Understanding Stitch Length

Sewing Machine - Stitch Length

Learn how to understand stitch length on sewing machines and while quilting in this informative quilt guide from The Quilting Company!I learned something today about stitch length and sewing machine settings where I’ve had machines with stitches per inch and understood those types of lengths. I’ve had machines with metric settings like 1.5, 2.0, 2.5 and so on, and I thought I understood what the setting needed to be for various types of stitching … but I was wrong!

Until today, I really didn’t understand how the two types of settings related to one another and never really thought much about it, and then I had an ‘aha!’ moment.

It’s easy to understand what stitches per inch means. The setting tells you how many stitches there are in one inch. If the setting is 15, it means there are 15 stitches in one inch.

Stitch length is equivalent to number of stitches in an inch.

Its a little less evident what the metric settings like 2.5 mean. They refer to the length of each stitch. If the setting is 2.5, it means that every stitch is 2.5 millimeters long.

So you see, when you compare the different types of settings, you’re not comparing apples to apples, so to speak. How do you make sense of it? Turns out there’s an easy formula!

There are 25.4 millimeters in one inch. The formula is this:
25.4 divided by the metric length of the stitch such as 2.5 equals the number of stitches per inch.

Here’s an example. To figure out how many stitches per inch a 2.5 metric setting will give you:
25.4 divided by 2.5 = 10.16 stitches per inch.

To figure it the other way, in case you need to sew 10 stitches per inch and want to know the metric setting, do this:
25.4 divided by 10 = 2.5.

If you needed to sew 15 stitches per inch, 25.4 divided by 15 = 1.69, round up to 1.7 for the metric setting. Easy Peasy!

lightbuld momentWhile doing this research, I had another light bulb moment. When you adjust the stitch length, you aren’t telling the needle to do something different, you’re telling the feed dogs to do something different. The various settings tell the feed dogs how much fabric to feed before another stitch is made. I found this helpful explanation at sewing.about.com:

  • Shortening the stitch length reduces the amount of fabric that is fed under the presser foot before the needle comes down.
  • Lengthening the stitch length increases the amount of fabric that is fed under the presser foot before the needle comes down.

It all makes perfect sense now!

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