Serger, Coverstitch, Coverlock Machines…What’s The Difference?

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You’ve probably heard the term serger and know it’s a type of sewing machine. You might also have come across the terms coverstitch serger and coverlock machine. In fact, some people use these terms interchangeably but, as we’ll find out in this post, this is a mistake.

TL;DR – What’s The Difference Between Sergers, Coverlock, Overlock, and Coverstitch Machines?

Firstly, sergers and overlock machines are the same thing. Americans use “Serger”, but almost everywhere else the same appliance would be referred to as an “Overlock Machine” or “Overlocker”.

Coverstitch machines are standalone pieces of equipment, typically used by sewists to hem garments made with stretch fabrics to a professional standard. Although somewhat similar to sergers, they’re actually quite different. There’s no blade and many will have three needles, not two. It also operates with just a single looper.

Coverlock machines are essentially serger / coverstitch hybrids. While no device can truly do everything, coverstitch machines offer those looking to save either space, money, or both an attractive alternative to purchasing both a serger and a coverstitch machine.


Sergers (or overlockers, as these are indeed different names for the same type of machine) and coverstitch sergers are distinct pieces of equipment. Although there’s a tiny bit of overlap in their functions (both can hem a garment, for example), they perform these functions differently. 

Not only that, neither of them can do the things you’re used to doing with your regular sewing machine — at least not in the same way. What’s more, an overlocker cannot make the same kinds of stitches that a coverstitch machine makes. The reverse is also true.

So, what exactly is a serger? What does it do? How are coverstitch machines different? And what on earth is a coverlock machine?

Most importantly, do you actually need any of them? And if you decide that you do, how do you choose a good one?

We’ll lay it all out.

What is a Serger?

Have you ever admired the sealed edges inside of commercially made garments? Or, perhaps you’ve wondered how to sew perfect, flat seams on stretchy knit fabrics? Maybe you want to try your hand at decorative edgings?

These are some of the things you can do with a serger.

Other Names for a Serger

“Overlocker”, “Overlock Machine”, and “Overlock Serger” can all be used to describe the same kind of device. Serger synonyms, if you will.

How Does a Serger Work?

A serger uses multiple needles and multiple threads to sew overlock or overcast stitches. 

This means that the needle or needles sew a straight row, while a looper or loopers wrap additional threads around the raw seam edges to seal them.

There are several different kinds of overlock stitches, and below is an illustration of how a three-thread overlock stitch works. The pink thread is the needle row, while the blue and white threads are made by the upper and lower loopers.

three-thread overlock

And here’s what a three-thread overlock stitch looks like on fabric.

3 thread overlock stitch
Image taken from our post on the different serger stitches an overlocker can perform

Most home overlockers have two needles and can sew with two, three, and four threads. 

You might find some budget models that only sew with three and four threads, but you can also find premium models that sew with up to eight. 

How People Use Their Sergers

Can’t you make seams with a regular sewing machine? Of course you can. Some regular sewing machines even have a mock overlock stitch that can reinforce the edges of fabrics prone to fraying.

But if you’re making a lot of garments, or if you’re using primarily knit fabrics, then a serger can make your work faster, stronger, and better.

Here are a few of the things that a serger can do.

Construction

A serger’s main job is construction. Whether you’re making garments, housewares, or accessories, a serger can give you strong, flexible, professional-looking seams and edges.

Serged seams not only stand up well to stress and strain. They also protect your fabric edges from fraying.

You can also use a serger for invisible hems on garments, as well as rolled hems on scarves and other accessories.

Edging

Edges are a serger’s specialty. Whether it’s wrapping seam edges to make a stronger seam, or creating different types of edgings on a single layer of fabric, edges are what a serger does best.

Have you ever seen a delicate, wavy edge on blouse cuffs or scarves?

lettuce edge finish

That’s a lettuce edge, and it’s made with a serger. You can make a lettuce edge by combining a narrow stitch width with increased differential feed (that is, increased stretch).

A rolled edge is a common way to finish light, ravel-prone fabrics. 

light scarf

Some sergers have a built-in rolled hem setting. With others you may have to manually adjust your machine.

Knits and Stretchy Fabrics

Sewing knits and stretchy fabrics can be tricky. Even if you match your thread to your fabric (as we spoke about in our article on how to sew seams), knits and stretchy fabrics can still bunch and warp.

As we’ve already mentioned, sergers have a feature called differential feed, which allows you to stretch or compress the fabric while you sew. This can help you to make perfectly smooth, flat seams and edges, even on stretchy knit fabrics. 

And if you want to bunch, gather, or warp your fabric edge, you can do that, too.

Serger Special Effects

A serger isn’t all function and no fun, however. You can use overlock stitches to create some dazzling serger special effects.

We’ve already talked about decorative edging, but you can also use a serger to create:

  • Ruffles
  • Gathers
  • Pleats
  • Pintucks

And check this out. You can even use a serger to make your own lace and custom trims. It’s relatively easy, too, once you get the hang of it.

Heavy vs. Light Fabrics

Although stretchy fabrics and knits are a serger’s specialty, you can use your serger to work with a variety of fabric types and thicknesses.

As a rule, if you’re working with ultralight fabrics, you’ll need a serger that can sew with two threads. For heavier-than-average fabrics, you’ll want to sew with a minimum of four threads.

Distinguishing Features of a Serger

What makes a serger different from a regular sewing machine? Quite a few things. Let’s have a look.

Multiple Threads

A regular sewing machine sews with a top thread on a spool and a bottom thread on a bobbin. 

A serger has no bobbin. Instead, it sews with one or more needle threads and one or more threads guided by loopers. We’ll talk more about loopers in a bit.

You can use spool thread with a serger. However, overlocking uses a lot of thread. For this reason, many serger users prefer thread that comes on large cones, as cone thread is more cost effective.

And if you’re wondering whether you can transfer thread from those enormous cones onto spools to use with your regular sewing machine, the answer is yes. Here’s how.

Needles

Your regular sewing machine uses one needle. Most modern sergers have two needles.

The two needles provide a way to adjust the stitch width. Sewing with the left needle only creates a wide stitch. Sewing only with the right needle makes a narrower stitch.

Four-thread stitches use both needles to create parallel rows of straight stitches while the loopers cast thread around the fabric edges.

Not sure which one to use for what? Check out our article on how to identify sewing machine needles for a simple explanation of all the different types available.

Loopers

We keep talking about loopers. What on earth are they, anyway? Let’s loop back to that now.

Loopers cast loops of thread over fabric edges to seal them and most sergers have two. The upper looper loops thread around the top of the fabric edge. The lower looper loops thread around the bottom edge.

You thread loopers just like you thread your needles. 

Some stitches use both loopers. Others only use one. 

Cutting Blade

One of the best features of a serger is its cutting blade. 

Every serger has a blade that trims the fabric edge as you sew. Some sergers have more than one blade, and those blades work together.

But there are some types of stitching, like a rolled hem, where you don’t want to cut your edges. For this reason, many models allow you to easily retract your blade to keep it out of the way.

Differential Feed

A regular sewing machine has one set of feed dogs. The feed dogs sit below the fabric and move it through the machine.

baby lock accolade feed dogs
A close up shot of the feed dogs found on the exceptional Baby Lock Accolade

A serger has two sets of feed dogs, and they can move at different speeds. The differential feed mechanism allows you to adjust the speed of each set of feed dogs relative to the other.

For normal sewing, the feed dogs should move at the same speed. But sometimes you might want to stretch the fabric, compress it, or prevent the fabric from stretching while you sew.

Adjusting the differential feed can help you achieve this.

High Speed

The average speed of a domestic sewing machine is around 850 stitches per minute. The average speed of a serger is around 1,300 stitches per minute.

This increased speed makes easy work of seams and edges.

Drawbacks of Using a Serger

An overlocker is a specialized machine. You’ve seen some of the things it can do, but it can’t do everything. 

Limitations

An overlocker does overcasting, full stop. It’s a specialized tool for making sealed seams and decorative edges.

You can’t use a serger for topstitching, and you can’t sew a line down the middle of fabric. Straight stitching only? Nope. And there are no decorative embroidery stitches on a serger. A serger also cannot attach buttons or zippers.

Finally, although you can use a serger for woven fabrics, serged seams are weaker for this type of material than the lockstitched seams made by your regular sewing machine.

For these reasons, a serger should complement, rather than replace your standard sewing machine.

Complexity

An overlocker is a complicated piece of equipment. Sergers are often difficult to set up, and they can be extremely temperamental.

Much of the complexity comes down to threading. 

You must thread the various threads in a specific order. Like on your regular sewing machine, each thread follows a path through a series of thread guides. Some of those guides can be difficult to access.

Worse, your machine can come unthreaded at the most inconvenient times.

Some higher-end serger models are self-threading. Mid-range and lower-end machines often have color-coded thread guides. Once you get your machine threaded and working, you can save yourself a lot of aggravation by using this quick threading trick.

Price

Overlockers are expensive. A budget serger will generally cost you the same as a mid-range sewing machine. And when it comes to high-end models, there’s no upper limit.

Do you actually need a serger? We’ll help you decide right now!

Do You Need a Serger?

Do you need an overlocker? Or can you get by without one? And if you’re ready to take the plunge, how can you get the best serger sewing machine for your needs and your pocket?

It’s always fun to buy new equipment, but it’s easy to mistake excitement for need. Do you need a serger? Ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do you work primarily with knits and stretch fabrics?
  • Is your regular sewing machine’s mock overlock stitch no longer cutting it?
  • Do you need to make a lot of secure seams fast?
  • Are you planning to do a lot of decorative edging?
  • Do you like learning new technologies?
  • Do you have a high tolerance for frustration?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, then there may be a serger in your future.

How to Choose the Best Serger for Your Needs

If you’ve decided that a serger is the next addition to your arsenal of sewing tools, then you need to know how to choose a good one. Here are a few features to look out for:

Number of Threads

Three and four threads are all you need to create many of the seam types for which home sewists most often use their serger.. For most kinds of garment construction, a 3-4 serger will do just fine. As a bonus, 3-4 sergers are often less expensive than those with the ability to handle more threads.

On the other hand, if you think you might be working with ultralight fabrics, then you definitely want a serger that can sew with two threads as well.

Conversely, if you anticipate working with heavier than average fabrics, you’ll want a serger that can sew with a minimum of four threads.

Built-in Stitches

Just like a regular sewing machine, a serger comes with a variety of built-in stitches. And, just like a regular sewing machine, those built-in stitches can vary from device to device.

Just about every serger can do a three-thread and four-thread overcast stitch. In addition to these, though, you might also want:

  • Two-thread overcast
  • Two and three-thread rolled hem
  • Two, three, and four-thread flatlock
  • Decorative edgings, such as picot edge
  • Blind hem
  • Safety stitch and mock safety stitch

To name a few.

Built-in Rolled Hem

A rolled hem gives a fancy finish to a single layer of fabric. You’ll see it often on scarves.

With some sergers, you’ll have to remove parts or switch them around in order to make a rolled hem. But some models have a switch that makes the adjustments for you.

Stitch Width Selection

Your regular sewing machine has a knob or buttons that allow you to select the width of your stitches. With many sergers, however, stitch width comes down to three different types of adjustment:

  • Moving, removing, or switching out the stitch finger
  • Adjusting the cutting width
  • Choosing either the right or the left needle

Some sergers, however, come with a convenient knob that makes the appropriate adjustments for you.

Free Arm

Do you really need a free arm on a serger? Some people use it, and some people don’t. But if you use your serger for adding collars and cuffs, this feature may come in handy.

Convenience Features

Sergers can be fiddly and temperamental. So manufacturers have come up with different features to make them easier to use. Here are a few of our favorites.

Self-threading

You won’t find a self-threading serger on the budget shelf. This is a premium feature, but it’s still worth mentioning.

Self-threading sergers use a clever combination of air jets and tubes to make threading as simple as pressing a button.

Most other sergers, however, will give you a color-coded threading guide, which also helps quite a bit.

Needle threader

An automatic needle threader is a common feature on most regular sewing machines. Less so on a serger, but a few models do have one. Given the sometimes inconvenient placement of serger needles, it’s a nice feature to have.

Auto tension

After threading, tension is one of the more complicated parts of using a serger. Adjusting the tension of your looper and needle threads is the key to creating certain types of stitches, such as a flatlock.

Some sergers allow you to choose a stitch design, then they automatically adjust your tension. It’s very convenient.

Built-in thread cutter

Most sergers don’t have a built-in thread cutter, you have to use your snips. However, some models have a nifty little blade that you can raise to trim your thread ends.

Retractable cutting blade

For some types of serger sewing, for example rolled hems, you don’t want to trim the edges. Many models have an easily retractable cutting blade. With some models, however, you may have to remove the blade altogether.

Trim trap

A serger cuts seam edges to fit your seams. It’s an important feature, especially when it comes to determining stitch width. 

But it also creates quite a mess.

Some sergers come with a built-in trim trap to catch the trim before it falls in your lap, on your table, and on the floor. 

You can, however, make your own. It’s easy, and it’s actually many people’s first serger project! [1]

Price

How much do sergers cost? That’s a bit like asking how much a car costs. There are budget models that may run you as much as a mid-range sewing machine, and there are premium models that could cost as much as a used car.

Don’t choose a serger based on price alone. The available features can vary widely by model, so it’s best to look for one that does everything that you need it to, and worry about the price later.

Two of Our Favourite Models

Here are a few of our favorite models to get you started.

Singer X5004HD

singer X5004HD heavy duty serger

For more than a century, Singer has been America’s sewing machine company. They have a reputation for well-made, budget-friendly machines. And if you’re looking for a budget serger model, the Singer X5004HD is one to consider.

For the price of a low-end regular sewing machine, this model delivers:

  • A heavy duty metal frame
  • 2-3-4 thread serging
  • 1300 stitches per minute
  • Built-in rolled hem
  • A decent variety of built-in stitches

This is a straightforward, user-friendly serger that is exceptional value for money.

Singer Professional 14T968DC

singer 14t968dc serger machine

The Singer Professional 14T968DC will cost a bit more than the base model. However, considering what you get for that money, it’s an outstanding value. Features include:

  • 2, 3, 4, and 5 thread stitching
  • Self-adjusting tension
  • Four built-in rolled hems
  • 1300 stitches per minute stitching speed

If you’re already thinking ahead to advanced projects, this could be your new favorite sewing machine.

What is a Coverstitch Machine?

A coverstitch machine is sometimes also called a coverstitch serger. This is misleading, as a coverstitch machine isn’t a serger at all. Even though the two machines share some features, they are different machines for different types of sewing.

How Does a Coverstitch Machine Work?

A coverstitch is a two-sided stitch. On the right side of the fabric, there is a double row of straight stitches. On the underside, a chain stitch connects them. 

You can see the right side and wrong side parts of a coverstitch in the image below.

both sides of a coverstitch

Some coverstitch machines allow you to use the chain stitch alone in much the same way as you would use a straight stitch on a regular sewing machine.

How People Use It

A serger and a coverstitch machine can perform some of the same tasks, for example:

  • Sewing a blind hem
  • Sealing off raw fabric edges
  • Certain types of decoration

But it’s important to note that they do these tasks differently and that the results look slightly different.

Additionally, there are some things that a coverstitch machine can do that a serger can’t — and vice versa.

Here are some of the most common uses of a coverstitch machine:

Topstitching

As we said earlier, you can’t use a serger to do topstitching. But a coverstitch machine is made for this.

Topstitching is both functional and decorative. You can use this technique for securing facings and creating a sharp edge on collars, cuffs, hems, and bindings.

Yes, you can also do topstitching on a regular sewing machine. However, a coverstitch machine also seals off any raw edges on the reverse side of the fabric. This creates a secure, professional-looking finish.

Hemming

You can also use a serger or a regular sewing machine to make a hem. But for a coverstitch machine, hemming is it’s primary function.

How is a coverstitched hem different?

Instead of sewing along the fabric edge, you fold the fabric over on itself and topstitch. The right side of the garment will have one or two neat, parallel rows of straight stitches. On the back, a chain stitch connects the rows and binds off the fabric edge.

A coverstitch machine can also come in very handy for attaching trims.

Knits and Stretchy Fabrics

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine has a differential feed. This makes it a similarly good choice for working with knits and stretchy fabrics.

Decorative Stitching

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine can create decorative effects. But the special effects a coverstitch machine can create are different.

Sergers sew along fabric edges. A coverstitch machine sews on the top of fabric. 

You can use a coverstitch machine’s multiple needles to create two or even three rows of parallel straight stitches, such as you might see decorating the pockets and waistbands of blue jeans.

decorative stitching on blue jeans

You can also sew the fabric face down in order to use the stitch decoratively.

Because a coverstitch machine has a differential feed like a serger, you can use it to create pleats and other embellishments. Check it out.

“Regular” Sewing

It’s a bit of a stretch to say that you can use a coverstitch machine just like a regular sewing machine. But you can use a two-thread chain stitch to do some of the tasks for which you would use your sewing machine. These include:

  • Basting 
  • Making a seam
  • Decorative stitching

Here’s how it works.

Distinguishing Features of a Coverstitch Machine

Sergers and coverstitch machines share a number of features, which is one reason that it’s easy to mistake one for the other. However, if you look closely, the differences are pretty easy to spot.

Multiple Needles

A regular sewing machine sews with one needle. A serger generally uses two. A coverstitch machine, on the other hand, generally has three needles (though some budget models have two.)

Multiple Threads

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine sews with multiple threads. Most coverstitch machines can sew with two, three, or four threads. Some can sew with five or more.

Chain Stitch

One of the main differences between a coverstitch machine and a serger is the chainstitch. You can use the chain stitch like a straight stitch for construction. You can also use it for basting your seams. Chain stitches can also be used decoratively.

A few modern sergers have a built-in chain stitch, but it’s not typical.

Just One Looper

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine uses a looper thread in place of a bobbin thread. But sergers typically have two loopers that loop thread around the top and bottom of fabric edges.

A coverstitch machine only loops thread on one side of the fabric. Therefore it only needs one looper.

No Cutting Blade

A coverstitch machine doesn’t trim the fabric edges as it sews. It has no cutting blade.

Differential Feed

Like a serger, a coverstitch machine has two sets of feed dogs. Also like a serger, a coverstitch machine has a differential feed mechanism so that you can adjust the speed of each set relative to the other.

High Speed Sewing

A coverstitch machine is a high-speed sewing machine with an average sewing speed of 1,300-1,500 stitches per minute.

Extended Workspace

Another place where sergers and coverstitch machines differ is in the size of the workspace. 

A serger sews only on the fabric edges, and it trims these edges as it sews. The cutting blade sits immediately to the right of the right needle, and there isn’t room for anything else. You don’t need it.

Many coverstitch machines, on the other hand, are built more like a regular sewing machine. They have no blades, and they don’t trim the fabric edges. 

Also, because a coverstitch machine isn’t limited to sewing fabric edges, you might need extra room to the right of the needles to accommodate fabric. A coverstitch machine provides this.

Drawbacks of Using a Coverstitch Machine

For hemming and topstitching, there’s nothing like a coverstitch machine. But it’s not the ideal tool for every task.

A coverstitch machine won’t serge off your seam edges for you. Neither can you use it to create decorative edgings, rolled hems, or lace, like you can a serger.

You can use the chain stitch decoratively. However, a coverstitch machine doesn’t do decorative embroidery stitches like many regular sewing machines. 

Also, although threading a coverstitch machine is easier than threading a serger, the single looper still has a learning curve.

Finally, coverstitch machines tend to be pricey. If you’re thinking of buying one, you’d do well to make sure that you really need it and will actually use it.

Do You Need a Coverstitch Machine?

Honestly? Probably not. 

Much of what you can do with a coverstitch machine, for example topstitching and blind hems, you’re probably already doing with your regular sewing machine.

However, you might want to invest in a coverstitch machine if:

  • You have a small business making garments and/or housewares
  • Much of your work involves hemming and finishing
  • You work primarily with knit or stretchy fabrics

For professional garment finishes, there’s nothing like a coverstitch machine. And if you’re sewing a lot of clothing for your family or amateur drama group, for example, it could be a good investment.

How to Choose the Best Coverstitch Machine For Your Needs

Many of the same features by which you’d judge a serger apply to a coverstitch machine. There are, however, a few other things to consider, as well:

Stitch Selection

That handy chain stitch is what makes a coverstitch machine what it is. Other than that, though, you’ll need to think about other types of stitches you may want. Some common coverstitch machine stitches include:

  • Narrow three-thread coverstitch
  • Wide three-thread coverstitch
  • Four-thread coverstitch

Throat Space

Another major difference between a coverstitch machine and an overlocker is the throat space. How much space do you need to the right of the needle? 

A regular sewing machine generally has between seven and nine inches of space to the right of a needle. A serger has almost none.

For a coverstitch machine, five inches is around the max. 

Convenience Features

Again, many of a serger’s convenience features make coverstitch sewing a bit easier, too. But here are a few coverstitch-specific things to look for.

Auto tension release

A common user complaint is that it’s difficult to remove work from a coverstitch machine once you’ve finished your row. This comes down to thread tension.

An auto tension release means that when you raise the presser foot, the thread tension slackens, so it’s easier to remove your work.

Adjustable presser foot pressure

You’ll find this feature on many regular sewing machines, as well as some sergers and coverstitchers.

The presser foot holds fabric against the feed dogs, which feed the fabric through your machine. Most presser feet hold fabric with a standard pressure, but being able to adjust that pressure means more control over fabrics of different weights and thicknesses.

Accessories

Some accessories that will make sewing with your coverstitch machine more fun and efficient include the following:

Extension table

Because you can use a coverstitch machine for some regular sewing tasks, some people use it for quilting and decorative stitching. A removable extension table supports larger work and makes it easier to see your stitching in the context of a larger section of it.

Knee lifter

A knee lifter is a boon for quilters, and some higher end sewing and coverstitch machines may include one.

A knee lifter is a metal lever that slots into a special port. Some machines have this port, but most do not. The knee lifter allows you to raise and lower the presser foot with your knee while keeping both hands on your work.

Presser feet

Some presser feet that may come in handy for coverstitch sewing include:

  • Beading foot
  • Blind hem foot
  • Cording foot
  • Cover chain stitch foot
  • Elastic foot

Price

Coverstitch machines are specialized pieces of equipment, and that doesn’t come cheap. As with a serger, consider your needs before considering price, as features vary from model to model. One of the only things worse than paying more than you planned is buying a cheaper machine that doesn’t do what you need it to do.

Some of Our Favourite Models

Ready to buy? Here are a few of our favorite coverstitch machine models.

Brother 2340CV

brother coverstitch 2340cv

If you’re looking for a first coverstitch machine, and don’t want to drop a month’s pay, the Brother 2340CV could be one to check out.

This is a three-needle 2-3-4 coverstitch serger. It has color coded threading and adjustable presser foot pressure, which can help when sewing fabrics of different weights and thicknesses.

Brother excels at making budget-friendly, well-made equipment. So for a budget option, the 2340CV could be a good choice.

Baby Lock Cover Stitch

On the other end of the price spectrum, you’ll find the Baby Lock Cover Stitch. This premium coverstitch machine features:

  • 2-3-4 thread stitching
  • Self-threading looper
  • Thread cutter
  • Knob tensioning
  • Auto tension release

If you want a machine that will do all of the tedious adjustments for you, leaving you free to create, this could be your model.

So What is a Coverlock Machine, Anyway?

Regular sewing machine, overlocker, coverstitch machine…that’s a lot of sewing machines!

As much fun as it is to buy new equipment, few of us have infinite space in which to store it all. Even fewer people have bottomless funds.

For this reason, a coverlock machine might provide a happy medium.

A coverlock machine is basically a hybrid, combining some of the features of a serger with some of the features of a coverstitch machine. 

Though no machine truly does it all, a coverlock machine can be a good compromise. More importantly, it can save you money and space.

Other Names For Coverlock Machines Include…

Coverlock machines have many different monikers, including: “Coverlock serger”, “Coverlocker”, “Coverstich/Serger Combination”, “Hybrid”, and “Combo”. Be warned, though, Hybrid and Combo are terms also used to describe sewing machines that have embroidery functions built in, too.

How Does a Coverlock Machine Work?

A coverlock machine can do many of the things that a serger can do. It can also perform some coverstitch tasks. The exact combination of features can vary from model to model. However, most coverlock machines can:

  • Do a chain stitch
  • Sew overlock stitches
  • Topstitch seams
  • Serge off edges
  • Hem garments
  • Create decorative edging including rolled edge
  • Do special effects like ruffles and pleats

Although no machine can do everything, a coverlocker sure comes close.

How People Use It

A coverlock machine can be a terrific solution for anyone who wants maximum functionality in a single machine. Here are a few things people do with their coverlockers.

Chainstitching

The chain stitch is one of the most useful and distinctive features of a coverstitch machine. And every coverlocker does one.

You can use your chainstitch like a regular sewing machine’s straight stitch, to baste or sew seams, or to add a decorative touch to your project.

Construction

Because a coverlocker has an overlock mode, you can use it to create strong, stretchy, overlocked seams. Putting together clothing and housewares is a snap. 

Hemming

A coverlocker can hem garments in two ways: like a serger and like a coverstitch machine.

If you want a sealed or decorative hem, like a lettuce edge or a rolled hem, a coverlocker in serger mode can do that.

On the other hand, you can use a coverlocker in coverstitch mode to create professional, topstitched hems.

Topstitching

A coverstitch serger is a topstitching machine, and a coverlocker carries on this function, too. Whether you’re topstitching a collar, a hem, or a pair of cuffs, a coverlocker can get the job done.

Decoration and Special Effects

Do you want to do serger special effects like ruffles, pintucks, and making your own lace trim? A coverlocker can do that.

Perhaps you’d prefer some decorative chainstitching or three-needle decorative stitching instead? A coverlocker will have you covered.

This is perhaps the best part of an overlocker/serger combo: you get all of the fun parts of both.

Distinguishing Features of a Coverlock Machine

As you might expect, a coverlocker has features of both a coverstitch machine and a serger. Here are some of the things you might find on a combo machine:

Two Modes

Overlocking and coverstitching are two separate, mutually exclusive functions. They use different parts of the machine and use the workspace differently. Therefore, most coverstitch/serger hybrids have a way of adjusting your machine to work either as a coverstitch machine or as a serger.

Three Needles

Like a coverstitch machine, most coverlockers have three needles.

Multiple Threads

Most (but not all) hybrid serger/coverstitch machines can sew with two, three, four, or five threads.

Two Loopers

Like a serger, a coverlocker has two loopers that loop thread around seam edges.

Differential Feed

Both sergers and coverstitch machines have a differential feed mechanism. Therefore, you’ll find one on every coverlocker combo.

Cutting Blade

A hybrid overlocker/coverstitch machine has a blade for trimming seam edges while in serger mode. 

Extended Workspace

Like a coverstitch machine, a hybrid will have a larger workspace to accommodate fabric on the right side of the needle.

High Speed Sewing

Like both sergers and coverstitch machines, a coverlocker is a high-speed instrument that can reach an average speed of 1,300 stitches per minute.

Drawbacks to Using a Coverlock Machine

Wow. I know what I want for my next birthday. But, as with everything, there are some drawbacks to owning a coverlock machine:

Complexity

More functions mean a more complex apparatus. And this means a serious learning curve. 

A coverlocker has two loopers, and we’ve already talked about what that means. In addition, users must master the functions of two distinct pieces of equipment.

Is it worth it for the additional functionality? Many people think so. But this is not a piece of equipment for the frustration-prone.

Price

Although you can find some hybrid machines at the budget level, a coverlocker with the full complement of serger and coverstitch functions is going to cost you. 

How much? Well, a budget model with a few crossover functions may run you as much as a mid-level regular sewing machine. And a premium model? Well, that could run you as much as a used car.

What’s more, the available features can vary from machine to machine.

So if you’re serious about buying a coverlocker, make a list of your must-haves and check product specifications carefully before pressing “buy.”

Do you Need a Coverlock Machine?

Seriously, who doesn’t need a coverlock machine? Well, that may be overstating the case a little, but if any of the following sound like you, then there might be a coverlock machine on your horizon:

  • You need both a serger and a coverstitch machine
  • You’re primarily working with knits and stretch fabrics
  • Your equipment budget is limited
  • You want to minimize your number of separate machines

Is this you? Then let’s do it right.

How to Buy the Best Coverlock Machine For Your Needs

There are a lot of advantages to a coverstitch/serger combo: versatility, value for money, space savings.

There is one main disadvantage, though. 

The available features for coverlock machines vary from model to model. And they can vary by a lot.

So before you start shopping, it pays to have a list of your dealbreaker features, and to double-check the specs of any model that you might be considering.

Many of the features that make a great serger or coverstitch machine will improve your experience with a coverlocker. Here are a few additional things to watch for:

Stitch Selection

You can count on your coverlocker coming with a selection of cover stitches, a chain stitch and, most likely, three and four-thread overlock stitches built in. However, beyond that, it will behoove you to check the specs.

Other stitches you might want include:

  • Flatlock
  • Rolled hem
  • Two and more-than-four stitch overlock

And that’s just for starters.

Number of Threads

As with sergers and coverstitch machines, consider how many threads you’ll want to work with. Three and four threads come standard on most coverlockers. But you might also want two threads for lightweight work, and five or even more threads for heavier work.

Speed Control

A coverlocker is a multi-purpose machine. Some models can have quite a bit of overlap with a regular sewing machine.

Although few sergers have a slider for controlling stitching speed, some coverstitch and coverlock models do have it. It can certainly come in handy for trickier bits of stitching.

Some of Our Favourite Models

Now for the fun part. Let’s check out some of the best coverlockers on the market:

Juki MO-735

juki MO-735 coverlocker

Juki made some of the first home overlock machines, and they’re a well respected name in both domestic and industrial sewing equipment.

The Juki MO-735 is a combination overlock and coverstitch machine with the following features:

  • 2-3-4-5 thread stitching
  • Two and three needle coverstitch
  • Chain stitch
  • 5-thread safety stitch
  • Simplified chain looper threading
  • Retractable upper knife
  • Built-in rolled hem

There’s quite a range of prices for coverlock machines, and this model comes in around the middle of the spectrum. If this is the combination of features you’re looking for, then this model could be a decent, cost-effective option.

Baby Lock Ovation

Baby Lock machines are often the “when money is no object” option. The Baby Lock Ovation is a top-of-the-line serger/coverstitch combo that does almost everything short of washing and folding your clothes. You will definitely pay for your thrills, but what thrills they are. Check it out:

  • Self-threading
  • Auto tension
  • 2-3-4-5-6-7-8 thread stitching
  • Two proprietary decorative stitches
  • Five inches of throat space
  • Knee lifter
  • Speed control 

If you want a machine that can very nearly do it all, and you’re ready to pay for it, the Baby Lock Ovation could be your sewing room’s new best friend.

Serger, Coverstitch, Coverlock Machines…What’s The Difference? Now You Know!

The field of sewing machines is a crowded one, even when you’re looking at more specialized equipment. Labeling and marketing conventions don’t always make the distinctions clear. The last thing you want is to pay a lot of money for a machine that won’t do what you need it to do.

So remember:

  • A serger is for edging, internal seams, and certain types of decoration
  • Coverstitch machines’ main job is hemming
  • Coverlock machines have features of both, but those features vary from model to model

Do you have a favorite machine? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

what is the difference between serger coverlocker coverstitch machines

REFERENCES

  1. Clever Betty | Scrap Catcher Tutorial | https://cleverbetty.blogspot.com/2013/02/scrap-catcher-tutorial.html

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