What is the difference between a serger and overlock machine

Difference between a serger and an overlock

Photo courtesy of SharonaGott

Specialty sewing machines make the life of the typical seamster easier and fun.  They will not replace a standard sewing machine as they have limited but important functions.  But if you are new to sewing, how can you tell the difference and what features should you look for?

First of all, be aware that there are only two machines that perform the serge function:  serger and overlock.  Some folks also refer to baby overlock and baby lock as if it is a type of sewing machine.  Baby Lock sergers are a brand name and the company produces many types of machines, including straight stitch sewing machines, sergers and overlocks.  You can also find an overlock-like stitch on a sewing machine, but but it is not a true overlock.

For practical purposes, a serger and overlock are all but indistinguishable. They each perform the finishing stitches sewers want and need, as well as many decorative stitches. Most people probably use the terms interchangeably, thinking they are one and the same. However, technically, they are not.

It is true that they both have two needles, a longer foot and needle plate. They also accommodate several different spools of thread.  Generally speaking though, a serger performs one task perfectly–overlocking, cutting and finishing seams in one step. That being said, depending on the make and model, it may also perform more tasks and decorative stitches. It can have up to eight spools of thread which gives the user many options. In addition to the overlocking stitch, the serger is usually capable of performing the flatlocking stitch and the chain stitch. More expensive machines will also perform a cover stitch.  These machines handle knits and many delicate fabrics with ease.

An overlock machine may have just the overlock stitch for finishing edges.  They tend to have fewer spools of thread, which means fewer options for decorative stitches.

Another overlocked stitch that is desirable is the cover stitch, which is not standard on a serger sewing machine. The coverstitch is used for attaching lace and trims. It does not have a cutting attachment, as it has more uses than just finishing seam. You will find coverstitches used in knits and folded areas to be stitched. Many sewers are attached to their particular serger or overlock machine that may not have the cover stitch.  For them, it makes sense to invest in a separate cover stitch machine that just performs that one stitch.

If this sounds extravagant, count the number of television sets and stereos you have in your home.  Each of them may have cost more than your sewing machines. For the dedicated sewer, as for any other enthusiast who produces quality items, it is just as important to have the right tools as it is to have 24/7 entertainment available.

Happy sewing.

 

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  • Header image, Two Little Fabric Cottages, courtesy of peregrine blue