What Is the Difference Between Overlock and Coverstitch? 5 Key Distinctions

Are you a sewing enthusiast looking to unravel the mysteries of stitching techniques? What Is the Difference Between Overlock and Coverstitch is a question that often perplexes beginners and even seasoned sewists. In the world of fabric manipulation, understanding these two techniques can be a game-changer.

Whether you’re chasing the perfect seam finish or striving for impeccable hemming, you’ve stumbled upon the right thread. In this article, we’ll embark on a stitch-filled journey to decode the nuances between overlock and coverstitch, shedding light on their distinctive roles in the world of sewing. Let’s thread our way through this enlightening exploration!



  • Overlock is ideal for finishing edges and preventing fraying in non-stretch fabrics, while coverstitch excels in creating stretchable hems for knit garments.
  • Overlock stitches form a trimmed seam, limiting stretch, whereas coverstitch produces parallel lines on top and a single line on the bottom, offering high stretchability.
  • Overlock typically uses 3 or 4 threads for securing edges, while coverstitch employs 2 or 3 needles with 1 to 4 threads for various stitch configurations.
  • To visualize the difference, picture overlock for neat seams inside non-stretch garments, and envision coverstitch for professionally hemmed, stretchy T-shirts or activewear.

What is an Overlock Machine and How Does It Work?

An overlock machine, also known as a serger, plays a crucial role in enhancing the durability and neatness of sewn fabric edges. Unlike a regular sewing machine that typically uses one thread, an overlock machine operates with multiple threads simultaneously. This enables it to sew, trim, and finish fabric edges in one pass, creating a clean and professional-looking seam.

The key components of an overlock machine include loopers, needles, and feed dogs. The loopers are responsible for forming loops with the threads, while the needles secure the fabric layers together. The feed dogs help in smoothly advancing the fabric through the machine. The most common types of overlock stitches are the four-thread overlock and the three-thread overlock, each serving different purposes.

In a four-thread overlock, two needles create parallel lines of stitching, while the upper and lower loopers interlock the threads, providing a strong and secure seam. This stitch is ideal for joining fabric edges that require extra strength, such as in sportswear or heavy-duty fabrics. On the other hand, the three-thread overlock uses only one needle, making it suitable for lightweight fabrics where a finer finish is desired, like in the construction of delicate garments.

Understanding the working mechanism of an overlock machine is essential for achieving professional-quality finishes on various sewing projects. Whether it’s preventing fraying on raw fabric edges or neatly hemming garments, the overlock machine simplifies the sewing process by combining multiple steps into a single operation, making it a valuable tool for both beginners and experienced sewers alike.

What is a Coverstitch Machine and How Does It Work?

A coverstitch machine is a specialized sewing device designed for creating professional-looking hems, cuffs, and decorative stitching on garments. Unlike regular sewing machines, coverstitch machines have two needles and a looper, allowing them to create a double or triple row of stitching on the top side, with a parallel row of looping on the underside. This unique configuration makes it ideal for stretch fabrics commonly used in sportswear or knit garments.

The key feature of a coverstitch machine is its ability to sew simultaneously on both the top and bottom sides of the fabric. The machine employs one or two needles to form straight or zigzag stitches on the top layer, while a looper on the bottom side creates interlocking loops.

This dual-action stitching not only reinforces the seams but also provides flexibility, preventing the stitches from snapping when the fabric stretches. The coverstitch is commonly used for hemming, attaching neckbands, or creating decorative seams on T-shirts, leggings, and other knitwear.

For instance, when hemming a stretchy jersey fabric with a coverstitch machine, the needles on the top side create neat, parallel lines, securing the fabric edge. Simultaneously, the looper on the bottom forms loops that interlock with the top stitches, ensuring a strong and flexible hem that can withstand the stretch of the material. This makes the coverstitch machine a valuable tool for achieving professional-looking finishes on a variety of knit fabrics, adding both durability and aesthetic appeal to the final product.

What Is the Difference Between Overlock and Coverstitch

What is the Difference Between Overlock and Coverstitch?

When it comes to sewing machines, two commonly confused terms are overlock and coverstitch. These are distinct stitches used for different purposes in the world of sewing.

FunctionPrimarily used to finish edges of fabric, preventing fraying.Designed for hemming and creating professional-looking, stretchable seams.
Seam AppearanceForms a seam that trims excess fabric while simultaneously stitching.Creates parallel lines of stitching on the top side and a single line on the bottom, ideal for hems.
Seam StretchLimited stretch due to the trimming action during sewing.Offers a high degree of stretch, making it suitable for garments made with stretchy fabrics.
Number of Loopers2 loopers1 looper
Thread and Needle UsageTypically uses 3 or 4 threads and 2 needles.Uses 3 needles with 1 to 4 threads, depending on the desired stitch configuration.
Common Use CasesFinishing seams in woven and non-stretch fabrics.Hemming T-shirts, jersey knit garments, and activewear.

Understanding the key distinctions between overlock and coverstitch functions and applications will help you choose the right technique for your sewing projects.

What Is the Difference Between Overlock and Coverstitch

Let’s discuss these key distinctions between overlock machine and coverstitch machine in detail now.

Function of Overlock Machine

The overlock machine serves as a versatile tool in the realm of sewing, primarily focusing on finishing the edges of fabric to prevent fraying. Its fundamental function involves trimming excess fabric while simultaneously creating a stitch, contributing to a neat and polished appearance. This simultaneous cutting and stitching action make it efficient for tidying up raw edges, ensuring a clean finish on a variety of fabrics.

The overlock machine typically employs 3 or 4 threads, allowing for a sturdy and secure seam. This feature is particularly beneficial when working with woven and non-stretch fabrics, where preventing unraveling and achieving a polished look are paramount. Whether you’re sewing garments or other fabric items, an overlock machine is an invaluable addition to your sewing toolkit for achieving professional-looking edges and seams.

Function of Coverstitch Machine

On the other hand, the coverstitch machine is specifically designed for hemming and creating aesthetically pleasing, stretchable seams. Unlike the overlock, the coverstitch does not trim excess fabric during the sewing process. Instead, it produces parallel lines of stitching on the top side and a single line on the bottom, contributing to a visually appealing finish.

The coverstitch’s primary strength lies in its ability to provide a considerable amount of stretch in the seams, making it an ideal choice for garments made with stretchy fabrics like jersey knit. This machine usually uses 1 to 4 threads, depending on the desired stitch configuration. The absence of trimming ensures that the fabric’s edge remains intact, maintaining the flexibility and stretchability crucial for comfortable and well-fitted clothing.

Seam Appearance of Overlock Machine

The seam appearance created by the overlock machine is characterized by its simultaneous cutting and stitching action. As the machine trims the excess fabric, it forms a seam that not only prevents fraying but also provides a tidy and polished look to the fabric edge. The result is a clean and secure seam, making it particularly suitable for finishing edges in woven and non-stretch fabrics.

The overlock stitch is known for its efficiency in creating durable seams while simultaneously addressing the issue of fabric fraying. This makes it a valuable tool in garment construction and other sewing projects where maintaining the integrity of the fabric edge is crucial for the overall durability and aesthetics of the finished product.

Seam Appearance of Coverstitch Machine

In contrast, the coverstitch machine produces a distinct seam appearance that is characterized by parallel lines of stitching on the top side and a single line on the bottom. The absence of trimming during the sewing process ensures that the fabric’s edge remains intact, contributing to the flexibility and stretchability of the finished seam.

The coverstitch’s unique stitch formation makes it an excellent choice for hemming knit fabrics, providing a professional-looking finish that accommodates the stretch inherent in materials like jersey knit. The clean lines created by the coverstitch add both functionality and visual appeal, making it a popular choice for creating hems on various stretchy garments, including T-shirts and activewear.

Seam Stretch of Overlock Machine

The amount of stretch in a seam is a crucial factor in determining the suitability of a sewing technique for specific fabrics. The overlock machine, due to its simultaneous cutting and stitching action, provides a seam with limited stretch. The trimming process inherently reduces the fabric’s ability to stretch, making it more suitable for woven and non-stretch fabrics.

While the overlock stitch excels in preventing fraying and delivering a clean edge, its limited stretch may not be ideal for garments that require significant flexibility. Therefore, understanding the stretch characteristics of the fabric you’re working with is essential when deciding whether the overlock machine is the right choice for your project.

Seam Stretch of Coverstitch Machine

In contrast, the coverstitch machine offers a high degree of stretch in the seams it creates. The absence of trimming during the sewing process allows the fabric to maintain its natural stretchability, making the coverstitch particularly well-suited for sewing projects involving stretchy fabrics like jersey knit.

The stretch provided by the coverstitch makes it an excellent choice for applications where flexibility and movement are essential, such as hemming T-shirts, activewear, and other garments that require both durability and comfort. When working with stretch fabrics, the coverstitch’s ability to maintain the fabric’s inherent stretch becomes a valuable feature for achieving professional and functional results.

Number of Threads and Needles in Overlock Machine

The choice of thread usage in the overlock machine typically involves employing 2 needles and 3 or 4 threads. This multi-thread configuration contributes to the machine’s ability to create secure and durable seams while simultaneously trimming and finishing fabric edges. The use of multiple threads enhances the stability of the seam, preventing fraying and ensuring a polished appearance.

The overlock machine’s thread configuration allows for flexibility in adapting to different fabric types and thicknesses. Whether you’re working with lightweight cotton or heavier fabrics, the overlock stitch’s thread usage can be adjusted to meet the specific requirements of your sewing project, making it a versatile choice for various applications.

Number of Threads and Needles in Coverstitch Machine

In contrast, the coverstitch machine typically uses 3 needles and 1 to 4 threads, depending on the desired stitch configuration. The thread arrangement allows for the creation of the distinctive parallel lines on the top side and a single line on the bottom, contributing to the machine’s unique seam appearance.

The thread usage in the coverstitch machine emphasizes precision and control, especially when working on hems and decorative stitching. The ability to adjust the number of threads provides flexibility in achieving different decorative effects, making the coverstitch an excellent choice for adding both functionality and aesthetic appeal to a variety of stretch fabric projects.

Applications of Overlock Machine

Overlock machines are versatile tools widely used in the textile industry for sewing, finishing, and edging. Their unique capabilities make them indispensable in various applications, contributing to the efficiency and quality of garment production.

1. Seam Finishing and Edging

Overlock machines excel in providing a neat and durable finish to fabric edges. They are commonly employed for overlocking raw edges of fabric, preventing fraying and ensuring a clean, professional look. This application is crucial in garments like T-shirts, where the edges need a secure and polished finish.

2. Hemming and Stitching

Overlock machines are adept at creating sturdy hems, making them ideal for hemming the bottom of trousers, skirts, or sleeves. The speed and precision of overlock stitches contribute to the durability of the hem, ensuring it withstands regular wear and washing.

3. Decorative Stitching

Beyond functionality, overlock machines are used for decorative purposes. By using colorful threads and varied stitch patterns, they add flair to garments and textiles. This application is particularly popular in creating stylish and eye-catching designs on activewear or casual clothing.

4. Elastic Application

Overlock machines are essential for attaching elastic bands to garments, providing a comfortable and secure fit. This application is commonly seen in the waistbands of leggings, swimwear, and underwear, where stretch and flexibility are paramount.

5. Flatlock Seams for Comfort

In activewear and undergarments, flatlock seams created by overlock machines offer a smooth and comfortable finish. These flat and non-bulky seams reduce friction against the skin, preventing chafing and irritation during physical activities.

6. Lingerie and Intimate Apparel

Precision and delicacy are crucial in the production of lingerie and intimate apparel. Overlock machines play a key role in crafting garments with intricate details and ensuring that seams are not only secure but also inconspicuous for a seamless and comfortable feel.

Applications of Coverstitch Machine

Coverstitch machines are specialized sewing machines known for their ability to create professional-looking, stretchable seams. These machines are widely used in the garment industry for various applications that enhance the functionality and aesthetics of the final product.

1. Hemming Garments with a Professional Finish

One primary application of coverstitch machines is in creating neat and professional-looking hems. Whether it’s the hem of a T-shirt, the bottom of a dress, or the sleeves of activewear, coverstitch machines excel in producing durable, stretchable hems that maintain the fabric’s flexibility.

2. Attaching Elastic and Decorative Trims

Coverstitch machines are invaluable for attaching elastic bands and decorative trims to garments. The stretchability of coverstitch seams ensures that elastic components retain their flexibility, providing both comfort and functionality. Additionally, these machines are used to add decorative trims to enhance the aesthetic appeal of clothing items.

3. Creating Flatlock Seams for Active Apparel

In the realm of activewear, coverstitch machines are employed to create flatlock seams. These seams lie flat against the fabric, minimizing bulkiness and reducing friction during physical activities. This application is especially important in sportswear and athleisure garments.

4. Constructing Necklines and Collars

Coverstitch machines are commonly used for attaching and finishing necklines and collars. The flexibility of the coverstitch allows for a secure yet stretchable seam, ensuring that these areas maintain comfort and resilience, even with repeated movement and stretching.

5. Binding and Edging

Coverstitch machines are effective in creating bindings and edges on garments. This application is crucial for finishing raw edges, providing a polished appearance to items like blankets, towels, and even certain types of outerwear.

6. Quilting and Craft Projects

Beyond garment production, coverstitch machines find applications in quilting and various craft projects. The ability to create stretchable and durable seams makes them suitable for sewing together layers of fabric in quilts or securing edges in craft items.

How to Choose the Right Type of Sewing Machine for Your Sewing Needs?

Choosing the right type of sewing machine is crucial for ensuring a smooth and enjoyable sewing experience. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced sewer, selecting the appropriate machine for your specific needs is essential. In this guide, we’ll break down the key factors to consider when making this important decision.

1. Determine Your Skill Level

Before purchasing a sewing machine, assess your sewing skill level. For beginners, a basic machine with essential features is ideal, while advanced sewers may benefit from more advanced models with additional functions.

2. Identify Your Sewing Projects

Consider the type of sewing projects you plan to undertake. If you’re mainly working on simple projects like hemming or basic repairs, a mechanical sewing machine may suffice. For intricate and diverse projects, a computerized machine with various stitch options might be more suitable.

3. Assess the Machine’s Speed and Power

The sewing speed and power of the machine are critical factors. Industrial-grade projects may require a high-speed and powerful machine, while a slower-paced machine is sufficient for everyday domestic use.

4. Look at Stitch Options

Evaluate the stitch options available on the sewing machine. Basic models offer straight and zigzag stitches, but if you’re into quilting or embroidery, a machine with a variety of decorative stitches would be beneficial.

5. Consider the Machine’s Size and Weight

Think about the size and weight of the sewing machine. If you have limited space, a compact and portable machine may be preferable. Conversely, if you plan to keep it in one place, a larger, sturdier machine might be suitable.

6. Check the Ease of Use

Examine the user-friendliness of the machine. A straightforward design with easy-to-use controls is essential, especially for beginners. Look for features like a simple threading system and an easy-to-follow manual.

7. Budget Considerations

Establish a budget for your sewing machine. There’s a wide range of options available at different price points. While it’s tempting to go for a feature-rich model, choose one that aligns with your needs and budget.

Thus, choosing the right sewing machine involves assessing your skill level, considering your projects, and evaluating factors like speed, size, and ease of use. By understanding your specific requirements, you can make an informed decision that enhances your sewing experience.


In conclusion, mastering the What is the Difference Between Overlock and Coverstitch is a game-changer for any sewing enthusiast. Knowing when to employ each technique grants you unparalleled control over your creations. Whether it’s tidying up raw edges or achieving impeccable hems, these stitches are indispensable.

With practice, you’ll seamlessly transition between these two skills, creating garments that exude a professional touch. So, next time you embark on a sewing venture, consider the unique strengths of overlock and coverstitch, and watch your projects flourish with finesse and expertise. Elevate your sewing game today!


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  3. Reduction of work-related musculoskeletal risk factors following ergonomics education of sewing machine operators
  4. A randomized controlled trial evaluating the effects of new task chairs on shoulder and neck pain among sewing machine operators: the Los Angeles garment study

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an Overlock Machine Be Used for Decorative Stitching?

Yes, an overlock machine can be used for decorative stitching. It has the capability to create various decorative stitches, providing an alternative use beyond its primary function of finishing raw edges and seams.

Can a Coverstitch Machine Be Used for Hemming?

Yes, a coverstitch machine is specifically designed for hemming garments and creating professional-looking stitches. It provides a neat and stretchable finish, making it an ideal choice for hemming on various fabrics. Additionally, coverstitch machines offer alternatives to traditional hemming methods, such as blind hemming and topstitching, providing versatility and efficiency in garment construction.

What Are the Limitations of Using an Overlock Machine for Seam Finishing?

When it comes to seam finishing, overlock machines have certain limitations. While they excel at trimming and enclosing raw edges, they may not provide the same level of precision and professional finish as alternative methods such as using a coverstitch machine.

How Do Overlock and Coverstitch Machines Differ in Terms of Stitch Formation?

Overlock machines, also known as sergers, and coverstitch machines differ in terms of stitch formation. While overlock machines create a strong and secure seam with multiple threads, coverstitch machines use a double needle to create a professional-looking hem or topstitch.

Are Overlock and Coverstitch Machines Suitable for All Types of Fabrics?

Overlock and coverstitch machines have different suitability for fabric types. The pros and cons of using these machines depend on factors such as fabric weight, stretch, and desired finish. Careful consideration of fabric characteristics is necessary when choosing between the two.

Can an overlocker do a coverstitch?

Certainly! This machine is an excellent choice for those upgrading or getting their first overlocker. The inclusion of the Coverstitch feature allows for speedy garment creation, and it delivers a polished coverstitch hem for that highly professional finish.

Can a regular sewing machine do a coverstitch?

Surprisingly, many may not be aware that their sewing machine can create beautiful coverstitches using a twin needle. Especially beneficial for sewing knits, swimwear, or stretchy materials, this technique ensures elastic seams with a professional appearance.

Can you overlock on a normal sewing machine?

It’s a common misconception that only industrial sewing machines can perform overlocking. In reality, most sewing machines come equipped with an overlock stitch. Understanding its purpose opens up new possibilities, as demonstrated by the realization that even a regular sewing machine can handle overlocking tasks.

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