“Stitch Width Safety”

During the machine classes I teach, while exploring the machines’ Settings Menu, we talk about Stitch Width Safety.  Most customers have never heard of the setting and don’t know when they are supposed to use it.  Since most of you probably have this feature I wanted to take a moment to explain it:  what it is, why it’s needed and when to use it.

Most machines that have a Settings Menu have a Stitch Width Safety option.  This feature limits your needle position to the center only, so you can only choose a center position straight stitch.  The selection of this option is done to tell the machine that you either have a straight stitch plate on your machine or you are using a presser foot that has only a center needle position opening through which to sew.

The stitch plate on the top is the zig-zag plate and the one below is the straight stitch plate. These are both Pfaff stitch plates.
These plates are from Husqvarna Viking. The top zig-zag plate has a much wider opening, allowing for decorative stitches and different needle positions whereas the bottom plate is the straight stitch plate, allowing only the center needle position straight stitch.
These feet are examples of those used with the zig-zag or standard stitch plate. They all have a wide needle opening, allowing for different needle positions, twin needles and decorative stitches.
These presser feet are some of the many examples of feet that need to have the Stitch Width Safety option chosen in the Settings Menu. All of them have a small hole in the center, allowing the needle to only stitch in one position……the center!
Row 1: yarn couching and invisible zipper feet
Row 2: stitch in the ditch and 1/4″ piecing feet
Row 3: Ribbon couching feet

It’s important to give your machine this information since it has no way of knowing what you are sewing.  (In the case of the straight stitch plate:  top of the line machines {such as the Husqvarna Epic and the Pfaff Creative/Performance Icon} do have a sensor that lets them know when this specialty plate has been attached and will select the Stitch Width Safety setting automatically.  These machines cannot, however, tell when a straight stitch only foot has been attached).  The importance of selecting this option becomes immediately apparent if you have ever been using, say a ¼” piecing foot, without setting the stitch width safety and then chosen a zig-zag stitch that you are only going to use for a moment.  There will be a loud noise and a broken needle that will probably go whizzing over your right shoulder at astonishing speed……just ask me how I know this!  By turning on the Stitch Width Safety, the machine will know not to allow you to choose any other stitch besides a center needle position straight stitch.  The only time I do not recommend you use this feature is if you are using the Adjustable ¼” piecing foot.

Notice the opening on the Pfaff and the Husqvarna Viking Adjustable 1/4″ piecing foot has a slightly oblong needle opening. This allows for that scant 1/4″ seam allowance.

If you use the Stitch Width Safety option while using this foot, you lose the ability to change the needle position to achieve a scant ¼” seam allowance, which is the whole reason you bought the foot in the first place.  In this case, you simply have to keep your head on and remember not to change the stitch to anything other than a straight stitch.  You will also need to test the needle position for the adjusted straight stitch with that foot by using the hand wheel to carefully move the needle through the stitch before you start full speed sewing.  I have found while using this particular foot, the best way to make sure I don’t do something I’ll regret is to put on the “Lock Screen” feature, also found in the Settings Menu.  This option is found on machines that have an interactive display screen.