I have a standard sewing machine, not a serger, so I use a zig-zag stitch when sewing knits. Typically, I just use trial and error on scrap pieces to figure out a good size of zig-zag stitch for however stretchy I want the seams to be. This can take a few tries, and I'm never quite sure if I'm doing it "right".

  • Is there a better way? Are there any standard sizes or rules of thumb?
  • When would I want a wider or narrower stitch? What about longer vs. shorter?
  • I forgot to say, stretch comes from 2 things in the "matrix" of sewing. Stretchy thread, and stretchy fabric. Those two items are your answer. Cotton thread, with cotton fabric, will not stretch. A double knit fabric and a specific acrylic thread will give you a lot of stretch. Things to ponder. JLH Sep 9, 2016 at 21:51
  • I've been sewing for a very long time, have gone through many types of machines and sewn on all kinds of fabrics, and I still do a test strip before I start working with fabrics that are new to me. There are so many thicknesses, textures, levels of slipperiness, etc etc, that for me, there is no formula other than not skipping this step and doing a quick test on a scrap.
    – user1798
    Mar 21, 2017 at 3:02

1 Answer 1


This is indeed a matter of preferences, although some generic things can be said about it.

  • The wider the stitch, the stretchier the result. Imagine a zig zag stitch of width 0 (which is actually a straight stitch of course), and the result will be as stretchy as the sewing thread.
  • As for the length, my advice is to make them not too small in order to avoid wobbly edges. Something else may help here: a wobbly edge is the result of the fabric being stretched while you're sewing. You could stick some tape on top of the fabric and sew right next to it.
    Beware: don't use duct tape or something with a very strong glue, as you want to remove the tape afterwards without damaging your project!

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