Do I Really Need an Overlocker? Or Can I be a Dressmaker Without?
November 9, 2020
Do you need an overlocker?
Do you want the short answer or the long answer to this one?
Short answer: No, you don’t need an overlocker.
I made all the clothes I’m wearing in these pictures entirely without an overlocker.
Long answer: No, you don’t need an overlocker, but it gives a more professional finish to many clothes. If you make clothes that you plan to sell, then I would say it is essential!
An overlocker creates a stitch that trims and wraps the raw edges of your project and can sew a seam at the seam time.
I discourage you from using solely an overlocker to sew woven fabrics. Wearing pressure on the seam can cause the stitches to pull out of the weave of the fabric. I would always sew a seam on the sewing machine as well to create stronger more secure seams on woven fabric. Knit/jersey fabric is constructed differently therefore there is less risk of this happening on these garments.
On woven garments I would use an overlocker to neaten the seam allowance. Either before sewing up (taking care not to trim off any of the seam allowance) or after the seam has been sewn (you can trim your seam allowance down).
Where to buy
Overlockers can be picked up for less than £150 when Lidl and Aldi have them as their special buys. These machines are great for the money. Spend a little bit more if you can afford to do so. Get a Jaguar or a Brother machine as they are easier to thread than other machines that I’ve seen.
If it’s your first experience of using an overlocker avoid buying a second-hand overlocker from eBay or Facebook. If something goes wrong, it can make it more difficult to know if there is something wrong with the machine or if it is operator error.
Why are overlockers so good?
You can’t completely do away with your sewing machine. An overlocker makes sewing up jersey projects so quick and easy, but your sewing machine can add the little finesses that an overlocker can’t do, such as topstitching and buttonholes.
To easily move between the two, it is handy, if you have the space, to have both your sewing machine and your overlocker set up side by side during a project.
You can use alternative seam finishing techniques that will finish garments neatly without an overlocker. You can use French seams or flat fell seams or even a simple zig zag stitch. Overlockers are not used in couture garments, in fact many seams are left raw.
You wouldn’t need an overlocker to neaten a fully lined garment as all your seams and raw edges will already be hidden inside the lining.
An overlocker is ideal for sewing knit or jersey garments as the stitches stretch and will stretch with the fabric. Most sewing machines have options for sewing stretch stitches too, my personal favourite being the triple straight stitch. It is super stretchy and really neat, but almost impossible to unpick. You can sew stretch fabrics with your sewing machine if it has a zigzag stitch.
You can book an overlocker lesson with me to make sure you’re getting the most from your machine.
If you think you’re going to get really into sewing and dressmaking or have been sewing for a number of years and you can afford to make the investment, then I would definitely suggest making the leap. It will elevate your sewing. However if you’re the sort of person who gets really into a new hobby for a short while and they quickly moves onto something new, then personally I would save your money. You can still make beautiful things without one.
When is it worth it?
If the fabric you’re using frays a lot, then an overlocker can be invaluable.
Overlocker stitches take a bit longer to unpick than regular stitches and if you’ve made a mistake and have trimmed off your seam allowance at a point you shouldn’t have, then that can be tricky, if not impossible to rectify.
All in all, overlockers are very hand pieces of kit, but they are nice to have, not essential. If you can afford to; invest in an overlocker, but if not you can still make amazing wearable clothes.