10 of the best overlockers in 2023 – Brother, Singer, Janome machines
Discover the best overlockers – aka serger sewing machines – plus threads and needles with our complete guide. Read our overlocker reviews and pick your favourite!
Welcome to the wonderful world of overlock sewing machines! If you're enjoying making your own clothes, but finding your usual sewing machine needs a helping hand at times, it could be time to treat yourself to an overlock sewing machine – also known as a serger sewing machine. They'll speed up your hems and seams and give your me-made wardrobe a professional finish.
Once you've got your sewing kits for beginners sorted and caught the dressmaking bug, now could be the time to think about buying a overlock sewing machine. We've gathered some of the best overlockers on the web for you to purchase and add to your craft room!
These nifty machines, trim the seam as you sew, enclosing the raw edge of the fabric inside a thread casing. We've been eyeing them up every time they appear on The Great British Sewing Bee for a while now, so we asked our inhouse dressmaking pro Roisin McKenna – Technical Editor for Simply Sewing magazine – to talk us through what to look for in an overlock machine, and to share her tips for the best serger sewing machines out there.
What is an overlocker?
Overlockers are a type of sewing machine. They're specifically designed to join fabrics together with an overcast/overlock stitch. Overlockers are great for making clothing.
There's a few major differences between overlockers and your classic sewing machines. First is the speed. Typically overlockers can stitch at twice the rate of sewing machines. They also use between 3-5 cones of thread at one time which means they can create lots of different types of stitches. Lastly, overlockers automatically trim away excess fabric when being used, a function sewing machines can't perform. This saves you time and gives a beautiful professional finish to your peices.
What does an overlocker do?
Overlockers (or serger sewing machines) are used to finish raw fabric edges. They have grown in popularity in the last 50 years since domestic overlockers have become widely available and affordable to the home sewist.
For complete beginners to dressmaking, there are lots of stitches available on a domestic sewing machine (browse our best sewing machines for beginners guide) such as zigzag and overcast stitch. These can be brilliant for finishing raw edges and making sure garments last a long time.
However, many dressmakers are interested in overlockers as they bring a professional level of finishing to garments in a quick and easy manner. As well as producing a series of stitches over the raw edge, overlockers also cut away the raw edge of the fabric as you sew for a neat and precise finish. You can also use an overlocker to stitch the seam and finish the raw edges all in one go – this means that the time taken to sew and finish one seam can be halved.
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Best Overlockers in 2023
Best overlocker and serger sewing machines
- Best beginner: Jaguar Starter 098 (Amazon, £269.99)
- Best budget: Brother M343D (Ebay, £219)
- Best intermediate: Janome 8002DG (Amazon, £249)
- Best for reliability: Brother 734DS (John Lewis, £229.99)
- Best for speed: Jaguar Advanced 099 (Ebay, £319)
- Best for ease of use: Singer 14SH754 (Amazon, £265)
- Best compact size: Janome 9200D Overlocker (John Lewis, £299)
- Best design: Pfaff Hobbbylock 2.0 (Ebay, £329)
- Best for large projects: Janome 6234XL Overlocker (Amazon, £479)
- Best advanced: Janome Air Thread 2000D (Amazon, £979)
1. Brother M2104D Overlocker
Best for: Beginners looking for a simple, quality overlocker
One of the best overlocker machines at the lower end of the price range is the Brother M343D overlock machine. It can finish seams with 3 or 4 threads and offers several stitch options, including narrow hem, rolled hem and ribbon lock stitches. The side cover of the machine is removable to convert the flat bed into a free arm, ideal for sleeves or trouser hems. The threading system is simple (as overlockers go!) with colour coded thread path illustrations and easy-to-use dials. See our guide below for the thread and needles to use with overlockers for a balanced, secure stitch.
2. Jaguar Starter 098 Overlocker sewing machine
Best for: Beginners on a budget
We’ve started with an overlocker at the lower end of the price range for anyone looking to dip their toes in the water. This overlocker is simple to thread and can stitch with 3 or 4 threads as well as having a rolled hem setting (ideal for finishing the edges of lightweight fabrics). The machine has a differential feed setting which allows you to control the amount the machine stretches or gathers your fabric as you sew.
3. Janome 8002DG Overlock machine
Best for: Beginner – intermediate, Janome fans
Next on the list is the Janome 8002DG. Janome is a popular choice for many sewists and this overlocker won’t disappoint. The thread guide is colour coded so you know which thread sits in which position – very useful as threading overlockers can be a chore to begin with, but once you get the hang of it you will be able to thread it in no time, much like learning to thread a regular sewing machine. Like the Brother and Jaguar models above the Janome 8002DG can stitch a rolled hem and has a differential feed setting to help sew stretch fabrics and fabrics of different weights.
4. Brother 734DS overlocker sewing machine
Best for: Intermediate level sewists looking for a fast, reliable machine
This overlocker features 3 or 4 thread stitching and cuts the fabric as it finishes the edge. Useful features include colour coded threading guides, adjustable stitch length and cutting width as well as a fast lower looper threading system. The plastic bed (side) of the machine is removable to allow you to have either a larger flat surface for overlocking or to have a smaller free-arm, ideal for finishing trouser or sleeve hems. The machine also comes with a handy accessory kit including tweezers (helpful for threading), spool caps (stops your thread spools from moving around as you sew), a screwdriver, cleaning brush and four machine needles to get you started!
5. Jaguar Overlocker Advanced 099
Best for: Intermediate level sewists who will make use of the additional presser feet
This Jaguar machine stitches an impressive 1300 stitches per minute! One of the stand out features of this machine is that the front cover drops down (as with most overlockers) but the front left-hand side of the machine also swings open to allow you to access the thread guides for super easy threading. The machine can stitch with 2, 3 or 4 threads as well as a rolled hem setting and changeable differential feed settings. The machine also comes with an accessory kit worth £100! Presser feet for overlockers can be pricey but this kit contains five feet that will help you sew a variety of fabrics and trims, included are a 5mm blind hem foot and a 10mm blind hem foot, piping foot, gathering foot and elasticator foot.
6. Singer 14SH754 Overlocker
Best for: Singer fans looking for an attractive, easy to use machine for lots of overlocking!
Singer is a household name that people know and trust when it comes to sewing machines and overlocker sewing machines. This 14SH754 serger sewing machine offers six stitch options to ensure the perfect finish no matter what your project: Blind Hems, Rolled Hems, Flatlocking, finishing raw edges and sewing seams – if that sounds like a lot of stitches…it is! This overlock machine has a colour coded threading system for easy setup. The differential feed lever allows you to adjust the speed of the feed dogs – really useful when stitching with stretch fabrics. The left side of the machine acts as a storage compartment which, when removed, also converts the bed into a free arm, great for hemming cuffs etc. This is an affordable machine that looks great and performs well with everything a dressmaker or homewares maker would need at this pricepoint.
7. Janome 9200D Overlocker
Best for: Intermediate level sewists looking for a speedy, compact machine.
The Janome 9200D Overlocker is exclusive to John Lewis. It’s a machine best-suited to intermediate sewists and stitches light-medium weight fabrics with ease. Threading the machine is once again made simpler by the colour-coded thread paths. It’s a small and quiet machine with lots of stitch options allowing you to sew with 3 threads, 4 threads and stitch pretty rolled hems. The reason this machine is one of the best overlockers is because it's a compact machine that stitches fast and gives your projects a professional looking edge.
8. Pfaff Hobbylock Serger 2.0
Best for: Intermediate sewists who want a machine as Instagram-able as it is functional.
The PFAFF hobbylock overlocker sewing machine is a modern, attractive machine. The machine offers many practical features, including 15 (!) stitches to allow to you cut, stitch and finish seams in one go. The 15 stitches include variations of 2 thread, 3 thread, 4 thread, flatlock and rolled edge stitches. Additional features include adjustable stitch length, built in rolled hem feature, a free-arm for sewing sleeves and trouser legs, a safety lockout (so the machine can not sew when the front cover is open) and extra presser foot height, great for stitching bulky seams.
9. Janome 6234XL
Best for: Beginner and Intermediate level sewists alike who have a little more to spend on an industry favourite.
This machine is a workhorse which is perhaps why it features on The Great British Sewing Bee. It’s also a firm favourite of the team at Simply Sewing magazine! The machine can stitch an impressive 1300 stitches per minute and has a high lifting presser foot which is great for inserting and removing bulkier projects from under the foot. Like many of the other overlockers listed here, this model has a colour coded threading system making threading it a simple act of following the relevant colour!
The Janome 6234XL overlocker reviews are really positive and it's a popular choice among sewers everywhere. There are many tutorial videos available on Youtube to show you how to do everything from threading the machine to rolled hem.
10. Janome AirThread 2000D Professional Air Thread Overlocker
Best for: Advanced sewists with a high budget who are drawn to the air-threading feature.
The final machine in our best overlockers round up is the impressive heavy-duty Janome Air Thread. It can sew a huge range of stitches including 2, 3 and 4 thread variations of standard, safety, overcast, rolled hem, picot edge, lettuce leaf edge and flatlock stitch. The standout feature of this machine is air-threading capability. Threading overlockers can be fiddly and for those who would prefer to avoid manually threading the upper and lower loopers this is a great option. If you want to see how air threading machines work pop over to YouTube and watch a demonstration - they’re fantastic!
The machine has many advanced features and would be perfect for anyone who sews for a living or someone who sews a lot on a regular basis. On top of all of the built in features, the solid cast aluminium frame makes this an attractive machine too. And finally we had to give this overlocker bonus points for a built in needle threader – a rarity on overlocker machines.
Best overlocker threads
When sewing with an overlocker you need to use threads that contain more than the standard 100m. Smaller thread spools will run out quickly and could be an expensive way of finishing the inside seams of a dress! As a rough guide, look for threads that have 1000m minimum for stress-free sewing. Your will need 2, 3 or 4 cones of the same colour depending on whether you are using a 2, 3 or 4 thread setting. If possible, try to pick up four cones of the same colour as then you will always be able to work with the maximum number of threads. If you’re in a bind, use similar shades such as three black and one navy, you shouldn’t be able to notice the difference if you thread one of the needles with the different colour.
Coats moon thread
Great quality, durable threads which can be used on your sewing machine or overlocker. 1000 metres means you won’t run out mid seam and the threads are available in a wide range of colours, this pack of ten is also available in white.
Gutterman is a well-known thread brand that provide quality threads for dressmaking and homewares. Polyester thread is strong and washes well so is suitable for a wide range of projects.
These 5000 yard cones are great value for the amount on the cone. The thread is high performance and will work well with a range of fabric weights.
Lialina Overlocking thread
This 100% polyester thread comes in a wide selection of colours – there’s bound to be a shade to match your project and with 3000 yards of thread on each cone you won’t be running out mid seam!
Assorted Coats Moon Thread, Pastel Colours
Another Simply Sewing magazine favourite, these threads come in a range of pastel colours and are great for dressmaking projects as you will be sure to find a match for your fabric. These 1000m spools can also be used on your sewing machine.
Best overlocker needles
Just like with a regular sewing machine, overlockers require you to match the needle to the type and weight of fabric you are working with. The universal needle equivalent for overlockers would be the Overlocker Needle. Overlocker Needles have a stronger shaft than universal needles as overlockers sew at a much higher speed.
Schmetz 5 x 90/14 overlock/serger needles (for medium weight fabrics)
These size 90/14 needles are perfect for overlocking medium weight fabrics such as velvet, corduroy, linen and lightweight wool.
Hemline Overlocker needles 5 x 80/12 (for lightweight fabrics)
These size 80/12 needles are perfect for overlocking lightweight fabrics such as cotton and silk.
Hemline Ballpoint needles x5 (for stretch fabrics)
Ballpoint needles are essential for sewing with stretch fabrics, the rounded tip allows the needle to separate the weave of the fabric instead of piercing it which can cause snags.
Hemline Jeans needles x5 (for denim and densely woven fabrics)
Great for overlocking denim, heavy weight twill fabrics workwear and heavy linens
Singer overlock needles x5
These needles are designed for signer machines and will provide the strength and sharpness needed to achieve a perfect finish.
How to use an overlocker
Once you've purchased your overlocker you'll need to learn how to use it. We're going to talk you through the very basic steps of using the machine so you can start sewing right away!
Threading your overlocker
First, you need to thread your overlocker. The threading process differs between models so always read the manual.
Threading from scratch
If your machine doesn't have any thread then you must thread through the looper and the needle. Thread each cone one at a time. Start with the upper looper then the lower looper and finally the needle
Threading your looper
1. Find your thread and take it up through the eye on the thread hanger and down into its matching thread guide. This will be on top of your machine.
2. Now take your thread through the tension mechanism and into the thread guide below the tension dial or lever.
3. Your machine will have coloured dots or lines indicating to you which guides should be threaded first. Follow the instructions and take your thread through each, along the threading run.
4. Pull your thread through the eye of the looper
5. Pull the end towards the back of your machine leaving 15cm-20cm hanging free
6. Repeat for every looper, following the corresponding colour-coded runs
Threading your needle
1. The first and second step is the same as threading your looper. Copy the steps above.
2. Grab your thread and take it to the left, under the guide and over the top thread path. Follow the thread run.
3. Slide your thread through the wire guide and through the eye of the needle
4. Pull the end of your thread to the back of your machine and under the foot
5. Leave around 15-20cm hanging free
6. Repeat for the other needle/needles
Threading if your machine already has threads
If your machine already has some threads in place (you're just looking to add more when it's running out) then the knot method is the easiest form of threading.
- Use a flat reef knot to tie your new thread to the old thread.
- Ensure the pressure foot lever is up
- Set the tension dial to 0
- Wind your newly tied threads through your machine using the handle
- Ease the knotted part of your thread through as they can get caught or stuck
- Stop just as the knot reaches the eye of your needle
- Snip just before the knot
- Thread through the needle
- Once you've threaded reset the tension
For a more detailed guide to using your overlocker, we'd recommend watching Sew Essentials video below.
We hope our overlocker reviews help you decide which machine you'd like to add to your craft room! Share your sewing creations with us over on Facebook and Instagram. Now you've got your new machine you'll need some projects to work on. Check out our best blouse patterns to sew as well as our plus size sewing patterns and our best maternity sewing patterns.
Simply Sewing magazine’s Technical Editor Roisin loves every part of the dressmaking process, from sketching to sewing the final design, and enjoys working with luxury fabrics such as silk and chiffon. She’s a sewing pattern pro with a skill for adjusting and hacking patterns to fit and for editing dressmaking instructions to make them accessible to sewists of all abilities. Before she came to Simply Sewing, the tea-drinking fabric-lover ran her own handmade Lingerie Etsy shop. She drinks a lot of tea and shares a mix of dressmaking projects and fashion history on her Instagram @roisin_handmade.
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