Tutorial: Use a coverstitch to hem knit garments

If you sew with lots of knit fabrics, you have probably run into difficulties creating a nice hem on at least some of these fabrics. The more slippery and light-weight the knit the more challenging it is.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

My favorite method of hemming knits is to use the coverstitch function on my Bernina 1300 MDC serger.Β  Here is what you need to get started:

  1. Garment to be hemmed (duh)
  2. Coverstitch machine, or serger set to coverstitch function
  3. Steam iron
  4. Narrow (1/2 inch or so) strips of fusible interfacing, or purchased knit stay tapes
  5. Thread
  6. Scissors
  7. Ruler or hem template

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

1. Press the hem using a the correct temperature setting for your knit. Instead of a ruler I use a tagboard template cut to the exact width hem. It is much faster and easier than a ruler and marking pen, since you can press directly on the tagboard.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

See the press line on my sample? Knits will definitely not produce the same kind of crisp line that firmly woven cotton will, but usually you can still see the line and it will help you to turn the hem evenly.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

2. Press a 1/2″ wide strip of fusible interfacing orΒ purchased knit stay tape on the cut edge of the hem. This will help prevent “tunneling” of the fabric between the 2 rows of stitching.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

3. Hand baste the hem turnback to the garment. Now, this step is optional, but sometimes it is the only way to keep knit hems in the proper place/position when you are actually stitching. It also provides a guideline to help keep your coverstitching straight.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

4. Using a standalone coverstitch or serger set to a coverstitch function, hem your garment. See how the basting thread is visible while you stitch?

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

You can see the basting stitch is (somewhat!) centered between the 2 rows of stitching on the front of the hemmed garment.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

Annnd the back side of your hem.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

5. Remove the basting thread, and you have a hemmed garment. Whew!

One final hint: if you are working with a lightweight knit it might be helpful to reduce the tension settings on your needle threads. This plus the stabilizer on the cut edge can really minimize the dreaded “tunnel” effect!

Happy sewing!




31 Responses to Tutorial: Use a coverstitch to hem knit garments

    • It definitely adds a little time/work, but in some cases it is sooooo owrth it. And helps with the stitching regardless of whether the fabric is fussy or not. Good luck!

  1. Thanks for this tutorial. Hubby just had me order the coverstitch I’ve been coveting. You must have known when posting this!

    This is very similar to how I do my faux coverstitch hem using a double needle on my sewing machine.

    • You are welcome Annette – hope it helps out. sounds like you are 100% on top of it tho. I want to hear how you like your coverstitch machine!

  2. Great post. I don’t have a serger (sniff!) or cover stitch machine so usually do my hems with a twin needle. Would using the stabiliser help with this method too? I have been usuing steam a seam or glue but have just run out….. Interfacing would be a bit more economical…… Thanks! πŸ™‚

    • Definitely would help, Fabric Tragic. The only bad part about interfacing is it doesn’t “glue” the hem down when trying to stitch, but I think it does give a little more support. Tell your husband/boyfriend/mother you need a coverstitch machine for your birthday! πŸ˜‰ Happy sewing!

  3. I just started using a baby lock surger with coverstitch function. My problem is when I finish the hem how to tie off the ends. It is always very hard to find the right ends and keep it all from unraveling. Do you have any tips?

  4. Hi, I found your blog because I’m having a terrible time with my Bernina 1300mdc when trying to coverstitch. The thread on the back/underside is very loose and loopy, and I’ve tried adjusting some settings but nothing seems to work. The machine is great when overlocking but I have yet been able to sew perfect coverstitches. It also skips stitches at times. Please help!

    • Hi Rachel. It sounds like you are not getting the thread “seated” correctly into the tension dials. Have you tried re-threading? Probably a couple of million times. ;-( One thing I do when I am threading is use BOTH hands to hold the thread – and there is about 6 inches of thread between my hands. That way I can “press” the thread into the tension dials so they really “grab” the thread. It is kind of similar to flossing your teeth – you need resistance on both sides of the thread. I expect that you would be forming a coverstitch at all if you missed some of the threading steps – although sometimes missing a guide or 2 will allow the stitch to form – but not correctly. If re-threading carefully through all the guides and “flossing” the thread into the tension dial doesn’t solve the problem – head back to your dealer. Take a sample of your coverstitching, and have them help diagnose the issue. GOod luck!!!

  5. What a great tutorial, as always! My new coverstitch machine is scheduled to arrive tomorrow and I can’t wait to try this trick. πŸ™‚

  6. Since I technically already have a machine that will coverstitch (though I refuse to switch from serging to coverstitching every time I want to make something), I didn’t want to spend too much money. So, I went with the Brother 2340cv. It seems like it has generally good reviews and the price was very reasonable.

    When I started seriously considering running over to your house every time I wanted to hem a knit garment, I figured it was time to buy on a new machine!

    • Nice! I am testing out the new Bernina 220 coverstitch only machine. My Bernina 1300 does a good coverstitch and is easy enough to switch over (about 2 minutes to convert it) – BUT – it is still more convenient to have separate machines if you have the space for them. Have fun with your new machine!

  7. HI! I just purchased a Janome serger and can’t figure out how to thread it to make the coverstitch. I am assuming I don’t use one of the lower loopers but which one? I just started sewing on knits after a lifetime (50+yrs) of sewing only wovens!

    • Hi Martha – congrats on buying a serger! First, not all sergers convert to coverstitch, so you need to make sure your serger is capable of coverstitching. Next, follow the instructions in your manual or take it back to your dealer for a demo. It can be a little tricky to change up machines from overlocking to serging, but the general idea is to use 2 or3 needles and the chainstitch thread for coverstitching, and 1 or 2 needles and 1 or 2 loopers when overlocking. Good luck, and have fun serging and coverstitching!

  8. How do you set a serger to a coverstitch function?
    I have a Brother DZ1234 serger.

    Do I need to use a twin needle to produce the coverstitch effect?

    Thank you.

  9. Hi Maris,

    Thanks for a clear concise tutorial. very useful and timely for me. I’m at the stage of hemming a beautiful slippery modal garment and it’s that moment when I could stuff it all up! I purchased a bernina L220 yesterday when I realised I wouldn’t get the best result from twin needling it.

    I’ve now prepared the hem according to your advice and waiting for the delivery of the machine.

    Many Thanks!

  10. Hi Maris,

    Do you have any tips for a knit hem without fusible stay or hem tape? While it keeps the fabric stable and eliminates tunneling, it makes a stiff, non stretchy hem. I have been using Sewkeyes Extremely Fine Fusible tape but it really limits the stretch in the sleeves and hem of a garment.

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