There are so so so many gadgets and tools within the sewing world that you can easily feel like you need or want. One of these is a coverstitch machine, they are fancy, expensive and create beautiful hems but are they necessary?
A coverstitch is worth investing in if you are making lots of t-shirts or garments that require a neat hem but are stretch fabrics. If you aren’t using many stretch fabrics or can use an alternative method I would do that before investing in a coverstitch machine.
In this article, I am going to talk about what exactly a coverstitch machine does, how it works, what alternatives there are and if they really are worth buying.
What Is A Coverstitch Machine?
A cover stitch machine is, essentially, a specialized sewing machine that creates a specific type of hem for specific projects.
The best and simplest way to explain it is to ask you to look at the hem of any t-shirt that might happen to be near you. There’s every chance in the world that this t-shirt will have two parallel lines at the bottom of the garment on the right side.
Looking at the inside of the fabric, there will be a thread pattern that looks almost like the rungs of a ladder. That stitch is called a cover stitch.
A cover stitch machine is simply the machine that creates this specific stitch.
What Does A Coverstitch Machine Do?
A cover stitch machine works on a given piece of fabric, hemming it wherever necessary. The looper section of the machine creates a straight stitch, which is both visually appealing as a basic chain stitch, and also retains stretchiness in the fabric. This elasticity retention is the entire reason why people do cover stitches.
Conversely, an overlocker hems stitches and trims excess fabric at the same time. It will run a neat row of stitches over the edge, which will tidy up the hem and prevent any kind of fraying from taking place – this is not the job of a cover stitch machine.
Cover stitch machines work well on woven fabrics, as they make sure to keep them from ravelling. They are especially useful for hemming knitted fabrics, too.
The stitch that is made, as we mentioned above, maintains any stretch already in the fabric. It also prevents stretch fabrics from puckering, as they are wont to do when run through most sewing machines.
How Much Are Coverstitch Machines?
Compared to the vast majority of different sewing appliances, cover stitch machines are very expensive indeed. You can purchase a basic sewing machine from a number of different places for less than a hundred pounds. Included in that hundred pounds, you might even be able to get some fabric or thread to go with your new purchase.
Cover stitch machines are much more complex and much more expensive.
The average price for a cover stitch machine is about five hundred pounds, which is certainly a lot of money. While the stitching can be an important thing to have in your arsenal, that’s definitely a lot of money.
On top of this, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to track down a cover stitch machine that is priced more charitably than that, even in the random aisle of your favourite supermarket. At a basic level, cover stitch machines are just too complex and delicate.
Are There Alternatives To Coverstitch Machines?
There are a few alternatives to cover stitch machines. The really big one though is basic hemming. This method is quite simple, but while it doesn’t look at all like cover stitching, it works just as well, if not better.
The basic process starts off by taking strips of sticky solvy, which is a water-soluble stabilizer, and cutting them to the width of the hem. You can stick them onto the wrong side of the fabric, as close as possible to the edge of the fabric to be hemmed.
Then, you can run the fabric (which should have a slight gap between the thread support and the edge of the fabric) through a 3-thread overlock stitch.
This will stitch the support thread structure to the fabric itself, and a 3-thread overlock stitch will be perfectly scratchy enough to maintain the flexibility that you would ordinarily be missing out on with an overlocker.
Now that the stitching and the fabric are sewn together, fold up the hem on the wrong side, and press it with a dry iron. This will glue the hem to itself, allowing it to neatly stitch in the next step.
Then, position the hem wrong side up under the foot of your overlocker. At this point, it’s worth putting a hem guide in if you have one to ensure neat and even stitching. Of course, you don’t have to do this – the choice is yours.
Once the hem guide is aligned, flip the garment right side up, and sew along the length of the hem. A wide zig-zag with a three-stitch overlocker will create a stitch that is both strong and stretchy – ideal for this purpose.
During this phase, it’s worth trying to use a walking foot – this will keep the different layers of fabric together, allowing you to easily sew into one cohesive piece.
Finally, soak the garment (or at least the hem section) in water to remove the soluble section of backing from the hem support. Then, you’ll be good to go!
There are two disadvantages to this method: aesthetic and effort.
The look of the cover stitch is something that a number of people will consider integral to the appearance of an outfit. There’s no mistaking it – the look of the stitch created with this method certainly looks different.
A conventional cover stitch resembles two parallel lines, but this stitch is a clear zig-zag. Of course, you can disguise the stitching by color-matching the thread and the garment, but that can be quite tricky and time-consuming.
The other disadvantage is the effort that this method takes. There’s no denying it – this method takes a lot of time and effort to get right. It works fairly well, but whether or not it works well enough to be worthwhile is certainly up for debate.
It’s really up to you – would you rather spend a large amount of time on this method or a large amount of money on a cover stitch machine?
Are Coverstitch Machines Worth Buying?
Well, it’s really tricky to say for certain. Coverstitch machines can be a great benefit in your sewing as a hobby or even as a side hustle, but they’ll only be worth it if you consider the following mini decisions.
First of all, what is the best quality machine that you can afford? Cover stitch machines are expensive, so it can be tempting to look for lower-quality options. However, low-quality cover stitch machines can be cumbersome to use, and the stitch quality is usually very low indeed.
If your budget is small, consider picking up a second-hand machine that’s higher-quality, but pre-owned.
Also – think about trying the machine out before you buy. If you make sure to buy a machine from a local seller that’s knowledgeable in cover stitch machines and similar areas, then you’re sure to save yourself a hassle later on. Some brands actually don’t allow their machines to be sold online, for this exact reason.
Consider what features you really need in a cover stitch machine. There are different models and types of machines out there, and it only makes sense to buy a machine that does the things you need it to do. If you buy a machine with an excess of features, you’ll be wasting money, and the machine simply won’t be worth it.
It’s worth comparing the accessories and attachments offered by different brands. The range of accessories differs an awful lot from brand to brand. For example, not all brands might offer a presser foot attachment for their machines.
Therefore, make sure you pick up a model that offers accessories you’ll actually use.
A cover stitch machine is worth it if you get value for the money that you’re spending, rather than simply buying a machine which isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. Make sure to take time to do research into options near you before buying a cover stitch machine.