How To Choose Your First Overlocker

To the uninitiated Overlockers are baffling and choosing one even more so. Until this year I really didn’t need one, however, 2020 saw my sewing advance more than it has since I was 17 and now I’m looking for greater challenges as well as the ability to finish my seams with ease. In particular I want to tackle activewear and swimwear for which an overlocked is essential. After a lot of thought and a long phone conversation with my mum as we trawled through websites, we finally chose my first overlocker and its on it’s way to me now! Once I mentioned this on instagram I had loads of messages asking how I had chosen it, what specifications I looked for and if I had any advice on choosing an overlocker. I am by no means an expert however with the guidance of my mum, who is a bit of a sewing expert, and A LOT of web searching choosing my first overlocker was pretty painless. Now I’ve got a few tips and tricks that should help you to find your first overlocker easily.

Why Do You Want An Overlocker?

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This is crucial. It can be easy on social media to convince yourself that you need a new piece of equipment just because other people are using it and using it to great success! (ahem…cricut machines) So when you start your overlocker purchasing journey its important to take a moment before you begin browsing, sit down with a piece of paper and answer these three questions:

  • What do want your overlocker to do?
  • What are you going to use it for?
  • What do you want your overlocker to do that your current machine can’t?

It is vital to understand what you wish to accomplish with your Overlocker that you can’t do with your current machine. Further more consider your sewing space, can you store your Overlocker easily? Once you have answered these questions then it will be easier to direct your search when it comes to individual models and specifications. After all you may want a more lightweight model if you’re just sewing Lycra whereas if you want to finish any fabrics then you may need a heavier weight machine. My choice rested on certain factors. I want to be able to finish off any garments regardless or weight or bulk as I’m awful for finishing seams. I want to sew with lycra and stretch to make my own activewear and yoga leggings which my current machine cannot do. So these were my criteria when I started to look at overlocker models.

What To Look For In An Overlocker

When it comes to specifications you do get what you pay for which is why one of my first pieces of advice is that if you are looking to go upmarket, wait for sales and offers as any reduction will help! However, as with sewing machines, you don’t always need all the spec’s on the fanciest of machines so if you are on a budget it’s a good idea to whittle it down to the base set of specific requirements you have and then anything you find above those but within budget is great. Also its a good idea to purchase from a well-known brand if you need to get parts, attachments or get maintenance done.

What Specifications Should You Look For?

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Overlocker specifications can initially feel baffling. Even for some who is very comfortable with seeing terminology, overlocker have a whole new layer of assumed knowledge so before we discuss machine specifics, I’m will attempt to demystify the specification categories.

  • Adjustable Stitch Length – Its important to make sure that you can alter stitch lengths and tension for different fabrics. Most machines can do this but if you are looking for a cheaper machine do make sure that you have this functionality.
  • Number Of Thread Lines – e.g. 2, 3 or 4. It’s a good idea to make sure your machine can do three and four thread overlocking again to give you options and the greatest functionality when you sew.
  • Differential Feed – The differential feed is the way the machine feeds the fabric through, similar to a walking foot. It’s a good idea if this is adjustable as it means you can adjust for different fabrics to make sure you’re not stretching or gathering fabrics, or that you can do so purposefully.
  • Presser Foot & Knife Options – an extra high presser foot lift and a larger knife is useful when working with bulky fabrics.

Beginner Machine Options

Just for transparency, I have no affiliate agreement with any of these brands. These are just some of the machines I looked and held in my shortlist before choosing my overlocker.

Good Beginner Options

  • Janome 9300DX – this model is very compact and provides good value for money. Sews up to 1500 stitches a minute, with 3 or 4 thread overlocking, adjustable cutting and seam width. Whatsmore this machine, unlike others, uses standard sewing machine needles so very easy to care for and replace needles. Janome also has great access for maintenance and spare parts as John Lewis stock their whole range.
  • Singer Overlock 14SH754 – This model was my initial choice as its very user friendly and a wonderful entry-level option with colour coded thread lay-in lines, with 2-3-4 threading and a range of hem and stitch options. The only thing to be aware of with this model is that it is quite lightweight so may not be suitable for heavy fabrics that being said, if you’re happy finishing woven seams on your sewing machine and just want this for lightweight stretch projects then it would be great!
  • Brother M343D – When I first mentioned on instagram that I had chosen an overlocker I got lots of messages wishing me luck and asking what model I had got. I would say about 90% of the people I spoke with had bought this model and love it! It’s a fantastic entry level machine, well priced and able to handle the majority of projects and fabrics with 3 and 4 stitch options as well as a handy tension release disc and colour coded lay-in lines. The only note on this machine is that it can be a little noisy so make sure you are overlocking in a space where noise is okay!

These were my shortlist and honestly it would have been one of these three except for the fact that Singer had a sale on so I went a little more upmarket! My new model is the Singer 14HD854 Heavy Duty overlocker, as used in the costume department for Dancing on Ice, so you know its good for lycra and stretch. Its got coloured coded lay-in lines, an extra high presser foot, it does 1,300 stitches per minute and it has a much larger knife and a heavier motor to get through any fabric you care to throw at it. I’m so excited for you to see my beautiful new overlocker when it arrives and rest assured there will be a full introduction blog and vlog!

I hope this post has been a helpful guide for purchasing your first overlocker and has illuminated one small corner of the overlocking world for you! Let me know in the comments below if you found this post helpful and I’ll see you guys next time.