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    Five stitches. That's all you really need, and you can even get along with just one.
    • Straight: I think we have this one figured out. General construction. This is really the only stitch you need, though it is a little limiting. Stretch fabrics are out.
    • Zig Zag: Many pattern instructions say that you can use the zig zag stitch to edge finish, and you can. What they usually say is to stitch then trim the excess fabric away. Don't. You're liable to cut the stitching. Just stitch close to or even over the edge.
    • Triple stitch zig zag: Can be used for mending, but also works as a poor man's stretch stitch. Warning: a triple zig takes three stitches to go from zig to zag. No brainer, right? Bear in mind that this makes the completed stitch three times the length of an ordinary zig zag so adjust the stitch length accordingly.
    • Blind hem: ___/\___/\___/\_ Great for hemming 1" or wider. Makes a stitch not easily seen from the right side. If your machine does this, the instructions will tell you how.
    • Button hole (not really a stitch, but a real convenience) A short buttonhole can serve as a stitched eyelet.
    Try to find a machine where the thread is drawn past the top of the spool, rather than pulled from the side. On a domestic that means that the spool is lying on its side. The thread feeds much smoother than if it has to drag against the weight of the spool.


    Straight stitch throat plate. Great if you can get one. Instead of an oval or rectangular hole for the needle to pass through, the hole is just big enough for the needle. If you're sewing with lightweight fabrics it prevents the fabric from being pushed past the throat plate into the mechanism underneath.

    Buy more bobbins! I don't know how many you have, but buy more. See the next extra...

    An Extra Spool Stand. Many domestic machines have only one spool holder - some have space for an extra so you can do double-needle, but that extra holder usually has the spool sitting upright, meaning the thread is drawn from the side (see Tip! above). Having that spool stand lets you keep a couple more colors out ready for use, and the thread is pulled off the spool smoothly.

    Which leads me to my next suggestion...always have one bobbin of the color you're using right now waiting in the wings. If there isn't one, load up your bobbin winder using another spool and let it wind while you sew. If there's already an extra bobbin of that color, look for a color where you could use one (for me, that's always white or black) and start that going. (Some machines will let you do that, some won't.) Never, ever, have only one bobbin in a color.

    You'll save oodles* of time.

    Did you know you can buy bobbins preloaded? If you're into production sewing with lots of one basic color in use all the time, you can buy disposable bobbins from tailoring supply houses. (the color selection can be a little limited) When a bobbin runs empty, throw it away and load another. You don't have to stop to wind more.

    * oodles: a number greater than one and less than or equal to infinity


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