How to Sew Straight Lines

The very first time you sew with a sewing machine can feel intimidating and awkward—sewing a straight line might even feel impossible. Once you understand a few simple tricks and give yourself lots of time to practice, you begin to see significant improvement in your work. If you make a consistent effort, you'll soon be mastering the sewing machine and sewing perfectly straight lines and the feelings of frustration will be left in the past.

  • 01 of 06

    How to Set a Seam Guide

    Woman using sewing machine at home.
    Dougal Waters/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    In order to have a straight line of stitching, you'll need to reference the seam guide on your sewing machine. The seam guide is a line on your machine that you want the edge of the fabric to align with as you sew. When stitching, guide the fabric edges to trace your desired seam guide in order to achieve your pattern's prescribed seam allowance.

  • 02 of 06

    Watch the Guides

    Guides to Use on a Presser Foot
    Debbie Colgrove

    If you want to sew straight, train yourself to watch the guide and not the sewing machine needle. Since the needle is constantly moving, you will not sew straight if you watch it as you stitch. The seam guide does not move so it's much better to focus there as your fabric moves along, resulting in much straighter seams.

  • 03 of 06

    Speed Control

    Sewing Machine Foot Pedals
    Debbie Colgrove

    To learn your machine's speed control, try using your machine without any thread or fabric. This will give you the freedom to focus on the speed while not worrying about anything else. When you're learning to sew, controlling the speed of the sewing machine is a very important step in controlling your stitching.

    Many sewing machine models offer a speed setting dial you can adjust from very slow to very fast—sometimes turtle and hare icons are used to depict the different ends of the dial. If your machine is very basic and does not have this setting, you might want to try sewing barefoot to gain control of the foot pedal. If you want to be sure you won't sew too fast, find an object like a small scrap of wood that will fit against the foot pedal and prevent your foot from pressing it the whole way down.

  • 04 of 06

    Sewing Machine Needles

    Threading a Sewing Machine Needle
    Debbie Colgrove

    A sewing machine needle that does not properly penetrate the fabric while the stitches are being created can cause the stitching to look crooked or like a narrow zigzag stitch. Using the correct needle for the fabric you are sewing is an important part of allowing the sewing machine to form beautiful stitching.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Know Your Sewing Machine

    A Collection of Sewing Machine Manuals
    Debbie Colgrove

    Knowing your sewing machine and its capabilities will help you solve any sewing problem that you experience. If you buy your sewing machine from a local shop, the dealer will likely offer lessons to help you get the most out of your sewing machine. If you purchase your sewing machine second-hand or from a box store, make sure the sewing machine manual is included. Read the manual and refer to it often as you begin to learn to sew.

  • 06 of 06

    Practice

    Practice Sewing Curves
    Debbie Colgrove

    Nobody is able to sew perfectly on the first try—sewing takes a lot of practice. Gather scraps of fabric and allow yourself to practice different sewing techniques. By practicing you'll have more confidence when you start sewing an actual project. There are many free patterns for beginners that use scraps of fabric so you can practice without investing a lot of money.

Test Your Skills

Now that you understand what it takes to sew a straight line, it's time to put these tips to use and start a project. Experiment with different threads and fabrics, and keep trying until you're pleased with your work. Before you know it, you'll be sewing straight lines in your sleep.