Join Janet on her adventures as a designer, writer, maker, and farmer in montana. no two days are ever the same. you might even see a bear or two.

If a Sewing Machine and a Serger Had a Baby...

If a Sewing Machine and a Serger Had a Baby...

…it would be a coverstitch machine. These are relatively new machines to the world of home sewing, although they have been in use commercially for many years. Pull out any knit T-shirt from your closet and look at the sleeve or body hem. It probably looks something like this on the public side:


And like this on the private side:


You might occasionally see three lines of stitching on the front instead of two.

I struggled with the idea of getting a coverstitch machine. It’s a lot of money for a machine that does one task. Some people use a twin needle to hem their knits, which gives a similar appearance on the front but not on the back. (The bottom edge would be finished with the serger, most likely, before being turned up and hemmed.) I knew that once I got started with making my own T-shirts and other tops, though, a coverstitch machine would probably get a lot of use. Also, I had a gift card that was about to expire, so I decided to spring for one. Janome has the most widely-available and popular model, but Brother and Juki also make coverstitch machines.

Janome has three coverstitch models: the 900CPX, the 1000CPX, and the 2000CPX. The 1000 does a three-needle hem whereas the 900 only does a two-needle hem. The only difference I can see between the 1000 and the 2000 is the 2000 has better lighting. (Seriously.) Some manufacturers have serger/coverstitch combo machines. I knew I didn’t want to have to be changing from one setup to the other and back, so I went with the dedicated machine and bought the 1000CPX.

The machine is bigger than a serger but smaller than my big Janome sewing machine. It’s probably about the same size as my Janome Hello Kitty sewing machine:


Like a serger, it has a looper, but only one instead of two:


That’s what makes that S-shaped stitching on the reverse of the hem, as the looper thread snakes back and forth between the needle threads.

Mine came set up with three threads.


I was trying to make it a bit simpler, though, for testing, so I took out the right needle. I also took out the polyester threads it came with and re-threaded with Maxi-Lock Stretch. That’s the same thread I am using in my serger for knit fabrics. Threading was relatively straightforward, but it took some fiddling with the tension to get it to sew nicely. I’ve discovered that with the Maxi-Lock Stretch, I have to turn the tension way down on both the serger and the coverstitch machine. I have the lower looper set to 1 on the coverstitch; any higher and I get tunneling between the stitches on the front, where the fabric humps up between the two lines of stitching. I also had to loosen the presser foot pressure.

I was happy with the first couple of samples. This is the front:


And this is the back (sorry it’s blurry).


It’s worth noting that on these machines, you’re sewing the hem from the right side of the garment, but you want the raw edge of the garment—which is folded underneath—to end up enclosed within the looper thread. Also, the presser foot that comes with this machine is solid metal, so if you’re doing a hem in the round, it’s very hard to ensure that the ending stitches are lined up with the beginning stitches because you can’t see them. Janome does sell a clear plastic foot for this machine, for $35. And if you want your hem to look professional and not like you were trying to sew it blindfolded (because you can’t see the raw edge underneath), a lot of user reviews suggest getting the fancy-schmancy hem guide, to the tune of $100. (See my comments on the $45 elasticator foot from yesterday’s post.)

Really, that clear foot should come standard with the machine. And I am going to figure out how to do a hem without the guide; I could try painter’s tape or I could use some Wonder-Under to fuse the hem into place before sewing it. It is possible, if your fingers are sensitive enough, to feel the edge of the fabric underneath as it feeds into the machine and guide it where it needs to go, but it requires some practice.

I may also switch back to regular polyester thread in the needles. I am not sure how I feel about the Maxi-Lock Stretch there. Again, it’s going to take a bit of experimentation. I completely understand why industrial machines in factories are set up to do one thing and one thing only, because having to switch needles, thread, and tension settings to do multiple tasks would be grossly inefficient.

[That was me justifying having “every sewing machine known to man,” as the husband puts it, in case that was too subtle. Why did my father have five routers?]

After spending all of yesterday morning getting familiar with this machine, I was feeling a bit brain-dead. I have really pushed myself in the “learning new things” department this past week. After lunch, I trimmed the comforter that Elaine and I tied at quilting earlier this month and made binding for it and sewed it on. That was a good mindless project that gave my brain a break. I have a denominational board meeting coming up soon and I wanted to have the binding ready to sew down during the meeting. Managing my anxiety about having to sit through a meeting with nothing to occupy my hands is important.


We were running low on beans, so I picked up some organic pinto beans at the health food store and ran a batch through the pressure canner while I was monkeying around with the coverstitch machine. As soon as I get the rest of those Great Northern beans from last gardening season sorted, I’ll do those, too. I’m trying to be good about recording these activities in my canning journal. I have referred back to last year’s canning projects once or twice for amounts and canning times and been glad I had written things down.

My first batch of sourdough bread turned out well:


The taste is amazing. I allowed myself one piece after it came out of the oven and that was it. I don’t think bread-baking is going to become a regular occurrence around here or I’ll just eat it. If I can tolerate this, though, it will be nice to be able to make a loaf of bread once in a while.

A Sampling of HSTs

A Sampling of HSTs

Science Experiments in the Kitchen

Science Experiments in the Kitchen