I stitched my very first outfit on my grandmother’s sewing machine, which had only straight stitch capability. I have to admit, it turned out pretty good even though there were a lot of hand stitching involved to give it the finishing touches.

Today, I cannot imagine completing any project using only straight stitches. But that’s because I’m spoilt for choice. Almost all sewing machines today offer an amazing array of stitch types. Add computerized machines into the equation and the sky’s the limit when it comes to types of sewing machine stitches.

Different types of stitches are used for different purposes. Some are strictly utility stitches, some strictly decorative and some multi-purpose. Whether you have a basic sewing machine or a more advanced computerized model, it is a good idea to experiment with the different stitches using different settings so you can use your machine to its fullest potential.

Here are some of the more commonly used types of sewing machine stitches and what they are used for:

Straight Stitch

The most basic of sewing machine stitches. It is exactly what it sounds like- a straight line of stitches. You can vary the stitch length depending upon the project you are working on and the effect you wish to acquire. The straight stitch is quite versatile and can be used for regular seaming as well as basting, topstitching and gathering.

Zigzag Stitch

Today, the zigzag stitch is considered basic and is available on almost all sewing machines. It is a variant of the straight stitch but instead of running in a straight line, it zigzags like a running letter ‘Z’. This is another versatile stitch and can be used for finishing raw edges, mending tears in fabric, sewing on appliqués, buttons and elastic and also for decorative purposes. You can very the stitch length and width for different purposes and for different effects.

Blind Hem Stitch

As the name suggests, the blind hem stitch is used to create an invisible hem on woven fabrics. It is essentially a combination straight and zigzag stitches. While the stitches can be seen on the reverse of the fabric or on the inner side of the garment, the stitches are invisible on the right side. For knit fabrics, you will use a variation of this stitch, which is the stretch blind hem.  You can do the blind hem stitch on most machines but you will need a special presser-foot attachment.

Buttonhole Stitch

Most newer models feature the buttonhole setting, which automatically stitches around a slit that is made in the fabric. It basically seals the buttonhole and prevents it from fraying. Some of the more advanced models even feature several variations of this stitch.

Overlock Stitch

The overlock stitch allows you to stitch and finish the seams in just one step. It can come in very handy when you are doing a lot of sewing but is not available in all machines.

Blanket Stitch

The blanket stitch can be used for utility as well as decorative purposes. The machine stitches along the edge of the fabric in a kind of looping pattern, where one half of the stitch is inside the fabric and the other half runs or loops along the edge of the fabric.

Darning Stitch

The darning stitch consists of a criss-cross pattern of stitches that run across a tear in the fabric and prevents it from tearing even more.

Decorative and Embroidery Stitches

Every single sewing machine model has a different combination of decorative stitches and computerized machines take decorative and embroidery stitches to a whole new level, from sewing letters to pre-programmed patterns.