How to Sew a Straight Seam – which is not always as easy as it feels like it should be

medium sized check fabric

(Background: Two weeks ago, I spent most of the week sewing through 3,000+ yards of thread, for fifteen 5ft by 15ft pieced drapes as part of a theater project. I taught a handful of people a true sewing fundamental – proper pinning – and spent most of the time sewing super long straight seams & thinking. This is one of the things I thought. )

I’ve taught a dozen or so people to sew over the past couple years, and as it turns out there are tons of things that can screw you up when you first sit down at a sewing machine.

There are lots of new things to learn, no motion is entirely intuitive, and it turns out, that sewing a seam in a straight line is not as easy as it feels like it should be.

Intuitively, you watch the sewing machine needle. It’s the most eye catching part, it moves up & down, it’s the piece of the machine actually creating the stitch.

Except, watching the machine needle is not how you sew a straight seam.

When you’re sewing, by the time the fabric meets the needle, you have very little control over your seam. You can make a sharp adjustment, (like turning a corner), but that’s about all you can do.

The only way you have control over where your seam is going, is by focusing on the path the needle is taking instead of the place the needle is.

If you’re focused 2-3 stitches ahead of the needle, you have time to make slight adjustments and sew a straight seam.

If you’re focused on the stitch that’s being created, you don’t have time for those slight adjustments, you only have time for something drastic. Like sewing a corner, or breaking out the seam ripper.

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2 Responses

  1. You must be psychic, because I just started a sewing class last week (with no experience whatsoever) and I found making a straight seam so much harder than I thought! I was all over the place, it was a bit embarrassing. So I’ll definitely keep this tip in mind the next time I give it a go.

    1. Holly

      Yay for learning to sew! Sewing takes a lot of practice. The motions aren’t really like anything else that I can think of, and it isn’t exactly the most intuitive process. It’s totally worth know though. Keep practicing!

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