Stitch 'Em Up - Applique a Story in Fabric - Nutcracker Patterns
Sewing a Perfect Satin Stitch

Perfect Satin StitchTodays sewing machines have a built-in satin stitch that is either a satin stitch or an applique stitch. Nearly all sewing machines built in the last 30-years or so have a zigzag stitch that can be adjusted to make a satin stitch so you can satin stitch with both old and new sewing machines.

The secret to a good satin stitch is a combination of tension and stitch length. The newer computerized machines automatically set the tension for satin stitch; however you can override it in most cases. This is especially important when you are sewing with metallic threads.

To find the right combinations of tension and stitch length, practice on a scrap of fabric with a piece of stabilizer behind it. Practice a lot.

How to Sew a Satin Stitch

Correct Tension Bobbin Thread Pulling

The tension is correct when the upper threads wrap around to the back with a bit of it showing on either side or even one side of the bobbin thread. No bobbin thread shows on the top of the fabric.

If the bobbin thread pulls to the top of the fabric, the tension is too tight and some of the bobbin thread will show on the right side of the fabric.

Tension too loose

The tension is too loose if no bobbin thread shows anywhere on the fabric. In this case, the bobbin thread is not anchoring the stitch and tugging on it can easily pull it out.

Write down the settings in your sewing machine manual or a notebook you keep by your machine so they will be handy when you begin your project.

Sewing Squares and Rectangles


Correctly starting and ending squares and rectangles with a satin stitch.By starting the satin stitch in the center of a line rather than in the corner, it is much easier to match up at the end.

Sewing Corners


The right and wrong way to sew a corner with a satin stitch.Sew to the edge of the applique. Place the needle in the down position, pivot the fabric and line up the applique again to sew down the next edge.

Then raise the needle and the presser foot slightly. Move the applique a sewing thread or two towards the rear of the sewing machine. Lower the presser foot, roll the needle down into the outside edge of the applique and begin to sew.

This technique prevents a sewing thread or two from hanging over the edge of the corner and makes the corners look square.

Sewing Circles

Sewing Points

Large circles are easy to sew because they can often be sewn without stopping.

Smaller circles need more care. Sew them a few stitches at a time. Since the presser foot is designed to sew in a straight line, it is necessary to pivot around the arc of the circle. Do this by rolling the needle down on the outside edge of the applique, raising the presser foot a little and turning the fabric slightly to begin sewing again. Repeat the process until the circle is complete.

Rolling the needle down along the outside edge before pivoting prevents the fabric from moving. When the needle is in the up position, it is more difficult to position the fabric properly to keep the circle from becoming distorted.

The computerized machines make sewing points difficult. They go down in width increments of .05 and do not have an over-ride to go in smaller decreases like the older machine will do. If the newer machine has different positions for the needle, the points can be decreased on one side, then switch the needle position to the other side and gradually increase the width of the stitch.

Most of the time this is more work than I want to do, so this is my version of a point which on closer observation is not pointed at all.

Satin stitch to the end of the point. Roll the needle down, raise the presser foot slightly and turn the applique, lining it up to sew down the other side. Hold the fabric steady and roll the needle to the other side of the applique point. Now begin to sew down the other side of the point. You will sew over a few stitches in the process.

Other Stuff

  1. The faster you sew the easier it is to guide the applique under the needle. Try it on a scrap of fabric and see.
  2. Use your fingertips to guide the fabric. Regardless of how fast or slow you sew, too much pressure on the fabric prevents it from moving easily under the needle.
  3. Always use a stabilizer behind the applique. It prevents the satin stitch from rippling and distorting.