What is an overlock?
You can tell how an overlock works just from its name. The key part of the word is “lock”. “Over” tells us that you are sewing over the edge. This is a special type of sewing machine. It locks the upper thread with the lower thread so that the seam sits. An overlock works with two needles and two hooks. Several sewing types are possible on this basis.
An overlock sewing machine carries out several work stages at the same time: It sews layers of fabric together, overlocks them and makes precise cuts to get rid of excess material. The machine makes sewing considerably easier and you can complete your sewing work much faster.
This is what an overlock machine can do
Do you sew quite often and do you want perfect interior seams? Then it’s worthwhile investing in an overlock sewing machine. It specialises in fabric edges and can process these quickly and with precision. This sewing tool will make around 60 % of your sewing work significantly easier. The seam is also elastic, as it isn’t merely sewn with an upper and lower thread, but with three or more threads. This means that the overlock is also suitable for stretch fabrics.
Up until a few years ago, the overlock sewing machine was used primarily in industrial facilities. But now, increasing numbers of hobby tailors are captivated by its advantages.
Overlock, coverlock or sewing machine – the differences
When searching for a sewing machine, you quickly come across the coverlock. Beginners especially will be asking themselves: What are the different sewing tools suitable for?
The machine you need depends on your preferences. We can give you a brief overview of how the three variants are different from each other.
Working on fabric edges – cutting, overlocking and sewing together in one. The machine is fitted with an upper knife and a lower knife.
Sewing together fabrics with decorative seams or creating a professional hem seam, for a t-shirt for instance.
It has a vast number of stitches, including decorative stitches. You can also create buttonholes effortlessly with a sewing machine.
Projects for the overlock
What are all the things you can do with the overlock? The answer: almost everything. If you’re looking for a tidy interior seam, it’s unbeatable. The machine succeeds especially when it comes to stretch and thin fabrics. Sewing jersey, lycra, baby things, swimwear, lingerie and many other fabrics becomes significantly easier and faster. It can even process woolens, lining material and softshell.
You see? You have an extensive choice of options with the overlock. It is especially important to make sure you have the right needles and the perfect stitch. There are also many different instructions which were created with overlock sewing in mind.
The correct preparation
Before you start with your first sewing project on your new overlock, it needs a little preparation work. First, familiarise yourself with the machine, read the manual or take a look at our W6 videos. You can find these on the W6 website under the Service / Help heading. Select your machine type and you will receive a selection of detailed videos on the first steps with your machine, or for individual stages, such as threading. You will quickly get to know your product. Then, you can test out the seams on spare pieces of fabric. If you have enough space at home, set up a fixed sewing station. This means you don’t have to put away your overlock each time you use it, or set it up again the next time.
First, look for an easy project for you to practice with. A loop scarf is an excellent place to start. Gradually, you can try out different things such as a newborn baby hat or a simple skirt.
What to watch out for when sewing with the overlock
With an overlock, the sewing process is different from using a sewing machine. What should you look out for? We’ll tell you.
When using an overlock, threading the thread is a daunting prospect to begin with. Especially because there are at least three threads, often more, which are used. We’ll admit, it’s a little more complicated. But with a bit of practice, you’ll be a deft hand at it, just like with the conventional sewing machine.
Pick up your overlock manual and read the chapter on threading. Follow the instructions closely and take a look at our detailed threading videos if you need to.
There are handy tools such as a needle threader and tweezers available which will make the threading process easier for you.
Repeat the threading process a few times, and soon you will be able to guide the thread through the machine without looking. It also helps if you use various different colours of thread to practice. You will see straight away which thread goes which way.
Fabric clips vs. pins
When using an overlock, it’s not enough to ensure that the needles don’t hit the pins. The knife can’t come into contact with the pins either. Otherwise, these become ragged and blunt, and sometimes unusable.
If you want to use pins, place these lengthwise – never crosswise – at a distance of two or three centimetres from the edge of the fabric. You can add one more pin if you wish, to keep the fabric together.
Another method is to hold the fabric together using fabric clips. These won’t inadvertently end up under the knife. You have another advantage when working with very sensitive fabrics, where pins may quickly leave holes in the fabric.
You can only use special needles for your overlock. The special overlock needles are sturdier than conventional needles, and are adapted to suit the higher sewing speeds of the overlock. In your manual, you will also find tips on the best sewing needles you should use.
Securing the thread chain
When using a normal sewing machine, you lock the seam at the beginning and end so that it remains tightly closed. When using an overlock, you have several options for securing the thread chain. For most of the common methods, sew around ten centimetres above the fabric. Then you have the ideal basis for various versions:
- Tying off: You can tie off the excess thread chain using a darning needle with a big eye. Pull the thread around five to six centimetres into the seam. Then cut off the remaining thread.
- Knotting: A very simple version is tying a knot at the edge of the fabric.
Separating the seam
Sometimes mistakes happen: You need to separate a seam. Even when sewing normally, no one likes to do it. And for an overlock seam, you have to loosen several threads at once. Pick up your seam ripper and guide it between the two layers of fabric. This separates the upper thread loops. Next, you can pull out the intact threads. This is easier if you use tweezers. You can rub the remaining thread out of the fabric brilliantly using an eraser. Alternatively, you can use the rubber end of your W6 seam ripper.
Collection container for cuttings
When you cut off the fabric edges, the overlock produces cuttings. A few models have a collection container for these. This keeps your workstation free from lint and the scraps of fabric are gathered in the container. Of course, this has to be emptied at regular intervals. We even have large collection containers available to choose from in our accessories, depending on your overlock model.
Cleaning your overlock
Just like the sewing machine, an overlock also needs to be cleaned at regular intervals. Follow the instructions in your machine handbook closely. Generally, our overlock machines are very easy to open. You can often open the flap of the housing without loosening any screws.
The vacuum cleaner with a narrow nozzle can get rid of most of the fuzz and thread remnants. A fine brush is perfect for getting into those little nooks and crannies. Do not used compressed air. This blows the dust and residue deeper into the overlock. Once there, it can cause a lot of damage. Oil the places which are listed in the instructions using high-quality W6 sewing machine oil.
The overlock as a replacement for the conventional sewing machine?
Using an overlock, you can sew the most varied of projects – from simple sewn items for beginners to small challenges for advanced users, right up to demanding creations for the pros. But you mustn’t forget one thing: An overlock is not a replacement for a normal sewing machine. It can only do these three things: cutting, overlocking and sewing together. Some fabrics simply cannot be sewn with an overlock.
If you would like to use decorative seams, buttonholes, decorative stitches or other applications, you can’t do these without the conventional sewing machine. And for embroidery too, you need a special embroidering machine. However, you do have the advantage that W6 Wertarbeit offers combo machines which can sew as well as embroider.
Accessories for your overlock and more from the sewing experts
At W6 Wertarbeit, you will find brand quality overlock models for beginners, advanced users and professionals, all for a fair price. You will find everything from one source. We also offer a vast number of accessories for the overlock: Tweezers, needle threaders, cover hoods, waste containers, needles and many more.
You can also delight in a comprehensive service package. We would be happy to advise you on our various overlock machines. Together, we can find the ideal model for your demands and needs. Note: Register on our website to benefit from our 10-year warranty.
We also offer a maintenance package for a W6 fixed price. The team at our master workshop know these machines inside and out. Your W6 Wertarbeit overlock machine will be ready to use again in no time at all.