Best Overlocker for Beginners

An overlocker (also known as a serger) takes your sewing projects to the next level. It adds perfection to your sewing with its seam finishing patterns that are considered a must-have among professionals. It also simplifies myriad complicated sewing tasks with its multiple automatic functions and differential feed adjustments. 

When do you add an overlocker/serger to your sewing room?

You invest in one after you’ve learned the basic garment construction and cuts. Overlockers are not a replacement to your sewing machines, they are complimentary equipment to them. However, many of  their features and functions, such as automatic rolled-hems or ruffles, offer the kind of precision that is far above and beyond what a sewing machine can attain.

What do overlockers do exactly?

An overlocker is ultimately used to bind fabrics, overlock the seams inside a garment, and trim the edges with its razor-sharp blades to prevent fraying. It performs all of these three tasks simultaneously in one quick, smooth motion. And what’s really quite remarkable is its incomparable speed — an overlocker can sew up to 1700 stitches per minute. 

Overlockers — Multiple Threads & Stitches

Overlockers use lots and lots of thread, which is why their threads are found on larger cones. A single overlock stitch uses more thread than a single stitch on a sewing machine and that is precisely why an overlocker’s stitch chain is far more durable, stretchable, and structurally-sound than that of a sewing machine.

Interestingly, the more threads an overlocker can work with, the more stitch variations and functions it offers, and thus the more expensive it gets.

The only challenging aspect of using overlockers is learning how to thread them. Most overlockers require at least three to four cones of thread at a time. It takes some patience and practise to get the hang of loading each thread. Don’t worry though. Overlockers are color-coded to indicate which thread goes where and in which order. Once you learn this process and get used to adjusting thread tension, everything falls in place. 

An overlocker, though quite daunting at first, is an absolute joy to sew with. The next step is to understand some of its most important features and how they are used.

Important overlocker features to consider 

Differential feed 

This feature allows you to work with stretchy fabrics and knits. It offers stretchability and therefore more even sewing (i.e. without wrinkling up the fabric in one place). By adjusting the speed of the feed dogs (the pieces that control the fabric feed), you can set it to automatically create ruffles, pleats, and scalloped lettuce edge finishes. 

Differential feed controls the movement speed difference between the front and rear feed dogs and thus offers more control over the fabric. 

Thread options 

Overlockers require a minimum of 2 threads and a maximum of 8. Beginners often go for a 3-4 thread overlocker, which are the most commonly used. Since most stitches and overlock techniques only require 3 or 4 threads, it is the ideal thread count. In fact, beginner overlockers often feature 3-4 threads.

The more threads there are, the faster the overlocker sews and the more stitch variations it offers. Let us now look at the individual functions specific to each thread count.

  • 2-thread overlock stitch works wonderfully on delicate or lightweight fabrics. However, it is not very durable and thus not recommended for seaming heavier fabrics.
  • 3-thread overlock stitch is ideal for simple finishing, especially for light fabrics. This stitch only requires one needle, is fairly strong, and offers the much needed “give” necessary for stretchy fabrics. This stitch works well for hemming, sewing a blind hem, and for securing raw edges simultaneously. On the downside, since this stitch only uses one needle, it sews in lesser bulk and is still not ideally strong. 
  • 4-thread overlock stitch requires two needles, which is to say that it sews two rows of stitches and is thus stronger. This stitch offers the ideal combination of strength, durability and flexibility. It works best on medium to heavy weight fabrics and on fitted garment seams that are often put under stress. This is ideal for sewing knits.

Retractable knife 

Having a retractable knife or blade means you have the option of removing it and sewing without trimming the seams. This feature comes in handy when you’re sewing a rolled hem, for example.

Adjustable stitch lengths 

Being able to adjust lengths allows the sewer more control over stitch design and embellishments. 

Adjustable presser foot 

This feature is what makes an overlocker so versatile for sewing a variety of fabrics – from thin materials like organza to thick wools.

We will now take a look at three of the best overlockers for beginners, ranging between £200 to £400

First, let’s look at the table below that illustrates their many features.

Features:Singer
14SH754
Brother
M343D
Janome
8002DG
Differential feed adjustment
Stitches per minute130013001300
2/4 thread adaptabilityOnly 3-4Only 3-4
Three thread overlock stitch
Four thread overlock stitch
Handy Free Arm
Color-coded threading system
Built-in rolled Hem plate
Adjustable foot pressure
Stitch lengthAdjustableUp to 3mmUp to 4mm
LED Light
Retractable Knife
Weight7.56 kg7.18 kg7.72 kg
Comparison of our top 3 beginner overlockers

Our Top 3 Picks for the Best Overlocker for Beginners

Singer 14SH754 

Image of Singer 14SH754 overlocker - the Best Overlocker for Beginners

What makes this overlocker so exceptional is that it offers the 4-3-2 thread capability, which is to say that it can overlock using 2, 3, and 4 threads. Most overlockers only offer 3-4 threading options but this one also offers the mere 2-thread stitch useful for sewing delicate, thin fabrics. 

Singer 14SH754 comes with an extra-high presser foot, which allows the sewing of thicker, heavier fabrics like wool. This machine can work with a wide variety of fabrics, from lightweight to heavyweight, from delicate to sturdy, and from super-thin to thick material varieties.

An additional perk is that it features a flatlock stitch that presents a wide palette of decorative stitching from adding textures to dramatic embellishments. And since it features a handy free arm, this overlocker is ideal for sewing pant hems, cuffs, and a variety of circular seams.

This overlocker does not come with a tutorial DVD and it’s instruction manual isn’t very helpful either. But that isn’t a problem since this model has many well-explained how-to videos on Youtube.

Brother M343D 

This overlocker is good for its price, size, and versatility — it runs well on a variety of fabrics. Though it’s lightweight and feels a little plasticky sometimes (which is to say it’s construction doesn’t feel solid), it does the job of overlocking remarkably well. Not to mention, it also offers the handy free arm ideal for sewing circular seams. 

However, it comes without its own scrap tray, the absence of which can make your overlocking process very messy, with the trimming falling over your lap or on the floor. So you’ll have to buy and install a trim trap separately, and while you’re at it, you may as well buy a flatlocking foot because this overlocker does a great flatlock stitch. 

The only real compromise is that you’ll have to learn to get used to a little noise.

Janome 8002DG  

Beginners describe the Janome 8002DG as an easy-to-use overlocker. One of its really big pluses is that it comes “pre-threaded”. That is to say that its threads are already loaded and in place so that all you have to do is sew away. Unlike other overlockers, this one does not intimidate first-timers by an extensive threading process. 

This is a sturdy machine that comes with a very helpful DVD. And it overlocks rather quietly so that you can sew away without your neighbours knowing.

The only flaw in this overlocker is that it doesn’t offer a free arm, which makes it difficult to sew small parts such as sleeve cuffs. So it may make it a little difficult to sew children’s clothing.