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I have been using an overlocker for years to tidy up seams with 3 threads. I’ve been stitching some stretch using a stretch stitch on my sewing machine and then overlocking the edges. BUT, I was wondering if I can just stitch with the overlocker and skip using the sewing machine for stretch? Do I then use 3 threads or 4 threads? What is the difference between using 3 and 4 threads? Is 4 threads less stretchy?

Also, does anyone sew all their garments with just the overlocker, not just stretch fabrics?



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  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Oct 6, 2009, 08.59 AMby katexxxxxx

    For goodness sake yes, do the seams wholly on the overlocker! :) Use a 4 thread seam for strength and when using woven fabrics of medium to heavy weights, and thicker stable knits (ones that don’t stretch too much, and things like polar fleece). Use a 3 thread seam on lighter fabrics, sheer fabrics, and where you need a LOT of stretch.

    I use a 4 thread seam on swimwear and dance wear. Although not quite as stretchy as a three thread seam, it is stronger, and you need strength in these garments.

    For pure neatening, I tend to use a 2 thread stitch. It makes an almost bulk-free and flexible drapy finish on unlined and loose lined garments. You may not have this option: check in the machine’s manual. Which overlocker do you have?

    2 Replies
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      Oct 7, 2009, 07.41 AMby thecuriouskiwi

      I was eagerly waiting for some wonderful and insightful advice to this question too, thanks for a great answer :) I use 3-thread all the time and pretty much sew as you suggest above so I’m glad to hear I’m using my overlocker correctly.

    • 10th_aug_on_holiday_large

      Oct 16, 2009, 05.25 PMby katensew

      Hello there,
      I made ice skating wear and always used 4 threads — this eliminates the need to use s stretch stitch and gives a very strong seam. I use 3 threads as a means of finishing off raw edges on garments where I want to keep the wider seam allowance – like woolen skirts or other skirts / trousers where I might have to let them out in the future !

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    Oct 6, 2009, 08.49 PMby sandrasews

    Wow! Thanks for this info! My manual gives none of this information. I have a Janome MyLock 434DR. I can’t seem to find anything on 2 thread stitch, which threads would this be? I assume one of the loopers and one of the needles?

    I’m a bit reluctant to start using just the overlocker to stitch up seams as I have a fancy new computerised sewing machine that I want to use at every opportunity! But going over each seam twice to both stitch and finish is a bit much…

    So I guess I’ll just start with some jersey dresses, shirts and leggings using 3 threads and see how I go. Wish me luck!

    3 Replies
    • 4343a36d4466c6f353525bdc97ba571be3128723_large

      Oct 7, 2009, 07.38 AMby thecuriouskiwi

      From what I learnt when I went Overlocker shopping is that not all overlockers can convert to a 2-thread. I have a Bernina 2-3-4 thread and I have to screw in a little attachment inside the front panel to convert to 2-thread :)

    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Oct 8, 2009, 03.55 PMby katexxxxxx

      If there is nothing in the manual, chances are you can’t do a 2 thread stitch.

      Which machine you use to do what is mostly a matter of what type of garment and what type of fabric you use. I use the overlocker just for neatening (where appropriate) on tailored garments and fabrics that ravel easily. I use it for seams on knits and where the advantage of neatening and seaming all in one pass is good. Fine fabrics, stretch fabrics, things like shirts…

      You need to get yourself a good book on using a serger. Take a look on Amazon – there are loads about.

    • P3210004_large

      Oct 8, 2009, 10.22 PMby sandrasews

      Yes, I think a serger book is a good idea. I really do want to learn more about working with stretch.

      Thank you all so much for the advice.

  • 601a1649d9394543c6a2b7a878a7807d4ae3693f_large

    Oct 8, 2009, 10.32 PMby norah

    I too have just bought a new Janome ovelocker last month so this advice has been brilliant . One question Kate you mention books. I have looked on Amazon but they all seem to be a bit dated though I presume that really shouldn’t matter but is there any book you would particularily recommend – thanks once again

  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Oct 9, 2009, 12.07 PMby katexxxxxx

    Yes, several:

    Sewing With Sergers: Gail Brown and Pati Palmer. ISBN 0-935278-25-7 (Portland, Palmer/Pletsch 1991) $8.95/£7.95

    The best basic serger book I can find for the price! Takes the mystery and terror out of basic serging, and starts you on the way to fancier stuff! Shows you how to get the best out of your new toy.

    The Serger Idea Book:Anne Hesse Price. ISBN 0-935278-18-4 (Portland, Palmer/Pletsch 1989) $19.95/£14.95

    This one takes you beyond the basics and shows both how to do some nifty techniques and where to use them. It neatly removes all need to be scared of playing with the tension dials! It also shows what can be done by experimenting with different threads, and gives some ideas about what to try. It even has some ideas for Heirloom serging!!

    Complete Serger Handbook (A Sterling/Sewing Information Resources book) by Chris James (Paperback – 2 Jul 1998) £9.99

    This one is the serger bible! Not to be missed.

    Serger Secrets: High-Fashion Techniques for Creating Great-Looking Clothes by Mary Griffin, Pam Hastings, and Agnes Mercik (Paperback – Nov 2001) £12.70

    Full of interesting techniques for sergers and cover stitch machines.

    1 Reply
    • Crouched_large

      Jun 15, 2010, 03.39 PMby pinprincess

      Thanks for the book recommendations! I have a Singer serger book of some sort (can’t remember the name and I’m not where I can go look) that has been helpful but I still feel like there are some knowledge gaps. I’ll be looking into some of these :)

  • 601a1649d9394543c6a2b7a878a7807d4ae3693f_large

    Oct 10, 2009, 06.35 PMby norah

    Thank you very much for your suggestions . I am going to get the Complete serger hand book. . I have also looked on You Tube and they have some quite good videos explaining the basics. But I want to move on from there so I will buy the book .

  • 11b19d1d669e587d2bcb44b47c8b961718051700_large

    Oct 11, 2009, 09.02 AMby sazzle

    I have had a few sergers (overlockers in my end of the world) and I have to say whilst my book – serge with confidence is good I’m not sure a book is really needed except for glossy pictures of what the stitches should look like. If you have a Janome I would highly recommend buying the Janome “overlockers creative sewing guide” Although a word of warning don’t go on the strength of 4 threads alone for a high stress area such as the crotch seam on a pair of pants, you should do a reinforcing stitch with your sewing machine or add tape for extra strength (I learnt the hard way with one almighty ripping sound in front of a grade one class!!)

    1 Reply
  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Oct 11, 2009, 02.35 PMby katexxxxxx

    I use an additional straight seam there on things like jeans. Works a treat, I have to say. And I also top stitch from the outside… 3 seams for the price of one! :) Where ever you jeans give way, it won’t be up the bum! ;)

    1 Reply
    • 1ea8f961776a5fe83ce32501b0f5b0b7d32f5d9d_large

      Oct 13, 2009, 03.33 AMby oscarthegrouch108

      hmmm, maybe that’s what i need to do with the hubby’s pants……he’s heavy set and is the typical male when he sits (sprawled legs), putting immense stress on his crotch seams. i swear i’ve fixed every pair of pants twice!

  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Oct 13, 2009, 09.35 AMby katexxxxxx

    The GMNT does that… I stitch the seam with small stitches and a narrow zigzag to give it some stretch, tidy that up with a 4 thread wide overlock, and then topstitch from the outside with the very narrow zigzag, or use topstitching thread. Actually, what I did was teach HIM to sew jean like that! :D

  • Poe_large

    Oct 16, 2009, 03.49 PMby ladykatza

    Oooo, this is good to know. I’m about to sew a pair of yoga pants.

  • Hs_square_large

    Apr 18, 2011, 09.54 PMby cooi

  • Missing

    May 25, 2013, 11.26 AMby Margaret Hansen

    I have a Bernette 234. When you use a 3thread overlock, how do you know when to do a 4mm or a 6mm seam? My machine has been gathering dust for at least 6years even after being serviced. I bought it 2nd hand thru a dealer. Dont think much of the servicing it has had as hubby pulled it right down and found the metal discs and the rods the thread goes round were going rusty. Not new rust. They have all been polished clean now and my machine has never been so easy to adjust and operate. I nearly threw it out :(

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Nov 12, 2013, 08.52 AMby katexxxxxx

      Machines should never be left that long without a service, even if they are not being used.

      The rust has nothing to do with the quality of service, and everything to do with being stored in a damp atmosphere. If you are going to mothball a machine for long-term storage, pack it back in the original packaging wherever possible, and add some sachets of damp-absorbing crystals.

      If it’s going to sit for a month or two without being used, clean it thoroughly and oil it before putting it away and again when you next use it. And put a dust cover over it!

      Clean it out regularly and give it new needles each time you start a new project.

      As professionals, we tend not to do the new project = new needle thing, as we are often using two overlockers on one project (threaded for different processes or colours) or the same on two or three different projects at once. And a single project can include several dofferent garments! We dust them out two or three times a day, depending on what we’re sewing, oil every couple of days at least, and give a new needle or two almost every day, and up to three times in one morning session, depending on what we are sewing!

  • Missing

    Jun 14, 2015, 10.46 PMby Ingrid Bratt

    Hi. Not sure if someone can help me. I’m using huskyvarma 936 with 3 and 4 threads to overlock stretch fabrics but the problem comes when the fabric is to thin. Simplemind my machine doesn’t overlock.. I change the tension, etc etc but nothing to do… I think im using an incorrect tension but belive me I spend 2 days trying to fix it and no luck :( i have always the same problem … Or the fabric create waves or 1 of the threads below is come out all the time.please I’m desesperate. Any suggestions? Thanks a lot in advance!

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