Understanding Stitch Length
It’s important to understand the stitch length settings on your sewing machine. Different stitch lengths are appropriate for different tasks.
Many machines use the metric system. The setting of 2.0, 2.3, 2.5 and so on tells you the length of each stitch. For example, if you set the machine to 3.2, each stitch will be 3.2 millimeters long.
Other machines use an English stitches-per-inch system. The setting of 12, 15 or 20 tells you how many stitches are in one inch. For example, if you set the machine to 16, it will sew 16 stitches in one inch of the seam. It stands to reason that each stitch will be 1/16 of an inch long.
For piecing, 2.0 mm or about 13 stitches-per-inch is preferred.
The default stitch length (what the machine automatically sets to) is usually longer than 2.0 mm. I recommend that quilters reset it to 2.0 mm for piecing, or to about 13 stitches-per-inch.
If you have been using a longer stitch length for piecing, you will see an immediate improvement in your piecing. Here’s why:
Changing the stitch length causes the feed dogs to pull more or less fabric under the machine between each drop of the needle. With a long stitch setting, the feed dogs must feed more fabric under the needle between each stitch. There is more time, more distance and a greater chance for the fabric to “wobble.”
\ / w~o~b~b~l~e w~o~b~b~l~e / \
With a shorter stitch setting, the feed dogs pull just a short bit of fabric under the needle between each stitch. It takes less time and it’s a shorter distance—the fabric has reduced opportunity to wobble. I’ve seen it many times: Shorten your stitch length to see an immediate improvement in your piecing.