Most sewing machines have lots of different stitch options, but you are really only ever going to use a few different variations on two.
You will find the different options for stitch types and lengths on one or two dials on the front of your sewing machine.
|The higher the number, the longer the stitch.|
|1,2&3- Straight Stitch.|
The Straight Stitch:
You will use this stitch for basically everything. Choosing the length really depends upon what kind of fabric you are sewing with.
With quilting cottons or other fabrics without stretch, you will use a smaller stitch- probably a 2.
With stretch fabrics you will use a 3 to 4 to allow for stretch room.
I have never used a 1, but if you have a non-stretch fabric that needs to have really strong seems (like if you were making a very overstuffed teddy bear or something) this is what you would use.
Straight stitches are what holds everything together. You will use them on every part of your sewing project- including hems.
The Zig Zag Stitch:
I use this stitch on high-stretch fabrics like lycra to give me a lot of stretch space. I also use it in lieu of serging by running a zig zag stitch along the edges of my fabric beside my straight stitches. Serging is what you will find on the insides of t-shirts, it keeps fabrics from fraying.
To start you stitches, put your fabric with the far end at the beginning of your feed dogs (the two spikey parts under your needle). Then choose what size and kind of stitch you want to do. I suggest playing around with your settings to see what they produce.
Then you're just going to have to put your foot down.
|The little lever at the back will put your sewing foot down.|
Now just keep practising those. Try sewing two pieces of fabric together. Use different kinds of fabric with differing amounts of stretch, thickness, slipperiness, etc.
Practice makes perfect, and there's no perfect formula for sewing. The more you get to know how stitches behave in different kinds of fabric and how different kinds of fabric work together, the better you'll be at making garments that last.