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How to Make a Cover Hem (and Why to Own a Cover Hem Machine)

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A cover hem is a professional-style "serged" hem that traditionally has two to three lines of parallel stitching on the right side and a looper stitch which covers the raw edge of the fabric on the back side. It's the type of hem commonly found on most ready-to-wear knit garments (and many woven RTW items as well) as it has plenty of stretch and so will not distort the hem. It's also very fast and clean! We have a short lesson showing how easy it is to make a cover hem as well as our thoughts as to why a specialty cover hem machine may just be the additional machine to add in your sewing room.

Before we explore the "how," let's talk about the why. As in, "Why on earth would I want a machine that only does one thing?" The best answer? "So you can do more than one thing!"

A cover hem machine is all about making professional, high-end-looking hems. Most folks use them for garments, although there's no reason you couldn't also use this type of hem on home décor items, especially items with lots of length to hem, such as tablecloths and curtains.

A cover hem is made using a serger with a cover hem looper. There are high-end, five-thread sergers that allow you to do general serging as well as cover hems. The Janome 1200D is one such machine. 

Although we have general sergers in the Sew4Home studios, we personally prefer using a stand-alone cover hem machine. It's simple to use and ready at all times to sew a hem. We use and recommend the Janome CoverPro 1000 CPX.

In addition to giving you super professional hems and eliminating the stretching so common with knit fabrics, a stand-alone cover hem machine has more throat space on the bed of the machine, which makes it perfect for sewing deep hems.  Plus, it's simpler to thread and use than a standard serger. 

But the biggest benefit is how it allows you to sew in a more efficient manner, especially if you are making several items at once or creating more complex garments that require you to hem at multiple points within the construction process. You don't have to take the time to re-thread and set up a standard serger for a cover stitch, you simply switch to the cover hem machine to create the hem, then go back to your regular machine for basting or buttonholes, then back to your standard serger for clean seams. Repeat as needed, and your project is done more quickly and easily!


Our thanks to Janome America Education Coordinator, Nancy Fiedler for providing these helpful tips, techniques, and samples. 

Okay... now let's see the "how"

A cover stitch is normally sewn from the right side. Press the hem in place and, if possible, use a seam guide. An adjustable seam guide is usually an optional accessory (the Janome CoverPro Seam Guide is pictured below), but it does offer that extra bit of precision. 

The type of hem: 3 thread, 2 thread or chain stitch, is decided based on the number of needles and the finish you desire. See the Samples section below for more information. 

You can use matching or contrasting color serger thread in the needles and looper. This choice depends on whether you want the hem to blend in (matching thread) or to be an accent element (contrasting thread).  

  1. Once the needles are threaded, turn the hand wheel a full rotation towards you, and slide the tip of your tweezers (yep, sergers always come with tweezers) under the presser foot to pull the needle threads under the foot.
  2. Place the fabric, right side up, under the presser foot and start sewing.
  3. Stop sewing at the end of the fabric. Do not attempt to sew off the fabric to create a chain as you might do with a standard serger; the threads will break and tangle requiring you to re-thread.
  4. To release the threads and create a secured stitch, turn the hand wheel towards you until the needles are in their highest position.
  5. Lift the presser foot, and use the tip of the tweezers to pull the needle threads toward you about 4". 
  6. Clip the needle threads leaving about a 4” tail. This gives you starting thread for your next hem.
  7. Grasp the fabric behind the presser foot and gently pull straight back until you've completely removed the fabric from underneath the foot. This pulls the looper thread up through the needle plate and the needle threads to the wrong side. It's kind of like magic. 
  8. Cut the looper thread.  
  9. The needle threads will have all been pulled to the wrong side, securing the stitch.
  10. For a neater finish, thread the tails into a large eyed needle and sew them (hide them) under the loops.

Stitch samples

3 thread - 3 needles: Best hem for high-end detailing.


2 thread wide - 2 needles: Most common hem. 


2 thread narrow - 2 needles:


2 needle hems are good quick-finish hems for things like T-shirts and pajamas. The width you choose is simply a matter of personal preference. 

Chain stitch - 1 needle: This hem can be a decorative effect or used as a temporary seam that can be quickly removed by pulling the chain from the looper side (this is the stitch you often find on bags of pet food or farm feed). The chain shows up on the looper side so this is an instance when you would sew with the wrong side up.


Our thanks again to Janome America Education Coordinator, Nancy Fiedler for her help with this tutorial. To stay up-to-date on all the news from Janome, visit their website and/or follow the creativity on their blog, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.


Comments (17)

judit said:
judit's picture

For those of us who are a long distance from Dealer 100+ miles round trip Where can we get more info on CoverPro2000? I work a lot on great grand daughters, super thin and stretchy night gowns underwear onesies, etc. What type of needle to use? Stretch? Book just says one type? Will that work on all fabrics including jeans, minky? Settings for different fabrics? Pressure on the feet for some of these super thin stretchy stuff. Could use some visual help. Thank you for any information. Anything on specifics not just general info.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@judit - I'm afraid we're not your best resourse for these kind of specific details. You may want to reach out directly to Janome America and/or visit the website to look for additional resources. As mentioned above in the article, you can see that even we worked with a Janome America educator on this article. You might even reach out directly to your dealer -- even though he/she is far away, and explain that driving round trip isn't an option for you on a regular basis and so you need some alternatives.

judit said:
judit's picture

thank you for your reply I was able to find several areas for help online videos and articles... Now it is time to practice practice practice and samples with info on all types of fabrics.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@judit - Excellent - there's a lot of great information out there - have fun!

KevinSews said:
KevinSews's picture

Be sure and buy ball point needles for your coverstitch machine. They are no different than your standard sewing machine when it comes to hemming knits vs. woven fabrics. Sometimes you can get away with using a standard needle on very stable knits. However, for many knits you need either a stretch or a ball point needle. I have only been able to find them in boxes of 100 at this time. Here is where I have successfully purchased mine in the past (I have no affiliation with them in any way):

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ KevinSews - thanks for the suggestion! 

Sarah said:
Sarah 's picture

I have the Janome1000 cover stitch and agree, it is a marvel. I have no complaints about Janome machines (also own the 6600P sewing machine), but DO have a complaint about their website. Holy smokes, folks, get it together! The page that does comparisons is incorrect. i drove 40 miles to a store listed on the site only to find out they haven't carried Janome for YEARS. Lessen learned, call first. Amazon carries this one (not the 2000cpx yet) if you are settled on this purchase. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Sarah - Thanks for letting people know about your experience with the Cover Hem machine. Sorry to hear you had some issues with their site. We will pass along your comment to them.

Vanisha Dawn Griggs said:
Vanisha Dawn Griggs's picture

I bought this coverstitch machine a few months ago and thank you for the tutorial.  The dealer had no idea how to use it.  I need to play with it more but was disappointed in my first t-shirt dress that the stitches were uneven and did not catch when I went over a seam.  Do you have any suggestions?  I am so excited to learn this machine and the capabilities it has, I love to sew knits but I am extremly picky in that they didnt look professional so I stayed away from them and this is why I bought the coverstich so I could get the correct finishes.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Vanisha - As with the question below, we went to our Janome expert, Nancy Fiedler for her input. She says, "I always use a Schemtz EL X 705 needle size 90/14. I also have found that I need to sew at an even speed, don’t slow down at the seams.  This makes for an even stitch. As with any new tool with more practice you will become more comfortable with it." 

You might check online for videos, and even though your dealer didn't have direct experience with the model, he/she might be able to direct you to additional resources as well. 

Donna Newton said:
Donna Newton's picture

What would be the advantage or disadvantage of the 12000D? Have a Janome 1100D serger and am considering trading it in for the 1200D because of the cover stitch capabilities. I have not found any reviews on it; but watched a good youtube video on changing from serger to cover stitch, and was wondering what your "take" on the 1200D would be. I can see the advantage of the two machines(serger machine & cover stitch machine) used seperately, not having to change from serger to cover stitch and back again.; but wondered about stitch quality, ect  Thanks for the time with this question!                                         Best regards, Donna Newton

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Donna - We chatted wtih our friend, Nancy Fiedler from Janome America, who helped us with this article for her expert advice. She tells us, "The stitch quality of the cover stitch machine is comparable to the cover stitch of the 1200D.  The biggest advantage to the stand alone cover stitch machine is being able to go back  and forth between the two machines without switching.  I would recommend she visit her local dealer and get a demo on both, it will be a matter of personal preference." 

Jane Coombs said:
Jane Coombs's picture

One of the best things about having the cover stitch machine is that you can use it to make quick alterations for yourself and your friends, when they ask. Interesting to see the Janome machine up close. What an engineering marvel! Fortunately, I have the other machine that does both serging and cover stitch. I signed up for an online class via Burda  Style to expand my knowledge in the new year. Looking forward to the homework.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Jane - great comment - have fun with your new class!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ anne - the one we show above is from Janome. Below is a link to their Dealer locator so you can find a dealer in your area. Most dealer's do have class options or similar for training.

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