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Sewing Tips: Basic Stitches (plus the Double Needle)


Sometimes all it takes is a visual picture to understand what some of these sewing terms and words are.
Basting, stitch length, zig-zag, double needle…….do those words sound like crazy talk?
Yes?  Well, let me explain.  And then you won’t get nervous when seeing those words in the future.
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First of all, a straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch are very common stitches on sewing machines.  If you have a very basic machine (or sometimes an older ones), you may not have a zig-zag stitch.  Or you may have a fancier machine with tons of other options and stitches.  Those are exciting too.
But these two stitches are controlled by the stitch width and stitch length.  You should have some sort of knobs or buttons on your sewing machine to control these 2 functions.
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If you are using the straight stitch and adjust the stitch length, you will produce different looking stitches.  The largest stitch length (shown on the left) is also called a basting stitch and can help you with temporarily holding fabrics in place or to use to gather fabric (gathering tutorial here). If you adjust the stitch width of the zig-zag stitch, you’ll get wider zig-zags…….and if you increase the length, you will increase the distance between each zig-zag.
Play around with some scrap fabric and adjust your settings.  See what you can come up with.
Now, have you ever needed to sew two stitches right next to each other……and hate how your stitches aren’t perfectly straight??  Oh, you’re not sure you would ever need 2 stitches in a row?  Well, if you look down at your clothing, you may see 2 stitches right next to each other.  (Yes, the stitches below are done with a serger……but you can mimic the look with a double needle.)
Or maybe you are quilting, making a bag, or sewing some hot pads…..and would like 2 straight stitches next to each other.  Well here’s how to do it.  Easy, easy.
Now, let me explain something. I have had a double needle for a couple of years and rarely pull it out.  You need (or so I thought) 2 mini spools of thread to fit on the top of your sewing machine, to thread into the 2 needles…..and I rarely have 2 of the same color……..especially in the color I need.  And I always grumble while sewing 2 seams next to each other, wishing I was using my double needle.  The other day, someone commented about using a double needle for something and I laughed it off, knowing I didn’t have enough spools in the correct color.  And then I realized I could just load up a bobbin and use it as a spool of thread.  Oh, that seemed obvious? Oops, it took me a while.  Dang.
So after 2 years of loving my double needle but rarely being prepared…… double needle and I are now great friends.  I love those 2 straight lines.
To begin, you need to purchase a double needle for a few dollars.  There are different sizes, and that just means the distance between the 2 needles.  I use a 4.0 size needle.  Works great for me.  (Make sure that whatever size you get isn’t too wide for the opening in your plate.  You can’t go any wider than your max zig-zag stitch.)
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See how the top post of the needle is just like your regular needle?  Take out your single needle and slide in the double needle.  Secure it in place. You don’t need a special machine to use the double needle.
Then, purchase 2 mini spools of thread or 1 spool and load up a bobbin.  Put both spools where you would place your single spool of thread.
(UPDATE: Some of you have had troubles loading the two colors on one pole because of twisting and tangling.  If that’s the case, try separating the two spools more and take a look at this updated tutorial.)
Now, grab your two thread ends and begin winding them through your machine, as if it were one thread.
Then at the end, separate your threads……..
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……..and thread each end through a needle.
Then begin stitching with your straight stitch, just like normal.  You can adjust the stitch length (just like explained above), to help with your different projects.  You can also backstitch, just like normal.
When done, you have a perfectly straight set of lines.
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Aren’t they lovely?
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And from the back……it creates sort of a zig-zag.
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And because of that zig-zag in the back, it helps while sewing with knits.  I tend to increase my stitch length just a bit, just so it doesn’t pull so much and can skip over more of the knit fabric in one stitch.  Looks great as the hem of those knit projects.
And again, from the back.
And just so you can see, the double needle stitch allows for a bit of stretch.
(Animated image tutorial here.)
Isn’t that double needle fantastic?
I will be using my double needle more often……now that I realized that there is a solution to my lack of thread spools in the same color.  Yay.
Now hurry to the store and pick one up.
UPDATE: And again, here’s another updated tutorial with a few more helps.

Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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