If you are just discovering the world of sewing, you have probably heard of the ongoing debate about the differences between serger, cover stitch and overlocker machines.

First of all, the most important thing to learn is that serger and overlocking refer to the same machine. So, what you’re deciding about really is whether to buy a serger or cover stitch. Both are valuable machines for finishing touches in sewing, but they have their differences.

But spoiler alert: for mastering sewing skills and garment making, you will eventually need both or some kind of a cover stitch/serger combo.

Their key roles

Overlocker machines are generally used to stop the fabric from unravelling from the inside of clothes. It resembles knitting more than traditional sewing. Opposite to that, cover stitch machines delicately finish hems, with a seam that won’t break, the so-called “stretch stitch”.

Number of loopers

Coverstitch machines only have one looper since you only need one bottom thread for hemming garments. Overlocker machines normally have two loopers that can be fed by different thread cones.

Number of needles

While both sewing machines use the same number of threads (four), they have a different number of needles. Also known as the embroidery machine, the cover stitch machine has three needles, while overlockers normally have two. Some of the older models had only one needle.

Working area size

The two machines have different working areas. While overlockers function with a narrow working area on the left (because of the sewing needle), the needle plate and side cover of a cover stitch machine is bigger and allow more movement.


An overlocker possesses two blades or knives for cutting the edges of the material. On the other hand, a cover stitch machine has no blades at all, since it’s necessary for hemming or attaching lace and other delicate fabrics.