Basic Sewing Machine Stitches

Basic stitchesThis week I have some really fun basic sewing projects lined up! New to sewing? Today we're sharing four basic sewing machine stitches and what they are used for. These are the most common stitches that you'll want to learn. Here are some details about what each one can do…

Basting Stitch

Basting Stitch This stitch is most commonly used as any temporary stitch that you plan to eventually rip out. You can also use the basting stitch to gather and stay stitch.

Straight Stitch

Straight Stitch This is the most common stitch. You will use the straight stitch for seams, hems and topstitching.

Zigzag StitchZigzag Stitch This stitch is great for stretch fabrics, finishing edges and attaching elastic. You can also use it for stitching around appliqués and making buttonholes.

Three-Step Zigzag StitchThree-Step Zigzag Stitch This stitch is best for extreme stretch (for example lingerie and swimwear) and attaching elastic.

I'll be sharing lots of sewing projects with you this week! Together we'll learn tips for sewing leather, cotton, stretch fabrics and knitwear. We'll be learning basic skills while making adorable things to wear! I can't wait. xo, elsie

This sewing basics series was created in collaboration with Missy Creed of Momentum Fashion. Missy is a talented seamstress who sews for Red Velvet!

  • For beginners, choosing the best sewing machines is very important. Choose wisely.


  • Hi! Thank you so much for these fantastic tips. I would like to buy a new sewing machine, the best quality and price possible. Can someone recommend me a brand pleaseeeeee? Thanks you 🙂

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  • Q: Oh Girls, thank goodness for you! I’m very new to sewing and spent all day yesterday trying to sew a very simple pair of curtains. The problem was, the stitches went in to like little loops on top..I tried adjusting the tension to no avail. Any ideas what the problem could be please??!!!

    Thanks you so much 🙂

    Emma xx

    A: Emma, I’m glad to hear you tried changing the tension. That would be the first thing I would do too! You might try a different brand of thread. Some machines can be picky. Make sure you’re using the right needle and that your bobbin is wound tightly and threaded correctly. If none of these do the trick, I would take it into the shop 🙂

    Hope this helps!


  • I am soooo happy you are making these sewing posts for beginners! I am one of those people who loves to sew, but has no real training so I run into messes from time to time 😉

  • Awesome! Got a brand spanking new Janome for my birthday and I want to become a better sewer~

  • I’m pinning all of these!


  • Hi Elsie I love your blog 🙂

    I am studying textiles at high school and I lovee sewing hehe 🙂

    I was wondering if you could post a tutorial of how to make a fitted, 50’s crop top, I hope you know the ones I mean, They’re in fashion at the mo. I couldn’t think of how to do it myself and have looked everywhere for a pattern so I think I need some help from an expert, thankyaaa x

  • One ofmy new goals is to work sewing back into my life and to use better technique! Thanks for the jump start and inspiration!

  • Hi Elsie,

    can you tell me what program you use to crop your circle photos/type fonts/use cute heart doodles?


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  • Ooooh! I’m so glad you’ll be doing more sewing on the blog! My favorite!

  • fab… i’m keen to fire up the ‘ol sewing machine!

  • This is wonderful news! I got my new sewing machine this Christmas and so far, I haven’t used it at all. I can’t wait to see your projects and make some of my own!

  • oh i’m so excited, i have a sewing machine and have been desperate to learn for ages. although i need to figure out how to set it all up first (!) xx

  • Thank you so much for this! I just received a sewing machine for Christmas and I can’t remember anything from my home education classes!

  • Sweet!! Im so happy you are doing this! Now that im an adult and living on my own i have made myself a promis to start all the project i wanted to do when i was growing up! Now no one can tell me no!! hehehe Thank you!

  • Ho comprato la macchina da cucire un anno fa e non l’ho ancora usata. E’ arrivato il momento!!

  • Great tips Elsie! I’m just getting back into sewing again so it’s a good refresher 🙂

  • Ooh! I like this. I love any help with getting to know sewing/my sewing machine!

  • I wish I could stitch. Perhaps I can now, with the help of your blog! Totes keen!

    < 3 jordan

  • Elise,

    I am excited about this week and learning all a bout sewing!


  • I’m starting DIYing for a little while and i’m learning so much from you! can’t wait to see your next post 🙂

    ciao from italy!


  • yay! i love learning about sewing! i’m poorly self taught, i can’t wait to see the posts!!

  • It’s always good to know the basics. I’ve been sewing since I was 10.

  • THis IS GREAT!!! I’ll be Needing some projects for the Brand New sewing machinge I got for Christmas!!! I don’t really know how to use one, but I wanted it for my Jewelry making!!!


  • Seriously… I adore you and your work.

    Last night, I tried and tried to search for sewing classes around where I live and it was totally non-existent. Then, I checked your blog and you here it is! Thank you for giving me some kind of direction to move forward and to use my new sewing machine 🙂 You are the bomb diggity.

    ~ Grace

  • I really like that dress you used for the basting stitch example! I’ve used strait stitch and basting a lot, but always wondered what the zig-zag stitches were really for, apart from “decorative” top-stitching. Now I know! 🙂 Maybe it’s time to dust off my machine and play with it again

  • I acquired a sewing machine recently and I thought the zigzag stitch was unnecessary. Now I know. Thank you so much!

  • Wow! This is perfect timing! I’ve literally been (attempting) to teach myself to sew all morning. Really looking forward to the rest of the series! Sewing is just perfect for rainy holiday-days!

  • I’m joining Fashion school very soon & can’t wait to start sowing my own clothes! The idea of wearing something you’ve designed and constructed on your own is awesome… This little lesson here from you is a big help!! Thanks…

    I’d really appreciate some inputs from you on my blog on [ Indian ] Art & Fashion at:


  • Woo! Can’t wait for all your upcoming sewing posts!

    Fang Ting

  • This is perfect! I bought my first sewing machine this year and I have been wanting to get started for weeks but never found a good reason… This is such good timing!

  • SO GLAD you said you’re doing stretch fabrics, this is the one thing I haven’t managed to master that I really really need! Thanks 🙂

  • Aaaaaand this is my feature. I’m an aspiring seamstress myself, in my free time, doing this with you will be such fun, I’m sure. Thanks for this feature!!!

  • Yay! Thankyou so much for posting about this. I have a new sewing machine that has been sitting gathering dust for a year….now I’ll hopefully have the courage to start sewing 🙂

  • This is so helpful! I’m still trying to work out how to use a sewing machine. When I’ve worked it out I’m going to treat myself to a new one!

  • I got a sewing machine for christmas (finally) so I am very excited about this! Thank you.

  • So looking forward to this! My sewing machine has been sitting unused for months while I try to figure out what to make.

  • Once I’m back in the states, one of the first things I’m going to do is invest in a sewing machine!

  • Lovely stuff! I’m really passionate about spreading the joys of stitching do it’s great to see you’re doing these posts. I’ve just started a Learn to Sew series on my blog which demonstrates threading the machine, basic stitching techniques etc:
    Sounds like your posts will be a great complement to mine so I’ll link to your projects. Keep up the good work!

  • I’m really excited about the projects, I looove to learn how to work with a sewing machine, but it’s quite hard actually!

  • I’m soo excited to see what you have planned! yay!

  • I just brought my sewing machine from my parent´s house to my flat and was just waiting for some inspiration. And here it comes. Thank you! ^^ I´m waiting espcially for the leather sewing, because I´ve never done that and don´t really know what to look for.

  • This is amazing! Thank you! I just got my first ever sewing machine for my birthday yesterday! And it’s all because of you! Your blog is so inspiring and lovely and it’s made me want to be crafty 🙂 x

  • Oh Girls, thank goodness for you! I’m very new to sewing and spent all day yesterday trying to sew a very simple pair of curtains. The problem was, the stitches went in to like little loops on top..I tried adjusting the tension to no avail. Any ideas what the problem could be please??!!!

    Thanks you so much 🙂

    Emma xx

  • Great tips! I have the sewing machine, just waiting for a little time to start learning!

  • Can’t wait to see the finished product. I need to get better with my sewing skills!

  • so great! i’ve been slowly teaching myself over the past few years..not easy!


  • Thank you so much for going back to the basics! It’s nice to hear sewing stuff in basic terms. Looking forward to the sewing projects that you have in store this week x

  • Great tips! If you have any vintage sewing machine instructions/tips, I would love that! I just changed from a computerized Brother machine to a vintage Necchi Silvia Maximatic (eeep!).

    Stephanie May*

  • Cool! I love to sew. Can’t wait to see the projects. xo, rv

  • yay! I’ve had my sewig machone 2 years now and still haven’t taught myself. I think this is the jump start I need. I am feeling inspired to develop new skills this year, it’s invigorating.

  • Just got a sewing machine for Christmas!! I’m so excited! Thank you in advance.

  • OMG! I’m SUPER EXCITED about these posts!! i used to do makeup for a living and now that I’m a mommy of two I find it hard to take sewing classes. I’ve sewn basic things like curtains and such. but i look forward to learning with you! You’re seriously the most amazing blogger in the bloggiverse! XOXO Liz

  • This is perfect timing because I’ve just starting sewing lessons with my grandmother! Can’t wait for what’s to come 🙂

  • Oh gosh I’m terrible at sewing, but these seem easy enough! I need to buckle down and learn! Thanks for posting this, Elsie!


  • Eeep! I’m so glad your doing this! I love seeing how others sew, and I love your creative process. I can’t wait to see things you dream up! I will have to do a post about your new series…many people want to learn about sewing basics and you really have a great way of explaining and doing tutorials/DIY’s. LOVE it! Hearts, janna lynn

  • I’m so excited for the upcoming posts! I’m working my way through your e-course and I just finished project 1 tonight. I LOVE my bow and am wearing it to work tomorrow! Thanks for sharing!

  • Yay! You read my mind! I’ve had a brand new super nice machine for well over a year now that I received as a gift but have been too intimidated to dive in. lots I want to learn and make!

  • One of my new year resolutions this year is to sew more after over a year away from the sewing machine. I’m still a real novice, so I can’t wait to see what tips I’ll be able to pick up.

  • I’m so excited because I just got a sewing machine for Christmas and have been fighting with it trying to figure everything out. I’m determined to learn but it’s so much harder than I thought. Keeping up with these projects will be the perfect challenge- divine timing!

  • Thank you for posting this! This is really helpful. No one teaches sewing secrets anymore nowadays and I’m always ferreting the internet and books for helpful tips.:)

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