Slanted Stitches? Why the Stitches Aren't Straight & What to do About It.

Hmmmm… The straight stitches aren’t straight.  Instead,  they're slightly slanted.  OH NO!!!!  This is a sure sign of poor stitch quality, and a sub-par sewing machine, right?? Well....perhaps you need to look at the mechanics of a stitch before you draw that conclusion and toss your machine out the window. 



First of all, you have to realize that stitches aren't really “straight” lines of thread at all.  A line of stitching is actually a series of coils or knots in which two threads wrap around each other.  In order for them to look like straight lines of thread, the fabric must have enough body to hide the stitch coil (knot) and ‘pull’ the thread back to the visual center as illustrated here.
 

But do your stitches look more like this?

That’s because with heavier threads or lighter weight fabrics, things happen differently.  In this instance, the fabric doesn't have enough body (thickness or density) to hide the coil (knot) portion of the stitch and pull the thread back to the visual center so the stitch appears "slanted".  Notice that all of the holes are actually in straight alignment.

Is there anything that you can do to make it better??  Yes.

  • Needles- When sewing on woven fabrics, using the smallest possible size sharp point (not universal point) needle will poke a smaller hole in the fabric and help keep the stitch straighter looking.

Thread - On lighter weight fabrics, using a thinner/lighter weight thread and a shorter stitch length will help too.

If your machine has a straight stitch plate and a straight stitch foot, use those instead of the standard zigzag plate and foot.  They will offer more support to the fabric at the point where the needle enters which can help make the stitch look straighter.  However, there may simply be times and conditions when the best approach is to just accept a stitch for what it really is, a coil (knot) of two threads.



Do you still think that there might be something wrong with your machine? If so, you can do a few super simple, diagnostic tests to find out. 

Take all of the thread out of the machine, set the stitch length to 0, and put a piece of slightly thicker paper under the presser foot. Turn the hand wheel or gently touch the controller so the needle goes up and down a few times in place. Is the needle going in and out of the same hole? It should. Still not sure? Set the stitch length to a longer stitch and ’sew’ a few inches on the paper. Do the holes line up? Then the machine is sewing straight. Other than using a smaller needle or lighter thread, you can't "fix" what ain't really broken.

   

Animation of how a stitch is formed:



 
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  • Friday, March 20. 2009 Robbie wrote:
    What a GREAT animation!!!!
    1. Friday, March 20. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Thanks for the feed back.  I appreciate it.
  • Thursday, July 02. 2009 Margaret wrote:
    This is amazing. I never knew how the magic happened under the plate.
  • Sunday, October 11. 2009 Katie wrote:
    Your animation is fabulous. I never really understood what the "hook" was before. With an oscillating hook (my 15-91, for example), instead of continuously turning counter-clockwise, after letting go of the thread, does the hook swing back around clockwise to catch the thread again? Thanks, Katie
  • Wednesday, January 20. 2010 Kobie wrote:
    Fantastic thanks! I have been trying to fix this problem on my machine for ages. Your animation is excellent.
    Now if only I could fix my skipped stitches problem......off to read more of your blog.
  • Friday, July 02. 2010 Sara wrote:
    That's a great animation. I've been having tension problems ever since I basically took apart the bobbin case to get a bit of thread out; these links have shown me I should try tightening the lower tension as I have to keep the upper tension at 0 to get a decent stitch.
  • Friday, August 27. 2010 Kristy wrote:
    I'm wondering, how do I know if a fabric has a enough body? I try to do simple tests at the fabric store, but I can't seem to know what to look for. I need a guide of some sort to know how to choose well. My choices tend to be so random that it's like they were picked from a gumball machine.
    1. Saturday, August 28. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      You don't fneed to change the type of fabric your buying, just understand that on some fabrics with less body, the stitches may appear slanted simplly due to how a stitch is formed (wrapped coil of thread)
    2. Monday, September 20. 2010 roberta mosenfelder wrote:
      fabric is difficult to judge in a fabric store cause they add chemicals in processing that you remove when you prewash the fabric. You cancompensate for limp fabric by starching it before sewing...lots of quilters do this for appliqué and piecing, The stiffer the fabric the better it handles.
  • Friday, December 17. 2010 Karen Alexander wrote:
    Other elements will also affect this "effect"... namely, the type of hook and it's position in relationship to the bobbin - for example, a horizontally mounted hook and bobbin case will form a slightly diffferent "look" to a vertically mounted case and hook...
    Also...the thread twist can affect the look as well. These differences can be very subtle, or very pronounced - again depending on the other factors you mention above! It IS a fairlycomplicated process with many, MANY variables! I always take the two pieces of fabric, and spread them apart at the seam - if it's tight, then the stitch is good! After all, what a stitch "looks" like is only important on stitching that will "show" on the visible portion of the project. Good info. I really wish someone wouldcome up with an anmation of an oscillating hook as well as the rotary animation, which has been around for years!

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