Everything You Need to Know About Overlock Machines - Sew My Place
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Everything You Need to Know About Overlock Machines

It’s a common question for new sewers: what machine should I buy? There are so many options available, it can be overwhelming. But, there are only a few machine types available. Buy an overlock machine and you get both an overlocker and a serger in one! It’s like buying two machines in one package deal.

What is an overlocker sewing machine?

An overlocker (commonly called a serger or simply an overlock) is a versatile machine that uses multiple threads to seam fabric while also overcasting to cover raw edges. It can be used for construction, finishing, or both at the same time.

An overlocker and serger is one machine that can do two things. It’s specialized for finishing fabric seams while also overcasting the edges of the fabric to keep them from fraying. Overlock machines are multipurpose sewing machines, designed to finish both sides of a seam and give a professional finish.

Traditional Features of Overlock Machines

To ensure proper sewing machine function, thread the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The thread stand should be designed for both spool and needle use.  A clean needle and clear inspection are also necessary so that mending can be done properly.

The hardest part of threading an overlock machine is the loopers. Most times, a special threading tool and a pair of tweezers is provided. The lower looper is usually threaded before the upper looper.

To set the tension for overlocking, the dials may be marked with numbers to indicate the degree of tension.  On machines with + or − signs, small adjustments can be made to vary the tightness of stitches.

Overlock sewing machines are so versatile they can handle almost any kind of fabric. Thin fabrics like silk chiffon, quilting cottons, and lightweight wools slide easily under the overlock sewing machine needle. Thicker fabrics like corduroy and denim work well too, if you use a heavier needle.

When sewing, the presser foot lifter should remain in the up position at all times. If it slowly drifts down to the bottom of the machine, hand wheel must be turned in reverse position so that the lifter is raised. On some models, the presser foot lifter is on the right side of the machine near the handwheel.

The throat plate or presser foot will have a special stitch former not found on a conventional machine, and will automatically engage the feed dogs so that the fabric is pulled through smoothly.

When It Is Most Appropriate to Use Overlock Stitching

The overlock machine is perfect for sewing items such as place mats, napkins, sportswear, and draperies. It can save you time and give you a lasting finish.

In addition to overlocking, the overlocker has been engineered to stitch decorative edges on clothes and can also sew on ribbon or fabric. The loopers of the overlocker machine can be changed to accommodate a variety of yarns and threads, including metallic, silk, perle cotton, as well as fine knitting yarn and even narrow ribbon.

Overlock sewing machines can create a variety of stitches requiring both over and under thread locking stitches. These machines are used in the manufacture of three-dimensional textiles for garments and home furnishings, from simple twin needles to more specialised double needle interlocking chain stitch. It is used for garment-seam finishing, seam finishing, decorative seaming, hemming and topstitching applications.

They can be used on woven or knit fabrics. The decorative stitch is created using either two loops or one loop of yarn.

Overlock machines may be specialized, but they are not a replacement for normal sewing machines. Sewing machines vary in their ability to alter stitch widths. Most sewing machines allow the user to change the width by adjusting part of the throat plate. Many stitch widths can be set from less than a millimetre to greater than five millimetres.

What are the main differences between a sewing machine and an overlock machine?

  1. The speed of an overlock machine is faster than an ordinary sewing machine. It can produce neat and professional work in a fraction of the time.
  2. Unlike most sewing machines, the neck of an overlock is longer than the neck of an ordinary sewing machine.
  3. Unlike sewing machines, overlock machines have a larger space between the needles and can take on 3-8 cones of thread at one time.
  4. Overlock machines are special machines which help you in sewing your cloth from a single side and provide better results.
  5. Sergers can simultaneously reduce excess fabric and bind it. It’s the only machine that can bind and reduce seams concurrently, making it faster than a sewing machine.
  6. Oftentimes the choice between an overlocker and sewing machine is based on personal preference. While an overlocker is used to make seams stronger, a sewing machine can be used for both knits and wovens, and can be operated by beginners.
  7. If you plan on using decorative stitching at all in your sewing projects, you will most likely need an overlock machine. With this machine, you can stitch much more quickly and get cleaner results.

What Is Differential Feed on a Serger or Overlock Machine ?

Differential feed technology makes your sewing machine (or overlocker, serger, or embroidery machine) much more advanced than the basic machines. With differential feed, you can do things like sew a zig-zag stitch, make scallops on your fabric, cover stitch, and so much more!

By adjusting the differential feed knob, you can control how fast or slow the front feed dog moves. Since the other feed dog will automatically align with the front feed dog, this will speed up or slow down the rate at which your fabric is fed into your overlocking machine.

The differential feed on the sewing machine allows the fabric to move forward at different speeds. With the main needle moving at a set speed and the side needle moving twice as fast, the fabric will become less taut. When sewing, this will prevent stitch waves and enables a more professional sewing approach.

Summing Up

An overlock machine gives you the best of both worlds. It’ll perform like a serger and an overlocker combined, giving you consistent stitches that are better than scissors alone. Don’t waste your time with separate tools to join fabrics and finish edges. The overlock machine makes it easy to create professional results.

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