Directing Fabric Through Machine- Show Who's Boss

Some Tips on Sewing a Straight Seam Line

When teaching beginner's to sew, no matter the age,
they usually first let the machine take the fabric instead of controlling the fabric.
The statement something like, "The machine made it run off the edge," is often heard.
I posted this question to the Facebook group "Just Sew"
and many had the same responses I'm already using.
Here is a summary, that I've arranged in, what I think, order of importance.

1.  Do not watch the needle.  
2.  Find a point the distance needed from the needle i.e. 1/4 inch or 5/8 inch & use your choice of marking a line.

 Possible ways to mark a line:
 A. Check for line already marked on machine.
But, be sure to measure the line from the needle.  Some machine's are defaulted to come on with needle in left position which usually negates the measurement distance of the marked line. So double check they are accurate.
B. Actually pencil mark the line. 
C. Use tape to mark the line.

D. Wrap a rubber band around the throat of the machine base.
E. Check to see if your needle happens to stitch the seam width you need from the edge of your foot.
Note in the picture above, the 1/4 mark is where the clear plastic meets the metal on the generic foot.
F. If your machine allows you to reposition your needle, and your seam is to be about 1/4 inch, move the needle to stitch exactly 1/4 inch from right edge of the foot.

G. Mark a stitching line on the fabric.
F. Use a specialty foot that is made 1/4 inch wide. Here are 2 examples:
The first has a 1/4 inch wide prong on the right.  You can see how it works with the 1/4 inch line.
In the picture above, not the blade that sits on the 1/4 inch line.
The blade is to glide along the edge of the fabric.

3.  If you have the feature, set your machine to stitch the slowest rate possible.  Some have blocked the sewing pedal from being pressed all the way down.  When you learn to drive a car, you don't start out driving the fastest speed or even the speed limit until you know you're in control.
     This is a feature I always highly recommend on a beginner's machine.  Some of the older machines have a pedal that is too sensitive and wants to make the machine run fast & wild.
4.  Know YOU are in control of driving fabric through your machine. There is no such thing as "the machine ran off the edge of the fabric." Now combine rule 1 & 2 and watch the edge of your fabric go along the marked line. At the same time watch that the edges of the fabric stay piled on top of each other accurately.
5. Beginners start by stitching about 5 stitches slowly and stopping. Know you do not have to continue stitching until the seam is done. That will cause you to drive into the ditch.  After 5 stitches and stopping, *check your fabrics position, reposition fabric next to line if needed, make sure fabric is stacked correctly.  Stitch 5 more and stop, repeat*. Continue to repeat until seam is done.  Next time, try 6 stitches, etc. until you come to a comfortable number to stop, check, reposition, stack.
6. Beginners need to learn hand control.  When driving a car we learned the hands need to be at the 10:00 and 2:00 position.  When guiding fabric through a machine, your hands are where they need to be to help guide the fabric.  most of the time I find mine at 9:00 and 3:00 and my left hand is flat most of the time and I use my forefinger and thumb mostly on my right hand to hold layers of fabric together.  My hands work together to move the fabric right or left as it goes under the needle.  Hands don't push or pull fabric through. Like the wheels on a car move the car, the feed dogs on a machine move the fabric but you are the BOSS and move the fabric over the feed dogs as needed.
  Also, note this is one activity that doesn't matter if you are right or left handed.  Like driving a car, you need to use both hands working together.

 Imagine that I had someone else taking the picture while I had both hands on at one time.

7.  The SECOND your fabric is off course STOP!  It may only be the 3rd stitch, but stop anyway! Immediately. The more you continue off track, the more stitches you have to take out.

Update: Someone stated covering an eye to help focus.  I do know we all have a dominate eye.
 

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