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Overlock Stitch

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An overlock stitch is a special sewing technique used for edging, hemming, or seaming fabric pieces. It is created using an overlock sewing machine, known as a serger in North America. Characterized by its looped threads, the stitch is achieved through loopers that are fed by multiple thread cones. Importantly, an overlock stitch not only securely sews the fabric but also trims its edges simultaneously, resulting in a neat and polished finish.

Overlock stitching was invented by the Merrow Machine Company in 1881. Joseph Merrow’s three-thread overedge sewing machine initiated this new fabric finishing method. Over the years, the overlock stitching technique has evolved to accommodate a variety of fabrics and requirements.


  • Overedge Stitch
  • Serger Stitch
  • Merrow Stitch

These terms are typically used when talking about sewing techniques, particularly in the context of using a serger or overlock sewing machine.

Formation of Overlock Stitch: Step-by-Step Explanation

1. Needle Entry and Thread Loop: 

The process begins as the needle penetrates the fabric. This action creates a loop with the thread that trails behind the needle and establishes the foundation for the stitch.

2. Lower Looper Movement: 

As the needle continues its descent, the lower looper starts its lateral movement from the left towards the right side of the needle. It moves behind the needle and enters the loop formed by the thread.

3. Lower Looper Thread Carriage: 

As the lower looper is now in position, it pulls the lower thread through the loop created by the needle’s thread. This action ensures that both threads are interlocked and aligned for the stitch.

4. Upper Looper Advancement: 

Concurrently, the upper looper starts its movement from the right side towards the left, positioning itself behind the lower looper. As it progresses, the upper looper captures and secures both the lower looper thread and the needle thread.

5. Upper Looper Holding: 

Once the upper looper has captured the threads, it holds them firmly in place. This stabilization is important as it prepares the threads for the final phase of the stitch formation.

6. Needle Securing and Stitch Completion: 

To complete the overlock stitch, the needle descends once more. This final step, secures the upper looper thread against a metal component, finalizing the stitch formation. This entire sequence sets the stage for the subsequent stitch cycle, ensuring a continuous and precise stitching process.

Types of Overlock Stitches:

Overlock stitches are categorized by the number of threads used in sewing. Each type of overlock stitch has its features and is suitable for different sewing tasks. Here are the main types:

1-Thread Overlock Stitch:

This stitch uses one thread, usually from the upper needle. It is mainly used for temporary sewing, basting, or decorative work. Because it uses only one thread, it’s not as strong or durable as other stitches. It’s rarely used in factories but might be used at home for specific tasks.

2-Thread Overlock Stitch:

This stitch uses two threads – one from the needle and one from the looper. This stitch is often used for lightweight fabrics or delicate seams where a less bulky finish is wanted. It gives a neat edge to the fabric but isn’t as strong as some other stitches.

3-Thread Overlock Stitch:

3-Thread stitch uses three threads – one from the needle and two from the loopers. It’s versatile and good for general sewing tasks. It balances seam strength and fabric weight well, making it useful for finishing edges and seams on various fabrics.

4-Thread Overlock Stitch:

This stitch uses four threads – two from the needle and two from the loopers. It’s the most common overlock stitch and is used both in factories and at home. It creates a strong seam and neatly trims the fabric edges, suitable for a wide range of fabrics.

5-Thread Overlock Stitch:

This stitch combines features from both 3-thread and 4-thread stitches. It uses three needle threads and two looper threads, offering extra seam strength. It’s often used for heavier fabrics or projects needing more reinforcement, providing a strong and professional finish.

Each type of overlock stitch has its advantages and is chosen based on the specific needs of the sewing project.

Use of Overlock Stitches in Various Industries:

These stitches are popular in many industries because they’re flexible and work efficiently. Here are some of their main uses:

  • Garments Industry: Overlock stitches are commonly used in making clothes. They’re good for sewing seams, adding elastic, hemming, and adding decorative details. They work well with stretchy fabrics like knits and jerseys.
  • Sportswear Industry: These stitches are ideal for making sporty and active wear such as yoga pants, leggings, and sports tops. These stitches are stretchy and strong, making them perfect for these types of clothes.
  • Shoe Manufacturing: In making shoes, overlock stitches join fabric or leather pieces to make them strong and look neat.
  • Home Decor & Furnishing: These stitches are used in home furnishing to refine edges, hem curtains, and create decorative finishes on items like towels and cushions.
  • Embroidery and Appliqué: This stitching technique can be used in embroidery and appliqué to secure fabric edges and add decorative details to garments and home textiles.
  • Costume Design (Theatre and Film): These stitches are used in creating costumes for plays and theatre shows. They help create strong and flexible seams, tidy up edges, and add decorative elements to costumes and props.

In conclusion, overlock stitching has changed fabric finishing by being flexible and efficient. They’re important in different industries, like making clothes and decorating homes. Their ability to work well with different fabrics helps give a neat and polished look to sewing projects.

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