How To Overstitch On A Sewing Machine


Overstitching is a special technique used by sewers to add a decorative cord to raw seams, hems, or facings. By doing this, sewers can enhance the overall look of a garment, often making it more fashionable and desirable. Overstitching can be used to decorate collars, darts, cuffs, and pockets, as well as a wide variety of other features on any garment. Therefore, it is important for sewers to understand the basics of overstitching and to know how to perform the technique on a sewing machine.

Materials Needed

Before attempting to overstitch on a sewing machine, it is important to have the right materials in place. This includes a piece of fabric, thread, a seam ripper, scissors, a pressing cloth, fabric adhesive tape, and a sewing machine. It is important to use a color of thread that is the same color or just slightly darker than the color of the fabric. Additionally, make sure the type of thread is suitable for the chosen fabric.

Step-by-Step Guide

The first step to overstitching on a sewing machine is to select a pattern that will be used on the fabric. Make sure the pattern is centered correctly. Once the pattern has been selected, it is time to start stitching. Begin by zipping off the raw side seams and the armholes. Next, use the seam ripper to remove any excess fabric from the edges of the seams.
Using the scissors, cut a bias strip that is the same width as the pattern to be stitched. This should be cut to match the pattern, but it does not have to be of the same material as the fabric. Once the bias strip has been cut, it needs to be applied to the raw edge of the fabric. This can be done using the pressing cloth and fabric adhesive tape.
When the bias strip has been attached, it is time to begin overstitching. Begin by threading the machine correctly, making sure the thread is in line with the bias strip. To begin stitching, set the machine on the straight stitch setting. Make sure the needle is dropped slightly, as having it too high can cause the stitches to jump. As the needle is brought down and up, be sure to guide the bias strip as it is sewn. Once the first line of stitches has been made, it is time to add the second line of stitches. This can be achieved by guiding the bias strip opposite the direction of the original line of stitches.

Adjust Settings

Depending on the type of fabric, it may be necessary to adjust the tension and stitch length of the sewing machine. For heavier fabrics, a tighter stitch length may be necessary. Alternatively, for lightweight fabrics a stitch length of about 2.5mm should be used. The amount of tension also needs to be adjusted so that the fabric does not bunch up beneath the needle.

Finishing Touches

Before the overstitching is completed, be sure to back stitch all of the edges. This will keep the edges of the fabric from unravelling and will also ensure that all of the stitches blend in with the pattern. To complete the overstitching, gently pull the bias strip off the back.

Maintaining Sewing Machines

When it comes to overstitching on a sewing machine, it is important to make sure the machine is well maintained. This includes cleaning the machine periodically and making sure that all of the presser feet and bobbins are secured properly. Additionally, it is important to ensure the needle is always sharp and that the thread is the correct color and tension for the fabric being used.

Finding the Right Thread

When overstitching on a sewing machine, it is important to use the right type of thread for the project. A lightweight thread should be used for lightweight fabrics, while heavier thread should be used for thicker fabrics. Additionally, make sure the thread is the same color or just slightly darker than the fabric.

Practice Makes Perfect

Overstitching on a sewing machine takes a bit of practice to become proficient. The best way to gain experience is to practice on scraps of fabric before attempting to do overstitching on a completed garment. With practice and patience, anyone can learn how to perform this technique with confidence.

Altering the Look

In addition to sewing straight stitch lines, overstitching can be used to create different looks. This includes adding rows of narrow seamstitches, blind hems, and even decorative flourishes. By experimenting with different stitch styles, sewers can create unique and fashionable looks that will set their garments apart from the pack.


Overstitching can be tricky to master, but there are a few common issues that can prevent a successful outcome. If the thread keeps getting tangled, it could be due to an incorrectly threaded machine or a broken bobbin. Additionally, if the stitches are not forming correctly, check the tension and the stitch length of the machine. It could also be caused by a blunt needle or incorrect thread weight.

Alternative Methods

Overstitching is not the only method of adding decorative cords to raw seams. Sewers can also use a bias tape maker to make the job easier. This is a great option for those who are new to overstitching. Additionally, an overlocker machine can be used to finish the raw edges of any garment, reducing the time and effort needed to overstitch.

Geoffrey Kirby is an experienced author and sewist who has been creating sewn projects for over 20 years. He has a passion for teaching beginners and inspiring more advanced sewists both online and through his writings. Outside of writing about sewing, Geoffrey loves to explore new techniques and styles of sewing that incorporate upcycling fabric remnants into sweet items with personality.

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