The Best Coverstitch Machines USA (an Owners Review)

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I’ve been sewing with coverstitch machines for around 3 years now. I’ve sewn everything from loungewear and activewear to baby clothes and even jeans using (or partially using) my coverstitch machine.

The best all-round coverstitch machine is the Brother CV3550, thanks to its easy threading, top-cover stitch option, large working area, and great accessory availability.

Next best is the Janome CoverPro 3000. It has all the essential features, plus some excellent comfort features like adjustable lighting and advancements in fine-tuning the tension adjustment. It’s double the price though.

The machine I’ve selected for the ‘best budget’ award is the Brother CV3440. It’s similar to my top pick, the 3550, but less expensive as it doesn’t include the top-cover stitch option. This is a durable topstitch for activewear, so if you don’t sew exercise clothes or swimwear, you may not need it.

When shopping for a coverstitch machine, keep the projects you want to sew in mind. Almost every machine these days has the essential features required to create quality coverhems – things like a differential feed, adjustable stitch length, and adjustable presser foot pressure. They all produce a similar number of stitches, but only some machines offer a top-cover stitch option. This is a durable topstitch for activewear, so if you plan to sew exercise clothes or swimwear, you’ll want this. You’ll also be shopping for the “comfort features” that fit your needs and budget. Things like easier threading, a free arm for small tubular seams like sleeves or baby clothes, a large working space, and multidirectional LED lighting. Some of these things will be more or less important to you depending on the types of projects you work on.

Contents list:

If you’re not quite sure what a coverstitch machine is or whether you should buy one, I have an article about that.

This post is focused on coverstitch-only machines in the US. If you’re outside the US, many of these recommendations are available worldwide, but not all of them, and the prices may vary. If you’re in the UK or Europe, here’s my guide to the best coverstitch machines in the UK.

There are also combination serger-coverstitch machines available which you may want to consider if your sewing room lacks space. I have one and love it! I’ve talked about which serger-coverstitch machines I think are best for UK and European readers, but many of the machines are also available in the US. (Note: in the UK, sergers are known as overlockers).

PS. I’m currently an ambassador for Bernina machines, although this has not colored my recommendations here. As part of my ambassadorship, I regularly share projects made with my machines on my personal blog (Kat Makes) and social media. This partnership does not extend to Threads Monthly. 


The best coverstitch machine: Brother CV3550

Best for: a wide range of sewists, from people who just want a professional finish on t-shirts, all the way to advanced sewists who want to use the top-cover stitch option on activewear and swimwear projects.

Price: typically $750 across the web.

Features:

  • Easy (manual) looper threading by disengaging the looper
  • 2-5 thread stitches (chain, coverstitch, and top coverstitch)
  • Automatic thread tension release
  • 1000 stitches per minute
  • Vertical needle
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure
  • Differential feed

Pros:

  • Top cover-stitch option (up to 5 threads)
  • Large 6.1″ x 3.9″ working area with easy access
  • Free arm

Cons:

  • Accessories not included

The Brother CV3550 is a powerful, all-purpose machine that will elevate the finish of your t-shirts, activewear, kids clothes, and more. It’s an easy-to-use machine, making it ideal for beginners, but it also has features that you can grow with. For example, the option to do top-cover stitches, and the big range of additional accessories.

It’s one of the most affordable top-cover stitch machines currently on the market. This makes it more accessible for people who want to do projects that benefit from the top-coverstitch, like activewear and some types of swimwear. 

Brother is also well-known for their large range of affordable attachments. Although this machine only comes with the basics, it’s easy to find binding attachments in different sizes to help you sew self-fabric bindings and fold-over elastic. This makes finishing projects easier, and won’t hurt the wallet as much as accessories from other brands (including Babylock and Bernina).

If you’re not sure you’ll ever use the five thread top-cover stitch, check out its sister machine: the CV3440. It’s nearly identical, but it’s cheaper and doesn’t have the top-cover stitch.


Next best coverstitch machine: Janome Coverpro 3000

Best for: sewists who value ease-of-use features and have a large budget.

Price: typically $1700 across the web.

white and grey janome coverpro 3000 coverstitch machine on a white table
Photo credit: Sara Maker

Features:

  • Easy (manual) looper threading
  • 2-5 thread stitches (chain, coverstitch, and top coverstitch)
  • 1000 stitches per minute
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure
  • Differential feed

Pros:

  • Top cover-stitch option (up to 5 threads)
  • Large 4” x 5.5” working space
  • Free arm
  • 3 LEDs including a retractable one
  • Janome’s signature mode-switching lever for perfect tension every time
  • Built-in needle threader

Cons:

  • Higher price than Brother CV 3550 for similar features

This is a top-of-the-line machine with just about every feature you could possibly want. It has all the standard features like a differential feed, stitch length adjustments, and adjustable presser foot pressure. But unlike other machines, it also has ‘comfort features’ like a retractable LED that can be posed however you like, and a mode-switching lever that allows you to adjust the tension for different fabrics in a single step. It covers the basics and performs well, but those comfort features are what truly elevates this machine and makes coverstitching a breeze.

If you’re considering a high-end machine like this, you may also be considering Babylock models with air-threading. This machine doesn’t have air-threading, but I think the easy looper threading system makes up for this. Especially when you consider there’s only one lower looper to thread with a coverstitch machine. If you’re a beginner, this machine may feel like learning to drive in a lamborghini, but on the plus side, you’re not likely to outgrow those features anytime soon!


Best budget coverstitch machine: Brother CV 3440

Best for: people who want a good coverstitching experience on a smaller budget, and don’t need a top-cover stitch option.

Price: typically $589 across the web.

Features:

  • Easy (manual) looper threading by disengaging the looper
  • 2-4 thread stitches (chain, 2-, 3-, and 4-thread coverstitch)
  • Automatic thread tension release
  • 1000 stitches per minute
  • Vertical needle
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure
  • Differential feed

Pros:

  • Large working space – 15.5cm (approx. 6″)
  • Free arm
  • Great lighting

Cons:

  • No top-cover stitch for activewear projects

As mentioned, the CV 3440 is closely related to the 3550, but it lacks the top-cover option. The user interface, setup, control dials, and accessories are all identical so this machine remains a great choice if you’re looking for a powerful and useful multipurpose coverstitch machine.

If you’re not certain whether Brother is the brand for you, you may also want to consider the Juki MCS 1500. At $60 more, it’s not too much of a difference. It has a similar list of features but a completely different interface. So if Brother’s design doesn’t seem intuitive to you, this is a good alternative. It also seems to have a slightly more powerful and faster motor, sewing at up to 1350 stitches per minute. This may appeal to you if speed is important.


Best coverstitch machine for swimwear: Brother CV3550

One of the reasons the Brother CV3550 made it to the top of my list is because of how versatile it is – and sewing swimwear is no exception! This machine remains a great choice if you sew a lot of swimwear or activewear, thanks to its top-cover stitch option. But if you’re still not sure, here are some features to look for when choosing your machine:

Swim and activewear fabrics can be thicker and spongier than “everyday” fabrics, so a machine with an adjustable presser foot pressure setting will be critical. This helps with good stitch formation, and it also keeps your foot and feed dogs from potentially ‘bruising’ more delicate fabrics.

Those who are interested in making activewear, like leggings or hiking shirts, will recognise the importance of a top-cover stitch function for professional-looking activewear. This stitch adds stability and structure to seams, while allowing them to be flat against the body and limit friction. It’s possible to replicate the top-cover stitch on the top of some garments using the reverse side of the three-needle coverstitch, but if you’re planning to sew a lot of these types of items, a machine that has this feature is a worthy investment.

Lastly, some coverstitch users report that a vertical needle is better for sewing highly elastic fabrics like swim and activewear fabrics. If you look at the needles side-on, you’ll notice that some machines have needles that are installed at a forward slant and others are installed vertically (like a regular sewing machine). Personally, my coverstitch has the slanted variety and I’ve had no issues sewing these types of fabrics, but some users report fewer skipped stitches and tension issues when using a machine with vertical needles, so it’s worth testing this to see what works for you.

The Brother CV3550 has all these features, but so do other machines.


Best coverstitch machine for beginners: Janome 1000 CPX

Best for: beginners who want ease-of-use and an accessory package to get up and running quickly.

Price: typically $650 across the web. Check the price on Sewing Machines Plus and Amazon.

Features:

  • 2-4 thread stitches (chain, up to 3-thread coverstitch)
  • 1000 stitches per minute
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure
  • Differential feed
  • Vertical needle

Pros:

  • Large working space – 4” x 5.5”
  • Free arm
  • Janome’s signature seam-tightening system for perfect tension
  • Comes with extra accessories

Cons:

  • No top-cover stitch
  • Limited “comfort” features (doesn’t seem to be designed for advanced or heavy use)

The 1000 CPX is best described as the highest-end machine in the budget category for Janome. It has the body style and layout of their less expensive range, but it still has some great features we know and love from Janome, like the seam-tightening tension setup, large working space, and free arm option. As a bonus, this machine often comes with a bonus bundle which includes 2 extra feet, needles, a seam guide, needle threader, and a little case to store accessories in.

Janome’s user manual is easy to read and intuitive. This machine also includes a sticker placed directly on the machine to help you choose stitch settings without consulting the manual. Overall, a great choice for a beginner, and a reliable machine to sell on if you decide to upgrade to a more advanced model in the future.


The competition:

Brother 2340CV: This is around the same price as other machines in the ‘beginner’ and ‘budget’ categories, making it an affordable option. Brother’s design makes the machine easy to use, and they have a large and affordable range of accessories. However, the machine’s smaller working area and lack of free arm may make it harder for some sewists to use. Check the price on Sewing Machines Plus and Amazon.

Juki MCS 1500: This machine is another top contender in the budget category. Brother won in this roundup because their option was $60 less expensive, but the Juki does seem to have a more powerful and faster motor. It can sew at 1350 stitches per minute, unlike most machines which do 1000 stitches per minute. Juki specializes in industrial machines, and this machine brings that industrial grunt to the domestic market. It’s well worth a look if speed and being heavy-duty are important features for you, although it may be less beginner-friendly as a result. Check the price on Sewing Machines Plus and Amazon.

Babylock Euphoria: This top-of-the-range machine would be a delightful addition to any sewing room, but I believe most users won’t benefit from air threading on a coverstitch – there’s only one lower looper. Since this feature adds significant cost to the machine, I wouldn’t select it in this instance. That said, if you’re shopping for a serger, Babylock’s air thread machines will make threading 2 loopers much easier and faster. Check the price on Sewing Machines Plus.

Janome 900CPX: This machine belongs to quite an interesting category. It’s on the less expensive side, but it’s also limited to either a chain stitch or two-thread coverstitch. There’s no three-thread coverstitch option. This can be quite limiting and I’d expect most sewists to outgrow this machine quickly, unless their uses are unusually specific. For example, if you only ever want to hem t-shirts, this could be a good option to save money. Check the price on Sewing Machines Plus (2 free feet included) and Amazon.

Janome 2000CPX: Comparable to the Janome 3000CPX without the top-cover stitch, this would be a good machine to compare to the Brother CV3440. It’s quite a bit more expensive, but comes with additional comfort features, plus Janome’s signature seam-tightening system which can make tension adjustments easier for some fabrics.

Elna Easycover: This machine actually made it to the top of my list for ‘best coverstitch machines for beginners’ in the UK edition, and to be honest there’s no reason it isn’t a spectacular machine for a beginner in the US as well, except that it seems to be significantly more expensive in the US market. Much of this machine is specifically designed with the user in mind. It has a ‘tension lever control’ that quickly switches settings for different fabric thicknesses with the flip of a lever. This is normally only seen on advanced machines. There are clear threading guides printed on the machine with color-coding. And the lower looper drops down and away from the machine, making it easier to thread than some other options. It’s worth a look if you have a bit of extra cash to spare.

Bernette 42: Another machine that has a great variety of basic features at a lower price. In addition to essential features like the differential feed, stitch length adjustments and sensitive tension, the machine is easy to thread and has a great LED lighting system that makes it easy to see where you’re stitching. It does lack the top-cover stitch option though. Check the price on Sewing Machines Plus.

bernette b42 coverstitch machine on a table
Photo credit: Sara Maker

Consew 14TU858: This is the cheapest coverstitch machine I’ve seen, which may seem tempting at first, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The machine only performs a chain and two-needle coverstitch (like the Janome 900CPX), but unfortunately the reviews aren’t great. Some customers think the machine is unreliable, the manual is difficult to understand and scant in some categories, and the company’s customer support seems more geared towards industrial sewing rather than home sewing. I haven’t tried this machine, but based on the information available online, it may be a risky investment. Check the price on Sewing Machines Plus and Amazon.


What to look for when buying a coverstitch machine:

Think about what projects you’ll be using your coverstitch machine for.

Choose an entry-level model with basic features for:

  • Hemming knit projects like t-shirts and everyday clothes
  • Only occasionally sewing swimsuits

Choose a mid-level machine with good attachment options if:

  • You’re constantly sewing with lycra or other stretchy fabrics and want the most durable finish
  • You want a one-step method for attaching fold-over elastics and knit bindings to lingerie, sportswear, or other knit projects

Choose a high-end machine with a five-thread “top-cover stitch” if:

  • You really want to professionally topstitch sportswear items like leggings, some swimwear, activewear shirts, etc.

Stitch options: Consider which stitches you’ll use most. If you’re mainly hemming t-shirts, a three-thread coverstitch is probably enough. But activewear enthusiasts will probably want the top coverstitch option. To learn more about the different stitches a coverstitch can make, what they look like, and when to use them, read my intro to coverstitch machine stitches article.

Differential Feed: This dial allows you to change the speed of the top and bottom feed dogs. You need this to prevent wavy seam lines, and to gather fabric. Here’s how it works on my machine. When the dial is on “1”, the top and bottom fabrics are fed evenly. When the dial increases towards “2”, the top fabric feeds faster than the bottom. And when the dial decreases towards “0”, the lower fabric feeds faster than the top. Look specifically for a machine that has an adjustment dial with multiple differential feed settings, rather than two or three set options as this is limiting.

High-Lift Presser Foot: Most models have this feature, but a few don’t and I find it invaluable. This feature allows the presser foot to lift extra-high so you can place bulky items under the foot. It also gives you better access when sewing. For example, since you don’t want to use pins when coverstitching, the ability to lift the foot out of the way is very convenient when placing fabric underneath without disrupting alignment.

Adjustable presser foot pressure: This feature is extremely useful if you sew with a variety of different fabric weights. Bulky fabrics require a different pressure than thin fabrics. If the presser foot is pressing down on the fabric too much, it may create stretched out and wavy lines of stitching. Again, look for a machine that lets you finely adjust the settings, rather than only giving you a few set options.

Attachment options: If you plan to use your coverstitch machine for things like sewing elastic in lingerie, or adding fabric bindings, be sure to look into the available attachments for your machine. Some machines will only accept attachments from the brand, while others accept generic options which may be more affordable.

Free Arm: A free arm allows you to fit tubular things, like sleeve cuffs, onto your machine easily, and then you can sew all the way around. If you rely on the free arm of your regular sewing machine, this feature may be worth prioritizing. However, there are simple ways to get around not having one, so don’t let this feature be a dealbreaker for a machine that you otherwise love. Plus, some free arms are too big to fit a baby sleeve onto anyway.

Stitches per Minute: Most of the coverstitch machines discussed here have a speed of 1000 stitches per minute. This is a commonly stated feature on all machines, but it’s not a feature I pay much attention to. For a coverstitch machine in a domestic setting, a few extra hundred stitches per minute isn’t going to save much time, unless you’re regularly hemming miles of fabric. When sewing, we only spend a fraction of our time physically running fabric through the machine. Most of it is spent cutting, pressing, trimming threads, pinning or aligning fabric pieces, etc. This would, of course, be different in an industrial setting. A higher stitches per minute count can indicate a stronger, more robust motor, but it’s best to use that information combined with other information you have about the machine.


What are the best threads for coverstitch machines?

You’ll need up to 3 spools of thread for the needles, and either 1 thread for the looper (for most applications) or 2 threads for the loopers (for a top coverstitch).

I like to use regular all-purpose sewing thread in the needles (the same thread that I used to construct the project), combined with a wooly nylon thread in the looper.

If your project is on the small side, like hemming a t-shirt for example, then you could just wind a few bobbins of thread for the needles. But if you’re working on a bigger project, you may need to purchase a few extra spools of thread. Regardless, the needle thread used in a cover stitch will be visible on the outside of your project, so be sure to choose something that matches!

The looper thread will be visible on the inside, and looks similar to serging. I find that using wooly nylon gives good coverage on hemmed seams, but you could also use a cone of serger thread instead. You don’t need to use the same all-purpose thread as the needles (although you can!) as it won’t be under as much tension. 

If you’re looking for that professional sportswear top-cover stitch finish, use wooly nylon in both the upper and lower loopers. And use regular all-purpose thread for your needles.


What to read next…


This article was written by Kat Waters and edited by Sara Maker.

Kat Waters (author)
Kat has been sewing since her feet could reach the pedals, starting with quilts she made with her mom and eventually graduating to garments. She now makes everything she wears, occasionally teaches classes, and shares her projects on social media. Highlights include her wedding dress, shoemaking, and a love for almost any fabric that comes in hot pink! Read more…