The Brother CV3550 is one of the first top cover stitch machines for the domestic market. Now what is a top cover you might ask? Well, it’s a stitch that looks like this:
If you take a closer look at many RTW knit garments, especially activewear, you will see that this stitch is very common on hems. The top cover stitch is on the top and on the reverse side there is a regular 3-needle coverstitch seam. I was able to borrow this machine from a friend for research purposes when writing my upcoming coverstitch book. So this CV3550 review is only meant as a first impression look at the machine, I wasn’t able to use it enough to be able to write an extensive review.
Threading: This machines use up to five threads and can do all a regular 3-needle coverstitch machine can do, plus a 4-thread (wide and narrow) and 5 thread top cover stitch. So you get three more stitches compared to a regular coverstitch machine. I found the threading to be more of a hassle compared to my Janome Coverpro, especially when using the top cover attachment. You really have to be meticulous to get it right
5 thread top cover stitch.
4-thread wide (these samples are not 100% perfect since I was not able to fine tune my skills)
The top cover attachment. The top looper thread is stitched using a removable attachment that moves back and forth when sewing. If you remove the attachment, the Brother CV3550 is just like a regular coverstitch machine. Getting the top looper thread to stay put in the slot was a struggle, however, this machine has a learning curve for sure! You really need to align the thread properly to make this work.
When it doesn’t work you’ll get an uneven seam, as you can see in the photo. That said, all Brother CV3550 users that I have talked to say that after some practice, this problem goes away. So this is just about being patient and learn the proper techniques.
Chain off. The Brother 3550 can sew a chain off stitch just like a serger, love love love this feature!
The top looper thread. This is the part that is tricky to master when you are starting out. You really need to place the thread right before sewing, plus the manual recommends starting with the regular 3-needle coverstitch and then add the top cover thread.
The lower lever moves back and forth forming the top cover stitch. Once you get it right it will sew this seam without hassle.
Pros and cons of the Brother CV3550
- You get a lot of stitches (3 more than a regular 3-needle coverstitch)
- It comes with a clear presser foot, which is awesome. This should really be the standard on all coverstitch machines.
- I can totally see myself getting one in the future! I love the stitch and when my friend (and owner of the machine) demonstrated it to me, she managed to get a beautiful stitch, So all problems I encountered are related to me not fully being used to the machine.
- The price is around the same compared to similar regular coverstitch machines, so it does seem like a good value to me. For comparison, see Brother CV3550 vs Juki MCS-1500 (Brother is currently cheaper), at least on Amazon.co.uk (Amazon affiliate links).
- The top-cover set-up is more cumbersome to learn, thread and use compared to regular coverstitch stitches. I wish they had made it a bit easier, but perhaps future models will have improved in this area?
- I would not label this as a beginner coverstitch machine, as there are even more variables that can go wrong compared to a regular coverstitch machine. I think it is important to understand the coverstitch basics before moving on to this machine. That said it can be used without the top cover attachment which makes it easier to use that way. Plus if you are one of those people who are patient and actually read the manual thoroughly before sewing, then this machine could be suitable, even if you are new to coverstitching. But let’s be real, most people don’t 🙂
- The presser foot is a bit low compared to other coverstitch machines I’ve used. This could make sewing over thicker layers an issue.
Have you tried it and what did you think?
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Cecilia NilssonAugust 22, 2018 at 11:17 am
Before watching your youtube channel and reading your blog, I never even knew such a thing as a CoverStitch machine existed. I was instantly impressed though so started investigating the possibilities and soon came across this machine. In any comparison I made, it came up as best value given the price (around 1500 Eur) and the capabilities with that extra top seam so I ordered it despite never having used a coverstitch at all but being a confident sewer and serger user. I found that with the help of youtube tutorials and the manual, I found it very easy to thread, yes the attachment is a bit tricky but not too bad, I much prefer threading this machine to a serger. I’ve played around a bit but have a lot of learning to do still (so am really looking forward to your book), even so my seams are nice and even. I do use a “leader/ender” piece of fabric when I have found a setting where the stitches look beautiful as that helps in the sewing, especially with the top seam. I would certainly recommend this machine to a beginner coverstitch user (with experience in sewing), as very soon you would want to upgrade to one of these and the price difference really isn’t that great.
JohannaAugust 22, 2018 at 10:02 pm
Thank you for sharing your beginner perspective on this machine, I might have to change my stance on whether I would label this a beginner machine or not 🙂 And you bring up a good point about this machine being something that one would want to upgrade to eventually, the next one I buy will have to have this feature for sure!
Gemma CSeptember 24, 2019 at 11:21 am
Thank you for your post. I too am a confident serger/sewer and have always wanted to add a CS machine to my arsenal – I’ll go for this over the Janome on the basis of your experience with it.
Carolina GomezMay 14, 2021 at 5:53 pm
Hi Cecilia, you posted in 2018, so I believe by now, you have a lot of experience. What cover machine are you using and recommend. I really want to buy one, but I am scared of the learning curve. Thank you,!
KathyAugust 25, 2018 at 9:30 pm
I love that chain off feature! Does it also work with the regular cover-stitch stitches? I have an Elna 444 (Janome clone) and I’m not thrilled with it. In fact, I came to your blog to read up on different cover-stitch machines today because mine was repeatedly skipping stitches on the bottom looper while I was sewing a cotton/lycra tee shirt this morning – ggrrrrr!
Nancy KarpenSeptember 8, 2018 at 7:33 pm
A friend who sews a lot of athletic wear bought one of these. I am not sure that I would really make use of the top coverstitch. Though I’ve got to say that the chain off feature is very tempting!
JamieSeptember 20, 2018 at 6:43 pm
Can you adjust the presser foot height/pressure with that knob on top, perhaps?
Linda HindsSeptember 28, 2018 at 2:09 pm
I’m really struggling to decide between the Janome coverpro 200 and the brother cv3550, is it worth an extra £140 to get the top stitch? Or can I just use the flip side of the 3thread on the janome?
Judy KskiOctober 7, 2019 at 4:45 am
I’m in the market for a new CS. I have the Janome 1000CP, the first 3-needle coverstitch machine that Janome came out with. I’ve also used the Janome 2000CPX, the latest CS version. Yesterday, I spent hours trying to get either machine to do a reverse coverstitch for me, I serged up a 3-thread wide seam allowance and working from the wrong side, attempted to get the same type of stitching you see on RTW athletic wear with little luck. I had brand new needles, the presser foot pressure was very loose, Maxi-Lock thread in the needles and looper (even tried Wooly Nylon), but just couldn’t get a nice looking stitch-out on the right side. Of course, this was my first time making samples for this, but as Johanne mentions in her “Sewing Activewear” book on pg. 53, there are a lot of variables to deal with in getting this stitch just right. I have a lot of experience using the Janome CS and I have to say, I’m ready to move on to something that does something more. I want to sew the reverse CS on my activewear, but I don’t think using the Janome CS is the answer. If I were you, I’d go to your local dealership and try out the CV3550 on the types of things you are going to use it for. Bring the same types of fabrics you’ll be using and see if it does what you need it do before you invest all that money. A CV3550 will do everything a 2000CPX can do and MORE so I’d go straight to a CV3550. Right now, my only concern is the presser foot clearance. It looks a bit shallow to me.
Wendy BucoMarch 15, 2019 at 11:23 am
Watched your YouTube videos on Cover Stitching and finally bought my Brother 3550. Absolutely love this machine. Worth the investment. I wait to purchase each of my machines until I’m ready and boy was I ready for a cover stitch machine and I would highly recommend this one. I also enjoy watching your videos and looking forward for your book to come out! Happy Sewing! Wendy
Jennifer PlaceMay 1, 2019 at 1:51 pm
Any idea the cost?
MaryMay 26, 2019 at 2:58 am
Hi, so if you are using the top coverstitch for athletic wear do you still have to serge the seams first ?? So still just a decorative top stitch? What advantage is that over the triple coverstitch on the other machines?
ElaineJuly 15, 2019 at 1:19 pm
I bought this machine, i have since traded it in for the babylock BLCS coverstitch
The brother foot does’nt lift very high, on double coverstitch it’s hit and miss if the stitches stay uniform, trying to do circular cuffs is very tricky.
It does’nt release when matching up the marks, myself and my friend who both got one found we needed to turn the wheel back a full circle and even then it did’nt release easy,
It was also very clunky when starting to sew.
C WagstaffJuly 15, 2019 at 2:23 pm
I first owned the Janome 1000, then was tempted to buy the Brother CV3550.
As I was familiar with a coverstitch machine, I thought (mistakenly) that the Brother would answer all my needs. The presser foot hardly lifts AT ALL. The foot pedal has such a short cable that it was awkward to use. The threading was a nightmare. Having to begin and end with a small piece of material was messy and annoying. Trying to finish something ‘in the round’ was difficult, as even with the wheel marks lined up, it would not release the thread. I contacted Brother, who were less than helpful. It is VERY noisy and ‘grindy’. I believe this machine was released too early, before all ‘bugs’ were ironed out. Now extremely glad I have a babylock BLCS, which is a breeze compared to the Brother machine, even though it doesn’t do the top/bottom coverstitch, which I now know I can live without.
Iva KaderkováNovember 4, 2019 at 2:24 pm
I’ve got a CV3550 as a gift and I absolutely hate it. I’ve read the manual, watched videos, gone through all the tips, I’ve been trying to make it work for two weeks and I dream at night about setting it on fire.
NicolaNovember 5, 2019 at 10:43 pm
I have the CV3550 upgraded from the CV2345(?) which I loved. I did think I’d made a mistake to begin with but with perseverance and practice I now love this too.
The top stitching takes a bit of practice but once I’d figured a few things out it works like a charm.
Ultimately a good purchase
FforestNovember 10, 2020 at 4:28 am
I bought my Brother CV3550 when tey first came out and I absolutely love it. I agree that the top cover feature does take some practice to get proficient at using it but after you do it is a feature well worth having. The Hemming Set, Bias Tape Holder Set, Belt Loop Set, Bias Tape Binding Set, Dual Function Fold Binder are accessories worth purchasing for this machine.
LMJanuary 14, 2021 at 8:18 am
This brother model is the only consumer machine with the top coverstitch, right? If there are others I can’t find them, disappointing to hear the foot lifts so low (I need to see it’s up or I forget and make a mess). Was really interested in this model as I can use it with or without the top looper as I’d like to do flat/reversible seams.
At ~£600 new it might be worth just getting an industrial machine starting at ~£800 new or less used. These brother top covers seem to rarely sell used
LMJanuary 15, 2021 at 11:32 am
You have the Janome coverpro 2000CPX, right?
Does the Janome 2000CPX foot lift higher than on the CV3550? Does it not chain off?
AdrienneFebruary 24, 2021 at 3:14 am
I have the CV3550 and have not used other cover stitch machines, so can’t compare, but I was able to sew through a double layer of sweatsuit fleece using the top -cover, 5-threads, without issue. The foot can be lifted a bit higher, it’s in the manual under changing pressure feet. I don’t find it anymore difficult than threading my serger. I have the belt loop attachment which works great! I am know planning to buy the binder attachment, as the “universal binder” (much cheaper) sadly did not work with the CV3550.
How to Hem Leggings: Aila Sew-Along - The Last StitchMay 4, 2021 at 5:28 am
[…] which is the exact same hemming stitch as you’ll find on many RTW activewear these days. I’ve reviewed the Brother CV3550 if you want to learn more about […]
Shavon LoweMay 10, 2021 at 3:07 am
I feel as never having had a coverstotch, the 3550 was easy to set up. The top coverstitch did take awhile but following the manual it wasn’t horrible. I do believe there is a learning curve but most coverstitch machines are trial and error. I don’t think it would be bad as a first but I am thorough in reading the manual and watching tutorials
Vicki Wingo GrantSeptember 7, 2021 at 3:37 pm
I’ve just purchased the new Janome CP3000 after owning the CP1000. (I also bought Johanna’s books because in those early coverstitch days, you were basically left to figure out it out on your own)
The capacity to chain off is terrific and the added top cover stitches are easy, if you take the time and put the work in on learning the machine.
Samples, samples, samples!
Check needles and recheck the threading are my two most common mistakes to share.
I brought in a test sample of 300wt fleece, thinking that would be my outer range of tough fabric to sew since I like sewing the technical mountaineering fabrics. The store I purchased it from warned me that it won’t manage some of the thicker fleeces doubled up.
RebeccaNovember 3, 2021 at 3:19 am
Vicki, I’m so pleased to read about your new Janome CoverPro 3000! This is currently top of my stand alone coverstitch machine list but there is not much information out from actual users. I currently use an older Huskylock 936 to do coverstitch on and while it has done great features I find myself wanting more… including top stitch, chain off, needle threader…