When sewing machine companies use symbols it is usually because there is not enough room on the sewing machine for all the words needed.
It will be impossible to create a full list of serger stitch symbols or even a full list of sewing machine symbols. There are thousands of them and not every machine has all of the stitch patterns available. Even Singer does not provide a full list of available stitches built into their machines.
To learn more about stitch symbols just continue to read our article. It has the common stitch symbols and what they mean along with links to more. When you want to understand your sewing machine, you need to understand all the symbols.
This is a good question and the answer is almost all of them. Either the machine has a pictorial list on your sewing machine with numbers underneath those symbols or you may have to go to a website to see what those symbols mean.
Singer provides a reference guide to some of their stitch symbols. They state very clearly that the reference guide is only a partial list and that their guide is not an exhaustive reference for all the stitch patterns available on their sewing machines.
You can access their guide at this link. When you get to the page you will have to click on the individual images to get to the name and the description of each stitch pictured.
Under the 10 most common stitch sections in that guide, you will find a set of dashes going in a straight line. This is the most common stitch that is used more than any other. It is the symbol for the straight stitch
The image beside that one, the one looking like a sideways set of Ws indicates the zig-zag stitch. These images are basically standard across the board and used by all brands. They just may not be placed or listed in the same order as Singer places them.
You already have a link to Singer’s list of symbols and what those images stand for. There are about 250 images for you to click on and learn what those symbols mean. It will take you some time to explore but it is worth the time because you may find a good stitch pattern you haven’t heard of before.
Brother is not so generous with its stitch patterns as this link takes you to about 122 of the ones you will find on some Brother sewing machines. But Brother is far more detailed than Singer’s guide as it tells you the presser foot, the applications, the stitch width, and length.
Bernina is not to be outdone. Their stitch chart contains well over 200 different stitches and covers the ones for their affordable Bernette line. Their chart lists the stitch number in the box below the image and across from the sewing machine model on the left-hand side.
Their chart is 19 pages long but not every page is full of stitch numbers. Then Janome does their chart a little differently. The group the different stitch symbols under general headings.
For example, there is the applique heading and under it are 22 stitch patterns you can choose from. The quilt heading has 85 different stitches you can use and the satin style only has 31.
Then their 10-page chart contains stitch symbols for block, script, Broadway, as well as embroidery and designer designs. This company’s chart seems to cover it all for you so you are not lost on what kind of stitch pattern you have on your machine.
This link will take you to just one of Juki’s many stitch charts and as you can see, their patterns are the same as the ones on other sewing machines. You may have to do some cross-referencing to get the names of the stitches. There are only 100 stitches on that particular model.
Then for Elna, this is only an image but it lists its stitch patterns in groups called modes. It is a comprehensive list with well over 300 stitch patterns in those different modes. Click here to get to the list and you may need an owner’s manual to find out the stitch names or use one of the other charts to help you.
Up next is Husqvarna Viking’s stitch chart. This chart lays out the image, the number, the stitch name as well as the presser foot needed, and the application for the different stitches. It is a handy 12-page guide that makes sure you know which stitch patterns you have on your Viking sewing machine.
Finally, there is the Pfaff chart, and its unique design groups the stitches into different categories. This company and Brother seem to call the overlock stitch the overcast so be watchful as different names may be applied to some of your favorite stitch patterns.
We only covered the most famous brands of sewing machines. We know there are other brands but many international sewing machine companies will use the same symbols and they may not have computerized sewing machines with hundreds of stitch patterns on them.
Keep in mind that the stitch pattern does not change from company to company. That means the look of a straight stitch, including its symbol, will be universal. You can use one chart to help you find the right symbol on your machine even though it is from a different brand.
The overlock stitch is a combination of the straight stitch and the zig-zag stitch. You can sew both forwards and backward using it and it may resemble a serging stitch pattern.
Also, this pattern is good for knits and stretch fabrics as it is also called a stretch stitch. The simple looks like a set of Vs joined together at the tips of the top start and ending points for the letter V.
On this chart, the overlock stitch is number 6 with number 7 & 8 different variations of the stitch. We will use this chart to show many of the symbols coming up in this article.
You will find on more advanced sewing machines, a large set of overlock stitches. That is because there are different patterns to use as well as a variety of applications for this stitch. Janome may have up to 8 different overlock patterns while Brother has 7.
Singer has quite a few as will the other brands. Of course, how many variations you get will depend on how many stitch patterns were built into the model you own. Check your owner’s manual or other paperwork to see how many you have on your sewing machine.
The stretch stitch is not so lucky and it is listed as number 3 in that image above. There is only one symbol for it and its other name is the lightning stitch pattern. However, you may be able to use other stitch patterns on your knits, elastics, and other stretch materials.
The triple zig-zag is known for being a type of stretch stitch that works best on elastic. On Brother’s chart, the image they show for the stretch stitch is 3 dash lines side by side and the lightning stitch pattern is called the Stem stitch.
Two diamond stitches on the Brother’s charts are also labeled for stretch materials. Viking’s chart has it listed as the lightning bolt image and they also used the triple zig-zag as the stretch stitch alternative. The same goes for Pfaff.
It will take some getting used to if you are a novice sewer and just learning the ropes. But don’t fret, not only will you learn most of the names for the common stitch images, you may not use the other options very much, if at all.
According to Singer's guide chart, the blanket stitch looks like half a ladder stitch. The rungs are all there but the right side of the ladder is missing. it is like sewing a line of Fs in a vertical line
This option is more for decorative use as you can embellish your sewing project with a nice line of stitches that look neat and tidy. Plus, you can put several vertical rows together. Or you can combine this pattern with another decorative pattern to make your project look even better.
But you should be wary when looking for this stitch. There are many similar symbols but those symbols are not referred to as a blanket stitch. They can be called a pin stitch, reverse pin stitch as well as slant over edge stitch, and so on.
When you use the Singer guide, you may click on several of these similar stitch icons until you get to the right one. In the picture above, this stitch looks like #12 and #22, although the information we read underneath that photo did not mention them as being the blanket stitch. They were labeled as the hemstitch and the shell tuck stitch.
This symbol looks like you are looking at a spider head-on. On you see is the body and 2 of its 8 legs. it is a very simple stitch to use and it can have its width adjusted so that it looks more like a straight stitch than any other type of pattern.
There is another symbol for this stitch pattern and that one is looking head on to a spider that got stepped on. A lot of diagonal lines are in between the two larger outside ends.
It is possible to topstitch by hand so you do not need a machine or a guide to help you. It may take a few tries to get the pattern down but it is one of the easier stitch patterns to learn how to do.
Edge stitching is not the same as topstitching and one difference is that edge stitching is closer to the edge than top stitching dares to go. Then to do this stitch right, you are not to go too slow and you are not to go too fast. You have to find that Goldilocks pace that is just right.
The other key to this stitch is to know how to sew a straight line. If you can’t do it, then do not top stitch.
When you look at the photo above, you will find that the Blind Hem stitch is #9. Every machine over the past 50 years may have this stitch pattern on it. The symbol sort of looks like two washtubs sitting side by side.
The application for this stitch is also simple to remember. it is for blind hemming. Then if you are doing a blind hem on stretch fabric, you go to the number 10 symbol above and use the stretch blind hem stitch pattern. That option is only for stretch materials.
On Janome’s chart, the numbers for this stitch would be 19, 19, and 20 and they are located under the utility stitch pattern category. With Brother, they are listed as 2-01 and 2-02 and you want an R presser foot when you use these stitch options.
When you have machines with all of these different stitch options on them, it is best to let the machine do all the work. Just turn the dial or push the right button and relax.
Now that you have an idea of what all those symbols on your sewing machine mean, it is time to learn when to use them. You will find that most sewing machines have more stitch patterns than you will use on all the sewing projects you will do in your lifetime.
Here are some of the stitch patterns and when to use them:
Keep in mind that a short stitch is difficult to remove while a longer length is easier to remove from fabrics.
If you use them, you will want to use a lighter bobbin thread. Embroidery projects are where you may use them the most.
This pattern is the go-to style when a stretch stitch pattern is not on your machine. You will need a narrow width to allow the stitch to stretch with the fabric.
The fabric you are working on will tell you which stitch to use.
You really don't need this stitch pattern if you have the zig-zag option available. Also, your sewing machine may have the triple stretch stitch option if you are lucky. It is a good pattern to use on stretch fabrics.
There are more symbols and stitches available than you can shake a stick at. The world of sewing has so many options you can use and that makes sewing a lot more enjoyable. You are not stuck in a box and limited to one or two patterns.
The key to enjoying the wide array of stitches is to learn their symbols and how they look on your sewing project. In sewing, you get a lot of choices.