How to sew an overcast stitch – by machine and by hand

Overcast stitch is an edge finishing stitch – that can be sewn equally well by hand sewing as well as by a sewing machine. Overcast stitch is that special stitch which you use to neaten up your edges. It prevents unraveling of the raw edges of the fabric – when sewn by machine as well as by hand. No more frayed fabric edges and that too very easily – yay!

At first, when I started my sewing I used to use only the straight stitch and the zig zag stitch, even though my sewing machine had a plethora of stitches. Then I discovered the rest of them – especially the Overcast stitch. Now it is a very frequently used one.

Related post : 20 Sewing Machine stitches ; Sewing Machine Feet guide

How to sew an overcast stitch by hand – 2 ways 

overcast stitch

To sew this overcast stitch, thread your needle with one single thread and then knot the two thread at the ends together securely. 

Bring up the needle to the top of the fabric as in the picture below.

overcast stitch

Take the needle to the back, a thread away from where you came up.

overcast stitch

Loop the thread, dividing the two threads, through the needle at this point at the back. Pull up the needle. You will have your first overcast stitch.

how to sew overcast stitch

You will have to repeat the whole process again. Come up from the back a little away from the first stitch.

overcast stitch

overcast stitch

The below given picture is how the stitch looks on the back of the fabric.

overcast stitch

The most simple way of doing hand overcast stitch involves small diagonal stitches evenly spaced out enclosing the fabric raw edge. It is a very useful hand stitch to know. I have used it countless times to sew the edges of cute little handkerchiefs, which I also proceeded to embroider with small flowers. Check out the post on embroidered handkerchiefs here.

overcast stitch

Step by step hand overcast stitching

1. You may want to make the fold of the fabric edge as thin as possible. For that, roll the fabric edge with your fingers – better make it wet with just a bit of water so that the edge rolls easily enough.Make the fabric edge to look like thin tube.

Bring the needle out from back to the front through the fold. 

2. Take the needle and thread over to the other side of the cloth and from 1/4 inch (or closer if the fabric is very raveling) bring the needle out to the front of the fabric. Notice that the stitch has enclosed the fabric edge.

decorative hand sewing edges
Repeat till full edge is enclosed by stitches.

A double overcast stitching involves going over the overcast edge again from the end back to the beginning, making an X over the first stitch made. 

how to sew hand stitches

decorative hand sewing edges

How to sew an overcast stitch by Sewing machine

The overcasting stitch gives flat and even stitches, finishing the fabric edges very neatly and is a great improvement over the zig zag stitch I used to use earlier.

How I use this stitch is to sew the plain seam first with a straight stitch and then finish the edges with the overcast stitch. But you can do the reverse also. i.e finish the edges first and then sew the seam. For this, overcast the two edges together first, and then sew the regular plain seam on the seam allowance line.

Usually the seam allowances are separated and each seam is given an over cast edge. Then the seam is pressed open. Alternatively, Both the edges can be stitched together as well and pressed to one side.

You can sew a neat enough overcast stitch with a regular foot but a special overcast foot is convenient to have. 

sewing machine feet


The thin bar that sticks in the center front of this foot helps you keep the fabric perfectly lined up with the needle.This edge guide helps you to feed the fabric evenly along the raw edge.

The bar in the middle of the foot is there for a reason – the needle goes over this bar when stitching and keeps the fabric from puckering bunching up onto itself as you sew, especially if the stitch becomes tight.

These stitches are perfect for sewing knit fabrics as well as woven fabrics. Overcast stitch gives enough stretch for those stretchy knit fabrics as well as a very neat edge (This foot is almost an alternative to a serger, without the cutting of the fabric edges).

Related post : 8 decorative edge stitches you can make by hand sewing


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