Tips for Sewing a Straight Line
Do you sometimes struggle with maintaining a straight line as you sew? Are you looking for useful tips and tricks for making your sewing life easier? Then you’ve come to the right place! At Sailrite®, we love sharing clever tips we’ve picked up over the years from all of our sewing projects and how-to videos. Today, we’ll show you our method of achieving perfectly straight stitch lines — every time!
The trick is to feed fabric smoothly through the machine so you get nice-looking stitches and a straight seam line. The best way to keep your seam line straight is to use your hands to guide the fabric as you sew. If you don’t use your hands to guide the fabric, your seam line will swerve and veer all over the place, especially on larger assemblies with fabric hanging over your sewing surface and weighing down and pulling at the fabric assembly.
We’ve found that sewing in short bursts while keeping our hands still and steady on the fabric on either side of the needle results in the straightest stitch lines. If you try to continuously sew and keep the machine running, you’re forced to slide your hands down the fabric as it’s fed through the presser foot. Sliding your hands around can cause your stitching to deviate as you shift and pull at the fabric assembly.
Here's what we suggest: Sew a short segment, stop, readjust your hands on the fabric assembly, and then continue sewing. This results in nice, even-looking stitches and straight seam lines. By sewing in brief segments, we can ensure that we have full control over the position of the fabric under the presser foot and that we are sewing in perfectly straight lines for a professional-looking project.
This sewing method is ideal when you have a very large or heavy sewing project. If the fabric is resting on your lap or pooling on the floor, stopping every few inches or so (or whatever feels natural to you) lets you adjust the fabric and work out any creases or folds before resuming sewing. Though this process takes longer, it could save you time in the long run by not having to rip out stitches and redo crooked seam lines.
If you need to make a big adjustment and move the fabric assembly around — such as when you’re sewing sails or sail covers and you need to keep rolling the material so it fits under the arm of the machine — a useful trick is to bury the needle. With the needle buried, you can shift the fabric, move it around, and make all the adjustments you need without losing your place. When you’re ready to start sewing, simply continue on.
A common sewing mistake beginners make is to “force” the fabric under the machine and attempt to steer the fabric. Do not do this! Let the sewing machine do the work. You do not need to push the material toward the needle or pull from the back side of the machine. Doing so will result in messy stitches and puckered fabric.
Watch our short video to see how Eric sews straight lines on a very large canvas project by sewing in short bursts. Eric will sew the wrong way and show you what happens when you try to shift your hands while the machine is still in operation. He’ll also demonstrate using a sewing guide to help keep stitches straight when sewing hems.
This method works for us, and we’ve found we can achieve very straight seam lines when moving our hands up the fabric assembly. But the most important thing is to try it for yourself and see if it works for you. You might have a different way to sew straight stitch lines — and that’s fine! What’s important is to find a way that works for you that you’re comfortable with. If you have a different way of keeping your stitch lines straight as you sew, please share it in the comments!