What Can You Do with an Overlocker (Serger)?

The overlocker, often referred to as a serger, is an incredibly versatile and powerful tool in the sewing realm. This machine seamlessly stitches a seam, trims the excess seam allowance, and overcasts the fabric edge, all in one swift motion, delivering professional-grade stitching. This article explores the various uses of an overlocker and how it can elevate your sewing projects.

Key Takeaways

  • Overlockers and Sergers are the same device, with “overlocker” being the British term and “serger” the American term.
    • They’re used for hemming, finishing seams, and preventing fabric fraying, enhancing garment durability.
  • Overlockers were invented in 1881 primarily for industrial use but are now popular in home sewing, especially for stretchy fabrics like knits, lycra, and jersey.
  • They offer several key benefits:
    • Provide strong, neat finishes on woven fabric seams.
    • Allow stretch fabrics to retain natural stretch after seam finishing.
    • Enable creation of decorative edges, like rolled hems and lettuce hems.
  • Thread changing on an overlocker/serger can be simplified through a quick-knot method, though caution is advised for threading the needles.
  • Troubleshooting tips include checking the thread path, tension settings, and pressure adjustments and ensuring proper thread trimming to prevent unraveling.
  • When purchasing an overlocker, consider:
    • Choosing between 3 or 4 thread models for versatility.
    • Checking for online tutorials or a comprehensive instruction booklet.
    • Ensuring the model has a disengaging knife and a rolled hem option for decorative hemming.
  • Recommended overlocker models include the Brother 3034, Janome 9300DX, and a Bernina overlocker, each noted for reliability, ease of use, and specific features like the rolled hem setting.

What Can You Do with An Overlock (Serger)?

A serger, also known as an overlock machine, streamlines the sewing process by stitching a seam, trimming excess fabric, and neatly overcasting fabric edges all in one go. This efficiency allows for professional-grade stitching in a fraction of the time.

Sergers are impressively quick, enabling you to repair torn seams effortlessly, tailor a new pair of pajamas as your child grows, or create thoughtful gifts in no time. Depending on your serger model, you can use between two and eight thread spools, expanding the range of projects you can tackle with this versatile tool. Some capabilities of a serger include:

  • A serger, also known as an overlock machine, is a multitasking powerhouse in sewing.
  • It efficiently combines stitching, trimming excess fabric, and overcasting edges, achieving professional-grade stitching swiftly.
  • Sergers are fast, perfect for quick repairs like torn seams, customizing garments such as pajamas as your child grows, or promptly crafting unique gifts.
  • Depending on the model, a serger can accommodate two to eight thread spools, enhancing its versatility for various projects.
  • With a serger, you can easily excel in seam finishing and create swimwear, T-shirts, lingerie, napkins, and table runners.
  • It’s adept at inserting elastic into clothing and decorating garments with custom-made flowers or other trims.
  • The machine excels in finishing hem and facing edges with a cover stitch, seaming knits more quickly than a regular sewing machine, and adding a professional touch with gathering or ruffling to garments and home décor items like pillow shams.

What is the difference between a serger and a cover stitch?

Coverstitch machines and sergers, both of which sew loops, are very similar, which is why you can buy a machine that combines both functions. However, using a regular, stand-alone serger, you cannot stitch a straight stitch and fold a hem. For this reason, investing in a cover stitch could be an option.

What Can You Do With A Serger Machine (Overlocker)?

The Basics of Overlocker Sewing

Seam Finishing and Construction

An overlocker excels in seam finishing, ensuring that your fabric edges are neat and fray-free. This is particularly useful in garment construction, where clean finishes are paramount. The machine’s ability to handle various materials makes it ideal for creating a wide range of items, from swimwear to T-shirts and even delicate lingerie.

Elastic Insertion and Garment Decoration

One of the lesser-known but incredibly useful features of an overlocker is its capability for elastic insertion in garments. This function is invaluable for making comfortable, well-fitting clothing. Additionally, overlockers can be used for garment decoration, such as adding flower trims or other decorative elements.

What Can You Do With A Serger Machine (Overlocker)?

Advanced Overlocker Techniques

Cover Stitch and Hemming

The cover stitch hem is a popular technique among overlocker users, especially for finishing garment edges. This durable stitch gives the finished product a professional appearance.

Handling Knits and Specialty Fabrics

Knits can be challenging to sew due to their stretchy nature. However, overlockers are designed to handle knit seaming efficiently, maintaining the stretch while providing a secure seam.

Creative Uses of Overlocker Stitches

Overlockers are not just for seams; they offer a range of stitches for creative applications. These include rolled hems, blind hems, and decorative edging, allowing you to explore various design possibilities.

Overlocker FAQs

What exactly is an overlocker/serger, and are there any differences between the two terms?

An overlocker, a serger in American English, is a sewing machine designed for edging, hemming, or seaming fabric. “Overlocker” and “serger” refer to the same machine and have no differences. These machines are handy for creating professional-quality finishes on fabric edges, preventing fraying, and securing seams on various fabric types.

What are the primary uses and benefits of owning an overlocker/serger?

Overlockers/sergers are instrumental in achieving clean and professional edges on fabrics, enhancing durability by preventing fraying, and allowing for the construction of robust seams. They excel with stretchy materials such as knits, lycra, and jersey, making them essential for sewing activewear. Additionally, they offer the capability to produce decorative edges like rolled hems, which can add a unique finish to garments.

Can overlockers/sergers create different types of stitches, and how does this affect my sewing projects?

Yes, overlockers/sergers can create a variety of stitches, including overlock stitches, rolled hems, and specialized decorative stitches. This versatility allows for greater creativity and flexibility in sewing projects, enabling you to choose the most appropriate stitch type for the fabric and design you’re working with. Whether you’re finishing a stretch fabric seam that requires flexibility or adding a decorative rolled hem to a garment, an overlocker/serger can meet your needs.

When purchasing an overlocker/serger, consider the number of threads (with 3 or 4-thread models being most common), ease of threading, tension adjustment, and a rolled hem option. Recommended models include the Brother 3034 for its reliability and ease of use, the Janome 9300DX for its great reviews and versatile stitch options, and the Bernina Bernette B44 for those seeking a high-quality, durable machine. Ultimately, the best model depends on your specific sewing needs, budget, and whether you value certain features like a disengaging knife or easy threading.

How do I maintain my overlocker/serger to ensure it operates smoothly and efficiently?

Regularly maintaining your overlocker/serger is crucial for its performance and longevity. This includes cleaning out lint and fabric debris after each use, oiling the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring it is properly threaded, and regularly checking and adjusting the tension as needed. It’s also important to use high-quality threads and needles suitable for your fabric type. Additionally, having your overlocker/serger serviced by a professional every few years can help identify and address any potential issues before they become problematic.


In this article, SewingWithEase covers a few of the most commonly used serger functions. Sergers with specialty feet or higher-end models may have additional capabilities (such as cover-stitching).

With their diverse functions, overlockers are an essential tool for anyone passionate about sewing. From constructing sturdy seams to adding decorative touches, these machines open up a world of creative possibilities. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced sewer, mastering the overlocker will elevate your sewing projects professionally.

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