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Machine Stitching for Couture Sewing

Video: Threads Magazine

In couture sewing, machine sewing is used routinely for plain seams. The notion that couture garments are sewn entirely by hand is only a myth. Claire B. Shaeffer, an expert in couture techniques, explains that most couture workrooms are equipped with an industrial straight-stitch machine, a zigzag machine, and may also include a multipurpose machine like a home sewing machine. Most machine stitching is done with a basic straight stitch.

Tools and supplies

The items Claire recommends for couture sewing by machine are readily available.

Threads: Depending on your fabric, you may use silk; lightweight, 100 percent cotton; regular-weight, 100 percent cotton; or cotton-wrapped polyester.

Needles: Opt for needles with sharp points. Jeans needles have a strong shank; quilting needles have a slender shank; microtex needles have an acute point. For knits, use a universal needle, which has a slightly rounded point.

Presser foot: Because almost all your machine stitching will use a straight stitch, install a straight-stitch foot. This provides control. A wider version gives you better visibility.

Machine-sewing seams

Start by thread-tracing the seamlines, then hand-baste the seam. Remove thread tracing, so it’s easy to remove after machine-sewing through it.

Press the basted seam as sewn before sewing by machine. This melds the fabric layers together for smoother, more accurate stitching.

Straight-stitch right on the basting line. This is especially important on seams that aren’t straight. Don’t backstitch at either end.


When you sit at the machine, center your body in front of the needle, and sit at a height where your elbows are slightly higher than your wrists, and your wrists can rest on the machine. This prevents repetitive stress injuries.

Remove the basting stitches. Break them with a seam ripper, then pull gently. If you have based with a soft, breakable basting thread, the…


About This Video Series

This video series features three hours of insider tips and secrets for creating high-end couture garments and home accessories. See an expert at work as Claire Shaeffer illustrates the basic techniques that take sewing to the next level -- from hand sewing and machine stitching to marking methods, pressing, and hemming.

More About this Video Series


  1. user-5910757 | | #1

    Thank you so much for these helpful tips! They are much better than the methods I learned and use.✂️

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