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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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”!
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?