The ultimate guide to coverstitching

June 16, 2016 23 Comments

The ultimate guide to coverstitching

June 16, 2016 23 Comments

The ultimate guide to coverstitching (including tips from a pro)

Coverstitch. So essential for hemming knits, but also frustrating and expensive to accomplish. So I decided to get to the bottom of coverlocking/coverstitching and make an epic post where I both share tips from a pro and then talk about the tips and hacks that I use to master the coverstitch on a budget machine.

The ultimate guide to coverstitching (including tips from a pro)

So without further ado, let me introduce my coverstitch expert: Yvonne, the owner of Tygaffären, the best fabric store in Gothenburg (and probably one of the best in Sweden too). She specializehigh-qualityality fabrics at very reasonable prices and always stocks great prints. She often has some really cool designer fabric leftovers too that she gets through her secret sources. During my visit I also got a preview of her first fabric line, which consists of high quality knits, all made here in Sweden and with some really cool prints.

Yvonne is not just super skilled when it comes to sewing knits, she knows about the best tools too as she is also in the sewing machine business.

Yvonne’s top tips for getting perfect coverstitch seams

1. You get what you pay for

“A cheaper coverlock/serger combination machine will never work as well as a the more expensive combo machine with separate threading for serger and coverlocking and air threading. So buy the best combo machine or buy a standalone coverlock machine”

The ultimate guide to coverstitching (including tips from a pro)

2. The best coverstich/serger combination machine on the market is…

“I highly recommend Babylock Ovation, it’s just way ahead of the competition. It’s an eight thread serger which means you can have it threaded for coverstitch and overlock at the same time. Plus the air threading makes this machine absolutely foolproof when it comes to threading. Yes, the price is steep, but you get what you pay for.”

 

Note: The Ovation seems to retail for around $5000 in the US, compared to $3000 in Sweden. So that’s a huge difference! Not sure how those prices compare internationally. Also while we were chatting a customer came in who had bought the Ovation after fretting for a long time due to the price. And she too said it is amazing and miles ahead over her old cheaper machine. But I still balk a bit at the price as it costs 4 times what I payed for my Pfaff Coverstyle. But maybe someday!

 

3. Or invest in a good standalone coverstitch machine

“I recommend the Janome Coverpro 2000, it’s a great machine if you already have a serger and only need the coverstitch”

Note: Since I wrote this blog post I have bought the Janome Coverpro. You can read my review here and or watch my video review of the Janome 2000 CPX.

Schmetz ELX705 Serger/Overlock needles (Elx705 SUK)
4. Only use ELX705 Serger/Overlock needles (Elx705 SUK)

“These are by far the best needles out there for coverstitching knits. Using regular ballpoint needles won’t cut it.”

ELX 705 Serger Overlock needles (Amazon affiliate link)

 

5. Most issues are caused by faulty needles, tension or threading

“People tell me that something is wrong with the coverstitch machine, but on closer inspection, it’s pretty much always something wrong with how the user has set up the machine.

  • Make sure the presser foot is up when threading the machine. If the feet is down the tension will be off.
  • Use the right needles (see above)
  • Check that the thread is properly placed between the plates, this is one of the most common reasons to why the stitches are faulty”

 

6. Serger and coverstitch combo machines that uses the same threading will always be a compromise

“Sewing machine technicians say that you have to decide on what you want, a good serger or a good coverstitch machine. It’s impossible to adjust the machine to excel in both areas if the same threading is used for both things.”

If you need an illustrated step-by-step guide to troubleshooting I have compiled one for you!


FREE GUIDE
TROUBLESHOOT YOUR COVERSTITCH MACHINE

Learn how to solve common coverstitch problems using this visual step-by-step guide with clear and consise instructions:

My top tips on how to coverstitch with a budget machine

Here are the stuff I’ve learned from using my budget Pfaff Coverstyle machine for 12 years.

 

The ultimate guide to coverstitching (including tips from a pro)
The ultimate guide to coverstitching (including tips from a pro)

1. Always baste first, this will keep the fabric from slipping and twisting

The ultimate guide to coverstitching (including tips from a pro)

2. Don’t stop coverstitching. Instead sew pieces together without pausing

Many coverstitch issues happens in the beginning or finishing stages of the sewing. To avoid that, layer pieces and just continue sewing. Perfect for sleeve and leg hems for instance. Sometimes I even use a fabric scrap as a starter fabric and then add on the garment pieces.

 

3. Sew the hems of sleeves and leggings on the flat

This will make it so much easier. If you look at your RTW knits, you’ll see that all are made that way. After hemming, sew together the side seams, fold in one direction and topstitch a short row to secure the seam and keep it in place.

 

4. Needles makes all the difference

I second Yvonne’s advice and only use the Schmetz ELX705 needle system (Amazon affiliate link)

 

5. Pull the upper threads to make sure there is tension.

It’s so easy for the thread to not be properly secured between the plates. That’s why I always pull the upper threads before sewing. There should be plenty of resistance if the machine is set up right for coverstitch.

 

6. Sew with confidence, don’t stop and start all the time

The first few stitches can be slow, but then you need to speed things up and keep an even speed. I find that this really helps with thread issues and skipped stitches.

The ultimate guide to coverstitching (including tips from a pro)

7. Where the needles hit the fabric can also make a difference

I prefer the look of the edges covered by the seam (like in the image above), but sometimes you will get better results if both needles hit the folded fabric.

 

8. Check the threading

And if all fails, rethread the machine. This will often solve the problems.
Also, Melissa from Fehr Trade has written an excellent article on coverstitching in Seamwork magazine

Phew! This was a long post to write. Hope you’ll find it useful, and please share your own tips for how to achieve better coverstitch seams. And if you love to sew knits but are on the fence whether or not to invest in a coverlock machine, I say go for it! Hemming will be more nicer looking than any regular sewing machine can achieve. Plus it keeps the fabric from stretching, which is often a concern when hemming knits.

Ultimate guide to coverstitching

Johanna

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23 Comments

  • BeccaA June 16, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you for your tips. These are really helpful ideas for getting the best results without a premium machine.

    • Johanna June 16, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      You're welcome! I've tried to compile all the things I wished I had known when I bought my cheap machine 12 years ago. Would have saved me a lot headache!

  • Jane June 17, 2016 at 12:51 am

    Thanks for all the tips! I've had a Bernette 'Funlock' coverstitch machine for a few years and have found it to be the absolute reverse of 'fun'! I find it hard to understand how a machine that really should be simpler than an overlocker (fewer threads and no blade) can be so difficult to master. The first thing I will do though is get some of those needles and see if that makes a difference. Have you ever tried using wooly nylon in the looper? I was wondering about trying that.

    • Johanna June 17, 2016 at 6:17 am

      I've only tried woolly once or twice and that was a while back. Don't think it made a huge difference, but maybe it went a little bit better. Only thing to remember with woolly is that it adds tension, so that needs to be compensated for on the machine, ie lowering the tension. And great that you've decided to try the ELX needles, they can make a huge difference. Also servicing the machine might help if there is some wonky tension issue going on (it helped on my machine) Good luck with your coverlocking!

    • Jane June 17, 2016 at 10:02 am

      Thanks 🙂

  • Karen June 17, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    A great and informative post!

  • Summer Flies June 17, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks this is a great article. I have had my 2nd hand Brother coverstitch for a few years. It took me 2 years to get it serviced before I used it (money and fear both factors) and have really only used it on two items so far. I plan to try the needles recommended and hope they are available near me, and it is a great tip to keep sewing and using fabric scraps to stop and start. I have a friend who makes swimwear/rashies and that was her tip from her industrial coverstitch… she still has some problems too 🙁 at times but I think it is experience and practice.

    I'm also surprised by that huge difference in the price of that Baby Lock machine…. but it still is a huge amount isn't it.

    • Johanna June 18, 2016 at 7:08 am

      Glad to hear you appreciate my post! Coverstitching can be intimidating for sure, and interesting to hear that even with an industrial coverstitch machine there can be issues. Getting the proper needles can definitely make a huge difference, so hopefully that it will benefit you too. Plus practice as you say. And yes the Baby Lock Ovation cost A LOT, even here in Sweden. I think a good stand alone machine might be more realistic, but since space is a real issue for me I appreciate having a combo machine for that purpose.

  • Ana Dulce Resende July 14, 2016 at 7:54 am

    This are great tips! Thank you. I have a Huskylock 936 and reading your post and all the comments really help me to have hope and give another try to my Combo. My overlock stitch is really good but the coverlock stitch is just not reliable.
    Some months ago I had a neighbor knocking at my door with Gym leggings in her hands and a smile.
    I immediately felt: Trouble. She doesn't know but I spend the all day to Hem this leggings and in the end it was far from perfect. The Hem was as little as a cuff and sewing it on the flat was unfortunately not a possibility. I got away with baste, deep breathing and praying 🙂

    This needles you mention I will search them today!
    I'm curious though… if space were not an issue (and money…), would you consider an industrial machine instead of this Top-machine, Pfaff Ovation?

    • Johanna July 16, 2016 at 6:45 am

      I have thought about it yes, but from my understanding it can be hard finding knowledgeable service and repair people for industrial machines, at least here in Sweden where the garment industry had died down completely. Combined with the fact that there is a learning curve has made me hesitant. I might consider a industrial straight stitch machine though, I had the opportunity to use one when I took a pattern making class and was impressed with the speed and power compared to a regular home sewing machine!

    • Ana Dulce Resende July 16, 2016 at 8:16 am

      About a straight stitch industrial machine I can really tell you go for it 🙂 I bought one, second hand (I think) 5 years ago. The nice thing on this machine is that she can only make straight stitches but she does that really good! (the one I have is really silent and that's something one should consider, when having neighbors around) I moved to Germany 2 years ago and was also afraid not having a repair service here, but until now I'm really glad to say: No problem! (of course you never know!) The learning curve for this machine is not big and sewing slow and carefully is also not a problem. (One problem is to move it, shes heavy as a horse and doesn't walk on her own!)
      But with a cover-lock I have the same feeling as you. Specially when I think about trouble shooting with all the threads and machinery… Must be easier to become a surgeon 😛 Just like you say this machine asks for service and repair people on the neighborhood. Thank you again Johanna for your reply! 🙂

  • Marianne December 31, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks. I have a Janome 2000 and tried it several times with all kinds of different settings and fabric. After a few months I went back to the shop to ask them to show me because all stitches were too loose. They discovered that my machine needed some adjusting. (Bernt i Lund, a fantastic shop and great service). Since I came back with the machine in july it has been standing in the corner and hasn’t come out! I am planning on making som jogging trousers for myself and this time I plan to use the machine and give it a Work-out. Nice to know I’m not the only one in Sweden using this machine.

    • Johanna January 1, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      Happy to hear that all your machine needed was some adjusting! Those machines are sensitive creatures for sure, and can drive me a bit nuts sometimes. But when they work they create such wonderful seams that just lifts our makes to another level. Good luck with your jogging trousers, I think once you get hooked it will be hard stop sewing knits because the coverstitch is such a great machine!

  • Judit Z January 13, 2017 at 2:29 am

    Hi Johanna
    I am looking for cover stitch machine but I work with a lot of super slinky knits and light weight flimsy cotton shirts.
    I noticed your samples were all sturdy fabrics.

    I have a Huskylock 936 serger cover stitch combo.. I cannot get it to work on the light weight fabrics for nothing.
    Any suggestions.

    • Johanna January 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

      Hi! Yes the sturdier the fabrics, the better the result. But I’ve done a lot of hemming on lighter materials too. The “trick” is to test a lot of different settings, increasing the presser foot pressure is the first thing, then adjusting either the needle tensions or the lower looper tension to avoid the tunneling effect. Stitch length can also make a difference, as would the differential feed sometimes. But tweaking the tension and presser foot pressure is usually what yields the best results. That said, some machine are better than others when it comes to coverstitching, so no easy fix

  • Judit Z March 25, 2017 at 4:12 am

    thank you Johanna

    I am in process of finding a Coverer 2000CPX not quite sure why the pricing is so steep on the 1000CPX Local dealer said 799.00 but the 2000 is only 50 dollars more. according to the MSRP at Janome.

    But I believe I will take the plunge after I take a bunch of my fabrics with me and work on the machine with the 1000 before ordering the 2000.
    Am I right that if it handles the fabrics on the 1000 then it should definitely handle it on the 2000?
    Judit Z

    • Johanna March 26, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      I think so yes! Is there a soft/tight lever on the 1000CPX as well? That was the big selling point when they first introduced the 2000-model. I find it quite helpful when it comes to solving wonky stitches. My dealer said that the way the needles hit the fabric was improved on the 2000 compared to the original 1000, but maybe that is fixed now with the 1000CPX? I find it hard to figure out what is just seller talk and what really is true. Testing the machine sounds like a very good idea and also to take the complmentry class that is usually included. Good luck with your purchase!

      • Judit Z March 27, 2017 at 1:47 am

        This is what really saddens me. Went to local dealer for Coverer 100CPX At janome site it is MSRP 799.00 instore it is also 799.0
        But same store online it is 599.00……. claim is that online they are not offering warranty.
        I do not understand. is it the dealer or is it the Janome manufacturing that offers warranty?
        So if it is the dealer than the warranty is not free or included in price at all.
        Yet other websites offer same machine 599.00 and two year parts 25 yr factory
        Very confusing. Very disturbing if we are being charged extra for something that is covered by manufacturer .
        Now 799. for 1000CPX and 849.00 for 2000CPX this seems somewhat ridiculous that you can get top of line for 50. more when
        1000 has been out for quite a few years. It gets harder and harder to trust and deal with local dealers.

    • Johanna March 26, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      I think so yes! Is there a soft/tight lever on the 1000CPX as well? That was the big selling point when they first introduced the 2000-model. I find it quite helpful when it comes to solving wonky stitches. My dealer said that the way the needles hit the fabric was improved on the 2000 compared to the original 1000, but maybe that is fixed now with the 1000CPX? I find it hard to figure out what is just seller talk and what really is true. Testing the machine sounds like a very good idea and also to take the complementary class that is usually included. Good luck with your purchase!

  • Jacquie December 29, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Thank you for the advice on very Fussy coverstitch machines. I’ve bought the 884/B30 brother coverstitch machine recently and I can’t get it to sew properly on fine knits at all. I’ve tried changing threads, changing needles and trying different settings. Have you any setting advice to try out on fine stretch fabrics. I’m at a loss on which way to go with how much on the pressure foot, what setting for the differential and the looper tension lever, should that be up down or in the middle. I’ll set the machine up on what I think will work, try it out on a test piece and that sews to start with then tightens up on the stitching. The fabric is also being pulled into the machine. I haven’t had this machine for very long and I bought it on line, so I don’t know where to ask for help. I’m hoping it’s me setting it up wrong. I’m a seamstress in a tailors and work with lots of different sewing machines all day long with out any trouble. My brother coverstitch is driving me mad. I should be able to work this out, but I can’t.

    • Rhonda February 9, 2018 at 10:59 pm

      I’ve had lightweight knits that were pulled into my sewing machine. I found that using either fusible knit interfacing or tear away stabilizer helped immensely. Hopefully that will help you as well on your coverstitch machine.

  • Melinda Hecht-Enns February 22, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    Hi,
    I’ve only ever used elx705 needles, but the Schmetz ones don’t seem to come in elx705 SUK. I’ve only found Organ needs that are these, but with the SUK. Do Schmetz ones exist?

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