5 Ways With Zigzag Stitch


bag made from coffee sacks, upcycled fabric and zig zag stitching techniquesDecorative, durable, strong, and long lasting, the zigzag stitch is tried-and-true. With my slipcover-business leftovers, I like to sew fun projects with my Janome Schoolmate S-3015. Zigzagging fulfills the practical, the whimsical, and the immediate needs for so many projects around my house and garden.

Luckily, I have an outlet for the things I make with my fabric recyclables. Veronique Vanblaere of Naked Art Gallery encourages artists to reuse, recycle, repurpose. She is an amazing artist and her gallery is full of wonderful upcycled art. I love seeing my work there.

Designers and friends also give me their discontinued fabric samples to add to my collection. Woody Wiginton of Finer Grind Coffee Roasters gave me a box of beautiful coffee bags. Some of them are braided together instead of sewn closed. Some have graphics printed on them. I love these features and I like to incorporate them into the designs of whatever I make. I am using coffee bag garden totes to illustrate the five ways for zigzag.

First, get to know your machine and learn its capabilities. To experiment, take a long piece of canvas and go through the settings in one long run, making adjustments to stitch length and width as you go. Remember to stop and bring the needle up to its highest point before making each adjustment. With this, you’ll have a more intuitive understanding when you begin a project.

1) Simple Serge: Zigzag stitching along raw edges or top-stitching a seam will keep fabric from fraying and give a nice finished appearance. With loose weave, it is important to finish edges or you run the risk of your whole project unraveling. Depending on the fabric’s weight and weave, make adjustments to the stitch width and length for the desired finish. Fold an edge in and stitch, or stitch right up to the edge. This technique can be used for making terrycloth washcloths, patchwork picnic blankets, tablecloth hems, remnant napkins, and wall hangings.

simple serge technique with zig zag stitch

Zigzag stitches at the fabric edges prevent fraying without the need for a serger.

2) Stiffen Layers: If you need to sew layers together and get rid of the flop, repeat stitch lines for a strong and sturdy super cloth. Use for tote handles, hat brims, potholders, and coasters.

zig zag stitch used to stiffen layers on a bag handle

Repeated zigzag stitch lines add strength.

3) Applique: Sew patches onto your favorite backpack or tote, embellish an apron, make fabric gift cards, personalized cloth napkins, or make a piece of art to hang on the wall with fabric scraps. The stitch serves a double duty by preventing fraying and by adding a decorative look to projects.

zig zag stitch used for applique

Use a zigzag stitch for applique, like adding these colorful stripes to the coffee sack base.

4) Bar Tacking: Adjust the stitch length to near zero for a tight and neat bar tack. This is the strongest stitch and it is great for fixing your child’s school backpack and for repairing camping gear. It is the stitch of choice for sewing on ties to aprons or handles to bags.

zig zag stitch used for bar tacking

Use a zigzag stitch to tack on handles. They’ll be strong and secure.

5) Decorative Ties: Add strength and whimsy to jute or thin ribbon by running it through the machine, not just once, but two or three times. The color stitching gives a fun look on ties for aprons, gift bags, tote closures, gift wrapping, name tags, or headbands.

zig zag stitch used for decorative ties

Create ties that are colorful and functional with a zigzag stitch.

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About Michelle Reynolds 


I’m a slipcover maker who refuses to fill the trash with the cutaway bits of designer fabrics, so I strive to make use of every scrap. I live with my ...

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