Zig Zag STITCH – How To Zig Zag & Best Settings

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Zig zag stitch has such a lovely ring to the word as you say it. It is a really simple, but useful stitch. Almost every sewing machine has a zig zag stitch. It`s easy to recognize and even easier to do. Just a click of a dial on your machine and away you go with a zig and a zag.

Zig Zag StitchPinZig Zag Stitch


What is Zig Zag stitch? How to Zig Zag StitchTension for Zig Zag StitchPresser Foot for a Zig ZagUses for the Zig Zag Stitch?SEAM FINISHING SEWING STRETCHAPPLIQUE MENDING HEMSDECORATIVE GATHERINGBUTTONHOLES & BUTTONSLACE AND TRIMSEWING ELASTICZig-zag Stitch – In ConclusionMore Stitches

What is Zig Zag stitch?

A zig zag stitch is a geometric side to side stitch used for seam finishing, decorative sewing and sewing stretch fabric.

Zig zag stitch can be adjusted by changing the settings on the machine.  A higher number on your stitch length makes the zig-zag longer and the width dial will indicate the width of the stitch and change it to wider or narrower. 

A long stitch, zig zagging close together, produces a stitch called satin stitch. This can be used for applique or buttonholes. The zig zag stitch can be just plain useful or very decorative.

How to Zig Zag Stitch

Start testing your zig zag stitch on a scrap of fabric. It is best if it is folded double so you are sewing through two layers.

Set your stitch selector to zig zag stitchChoose your width and length. To start testing on your scrap, try a width of 5.0 and a length of 2.0. This will give you a medium-sized zig zag stitch which is still quite open.Place your fabric under the presser foot. Lower the foot and start slowly sewing. Make sure you hold the tails of the threads as you start to sew. This will prevent them from getting caught up in the dog feed. Check your scrap and then adjust the stitch width and length to suit your project. There are numerous suggestions for settings in the uses section below.

Zig Zag StitchZig Zag StitchPinZig Zag Stitch

Tension for Zig Zag Stitch

The zig zag stitch is a strong stitch, but if the tension is too tight the stitch will pucker and snap. 

Always check your sewing machine tension before trying the stitch on new fabrics.  It is possible to work a zig zag stitch by hand, but as most machines carry this stitch option, hand sewing a zig zag stitch is not really a necessary stitch to learn.

Full Article:Sewing Machine Tension

sewing machine tensionsewing machine tensionPinSewing Machine Tension

Presser Foot for a Zig Zag

Most of the time you can use the all-purpose presser foot for sewing zig zag. Some machines have a zig zag or satin stitch foot which has a slight groove underneath and a wider hole.

Uses for the Zig Zag Stitch?

Here are 10 uses for the zig zag stitch and some recommended settings for each. Try the settings on a scrap of fabric and then adjust them to your personal preference. You may need to make changes to suit the fabric you are using or just to suit the aesthetics you prefer.


The zig zag stitch is used for neatening raw edges if you don’t have an overlocker and need an ordinary seam edge neatened.

Zig Zag Stitch for Seam FinishingZig Zag Stitch for Seam FinishingPinZig Zag Stitch for Seam Finishing

There are 2 ways to do this:

#1 – Stitch a little way in from the edge and then trim back to the stitching. #2 – The zig zag stitch is sewed right on the edge with the outside of the stitch going off the fabric. This is the quickest way but you may have a small amount of puckering. Unless your fabric is really fine, this really doesn`t matter.

Further Reading: Seam Finishes without a Serger

You may find that a few stray fabric threads still come through but using zig zag for seam finishing is a really strong way to stop seam allowances fraying and will make your seam last longer.

TRY – Length 3.0 and width 3.0


Stretch knit fabrics needing a little give and take in the seam are best sewn with a longer zig zag stitch. If you sew a stretch fabric with a regular straight stitch, the stitches will break if the seam is stretched.

SEAMS – A very narrow zig zag stitch will give some stretch to the seam and prevent breaking. This is the most commonly sewn seam on leotards and swimwear when you are using your regular machine.

TRY – Length 2.5 and width 1.0

FINISHING – Stretch fabric doesn`t fray so you don`t usually need to seam finish the edges. For sewing leotards which will be under a lot of stress, you may wish to do a second row of zig zag along the seam edge to increase durability.

TRY – Length 3.0 and width 3.0

Full Articles

Sewing StretchSewing Leotards

Zig Zag Stitch for LycraZig Zag Stitch for LycraPinZig Zag Stitch for Lycra

Your machine will also have a 3 step zig zag that can be used for sewing stretch. Experiment on a scrap of fabric and make sure it doesn`t stretch the fabric out. My preference is always the simple zig zag but I know lots of people do use the 3 step.

Stretch StitchesStretch StitchesPinStretch Stitches


The zig zag, with the stitches close together, is a great stitch for appliqué. Set the machine on a high width setting and a short length setting for a close edging stitch. Normally the stitches touch or almost touch each other.

TRY – Length 0.5 and width 3.0

Zig Zag Stitch for AppliqueZig Zag Stitch for AppliquePinZig Zag Stitch for Applique


When you need a little mending done the zig zag is there to cover over the little worn and torn parts of a favorite garment. Put a patch of the same fabric under the tear and zig-zag to close the hole and make it a stronger repair job.

Full Article:How to Sew a Patch

Zig Zag Stitch for MendingZig Zag Stitch for MendingPinZig Zag Stitch for Mending


Decorative edges for hems and sleeves can be made with the zig zag.  Stitch close to the edge and pull the fabric to create a lettuce edge effect.

Full Article:Lettuce Hems

lettuce hemlettuce hemPinZig Zag Stitch for Hems


Add decorative effects to garments and tableware by using the zig zag stitch in a contrasting color. You can also use a zig-zag stitch with a twin needle for an interesting double effect.

Full Article:How to Sew with a Twin Needle

how to use a twin needlehow to use a twin needlePinZig Zag Stitch for Hems


While traditionally gathering is done with a straight stitch, there are certain circumstances when it is better to use a zig zag stitch.

For difficult fabrics such as tulle and thick fabrics, you can gather by zig zagging over a cord such as a crotchet yarn or detal floss. Be careful not to catch in the cord in the stitching and then gently pull the cord through the stitches to gather.

Full Article: Gathering with Cord

gathering with cordgathering with cordPinZig Zag Stitch for Gathering


A zig zag stitch can be used to sew on buttons. This saves a tremendous amount of time when you have numerous buttons to sew like those found down the front of a shirt.

You will need to set the length of the stitch on 0.0 so it doesn`t move but rather goes back and forth in the one place. The width will depend on the distance between the holes in the top of the button. Most machines have a special foot to sew buttons with an open toe so the needle does not hit the sides.

Full Article:How to Sew Buttons with a Machine

 Zig Zag Stitch for Buttons Zig Zag Stitch for ButtonsPinZig Zag Stitch for Buttons

Many machines have separate settings to sew buttonholes but all you really need is a machine with a simple zig zag stitch. Sew a narrow zig zag down the sides and then wider zig zag at the ends.

Full Article:How to Sew Buttonholes

how to sew a buttonholehow to sew a buttonholePinZig Zag Stitch for Buttonholes


Lace trim is best sewn with a zig zag stitch. Use it to secure the straight edge on thin lace or both edges on a wider lace. Usually, a small zig zag is used but you may want to increase the size if you have lace with a thick border.

Use a matching color thread. I just used green thread so you can see my stitching.

TRY – Length 2.0 and a width of 2.0

how to sew lace trim flathow to sew lace trim flatPinZig Zag Stitch for Lace Trim

You can use a zig zag to sew many other trims including fringing, sequins and ric-rac. See how secure the zig zag makes the sequins. If you use a matching color the stitching won`t be visible from a distance.

Zig Zag Stitch for SequinsZig Zag Stitch for SequinsPinZig Zag Stitch for Sequins

Full Articles:

How to Sew Lace TrimHow to Sew Sequin Trim



Leotards and swimwear have elastic added to the legs, arms and neck to help keep the garment in place and to stretch with an active body. Zig ag stitch is used to sew the secure the elastic and to give a durable stitch that won`t break when stretched.

Full Article: How to Sew Elastic in Leotards

Zig Zag Stitch for elasticZig Zag Stitch for elasticPinZig Zag Stitch for Leotard Elastic


Lycra bindings can also be sewn with a zig zag stitch and add a pretty pop of color and look really professional. Like most of the zig zag applications, if you use a matching color, it will blend into the fabric and be hardly visible.

Full Article:Binding Leotards and Swimwear

how to sew binding step 4how to sew binding step 4PinZig Zag Stitch for Binding


Zig zag stitch can be used to secure elastic to the waist of stretch bottoms such as skirts and leggings. The elastic is zig-zagged to the edge of the waist, folded down and then zig zagged again.

Full Article:How to Sew Elastic

sewing elastic, elastic waistbandsewing elastic, elastic waistbandPinZig Zag Stitch for Waistbands


Fold-over elastic can be used on stretch fabric for underwear and leotard sewing patterns. It makes an attractive edging particularly since it is readily available in so many colors and patterns. Zig zag stitch is used to hold the elastic in place and then stitch over the edge.

Full article:How to Sew Fold Over Elastic (with video)

underwear sewing patternsunderwear sewing patternsPinZig Zag Stitch for Fold Over Elastic

Zig-zag Stitch – In Conclusion

So carry on sewing the zig-zag stitch remembering its usefulness and its sturdy style. It’s definitely a winner in the sewing world.

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