typically looks like this
Typical Stitch Length and Stitch Width buttons on an Electronic Sewing Machine

A higher number will mean longer or wider.

And a lower number will mean shorter or narrower.

I’ve put some examples below.

Adjusting Zigzag Height

Standard Zigzag Stitch Example
Standard Zigzag Height
Zigzag Stitch with Short Stitch Length
Short Zigzag Lengths
Zigzag Stitch with Long Stitch Length
Long Stitch Length

Adjusting Zigzag Width

Standard Zigzag Stitch
Standard Zigzag Width
Zigzag Stitch with Narrow Stitch Width
Narrow Stitch Width
Zigzag Stitch with Wide Zigzag Length
Wide Stitch Width

Play around with the various options.

Try the longest stitch length and the widest stitch width.

Then try the shortest stitch length with the widest stitch width.

Swap between the various sizes until you feel comfortable with which buttons you need to use to get the exact type of zigzag you’re looking for.


Troubleshooting a Zigzag Stitch



The most common problem people run into when sewing a zigzag stich is the dreaded tunneling problem.

The most common zigzag problem: Tunneling

To fix this, there are typically two options:

  • Adjust the Tension
  • Use a 3-Step Zigzag Stitch

If you need help with setting tension, check out my FREE 5 Steps to Sewing Confidence mini course

And if you want to try out the 3-Step Zigzag Stich, look for this symbol on your list of sewing machine stitches.

3 Step Zigzag Stitch
3 Step Zigzag Stitch Symbol

This stitch will actually sew three small stitches along each zig and each zag.

This increased number of stitches helps to prevent tunneling.


Now that you know all the basics of sewing with a zigzag stitch, tune into the second half of this video to learn all about the most common zigzag stitch settings you’ll need for a variety of sewing projects.

How to Sew a Zigzag Stitch – Video Tutorial

https://youtu.be/ae6eyhCySUA

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