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Using the overcast stitch and overcasting presser foot on your sewing machine can open a world of new options for you. It gives your basic sewing machine the ability to finish fabric edges and sew a seam at the same time. While this doesn’t necessarily turn your sewing machine into a serger, which can trim fabric edges as well in a very professional manner, using the overcast stitch on your fabric can save time and neaten your projects.
This overcast stitch tutorial will teach you how to use an overcast presser foot and stitch as well as answer some common questions. So if you’re wondering, “What is overcasting in sewing?” then read on!
Also, as a note, when I say overcast, overcasting, overedge, or even overlocking, I mean the same thing each time! There are a lot of terms that sewists use interchangeably, so don’t be confused when I switch around.
What does an overcasting sewing foot look like?
Overlock presser feet have a zigzag opening in the foot and also a metal finger bar in the center of the foot’s zigzag opening to hold the fabric edges flat and prevent bunching. A second vertical bar parallel to the first serves as the edge guide when feeding fabric. If you’re not wanting to use an overcast stitch with your overcasting presser foot, you can also use a zigzag stitch since the base has a zigzag opening.
Here are two examples of overcasting presser feet. The top foot is a Brother overcasting presser foot ‘G’ that was included with my Brother CS6000i sewing machine. The bottom is another low-shank, universal overcast presser foot that was included in a set of 42 presser feet that I purchased to have additional options with my machine.
As you can see, both of the overcasting sewing feet look fairly similar and work equally well with my machine.
What does an overcast stitch in sewing look like?
There are three overcasting stitches on my Brother sewing machine, the cs6000i. They are stitch numbers 06-08. In general, overcasting stitches lock and loop around the fabric edges to prevent fraying. They provided a serged appearance, and for the hobbyist sewist, will negate the need for an additional serger.
To show you what an overcast stitch looks like when sewn, here’s an example where I used an overcast stitch to finish the edges on a knit fabric. I love the neat appearance of the seam!
You’ll typically want to sew an overcast stitch on the edge of the fabric more often on woven fabrics than knit fabrics. Woven fabric raw edges are much more prone to fraying and need that added neatening!
Where to Buy an Overcasting Presser Foot
If your sewing machine has a built-in overcast stitch but you don’t have an overlock presser foot, you can easily buy a compatible one. My Brother CS6000i sewing machine came with an overcasting accessory foot, but any low-shank universal foot will snap on with it. Most modern sewing machines are low-shank as well, so you should be able to buy a brand-specific or universal low-shank foot if this is the case for your machine.
You can purchase directly from the manufacturer, a local craft store, or look online at Amazon.
Can you use your zigzag foot with the overcast stitch?
What if you’re in a hurry and want to use the overlock stitch with your zigzag foot rather than changing to the overcasting presser foot? I have two young kids, so I have definitely attempted this in the past. I’m the type of person to try everything out once and deal with the repercussions if it doesn’t work later on.
What I’ve found is that you definitely can use the overcasting stitch with a zigzag foot. However, certain fabrics are going to bunch more (such as stretchy knits,) and the stitch width will be smaller and less uniform. If you don’t care how your fabric looks on the inside, you can use your zigzag foot. Just know that it’s not going to be as neat as using a specialized overcasting foot. The little finger in the middle of the overcast foot makes things neater.
Here’s a quick comparison of the overlocking stitches sewn with the two options presser feet. The left overcasting stitch was sewn with the overcasting foot, and the right overcasting stitch was sewn using just a basic zigzag foot. Notice the more uniform, wider appearance when using the overcast foot.
How to Use An Overcasting Presser Foot
I’m using my Brother CS6000i sewing machine as an example. Depending on the manufacturer and model of your sewing machine, this process may be a little different. When in doubt, refer to your user manual!
First, attach the overcasting presser foot. On my sewing machine, I press a lever to release the current presser foot from the presser foot holder and then attach the overcasting sewing foot using the same lever. No need to rethread the machine or the needle during this process.
Next, select your overcasting stitch and select your desired length and width. If you have a computerized sewing machine, this will be done by using buttons. If your machine is not computerized, this will be completed by turning a dial.
All you have to do now is place your fabric underneath the presser foot and pull the threads back. If you’re wanting to create your ovecast stitch right at a fabric edge, make sure to line the fabric up with the vertical sidebar to the far right. When the fabric is aligned to the right, you’ll be giving that serged appearance.
Start sewing! Here’s a picture of the overcast stitching in action. Notice how the stitch wraps around the finger in the middle of the presser foot.
When you’re done sewing, put your needle in the up position, and gently slide the stitched fabric off this middle bar by pulling it back a bit. All done, and looking beautiful!
What about a side cutter foot? Does it really work like a serger?
As I mentioned earlier, one downfall of the overcast stitch compared to a serger is having to trim your fabric edges before overcasting. Enter the side cutter presser foot! This is touted as a very basic serger alternative because it will do everything the overcasting presser foot will, but it also trims edges while sewing.
I have a side cutter presser foot that will sew a seam as well as finish and trim the edges. It’s INCREDIBLE for cotton fabrics, but I’m not in love with its ability with knits. However, if you’re wanting the option to trim fabric edges also while using the overcast stitch, give it a try. Just have realistic expectations, and know that a serger is going to do this job MUCH better! You can learn more in my Brother side cutter foot review.
And that’s it for this overcast stitch and presser foot tutorial! I hope you learned what overcasting in sewing means and when and how to use it. As always, leave a question in the comments if you need more help.