If you find yourself struggling to sew a straight line, you're definitely not alone. Sometimes sewing basics are the toughest to master. But you can get on the straight and narrow faster — or, if you're already a pro, pick up a new trick or two — with these tips from master sewer Christine Haynes.
1. Sit Up Straight!
It's nearly impossible to sew a straight line (or anything else) if you're slumped. To align your body with your sewing machine, first straighten the machine on your work table, then pull it close to the table's edge so you don't stretch your arms as you sew.
Now that the machine is level, place your chair right in front of it. Sit up straight (no slouching!) and place your foot pedal on the floor where you can reach it without shifting your body. Now that you're lined up with your machine, you can sew straight too!
2. Follow the Seam Allowance
Nearly all sewing machines have markers on the footplate to show the seam allowance (the space between the stitching and the fabric's raw edge). Those lines are there to show you the seam allowance, but you can also use them as a guide to help you sew straight.
3. Use Washi Tape
If you're having trouble seeing the seam-allowance lines or have a machine that doesn't mark them off automatically, washi or painter's tape can save you. For instance, you could place washi tape to the right of your footplate to make regular seam allowances stand out, or to create larger or smaller ones that your machine doesn't include. Or just use the washi to mark any spot that's hard to see while you sew.
4. Don’t Focus on the Needle
Watching the needle go up and down can be hypnotizing — and make you so spacey that your lines get wavy. To keep your head on straight, follow your tape line or the edge of your fabric instead of the needle.
5. Grab a Marker
If you're topstitching a collar, a patch pocket or anything that involve pivots or angled corners, It's tough to stay on track. That's when you need a water-soluble marking tool to trace a straight stitch line before sewing. Just be sure to test it out on a piece of fabric to make sure your line will wash out!
6. Move the Needle
Your needle is set in a center position when you're using seam allowances to keep you in line. But when you're topstitching or hemming, you're not using seam allowances, so your needle can move from left to right as much as you want. To stay close to the fabric's edge, simply guide the needle so it hits your fabric where you want, while keeping the edge of the fabric along the right side of the presser foot.
7. Make Like You're Driving
When you drive your car, you're not just looking straight ahead. You're glancing in the rear view and side mirrors to see what's coming up and what's behind. Same is true when you sew.
Remember you're connected to your sewing machine. If your fabric is pulling down as it spills over the side of the table, say, or is bunched up behind the presser foot, don't panic and speed up. Just stop. Then take it slow.
Your goal is to make sure your fabric goes through the machine without a hitch. So think about what you've just done, where you're sewing now and what's coming up. And if your machine has speed controls, choose a comfortable pace so you're forced to slow down.
Got that straight?