Using Decorative stitches on a sewing machine : Tips

decorative stitches

In an embroidery sewing machine, you will have several pre-programmed decorative stitches and it is very easy to come up with beautiful embroidery designs and embellishments with it – and for this, you have to pay a premium price for the embroidery machine. But those with simple home sewing machines can also embellish their projects beautifully with little to no effort – using the simple decorative stitches in their sewing machines. They are as good as you make them.

The built-in decorative stitches are multi-functional. They can be used just for decorating or as utility stitches or as both. Decorative stitches can liven up any dull fabric. These stitches make great border designs, standalone motifs. You just have to start experimenting with them.

Using the decorative stitches

decorative stitches on a sewing machine

Satin stitch is the most common decorative stitch made using a zig-zag stitch. Check out this post on using a zig-zag stitch in a variety of ways. Most of the decorative stitches are based on a tightly made zig zag stitch.

make decorative stitches

Faggoting is used to join two fabric edges with decorative stitches. The simplest stitch to do this very decorative effect is a zig-zag stitch. Other stitches used are feather stitch and honeycomb stitch.

Edge stitching can be done beautifully and very easily with a decorative stitch – the blind stitch. Most sewing machines will have it. It gives a shell-edged finish.

The scallop stitch can be used to create a scallop edge.

Border designs can be made by making several parallel lines of decorative stitches. When making decorative stitches make sure that they are evenly spaced from each other. You can either mark on the fabric with disappearing pens and then sew on the lines or use a quilting guide/ seam guide for sewing them.

How to properly do the decorative stitching on your machine?

For making the decorative stitches you need a zig-zag stitch sewing machine. There are machines with just a couple of decorative stitches to ones with as many as 100. 

Thread, fabric, needle and tension – all these should be aligned for a good sewing experience otherwise you will get thread breakage and skipped stitches and puckering and all kinds of problems.

Sewing Machine Tension

Set the machine tension of the top thread slightly lower than you use for straight stitching ; this is preferred for decorative stitching because you do not want the bobbin thread to show on the top at all.

There are usually two problems in this type of patterned stitching – the thread may bunch up under the stitches and sometimes the bobbin thread will come up to the top and this can look unattractive especially if the color is different. Usually lowering the sewing machine a tad bit eases these problems.

Stitch length and Stitch width

A very important aspect in decorative stitching is using appropriate stitch width and length – in fact this determines how your decorative stitch will look. You can try the stitches on a waste fabric and then write down the stitch length and width (if you do not write you will forget) and then use the appropriate one after this trial and error.

If you increase the stitch width it will widen your stitch pattern.  If the stitch length is decreased you will get a denser stitch.


Same decorative stitch in different machine settings

Try practicing the stitches on a spare fabric piece as of the sewing project you mean to stitch finally to check out the best combinations and then note down each and every setting you have changed – if you do this you can get incredible results.

Some of the decorative stitches have a side – some may be left-sided and some right-sided. The designs can be altered according to how the fabric is placed. You will have to place the fabric or the design carefully so that the stitches are placed the way you want it.

decorative stitch

Pacing is very important in decorative stitching. Sew at a slower speed than for regular straight stitch sewing. If you pull your fabric in a hurry your decorative stitches will be distorted.

FAQ for using the decorative stitches in your sewing

Which Thread is best for Decorative stitches?

Fine machine embroidery thread is recommended for decorative stitching. You can get them in rayon, cotton, acrylic, and silk. Rayon has a great shine. The rule goes like this – the finer the fabric, the finer the thread that you should use.

You can buy a rayon-polyester blend soft 8ply thread for decorative stitching. Another option is to use metallic threads. Use a medium weight metallic thread and not the fine variety as it may break as you make the stitches. Use regular bobbin thread/sewing on the bobbin.

Which Needle works best for decorative stitching?

Needle puncturing the thin fabric

You can use regular sewing needles for decorative stitching but Twin needles, wing needles, etc create beautiful and varied effects. Use a needle with a lower number for finer thin fabrics.

decorative stitching with twin needles

Related post : Using a twin needle for double stitching.

Which fabric works best for decorative stitching?

You can do decorative stitching on all kinds of fabric but different fabrics should be treated accordingly. You should work simple not so dense stitches on fabrics that are delicate or lightweight. If you do heavy satin-stitch on these fabrics it can sag or the material tear. The stitching also may pucker. The best is to use Medium-weight fabrics

To make the fabric more suitable use a suitable stabilizer on the back. There are two types – fusible and tear away. A tear-away is preferred as you can cut the extra off after you have finished the stitching. You can also use a water-soluble stabilizer on the top.

Which presser foot works best with decorative stitching?

presser foot

You can use an all-purpose foot for sewing any of the decorative stitches but an applique foot or open toe foot works best as they are very wide with an open groove on the back side so you do not go over the stitches and cause damage to the stitches ; they are clear /transparent so that you can see everything clearly.

A flower stitch foot can be used to make circular motifs.

Free motion decorative stitching

For free motion embroidery stitching you can use your ordinary sewing machine stitching with darning foot and the feed dogs down – it is not an easy stitching method as using the decorative stitches on a machine. You need to stretch the fabric on a loop and move the loop in time and inside the design exactly so that the machine makes the necessary decorative stitches.

Checkout these posts for more details – Free motion embroidery; How to embroider with an ordinary sewing machine; Darning foot.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.