Thursday, October 10, 2013

So Sew! Day 10: Making a Seam

Welcome to day 10 of our 31 Days sewing series! Today we're getting down to some actual sewing. Ahhhh!

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Who is ready to get down to some actual sewing? I’m raising my hand! Let’s do this!

Today we’re sewing a simple, straight seam. I have two pieces of fabric that I need to sew together.

Oh yeah - another peek into our Christmas collection!

The printed side of the fabric is called the “right” side. This is the side you want showing on the finished item. To sew these two pieces together, match the edges you want sewn with the right sides together.

Make sure the edges are nice and lined up!

Head to your machine. Stop to wipe your sweaty palms. Just kidding. :) This is easy! Relax!

Your machine should have measurements for seam widths clearly marked next to the feed dogs. These small guide lines make it easy to get consistent, straight seams. For clothing, a ⅝ “ seam is normally recommended. For my purposes today, I only need a ⅜” seam, so I lay the edges of my fabric along this line.

To get a smooth start to this seam - no bulging fabric or tangled threads - follow these steps:

  • Lay your fabric down under the presser foot, lined up for the appropriate seam width. Don’t start at the extreme edge of your fabric, start about ¼ “ in.
  • Put the presser foot down
  • Hold onto the ends of both threads with your left hand.
  • Using the hand wheel, put the needle down into the fabric.

Foot is down, needle is down, and my left hand is holding the threads as I begin to sew.
  • Using the pedal, sew a couple of stitches, then a few stitches backwards to the edge of the fabric, then continue forward. This will keep those edge stitches from coming out.
  • Continue to sew down the fabric, keeping the edge lined up with the appropriate seam width line. Use both hands to guide the fabric through the feed dogs. Don’t pull or push the fabric - this will only cause bad stitches or worse problems with your machine. You only want to stabilize and guide the fabric, that is all.

And its done! And its straight!

For most projects, this seam will need to be ironed opened. This will keep the back sides of your projects from getting too bulky or not laying properly.

Isn’t it so purty?

Now lets talk about tension for a minute. No, not that kind of tension - you don’t need an Advil for this! I’m talking about thread tension.

There are two ways to adjust the thread tension. The upper thread tension is adjusted using the dial at the front of the machine. The bobbin thread tension is adjusted with a tiny screw on the bobbin casing.

I’ve used pictures from my machine’s operating manual to help explain this.

This picture shows perfect thread tension - when the upper thread and the bobbin thread link together in the middle of the fabric. Poor tension happens when one of these is out of whack.

Here is an example of loose tension.

When the upper thread tension is too loose, the upper thread will be visible on the bottom side of the fabric. To fix this, turn the tension dial to a higher number. It only takes small little turns to make a difference!

Here is tension that is too tight:

When the upper thread tension is too tight, the upper thread will be laying flat along the top of the fabric instead of forming a good stitch. The fabric may pucker, or the thread can even break while sewing if this is the case. Turn the dial to a lower number to correct it.

Whenever you correct the upper thread tension, the presser foot needs to be down. Honestly I'm not sure why, but it is supposed to be! =)

Here is a picture I took of tension that is too tight. Can you tell? It is hard to capture in a picture!

See the bobbin thread peeking though at each stitch? Bad tension!

Now for the bobbin thread. I read somewhere once that you shouldn’t try to tamper with the bobbin tension as it can cause problems if you don’t get it right, but I don’t think this is the case. The bobbin tension is really quite simple. I find for my machine that it needs to be adjusted depending on what kind of thread I’m using. If it is cheaper quality thread, or a specialty thread, then I need to adjust it slightly.

Before adjusting the tension, the bobbin casing must be threaded correctly. Here is how:

The bobbin needs to be inserted into the casing so the thread is headed in a counter-clockwise direction. See photo. =)

Slide end of thread into the slit to the right…

And pull upward until it is threaded into the bobbin like this:

Pulling the tab on the other side of the casing will help hold the bobbin in, so it doesn’t fall out while you are putting it into the machine, or adjusting the tension.

Now that the bobbin is threaded properly, it can be adjusted. Use a small screwdriver to tighten or loosed the screw on the side of the casing. This will tighten or loosen the tension accordingly. It only takes the smallest of turns to make a difference!

Test the tension by holding the end of the bobbin thread and letting the bobbin and casing dangle. If it drops several inches and then stops, the tension is good! If you can’t pull any thread out, it is too tight. If the bobbin and casing continue to drop without stopping, the tension is too loose.

Hopefully this clears up any tension issues you might have! I realize it may be slightly confusing, so please ask if you have any questions or need it cleared up more.

Aren’t you proud? You’ve completed your first successful seam! Congratulations! =)

Challenge: Take some practice runs of this straight seam. Practice following different guide lines on your machine, and develop a good system that works for you. Use these practice runs to test your tension as well, and adjust accordingly. Let me know how it goes!

Other posts in this series:


  1. I've also always been told to try not to adjust the bobbin tension so thank you for this post showing me how to tell when it has the proper tension. I've been enjoying this series.

    1. Glad it was helpful! I really don't know why people say that...sometimes that bobbin needs to be adjusted!

      Thanks for your comment! =)


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