How to Sew a Straight Line: A Beginner’s Guide

Jean Chaney
Jean Chaney
Research Writer
Jean is the brains behind her fashion label. She's a whiz with a needle and thread, and has been sewing since she was old enough to hold a pair of scissors. Jean has always read more
Reviewed By
Isabel Misner
Isabel Misner
Expert Consultant
A professional seamstress. Isabel has her own video blog where she shares her experience about all the aspects of sewing – from choosing suitable materials to step-by-step read more
Last updated: August 14, 2023
JustToSew is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

Whether you’ve just bought your first, brand-new sewing machine or you haven’t quite yet taken the one from your closet out of its storage space and put it to work, you might need a bit of help when it comes to learning how to sew.

But just like with anything in life—we can start with the absolute basics—how to sew a straight line. This very first step can be the most important stepping stone as you tackle much more complex projects later on down the line.

This very ground-based, foundational skill can help you improve your experience with the entire process—no matter how big or small, simple or complicated your sewing project is.

In this article, we’re not only going to help teach you how to sew a straight line by hand, with a sewing machine, and checking generator output, we’re going to go through every in-and-out, smallest thread detail that can possibly trip you (and tangle you up).

How to Sew a Straight Line with a Sewing Machine

How to Sew a Straight Line: A Beginner's GuideBefore you move on to more difficult projects like zig-zag stitches or topstitching, sewing a straight line is one of the most basic, more important skills to learn.

We’re going to now hone in on this particular skill and how to conquer it:

First and foremost, get a piece of fabric that you want to practice with—preferably not your dream project in the beginning. Basic cotton fabric works best since it’s much easier to work with.

Once you’ve chosen the fabric, thread the machine with the bobbin. After you’ve completed this (if you need help, check your manufacturer’s manual), then you’re ready to get sewing!

Measure the Desired Seam

Need to learn how to sew a straight line with a sewing machine? It all starts with measurements.

The details are truly in the finer numbers when it comes to sewing. To help you work on measuring out fabric, start with scraps and testing different seam allowances to get your feel.

You should know what you feel comfortable with before you move on.

Keep an Eye on Where the Fabric Edge Should Be

To help you keep it as effective as possible, make sure you know where the edge of your fabric is! This raw edge—in relation to the seam allowance—should always be perfectly (or to the best you can) aligned with your sewing machine foot.

This can change depending on if you’re right or left-handed. The design of your sewing machine can also pose a difference, since the outer edges of the sewing machine foot will change from machine to machine.

Put Some Edge Markings

You don’t have to do everything off of pure memory or by visual cues—placing edge markings in your fabric can help you stay on track with your lines—and keep them as straight as possible.

Before you grab a permanent marker, it’s important that you remember that the color you choose will contrast with the fabric well—or else you might not even be able to see it!

Draw a Line on the Fabric

Don’t be afraid to take that marker and draw a line right on the fabric! This can help you create that straight line you’re looking for to follow while learning how to sew and cut in a straight line.

Use Pins

How to Sew a Straight Line: A Beginner's GuideIf you’ve ever done any minor type of sewing before, you might already know about this little trick. Using bright-colored pins can help hold the fabric layers together that you’re sewing—and can also show you how to keep your sewing line straight.

Taking a look at the pins while you’re sewing can also give you the opportunity to catch any movement or inconsistency while you’re moving it about.

It also leaves you feeling more comfortable, since pinning it secures it together and allows you to concentrate on the sewing itself. If you get into creating patterns, learning how to work with pins is an essential first step.

Control the Fabric

Don’t let the fabric control you! Especially if you’re brand new to sewing, make sure you have a firm push down on your sewing machine thread so that you can have optimal control.

If you’re struggling with controlling the fabric, think about seam allowance—especially if you’re starting out with just a line and not an intricate pattern.

Control Sewing Speed

Just like with anything in life, you have to learn how to crawl before you walk—which is similar to sewing. You should start off with a slow sewing speed so you can get the hang of it and learn how to sew a straight line.

With a slower sewing speed, you also will have more control of the pedal and be more inclined to use it.

The reduction in sewing speed can also help prevent the fabric from shifting around while you’re working on it.

What Else to Look Out For

When first starting out to sew, here are four very important details that you should always look out for:

Make sure that you know (and feel comfortable with) where your point is on your sewing machine foot.

Make sure that you have drawn, pinned or have a guided seam line to follow.

Read the Manufacturer’s Manual if you need help setting up a machine.

Choose whether or not you want to sew manually or with a machine.

How to Sew a Straight Line by Hand

How to Sew a Straight Line: A Beginner's GuideIf you’ve decided to tackle it with your bare hands—literally—then learning how to sew by hand is a great skill to put to use on small or large projects.

Sewing by hand can help when sewing together seams or adding a fancy border or pattern. Even though it generally takes more patience and skill, you can do it with some practice.

In this section, we’re going to present you with a very simple-to-follow, step-by-step guide on how to sew by hand.

  1. First, draw your line—whether it’s a solid or dashed line, it’s up to you! This simple step can help you work on your pacing and evenness.
  2. As you get better and better, you can break up that line, making the dashes further and further away. You can also work with pins or other tips and tricks we mentioned above.
  3. Once you feel comfortable and begin stitching, make sure you’re moving at a comfortable pace—you don’t want to go too fast and risk getting out of line (literally). A huge tip here is to have as much patience as possible!

In Conclusion

Whether you’re using fancy techniques to learn how to sew bugle beads in a straight line or how to sew in a straight line with a rubber band, learning how to sew a straight line shouldn’t be very difficult!

You can always stay true to your preference—whether by hand or with a machine—and sewing level—whether beginner or dedicated sewing veteran—and still learn new techniques to increase your skill!

So, no matter if you’re a beginner or figuring out a new machine, you can learn how to do it—all on your own! We hope that this article has helped give you a few pointers when it comes to sewing a straight line.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *