Learn how to use the seam allowance guide on your sewing machine’s needle plate (sometimes called a throat plate) to sew straight seams and corners!
Sewing straight seams doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, most sewing machines, including yours, are designed to help you sew perfectly straight seams and corners.
I previously shared how to sew perfect corners using the seam allowance guide on your sewing machine’s needle plate. Then it got me to thinking that you may not be familiar with what a needle plate is or how it can help you to sew straight seams.
So, I’m going to talk all about how to use the seam allowance guides on a needle plate today to help you get more familiar with your sewing machine features.
FAQs – Seam Allowance Guides
Before we get into how to use the seam allowance guides on your needle plate to sew straight seams, let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions. And if you have more questions after reading this tutorial, feel free to leave them in the comments below!
How does my sewing machine help me to sew perfectly straight seams?
I’m glad you asked! Your sewing machine has what is called a needle plate (also called a throat plate). And on that needle plate there are etched lines and numbers. These etchings are intended to be used as seam allowance guides.
What is a needle plate?
A needle plate is also sometimes called a throat plate. It is the metal piece located directly below your sewing machine needle and presser foot.
A needle plate or throat plate has holes or slots in it for the sewing machine needle to pass through as it moves up and down (catching hold of the bobbin thread) to create your stitches.
What if my sewing machine doesn’t have etched seam allowance guides?
If your sewing machine doesn’t have etched seam allowance guides, you can use something as simple as tape (I like to use Washi tape or painter’s tape) to help you sew perfectly straight seams and corners.
I even have a tutorial on how to make seam guides using tape that you can refer to for extra help.
Are there any other methods to help me sew straight seams?
Yes! Another method to help you sew a straight seam is to make your own seam guides using tape. You can read all about how to make seam guides using tape in this tutorial.
There are also magnetic seam guides and adhesive seam guides that you can use with your sewing machine. I’ll share more information on how to use these items in a later post. Here is an example of a magnetic seam guide and an example of an adhesive seam guide.
And, if you need help sewing straight lines in quilting, you can even use a quilting guide bar. So, your options are:
- needle plate seam allowance guide
- use tape to create a seam guide
- magnetic seam guide
- adhesive seam guide
You can also use permanent marker to mark lines on your sewing machine, but I don’t recommend that method.
Is it a Needle Plate or Throat Plate?
Yes! Some people and some sewing machine manufacturer’s refer to the needle plate as a throat plate and vice versa. You may recall when we discussed the anatomy of a sewing machine that your sewing machine has what is called a throat.
Well, the needle plate or throat plate is located in the throat area of your sewing machine.
Take a look at your sewing machine's needle plate (also called a throat plate). It may have vertical and horizontal stitch guides that are etched into the needle plate. If it does, you can use these guides to line up the sides of your fabric for your seam allowance. These seam guides help you to create perfectly straight seams and corners!
- fabric scraps
- bobbin, prewound
- sewing machine
- seam gauge or ruler
- Starting Needle Position - The hole in the center of the needle plate (centered above your feed dogs) is the starting needle position. You'll also notice there is a horizontal line that runs across the needle plate. This indicates where the needle will drop when you start sewing. (Your machine may or may not have this horizontal line.)
- 5/8" seam guide (vertical) - With your needle in the center position, line up the edge of the fabric with this mark to sew a consistent 5/8" seam.
- 5/8" seam guides (horizontal) - To make a perfect pivot for your corner, stop sewing when the end of the fabric reaches the 5/8" horizontal guide line. With the needle still down, raise the presser foot and rotate the fabric 90 degrees lining up the edge with the 5/8" seam guide. Continue sewing.
- Locate the marking on the needle plate for the stitch width you want to sew, say 1/4" for example.
- With your presser foot and needle in the up position, slide your fabric under the presser foot.
- Line up the raw edge of the fabric with the etched seam marking. In this example we are using 1/4" so we will line up the raw edge of the fabric with the 1/4" seam guide etched into the needle plate.
- Lower the presser foot and put your needle down in the starting position.
- Stitch while guiding your fabric along the 1/4" seam guide etched on the needle plate.
- If you are sewing a corner, slow your stitching down when you get near the 1/4" edge of the fabric. With the needle down, raise the presser foot and rotate your fabric counter-clockwise. If your sewing machine has horizontal seam guide markings for the 1/4" seam, make sure your fabric lines up, then continue sewing.
- You can also make additional stitches if your seam allowance is too wide or take a couple of reverse stitches if your seam allowance is too narrow.
Take a look at the needle plates for my Janome Memory Craft 8200 QCP. The first picture is of the Zig Zag Needle Plate. The second picture below is of the Straight Stitch Needle Plate.
You will notice they have horizontal, vertical, and even some diagonal markings or etchings. What do all those etchings mean? They were etched there on purpose to help you sew straight seams! These are your needle plate seam allowance guides.
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Learn to Sew
Be sure to read all the tutorials in the Learn to Sew series here on Hooked on Sewing. Here are a few of the lessons you’ll find:
- How to sew a straight line.
- How to properly wind a bobbin.
- The best fabric and thread for learning to sew.
- How to clean your sewing machine.
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