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What is Zigzag Stitch?

There are certain sewing projects where a straight stitch may not be sufficient. When you want to stitch a stretchable fabric or reinforce a buttonhole, a straight stitch may not suffice. A zigzag stitch comes as a boon in such a situation.

What is a Zigzag Stitch?

A zigzag stitch is a back and forth stitch that is used when a straight stitch is not adequate. The primary purpose of the zigzag stitch is to enclose the fabric thread so that the edges of the fabric do not shred off. By adjusting the width and length of the stitch, you can control the quantity of the thread that is enclosed in the stitch. The larger the thread that you want to enclose in the stitch, the large should be the width and length of the zigzag stitch.

Let us have a look at the uses of the zigzag stitch and how it can be done.

What is a Zigzag Stitch Used For?

The zigzag stitch is a versatile stitch. It is typically used when a straight stitch is not adequate because of the nature of the work. When you want to join two fabrics or stitch a stretchable material, a zigzag stitch can be used.

  • To finish the edges: When you cut a piece of fabric, say for making a napkin or a handkerchief, its edges will shred off. If you have a serger, then you can fix the edges from fraying off. But in the absence of a serger, a zigzag stitch comes handy for closing the sides.

For this, you have to place the edge beneath the presser foot and slowly sew the zigzag stitch. You can then trim the cloth close to the stitch, and the side will be enclosed within the stitch.

  • Sewing stretchy fabric:If you want to sew stretchy fabric like knitwear, then the zigzag stitch can be used. If you use a straight stitch in such fabric, then the stitch will come off at some point in time. A zigzag stitch ensures that the stitch stays in place even when the material is stretched.

For knit fabric, it is best to go for a narrow zigzag stitch with a low width and length so that the fabric can stretch fully.

  • To hold a seam: A zigzag stitch can also be used to hold two fabric together. But it is best to join the fabric with a straight stitch and then back up the stitch using a zigzag stitch. If only a zigzag stitch is used on a seam, then the fabric will gather together in some area and may not provide a perfect finish.
  • To stitch tears:If you have a tear on your garment, the best way to mend it is by going for a zigzag stitch. This stitch holds both the garments together and prevents the edges from fraying off. If you feel that the garment stretches after sewing along, then you can attach a small piece of cloth on the wrong side and sew it.

While using a zigzag stitch for mending a tear, you should make sure that the thread used is of the same color as the fabric so that the mending is not visible.

  • For making a buttonhole: A buttonhole can be easily made with a zigzag stitch. A buttonhole consists of one line of zigzag stitch done vertically, followed by a few horizontal zigzag stitches that form the base. The stitch is then continued to create one more line of vertical zigzags followed by one small line of horizontal zigzag, opposite the base. This covers the entire circumference of the buttonhole.

While creating a buttonhole, make sure that the stitch length and width are set to low, so that you get a perfect finish.

  • For creating beautiful embroidery work: If you want to create decorative embroidery work on your fabric, then you can use the zigzag stitch. Instead of ordinary thread, you can go for a metallic or double shaded thread to provide a unique finish to the work.
  • For fixing applique work: If you want to fix beautiful applique work on fabric, then the zigzag stitch can be used. This stitch prevents the edges from fraying and the applique remains as such for a long time. You can either use thread in the same color as the fabric or contrast colored one.
  • For attaching trims:The zigzag stitch can also be used to attach trims like ribbon, ruffles or even beautiful embellishments on the sides of apparel and furnishing.
  • For attaching elastic: Since the zigzag stitch is used for stitching stretchy fabrics, it can be used to fix elastic to fabric. Unlike a straight stitch that remains fixed, a zigzag stitch stretches along with the elastic thus providing great flexibility.

How Do You Do A Zigzag Stitch?

As mentioned earlier, the primary purpose of a zigzag stitch is to enclose all the loose threads on the fabric edge and to prevent the edges from fraying off. Thus, the length and width of the stitch should depend upon the amount of thread that needs to be enclosed.

If you are stitching heavy fabric like burlap or velvet, then the stitch length and width should be large to contain all the loose threads of the fabric. On the other hand, if you are stitching a light fabric like cotton or silk, then you can go for shorter stitches to enclose all the loose threads of the fabric.

Below are the steps for doing a zigzag stitch:

  • Set your machine

Set your machine first by threading the bobbin and the needle. The thread tension should neither be loose nor too tight so that you get a firm stitch. Once done, you should set the zigzag setting on the machine. The setting can vary depending on the brand of the sewing machine. For most of the brands, zigzag lines will represent the stitch.

  • Adjust the width and length of the stitch

Width refers to the height of the zigzag stitch. A higher width will make the stitch look bigger and more prominent, and a lower width will make it look shorter.

The length, on the other hand, refers to the distance between two legs of the stitch. The more the length, the flatter the stitch will be. Depending on the purpose of the stitch and the fabric you are using, you can select the length and width of the stitch. You can even go for a default setting if the length and width of the stitch do not matter.

  • Start sewing

Now, you can place the sewing part of the fabric below the presser foot. Slowly lower the foot and start stitching. When you start sewing, the needle moves from left to right and then again back to the left to create a zigzag pattern.

While doing the stitch, you should guide the fabric with one hand so that the stitch goes in the direction you want. Do not pull the material by any chance. Also, do not go for a double stitch as it can affect the overall look of the stitch.

  • Finish off the sewing

Once you are done with stitching, cut the thread a few inches away from the edge of the fabric. Then tie a small knot to secure the stitch. This ensures that the thread does not come off when you use the fabric.

Is zigzag Stitch Stronger?

Whether a particular stitch is strong or not depends upon the fabric on which it is used. A zigzag stitch is best suited for a stretchy material as it has the ability to stretch along with the fabric.

If a straight stitch is used on a stretchy fabric, then the stitch might either break when you stretch the fabric, or you will not be able to stretch the fabric because of the strength of the stitch. On the other hand, if a zigzag stitch is used on a stretchy fabric, then the stitch does not break as itstretches along with the material.

What Are the Things to Keep in Mind While Using a zigzag Stitch?

  • Go through the instruction manual of your sewing machine to clearly understand how to set the zigzag mode.
  • Always practice on a rough piece of cloth before trying the stitch on a garment. This way, mistakes if any, can easily be identified and rectified.
  • Understand the texture of the fabric clearly before selecting the length and width of the stitch. If you need to enclose more threads, then the length and width should be chosen accordingly.
  • If you are using a zigzag stitch to mend a tear, make sure that the thread used is of the same color as the fabric. This provides a seamless finish to the garment.

The success of any sewing project depends on its perfect finish. A zigzag stitch, by enclosing all the loose threads of the fabric, provides a flawless finish to any sewing project.


Hello, I am Jessica Flores, and you are welcome to my website. I am a professional fashion designer and a seamstress. I always carried a passion for craftwork. My love for craft grew along with time. I have spent years researching and practicing in this field to gather colossal experience.

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