Instead of reinventing the wheel, I'm looking for advice to use a (basic) sewing machine to sew a line from right to left (or the other way). The feed dog of my sewing machine (and most machines) is made to stitch a line front to back

sewing right to left how to sew a straight line left ⇆ right (instead of front ⇆ back)

I know that I will need to cover the feed dog (using a cover plate), then I will need to slide the fabric manually from right to left with the steadiest speed (for aesthetic: to keep a regular space between the stitches).

If you tried it with a normal sewing machine, I'll be glad to collect your advice! (Does anyone knows what this is called? It's difficult to Google it without knowing the term.)

(That would be useful for many things like drawing a long line following a long tube such as a pant leg)

I don't see how to cover or deactivate the feeding dog so it won't interfere.(@Elmy).

You just need a feed dog cover plate: enter image description here

  • You're just going to end up with uneven stitches and a broken needle. Some home machines do have the ability to drop the feed dogs, but evenly spaced stitching in a straight line is still difficult on them. Better to just make your pant legs the normal way.
    – Allison C
    Feb 13, 2019 at 19:12

4 Answers 4


You are describing the technique used for "free motion quilting." On some sewing machines, you can lower the feed dogs instead of covering them. Your machine may come with a "darning foot" or a "free motion quilting" foot which should be used when doing this type of stitching to hold the fabric down while the needle is in the fabric, then lifts when the needle comes up so you can move the fabric.

  • thank you very much, I was looking for these precious informations!
    – JinSnow
    Feb 17, 2019 at 11:45

You need to change your perspective to solve this problem.

Short of breaking your sewing machine, I don't see how to cover or deactivate the feeding dog so it won't interfere.

Usually, you can remove a cover or compartment right under the bobbin case to expose the "sleeve arm" or "free arm".

Then you align your fabric in a way that the seam lies on top of the arm and the opposite end below the arm. You should pin the seam very well for this.

Simply start sewing the normal way. The left side of the tube can move forward freely, but the fabric will bunch up on the right side (In a certain way, the fabric will actually move left to right, but you still sew from the back to the front). Keep sewing and bunching the fabric up, until you've sewn at least half of the entire length. Then you can repeat the same process from the other side if the bunched up fabric hinders you too much.

As a general advice, ignore the bunched up fabric as much as possible. Just push it out of your way as best as you can. the only important thing is to keep the seam aligned with the feeding dog.

If the tube you're trying to sew is still to long for this method, I'm afraid you'll need to use a professional sewing machine like this one.

  • Thanks! I'm not sure to understand (a video would be handy!). But if I understand well, your technic only works for small tubes. I was wondering how these pant maker sewing machine looks like, thanks for that! (It's easy to get rid of the watch dog, see the update in my question).
    – JinSnow
    Feb 14, 2019 at 17:13
  • 1
    @JinSnow Sorry, but I can't find a video of someone sewing that way on a non-professional machine. It just isn't done ;-). May I ask why you even want to do this? Isn't sewing the the sleeve or leg with right sides together and then pressing the seam open enough? Like demonstrated in this video at 2:00 minutes
    – Elmy
    Feb 14, 2019 at 17:57
  • I'm just curious to know other creative way to use a sewing machine (the rest ( to sew a long line on a long tube) is just an excuse/challenge). The video doesnt fit: I don't want to make a tube, I want to draw a line on a (very long) tube (already sewed).
    – JinSnow
    Feb 14, 2019 at 19:21
  • 1
    @JinSnow I tried to explain what I meant better. Basically you just sew the normal way and keep the fabric that cannot move past the arm out of your way. If the fabric is not too stiff and the tube not too tight, you can sew several meters with this method.
    – Elmy
    Feb 14, 2019 at 20:32

It's actually much easier than I thought (if you don't mind some uneven stitch spacing). But I guess there are some tricks I don't know.

What I did is:

  • Install a the "feed dog cover plate" (it disables the feed dogs) so I could sew in any direction
  • Pass the "tube" through the machine
  • Just pull back slowly on the fabric to sew a straight line

It's pretty easy at a low speed. (I found it difficult is to keep a low and constant speed, using the foot speed controller. It would have been easier with a preset speed.) Basically, the more you pull the fabric, and the slower the needle goes, the bigger the spaces are between stitches.

If you are not sure, run the machine manually (by turning the wheel) for a few stitches. It's slow but still much quicker than sewing by hand, and you can set the spacing exactly where you want. It's more difficult with the motor on, but not impossible if you manage to have a constant slow speed.

I also tried on the trickier parts to sew with the presser foot in the raised position, which worked well for me.

(I tried a tube of nearly 2x1 meter made from a kind of jeans fabric, I did not break the needle without really caring about it.)

Here is a video: sewing right to left

Edit: Some important info from @Linda's answer:

a darning foot or a free motion quilting foot should be used when doing this type of stitching to hold the fabric down while the needle is in the fabric, then lift when the needle comes up so you can move the fabric

  • 1
    The usual way to get fancy stitching on the outside of trouser legs is to do that stitching before you close the other side of the leg and/or crotch of the trousers.
    – Willeke
    Feb 18, 2019 at 17:43

For perfect topstitching on the side seams of pants specifically, one answer could be to sew and topstitch the side seams earlier in the order of construction, before a tube is created. This is not the usual order of sewing pants, but can help in making beautifully perfect sideseam topstitching... Here is an Angela Kane video demonstrating this idea.

  • 1
    Thanks! It would be great if you could add a video of this technic (much easier to understand).
    – JinSnow
    Feb 19, 2019 at 6:18
  • Off topic, but interesting video, thanks! (The question is not how to sew a tube, but how to draw a line on a tube already sewed)
    – JinSnow
    Feb 22, 2019 at 19:41
  • To clarify, I am suggesting that sewing super-tidy topstitching on an already enclosed tube is going to be very problematic, and the chances of a pleasing result are quite slim, in my experience. So I am suggesting that if it is possible, sew the topstitching before the tube is formed.
    – Laurent R.
    Feb 22, 2019 at 20:46

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