Techniques: Perfect Satin Stitch

Satin Stitch Turning a Corner

The newer sewing machines have a built-in tight stitch that is sometimes called a satin or applique stitch. Nearly all sewing machines built in the last 30 years or so have a zigzag stitch that can be adjusted to make a satin stitch. It doesn't matter which you own, you can make a good looking satin stitch.

The secret to good satin stitch is tension and stitch length. The new computerized machines automatically set the tension for satin stitch; however in most cases you can override it. This is especially important when you are using metallic threads. To find the right combinations of tension and stitch length, spend plenty of time practicing on a scrap of the fabric you'll be using with a piece of stabilizer backing it.

Basic Information
Satin Stitch Straight and Curved

The faster you sew the easier it is to guide the applique under the needle. Use your fingertips to guide the fabric. Regardless of how fast or slow you sew, too much pressure on the fabric prevents it from moving easily under the needle.

Always use a stabilizer behind the applique. It prevents the satin stitch from rippling, distorting, and generally annoying you.

Tension and Stitch Length

The tension is correct when the upper threads wrap around to the back with a bit of it showing on either side or even one side of the bobbin thread. No bobbin thread shows on the top of the fabric.

If the bobbin thread pulls to the top of the fabric, the tension is too tight and some of the bobbin thread will show on the right side of the fabric.

The tension is too loose if no bobbin thread shows anywhere on the fabric. In this case, the bobbin thread is not anchoring the stitch and tugging on it can easily pull it out.

Write down the settings (they will be handy when you begin your project) as a good starting point.

Upper Threads Wrap Around
Bobbin thread too tight

Sewing Squares and Rectangles

By starting the satin stitch in the center of a line rather than in the corner, it is much easier to match up at the end.

Squares and Rectangles

Sewing Corners

Sew to the edge of the applique; place the needle in the down position, pivot the fabric and line up the applique again to sew down the next edge.

Raise the needle and the presser foot slightly. Move the applique a sewing thread or two towards the rear of the sewing machine. Lower the presser foot. Gently lower the needle down into the outside edge of the applique and begin to sew.

This technique prevents a sewing thread or two from hanging over the edge of the corner, and makes the corners look square.

Sewing Circles

Large circles are nice and easy to sew because they can often be sewn without stopping. Smaller circles need more care - sew them a few stitches at a time. Since the presser foot is designed to sew in a straight line, it's necessary to pivot around the arc of the circle.

Do this by gently lowering the needle down on the outside edge of the applique, raising the presser foot a little, and turning the fabric slightly to begin sewing again. Repeat the process until the circle is complete.

Gently lowering the needle down along the outside edge before pivoting prevents the fabric from moving. When the needle is in the up position, it is more difficult to position the fabric properly to keep the circle from becoming distorted.

Sewing Points

Computerized machines make sewing points difficult. They go down in width increments of .05 and do not have an over ride to go in smaller decreases like the older machine will do. If the newer machine has different positions for the needle, the points can be decreased on one side, then switch the needle position to the other side and gradually increase the width of the stitch.

This is way more work than I want to. A good friend devised this method instead,which on closer observation is not pointed at all.

Satin stitch to the end of the point, gently lower the needle, raise the presser foot slightly and turn the applique, lining it up to sew down the other side. Hold the fabric steady and lower the needle to the other side of the applique point. Now begin to sew down the other side of the point. You will sew over a few stitches in the process.