Seam guide tutorial – all you need to know about how to sew a straight line and keep seam allowances equal

In this sewing tutorial I want to talk about a seam guide – why you need one (or a few actually), how to use it correctly, what types of seam guides exist, how you can make it yourself and where to  buy the best.

A seam guide can make your sewing easy and effortless. 

Let me show you my favorite tools that help to sew straight and save lots of time and frustration.

 

Table of contents

  1. Seam guide attachment from the sewing machine accessories
  2. Magnetic seam guide
  3. 6-in-1 Stick’nStitch Guide with Nancy Zieman
  4. Laser seam guide
  5. Diy seam guides

Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself. 

If you prefer to watch the tutorial GO TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL TO SEE THE VIDEO

Do you like to sew? What is the thing you struggle with the most? I asked my readers and by far the most common response was this – how to sew a straight line? How to keep a stitching line straight? 

Well, I partially answered this question in my previous tutorial “How to sew straight” where I showed you what sewing machine presser feet to use for sewing straight.

And now I would like to show you how to use a seam guide to keep your stitching lines straight

But seam guides are also useful for keeping seam allowances equal

Of course for these purposes we can use a sewing machine throat plate – it usually has some kind of a seam guide. Why would we need something else? See – there are 5/8 seam allowances,  ⅜  seam allowances, etc. Even the bobbin case cover has some marks on it. Janome has the marking in millimeters also.  So all you have to do is to keep the fabric edges aligned with the markings. I guess you used this seam allowance guide on a sewing machine many times.   

In fact,  it’s not really so easy and you may have a problem doing that, especially if you like to sew fast

And what happens if you want to make straight lines on something big – like a quilt for example? You put it for stitching – and it covers the throat plate completely, and you don’t see its markings. In this case you would definitely need a seam guide.

In addition, this convenient device saves your time.You don’t need to mark stitching lines with markers or pins. You don’t need to rip seams that are not straight because they will be straight. 



There are many different types of seam guides. Some of them you even got together with your sewing machine. And others are pretty cheap to buy. 

Seam guide attachment from the sewing machine accessories

In my sewing machine manual  this seam guide is called Quilting bar but I guess there are other names for this tool.  I was surprised to find this small metal bar among my sewing machine accessories and had to read the manual to see how to use this thing. But it was a long time ago and since then I have been using it quite often. 

It’s really easy to install.  

Find a small opening on the foot holder. Insert quilting bar into the opening and slide the bar to set the width of the seams you want. 

My seam guide attachment from the sewing machine accessories extends to a maximum width of around 2″. But there are longer seam guides available. 

For this seam guide to work you will need to find some stitching lines that are already on the fabric. Or you can use the edge of the fabric as the first line. 

Sew while tracing the previous seam with the quilting bar.

You can see that the stitching lines are perfectly straight and the seam allowances are equal. 

This seam guide is really good for sewing decorative stitches that don’t run wavy or crooked.

See how it works in the video below. 

Magnetic seam guide

The magnetic SEAM guide is designed for smooth stitching at different distances from the fabric edge.

With this device, it’s easy to control the width of the allowances when sewing on a sewing machine.This is how it looks, there is a strong magnet under the metal case.

Let me show you how to use it.

  • Place the magnetic sewing guide directly to the throat plate parallel to the presser foot, at a distance that depends on the desired width of seam allowances. For this you can use markings on a sewing machine. 
  • Set the fabric so that the edge adjoins the magnetic guide 
  • During sewing, run the edge of the fabric exactly along the magnetic seam guide and you can sew without fear that your stitching lines are not going to be straight. 
  • As a result the seam allowances are perfectly even. 

The magnet is very strong, it does not move when sewing even with hard heavyweight fabrics and adjusts to any position on the metal throat plate of a sewing machine. 

The big plus of this seam allowance guide is that it can be used with almost ANY presser foot. For example, I use walking foot for quilts very often and the seam guide is perfect for sewing straight with the walking foot. I can topstitch leather using special presser feet for leather. 

Some sources say that it’s not recommended for computerized sewing machines because it’s magnetic. But I can assure you it can be used with modern computerized sewing machines ONLY if you place it correctly – you can put it ONLY on the metal throat plate of a sewing machine but don’t put it anywhere else – then the magnet can destroy a computer inside the machine. But there is no computer under the throat plate so this place is safe. 

Buy a magnetic seam guide here

Magnetic Seam Guide for Sewing Machines.Pack of 5

$12.99
$9.99  in stock
2 new from $9.99
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • G30:More powerful magnets, fixed more firmly, Stainless steel material.
  • The sewing magnet is suitable for all sewing machines
  • For stitching perfect even seams along straight edges and curves.
  • The extremely powerful built-in magnet permits ready mounting and dismounting; no tools or screws needed
  • This magnetic seam guide is widely used in clothing industry and domestic sewing work. It's easy to use, and a great helper in sewing a straight line or circle line track. This extremely powerful magnetic seam guide can be easily mounted and adjusted to any position of the metal throat plate.It greatly improves the efficiency of the garment making process

Colorful Magnetic Seam Guide,Magnet Guides for Sewing Machine Foot Parts Accessories by LNKA (4 Pack Purple)

$9.90  in stock
2 new from $9.90
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Colorful Magnetic Seam Guide For Sewing Machine Foot Parts Accessories.3 color you can choose
  • Strong magnetic hold keeps this gauge in place for easy use
  • For stitching perfect even seams along straight edges and curves.
  • The sewing magnet is suitable for all sewing machines.
  • This magnetic seam guide is widely used in clothing industry and domestic sewing work. It's easy to use, and a great helper in sewing a straight line or circle line track. This extremely powerful magnetic seam guide can be easily mounted and adjusted to any position of the metal throat plate.It greatly improves the efficiency of the garment making process

CESDes Bundle 14 in 1 Seam Gauge and Magnetic Seam Guide for Quick Reference and Smooth Sewing

$8.97  in stock
1 new from $8.97
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • position this magnetic seam guide where you like
  • using the hand variety of seam widths gauge
  • one convenient measuring tool especially for sewing and quilting
  • at the ready notions

Magnetic Seam Guide, 2 Pieces of Magnet for Sewing Machine

$5.99  in stock
1 new from $5.99
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • SEW STRAIGHT SEAMS: place it as far from the needle as you want your line of stitching and it guides the fabric through perfectly as you sew
  • WON"T MOVE OR SHIFT: Strong magnetic hold keeps this gauge in place for easy use
  • BULK VALUE: Two units so you always have a seam guide for your machine when you need it.
  • FITS MOST MACHINES: This guide will "stick" to and fit most popular brand machines on the market.

Dritz 626 Seam Guide, Magnetic

$4.49
$4.26  in stock
19 new from $4.26
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Use To Stitch Even Seams, Tucks, And Pleats Without Marking
  • Adjusts To Any Position On Metal Throat Plate Of Sewing Machine
  • Not Recommended For Computerized Sewing Machines
  • Product Dimension: 4.75"L X 2.88"W X 0.33"H

6-in-1 Stick’nStitch Guide with Nancy Zieman

If you don’t want to try the magnetic seam guide then you can buy plastic one. 

That’s how it looks like. It has two plastic pieces and a small square ruler with grid lines and small holes for a needle. 

Let’s see how to use this seam guide. 

For example, I need to make my seam allowances 5/8 in or 1.5 cm. 

 

        • Place the ruler on the throat plate and align the needle with the desired grid line. 
        • Insert the needle into the hole and stick plastic pieces along the ruler edge. For this you will need to peel the film from the bottom of each guide to uncover the sticky side. Also, before placing the guides wipe away dust from the machine. 
        • During sewing, run the edge of the fabric exactly along the seam guide and you will get perfectly straight stitching line. 

But I don’t need to use the template always. If I need to make very wide seam allowances I just put the seam guide at the distance I want. But these seam guides have to be placed exactly parallel to the presser foot. So I make some marks on my sewing machine for easy placement.

Why is this guide called 6-in-1?

The first is for straight stitching (you just saw how it’s done)

Second – you can easily stitch strips of fabric together.Look, you put the guides like this for example: one to the right at ¼ in seam allowances, the other one to the left at the width of the strips. And stitch. 

Third – You can stitch outer curves. For this you will have to place the narrow edge of the guide like this, with curve up.

Fourth – You can easily stitch inner curves. For this place the narrow edge of the guide with curve down. 

Fifth – you can use the guide for topstitching close to the edges or making ¼ in seam allowances. Place the guide like this: place the shaped edge on the side of the presser foot.The shaped edge accommodates the foot and you can easily stitch quite close to the fabric edge. 

For topstitching I like to use special presser feet and I wrote about them in my other tutorial “How to sew straight”.

Six – I guess the six thing is this plastic ruler with grid lines.  

As you can see, this simple gadget is pretty cool. The only thing that bothers me is the sticky side of the seam guide. But they say if the sticky side becomes weak it can be restored by soaking in water with dishwashing liquid. 

Get more info on 6-in-1 Stick’nStitch Guide

CLOVER Needlecrafts 9584 3 Piece 6-in-1 Stick 'n Stitch Guide by Nancy Zieman

$17.94
$3.94  in stock
23 new from $3.94
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Clover-Stick n Stitch Guide By Nancy Zieman
  • This 7x3-1/2 inch package contains two- piece interlocking guide and reusable/repositionable adhesive guide underside
  • Made in Japan
  • 2-piece interlocking guide with ideal shapes and edges for perfect stitching includes grid measure keeper template 3 pieces total
  • Reusable and repositionable adhesive guide underside

ShineBear 3pcs 6 in 1 Stick and Stitch Seam Guide Sewing Machine Parts for Needlecraft

 out of stock
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Package Includes: 1 Set 6 In 1 Stitch Guide | Note: | Please allow a little size error due to manual measurement. | Please be reminded that due to lighting effects and monitor's brightness/contrast settings etc, the item's color may be slightly different from the pictures. Please understand.]
  • - Brand new and high quality
  • - Durable and easy to use
  • - Includes 2pcs interlocking guide and reusable/repositionable adhesive guide
  • - Interlocking guide with great shapes and edges perfect for stitching

HONEYSEW 3 Piece 6-in-1 Stick 'n Stitch Guide for Pefect Stitching

$6.90  in stock
1 new from $6.90
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • HONEYSEW 3 Piece 6-in-1 Stick 'n Stitch Guide For Pefect Stitching
  • 2-piece interlocking guide with ideal shapes and edges for perfect stitching includes grid measure keeper template 3 pieces total
  • 6 in 1 Stitching 1 Straight 2 quilt strips 3 outer curves 4 inner curves 5 Topstitch along right side 6 Topstitch along left side
  • adhesive guide is reusable

Sewing machine laser guide

Modern high tech sewing machines can have a laser as a seam guide. I have such a fancy machine.

Let me show you how it’s done. 

I have a button on the sewing machine – I press it and I have the laser – you can see the red line on top of the fabric.This line always stays in front of the needle while you are sewing and shows where you have to stitch. The light is bright enough that you can see it on any fabric.

I can adjust the sewing position by moving the laser to the left or to the right.

The laser seam guide really helps to sew straight lines without making marks. 

Usually it’s better to align the laser with some previous straight stitched lines. 

This laser seam guide is very useful for quilting. Let me show you how to stitch half square triangles very fast using the laser guide. I am going to use my ¼ in seam allowances presser foot

I line up the laser with the opposite corners of my squares, and after that I align the right side of the presser foot with the laser line. I stitch guiding the fabric so that the corner of the square stays in line with the laser.

After that I sew the opposite side of the square also using the laser seam guide.

In the end I just have to cut between the stitching lines using my rotary cutter and I have two pieces like this. 

Laser can help to sew zippers. Just align the laser with the zipper tape and stitch. 

DIY seam guides

And finally, I want to show you seam guides you can easily make yourself if for some reason you don’t have any seam guide. They are not as good as store bought seam guides but they can be used occasionally with acceptable results. 

I have used sticky notes, not one by one but while they are still all together. Each note has a strip of glue on its back and can be temporarily attached to the machine. This small pad of notes is thick enough so the fabric edge can move along without slipping. But still it can slip sometimes with heavier fabrics so you have to watch out for that. 

I heard you can use a painter’s tape – just stick a piece on your machine parallel to the throat plate.But the tape is thin, so you have to be very careful not to go off the stitching line. The tape doesn’t leave any residue on the machine.  

Buy sticky notes and painter's tape here

Post-it Mini Notes, 1.5" x 2", 24 Pads, America's #1 Favorite Sticky Note, Call OUT Important Information, Recyclable, Cape Town Collection (653-24Anvad)

$13.99  in stock
7 new from $13.99
5 used from $11.71
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • 1 3/8 in x 1 7/8 in, Cape town collection
  • Post-it Notes stick securely and remove cleanly
  • Unique adhesive designed for use on paper or in planners
  • America's #1 favorite sticky note
  • Leave reminders or call out important information

Post-it Notes, America's #1 Favorite Sticky Note, Value Pack, 1-1/2 x 2-Inches, Canary Yellow, 24-Pads/Pack

$7.99  in stock
37 new from $7.99
1 used from $7.43
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • 15 in x 2 in, Canary Yellow
  • Post-it Notes stick securely and remove cleanly
  • Unique adhesive designed for use on paper or in planners
  • America's #1 favorite sticky note
  • 100 Sheets/Pad, 24 Pads/Pack

FrogTape 1358463 Multi-Surface Painting Tape, .94 Inches Wide x 60 Yards Long, Single Roll, Green

$14.90
$5.86  in stock
36 new from $4.89
1 used from $5.50
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Pro Painter's Tape, . 94 inch x 60 yard roll
  • Twenty one day interior clean release, or up to 7 days if paint is in direct sunlight
  • Medium adhesion for use on cured painted walls, wood trim, glass and metal
  • Patented Paint Block technology keeps paint out and lines sharp
  • WATCH THE VIDEO for best application and use techniques

IPG PMD24 ProMask Blue Designer 14-Day Painter's Tape, 0.94" x 60 yd, (Single Roll)

$4.59
$3.58  in stock
9 new from $3.58
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Specially formulated pressure-sensitive acrylic adhesive designed for exposure to sunlight for up to fourteen days
  • Exposure to sunlight for up to fourteen days. Exhibits secure adhesion and easy, clean removal from most surfaces
  • Consistent, easy unwind
  • Resistant to humidity and paint bleed-through
  • Use wherever masking will be exposed to weather / out-of-doors conditions, interior masking of windows (where adhesive will be directly exposed to sunlight)

Colored Masking Tape,Colored Painters Tape for Arts & Crafts, Labeling or Coding - Art Supplies for Kids - 6 Different Color Rolls - Masking Tape 1 Inch x 13 Yards (2.4cm X 12m)

$7.99  in stock
1 new from $7.99
1 used from $7.83
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Durable Versatility: It can be torn by hand, sticky enough to adhere to any clean surface and easy to re-position. The tape can be used on paper, objects and walls.
  • Easy-to-stick,Easy-to-tear.Adhesive holds securely.Whether adults or children will find fun from this tape set.
  • Kids Craft Multi Pack Colored Masking Tape Variety Set [Bulk Value for Kids] with vibrant assorted colors including blue, purple, orange, green, yellow, red
  • Make your cell phone cases, storage boxes, desks, coffee tables, and household appliances,and picture frames twinkle, or create sparkling wall art in on-trend metallics.
  • 100% MONEY BACK GUARANTEE:All products are backed by a 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE. Please contact us right away if you have any issues.

Some people advise to use a piece of elastic with sewn together edges. It works about the same as the painter’s tape.

Need to buy elastic? Take a look here

White Knit Elastic Spool (1 Inch x 11 Yard)

$6.99  in stock
1 new from $6.99
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Material: the elastic band is made of polyester fiber; Color: white; Length: 11 yards/ 10 m; Width: 1 inch/ 2.5 cm, please make sure the size when you buy this item
  • Features: the elastic band is durable and gives you a comfortable and breathable feeling, and it can be shortened into the length you want, convenient to apply
  • Package: includes 1 roll white elastic spool, which is 11 yards in length, enough length for meeting your various needs such as making sewing crafts or applying it in other places
  • Good quality: the braided elastic band with good quality is very stretchy, and it does not deform its shape easily after stretching or applying it for a long time
  • Wide application: the knit elastic band with good elasticity can be widely applied to wigs, underwear, pants, sportswear, skirts, DIY projects and so on

lusata 1 inch Wide Black Knit Elastic Spool Heavy Stretch High Elasticity Knit Elastic Band 10 Yard

$12.99
$6.99  in stock
1 new from $6.99
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Color: black
  • Size: 10 yards in length and 1 inches in width
  • Flat elastic,extend by 2 diretions
  • Use it for waistbands, necklines or crafts anywhere you need the ease and versatility
  • composition?85% polyester, 15% rubber

1 inch Elastic for Sewing 11 Yard X 2 Pack (Black & White)

$10.99
$8.99  in stock
1 new from $8.99
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Material: Made Of Polyester Fiber.
  • Size: Each Roll Length: 11yards/ 10M, Width: 1 Inch/ 2.5 CM. Color: Black & White.
  • Features: Lightweight, Easy To Store, Good Elasticity, High Wears Resistance, Strong Shrinkage, Strong And Durable, And It Does Not Deform Its Shape Easily After Stretching Or Applying It For A Long Time.
  • Widely Application: Wigs, Waistband, Underwear, Pants, Sportswear, Skirts, DIY Projects, Maternity Wear Kids Clothes Etc.
  • Suitable Length And Width Can Cater To Your Needs Well.

Ninepeak Braided Elastic, Red, 5-Yard by 1-Inch

$11.19
$10.99  in stock
1 new from $10.99
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Red Braided Elastic
  • This package contains 5 yards of 1 inch wide braided elastic
  • Use it for waistbands, necklines or crafts anywhere you need the ease and versatility

iCraft 2-Inch Wide by 2-Yard Colored Double-side Twill Elastic Band-Red 11030

$9.99  in stock
1 new from $9.99
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • 2-Inch Wide by 2-Yard Multiple Colors Elastic
  • Perfect for waistbands,Belt, and other crafting projects
  • Non-roll elastic
  • Measures 2 yards length by 2-Inch width

Ribbon 1" (25mm) Elastic Stretch Trim 1 Yard for Stretch Elastic Band, Headband, Hand Band and Waist Belt (Green/Red Stripe)

$3.00  in stock
1 new from $3.00
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Striped Stretch Elastic Band Trim
  • Size: 1" (25mm)
  • Quantity-1 Yard

Yzsfirm 1 Inch High Elastic Band,30 Yards Elastic Spool Knit Bands Light Green Braided Band for Sewing and Hair Wigs with Heavy Stretch

$17.99  in stock
1 new from $17.99
Free shipping
Get more info
Amazon.com
as of November 17, 2019 11:39 pm

Features

  • Material: the elastic band is made of polyester fibre; And this knitting elastic band is good at resilience with no more harmful smell
  • Features: the elastic is durable and breathable, ensuring breathable while maintaining durability, making it more comfortable to apply
  • Good elasticity: the elastic band in the range of allowable tensile elastic deformation, can easily restore the original length without deformation
  • Wide usage: the knit elastic band with good elasticity can be widely applied to wigs, underwear, pants, sportswear, skirts, waistbands, necklines or crafts DIY projects and so on

These inexpensive little gadgets will change your sewing and will really help keep stitching lines perfectly straight.They are essential items in your sewing room. 

Hopefully you can use some of these seam guides for your sewing projects.  

Did you find this tutorial helpful? If so, save this pin (see below) on your sewing board so you can come to this tutorial later when you are need to sew straight and follow me on Pinterest for more tips, tutorials, and inspiration! 

Ready to take the next step in your sewing journey? Check out more step-by-step tutorials from my blog and don’t forget to share on Facebook or Twitter! Some of these projects are made from the same silk fabric!

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
!