Lessons Learned from my Coverstitch Machine

I got a coverstitch machine last Christmas from my husband and in-laws, and after using it for a year, I want to share some of what I’ve learned and how has it changed my sewing!

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1. It’s not that hard.  My coverstitch is a Brother, just like my serger and sewing machine. It’s reliable, easy to thread, and seems to do a good job. It struggles a bit with stretchy lightweight rayon, but sews through denim, double knits, and other jerseys without problems. When I first read the manual, detaching the fabric from the machine at the end of a row seemed really tricky, but now my fingers know what to do.

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2. Narrow topstitching is just as easy as wide. 

For the first 6 months, I did all my topstitching and hemming using the 2 outer needles to get wide lines of parallel stitches. My thinking was that this gave me the maximum leeway to catch and enclose the raw edge folded underneath. (With coverstitching, you sew “blind” from the top of the garment, so you can’t see if you are properly catching the hem below.)  Then I tried triple needle stitching and narrow stitching )with the centre needle and an outer needle) and lo! It was was just as easy. Easier, actually, to topstitch down around a neckband with narrow stitching than wide, because both needles go through the serger stitching, instead of one going through just plan fabric and dragging the whole thing off track. Basically, just another example of my thinking something would be hard, but finding it simple once I gave it a shot!

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3. You need less fabric. 

This one surprised me, but it shouldn’t have! Finishing a t-shirt with folded bands (like a Renfrew) uses up a lot of fabric. A coverstitch is designed to give you nice stretchy hems and necklines, so you can just fold the fabric under and sew it down. It lovely to know that if you run low on fabric as you cut and you can’t fit folded cuffs or a neckband, you’ll still be able to finish everything nicely!

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4. You can sew more patterns. 

Before my coverstitch machine, I left a lot of hems raw. All my Comino Caps, all my Plantains… all raw. Sometimes I hemmed with a triple zigzag, but even that could leave hems wavy and distorted. Now that I can finish all those edges nicely, I find myself picking a wider array of patterns instead of preferring ones that can be finished with a band! I feel like I actually have the right tools to sew any pattern now.

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This is what it looks like when the lower looper is released – my solution when threads get tangled!

5. When the underlooper gets horrible tangled, it easy to fix.  Oh man. If things aren’t threaded right, sometimes the lower looper will loop again and again over the looper arm, sucking the fabric down into the machinery and creating a rat’s nest. I used to go at it with scissors and tweazers, and usually end up with an hole in my fabric. Then it occurred to me: I can just release the looper arm out of the whole mess, and pull the fabric away from the machine without cutting any of the threads! My life is much better now.

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6. Perfect is as perfect does. 

I look at every coverstitch seam as practice. Yes, I’d like it to be even and straight and perfectly align with the folded hem underneath… but I am not going to pick it out if it’s wonky. (Though unpicking is fairly simple just by pulling on the right thread in the right way…) I will put in my 10 000 hours on this machine and get better! In the mean time, I’ll accept “good enough”!

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My trusty tools: the tweezers for threading, and for pulling threads forward to end a seam… the makeup brush does a good job cleaning out fluff!

If you are new to coverstitching, I’d be remiss in not mentioning Stitches and Seam’s amazing collection of resources. Seriously, I tried to put together a list of coverstitch resources online last winter, and soon realised it was a page full of links to Deb’s blog, and very little else. Go check her blog out!

Now, do you NEED a coverstitch machine? Do I need one? Hell no. This is definitely a luxury item. I feel lucky every time I use mine. That said, it is a game changer, so when you can get one, do!

Do you have a coverstitch? If you do, what tricks have you learned, or how did it change your sewing? And if you are just dreaming of one, are there any questions you want to ask about how it works?  And while I’m asking all these questions, does anyone have tips for coversticthing on light rayon knits that just want to shift around and the stitching won’t stay straight?

 


18 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from my Coverstitch Machine

  1. I”ve just drooled over all your photos as I’d really like one, and I know I don’t need one! Thanks for the info, it’s convinced me even more, and I’m going to Pin it for the day I get one so I can read it again!🙂

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  2. I was asked by family last year what my sewing wish list would be and I jokingly remember mentioning I’d like to add a Coverstitch machine to my armoury. Lo and behold a Janome Cover Pro 2000CPX was under the Christmas tree but I’m scared to use it !! I understand it’s function in theory but just too scared to put it into practice. I was the same when I bought my first Overlocker some 20 odd years ago.

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  3. Thanks so much for this post, Gillian! I have the same model as you, and for the most part I find it pretty easy to use. However, I have had problems with chainstitching around the neck band of tops, getting lots of skipped stitches. Nothing I tried to fix it worked, and it only every happened around the neck! I put it out there on Instagram and got some advice to get Schmetz EXL needles, which I’m definitely going to try. But your post has me wondering – maybe it’s just the fabric? I’ve been using a lot of very lightweight, very stretchy rayon lately . . .

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  4. A coverstitch machine is definitely on my wishlist. I kept trying to convince myself that I don’t need one, but now that I have a good serger and I’m sewing a lot of knit garments, I think a coverstitch machine would get a lot of use.

    Here’s what I’ve done to successfully sew a three-step zig-zag hem on flimsy rayon knits. It should work with a coverstitch machine, too. I cut a strip of Sticky Solvy wash-away stabilizer the width of the hem, stuck it along the edge of the fabric on the wrong side, serged the edge (you would skip that when coverstitching), folded up the hem, then sewed the hem.

    For more control, you could also (or instead) use Wonder Tape wash-away double-sided tape to hold the hem in place before stitching. I’ve also tried using washable glue stick to hold the stabilized hem in place on really tricky to sew fabric, since I’m too cheap to use a lot of Wonder Tape. I used a dry iron to dry the glue. Make sure not to get any steam or moisture on the Solvy – it will shrink and warp. Washable glue stick is OK to use with the Sticky Solvy, but use it sparingly.

    I’ve also used Sticky Solvy on the wrong side of flimsy knit necklines to keep them from stretching out while topstitching. Try to use one piece of stabilizer if possible, since the feed dogs will peel it off if you’ve pieced together several small pieces.

    Starch is another option to make natural fiber fabric easier to sew. I think starch should work fine on rayon, but it won’t work on polyester. To make heavy starch, I put a teaspoon of cornstarch in a cup of water and shake it up in a spray bottle. Spray the fabric (shake the bottle frequently while spraying), put the fabric in a plastic bag and let it sit for 30 minutes, then iron it dry with the iron set to wool. When you make your own starch, you can adjust how much starch to use and even get your fabric as stiff as cardboard if you want!

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  5. I would love to have a overstitch machine but as I rarely sew knits and barely use even my serger then I couldn’t justify it. I love the way that they sew. It just makes everything look so professional. They do look a bit scary though. Xx

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  6. My tip for lightweight knits is to use the narrow setting (I find this has less potential tunneling) and turn down the looper tension – ALOT! I have even put in a hem at zero tension. I find a longer stitch length at 3.5 or 4 mm to work best. Also experiment with foot pressure but this depends on the particular fabric. If too much pressure, this can contribute to wavy hems and too little can make the fabric hard to feed straight. These are just my experiences with a Janome coverpro so others may have different tips.

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  7. Someday after I get settled into all 4 of my machines including the gorgeous seafoam green Dressmaker that sits half open in need of cleaning and oiling, I’ll think about a coverstitch. One of the last Ottobre issues had a knit dress with all of this really cool texture created with a coverstitch and it made me crazy with ideas of altering plain fabrics.

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  8. I second the advice above to stabilize your hem on lightweight knits to make them easier to coverstitch. My favorite product for this is Steam a Seam Lite 2. The name is weird and long, but it’s the best I’ve found because it really is “lite” and won’t leave your hem feeling stiff like I’ve experienced when I used Stitch Witchery, which is another product I’ve seen recommended for this purpose. I actually stabilize every single hem I sew this way, and it makes coverstitching a consistently pleasant experience instead of a hit-or-miss experience.

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  9. So happy to read this post – I received this same coverstitch for my birthday last year and I honestly haven’t been able to find many other bloggers who have this particular one. Like you, I used the wide stitch option for awhile because I was scared of the narrow one. But I tried my triple stitch for the first time this week and I had some trouble – halfway through a seam the two outer threads broke, leaving only the middle one. And try as I did, I could not get the threads to release when I was using the triple stitch – I did the same thing I do when using the double stitches, holding the tension buttons to the right and then pulling the work straight back, but the tension wouldn’t release. Any tips there?

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  10. I have a Singer five thread serger/ coverstitch machine and it is easy to switch over to coverstitch. I also have a Pfaff coverlock that I found at a thrift shop for a few dollars, which also switches back and forth between the two, so now I leave the Singer on the coverstitch settings.

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  11. I got my Janome a few years ago and I NEVER use it. I should sell it (or decide I like it). It’s nowhere near as good as my Babylock serger or my sewing machine. That’s part of the issue. The other is that it’s just an extra step. I don’t think a serged edge with a fold-up hem is that much less attractive than the coverstitched hem. And it’s much less fiddling at the end of a project. Now you’ve got me thinking…

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  12. Thank you for your post Gillian. Fantastic explanations and photos as usual and a great link resource to boot! Perhaps I could sneak one in the house one day. I have a major birthday in October – maybe hubby will splurge. It’s on my list for sure!

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  13. I love mine; it was a birthday/Christmas pressie from my husband and worth every penny! I make a lot of clothes for my kids from knits and it has given them the RTW look rather than homemade. My only (first world) problem I’ve encountered is when I’m using the “wrong” side of the stitching on the right side of the garment (if that makes sense) for decorative purposes, ie outlining patch pockets In contrast colour and making sure I’m stitching in the right place….. I also second using wash away stabiliser, it’s AWESOME!

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  14. I have the same Brother. that I bought 2nd hand a few years ago. I don’t use it much.. a bit like overlocker fear when they are new. I want top practice as I’d like to use it on my togs (swimsuits) when I make more. Thanks for tip number 5 though. I must remember that.

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  15. I have a Janome and it took me a long time to start using it! I lived in fear of it… Now I am turning out swimsuits in rapid fire speed! I love that you say that every seam is a practice seam…and to accept it for what it is…it will get better. I feel the same way. I wasn’t going to get better at using it if it was sitting in the corner gathering dust. Thanks for this post Gillian!

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  16. I have a coverstitch machine, but I dread changing threads on it! Which is super silly, because it’s got a kind of pressured air mechanism for it… but for now, I’ve only stitched navy clothing with it! Good thing I have lots of those…😉

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