Hemming Without Expensive Purchased Tools

When I purchased my 900CPX, there were no hemming tools available for it.  I don’t know if Janome is developing tools, adapting tools from other brands  or advertising tools that exist but I didn’t know about. I thought the 900CPX was in   “stable development”  i.e. still sold and supported but not a subject for research and development.  I’d so much prefer to know that Janome is still working on things for my machine. Generics usually need to be jury-rigged.  I have digressed again..

When I first bought my machine, I had to figure out how to hem without any cute little tools to help me.  The book suggests prefolding the hem, measuring the depth and then marking a line on top. Ok, that can be done and does work with top stitching but  I ran into some issues with that procedures. For starters, fabric doesn’t always stay exactly the way you fold it.  It needs pins or something to discourage flapping and shifting around.  My biggest issue though, is the time it takes.  I much prefer Deb’s Cook’s approach with her “Lazy Hem“. But I do things just a little differently with a few different accessories.



Today, I’m finishing another pair of MSS Shorts. It has become my GOTO pattern for shorts much the same as the One-Seam pants pattern became the staple of so many wardrobes.  Want shorts, bang! Got MSS Shorts.  All the fitting has been done, I’ve even tweaked the hem length.  I prefer to hem in a continuous circle, so both the inseam and side seam are already sewn. To hem, I press the hem allowance up along 1-1/4″ line on the Dritz Hem Guage that’s been in my sewing room for ages.  Then I take 1/4″ SAS (Steam-A-Seam) and apply it evenly along the entire edge, on the inside of the hem.


I loved 1/8″ SAS which is no longer sold.  1/8″ was just enough to hold things into place until I could get to the sewing and didn’t seem to affect the needles at all. Sans the 1/8″,  I use the 1/4″ most of the time, but when my supply is low I’ll use 1/2″ or stoop to cutting strips from 9×12″ sheet.  If I were blind hemming at the sewing machine, I would apply the SAS 1/4″ below the raw edge. However I intend the cover stitching to enclose the raw edge and I have better results by applying the SAS along the raw edge. YMMV, do be sure to test both applications.

When the SAS is applied all along the raw edge, I remove the paper backing, fold the hem back into place and secure it with a bit of steam.

The 900CPX  is free arm, as is my sewing machine but not my serger.  However my SM has a great big supporting table, even larger than what came with the S21 serger and I’ve gotten used to hemming as if it’s not a free arm machine.  I never even think of using the free arm.  One day I thought I’d broken something when the free-arm adapter came loose and fell into my hands.  All that to say, all my photos will be as if the 900CPX is not a free-arm machine.  This works for me but I can certainly understand why you wouldn’t want to do the same.  Just don’t let my instructions confuse you.  Do what comes naturally for you.

At the cover stitch I ensure that my shorts are turned inside out. While watching the raw edge, I place my garment leg (or thing to be hemmed)  beneath the needles, adjusting the fabric until the left needle just clears the raw edge. I plunge the needle in the fabric and engage my presser foot.

Good job, but I’m not CS’ing on this side. What I’m doing now is establishing a fabric guide-line so that I can stitch the same distance from the edge all the way around.  I don’t have the official tool, so I use:


which is an empty chip/cardboard support from one of these:


Any stiff thing could be used.  I’m creating a guide.  I prefer to be able to “bump” my fabric up next to my guide (without going over) and therefore prefer something with a little height.  I’ve used short plastic rulers, a stack of post-its and one time in real desperation DH loaned me the top from a plastic engine (model train) box. All I need is something that is small, doesn’t bend and has a little height.  Before placing my chipboard into place, I add a little painter’s tape along the right hand side.


Then I place it carefully along the edge of my fabric. I usually add a strip along each  each short end  to really keep the cardboard in place.

Sigh, my pictures of those steps are unusually poor.  I just can’t compete with Deb Cook. She really is a professional managing both perfect verbiage and enviable picture-taking skills. For that reason I’m proceeding a step or two without pics. You can imagine this.  I remove the item to be hemmed from the machine, turn it outside out and put it back under the needles. It’s easy to line up, I just bump it gently against my now secured chipboard, drop the needles and drop the presser foot. Now that pic came out:

For hemming I prefer a 3-3.5 mm stitch length. I like the way it looks and so far (what 9 months and counting) I haven’t had an issue with my cover stitched hems raveling.

About half way around, the beginning threads start bothering me and I take time to snip them off. Just clean off both top and bottom.  I’ve never had an issue with this end starting to ravel. I’ve finally learned if I want to ravel my hem, don’t try the start, go to the end.


I continue CS’ing at a fair clip. Not peddle-to-the-metal but not slowly carefully.  I’ve either made the right preparations or am making a mess. No need to be shy about it. But I do slow down when about to join with the beginning.

Ever foot I have has guides. I have to look hard for them sometimes and some of the “guides” I choose were not engineered to be guiding lights in the world of sewing.  This foot though is clearly marked. There are two lines engraved on the bottom of the foot.  They don’t photo well, or at least didn’t photo well for me. So I added two green dots on the following picture.  The green dots are on the underside and at the tip of the foot where the engraved lines run.

<pic unrecoverable>

As the beginning of my stitching appears, I slow down and try to align the guides with the lines of stitching.  When the first stitch goes under the foot’s cross-bar and largely disappear, I stop and starting rotating the hand-wheel by my hand, one-stitch at a time. I watch for the beginning stitches to pop up on the other side of the foot’s cross-bar. Once I can see those, I  adjust my fabric slightly so that the needles will exactly penetrate the first stitches. I make 3 more stitches which each exactly lay on top of the first 3 stitches.

I end my stitching the same way Deb does (How To End a Coverstitch) with the exception that I use a stiletto and she, being more safety conscious, uses a small screw driver.  Go read the post. Her pics and description is far superior to anything I could do. I happen to love that final, quick jerk which brings all the threads to the underside.  When I first started CS hemming, I would seal those threads on the underside/inside with a drop of FreyCheck. I haven’t done that in months and I’m not having problems with the hems unraveling. I know others swear by adding that drop of glue.  You need to do what works for you.

This is the join on the outside. I’ve even marked it with a Red pin. I think it is perfect and I’m proud of the hemming job I’ve done.



What’s in the Cookbook:

Page 3.  A copy of Deb Cooks “Lazy Hem” instructions with a sample hem and my chipboard fabric guide.

Page 4 My instructions for Making A Perfect CS Join

Page 5 Deb Cook’s instructions “How to End A CoverStitch

Made 2 notes in her instructions 1) I use a stiletto instead of screw driver 2) Trim all threads when they are pulled forward in Step 5.

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6 Responses to Hemming Without Expensive Purchased Tools

  1. Linda T says:

    I have this guide: http://www.kenssewingcenter.com/janome-coverpro-hemming-guide-p-29583.html for my CP900, but I seem to do just as well with blue tape as a guide. I also sometimes use “wash out” thread in the bobbin and stitch the hem up on the SM and use that stitch as my “guide.” This way the hem stays in place (because it is sewn) and I just spray with water to get the basting thread out.

    • sdbev says:

      Wow The wash out thread is a great idea. I must try it. Seriously, I’m working on a post for a project where the hem curled too badly to use the hemmer. I nailed it in place with SAS.

  2. ejvc says:

    Bev, you are so going to laugh when you hear how I do my coverhemming. First I use a seam guide to press up the hem. I don’t generally anchor it at all, but sometimes (depending on the fabric) I will pin or even baste. Then I put on my centre guide foot (without the guide). I lay the fabric down with the hem on the underside, then feel where the underside layer to be hemmed ends. I place that between the two guides by feel, then continue by feel all around the garment. I used to use a range of hem guides (my vintage singer hem guide screws in nicely with the Janome screw and works very well), but I get better results this way. Go figure.

  3. Sharon says:

    Bev I use the blue glue stick, I press the hems up, fold down and glue and then fold back along the pressed hem line and leave to dry or if in a hurry you can iron dry. I’ve had no problems with the glue sticking to my needles and it washes out at the first wash.


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