overlocker tips sewing projects

5 Essential Overlocker Tips to Supercharge Your Sewing Projects

Overlock machines (also called sergers) are great for finishing seams neatly. But they can seem tricky to use at first. This blog covers five simple tips to help you get better overlock stitching.

  • Tip 1: Get the right overlock needle
  • Tip 2: Use the right stitch length
  • Tip 3: Adjust the tension dials correctly
  • Tip 4: Overlock before you sew
  • Tip 5: Go slowly and practice

Did you know these can make your overlock stitching look much neater? Read on to learn more!

Tip 1 – Get the Right Overlock Needle

Using the correct overlock needle is really important. These needles have a tiny groove that allows the thread to pass through easily. A regular sewing machine needle can cause thread breaks and messy stitches.

Always check what needle type and size your overlocker manual recommends. Change the needle regularly, too, as overlock needles get duller faster than regular ones.

Tip 2 – Use the Right Stitch Length

Tip 2 - Use the Right Stitch Length
Photo credit: freepik

Stitch length makes a big difference to your overlock seams. A length that is too long or too short can cause loose, messy stitching.

As a general rule, use:

  • Longer stitches (3-4mm) for stretchy knit fabrics
  • Shorter stitches (2-2.5mm) for non-stretch woven fabrics

Check your fabric and adjust the stitch length accordingly for smooth, professional-looking seams.

Tip 3 – Adjust the Tension Dials

The thread tension dials control how loose or tight the threads feeding into the overlocker are. Getting these adjusted properly is key to neat overlock stitches.

Most manufacturers suggest setting the tension around 3-5 for a starting point. From there, you may need to:

  • Tighten the tension by turning dials up for thicker threads/fabrics
  • Loosen the tension by turning the dials down for thinner threads/fabrics

Make small adjustments and do test stitches until you get an even, flat seam.

Tip 4 – Overlock Before You Sew

It’s usually better to overlock the seam edges first, before stitching the seam on your regular machine. This helps prevent fabric fraying and  makes the seams stronger.

Simply overlock each edge separately before pinning and stitching the seam as usual. This extra step gives garments and projects a professional, long-lasting finish.

Tip 5 – Go Slowly and Practice

Overlockers move very quickly compared to regular sewing machines. It takes practice to guide fabric smoothly through the overlocker without bunching or stretching.

Start slowly and go at a pace where you  can control the fabric comfortably. Overlock some seam samples first before moving to real projects.

Going slowly and practicing your technique will help you master smooth, professional overlock stitches!


What is an overlocker machine?

An overlocker (also called a serger) is a special sewing machine. It trims seam edges and sews over them to prevent fraying.

Why are the right needles important for an overlocker?

Overlocker needles have a tiny groove to allow threads to pass through easily, but using the wrong needle can cause skipped stitches or thread breaks.

How do I set the right stitch length on an overlocker?

Use longer stitches (3-4mm) for stretchy knits. Use shorter stitches (2-2.5mm) for non-stretch woven fabrics.

How do I adjust the tension dials properly?

Start with tensions around 3-5. Tighten for thicker fabrics, loosen for thinner fabrics. Test and adjust until stitches look even and flat.

Is it better to overlock seams before or after sewing?

It’s usually best to overlock raw seam edges first before stitching the seam. This prevents fraying and makes seams stronger.


Using the right needle, tension settings, and stitch length are key to getting great overlock stitches. Taking it slowly and practicing your skills will also help a lot.

Following these 5 simple tips from experienced overlocking pros can take your overlock seam finishes to the next level. Why not give them a try on your next sewing project?


Photo credit: pexels

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