misconception is that an overlocker will do everything
that a sewing machine will do and more. Overlockers are
professional machines which are used together with a
sewing machine and not instead of a sewing machine.
Although they can be quite versatile, the basic task of
an overlocker is to trim and wrap the edge of the
fabric, preventing it from fraying. The overlock stitch
can be seen in the construction of most factory made
They can also be used for sewing seams, rolled hems,
attaching tape, elastic, beads, etc and blind hemming.
However, some tasks require special attachments and not
all attachments are available for all overlockers,
especially the lower priced models.
The process of choosing an overlocker is different from
a sewing machine. Where as the price of a sewing machine
increases as the capability and amount of features
increase, features available with an overlocker are not
as extensive. Instead, most overlockers will perform
similar tasks but the more expensive overlockers will
cope better with difficult fabrics and will also be
easier to thread.
These overlockers are ideal for general domestic
A 4 thread machine which can be converted to be used as
a 3 or 4 thread and it will have a differential feed.
Other standard features are an easy to follow colour
coded thread path, adjustable stitch length and cutting
width and an instructional video or DVD will be
It may also have an easy change rolled hem device and
include some extra attachments.
GBP200.00 - GBP300.00
These overlockers will include all the features of the
previous price range plus be capable of trimming and
overlocking a wide range of fabrics from delicate
lightweights to heavy soft furnishings.
The tensions units will be the "lay in" type and the
left looper will have an easy threading device.
As well a 3 or 4 thread combinations, it may be capable
of being used with just 2 threads and it will have an
easy change rolled hem.
These overlockers are serious professional machines
which will be of solid construction and capable of daily
use. They may have unique features such as the Babylock
Jet Airs which "blow" the thread through the guides (or
tubes as they are on those models), computer controlled
or automatic tensions which adjust for various stitch
combinations and built in cover hem.
3, 4, 5 or even 8 thread
As the price of overlockers has come down, 3 thread
overlockers have largely been discontinued with 4 thread
machines replacing them as the entry models.
Not every task requires 4 threads to be used so 4 thread
overlockers can be used with only 3 threads and some of
the more expensive models can be used with 2, 3 or 4
5 thread machines are even more versatile offering a
variety of stitch combinations and the Babylock Evolve
has 8 threads offering almost endless combinations.
Where as a sewing machine has a top thread and a bobbin
thread underneath, an overlocker doesn`t.
A 4 thread overlocker, for example, will have 2 needle
threads and 2 looper threads. The needle threading is
similar to that of a sewing machine but the loopers are
instead of a bobbin.
A right (or upper) looper is again, straight forward to
thread but may require tweezers (included with every
overlocker). To thread the left (lower) looper may
require tweezers or may have an easy threading device.
Threading is often the biggest concern for customers
buying their first overlocker but every overlocker
displays a colour coded thread path and they also come
with a video or DVD and a fully illustrated instruction
The easiest way to rethread an overlocker (although
often frowned upon by some demonstrators as they say the
customer doesn`t learn to thread their machine) is to
cut the threads at the back and tie on the new colour.
The threads can then be pulled individually through the
Each thread has its own numbered tension control (same
colour as the appropriate thread path) which are factory
set for a balanced stitch and it is helpful to make a
note of these numbers for future reference.
The entry models have the "wrap around" front tensions
which are on the front of the machine and providing the
user makes sure that the thread is located correctly in
the tension unit, threading is straight forward.
The mid to upper range machines have the more user
friendly "lay in" tensions which are situated along the
top of the machine.
2 thread - uses one needle and the left (lower) looper
threaded. This stitch is the most basic form of
overedging and simply wraps the edge. Ideal for
situations where you don`t want the edge to be too
bulky. However, the seam will not be secure and a
lockstitch would be required.
thread - uses one needle and both loopers. This stitch
is ideal for overedging single layers but will need a
lockstitch for secure seams.
thread - the most popular combination using 2 needles
and 2 loopers. This can be used to sew secure seams as
the second needle acts as a safety stitch preventing the
seam from coming undone.
thread - these can have a variety of combinations but
the most popular gives a straight chain stitch away from
the overedging stitches.
Every full size overlocker on the market today has a
differential feed but, although it can help to give a
neater finish, it is often neglected.
This feature adjusts one of two individual feed dogs and
by doing so, gives better results when overlocking
lightweight or stretch fabrics.
When stretch fabrics are overlocked using a machine with
a standard feed, the fabric may appear wavy and fluted.
By adjusting the differential feed, the edge will be
flat and the finish will be neater.
Similarly, lightweight fabrics may be puckered after
overlocking but this will be corrected by adjusting the
This finish is ideal for lightweight fabrics, especially
It is achieved by using one needle, three threads and by
adjusting the tensions and using a very short stitch
length, the edge of the fabric will roll over and is
encased by the closed up stitching.
This stitch can only be achieved using a cover hem only
machine or a combined overlocker and cover hem machine.
Used mainly for hemming and covering a raw edge in one
operation, the stitch wraps the edge under the fabric
and has double or triple lines of stitching on the right