Setting A Satin Stitch

Before any other stitch can be formed, it begins as a straight stitch.

The stitch is formed by the interlinking of the upper sewing machine thread with the bobbin thread from below. This stitch is said to lock. When the tensions are properly set, this locked stitch forms in the middle of the fabric out of the users view.

For over a hundred years, home sewing machines were limited to sewing a series of these stitches in a straight line or one after the other. This line of stitch could be adjusted for length between stitches. This enabled the sewing machine to produce very fine stitches, medium length stitches, and longer stitches. The longest straight stitch is called a basting stitch.

When you add width to the straight stitch, you create the zig zag stitch. The sewing machine accomplishes this by moving the needle bar to the left to make a stitch, and then moving it to the right for another stitch. The back and forth stitching patterns is called the zig zag stitch.

Suddenly, the capacity of stitch variety had more than doubled. Instead of just adjusting stitch length to produce a few variation, the zig zag machines could alter the width of the stitch (0mm to 5 mm to 9mm for top of line modern machines) as well. This actually made it possible for a sewing machine to boast six or eight stitch functions depending entirely on how the sewing machine was set.

Medium length and width zig zag stitches are simply called zig zag stitches. When the zig zag stitch is lengthened to its maximum, it forms a basting zig zag stitch. When the zig zag stitch is shortened very short so that the threads lie flat against each other, it forms a satin stitch.

What a gorgeous stitch the satin stitch makes. The threads lie side by side giving an embellished flare to the stitching. It is important, however, to produce a consistent stitch where the thread do not bunch up or leave gaps between stitches. A trial sewing on scrap fabric is always a good idea.

To sew a satin stitch, it is essential to use a satin stitch presser foot. The standard zig zag stitch presser foot has a ridge that catch on threads if the threads begin to bunch up. The satin stitch presser foot has a groove on the bottom of the foot to permit the stitches to neatly flow under the presser foot without becoming bunched up or snagged by the presser foot.

To fine-tune the satin stitch, remember all stitches begin as straight stitches and vary by length. The width of the satin stitch is a secondary consideration. The key is to adjust stitch length just like you would for a straight stitch. You goal is a satiny layer of threads so close together they look as if they were a continuous ribbon of thread. If the length is adjusted too close, threads will pop out of line. An over-under mix match will occur. If the length is too wide, you will see gaps between threads.

Steering the fabric while sewing a satin stitch is very important. While generally, all sewing should use the same basic procedure, it is even more important for the satin stitch to produce the very best results. Begin by placing the edge of the fabric under the presser foot. Then set your right hand on the right edge of the fabric to guide the fabric as you sew. Position your right hand comfortably three to four inches in front of the needle and presser foot. Never reach under the arm of the sewing machine to pull the fabric through the machine. If the fabric is not moving there is a problem.

Place your smoothing hand (left hand) on the top of the fabric to the left and in front of the needle to keep the fabric lying flat and flowing smoothly. Allow the sewing machine to drive the fabric through the machine.

When sewing curves with a satin stitch, remember not to turn too sharply. A gradual run will keep the satin stitch from leaving spaced between the threads. It may be necessary to slightly shorten the stitch length if you are find too many open spaces between threads along curves.


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