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Know How To - Amazing Decorative Stitching with Vintage Technology

Hello everyone! I'm back to share my latest sewing project that showcases decorative stitching with vintage technology. If you never thought a straight-stitch vintage sewing machine could do anything but straight stitching, then think again!

Growing up I used my mother's large and heavy black vintage Singer sewing machine to sew clothing for myself and it only did straight stitching. She still has her machine! It could also do buttonholes, and that was a separate attachment she had. But I don't remember her having a zigzagger attachment.

I do have a zigzagger attachment now. And a buttonholer attachment. Without getting into the history of the previous machines I've had, let's concentrate on the zigzagger attachment that is used for straight stitch sewing machines.

Decades ago, I never knew that straight stitch sewing machines had attachments that could do amazing things! None of that information ever crossed my path for some reason. Those of you who sew on the most up-to-date electronic or computerized machines are probably very happy to have so many options at your fingertips. For me, I'm not into all the extra fancy stitches as I don't have the need for them. I much prefer a mechanical vintage machine that I can oil and keep maintained by myself.

Let me tell you about my latest project. I recently started sewing my own t-shirts with patterns I made myself from my old worn-out shirts I purchased from a popular catalogue store. And because the shirts fit me well, I wanted to start making my own. This meant I would be sewing on knit fabric. I've always been afraid of sewing with knits. They just don't cooperate like a cotton or other stable fabric - like the fabrics I use to stitch up the fabulous bags I sell in my online shop (HERE)!

Because knit fabrics stretch, a zigzag stitch is needed instead of a straight stitch, so the stitches won't snap when the fabric is stretched when putting on your t-shirt.

My latest two t-shirts were stitched mainly with a zigzag stitch using my zigzagger attachment. I did use a straight stitch in some areas. The second shirt - a cocoa brown/black Hacci sweater knit fabric - was where I got more creative and used a "blind stitch" pattern that looks like a scallop - around the neck edge to keep the inside seam allowance tacked down. It mostly worked out well on the neck edge. At least the outside looks pretty fine! I used it on the sleeve and t-shirt hems for a decorative touch.

I took a couple videos to show you how the zigzagger attachment works in case you haven't seen one in action! I stitched some extra samples to show how changing the settings can create more variety.

What's really great about the zigzagger attachment is you don't have to remove it to return to straight stitching! Some of the decorative stitches need to be made with a combination straight stitching and decorative and there's a lever that switches between decorative and straight. Later I will experiment some more and see what designs I can come up with. The zigzagger attachment comes with four decorative patterns. It doesn't seem like much, but when you change the settings, more design options are available!

Here is the zigzagger with box and book of directions. The zigzagger is already attached to my machine if you look to the right. It has a wide presser foot. Those round metals things in the box are the decorative stitches and one is already in the attachment.

Here is the zigzagger attached to my machine. The red knob shows the type of decorative stitch. This one is called the blind stitch pattern and I used this on my brown t-shirt which I'll show further down. At the bottom left of the zigzagger is a narrow metal bar with a screw. That is called the bight. Moving it from narrow to wide or anywhere in between causes the stitches to change shape along with the stitch length you select.

You may be wondering - how does a straight stitch machine make a zigzag or any other decorative stitch if the needle cannot move sideways? You are right. It does not move from side to side as they do in modern sewing machines that come with that capability. The zigzagger attachment moves the fabric back and forth instead!

Here's a side view of the zigzagger when it's not attached to the sewing machine. The little lever you see at the bottom below the red knob - pushing that lever changes the zigzagger from zigging to straight stitching.

That long metal fork-like thing straddles the hub of the needle clamp on the machine and then the large screw tightens it up to the presser bar. You must remove the regular presser foot before attaching the zigzagger. In the photo above you can see that I already removed the regular presser foot.

This photo shows me stitching with the zigzag stitch on the seams of the brown t-shirt.

I did a couple videos so you can see the zigzagger in action using the zigzag and the blind hem (scallop) stitch. Make sure you have your sound on!

Here's the blind stitch (scallop) and by changing the bight and the stitch length, you can change how it looks.

Here's the domino stitch on top. See how different it can look by changing the stitch length and the bight! At the bottom are samples of the arrowhead stitch.

Here's the domino stitch sampler.

I marked my favorites with the pink pins! Isn't it amazing how much you can do with a vintage straight stitch sewing machine? I love my 221 Singer Featherweight!

Here's an up-close look at the scallop stitch (blind hem) that I used on the brown t-shirt to keep the seam allowance tacked down (mostly!). You have to look closely to see the scallop stitching below the neckline.

And here are my two t-shirts! I didn't use any decorative stitching on the blue floral, but I should touch up the neckline with the scallop stitching, so the seam allowance stays down better. And they both fit well though I did add more ease to the brown one and made the sleeves a touch longer.

As I add more t-shirts to my wardrobe, I'm sure my skill in using knit fabrics along with my zigzagger attachment will get fine-tuned as I go along! It IS a lot different making clothing than it is stitching up carpet bags and totes! Sewing clothing has fitting challenges that bags do not but making my own patterns from well-fitting t-shirts is a godsend for me! All I have to do now is buy more fabric!

Hope you enjoyed reading and viewing my latest project! Stay tuned for more!


Unknown member
Aug 18, 2022

This is a wonderful post Linda, I love how creative you can be with your beautiful Singer sewing machine! Your shirts turned out amazing, it is wonderful to sew your own clothes. I haven't done so in years, but I too struggle with knit fabric. Hope you are doing well!

Unknown member
Aug 19, 2022
Replying to

Thanks! I'm doing as well as I can be! :-)

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