Coverstitch / Tutorials

The Ultimate Guide To Coverstitching

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Are you frustrated with your coverstitch machine? Tired of skipped stitches and unpredictable results? I hear you! A coverstitch is a wonderful machine, especially for hemming knits and sewing binding. But it also comes with some challenges and a bit of a learning curve.

So this is why I have created this guide, where you will learn how to troubleshoot and fix some frustrating issues you might encounter when sewing with a coverstitch machine.

Advice on buying a coverstitch machine

Buy a good quality machine

Buy the best machine you can afford. Machine brands that are generally well-regarded are BabyLock and Juki. After those, I would say Janome and Brother.

I own the Janome Coverpro 2000 CPX, which is fine but not awesome.

Should I get a combination or a stand-alone machine?

Honestly, the only coverstitch/serger combo machines that are getting consistently great reviews are the ones from BabyLock. They are, however, very pricey, but worth it according to the owners I have spoken to. Cheaper combo machines are often a hassle to re-thread, and I’ve personally found that they are more prone to stitching issues.

Coverstitch Buyer’s Guide: How To Pick The Right Machine

Preventing skipped stitches

Now skipped stitches are probably the most annoying when sewing with a coverstitch machine. They are caused by the machine’s inability to form stitches, usually due to uneven surfaces, feeding issues, faulty threading or the wrong needles.

Check the needles

Make sure the needles sit firmly in the slot

Push the needle to the top of the slot and screw it on tightly. A misaligned needle is a common culprit for skipped stitches.

Try a larger needle if the fabric and the machine can handle it

A larger needle can improve the ability of the stitches to form correctly. But first, check your manual to see which sizes the machine can handle. And also, do a sample to ensure that a larger needle won’t cause holes in the fabric.

Replace used needles with fresh ones

Sometimes a dull or damaged needle causes skipped stitches. Try switching to new needles and see if this helps with the skipped stitches.

Many coverstitch machines are compatible with the Schmetz ELX 705 Serger Overlock needles (Amazon affiliate link), which are the best brand I’ve used. But check your manual to make sure you use the right needles.

Check the threading

  • Make sure there are no tangled threads that prevent the stitches from forming correctly. This issue can happen in several places on the machine, for instance, just above the needles or in the periscope slots.
  • And, of course, double-check that the threading is done correctly; on some machines, this can be a bit tricky, so it’s always a good thing to check.

Flatten out bumpy surfaces

My number one tip is to fold the seam allowances in opposite directions as much as possible. This method will improve the feeding and keep the presser foot level which will help prevent skipped stitches.

Clip and fold the seam allowance

  1. Very carefully clip a small notch at the fold of the hem. Make sure you don’t break the seam.
  2. Then flip the clipped seam allowance in opposite directions.
  3. Fold the hem allowance up.

Or only fold the seam

You can try this method if you don’t want to clip into the seam. 

  1. Finger press the seam allowance in the opposite direction at the folding line. 
  2. Fold over the hem and check that it aligns with the pressed area. 
  3. This method will also even out the bumpy seam section.


Increase stitch length and differential feed when sewing over bulky seams

To help with the feeding, start by increasing the differential feed. You can also increase the stitch length for an even greater effect. Remember to revert to the original settings once you have conquered the bump.

Increasing the stitch length, in general, can help too. 

I’ve found that if I go below 2 on my coverstitch machine, it’s much more likely to start skipping stitches.

Experiment with the presser foot pressure 

The proper presser foot pressure will also improve the stitching quality. A general guide is that a thinner fabric usually requires less pressure, and a thicker material will often need a higher presser foot pressure. However, sometimes the opposite might be true, depending on factors such as the fabric’s surface and other settings. So be prepared to experiment and see what works best for your project. 

More suggestions

Never pull the fabric

It can be tempting to help the fabric feed through the machine but resist that temptation, as it will cause all kinds of troubles, including skipped stitches.

Instead, gently guide the fabric with your hands.

Use quality thread and needles.

Try to stick to reputable brands known for producing high-quality thread and needles. Sewing notions isn’t an area where you should opt for the cheap generic stuff. 

Hope that you found this guide helpful, and don’t forget to check out my book Master the Coverstitch Machine, which you can get both as a print book and as an e-book.


  • 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.

    • Andi
      August 5, 2019 at 11:30 am

      Your machine is industrial the needles mentioned here will not be correct and the tops of industrial set ups are rounded, check for your machine what needles to buy, the needles mentioned are for Domestic set ups

  • 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

    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?

  • Savana
    November 2, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    I work in a hemming department for a retail company. We have a coverstitch, I’m pretty new to it. I feel that I have mastered most aspects of the machine. Does your book include how to with oiling the machine? I really want to be able to service this bad boy. We are sewing on an industrial Liebersew 5 thread coverstitch. Most of the problems include some skipping stitches just on the lower looper. It seems that no matter how we trouble shoot it just does that sometimes.

  • Dawn Featherstone
    December 12, 2019 at 6:54 am

    I am very nervous about sewing Denim on my Baby Lock coverstitch. I know my Baby Lock Acclaim serger will be fine, it’s the coverstitch I’m worried about. I guess I’m worried that it will mess with the timing. Do have any advice for me?

  • Melissa
    July 1, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Hi Johanna,

    Thank you so much for the very useful information. I would like to know if a coverstitch machine allows to sew two pieces of fabric (sort of in the way an overlock machine sees together two pieces). Are there any tips or tricks to achieve that in an overlock machine? Otherwise I would have to buy two machines for a project I am working on…
    Kind regards,

  • Sabrina
    September 13, 2020 at 6:47 am

    I am a confident/competent sewer with 30 years experience. I have recently purchased a Janome 2000. When I finish and go to remove my fabric, one or both top threads are caught making a loop inside. Sometimes the thred is looped around the needle. It is also difficult to release the tension, I have to turn the guide wheel back and forth to get it loose. Any suggestions?

  • Sharon
    October 20, 2020 at 5:46 am

    Yeah!! for the tip on using the ELx705 needles. I am just trying out my new Juli 735 coverstitch and was looking up why I had tunneling and I knew to check your site first. I switched out the needles without changing any settings and right away a big improvement – not perfect but might be close enough for this first hem. Glad that I had the needles on hand. Thanks!


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