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I have a standard sewing machine, but am thinking about buying a machine that is better suited to knits. I thought they were are all just "sergers" but after doing some research I've heard:

  • serger
  • coverstitch
  • coverlock / overlock

What are the differences in function between these?

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I dug around a bit and found this:

From Knits 102:

The cover stitch is the double (or triple) stitch used for hemming knits or topstitching seams that need stretch.

Knits 102 image of the coverstitch

The result is - double stitch on one side and the chain stitch on the back side which allows for the stretching of the seam.

  • Serger stitch - wraps around the edge of the fabric and is invisible on the top side of the fabric.

Serger Stitch

It seems from what I'm reading to be synonymous with an overlock stitch - From OneLittleMinute Blog:

OVERLOCK STITCH: This is the basic serger stitch. It can be sewn with 2-5 threads, but the most basic uses either 3 or 4. It is called an overlock stitch because the threads are cast over the raw edge of the fabric, locking it into a finish that won’t unravel or fray. When using a serger for basic overlocking, you can sew even when there is not fabric under the needles. This is called “chaining”. It makes it really easy, because you can put your foot on the pedal and start serging, feed the fabric through to create your seam, and then chain right off the end.

Fashion Incubator suggests that a coverstitch machine does less than a serger.

I haven't gotten into buying a serger yet, but my quick poking suggests that a serger can be a somewhat generic name - and it's worth it to learn exactly what stitches - overlock, cover stitch, and flatlock - it does. As ever, also, be sure to learn how it works for hems and blindhems.

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    It's great to use links for reference but they're better served only as supporting info. All of the important stuff should be in the answer itself. Also, you're more than welcome (and it's often better to) include images in your answers... you don't need to make them links to images. – Catija May 16 '16 at 20:52
  • Thanks for the info and references! The only thing that I don't see mentioned is a knife attachment. I am pretty sure that this is standard on sergers but not necessarily(?) part of coverstitch machines. Could you possibly add info on that aspect? (Full disclosure - I kind of know, as in I'd have to research and double check. But I asked because I couldn't find any good references with all the info, and figured it'd be good to have on this site. So if you'd prefer I can add to yours or write a separate answer instead!) – user812786 May 17 '16 at 17:01

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