What Does An Overlocker Machine Do? Do I Need One?

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Last Updated on 19 February, 2021 by Shine

Overlocker Sewing Machines - Our Guide

If you are looking to take your sewing more professionally and increase the accuracy of your stitches then you need an overlocker machine.

An overlocker sewing machine is a very fast machine that can sew using 3-5 threads at once or even more depending on your model while neatening the edges of your work due to overcast stitch it uses to in case the edges of your material.

Whether you need an overlocker sewing machine or not comes down to the nature of your work or whether you are looking to become a professional in your work.

We have put together a comprehensive guide to overlocker machines below to answer all the questions you need about purchasing one of these machines.

What Is An Overlocker Machine?

As we mentioned above, an overlocker machine is a fast professional sewing machine which can sew multiple threads at once while neatening your work due to its overcast stitch.

An overlocker machine can also be known as a 'serger' depending on where you are from, with most Europeans referring to it as an 'overlocker'.

Depending on the overlocker machine you buy, the tools it will come with will vary but are needed for the correct maintenance and help your machine work properly.

We have listed out some other tools you can use with your overlocker machine below to make life easier.

  • An awl - Using a tool with a point like an awl can help feed fabric closer to the presser foot on your machine while keeping your hands away, improving safety too.
  • Tapestry needle - When you start to overlock the seams of your material, you will want to tuck them away back into the seams to secure the thread chain. A tapestry needle can help make this process much easier.
  • Tweezers - You will find your fingers can't reach a lot of places on your overlocker machine, so having a tweezer can help with threading needles easily.
  • Wonder clips - Wonder clips are available in the UK and US and help to secure layers of fabric when sewing, this helps you avoid pinning down your fabric with regular pins which can cause great damage to your overlocker if you accidentally sew over them.

Do I Need An Overlocker Machine?

Overlocker machines can be a big investment and very overwhelming if you are a beginner sewer who is new in the industry. So you need to weigh up how much use you can get out of your machine before making a buying decision.

Having to thread three-five spools can also be very time consuming and difficult, meaning it will take you a while to get the hang on of using an overlocker machine, but once you do you will find benefits such as more professional seams and quicker sewing times than when compared to a regular sewing machine.

Features To Consider In an Overlocker Machine

We have listed out some features to consider if you are planning to invest in the best overlocker machine on the market.

Ensuring your model has these best features will mean your getting the best bang for your buck and save you a lot of stress and hassle down the line when it comes to functioning your machine.

Make sure there is an in-built blade

An overlocker machine should have an in-built blade, this way you are getting the best machine for your money.

This blade should be of very high-quality as well as removable so as you can sharpen it when needed. You also want to make sure it can cut through thick fabrics easily.

Think about the threading difficulty

Threading your overlocker machine will be difficult, no matter how experienced you think you are, threading these machines take practise and patience, especially as you will have multiple threads to be threading on your machine.

It's best to have a go at threading your machine before purchasing if possible so as you can see if you will get the hang of it.

Vertical needle position

Some overlocker machines come with slanted needle positions and others with an upright needle.

An upright needle is preferable on your machine as this will help to sew through thick fabrics with better penetration and help to reduce the chance of your needle breaking when compared to a slanted position.

Ensure there is a roll in the hem

Some overlocker machines will need you to change the needle plate and foot before starting a rolled hem, this can be a lengthy process, so it is better to choose an overlocker machine which has an automatic rolled hem switch to make your sewing quicker.

Auto thread delivery

Tension issues can be common with an overlocker machine, producing different types of stitches and will depend on the quality of your model, buying an overlocker machine with an automatic thread delivery will help eliminate your problem and ensure perfect stitches.

Thread cutter

As above, having an auto thread cutter on your overlocker machine will save you time and generally make your life easier in terms of having access to this right in front of you on the machine.

Differential feed

Having differential feed in your overlocker machine will allow you to sew a larger variety of fabrics, it's best to look for a 2-1 ratio in your machine for the best model.


When it comes to buying an overlocker machine, you should make sure you have a high range budget, as these machines will often be better and come with more stitching options in correspondence to the amount of money you spend.

It's best to go for a more expensive overlocker that has more stitch variety as this gives you options as you progress with your stitching on these machines.

Adjustable stitch width/length/speed

Adjustable stitch width and length will give you a greater diversity with your work and allow for more flexibility, as well as an adjustable sewing speed which can help you control the speed of your machine via the pressure of your foot.


Accessories such as spool caps, tweezers and even dust covers should be included with your overlocker to get the best value for your money and help with maintenance/sewing.

How To Use An Overlock Stitch

Now you know what an overlocker is and whether you need one or not, there are many types of stitches you will get to use if you decide on purchasing an overlocker machine.

The overlock stitch is the most important stitch of them on all on a machine like this and finishes the edges of the fabric at the same time while being stitched.

How Many Threads Do I Use With An Overlock Stitch?

You can form an overlock stitch with either 4 threads, 3 threads or 2 threads.

  • Four threads - A four-thread overlock stitch is the best for sewing thicker fabrics as well as heavy-use garments as they are flexible and durable, this is because it uses two threads to form two rows of stitching on your fabric.
  • Three threads - Three thread overlock stitch has a little less durability than a four-thread and uses a single needle, making it suitable for lightweight stretchy fabrics.
  • Two threads - You will need an upper lopper converter for a two-thread stitch and is best used for finishing off raw edges on your fabric but is not strong enough for seaming materials.

When Should I Use An Overlock Stitch?

If you are looking to construct and finish the edges of your garment at the same time you should use an overlock stitch.

However, if you want to test some different seam fits then you would want to construct the stitches first and finish last, it depends on the process you want for that particular fabric.

Frequently Asked Questions About Overlocker Sewing Machines

How fast can an overlocker sewing machine sew?

An overlocker machine is almost twice as fast as a regular sewing machine with some models reported to sew up to 1600 stitches per minute, saving you lots of time and making them great for fast production.

What's the difference between a normal sewing machine and an overlock sewing machine?

Apart from faster speed, an overlock machine is also different to a regular sewing machine due to the fact it can; take up to 8 threads at once, only sew fabric from one side, makes decorative sewing easier, has a longer neck and can cut and finish fabric at the same time as sewing.

How much does an overlocker machine cost?

An overlocker machine can cost anything from £200-£400 and above depending on the quality of the model you want to buy.

Last Words

Overall, an overlocker machine is the faster version of a sewing machine which improves accuracy and saves you a lot of time in comparison to a regular machine.

If you want to take your sewing to the next level then an overlocker machine would be worth investing in, however, if you are a beginner then it might be worth waiting it out for a bit until you feel confident enough to use one of these machines.

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Kirsten Carter is a freelance content writer who specialises in writing about travel, technology and health. When she's not traveling between her home of Tanzania and England, she writes for her blog Rightminded Travelling and features on a variety of different travel and technology sites.
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