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Chainstitch… help!

boudicca | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Good morrow to any kind soul who reads this – I am a bit of a novice and could really use your input.
I have a pair of jeans which I have noticed have a slightly odd-looking stitch on the waistband – it looks like an ordinary straight stitch on the outside, but has a kind of ‘plaited’ look on the inside, almost like a very fine thread pigtail (I’m sorry, terrible description I know!)
I am wondering, a) what is this – is it a chainstitch by any chance b) If it’s not a chainstitch, what exactly is?, and c) Does one need this kind of stitch to sew a waistband on a sturdy item like jeans?

Any replies would be greatly appreciated! 


  1. suesew | | #1

    It is very likely a chain stitch which you can find out by clipping it at the correct end , freeing the thread on the right side and pulling the whole thing off in your lap., which you probably really don't want to do. No, you don't need that stitch to sew on a waistband. But you might want to use jeans thread, which you can purchase to match ready to wear, and a heavy jeans needle which will have a big enough eye to handle the heavy thread. This assumes, of course, that you are making a pair of jeans.

  2. Kiley | | #2

    Yes, I agree with suesew. She basically said everything that I was going to post. On your jeans it could probably be a chain stitch or a cover stitch. that you see. The denim needle and thread is what I was going to suggest. Usually a long machine stitch is best in doing top stitching on denim I have found. As for the denim thread, Walmart carries it in both navy and gold depending on which you prefer. It is Coats and Clark and states "especially strong thread for Jeans" with Jeans in large print on the little package.

  3. Elaneyd | | #3


     The line of stitching inside your waistband on your jeans is most probably from a commercial sewing machine. It is very similar to a serging stitch, or even from a serger. From my experience, a seam very carefully sewn with a appropriate size needle will produce a strong seam. In fact, it would not do any great harm to reinforce the seam with another line of stitching. Care should be taken to reinforce the beginning and ending of any seam to make it more secure.

     Very often when I have seen this type of chain stitching on well worn garment, one can almost unzip the stitching which I find similar to unzipping a bag of dog food.

    1. boudicca | | #4

      Thank you all ever so much for your information - I am intending on purchasing a serger in the near future, but I wanted to be sure I understood all the jargon before I did so, so that I knew what features to look for. I doubt the stitch is from a commercial machine, however, as they were purchased in Urban Outfitters for a price that can only be described as extortion! Anyway, thanks again everyone...

      Stay rocked!

      1. Kiley | | #5

        I am getting a new serger with the chain and cover stitch. I am wanting to make some new little sweat shirts and pants for some of the grandbabies for winter. I like the triple seam cover stitch. I think it will look cute in different colors.

      2. louise | | #6

        Dear Boudicca!

        First great tag name!  Do you also answer to Boadacea?  I think that is the alternate spelling!

        Next. The stitch is definitely not from a commercial sewing machine.  I have one.  I also suspect that it is from either a specific commercial machine dedicated to that stitch or-- from a 5 or more thread serger, also a commercial version which would likely cost we, the unwashed many,many thousands of dollars. 

        I have actually done a chain stitch with my serger by flipping a lever somewhere.  It doesn't say you can do this in the instruction booklet and the Bernina lady in Canada is nasty, so there was very poor customer support from that end.  I didn't do  on anything in case I ended up with a melted $1200 machine that my mother would never let me hear the end of! 

        Jumping in and buying a serger is really tough because there is definitely a jargon or language to learn.  A few suggestions:

        1) see if you can rent one similar to the model you wish to purchase and sew everything you can think of even if you have to buy up all the broadcloth in your state/province. 

        2) Get your hands on every library book you can find on serging.  Then use this as a basis to buy a detailed serging book to use as a reference with the machine you purchase. 

        3)Try to get a 4 thread serger at least, be sure to ask if your choice actually does a real cover stitch (that cool double-stitched-line-on-one-side-and-cut-and-serged-finish-on-the-other-side).  That usually places your heart's desired machine in the upper 25%  price range.  The model description on the machine should include the initials D.C. or the words cover stitch.  Cover stitch machines generally are 5  thread sergers at least.

        4) Don't buy cheap thread and change your needles often. Every garment or two.

        Finally be prepared to go through a lot of thread!  Still, nothing beats cutting, sewing and wearing some sort of garment in an hour or so.

        Good luck and happy sewing!


        1. Kiley | | #7

          My serger is a 2/3/4 thread and the new one will cost quite a bit more just for the triple cover and chain stitch even with my trade in. I sometimes question myself spending so much for just another couple of types of stitches..but it sure makes hemming easier and keep picturing my grandbabies with those hems and decorative stitches on their little sweats shirts and pants this winter.

          1. louise | | #9


            You may get this twice.  They are doing underground garage renovations to my building and the cable keeps cutting out taking my internet service with it so here I go again.

            Certainly upgrading to a more expensive serger is a major expense for we seamstresses/sewers.  In a craft where thrift and economy are the first associations made when the word "sewing" is mentioned, we often find it difficult to justify the acquisition of the tools we need or just plain want to help us in our labours.  The heritage of the home sewer is to make something from nothing, to stretch out a garment's lifetime until it just wanders away and dissolves in a pile of exhausted lint.  With the advent of sergers, programmable sewing machines, embroidery machines and suchlike a new world has opened for us, bringing with it the pleasure of finely-tuned sleek, elegant equipment that is a joy to behold as well as use.

            I have a very small sewing room.  In it I have an ironing board, serger (Bernina 4 thread) an industrial sewing machine and now a Janome 417 free-arm sewing machine which has given me the freedom to make lingerie, better constructed elastic waistbands and more, and finally -I hope- bras and corsets.  It has been a long time since I have experienced such joy as I have when all three machines are humming and I am scooting my chair from one to another, the air thrumming with the music of finely tuned machines and dense with flying thread bits, "redolent" with the perfume of sewing machine oil, oh and lavender spiced linen spray.  I sing while I sew, I smile, I do a little dance of joy when my (grown) son comes home and I relate the progress of my current project.  This truly is bliss.

            I have watched both my nieces walk down the aisle to their First Communion in beautiful white dresses of their own design, with a little technical input from their antique aunt.  We poured over magazines and my collection of fashion detail books.  Their eyes shone when I told them we can make any dress they want.  My eldest niece designed her  own dress, but she could not envision the crystal and pearl re-embroidery of the lace used on it.  Her eyes danced when she chose the small tasteful rhinestone button which would close the organza jacket to keep her just warm enough if the day turned brisk.  My youngest niece chose her dress with the composure of a woman much older than she, but the imp returned when she saw the crystal and silvery white beads which dusted the jacquard flower sprays of her bodice.  She delighted in the recreation of a waistband of bows taken from a 16-th century doublet.  Both of them shone on their day, knowing that their dresses were unique in the world and just what they wanted!  I watched them make their communion and I cried (of course) and I thanked God for the joy of the making and for having such lovely nieces.

            So you go girl!  Buy that machine and love it!  We are the Muses of today. Our new toys allow us to express our individuality in a way heretofore unknown.  In addition to our own joy in the doing, we can share our knowledge with our daughters & daughters-in law; with our grandchildren and our nieces (in my case-no grandbabies for me just now).  "At our feet" they can learn new skills as well as keep the needle art traditions alive when we teach them to create beauty with fabric, needle and thread.  We can show them how we turn feelings of joy and love into the concrete reminder of skillfully crafted garments and home furnishings.  This is our legacy.

            In the tradion of great couturiers, I sewed a hair from my head into the hems of their special dresses for luck. 

            God give you joy in your work and your sparkly new serger!  I also wish you happiness!


            Edited 8/17/2004 12:10 pm ET by Louise

          2. FitnessNut | | #10

            Beautifully said. Brava!

          3. louise | | #12

            Dear Sandy

            To quote the bard, "I  humbly thank you!"

          4. Kiley | | #11

            Oh My Louise, I love your story of enthusiasm. I especially loved how you sewed a lock of your hair into those beloved dresses. Dear lady you have made me feel less guilty with the expense of the new serger I brought home yestereday. I will truly appreciate it and will try to use it in the manner as you with your love of sewing and the love of the people you sew for.

          5. louise | | #13

            Dear Kiley

            Thank you and use it well, each stitch increasing your joy!


          6. Kiley | | #14

            Bless your heart Louise. Thank you so much for your regards. You are an inspiriation.

        2. Elaneyd | | #8


           Louise gave excellent suggestions on the acquisition of a serger.

           By all means, try before you buy, and my suggestion would be to purchase from a reputable dealer who is willing to give instruction and assist you in  troubleshooting problems. Sergers sew very fast, so accuracy is of the upmost importance, especially if the cutting is engaged trimming the seam allowance as  you sew!!!!!

           Those are my pearls of wisdom this morning.  Good Luck!!!



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