Anyone who enjoys sewing, has asked what’s different between an overlocker and a sewing machine? Is there any overlap in their functions? Can either be a replacement for the other? Is there a sewing machine with an overlocker? Is there sewing equipment sophisticated enough to feature a sewing machine and overlocker in one piece?
We hope to answer all of your questions and explain to you exactly what these two individual sewing units do.
Sewing machines and overlockers are two different types of equipment that are supplementary to each other. Even though they have very similar construction features – both have a neck, a spinning wheel, threads, needles, and a variety of feet – they differ quite a bit in their specific functionalities. And that is why they are both essential to professionals and advanced sewers.
Generally, sewing machines are needed as one begins their sewing journey, while overlockers are added later for their professional seam-finishing effects. That being said, there is no sewing machine with an overlock function.
Sewing Machine Functions
Sewing machines are ideal for learning sewing basics, and offer the flexibility of use from any side of the machine. Home sewing projects such as dress-making, cushion covers, quilting etc only require the fundamental lockstitch, which is the very hallmark of a sewing machine.
A standard sewing machine is necessary to create facings, topstitches, buttonholes, decorative stitching, quilting, and for applying zippers. These are functions that an overlocker cannot perform.
Then there are fabrics that can only be properly sewn with sewing machines. Often enough, shopkeepers say that an overlocker can process any kind of fabric from thin flimsy chiffons to tough denim. But that is not true.
Strong fabrics like denim should not be sewn with overlockers since their sturdy weaving structure tends to break needles and needle plates, while damaging the machine. Such fabrics require the basic lockstitch from a simple heavy-duty sewing machine.
Can a sewing machine really overlock?
A standard sewing machine comes with various overlock foot attachments for overcasting fabrics. However, since it only uses two threads at a time, a sewing machine’s overlock stitch cannot create the stretchability and durability needed to prevent the edges from fraying, and lacks the precision required for seam-finishings. That can only come with an overlocking equipment with multiple threaders, stitch-locks, stitching loops and blades, and what’s more is that an overlocker performs all three overlocking steps in one quick go.
How do sewing machines overlock anyway?
Some sewers still continue to use sewing machines for overlocking. They do this by using the J-foot or the G-foot for overcasting, and then trim the extra fabric manually.
There is no sewing machine with overlocker, but these specialty feet certainly allow us to enjoy a sewing machine with overlock function.
An overlocker is a very specific kind of sewing machine with an overlock stitch, blade, and differential feed. Overlockers are used to tidy up and strengthen the inner structure of a sewn piece. Their main function is to overlock with precision, and create the kind of seam-finishings required by advanced sewers.
The overlocking/overcasting stitch of an overlocker is far superior to that of a sewing machine for multiple reasons. Firstly, unlike a sewing machine, an overlocker uses more threads – between 3 to 8 cones at a time – making each stitch far stronger, stretchier, and more durable. Secondly, overlockers feature razor-sharp blades that trim the seams sharply enough to prevent fraying.
Since overlockers work with a minimum of 3 to 4 threads at a time, they can sew with incredible speeds – up to 1700 stitches per minute. And sewing directly with an overlocker can further speed up the process, with a sewer completing three steps simultaneously – fabrics-binding, overlocking, and trimming. This is one of the reasons why people who’ve sewn on overlockers, are reluctant to sew on sewing machines.
Overlockers are necessary for sewing stretchy fabrics and knits. Unlike sewing machines, they offer the feature differential feed that adjusts thread and stitching arrangements according to fabric type and weight. Certain garments like T-shirts, sweaters and woolen wear can only be properly sewn with overlockers.
Advanced overlockers are often added to make projects faster and easier since they offer quick, automatic decorative effects. Ruffles and frills, for instance, can be created automatically with overlockers by simply “speeding up their differential feed”. Sewing machines on the other hand require the sewer to first manually create gathers, and then sew.
Here’s what we’ve learned!
An overlocker and a sewing machine are incredibly important investments for your sewing journey. Though they both share an overlap in their functions, they serve different purposes by design.
The construction features of a sewing machine and an overclocker cannot co-exist which is to say that there is no sewing machine with an overlocker. This is also why a professional’s sewing room often has both.
Many sewers who have once tried out an overlocker refuse to sew without it for its speed, strength, neat finish, and overall professional look. But that doesn’t mean a typical sewing machine is any less important. There are many basic sewing needs, cuts, angles, and techniques that cannot be accomplished without it.
We believe that the quaintly charming craft of sewing, ideally, requires both a sewing machine and an overlocker.
Now let’s take a look at our top sewing machine and overlocker recommendations.
This is a highly rated 3/4 thread overlocker with differential feed that will meet a beginner’s basic overlocking needs. It offers easy thread accessibility, has color-coded, straightforward, quick-to-load threading routes, and requires no extra tools like tweezers. Like all modern overlockers, this one also comes with two needles.
This overlocker has a detachable blade and allows topstitching with the overlock stitch. It offers a stitch length variation of between 1-5mm and can sew up to 1300 stitches per minute.
This Jaguar overlocker offers a “stand-out tension” feature for fine needle settings, which allows sewers to adjust their stitches according to each fabric’s specific weight. This means one can sew a variety of fabrics – from heavy knitwear to lighter silks. Simply put, it offers excellent fine-tuning at a very reasonable price.
This is a heavy-duty cover hem machine that looks and operates like a sewing machine. It’s designed specifically to work as both, a home sewing machine and an industrial-style cover hem machine. The combination of these two sewing strategies makes it exceptionally high-speed with a convenient long arm.
What we particularly love about this equipment is its structure – a strong long arm with a comfortable bed space that is much larger than that offered by any of its competitors. In addition, it offers the “free-arm configuration” which means you can sew tricky areas like cuffs and collars, with much more ease and control. That is something most sewing enthusiasts often dream of.
This is essentially a wide triple cover hem machine, which means it can work with 1, 2, or 3 needles, and offers a double-needle cover stitch (3mm & 6mm) as well as a triple needle cover stitch (6mm). Despite its multiple needle and threading options, this machine is quick to thread up with its color-coded threading system.
Much like an overlocker, this machine offers various adjustability features including a differential feed, a unique seam tightening system, and a variable stitch length ( 1-4mm). This means it is versatile enough to work with a variety of fabrics, creates super professional finishings, and functions well for advanced sewers. And here’s an extra perk – it sews a beautifully decorative double chainstitch. See a Full Review of the Janome CoverPro 2000 CPX here.
Juki is a top-rated brand, renowned for its sturdy construction, powerful motor and overall reliability. The Juki MO- 734DE overlocker has raving fans due to its industrial quality, super-fast speed (1500 stitches per minute), solid structure, and excellent feed dogs.
This is a workhorse of a 2/3/4 thread overlocker with super-advanced overlock technology – two-needle structure, razor-sharp adjustable/retractable knives, multi-purpose presser foot, and the ability to handle all sorts of fabrics from thin lightweight to thick heavyweight materials. This machine comes with a variety of snap-on specialty feet that sew many decorative techniques including gathers, ruffles, piping, rolled hem, beading, curved pearl application, and blind stitching. However, since the machine only allows a maximum of 4 threads, it cannot sew coverhems or chain-stitches.
The Juki MO-734DE overlocker’s multi-presser foot can instantly sew on elastic, tape, sequins and ribbons. Furthermore, it offers 15 stitch variations including overlocks, overcasts, flatlocks and automatic rolled-hems.
This overlocker has an automatic needle threader and an easy-to-follow, color-coded thread path. Sewing enthusiasts have praised it for making their projects convenient and making their stitching quality effortlessly professional.
Some sewers consider its price to be a little too steep, given that it only sews with 4 threads, and has more or less the same functions as the less pricey Juki 600 models.
ACCESSORIES: Standard parts/ accessory kit.
WARRANTY: 2 years electrical warranty, 5 years mechanical warranty.