Welcome back to Sewing Machine School! For a lot of modern sewing machines, it's common to have decorative stitch options, from scallops to stars to simple swirls. These stitches can add a lot of character to projects with minimal effort, but how do you use them?The mechanics of using decorative stitches varies from machine to machine-- always check your manual to see what the specifics are before you jump in and try one out. No matter what the make/model of your machine, there's a few questions to consider before you start sewing:
1. Do I need to use a specific foot? Decorative stitches are typically wider than the average straight stitch and need a foot with enough space for the needle to move.
2. What tension/stitch length should I set my machine to? The Janome 6700p used for this article (along with most other Janome machines) automatically adjust the tension and stitch length for the selected stitch, but other machines may require you manually change the settings.
3. Does my machine need to be oiled? This goes for all sewing, but the repetitive and concise needle movement/placement means a well-oiled machine will preform much better.
Now the fun part-- what kind of projects work best for decorative stitches? For me, anything that requires topstitching is prime real estate for some fun stitches. Curtain or skirt hems, purse flaps, tote bag handles, patch pockets, cuffs, wallets, zipper pouches, headbands, cloth napkins, and pillowcases are just a few examples.
Now let's see how it's done-- again, I used the Janome 6700p, a machine that's perfect for both quilt/apparel sewing and heavy duty applications (like sewing through thick canvas and free motion quilting) and as a bonus has a lot of beautiful decorative stitches!
First, thread your machine. The color is up to you-- go for a subtle, monochromatic look with a color that matches your fabric, or use a fun contrasting shade (like neon or varigated thread!)
Pick your design and type the number into your machine with the keypad. If you have a Janome, the screen will tell you which foot to use with your design. For this stitch, we need the "F" foot, as indicated in the upper left of the screen.
Attach the designated foot for your decorative stitch. This foot has a little red arrow to indicate where the stitch will be centered as to make following lines easier.
The machine we're using automatically adjusts the tension and stitch length for the selected decorative stitch, but if yours doesn't, adjust accordingly. Now you're ready to start stitching!
If your machine lets you adjust the speed, start off slowly and make sure to feed the fabric evenly through the machine to avoid skipped stitches. If you have a start/stop button instead of a food pedal, this is a great place to use it since it will maintain a smooth, even pace.
When you're done stitching, backstitch just once or twice to lock the seam in place.
Want to see which Janome machines offer decorative stitches? check out these models: