One teacher told me it doesn't matter at all as long as half the stitch is on the fabric - the machine will accommodate and tighten. Another woman told me she always keeps the full stitch on the fabric for it to work correctly.

1 Answer 1


You can sew over the edge of the fabric with a zig-zag stitch, but depending on the configuration of your machine, the results can look very differently.

One common problem is that the feed dog (the little teeth in the bottom plate that transport the fabric) cannot grab the fabric on both sides of the needle. Every sewing machine is different, so some people may find that the fabric is pulled to one side or isn't transported at all, but others may not experience any problems.

Overlocked edge

The most common application for a zig-zag stitch on the edge of fabric is to finish the edge to avoid fraying. You may have to reduce the tension of the upper thread to get a clean result, otherwise the fabric can be pulled together. There are also special sewing foots that keep the fabric flat after sewing it.

overlock sewing foot

Rolled edge

Another application where you want one side of the zig-zag to be off the fabric is a decorative rolled edge. You need to increase the tension of the upper thread to deliberately pull the fabric together. Inserting a string of yarn at the edge increases the visual size of the finished edge.

rolled hwm sewn by machine

  • Soo, I should go over the edge to avoid fraying?
    – Richard
    May 28, 2023 at 10:58
  • 1
    @Richard Yes, the fabric will fray to the outer edge of the zig-zag. You can either carefully cut the excess away without accidently cutting your zig-zag or simply stitch over the edge and be done.
    – Elmy
    May 28, 2023 at 13:57

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