How to Straight Stitch On a Sewing Machine (Settings Guide)

When sewing machines were first invented, they could only do 1 stitch. Over the years technology has been able to create sewing machines with hundreds of stitch patterns. Sometimes it is good to get back to the basics and learn how to do the simple stitch patterns.

On most sewing machines, to sew a straight stitch is as simple as turning the dial to the straight stitch pattern and pressing on the foot pedal. There is nothing to it. One key to using this stitch is to have both the bottom and top thread ends pointing to the back.

To learn more about sewing a straight stitch just continue to read our article. It is not a hard lesson to learn and the straight stitch is one of the easiest ones to learn how to do. Take a few moments and get caught up on this important topic.

What is a Full Straight Stitch?


This is a very simple stitch pattern that anyone can use. It is the foundation for all stitch patterns that can be done when you take up sewing as a hobby. The name of this stitch pattern says it all. It is a set of stitches that go in a straight line and does nothing fancy at all.

There is nothing fancy to learn, no complicated movements to master, you simply place the needle at the starting point on the back of a fabric and push the needle through. Then you reverse the process from the top and continue to do this until you have sewn the hem, seam, and so on.

As long as you have a straight line, your stitches should look great, they will be simple and the task will be done quickly. It is a good stitch pattern to practice before you move up to the different decorative stitch patterns.

It is so simple of a pattern to do that a first-time sewer should be able to master it after their first attempt. The trick is to make sure you are going in a straight line.

What Should a Straight Stitch Look Like?


Simple things are elegant. The purity of the simple is something to behold and while the simple look plain, and not so attractive, there is just something about it that makes it stand out from the decorative patterns.

That is what the straight stitch should look like. It should have a plain, simple straight look that while not decorative is still very elegant. It may take a little practice to get down but the straight stitch should also look like a straight line of thread.

There are no fancy turns, no sophisticated bows, or even a fancy design to the straight stitch. When you are done it should be like you took a pencil and ruler and drew a straight line on a piece of paper.

This stitch should look as boring as that pencil line but still be practical, functional, as well as hold the fabric in place while you do other sewing tasks. Also, you don't need a long stitch length to make this stitch pattern work well.

It should be on the small side of the spectrum to get the right look as well as the strength to hold the fabric in place.

How to do Straight Stitch On a Sewing Machine - Step-by-Step

This option is just about as easy as it is to straight stitch by hand. One reason for saying this is that many sewing machines only come with one stitch pattern built-in. That pattern is the straight stitch.

Then some have many stitch patterns on their sewing machine yet, choose to use the straight stitch. It is said that this may be the best stitch pattern of them all. Here are the steps you need to take to sew a straight stitch on a sewing machine:

  • Step 1: Thread your machine with the proper thread and needle. Make sure the ends of the top and bottom threads are pointing to the rear of the machine.
  • Step 2: Make sure to replace your current presser foot with a straight stitch presser foot. The smaller hole on this accessory helps you get the straightest straight stitch possible.
  • Step 3: Place your material under the presser foot and get ready to sew. When everything is in place, step on the foot pedal and create your seam, etc.
  • Step 4: This can be seen as optional, but use the reverse function to go backward after you go forward. You can do this technique all the way through the hem until you are done.
  • Step 5: Sew until you have come to the end of the fabric you want to have a straight stitch. Release the foot pedal, turn off your machine and snip the loose thread and you are done.

What Tension for Straight Stitch


You may not think this step is important but if you do not have the right tension on your upper and lower threads, even your straight stitch can look bad and not form properly.

The right tension on both should get you that perfect stitch and stitch pattern you want. To get the right tension for a straight stitch most brands have their machines set at 4. This is the average and different models may have different tension requirements.

The stitch length should be smaller, around 1.8 mm but some people set it to 2mm or 12 stitches per inch. The real challenge comes in when you are changing the type of fabric you are sewing on.

This stitch length may not work on heavy-weight or lightweight materials. You will have to make some adjustments to fit the weight of the fabric. If you need to adjust the tension on the bobbin thread, then you have to look for a screw to turn and not a dial.

Not every sewing machine model will be the same so use your owner’s manual to help you do this task.

Brother Sewing Machine Straight Stitch Settings

Believe it or not, there are special settings when you want to do the straight stitch pattern. But do not worry, these settings take a matter of seconds and do not delay your sewing time.

For this brand of sewing machine the settings are as follows (and these instructions come from the Brother help pages):

  • Set the stitch length to F-4
  • Set the stitch width to 0
  • For single needle systems you can set the needle position to one of the following M for middle, L for left, and R for right. When you have two needles on your sewing machine the setting should be M
  • Install the zig-zag presser foot

That is all there is to set up your Brother sewing machine for the straight stitch. Just double-check your owner’s manual for your specific model to make sure these instructions work for your particular sewing machine model.

Singer Simple Sewing Machine Settings for Straight Stitch

The instructions for this brand of sewing machines may be even simpler than the ones for the Brother models. But that is t be expected as all brands of sewing machines have their own unique design that sets them apart from their competitors.

If you are topstitching a straight stitch with a Singer sewing machine all you have to do to get the right look and perfect stitch is to set the stitch length to 3 or 3.5 mm. Then use a topstitch needle, a 90/14 will do for medium fabrics, and then sew 1/4 inch in from the edge.

If you are working with a heavy-weight fabric then you should switch the needle to a 100/16. Since the straight stitch is a non-decorative pattern, you do not need to have any stitch width when sewing with a Singer sewing machine. A 0 setting is fine.

Of course, different Singer sewing machine models and different fabrics may need to have adjustments made to get that stitch just right. Make sure to turn your stitch pattern selection dial to the straight stitch function

Straight Stitch Sewing Machine Symbols


We looked at the symbol sheet for a Janome stitch pattern. Understandably, people get confused as to which stitch symbol they should select when they want to do a straight stitch. Even the charts are not very clear at times.

On that particular chart, we think the straight stitch is #1 to 4 and possibly 20. The reason we say might be is because there is no legend to help identify all the different stitch patterns. There are titles above each section but not one mentions the words straight stitch.

The chart for the Brother sewing machines is much easier to read, more straightforward, and even provides additional information so you get the right settings on more than just your needle.

Numbers 1 to 4 are the straight stitches and when you look at the chart you will see that they are even labeled as such, unlike the Janome chart. We took another look at the Janome chart and it is possible that the first 8 stitch patterns under the label Bridge may be straight stitches as well.

Can You Straight Stitch With a Serger?

The initial reaction to this question is that since a serger sewing machine has no bobbin it may be impossible to sew a straight stitch using this model. If the serger is an overlocker machine then if no topstitching or inverted corners are a part of the pattern, it may be possible to sew a straight stitch but there may be issues when you try.

Some machines have a combination stitch pattern when using only 2 threads. That combination is made up of a zig-zag stitch and a straight stitch. But this will also depend on the type of serger you own. Not every model will have the same stitch patterns and you should look to see what has been built in before you buy.

A serger is a thread machine that does its stitching without using a bobbin thread. So there will be different stitches on that machine when compared to a regular sewing machine.

Check your owner’s manual to make sure you know which stitches the serger you want to buy actually has. If you do a lot of straight stitches, then maybe a serger is not for you.

Can You Use a Straight Stitch On Stretch Fabric?

Yes, you could use a straight stitch on stretch fabric but the hold you get may not last very long due to the stress placed upon the stitch pattern when those clothing items are used in very active activities. The purpose of a straight stitch is to bind two pieces of fabric together and that purpose would work for stretch fabric. It just won’t last.

There is a stitch pattern called the stretch straight stitch and it is designed to work with stretch fabrics. It is a stronger pattern and sews the same stitch 3 times so you get a better bond and long-lasting hold.

The symbol for the stretch straight stitch is 3 lines of dashes side by side which do make it easier to find on those charts we linked to above. When you are sewing medium to heavy fabrics, this stitch option is good to use because of its overall strength.

Is Straight Stitch Strong?


It can be when you use the right thread to make those stitches. Then when you backstitch over the straight stitches, you get an even stronger hold. that is very tough to break.

For the strongest hold using a straight stitch, you would want to use a polyester thread. That fiber is very difficult to break and will hold onto the fabric very tightly. Also, that style of thread resists many different weather conditions so it shouldn’t wear out so soon.

The weakness of this stitch pattern is that it does not stretch. It resists that movement so if you use it in stretch fabrics you may have more breakage despite the toughness we just mentioned.

With the ability to handle many sewing tasks it is understandable why so many women use it and why it is one of the most common stitch patterns around.

Will a Straight Stitch Stop Fraying?

Stop may be the wrong word there as it is hard to stop fraying without using a combination of techniques. But a straight stitch can help reduce fraying when it is used with those other techniques.

When you cut your raw edge you should do a straight stitch immediately after to hold the threads in place. You would need to make a stitch line about 1/4 of an inch in from the edge then take some pinking shears to cut the edge to produce a fray-resistant design.

Or you can use a seam sealer like fabric glue, stop fray, and a straight stitch to accomplish the same goal. Because the stitch is in from the edge without those additional measures you may see some fraying take place.

A lot will depend on the type of fabric you are working on. The different fabrics all fray at different rates so a straight stitch may work on its own on different materials.

Sewing Machine That Does Straight Stitch

There are a lot of options when you want to own a sewing machine that does the straight stitch only. One of the criteria you should look at is size. Portable sewing machines are small but they are usually set up to only sew the straight stitch. Of course, different brands may put different stitches on their portable sewing machines.

Next, you will want power and if you get the right motor you can straight stitch through heavyweight materials like you would with a less powerful motor working on lightweight fabrics.

Finally, you need to look at the purpose of the sewing machine. If all you like to do is a straight stitch or all your sewing projects call for this stitch then it would be a waste to buy one with multiple stitch patterns built-in.

Those are the basic criteria and they are mentioned first because just about every brand of sewing machine maker has multiple straight stitch only sewing machines. You just have to find the right brand and model for you and your sewing needs.

Some Final Words

The straight stitch is the basic sewing stitch pattern you can learn and just about every sewer knows how to do it. When it comes to doing it on your sewing machine, you either can use a straight stitch only model or turn the stitch pattern dial to the straight stitch symbol.

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