Zig Zag Stitch – 15 most important uses

Different uses of the versatile zig zag stitch in your sewing machine

Zig Zag stitch is one helluva versatile stitch. There is no end to the things you can do in sewing with this stitch, with its wavy zig zag lines. So, even if your sewing life can exist without this stitch (A Straight stitch is all that you need for most of all sewing), you may not want to.

Altering the width and length of the stitch creates so many variations and uses. Another difference in setting that you should make when using the zigzag stitch is to lower the tension – at least lower than the one used for straight stitching.With zig zag stitching you want the upper thread slightly visible at the lower side of the fabric.

A satin stitch is a closely spaced zigzag stitch. To make the satin stitch adjust the stitch length between 0.5 and 2.0, depending on the weight of thread being used. A multistitch zigzag stitch makes three short stitches where the normal zig-zag makes only one ; this works great as a stretch stitch.

Here are the most important of these many uses of the king of all sewing machine stitches – the zig zag stitch

How to use zig zag stitching in sewing

1. For finishing fabric edges

Finish the edges of the fabric with the zig zag stitch

Use this stitch on the cut edges of the fabric to prevent the edges from fraying. Finishing the cut edges of fabric is absolutely necessary in sewing for a high-quality sewing and if you do not have a serger for that perfect edge finish you can use the zig zag stitch. I would call it the poor man’s serger stitch.

Keep the raw edge under the presser foot and sew the zig zag stitch alittle in from the edge. You can trim fabric close to the stitch with sharp sissors so that the cut edge is enclosed within the stitch. If you have a fabric that frays a lot, use closely made zig zag stitching.

2. To sew seams in Knit /stretchy fabric

A zig zag stitch has flexibility that makes it very valuable in sewing stretchable seams – this is especially important when sewing stretchy fabrics like knits. If you use the straight stitch with these fabrics at some point the stitching will break. A narrow zig zag stitch will stretch with the fabric.

3. To repair and mend tears

To sew a tear in a fabric with the zigzag stitching done over the hole.

If you have a long straight tear in your garment the easiest way to mend it is to cut away the stray frayed threads, butt the edges together, keep a stabilizer underneath and then make the zig zag stitch joining the torn edges together. You can use multi stitch zigzag stitch for this. Use the same coloured thread as that of the garment for a less noticeable mending.

4. To hem garments

Use rolled hemmer foot and the zig zag stitching to make a rolled hem

The easiest way to hem a garment is to use the hemmer foot and the zig zag stitch. You can use other presser feet like the overcast foot and zigzag stitching to create different types of hems.

Lettuce hem is a pretty hem which is made on knit garments.  You can make this hem by  stretching the fabric as you stitch the zig zag stitch along the edge- this will give you a beautiful wavy lettuce hem.

5. To sew buttonholes 


A very closely made zig zag stitch forms the buttonhole. A typical buttonhole consists of one vertical line of closely made zig zag stitches, a wider zig-zag across in one place on the base and then another line of zig zag stitching going back, and then a second bar of closely made wide zig zag stitch to cover the opposite end of the buttonhole – all in the family

Check out the post  How to make a buttonhole with a sewing machine

6. Attach buttons by sewing machine

You can attach a button on your garment easily with the zig zag stitch. Check out the post How to sew a button for more details.

7. Use for Decorative stitching

satin stitching

You can stitch beautiful borders for your projects with creative use of this stitch. Use metallic thread or speciality thread for a textured effect.Most of the decorative stitches in your sewing machine are variations of the zig zag stitch.

8. For sewing machine applique

zigzag stitch applique

In sewing machine applique the closely done zig zag stitch which resembles a satin stitch is usually used to attach the applique pieces on to the base fabric; you can also use a multi stitch zig zag stitch for this. The zigzag stitching can also be done loosely in applique, if you are using a fabric that would not fray. More on sewing machine applique here

9. To Attach trims 

Join Fabric trims and ribbons securely to fabric with the use of zig zag stitch

10. Gathering

Gathering a fabric is very easy by using a zig zag stitch over a cord. You shouldnot be stitching over the cord. After the zig zag stitching is done, gather the fabric by pulling the cord.

shirring foot

11. To join fabric strips/pieces together

Keep the fabric pieces side by side and using an edge joining feet you can make zig zag stitches joining the two pieces together.

12. To do Couching

Couching involves stitching cord, and other interesting thread onto the fabric surface – these are stitched over with the zig zag stitch.Learn other ways to do couching here

13. In Machine embroidery

Freemotion embroidery or free style embroidery involves making stitches on the fabric in a random fashion – you can use zigzag stitches to create beautiful designs on fabric . Learn more about freestyle embroidery here

14. To attach elastic

On the same principle that the zigzag stitch stretches, you can use this stitch when attaching elastic on to fabric. The zigzag stitch will stretch with the elastic without breaking of the stitches.Use a multi stitch zigzag stitch for a strong attachment.

15. To make a Bartack stitch

bar tack stitch on the edge of jeans pocket

A bartack stitch is that stitch you make when you want to reinforce an area in your garment – like the top of the pockets, near the fly in pants etc. This strength giving stitch is made with yours truly – the ever humble but multi-talented zigzag stitch. Read more on Bartack stitch here

Related post: Different types of satin stitch foot used to sew the zig zag stitch.

satin stitch foot

Related posts : Decorative stitching ; List of all Sewing machine stitches.

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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.

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