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How to Zigzag Stitch to Prevent Fraying

This post is part of my Beginner Sewing Series.

When I first starting making quilts, I would just throw all my fabric in the washing machine when I pre-washed. I wouldn’t do anything to prepare it, and when I got it out of the washing machine, half of it was unraveled and I’d have a bunch of wet strings where my pretty fabric had once been. It didn’t phase me too much, I would just order extra fabric and cut off the strings. (Can we say wasteful, much?)

I finally decided that I should do something about all those yucky little strings, so I started doing a zigzag stitch across the raw edges before washing.

It’s super easy and only takes a couple of minutes to do.

First, if you’re zigzagging as part of the pre-washing process, you should know that you only need to stitch around the raw edges. You can stitch around the selvedge, but there’s no real need for you to do so. If you can’t tell the difference between the selvedge and the raw edges, look closely and you can probably see some tiny little threads already unraveling from the raw edges. You shouldn’t see any unraveling on the selvedge.

First, find the zigzag setting on your sewing machine.



On my machine, it’s setting 8. Look for the zigzag pattern on your machine. Even the simplest of machines should allow you to do a zigzag stitch.






Run it through your machine like normal.



And you’re done.

You have a nice zigzag stitch that will keep your fabric from unraveling in the washing machine.

(If you have a serger, you can just serge the edges instead.)

While this tutorial focused on the zigzag stitch to prevent fabric from fraying in the washing machine, you use the same concept to zigzag stitch for other purposes, as well. For instance, you might use a zigzag stitch around an applique.


  1. […] How to zigzag stitch to prevent fraying. What is a raw edge? What is an invisible stitch? What is a seam allowance? How to backstitch. What does right sides together mean? /* This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Mary. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  2. […] what a zigzag stitch looks like and here’s a tutorial about how to do it, if you need […]

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