Here's an introduction to sewing machines, sergers (overlockers) and coverstitch machines.
Your regular sewing machine is all you need to start sewing clothes. While a serger (overlocker) often makes sewing faster, and provides a more neat inside, a regular sewing machine will get you far enough.
There are a few things you need to consider if you're sewing in knit fabrics with a sewing machine. Apart from that, if your sewing machine provides you with the possibility to adjust the presser foot pressure that could be useful, but not necessary.
Do check your sewing machine manual and make sure you know how to thread it correctly. Correct threading is necessary, for example to avoid skipped stitches.
Full disclosure: Threads by Caroline is an ambassador of the Janome and Babylock brands, which we use and are very happy with. Naturally there are other great brands as well.
Presser foot pressure – related to how the machine feeds the fabric through the machine. You may want to reduce the pressure a bit when sewing in stretch fabric.
Thread tension dial – this is where you adjust the thread tension.
Stitch length – where you adjust the length of the stitches.
Stitch width - the width of the stitches. Not applicable for all seams, for example a straight stitch.
Needle – make sure to use the correct needle for the fabric you’re sewing in. For stretch fabrics, a stretch needle is usually recommended.
Common seams to sew with a sewing machine:
A: Straight stitch
B: Stretch triple straight stitch
C: Zigzag stitch
D: Three-step zigzag stitch
E: Twin-needle stitch
F: Decorative stitches (a couple of examples)
G: Standard overcast and Closed overlock stitches
SERGER / OVERLOCKER
Do you feel like you want to take your sewing to the next level? A serger is fun and fast to use. While it sews, it also trims the edge of your fabric then wraps threads around the cut edge so it won't fray. It's the professional finish you see on many store bought garments. But you will still need a regular sewing machine for steps like sewing buttonholes and topstitching.
At first it might seem a bit difficult to thread your serger, but in your manual you will find a detailed instruction of how to do it. And the more you practice, the easier you will find it. Some sergers, like the Babylock Acclaim that we use, have air threading, which simplifies the threading process a lot.
This is what a serged seam looks like:
With a serger you can also sew a rolled hem. Like this:
Thread tension – there is one dial for each thread, where you can adjust the thread tension
Differential feed - this is where you can adjust the differential feed, which controls the ratio between how quickly the fabric is fed into the machine by the front feed dogs and out of the machine by the back feed dogs. By adjusting this lever you can both prevent curly fabric, and that the fabric gets stretched out.
Stitch length – this is where you adjust the length of the stitches
Cutting width – this is where you can adjust the width of the fabric being cut off
Needles – it’s important that you use the correct needles for the fabric you’re sewing in, so if you’re sewing in stretch fabric switch to stretch needles.
A coverstitch machine is used for hemming and making decorative seams. It sews triple cover stitches, cover stitches and chain stitches. You can also complement with a single- or double-fold binder for binding your garment.
Thread tension – there is one dial for each thread where you can adjust the thread tension.
Stitch length – this is where you adjust the length of the stitches.
Differential feed - this is where you can adjust the differential feed, which controls the ratio between how quickly the fabric is fed into the machine by the front feed dogs and out of the machine by the back feed dogs.
Needles – it’s important that you use the correct needles for the fabric you’re sewing in, so if you’re sewing in stretch fabric you should switch to stretch needles. If you want to sew cover stitches instead of triple cover stitches you simply remove a needle.
Common seams to sew with a coverstitch machine:
A: Chain stitches
B: Chain stitches from the wrong side
C: Cover stitches
D: Cover stitches from the wrong side
E: Triple cover stitches
F: Triple cover stitches from the wrong side