What is a Zigzag Stitch in Sewing Machine – Guide

Last Updated on May 9, 2023

If you are new to sewing and wondering what a zigzag stitch is? Or you’ve been sewing for a while but haven’t explored all the functions of your sewing machine yet. Whatever the question is, understanding the zigzag stitch is essential for any sewing project.

Sewing machines have come a long way since their invention in the 19th century. Today, they have various stitches and features that can overwhelm beginners. However, mastering the basic stitches is crucial before moving on to more complex ones.

What is a Zigzag Stitch in Sewing Machine
Image Source: Shutterstock, Canva

Here, we’ll explore what a zigzag stitch is, how it works, and when to use it. By the end of this article, you’ll better understand this essential stitch and be able to use it confidently in your sewing projects.

What is a zigzag stitch used for? What is the purpose of it?

A zigzag stitch is used for various sewing applications, including seam finishing, Applique, Bartacks, and satin stitching. Seam finishing with a zigzag stitch helps prevent fraying and provides a neat edge to the fabric. In applique, it is used to attach one piece of fabric securely to another with a decorative finish.

Bartacks are short, strong zigzag stitches used to reinforce stress points on garments, such as buttonholes, pockets, or belt loops. Satin stitching involves closely spaced zigzag stitches that create a smooth, glossy surface, often used for monograms or decorative elements. Using a Satin Stitch Foot when working with the zigzag stitch can help prevent fabric puckering, ensuring a more polished result.

Who invented the zig zag sewing machine?

Helen Blanchard
Helen Blanchard
Source: invent

Helen Blanchard is the inventor of the zigzag stitch sewing machine. She patented the invention in 1873, and the zigzag stitch was used for sealing the edges of a seam to make a garment sturdier.

What is the most common use of the zigzag stitch?

The zigzag stitch is most commonly used to sew stretchy materials like knitted fabrics and neoprene. This stitch is essential when working with these materials because it can stretch with the fabric, ensuring a secure and flexible seam.

Is zigzag stitch stronger than straight?

A straight stitch is stronger than a zigzag stitch. A straight seam distributes force throughout a long line, but a zigzag seam concentrates force at the zig and zag points. This suggests that a straight seam is more resistant to tearing and, therefore, stronger than a zigzag seam.

What is a zigzag stitch called?

A zigzag stitch, often called an “Accordion stitch”, is characterized by its back-and-forth pattern that resembles a series of zigzags or accordions. It features stitch width and length, both of which can change depending on the desired result.

The unique pattern created by varying the length and width of the stitch allows it to provide stretch and flexibility, making it particularly useful in sewing projects that require elasticity.

What are the advantages of a zigzag stitch?

zigzag stitch
Image Source: Shutterstock

The advantages of zigzag stitch are:

  • Creates a stretchy seam: The zigzag stitch allows for elongation, making it ideal for fabrics that need to stretch without breaking the seam, such as knits or activewear.
  • Distributes stress well across seems: This feature is important in sail-making, where sails are subject to constant tension and stress from the wind. The zigzag stitch effectively spreads the stress across the seam, making it more durable and long-lasting.
  • Holds down wide seam areas: The broad stitch width of the zigzag stitch effectively secures and holds down wide seam areas, ensuring a stable and well-constructed seam.
  • Decorative appeal: Besides its functional benefits, the zigzag stitch can be more visually appealing than straight stitches, adding a decorative element to the finished product.

What are the disadvantages of zigzag stitches?

The disadvantages of zigzag stitch are:

  • Puckering: Zigzag stitches can sometimes cause puckering of the seam allowance, which may cause an uneven and unattractive appearance.
  • Impressions on lightweight fabric: If the zigzag stitches are not pressed properly, they may leave visible impressions on the outer side of lightweight fabric, affecting the overall appearance and quality of the finished garment or project.

How to do zigzag stitch? (video)

To sew a zigzag stitch, follow these steps:

  • Change your sewing machine from straight stitch to zigzag by twisting the pattern dial until you reach the zigzag setting.
  • Set your stitch width. If your machine has a separate width dial, use that. Otherwise, use the stitch selector to adjust the width. Set it to the widest zigzag for this example.
  • Set your stitch length to 2.5, providing a moderate distance between each stitch.
  • Change your presser foot to one with a wide opening to accommodate the zigzag stitch. Remove the straight stitching foot by pressing the quick-release lever, and attach the foot.
  • Place both of your needle threads toward the machine’s back, under the presser foot.
  • Fold your fabric in half as if you’re stitching two pieces together, and place it under the presser foot. Lower the presser foot and align the fabric with the 5/8-inch seam guide.
  • Sew your zigzag stitch, observing how the needle bounces from left to right.

What is a 3-step zigzag stitch?

A 3-step zigzag stitch is a variation of the standard zigzag stitch used in sewing, where instead of forming a simple up-and-down pattern, it takes three stitches on the upward part of the zigzag and three stitches on the downward part.

This creates a more secure and reinforced stitch, which is useful for stretchy fabrics, reinforcing seams, and preventing fraying edges. The 3-step zigzag stitch offers increased flexibility and strength compared to a traditional zigzag stitch, making it a valuable addition to any sewing project.

What is zigzag style?

The zigzag style refers to a design or artistic approach incorporating the zigzag pattern, consisting of a series of small corners at variable angles, tracing a path between two parallel lines. This pattern is both jagged and fairly regular, creating a visually engaging and dynamic aesthetic.

The zigzag style can be found in various forms of art, architecture, textiles, and graphic design. It is used to add visual interest, movement, and a sense of rhythm to the overall composition.

What is a zigzag sewing machine?

A zigzag sewing machine is a type of sewing machine designed to create a zigzag stitch, which is a variant geometry of the lockstitch. The zigzag stitch is characterized by its back-and-forth pattern, making it ideal for applications where a straight stitch would be inadequate.

This involves reinforcing buttonholes, stitching stretchable fabrics, and temporarily joining two work pieces edge-to-edge. Zigzag sewing machines are versatile and can typically perform both straight and zigzag stitches, making them a valuable tool in various sewing projects.

What is a zigzag sewing machine used for?

A zigzag sewing machine is used for various sewing techniques, primarily by utilizing the zigzag stitch. This versatile stitch is ideal for seam finishing, applique, barracks, satin stitching, and more.

The zigzag stitch can join fabrics, create decorative designs, and provide additional reinforcement for seams. Using a Satin Stitch Foot with the zigzag sewing machine can be helpful in preventing fabric puckering during certain sewing techniques.

What is the difference between zigzag and overlock?

overlock vs zigzag
Image Source: Canva

Zigzag and overlock stitches are both used in sewing but serve different purposes. Based on the information about the difference between zigzag and straight stitch, we can highlight the differences between zigzag and overlock stitches:

Zigzag stitch

  • A zigzag stitch is created by the sewing machine, moving the needle left to right, forming a zigzag pattern.
  • This stitch uses more thread than a straight stitch.
  • It is less subtle looking and neat for topstitching than a straight stitch.
  • A Zigzag stitch can be harder to line up accurately with a seam line or edge than a straight stitch.
  • The primary function of a zigzag stitch is to prevent fabric edges from fraying and to add stretch to a seam, making it suitable for stretchy fabrics like knits.

Overlock stitch

  • An overlock stitch is created by an overlock or serger machine, which uses multiple threads to wrap around the edge of the fabric.
  • This stitch creates a more secure and professional finish than a zigzag stitch.
  • Overlock stitches are used to create neat, clean, and finished edges on fabric, preventing fraying and providing a more durable seam.
  • They are ideal for use with fabrics that fray easily or require additional seam strength, such as knits or woven fabrics.
  • Overlock stitches are not typically used for topstitching, as they encase and protect the raw edges of the fabric.

So, while both zigzag and overlock stitches prevent fraying and accommodate stretch in fabrics, zigzag stitches are created using a sewing machine with the needle moving left to the right, and overlock stitches are created with an overlock or serger machine using multiple threads to wrap around the fabric edges.

Zigzag stitches are less neat and harder to line up accurately compared to straight stitches, while overlock stitches provide a more secure and professional finish.

What tension is a zigzag stitch?

The ideal tension for a zigzag stitch is 4.5 on a sewing machine with a setting options dial ranging from 0 to 9. This setting is suitable for almost as many fabrics.

Tips to stitch zigzag stitch

  • Experiment with different stitch widths and lengths to achieve different effects. Wider zigzags can provide more coverage, while narrower zigzags can be more subtle.
  • A shorter stitch length will create a denser zigzag with less space between peaks, while a longer stitch length will produce a more open zigzag pattern.
  • Always use the presser foot for the type of stitch you’re sewing to avoid breaking your needle or damaging your machine.
  • Practice sewing zigzag stitches on scrap fabric to get a feel for how the different settings affect the result.
  • Zigzag stitches can be used for various purposes, such as joining fabrics, finishing raw edges, and creating decorative patterns.


The zigzag stitch may seem like a simple feature on your sewing machine, but it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your sewing projects. From finishing edges to create decorative designs, a zigzag stitch is a versatile tool every sewing enthusiast should have in their arsenal. So, experiment with this stitch and see how it can take your sewing skills to the next level!

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