I recently decided to take up sewing, but the stitches I use to hold two pieces of fabric together (like the side seams of a shirt for example) is a simple lock stitch. My machine (like most I've seen) has several different styles of stitches but none of them even remotely compare to the stitching I find on commercial grade clothing.

What type of stitch is this? My simple sewing machine stitches are nowhere near as sturdy as the stitching I am used to seeing on clothing.

The best picture I could find online (without knowing what I'm searching for) can be seen in this picture. The stitch holding the sleeve onto the body of the shirt is much fancier than anything my sewing machine seems to offer.

T-Shirt stiching

Image from LoveLaughPin.com

  • 2
    Many machines probably do this -- a better question would be "what sort of stitch is this" and then you can find a model which has the stitch you're looking for.
    – Erica
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 19:42
  • @Erica good point, I fixed the question.
    – leigero
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 19:44
  • 2
    Can you include an image of the stitch you're talking about? That will really help with the identification!
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 19:47

3 Answers 3


The stitches that you typically see on commercial t-shirt seams are an overlock stitch, which typically requires a special type of sewing machine specifically for this purpose (e.g., a serger).

  • 1
    Looking at it... That's a really complicated looking stitch.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 21:17

The key to sewing seams on a t-shirt (or on anything made in a stretchy knit fabric for that matter) is that the stitch needs to be able to stretch just like the fabric stretches.

Zigzag stitches are often recommended for use if you don't have a serger, but what you really need is a stretch stitch. And, many modern machines, even less expensive models have a stretch stitch. If you have icons to show the stitch types on your machine, this is the icon to look for: enter image description here

If your machine doesn't offer this stitch, you might try looking in your owner's manual for information about sewing with knits...it should tell you the best stitch to use on your particular machine.

If you are used to sewing with woven material (like quilter's cotton), sewing with knits can be a bit challenging because the fabric will stretch while sewing, the edges will roll up, and regular pins and sewing machine needles can cause snags.

Luckily there are tons of tutorials on-line about sewing with knits, so just google "sewing with knits on a sewing machine" and find the tutorial that works best for you. Here's a couple to get you started http://www.jenniferlaurenvintage.com/2014/06/sewing-machine-settings-for-knits-if.html and https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2015/06/knits-without-a-serger (at a glance these both look useful, but I haven't read them, so I can't vouch for their accuracy).

BTW--if you can't find your machine's owners manual, I highly recommend searching for a copy on-line. Don't pay for one unless you absolutely can't find it anywhere for free. Try the manufacturer's website first, and if your particular model is not available, reach out to them and ask for one. Also, lots of people on the interwebs have been kind enough to scan and upload their manuals and will share them for free. I like doing this because I can save it somewhere (on my hard drive, in cloud storage, etc.) and I can always track it down again when I inevitably lose the hard copy version.


If you don't have a "serger" sewing machine try sewing a straight stitch and then zig zag close to the stitch. I use a "ball point" needle used for knits.

  • The zigzag is the nearest a normal sewing machine can come to the overlock stitches of a serger, but it is nowhere near the same or as effective. Adding a straight stitch will stop the needed stretch.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 19:59

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