Pam from Pantsfreesia joins us today to show fun ideas for decorative stitches. You can learn more about Pam here. Do you have a favorite project for something beyond your straight or zigzag stitches? Share your examples, project ideas and thoughts in the comments!

From Pam: So you’ve read the advice and followed your gut and picked a sewing machine. One that has many lovely stitches, like these. But what to do with all of them?

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For most general purpose home-sewers, the straight stitch (#00 in the diagram) will be used 90% of the time, with zigzag stitches (#03 or #05) a distant second for sewing knits. The remaining stitches will peer hopefully at you from the reference card, waiting until you find the right project to use them.

The decorative stitch that gets the most use on my machine is the blanket stitch (#13, #14, #30, or #31). I use this primarily for appliqué projects for quilts I’m working on in conjunction with Wonder Under. This particular block is from Art to Heart’s 12 Days of Christmas, which I’m doing as a “block of the month” project with a local quilt store.

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On a close-up, you can see how the straight stitch part of the blanket stitch is just outside the applique piece being sewn down, and the “arm” of the blanket stitch catches the actual fabric.

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Depending on the amount of wear the item will get (the above block will be a wall hanging and not a quilt that will not be cuddled with), you might want to use the zigzag stitch. For items that will get a moderate amount of wear, the applique will stand up to more abuse if you set your stitch length shorter (16-20 stitches per inch, or a setting between 1 and 2 on my Singer) and a wider width.

I fell in love with the tulip stitch (#32 and #33) but didn’t have a project immediately come to mind until my 3 year old daughter announced that she needed a new dress. And it had to be purple. As purple as possible, in fact. Using the pillowcase dress tutorial originally featured during Kids’ Clothes Month in September 2007, I made her a simple purple dress and embellished the pocket and bottom hem with the tulip stitch.

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Pocket Close-up:

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This particular pillowcase had the satin stripe built in, so the tulip stitch is purely decorative on the hem, but does take the place of the top stitching on the pocket. In most cases, the decorative stitches are not meant to be used for structural seams, but rather embellishment.

Another project I’ve used an assortment of stitches on is a set of everyday placemats for my family. We had a set of plain blue placemats we’d been using but they were a tad boring. I let my kids each pick out a fabric from my stash to sew onto the back of the placemat (not shown is my son’s Transformers choice; it was in the wash when I took this picture!).

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To make them, I measured a piece of fabric that fit inside in the placemat with a 1″ border, plus 1″ extra each way and pressed under 1/2″ to finish the edges. I pinned the fabric heavily to the placemat, picked a decorative stitch and sewed it down.

Close-up of my daughter’s choice, using a Star Stitch (#07):

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My choice, using a diamond stitch (#45 and #46):

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And my husband’s choice, using a blanket stitch (#13, #14, #30, or #31):

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With this reversible placemat, we can all show some individuality, or we can flip the placemats over to the plain blue side if we want to be a little more formal with the table setting.

A few last words about using decorative stitches: have your bobbin full when you start because these use more than the normal amount of thread. Likewise, using these stitches take longer than just a straight stitch due to the amount of forward and backward motion of the feed dogs while the patterns are created with needle and thread. So dip your toe in and experiment with some decorative stitching… Post your ideas and projects in the forum!

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