Overlock Sewing Machines
Sergers, relatively new to the sewing scene, are still a bit of a mystery—even to relatively experienced sewers.
Known in the US as serger sewing machines, they are often called overlock sewing machines or overlockers in other countries, including European countries.
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In other words, the words overlock and serger are generally referring to the same type of machine.
The thumbnails that follow, listed by brand names, are links that will take you to reviews about individual overlock machines.
For more information about sergers and overlockers, and what makes them unique, scroll down past the thumbnails.
What are Sergers?
Simply stated, overlock sewing machines trim the edge of a piece (or pieces) of fabric before encasing it in thread. You can do this to keep a single piece of fabric from fraying, much as you would use a zigzag stitch. Or, you can use the machine to actually make a seam.
Look at the sleeve of the blouse or shirt that you are wearing. The seam has been constructed, using a commercial serger (most likely a 4 thread machine).
Some clothing constructed with sergers has a double row of top stitching with a serged look inside.
You can get the same look (double row of top stitching) using a regular sewing machine with 2 needles–BUT the difference is that you won’t get the same stretch capability.
Some sergers (5 thread machines) cut, overcast and stitch a straight seam in one operation. (An example would be the Singer 14T968DC, which is a professional 5 thread overlock machine).
This process would be used on seams that have a lot of stretch or stress—like the crotch seam of pants or shorts.
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What Makes Sergers Unique?
There are several features that distinguish an overlocker or serger. If you have questions about the machines that you are considering, many of your questions will probably center around these simple differences:
- Overlockers are faster than regular sewing machines.
- They use loopers instead of bobbins.
- When making a seam, they cut the fabric, as they sew.
- They have multiple threads – 2 to 5 threads.
Sergers – Features to Consider Before You Buy
So, how do you decide if a serger is right for you? Here are some things to consider:
- Does the serger have a differential feed? This helps it handle light weight, silky or stretch fabrics. It’s an important feature for your machine.
- Can it handle heavy weight fabrics? Older models and cheaper machines may only handle light weight or medium weight fabrics.
- Does it have only one stitch or several? How many do you need?
- Can the serger sewing machine do curves? A good machine will do curves easily. A cheap machine will loose the stitch. That means that the loopers drop out as you round the curve.
Types of Sergers
- 2-3 thread overlock sewing machine – This is the most limited. It can overcast the edge of a single layer of fabric.You could use it for overcasting fabric (like zig-zagging) before hemming or sewing a seam with your traditional sewing machine. It also works well for simple items like scarves and tablecloths.
- 4 thread overlock machine – This is the most popular overlock machine. Unlike the 2-3 thread machine, this one makes seams. It is commonly used in ready to wear clothing for seams that don’t receive a lot of stress.
- 5 thread overlock sewing machine – This is the most expensive serger sewing machine and the most versatile. It sews seams, but with this machine you can sew high stress seams.The machine makes the traditional overlock stitch, but it also makes a straight stitch simultaneously. This is called a safety stitch. If the seam rips because of pressure or stress, it has the safety stitch to “save” you (or keep the seam from totally coming apart).
While some projects can be completed, 100% on a serger, don’t expect a serger to replace your regular sewing machine. You will still need your machine to do facings, top stitching, buttonholes, zippers, etc.
Now that you know what to expect in sergers, why not scroll up to look at a few sergers and their reviews, to see what other people like and dislike in their overlock sewing machines.