This post is all about serging without a serger and sewing tips for what to do if you don't have an overlocker.
If you want to make your sewing projects last and look professional but cannot afford a serger right now, you landed in the right place!
In this post you are going to learn 3 amazing ways for how to serge without a serger so you can finish seams with a whole lotta quality even as a beginner!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through them, I can receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more info, please read the full disclosure here.
What's an Overlock Stitch and How Does it Work?
An overlock stitch is commonly made using a 4-thread or 3-thread overlocker or serger machine. This stitch goes on the edge of the fabric to prevent it from fraying and help the garments to last longer.
Can you do an overlock stitch on a regular sewing machine, you may ask?
Yes! There are 2 easy ways to create a look-a-like Overlock stitch without a serger and using a domestic sewing machine instead.
How to do an Overlock Stitch on a Sewing Machine. Option #1: The Overcast Stitches and Overcast Presser Foot
Many of the new sewing machines come with overlock stitches and an overcast presser foot (AKA Overedge or Overlocking foot).
In the Brother sewing machines, the overlock stitches you can use with the overcast foot are the ones with the numbers: 06, 07, and 08.
If you have a sewing machine with any of these stitches, but you’re missing the presser foot, you can get it here.
This presser foot has a longer side that you can use as a guide to help you sew right up against the edge of the fabric. By aligning the fabric with this guide you can create a perfect overlock stitch that encloses the raw edges.
If you want to save time, a serger attachment for a sewing machine like this one will allow you to create the perfectly cut and finished edges of a serger in just one step!
Yep, with this baby there’s no need to trim excess seam allowance or make sure the edges are completely straight before sewing. It will get the job done for you, and the reviews are pretty good!
If you have no idea if your machine has low shank or high shank check out this machine feet guide to easily figure it out.
Side cutter foot vs Serger
A side cutter foot will make your regular sewing machine work as a serger without having to spend hundreds of dollars, so it's the perfect alternative if you are on a budget or have limited space in your home.
However, a serger can do the job faster and since it uses 3 (and some even 4) threads at the time it creates stronger seams.
If you are a beginner and do not sew a lot of projects that require serging, the side cutter foot is a great option and probably all you may need!
If you want to turn your sewing hobby into a business, then definitely save some money to eventually invest in a serger that will help you create professional lasting results faster!
Serging without a Serger Option #2: How to Use a ZigZag Stitch as an Overlocking Stitch
If your sewing machine doesn't have any of the overlock stitches, but it has a zigzag stitch then here is another option!
Sew a narrow zigzag stitch right on the edge of the fabric using the regular zigzag presser foot.
Then sew a straight stitch on the left side of the zigzag to secure it and ta-daa, easy overlock stitch look-alike ready:
Will a zigzag stitch prevent fraying? Yes! A simple zigzag stitch along the raw edge of the fabric will secure the edges and prevent fraying, and when you combine it with a straight stitch you create an even stronger and lasting seam.
What to Do if You Don't Have an Overlocker, Option #3: Overlock Stitch by Hand
Yes, you can overlock stitch by hand!
Of course, it won't be as fast as the 2 previous options made on the sewing machine, but you can totally create an Overlock stitch by hand, that prevents the fabric from fraying.
All you need is: thread, needle, scissors, ruler and a marking tool.
This is a very simple looking stitch, (also called “blanket stitch”) but it gets the job done, extremely well!
On the video below you can see the step by step tutorial of these 3 overlock stitch alternatives, plus my #1 hand sewing hack for beginners. Enjoy!
Video Tutorial for How to Do an Overlock Stitch on a Sewing Machine and Overlock Stitch by Hand
- Also read: How to price your handmade products -
How do I stop my edges from fraying without sewing?
If you are looking for no-sew ways to fix fabric from fraying, I got you!
Although the sawtoothed blades don't 100% prevent the fraying they do help to minimize it.
Pinking shears are an easy and fast fix for when you don't have time to hand stitch or a sewing machine with the overlock / zig zag stitches.
What about scalloped/ pinking blades for rotary cutters?
I still have to try them myself, but for the reviews I've read these don't do as well at deterring fraying as pinking shears.
So, it’s better to use them for decorative purposes on fabrics that do not fray, think of nylon spandex fabric and scalloped panties like these.
Fray Check Glue
Another interesting find, from the online world .
This is perfect for pieces that would look too bulky with a serged edge (like the ends of a ribbon) or designs where you want to preserve the external raw edges without your garment falling apart in 5 seconds.
Shannon from Shannon Sews did an amazing test using fray check glue and showed the results of different pieces of fabric (with and without this fabric sealant) after washing and drying it, which made me want to add it to my shopping cart on amazon .
FAQS around overlock stitching
Should you Overlock before or after sewing?
That's a great question! and it depends on the project you are working on.
For open seams (when two pieces of fabric are sewed together and the seam allowances are pressed open) is way easier to overlock first and sew after.
For example any part of a garment that has a zipper is better to overlock it first.
- Also read: How to sew a fly front zipper -
If you are making something where you can press the seam allowances together to one side, then you can overlock after sewing the pieces.
What material does not fray?
All non-woven fabrics and most knit fabrics don't fray.
Think of scuba, cotton jersey, and stretch fabrics like lycra spandex or power mesh.
I personally don't overlock stitch the seams of those fabrics when I'm in a hurry and making something for myself that no one else will look at the insides of .
For example, this DIY mesh cover up, that I made using power mesh and jersey fabric for the waistband.
I also don’t serge the edges when a garment doesn't have exposed seams like this beautiful crop top: DIY sweetheart crop top.
Best overlock machine?
For whenever you are ready to go full force on your sewing journey and bring a new baby home to help you serge faster, here are my 2 recommendations:
Beginners & hobby sewists: check out this 4-thread brother Overlock Machine that also makes rolled hems (perfect for hemming chiffon!) and other decorative stitches for happy home sewing . I LOVE it!
Want to go pro? Nothing like an Industrial overlock sewing machine that sews fast... and kinda furious! (because it's loud tho!)
This beauty can sew up to 7000 stitches per minute! So if you are making a TON of the same type of garments that require serged edges, then this is what will make your life easier and your sewing journey more productive.
Wrapping this Serging without a Serger Biz Up!
I hope all these overlock stitch alternatives will help you to create beautiful and professional pieces that will last a long long time!
Do you have a favorite method? Let me know in the comment section below!
Keep dreaming and keep creating, the power of turning the invisible into visible lies in your hands!
This article was all about how to overlock stitch without a serger. If you want to explore more DIYs and sewing tutorials check out the “Handmade Product Ideas” section.
And thank you - with my WHOLE heart! - for sharing with your friends!