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How a Stitch is Made


Learn how a stitch is made, how to thread a machine, and how a sewing machine works. Threads Contributing Editor Judith Neukam contrasts a machine-sewn stitch with a hand-worked stitch. She then explains how to thread a machine, demonstrating on an older machine where the escapements and tension disks are readily visible.

You’ll see how a presser foot and feed dogs function to hold and move the fabric during stitching, and how to wind and load a bobbin. Then, Judith shows how the thread moves during stitching.

Finally, watch a fascinating animation of how a stitch is formed, when the needle pushes the upper thread downward, where it is caught by the bobbin hook to form a lockstitch.

Teach Yourself to Sew

Garment sewing expert Judith Neukam got her first taste of sewing when she took the free lessons that came with her mother’s sewing machine purchase. Judith was 9 at the time. Soon after, she was sewing her own clothes and feeding her passion for the craft. In her Teach Yourself to Sew series, Judith shares her enduring love of sewing and her invaluable years of sewing experience.

Getting started

She starts with discussing the equipment and the essential sewing notions for anyone who sews. You’ll learn about shopping for fabrics, choosing patterns (including selecting the correct size), and planning the perfect pattern layout. From machine-sewing simple seams to inserting zippers and stitching buttonholes, Judith demonstrates the key steps to making a custom garment.

Discover methods for clean-finishing seam allowances and applying facings so all edges are neat. To add shape to garments, Judith explains how and why to sew darts, and how to gather fabric for volume. Other garment elements, such as sleeves, pockets, and elasticized waistbands, are shown in easy-to-follow video tutorials.

Advancing your skills

When you’re ready to challenge yourself further, tune in to Judith’s overview of couture garments and sewing techniques. Even if you never intend to become the next Coco Chanel, you’ll learn methods that add quality to your everyday wardrobe. Find out how to perfectly match stripes, plaids, and prints; baste seams; and insert underlinings and linings.

Finally, Judith shares the basics of pattern fitting and adjustment. Her method begins at the shoulders, ensuring the garment hangs properly. Follow along as Judith shows how to create a shoulder template that you can use again and again to adjust patterns before cutting the fabric. As a bonus, you’ll even learn how to create a custom dress form so you can fit garments on a body that truly represents your true body shape.



Previous: The Best Tools for Marking Fabric Next: Basic Sewing Machines and How to Choose One


  1. sportigal | | #1

    For years I couldn't figure out how a stitch was really formed. I understood some of the process, but until I saw your graphic description of how it happened, I never knew. I could not figure out how the top thread interacted with the bobbin thread. It's the bobbin hook!! I can't tell you how happy I am to know this. Thank you so much for this perfect explanation. Sandra Portigal

  2. shelleyps | | #2

    This green machine is the same as my Mum’s machine. She sewed everything from the time we were kids on this machine. Our clothes, her clothes, my wedding dress, beautiful wool coats, to slipcovers and drapes.
    The only reasons she isn’t still using it are eye and hand trouble, so when I went to see her recently, I used it to sew her a new cover for one of her cushions. I was very pleased with the chance to turn the tables and make something for her!!

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Learn to Sew

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