If you’re looking to get consistently polished and neat seam finishes that are refreshingly free of fraying both inside and out, look no further than the overcasting stitch. Essentially a zig-zag stitch with more structure, it prevents a fabric’s raw edges from unraveling. Overcast stitches are perfect for use with both knit and woven fabrics.
Know Your Machine!
The overcasting stitch is one of the most versatile on your machine and every make and model will have different overcasting stitching options available for use with a variety of stretch and non-stretch fabrics. Check your manual to get the specifics of what your model offers.
Not coincidentally, beginners are encouraged to do a deep dive into your machine to learn more about it. Take some samples and play around with the feet that came with the machine or try different settings just to see what they do. This will also give you an idea of the stitches you’ll use a lot and those you won’t use at all. So, one of the first steps in learning overcast stitching is to learn your machine.
Overcasting Foot: Your New BFF
First, check to see if your sewing machine came equipped with an overcasting presser foot (above), because you’ll need it. The best feature of the overcasting foot is an edge guide helps you feed the fabric evenly along the raw edge as you sew. It also comes with a unique center bar that controls the stitch, guaranteeing stitches that lay flat and that keep the fabric edge from curling or tunneling up on itself as you go.
This video goes deeper into using an overcast foot on your sewing machine.
Video Source: YouTube/Madam Sew
Sewing an Overcast Seam
There’s not a lot of special technique involved with sewing an overcast seam. Just use the proper machine settings, place the fabric underneath and against the edge guide, and let the fun begin! Depending on the stretchy nature of the fabric you’re using some considerations must be taken into account.
For non-stretch fabrics:
Line up the two raw edges of the fabric against the edge guide and sew. It’s here where you’ll see the true advantage of the overcasting foot, as your fabric should run smoothly through the guide. For an especially neat finish, first overcast the two edges together, and then sew a regular seam on the seam allowance line. Press the overcast edge over to one side.
Or you can follow this expert tip: sew your usual seam, take your overcasting foot to each of the raw edges, and then press your seam open.
For stretch fabrics:
Use your stretch overcasting stitch and overcasting foot to stitch the seam and neaten raw edges all in one shot. Thanks to the stretch overcasting stitch, there’s no need for a second line of stitching! You’ll find that the seams will stretch right along no matter how much you stretch the fabric. And because the stitches are not connected like those in a regular running stitch, you won’t have to worry about the stitches popping whenever the fabric the stretched.
This video brings alive the concept of sewing seams with machine overcasting.
Video Source: YouTube/Make It Coats
A Word About Sergers
Serging is a word you may encounter as you look deeper into overcasting stitching, and it will most likely be used in the headlines of articles titled, “How To Overcast Stitch Without A Serger.” You may be asking yourself, what exactly is a serger and what the heck is serging?
A serger (above) is a specialized sewing machine, also known as an overlock machine. It uses multiple threads and needles to sew a seam, trim off the raw edges, and finish the edges, all at the same time. The most common type is the 3/4 serger, which can sew with three or four threads. Sergers are very fast and they make for a much more professional seam. They’re also ideal with stretch fabrics, as the stitches stretch with the fabric.
But do you really need one?
If you have aspirations of selling or marketing your creations and polished professionalism is key, then a serger is probably for you. You’ll get more done faster. But if you’re content working with your trusty machine, then you might not want to make the investment for now. Remember that a serge is a specialized device and cannot replace a standard machine in most situations.
But if you think a serger is something you absolutely must have, you can find one here.