How to Zigzag Stitch

The zigzag stitch is a setting on standard and advanced sewing machines that you can use to create a secure hem or for decorative purposes. It is a simple stitch to use, but understanding how to set your machine to this setting, work with the stitch, and when to use it can be helpful. Try using this stitch on an upcoming sewing project to advance your sewing skills.


EditSetting Your Sewing Machine

  1. Thread the bobbin and needle. To get started, begin setting up your machine as usual. Thread the bobbin and needle as you normally do when preparing to use your sewing machine. Then, turn the hand wheel once so that the thread will catch.[1]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 1.jpg
    • Make sure that the thread tension is firm but not too tight as well. Having tension that is too tight may result in broken thread, while loose tension may result in sloppy stitches.
    • You may use any type of thread for this stitch. The zigzag stitch is often used as a decorative one, so using a contrasting tread may produce an attractive result. For example, you could use red thread on a blue skirt hem, or secure the edges of a purple blanket with yellow thread.
  2. Set your machine to the zigzag setting. Your machine may indicate what setting is the zigzag setting right on the machine, or you may need to check the instruction manual that came with your machine.[2]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 2.jpg
    • On most machines, the zigzag setting will be represented by a straight up and down zigzag stitch. This is the setting for the regular zigzag stitch. Choose this setting versus the one that has a slight slant to it.
  3. Adjust the width and length of the stitch as desired. You can stick with the default settings on your machine, or adjust the width and length of the zigzag stitch to suit your needs. [3]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 3.jpg
    • The width refers to how high your peaks are in the zigzag stitches.
    • The length refers to how far apart each zigzag stitch will be.

EditSewing the Stitch

  1. Insert your fabric and lower the presser foot. When you are ready to begin sewing, place your fabric under the presser foot and lower the presser foot onto the fabric. This will hold your fabric as you sew it.[4]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 4.jpg
    • Make sure to hold your fabric in front of the presser foot and behind it to guide it. Do not pull on your fabric, but keep a firm grip on it and keep it flat.
  2. Turn the hand wheel once or twice and then press on the pedal. To start sewing, it is a good idea to turn the hand wheel once or twice to get the stitching started. Then, slowly press down on the pedal to start the machine. Hold your fabric as you sew to help guide it into the machine.[5]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 5.jpg
    • Make sure that you do not press too hard on the pedal. Sewing to quickly may result in a sloppy looking stitch.
  3. Sew to the end of the fabric, but don’t double up. The zigzag stitch is a strong decorative stitch, so it is not necessary to go over the fabric more than once. Going over the fabric more than once might strengthen the seam further, but it will not look as nice if you double up on it. Only go over each edge one time for best results.
    Zigzag Stitch Step 6.jpg
  4. Tie the end of the thread in a knot and trim off the excess. When you reach the end of your fabric and you are finished sewing, cut the thread several inches away from the fabric. Then, tie the ends in a knot to secure the thread. Cut the excess thread, and your zigzag stitch is complete.[6]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 7.jpg

EditDeciding When to Use the Stitch

  1. Prevent fraying with a zigzag. The zigzag stitch can be an excellent option for finishing seams and preventing fraying. You can sew along the edge of a seam and it will be less likely to fray and come loose.[7][8]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 8.jpg
    • You can also use the zigzag stitch to hem items and prevent them from fraying. Use the zigzag stitch in place of a straight stitch when hemming skirts, pants, sleeves, or other items that require a hem.
  2. Add decorative flair. The zigzag stitch can also serve as a decorative stitch to add interest to your sewing projects. Try hemming a simple blanket or napkin with a zigzag stitch.[9]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 9.jpg
  3. Create a firm hold. You can also back a seam with a zigzag stitch to ensure that it will be secure. It is not a good idea to use a zigzag stitch on its own to make a seam because the finished result will pucker in some areas. However, backing a straight stitch seam with a zigzag stitch can help to ensure that the seam will stay put.[10]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 10.jpg
  4. Make buttonholes. The zigzag stitch also works great when you are using your sewing machine to sew along the edges of buttonholes. Just make sure to set the stitch width to a marrow setting and the stitch length to a short setting before you begin sewing along the edges of buttonholes.[11]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 11.jpg
  5. Use it to secure elastic. Since zig zag stitches are not right next to each other like a straight stitch, they will have some give when used with stretch fabrics and elastic. Try using the zigzag stitch to secure elastic to your garments or when working with a stretch fabric.[12]
    Zigzag Stitch Step 12.jpg


EditThings You’ll Need

  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Project

EditSources and Citations

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