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Difference Between Overlocker and Sewing Machine

overlocker sewing machine seam work

An overlock sewing machine allows you to complete three tasks in one. An overlocker’s principal function is to sew cloth edges together. When stitching, the fabric edge is neatly trimmed with two built-in knives, and the excess seam allowance is removed.

This results in a professional seam that is more stable than a seam done with a sewing machine, that cannot be unravelled and is especially ideal for elastic textiles.

How Overlocker Sewing Machines Operate

Typically, an overlock sewing machine has four threads. The name “overlock” gives a hint about how this machine operates. If we split overlocker into two words, we get “over” and “locker”. “Over” refers to the threads being looped over the edge, and “locker” refers to the fabrics being “locked” securely in place.

A serging machine (another name for an overlocker) has two knives that are used to trim edges perfectly. One knife is mounted above the sewing table, while the other is fastened below it. The fabric edge is sliced smoothly using these blades. The upper knife can be moved and deactivated as needed. This allows you to sew open edges without having to worry about them being overlooked.

The threads are then intertwined with each other so that they can no longer come loose. This approach transfers the name’s second part, “lock.” As a result, the various strands become entangled with one other and mutually obstruct the possibility of having frayed edges.

The overlock sewing machine has two needles to guide all threads at the same time to improve seam strength, while sewing machines only have one.

Differential feed and stitching

A significant advantage of overlock machines, in addition to speed, is differential feed. This means that even difficult materials can be processed cleanly. Appropriate settings, for example, prevent jersey materials from stretching. Wavy seams, on the other hand, can be deliberately achieved by correctly setting the differential feed.

Overlocker sewing machines can sew a variety of seams:

  • 3-thread seam
  • 4-thread seam flatlock seam
  • safety seam
  • rolled hem
  • Double chain stitch 

The distinction between a sewing machine and an overlock sewing machine?

To begin with, an overlock sewing machine will never be able to replace a conventional sewing machine. Because the overlock was designed to neatly sew seams together. That is why the overlocker is also known as a serging machine.

Although it is possible to sew edges together using a standard sewing machine, the effort is greater and the end product is sloppy. The overlocker combines three work phases into a single machine. You can sew fabric edges together while the machine precisely cuts away the excess seam allowance.

overclocked sewed stitch pattern
overclocked sewed stitch pattern

The end result is a long-lasting, professional seam. To illustrate, flip your sweater, t-shirt, or top inside out and examine the inner seam. If the seam looks like the one in the photo, your clothing was overlocked.

The overlock intertwines the threads and ensures that none of them falls loose.

With a sewing machine, the best comparable stitch would be a zigzag seam, which you can easily tug on the lowest thread and your seam will unravel completely. For example, if you’re sewing garments and a thread gets stuck on one of the edges, your garment is ruined.

The overlocked seam tightens the seam even more. As a result, the overlock stitching is long-lasting, professional, and spotless. This is something even the most talented seamstress couldn’t achieve with a sewing machine.

Previously, the overlock was largely utilised in the clothes manufacturing industry because of its speed and seam abilities. But because the devices are now inexpensive, they are now popular with home users.

Overlocker Pros and Cons

brother overlocker machine

Advantages of Overlockers

  • High stitching speed
  • No bending of fabric layers
  • Flat, smooth seams, even on knitwear
  • Decorative seams
  • Stretchy textiles are simple to process
  • Stronger stitched and seams

Overlocker Disadvantages

  • More expensive than traditional sewing machines
  • Designed specifically for seams/edges 
  • Learning curve to operate

Sewing Machine Pros and Cons

sewing machine example

Sewing Machine Advantages

  • More versatile – sew buttonholes, zippers, hems, darning, sewing, seams, middle of the fabrics
  • Corners and curves are possible.
  • Cheaper than overlockers
  • Simple to operate and set up

Sewing Machine Disadvantages

  • Slower
  • Weaker seams
  • Can’t create overlock seams

An overlock machine has advantages but cannot replace a traditional sewing machine. 

Because of the three-in-one technology, these overlockers perform exceptionally quickly and save a significant amount of time. Fabrics that are difficult to sew, such as jersey or swimsuit fabrics, can be comfortably sewn because of the stitching mechanism. 

If you don’t want to buy two machines, it makes sense to utilise a good sewing machine with an overlock stitch option. These machines can sew and overcast at the same time. It is, however, merely a simulated overlock.

The seam looks different than with a true overlock representative, and seam allowances must be manually trimmed out. Because overlock machines are far more expensive than traditional sewing machines, the investment is not for everyone.

If you don’t sew frequently, it’s better to have a normal sewing machine with a variety of stitch kinds and an easy-to-use interface. If you sew frequently and appreciate precise seams and speedy work, an overlock machine is a wise investment.

What can’t an overlock sewing machine do?

Even if you now believe that an overlock is a jack of all crafts. Of course, there are some applications where a serging machine is not appropriate.

The overlocking machine, as the name implies, is only for overlocking edges. This implies you can’t sew directly on the fabric and sew on a pants pocket, for example. Furthermore, the overlock is not suited for sewing buttons or making buttonholes. The overlock is considerably better suited as an addition to your sewing machine.

So when should you use an overlocker and when should you use a sewing machine?

As previously stated, an overlock machine is an excellent supplement to a standard sewing machine. 

With an overlock, you may increase your repertoire and make much more professional seams. If you wish to sew your own clothes from scratch or frequently sew clothes for others, I recommend acquiring an overlocker. 

If you have to choose between an overlock and a regular sewing machine, I recommend the latter. If you already have a flatbed sewing machine, an overlocker is a must-have addition.