girl sewer thinking about an overcast foot

If you bought a sewing machine in this century, chances are, it came with several presser feet and many built-in stitches. A multitude of options can be quite overwhelming for newbies. That’s why the majority of new sewists end up using only a handful of stitches and even fewer presser feet. While you don’t have to use all of the features that your sewing machine offers, the truth is that many of these options are very useful occasionally. The overcast foot, also known as the over-edge foot or over locker foot is one of them. If you’re not using it, I hope you will change your mind after reading this article. It can really help you make your seams and seam finishes look professional.

What Is Overcast Foot Used For?

The overcast foot is used for finishing raw fabric edges and to join two pieces or layers of fabric together. In other words, we are talking about seams and seam finishes. Using the overcast foot is not the only way to do this. You can sew seams and seam finishes by hand or you can use a regular sewing machine or serger. Truth be told a serger is the best choice to do it. After all, it is a specialized sewing machine designed to create perfect edges. However, not all of us have sergers. Even if you own a serger, sometimes you will choose your overcast foot for smaller projects. Or when you are lazy to unpack and thread your serger. There’s also a learning curve, especially with threading the serger. So, for starters, the overcast foot will do just fine.

Very often you can get away with many projects using your sewing machine only, without compromising the outcome. Actually, you can sew your seams even without the overcast foot, using a zigzag stitch. However, it is time-consuming and requires extra care and attention. The overcast foot will allow you to produce neat finishes easy and quickly. High-quality seams should possess strength, elasticity, durability, and appearance. The overcast foot will provide all these qualities. Having said that, a serger is a step above, and if you plan to sell your garments you will probably want to purchase it sooner or later.

How It Looks Like

There are several different styles of overcast feet, but essentially they work in the same way. The overcast food has a small metal bridge within the stitching area. It allows more thread into the stitch while preventing the fabric from puckering and curling. There is also an extension at the front right side of the foot. It is a guide that helps you to keep a straight line while sewing the edge of the fabric. 

The overcast foot is almost a necessary tool if you don’t have a serger. It is a pretty versatile presser foot. However, it’s mostly used to sew seams and seam finishes. To be honest, you can do these tasks with a standard presser foot and overcast or zigzag stitch. But, the overcast foot will allow you to create neater, non-frayed, professional-looking edges.

How to Use It

So, when it’s time to sew seams and seam finishes you should clip on your overcast foot and you are ready to sew. Well, almost. First, you need to choose a proper stitch. You can use a zigzag stitch, overcast stitch or some other versions of these stitches. As a general rule of thumb, stitches that move forward are used for lightweight fabrics, while those that move back and forth are better for medium to heavyweight fabrics. It is easier if you sew seam finishes before the seam itself. 

Now, we have done all of the preparation and we can move on and start sewing. Line up the fabric so that your right swing of the needle goes just of the raw edge of the fabric. Guide the fabric along with the extension on the front. Maybe it’s a good idea to test your settings on the scrap fabric to make sure that your needle doesn’t hit the bar in the middle of the foot. And that’s about it! 

You can also sew seams and seam finishes simultaneously. The only difference is that you have to align both raw edges with a guide extension. However, I think it looks neater if you sew seam finishes first.

The overcast foot is very convenient when sewing stretch fabrics. It is more so if your machine has an in-built stretch overcast stitch. It will look good and your stitches will stretch along with the fabric.

Experiment with different stitches to figure out which one you like best. You can also use different stitches for different projects.

Other Uses

Beside basic uses, there are several more ways to use the overcast foot. You can create a fringe effect with this foot. A satin stitch and wooly nylon thread are the best for this purpose. When you finish stitching use a pair of scissors or a seam ripper to cut out the stitches. It’s an easy way to create a cute effect. Just be careful not to damage the fabric when snipping.

If you work on a project with a stretchy knit fabric, you can create cool curved, wavy edges. You can use an either zigzag or overcast stitch. Simply, keep the fabric stretched while you sew. When you are done release the fabric and you’ll get a nice wavy appearance. This might need some practice to make it right.

You can also attach ribbons to cuff and sleeve edges. The technique is pretty much the same. You just need to align the ribbon and your main fabric, the rest is the same.

Conclusion

The overcast foot is a versatile and useful part of your sewing equipment. It will allow you to improve your skills. Your projects will look better as it will allow you to make professional finishes much alike as with a serger.

Having said that, make no mistake, it can’t match the quality and durability of seam finishes made with a serger, but it’s still much better than using a standard foot. So, I think that the overcast foot is a must if you don’t have a serger. After all, it is very affordable and it will make a visible difference.