Did you know that there’s actually a special type of sewing machine that produces distinct results from the standard type? That’s an overlocking sewing machine. But what is one, and what do they do? If you want to know the answers to these questions, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we’re going to have a look.
An overlock sewing machine is also known in the industry as an “overlocker”. These overlockers are specially designed to produce overlock stitches. Keep reading this article if you want to know a bit more about overlocking machines, and what the benefits of overlocked stitches are, as well as what they can be used for.
What is an overlocker?
Most standard sewing machines create lockstitches that enclose a seam. An overlocker is different because it uses a set of loopers and multiple cones instead of a bobbin. These overlockers can also be referred to as “sergers” in some locations. Overlockers come with their own blades that trim excess material to prevent fraying.
What can you use an overlocker for?
Overlockers are good for using multiple spools of thread at the same time. Normally anywhere between 2 and 5. That means they’re good for stitching patterns that require different thread formations with multiple stitches.
Overlockers are good for stitching single, double, triple, 4-thread or 5-lock overlock threads. There are a number of variations in these stitch patterns that overlockers are good for, like safety stitching which is a combination of 2thread and 3 thread overlock. You can see how overlocking machines are better at more advanced stitching patterns that require multiples and combinations.
Overlockers normally allow you to vary the stitch width as well as its density. There should also be an adjustable feed which lets you vary things and create extra touches like lettuce-leaf finishes or other effects to the edge of the material.
Overlocking machines aren’t just good for sewing two pieces of material together, they can actually be used for a lot more than that. Because of the additional features on an overlocking machine, you can trim edges to stop fraying as well as give a more advanced or professional finish to the edges of many different fabrics.
They’ve also got quite a few more functions that set them apart from standard sewing machines.
More expensive overlockers can sew cover stitches, which is where a double-needle stitch covers raw seems. While you can do cover stitches on a standard sewing machine, it’s not as easy and the finish also won’t be as flexible and stretchable. Overlockers are good at creating stitches that have a lot of stretch in them. This makes them good for fixing elastic to other materials.
Some overlockers can also create other decorative hems and edges, including flatlocks. If you want to finish your fabrics with a range of different embellishments then overlockers could be the right machine for you.
Benefits of overlocking machines
Overlockers are much better for the edges of materials. If you want to trim excess and create nice finishes on the edges of your materials, you should look for an overlocker. Overlockers are also extremely fast and can run at up to double the speed of a standard sewing machine. That means if you want to save time or get jobs done quickly, an overlocker could be for you.
Overlockers are often used by professionals and can create professional-level finishes to the things you sew. As we’ve discussed, they’re also great for attaching elastic to fabric. Overlockers are also very versatile and can complete a range of different stitch patterns and apply a number of different embellishments.
Drawbacks of overlocking machines
Some tasks will still require a regular sewing machine, like if you want to do some topstitching. Overlockers aren’t a one-stop sewing machine and can’t do every sewing task. Some top sewers have overlocking machines and standard machines and work with both of them. Threading an overlocker can also be a bit more difficult than with standard machines as well. But this will get easier the more you do it and as you get used to the machine. Overlockers are also quite expensive when compared to standard machines.
Differences between standard sewing machines and overlockers
An overlocker will bind fabric layers together as well as cutting at the same time. Standard sewing machines would require you to cut the fabric to the right size beforehand as there’s no built-in way to cut it as you go. This can take extra time and might be more difficult.
Overlockers can thread multiple cones at the same time, up to five. Standard sewing machines can only do one at a time. This makes it much harder and more time consuming to do more complex stitching patterns with standard machines. Some standard machines can do up to 2 thread at a time, but you can’t do up to 5 simultaneously without an overlocker.
Overlockers are much faster than standard machines as we’ve already looked at. An average difference would be around twice the speed. When you combine that with not having to pre-cut fabric and also being able to do multiple stitches at the same time, working with an overlocker is much much faster than a standard sewing machine. That means you can get great results in roughly half the time it takes to finish something with a standard machine.
Overlockers are structurally quite different in that they have different needle bars and also multiple cones. Standard sewing machines normally have shorter necks than overlockers as well.
You can only normally sew on the left side of the needle with an overlocker, unlike standard machines which allow you to be a bit more flexible when you move the fabric through.
Hopefully, you’ve now seen the main differences between overlockers and regular sewing machines. While overlockers do have a lot of advantages, you might want to start with a regular one if you’re new to sewing.