Straight Stitch : How to use this versatile stitch

Most people with modern sewing machines with countless options in stitches will be surprised to know that there are people who sew on machines solely with a straight stitch. Some do it out of choice – because a straight stitch sewing machine is optimally adjusted to doing that stitch best of all and complicating it with other sewing machine stitches would not do for them. Some do it out of having no choice- maybe a straight stitching machine is all that they can afford. But Straight stitch, the basic sewing machine stitch which is used for just about everything from hemming to stitching seams and even to do free motion embroidery is really all that you need to sew.

Other than its most basic use of sewing seams, topstitching, edge stitching, understitching, making tucks, sewing darts, gathering, all are done with this stitch. It is the most useful and versatile stitch available in your sewing machine for all the right reasons. The best thing is that you can make a perfect straight stitch without a sewing machine too – just a hand sewing needle and thread is enough. More on that later.


It is the best Stitch for sewing seams on woven fabrics; on knit fabrics and other stretchy fabrics this stitch may break when the fabric is stretched so a zig-zag Stitch is recommended with ordinary sewing machines

Pressure foot

sewing machine pressure foot

If you have a straight stitch pressure foot, use that. This foot has a small hole, and will make sure that you have a straighter straight stitch than if you were using a zig zag foot or the multipurpose foot. It is especially useful when sewing thin fabrics.


Use thread according to compatibility with the fabric used – you can use cotton, polyester, nylon, metallics and acrylics. Check out this post on the best thread for your sewing machine project. If thick thread is used on the top thread slot or bobbin you can make zig-zag decorative stitches with the straight stitch

Stitch Length

Stitch length for straight stitching seams can vary from 0 mm to 6 mm. You can make a straight stitch with 0 stitch length. This will make an anchoring stitch before you start the stitching and when you end stitching. Most people use this to prevent straight stitch unraveling ( instead of using the reverse stitching, which is another form of straight stitching). With the zero stitch length for a straight stitch you will be sewing in the same place.

You can increase the stitch length upto 6mm in most sewing machines. This is used for basting stitching or for gathering, as such a long stitch is not necessarily strong enough for seams. 

The normal stitch length for sewing seams is somewhere around 2 to 2.5 mm for most sewing machines. You will have to experiment with your sewing machine to find what you like the best.

Thin and delicate fabrics are best sewn with a short stitch length ( less than 2mm); For medium weight fabrics increase te stitch length to 2.5mm and for heavy weight fabrics a stitch length of 3 mm is good

There are certain problems you encounter when you start to straight stitch – like how the fabric starts to pucker, how thread gets cut in the middle etc. Some or all of these problems are solvable easily with some easy sewing machine maintenance and other adjustments . You can check out the post 25 sewing machine problems and their solutionsBest Sewing machine tension adjustments ; What to do when your fabric starts to pucker while sewing ; easy sewing machine maintenance tips.

Decorative Stitching 

The straight stitch can be used to create decorative effect on your fabric in various ways. Topstitching is the foremost way. A denim jeans decorated with orange top stitching is one that comes to my mind- it is so startling and beautiful.

Using a double needle on your sewing machine along with a straight stitch is another way. You can use a thicker thread on your top thread slot for a different effect that the ordinary straight stitching. Use a thicker thread on the bobbin for even greater effect – in this case you will be using the bobbin thread as the top thread – ie stitching on the back side so that effect is shown on the front. Try it – You can check out the post on bobbin work for more details.

How to make straight stitches with hand sewing needle and thread

Back Stitch

There are three hand sewing stitches that resemble a sewing machine straight stitch. The running stitch and the back stitch and the pick stitch. A running stitch will have void space between stitching so a back stitch is more close to the straight stitch. Infact you can hand sew a whole garment with back stitch and if made evenly and small (with infinite patience) it can look as if it is made by a machine. Are you up to sewing a straight stitch like this, for an enitre garment? I think I will stick to my machine and use hand sewn straight stitches for embroidery and small alterations

Related posts : Pick stitch and its uses ;  Running stitch and its 9 variationsBack stitch and its variations ; 10 Easy hand stitches





Comments 2

  1. hi, your website is very usefull, i really like it, i have a pfaf 4.5 creative but i dont know how to make parfection embroidery, is there any classes for that particular machine, if i dont find any classes then its no use of me keeping the machine, i only used it for 17 hour. if anyone interested to buy also welcome. my main massage was to learn how this machine works. thankyou

    1. Post

      Hi Hajera
      Do you have the service manual of that machine with you – if you do not have check the pfaf website – you can download it usually from the website. Youtube usually have all the tutorials like this -but you must have tried that already, right?

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