Serger/Overlock Stitch Guide
There are different serger stitches and understanding how to use each stitch type is the key to great results and unlocking new ways to use your serger. Here are many of the serger stitches from the basic to more advanced stitches for your project.
Common Serger Stitches
If new to serging, you’re probably not yet sure about choosing the correct stitch for any given project. Your machine doubtlessly included an instructional DVD and owner’s manual to help you get started but becoming familiar with the variety and uses of all the stitches on a machine will take time. Serger machines, also known as overlockers, are designed to put a professional finish on garments or other projects, but thanks to the wide range of stitching options and capabilities, you’ll soon discover that there’s much more your serger can do for you. Here’s a quick look at the four basic stitches from which all others grow.
- Overlock Stitch: This stitch encloses a seam while using multiple threads to lock each edge to prevent it from fraying.
- Cover Stitch: This type of stitch is typically used to create a professional hem on a variety of purchased garments made of different fabrics. The fabric is folded into a hem and the stitching encases the raw edge of the fold.
- Flatlock Stitch: This stitch securely joins two pieces of fabric by creating a seam that lays flat when finished. It’s often used on projects requiring joining panels or squares of fabric.
- Rolled Hem: This stitch completely encases raw fabric edges with thread to produce a delicate, attractive finished edge incapable of fraying. A rolled hem stitch is typically used on formal table napkins and sheer fabrics.
How Serger Stitches are Formed
Very often, threading a serger is the most difficult process to perfect. With multiple needles and thread cones and upper and lower loopers to guide and feed the threads through the needles, it’s no wonder it can be confusing or intimidating at first. But, just as you learned to thread a sewing machine and bobbin, becoming skilled at serger threading is merely a matter of practice.
Serger stitches are formed when the needle(s) pierce the fabric and the thread(s) create a loop behind the needle, where the lower looper moves from left to right to grab that loop of thread. As it moves, the lower looper pulls the thread through the thread in the needle.
Conversely, the upper looper moves in the opposite direction to grab both lower looper and needle threads. While the lower looper returns to the left position, the upper looper moves with it while still holding the threads until the needle(s) move back down behind the upper looper to firmly secure each stitch.
Multiple Thread Stitches
While some serger models include the capability to make single-thread stitches, or “butt seam stitches,” these are merely zig-zag stitches that are also available on standard sewing or embroidery machines. Because they’re not as durable as other stitches, the one-thread stitch is most commonly used to make seams that will face little to no stress.
2- Thread Overlock (Narrow)
With only two threads being used on this overlock stitch, it provides a clean, but narrow stitch that will secure two or more layers of fabric together. It isn’t the strongest or most dependable stitching core seaming. It’s a great stitch for lightweight fabrics, especially when you don’t want the threads or the stitch impressions to show through the fabric.
2-Thread Rolled Hem Stitch
Using only two threads on this rolled hem stitch creates a fine, nearly invisible roll on the fabric edges. This stitch is especially pretty on sheer fabrics. Preparing for this stitch usually requires adjusting the thread tension and the throat plate.
Double Row Cover Stitch
Because hem fabric is folded before being stitched, the cutting blade is not in play when sewing with cover stitches. This is the best stitch to use when hemming t-shirts or other lightweight stretch or knit fabrics. Traditionally, either a 3mm or 6mm stitch is used to produce dual lines of straight stitching on the right side of the fabric. The looping threads are hidden on the fabric’s wrong side.
2- or 3-Thread Flatlock
This is another stitch commonly used in garments that need a lot of give, such as sportswear or knit pants. The distinct stitching pattern resembles the shape of a ladder thanks to the positioning of the horizontal stitches and intersecting loops. This open, flexible stitch remains very flat, without bunching.
3-Thread Overlock (Wide)
By adding another thread, this stitch will cover a wider area of fabric edges. Because this type of stitch uses only one needle, it’s best used on stretchy weaves or knits that won’t have a lot of stress put on them, such as blanket or throw hems.
3-Thread Overlock (Differential Feed)
A differential feed makes all the difference when creating gathers in fabrics. This difference produces the same stitch, but the differential feed evenly gathers the fabric for you. It produces perfect seams on knits of all weights.
Triple Row Cover Stitch
Like the double row cover stitch, this one is used primarily to hem stretchy lightweight knits. There is one difference in using three lines of stitching: the extra line covers more fabric, allowing you to add more stability and durability to the hem of the garment or project. This is an excellent stitch to use on stubborn fabrics that roll naturally or refuse to remain flat.
This is possibly the most-often used stitch because it invariably creates a strong, long-lasting seam or hem. Thanks to its durability, the four-thread is most often used to finish seams on all types of clothing that are professionally manufactured.
This strong, yet versatile stitch is unique because both the stitching and finish can be sewn together or independently of one another. The topstitching looks like a traditional stitch, while there are chain stitches on the wrong side of the fabric.
Be aware that not all sergers can produce every serger stitch we have listed. The sewing speed of a serger can reach up to 1,500 stitches per minute, which helps users blaze through a variety of sewing projects in no time. In addition to the speed of stitching, serging machines offer wide variety and types of stitches. Those options and the number of threads your machine can use naturally affect the price of each serger, but even the most basic models offer a whole new world of stitches and edge finishes to a user.
Sergers are sewing machines that provide far more functions and features than your typical home sewing machine. In addition to decorative stitching, they create secure, professional finishes and seams identical to the ones found on manufactured garments. Anyone who loves crafting, clothing design or is a budding seamstress or tailor understands that a serger is a must-have in the world of home sewing equipment.