Why Does My Sewing Machine Sew in Zigzags? (Solved)

A zigzag stitch is a well-loved option on many modern sewing machines.

You might also have heard this stitch called the “interlocking stitch” or the “crossover stitch.” The zigzag stitch is a handy way to finish edges and lock in your seams, no matter the name.

However, it can be a nuisance if your machine is sewing in zigzags when you want to sew a straight stitch. 

If you’re not familiar with your machine’s settings, double-check your stitch selector to ensure it is working properly and set to the stitch you want to use.

1. The Stitch Selector is Set to Zigzag

For most beginners on the sewing machine, the straight stitch is the go-to option.

As the name suggests, it sews in a straight line. However, this is not the only stitch your sewing machine can perform.

The zigzag stitch is a favorite for finishing seams without using a serger. You can take advantage of the zigzag stitch after sewing a straight stitch and trimming away the extra fabric. 

By zigzagging over the edge of your fabric, you are locking in your seams for maximum durability. With this type of stitch, the needle moves from left to right instead of straight up and down. 

To select this type of stitch, you will need to understand how to change the stitch setting on your machine. You will have a dial that you turn by hand on most mechanical machines.

If you have a higher-end computerized machine, it will likely display the stitch you want. 

How to Find Your Stitch:

It might not be obvious what stitch it is currently set to sew with for some mechanical machines. You might be looking at a dial with letters printed on it and nothing else.

You will need to find the key that tells you what letter corresponds to each stitch type.  This information should be in your instruction manual or other reference material. 

Other dials will be clearer, with images of the stitches printed directly on the dial or elsewhere on the machine. Take some time to know your machine and what stitches go with each dial setting. 

If your sewing machine is currently sewing in a zigzag stitch, there is a big chance that it is currently set to do. You or someone else in your home might have accidentally turned this knob to one of the zigzag settings. 

If it has been turned to a zigzag stitch, turn it back to the straight stitch or another desired stitch. If the knob turns easily and stitches as intended, you might have just solved your problem.

If the dial is jammed or the problem continues, here are some other possible causes and solutions:

2. The Stitch Selector is Jammed

Your stitch selector dial can get jammed and stuck in place.

If you see that your machine is set to zigzag, but you cannot turn the stitch selector dial. In this state, your machine will only be able to sew the stitch it is currently set to. 

Over time, the oil in your machine can mix with the dust, lint, and other debris and become hard. When your machine does not receive regular servicing, this solidifying oil mix can cause the parts to freeze in place. 

Keeping your machine oiled and serviced can help avoid these types of problems. If it’s too late and you are already experiencing a stuck stitch selector, you can bring your machine in for servicing or clean and oil it yourself. 

Why Is My Straight Stitch Zigzag?

Beyond the stitch settings, your machine has other issues that can cause your straight stitch to appear zigzag.

The presser foot is the part of your machine that you lower down to hold the fabric in place when sewing. You can set the tension of the presser foot yourself, giving you more control depending on the type of fabric you are using. 

If you end up using a presser foot tension setting that is too low, the fabric will move freely even when the foot has been lowered.

 If you proceed to sew when the fabric moves like this, you will end up with a line of stitches that meander back and forth, zigzagging where your straight seam should be. 

If this seems to be your problem, the solution is easy. Locate the dial that controls your presser foot tension and try turning it up.

Usually, a number in the middle will do the trick for standard fabric.  You can always sew with different settings on some test scraps to find the perfect one before proceeding with your sewing project. 

Can Sewing Machines Get Stuck in Zigzag Mode?

It’s still possible for your sewing machine to get stuck in zigzag mode, even when the stitch selector is turning freely.

To fix this problem, you can try a few different tactics. Try a straight stitch needle plate if you are using a needle plate that allows for zigzag stitching.

These plates only allow the needle to pass through a small hole instead of the larger space required for a zigzag. 

This simple change could solve your problem, especially if you have a machine that will recognize the straight stitch plate. 

You can also try setting the stitch width to zero. The stitch width is the dial that tells your machine how much to move the needle left to right.

This setting is one of the ways you control the size of your zigzag stitch.

When you set it at zero, you tell your machine that it should not be moving left to right when stitching. This might solve your issue and get your machine stitching up and down again.  

You can always bring your machine to your local service shop when all else fails. The professionals will diagnose your specific problem and get your machine working again. 

Remember to regularly bring your machine in for service, even when you’re not experiencing problems. Keeping your machine well-oiled and maintained will help prevent issues with it from getting stuck in the future. 

Final Thoughts

The zigzag stitch on your sewing machine is convenient for finishing seams.

However, it can be a nuisance if your machine starts sewing in a zigzag when you want a straight stitch. 

Make sure you have correctly chosen your stitch type and that your stitch selector dial is lubricated and moving freely. 

Try a higher tension setting for your presser foot if your straight stitch is meandering and zigzagging.


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