How to Sew an Overcast Stitch: Beginner’s Guide

Jean Chaney
Jean Chaney
Research Writer
Jean is the brains behind her fashion label. She's a whiz with a needle and thread, and has been sewing since she was old enough to hold a pair of scissors. Jean has always read more
Reviewed By
Isabel Misner
Isabel Misner
Expert Consultant
A professional seamstress. Isabel has her own video blog where she shares her experience about all the aspects of sewing – from choosing suitable materials to step-by-step read more
Last updated: August 27, 2023
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Many of us enjoy wearing the latest styles and having a fashionable wardrobe, or revamping the home with new soft furniture. Unfortunately, this can be a costly process, but you can save money Trusted Source The Cost of Sewing Nearly All of My Clothes - The Billfold Can sewing save you money? Yes, probably. Does sewing save me money? Absolutely not. by sewing these items yourself.

However, it is very difficult to create a professional look if you have frayed edges and uneven seams. This is where an overcast stitch can help. This stitch can be a great way to finish your items to create a pro style that will wow your family, friends and guests.

In this article, we’ll explore what is an overcast stitch and how you can accomplish it by hand or with your sewing machine. So, please read on to discover how you can use an overcast stitch on your sewing projects.

What is an overcast stitch?

Overcast stitching is a type of edge finishing stitch. It can be sewn by hand or using an overcast stitch machine. This stitch can be used to neaten up edges and prevent raw edges of fabric unraveling.

Once you perfect it, the overcast stitch can be a vital part of your sewing project, particularly if you’re using fine fabrics. This will help you to minimize fraying and prolong the lifespan of your home-made clothing, soft furnishings and accessories.

How do an overcast stitch by hand

How to Sew an Overcast Stitch: Beginner's GuideAs we touched on above, it is easy to overcast stitch by hand. If you are already familiar with how to sew by hand, you should be able to accomplish this in several steps.

  1. Fold your edges: Press your hem over twice so the raw edges are tucked in. If you’re dealing with a smaller hem, you may need to roll it over as you go.
  2. With a good quality needle, like the Tulip needle set, thread with a single or double thread depending on your fabric. Bring the needle through from back to front through the fold. Tae your needle over the folded hem and into your hem to make a stitch casting over the fold with a slight angle. Pull the thread gently so the stitch will not pull tightly and cause the fabric to pucker.
  3. Continue to stitch over the hem to create your next stitches. Try to leave them ¼ inch apart.

You can also add a double overcast variation for added strength. This involves stitching a second row by returning to the beginning, crossing over each stitch in the row to create x’s.

How to do an overcasting stitch with a sewing machine

How to Sew an Overcast Stitch: Beginner's GuideYou can easily make this kind of stitch if you have a sewing machine that is capable of creating different overcast stitches, such as the one of the best Brother sewing machines. These machines have special foot attachments for that purpose.

An overcast foot has a guide where you place the edge of the fabric. You can find the ones that will work only for a certain make, i.e., Singer overcast stitch feet, but there are also generic feet that fit on different makes and models of sewing machines.

There are several steps to create an overcast stitch on your machine.

Step 1. Stitch the seam

Depending on the pattern, it may be a good idea to stitch your seam and when overcast stitch to minimize edge fraying. Some models of sewing machines have a stitch that does a seam stitch and an overcast stitch at the same time.

Step 2. Neaten up

Before you start overcast stitching, it is a good idea to trim the raw edges neatly. Overcast stitching will not trim as you sew, so you want to begin with an unfrayed, clean edge.

Step 3. Line it up

Attach your overcast foot and put the fabric under the foot. Be sure to line up the raw edge to the left of your foot’s guide.

Step 4. Use the overcast stitch

Set your machine to the overcast stitch. Typically, you need to set a stitch width of 5.0, but some lengths are determined by the internal stitch settings. If you’re not sure, check the manual for your sewing machine model.

Step 5. Sew

Be sure to use a good quality thread like the Milija thread set. Hold the threads to the side and taut so they will not tangle. You will be able to release them once you’ve done a few stitches.

Machine overcast stitch alternatives

How to Sew an Overcast Stitch: Beginner's GuideThe purpose of overcast stitching is to finish your seam, but there are some options you can do with a regular or intermediate sewing machine and some sewing basics.

    • Pinking shears: These are serrated scissors that cut in a zig zag design. This can reduce fraying if you’re using a tightly woven fabric. Just be sure that your shears are sharp to prevent burrs on the edges.
    • Bias tape: You can use this tap to finish thick fabrics. You may see it if you have an unlined jacket or coat. You can find bias tape in matching colors or choose a contrasting color.
    • Zig Zag: Many modern sewing machines have at least one zig zag stitch. You’ll need to check the tension before you begin or your fabric may pucker. If you have very flimsy fabric, it is a good idea to sew the fabric double to keep it firm. After you finish sewing, create a neat finish by trimming away any excess fabric.
    • Turn Under: Turn the seam edges under once and straight stitch the edge. This is a basic form of hemming to reduce fraying. However, if you have a basic sewing machine with minimal stitch patterns and no additional feet, this could be a good option.

Final thoughts

Fraying can ruin the look of garments, soft furnishings and decorative items. So, it is important when you’re sewing these items that you secure the hem to minimize or eliminate fraying. An overcast stitch is a great way to accomplish this.

You can easily learn how to overcast stitch by hand or with a sewing machine without needing to purchase an expensive serge machine or overlocker. Using an overcast stitch will neaten seams and finish edges to create a pro finish on all your sewn items.


The Cost of Sewing Nearly All of My Clothes - The Billfold
Can sewing save you money? Yes, probably. Does sewing save me money? Absolutely not.
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