Tired of uneven, wonky seams and looking for ways to sew really straight? Especially when topstitching or hemming, where it can get really tricky since every little slip will be very visible.
Luckily there are lots of little tricks and (mostly free or inexpensive) tools that will make a huge difference. So let’s take a look at some of my faves.
1. Use a stack of post-it notes
A stack of post-it notes (Amazon affiliate link) is actually perfect to use as a seam guide to help you sew straighter. There is already glue on the back, so you can easily attach (and remove) the stack on your machine. And the height of the stack will prevent the fabric from slipping.
Especially when stitching wider hems or topstitching, the post-it stack is invaluable since it can be placed anywhere on the sewing machine.
2. Use a quilting guide/edge ruler
Did your sewing machine come with a long pin with an L-shaped end? That is a quilting guide bar (edge seam guide) which isn’t just for quilters. In fact, I do not quilt at all, yet I use this nifty tool on so many sewing projects.
What you do is insert the guide bar into a slot behind the presser foot and then use the screw/clamp to adjust the length of it.
Depending on the shape and your machine, you can often flip it down so that the L-shaped pin is covering the machine arm and then just let the fabric follow along the edge of the guide.
If your machine lacks this tool, you can buy them very cheaply here (Amazon affiliate link). Just make sure the guide is compatible with your machine and be aware that there are left and right-sided guides.
Plus you can use it for so many other things, such as sewing evenly spaced rows (in the photo above I am using it for shirring). So yes, I highly recommend getting a quilt guide, in fact, this is my number one favourite tool for helping me sew straighter and I’m sure it will be yours too!
3. Use a piece of tape
This is so simple, but totally worth mentioning because you don’t need to get special sewing machine stickers to help you sew straight. Instead, you can use washi tape, electrical tape (Amazon affiliate links) or any other type of tape that doesn’t leave a glue residue on the sewing machine when you remove the tape.
But do use a measuring tool to make sure the tape is placed 100% parallel to the plate so that it is not attached slightly on the diagonal, which can happen if you only rely on eye-balling for the placement.
4. Use an edge-guide presser foot
Of all the extra presser feet that we have access to, the edge-guide presser foot one is hands down one of the best investments you can make (if it isn’t included with your machine).
The genius thing about this foot is the little blade that you align along the edge of the fabric.
If you’re doing a lot of topstitching, stitching in the ditch or sewing anything where you need to sew really close to the edge, then this presser foot will make a HUGE difference. Because doing narrow stitching can be hard because you have such small margins to work with.
Most, if not all, sewing machine brands will have a version of this foot and you will not regret this purchase, promise! It’s usually called an edge guide or a topstitching foot.
5. Use a magnifying lamp
Struggling to sew straight on dark fabrics using a dark thread? It can be so hard, and it is not exactly getting easier with age. So one of the best sewing tool investments I have made is to get a magnifying sewing lamp (Amazon affiliate link).
Suddenly everything is so clear, even on the darkest fabrics and this lamp has helped my sewing immensely and I would never want to be without it again. I love using it for machine blind hemming too since it can be tricky to see that the thread properly catches the fabric when doing that stitch.
6. Use a piece of lego
Hopefully, you already have a piece of Lego lying around. If so, use it as a seam guide. In fact, I would argue that is often better than a magnetic seam guide since you can attach the piece of lego anywhere on the sewing machine. So this Lego piece is the longer one,
Now, you might wonder, how do I make this piece of Lego stick to the machine? Well, just use the gooey stuff used to attach things like posters to the wall. Common names for this product are Blu-tack (Amazon affiliate link)or adhesive putty and you can get it pretty much anywhere I think.
So if you haven’t discovered the joy of using Lego for sewing, I definitely think it’s time to do that now.
7. Practise controlling the fabric
Tools are of course great, but learning to sew straighter also involves practise and using the right methods to control the fabric during sewing. Use both hands to gently guide the fabric during sewing.
I personally like to pinch the right side with my fingers and then use the left hand to guide the fabric, the touch of your hands should be gentle yet somewhat firm, if that makes sense. Never pull or force the fabric as that can lead to uneven feeding and skipped stitches.
So there you have it, 7 ways to help you sew straighter. If you are a beginner reading this tutorial, also check out my beginner sewing machine tutorial, where I share even more tips on how to get better at using the machine.
M-CJanuary 27, 2022 at 4:55 pm
If you don’t really need a magnifying glass but can’t see well in the dark, Amazon has a full array of replacement LED bulbs for your sewing machine, for just a few bucks. Likewise you can upgrade any old office lamp with a standard-fitting LED lightbulb for under $5.
Louise MercierJanuary 29, 2022 at 11:11 pm
I love the lego’ s tip. Easy to find. Easy to tack to the machine. It’s a great idea.