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How to Make a Cover Hem with a Serger

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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 coolest machine to add to your sewing space.

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 this type of machine 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.

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Comments (2)

GayleM said:
GayleM's picture

I've sewn with twin needles on a standard machine to achieve this effect, but never liked the zigzag of the single bobbin thread underneath.  I sew almost every day but wonder if the cost of a specialized machine just to do hems is worth it?

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

@GayleM - It's definitely a personal decision regarding what is the best for you. If you sew every day, a serger that does a cover hem as well as other serging might be a great option for you. Our first recommendation is always to visit your local dealer for a "test stitch" in order to compare pricing and get a real feel for what you can gain.