- 1 What is a serger?
- 2 What Does a Serger Do?
- 2.1 Serger vs. Sewing Machine: What’s the Difference?
- 2.2 What About Coverstitch Machines?
- 3 What is a Serger Used For? Do You Really Need One?
- 3.1 Chain Stitch
- 3.2 Safety Stitch
- 3.3 Flatlock Seam
- 3.4 Decorative Edges
- 3.5 Rolled Hem
- 3.6 Blind Hem
- 3.7 Sew Stretch Fabrics and Knits
- 3.8 Gathers and Pintucks
- 3.9 More
- 4 Different Types of Sergers
- 5 Do You Really Need a Serger?
- 6 How to Choose a Serger: A Buyer’s Guide
- 7 How to use a serger
- 8 Different types of serger stitches
- 8.1 Strong, Finished Seams
- 8.2 Edge Finishing
- 8.3 Special Effects
- 8.4 Keep a Stitch Diary
- 9 Best Serger Reviews: A Selection of top-rated overlockers
- 10 So, What is the Best Serger on the Market?
- 11 Are You Ready?
Buying a serger can be both exciting and daunting, especially for those who are looking to enter this specialized sewing arena for the very first time. After all, there’s so much to learn! Obviously, you’ll want the best serger sewing machine your budget will allow, and that means knowing what you want from your new sewing room addition, as well as what features to look out for.
Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.
This buyer’s guide, replete with numerous serger reviews, will set you on the right path. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let’s get some basics out of the way first, shall we?
What is a serger?
A serger, also called an overlocker, is a specialized sewing machine. For an in depth exploration of these wonderful devices, take a moment to check out this post: What Is A Serger?
Overlock sewing dates back to 1881. The Merrow Machine Company, which had previously patented a machine for crochet stitching, invented a machine to do multi-thread overlock stitching. In 1964, the newly formed Juki corporation of Japan produced the first overlock sewing machine for home use. [1, 2]
Today, sergers have become a powerful tool in many home sewists’ arsenals.
Sergers use an overcasting stitch to seal raw seam or fabric edges, sometimes while simultaneously sewing a straight seam. It’s an incredibly useful tool that allows you to create strong, professional-quality seams and decorative edges.
You can make seams and decorative edges with a regular sewing machine, of course. However, a serger does these tasks differently, and the end results are slightly different, too. Also, there are some regular sewing tasks that a serger cannot do, and vice versa.
What can you do with a serger? Do you need one? And if so, how do you choose the best one for your sewing room? We’ll show you.
What Does a Serger Do?
A serger’s primary function is overcasting, though you can use that function to accomplish a lot of different tasks.
Some of a serger’s functions overlap with the functions of a regular sewing machine, but many do not. For this reason, a serger should complement, rather than replace, your favorite sewing machine.
Serger vs. Sewing Machine: What’s the Difference?
There are several important differences between a serger and a sewing machine:
Critically, there are things you can do with a serger but not with a regular sewing machine. The reverse holds true, as well.
A serger can:
- Overcast with multiple threads
- Make compound seams
- Do chain stitching
- Create decorative edging
- Trim seam edges while you sew
A serger cannot:
- Make decorative or embroidery stitches
- Sew on the right side of the needles
- Make buttonholes
- Sew zippers
- Sew facings
Sergers are a lot faster than your average home sewing machine. In fact, the average serger stitches at nearly twice the speed of the average domestic sewing machine.
Shape and size
You’ll know a serger by its shape and size. Sergers are generally smaller and often lighter than standard sewing machines. Many also have a squarish shape. And sergers have a shorter neck than regular sewing machines.
An ordianary sewing machine uses a top thread and a bobbin thread. Some allow you to use a twin needle with two top threads, as well.
A serger doesn’t have a bobbin thread. Instead, it uses one or more top threads and one or more looper threads. A looper is a mechanism that loops thread around the fabric edges to create overcast stitches.
You can find sergers with two, three, four, five, or even more threads. Often, sergers use cone thread, rather than thread on spools.
A serger also uses multiple needles. Generally speaking, one needle sews a straight row, while the other interacts with the looper thread or threads to wrap thread around the seam edges. These two actions happen simultaneously.
Differential feed mechanism
Regular sewing machines have one set of feed dogs. Sergers have two. You can use a serger’s differential feed mechanism to adjust both sets of feed dogs, so that they move their portions of fabric at the same speed or at different speeds.
Why might you want to do this? Well, it makes it easier to sew difficult-to-work-with fabrics, for one thing. Also, it allows you to create some interesting special effects – more about that in a bit.
Knives and blades
A serger also has a knife or blade for trimming seam edges while you sew. Some machines have more than one, and they work together.
Want to see how it all fits together? Check out this introduction to a simple Singer serger.
What About Coverstitch Machines?
You might also have come across something called a coverstitch machine. A coverstitch machine has some of the features of a serger and some of the features of a regular sewing machine. Some people consider them to be the best of both worlds. But, again, it’s important to understand your needs before pressing “buy” on any large piece of equipment.
Which features do sergers and coverstitch machines have in common?
- Creating professional-looking sealed seams
- Doing special effects and decorative edging
- Multiple needles and threads
- Differential feed
- Free arm
- Stitch length and width adjustment
How are they different?
There are a few important differences:
First, and most importantly, coverstitch machines are able to do regular sewing.
Many coverstitch machines are also larger than many sergers and, therefore, have a larger work area. Most coverstitch machines also have more room on the right side of the needles than most sergers.
Also coverstitch machines typically do not have blades for trimming seam edges.
Most sergers have two needles (though some newer models have three or even four). Most coverstitch machines have three needles.
Coverstitch machines have one looper, while many sergers have two.
Technology is always developing. Today, you’ll find sergers and coverstitch machines that blur some of these lines. The important thing is to find the machine with the features that you need.
For a deeper dive into these three terms, check out Serger, Coverstitch, Coverlock…What’s The Difference?
What is a Serger Used For? Do You Really Need One?
You can use your overlocker to create sealed seams in a variety of widths using different techniques. A serger can also create different kinds of decorative edging. The differential feed mechanism makes it easy to sew stretch and knit fabrics, as well as to create a number of serger special effects. And that’s just the beginning.
Here are some specific things you can do with your serger.
A chain stitch is a strong stitch that uses multiple threads to form an interlocking chain. You can use a chain stitch to make a stable, non-stretchy seam. It’s also good for basting and decorative stitching. In addition, the chain stitch forms the basis of several compound stitches, such as one kind of safety stitch.
Here’s how to use your serger to make a chain stitch.
There are several variations on the safety stitch, but ultimately it comes down to this: a seam that is sewn twice simultaneously. The serger sews a straight stitch or a chain stitch along the seam allowance, while at the same time overcasting the edges with a different needle. The intention is that if one seam fails, the other will hold.
Different variations use different numbers of threads. There’s also a mock safety stitch, which is similar, but not as strong.
You can watch a serger making a four-thread safety stitch in the video below.
Flatlock seams lie flat, which is an advantage for certain types of garments, such as sportswear. A flat seam is less likely to cause chafing. It also cuts down on the bulk that overcasting can create. You’ll typically see flatlock seams in garments that sit next to the skin, such as underwear and gloves.
When you sew a flatlock stitch with your serger, you’re sewing with a lower thread tension than usual. This will provide the extra give needed to open the seam and lie it flat.
Watch a serger in action making a flatlock seam below.
A serger doesn’t have decorative stitches like a computerized sewing machine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for decorative sewing. It’s just a different kind of decoration with a different purpose.
You can use your serger to create a variety of decorative edgings. Whether you like ruffled hems, lettuce edges, or a delicate scalloped picot edge, you can use your serger’s overcasting function to do all sorts of fun things along your fabric’s edges, including:
You’ll often see this decorative stitch on the edges of, you guessed it, blankets. But it also looks nice on hems, cuffs, and collars. Here’s how to do a blanket stitch with your serger.
Want to put a ruffled hem on your shirt or dress? Your serger makes it easy. This is one of those projects for which a serger’s differential feed mechanism comes in handy.
A wavy lettuce edge adds a unique touch to sleeves, collars, hems, and scarves. And it’s very simple to accomplish using a serger.
Picot (scalloped) edge
A picot edge gives blouses and other articles a delicate scalloped appearance. Watch how to make a picot edge with your serger.
Make your own crochet trim
You can even use your serger, along with special thread, to make crocheted trim to use wherever you like! Here’s how.
These are just a few of the decorative edges you can make using your serger.
A rolled hem is a common way to finish the edges of lightweight fabrics without adding bulk. You’ll see rolled hems on scarves and other lightweight items.
Some people also call this an invisible hem, but it’s rarely truly invisible. A blind hem is another way to hem an item so that the stitches don’t show (or don’t show as much) on the outside of a garment.
Many regular sewing machines have a blind hem stitch that accomplishes this. A serger, however, will simultaneously overcast the raw fabric edge, trim it, and attach it more or less invisibly to the inside of the garment.
Check this out.
Sew Stretch Fabrics and Knits
A common problem when sewing stretch fabrics and knits is fabric puckering around the stitches. A serger’s differential feed mechanism makes it easier to sew stretch and knit fabrics without puckering.
Gathers and Pintucks
You can also use your serger to create special effects like gathers and pintucks.
Some sergers have a gathering attachment that allows you to gather fabrics for pleats, decorative ruffles and more.
Use your blind hem foot to create easy and attractive pintucks with your serger.
This is just a taste of some of the things you can do with your serger. For a really deep dive, check out this video.
Different Types of Sergers
In case it’s not complicated enough for you, there are several different kinds of sergers, and they all have slightly different specialties.
Most sergers can work with a range of thread options, for example between two and four. Be careful, though; many cheap sergers only do three and four-thread serging. If you want to serge with two threads, you may have to pay a bit more.
How many threads do you need? It’s good to know before you start your search.
You can use two threads to create the following stitch types:
- True safety stitch
- Decorative edging
- Finishing edges of light fabrics
- Mock flatlock stitch
- Blind hem
- Two-thread overlock
- Two-thread chainstitch
Two-thread stitches, unlike stitches that use more than two threads, don’t interlace. Rather, the separate needles undertake their work separately, and the results are complementary.
Two-thread overedge stitches are best suited to light fabrics.
Serging with three threads can create rolled hems and strong, flexible seams. Some of the things you can do with three threads include:
- Sewing stretch fabrics
- Strong, wide serged seams
- Rolled hems
- Three-thread overlock
- Three-thread flatlock
- Cover hem stitch
What can you do with four threads? Try these:
- Simultaneous chain stitch while overcasting seams
- Four-thread overlock
- Four-thread safety stitch
- Mock safety stitch
Sergers that can work with more than four threads are typically top-of-the-range models. Five or more threads allow you to create:
- Five-thread stitch
- Five-thread overlock
- Chain stitch
- Simultaneous strong seam and heavy-duty seam finish
- Five-thread true safety stitch
Do You Really Need a Serger?
You already know what we’re going to say. The answer depends on you.
For most general purpose sewing tasks, a regular sewing machine will do. In fact, for decorative stitching and embroidery, a serger is exactly the wrong tool.
However, a serger can make a big difference when it comes to certain kinds of sewing.
If you’re an avid garment maker, for example, a serger can make your work faster, stronger, and better. And if you have a garment making business, the increased speed and quality can make a huge difference in your profits.
A serger can also be helpful for making housewares, especially if you’re making a lot of them.
If you find yourself working primarily with knits, a serger can come in handy. On the other hand, for woven fabrics, serged seams aren’t as durable as a straight stitch seam. And for some projects, the extra bulk that overcasting creates isn’t worth it.
You might think that quilting is one craft for which a serger is ill-suited. Because serged seams can be bulky, a lot of people would agree with you.
Interestingly, though, there are some people who swear by their serger for quilting. For certain kinds of quilts, your serger’s fast stitch speed can make quick work of piecing. Also, some use those bulky serged seams on the quilt face and treat them as decoration. A serger also makes fast work of quilt bindings, too. [3, 4, 5]
It’s always tempting to consider buying a new tool. But learning how to thread and use a serger takes time and has a steep learning curve. If you’re up for the challenge, then a serger can open up a whole new world of sewing. On the other hand, if you’re frustration prone, it might not be the challenge you’re looking for.
How to Choose a Serger: A Buyer’s Guide
So, you’ve decided your sewing room really does need a new addition and you’re ready to take the plunge. What should you look for?
Ease of Use
A serger has a lot of moving parts…literally. And as complicated as the threading diagram of a regular sewing machine may seem, threading a serger is a lot more complicated than that. Check it out.
If that’s not enough, you’ll have to contend with the cutting blade (or blades), the differential feed, multiple needles, and at least one looper.
Fortunately, serger manufacturers have come up with a number of ways to make it easier to set up and use your serger. You may end up paying more for some of these features, but in the end, it will be worth it.
Here’s what to look for.
Even many low-end sergers have a color-coding system to help you to figure out how to thread your machine. The diagram will look similar to the threading diagram of your regular sewing machine. That is, there will be a picture showing color-coded pathways through an obstacle course of different kinds of guides.
Some manufacturers may even include tweezers or other tools to make it easier to thread some of the more out-of-the-way guides. It takes getting used to, but in the end, a color-coded diagram will make things simpler.
Some manufacturers have produced self-threading sergers. More expensive ones will thread both loopers for you. Others will only thread one. Either way, your serger threads itself with a press of a button, and that’s pretty neat.
Here’s one kind of self-threading serger in action.
Switching between stitches
With some sergers, switching functions means switching around parts or even removing them altogether. You might have to remove your throat plate, for example, or your stitch finger.
Some sergers have features that make it easier to switch seamlessly between functions. You might have a lever to disable the stitch finger, rather than removing it, for instance.
If you anticipate doing different types of stitches with your serger, this may be a feature to look for.
What sort of sewing are you planning to do with your serger?
For most sewists’ needs, a 2-3-4 serger, that is one that can stitch with two, three, or four threads, will handle all of your serging tasks with aplomb.
But you may need a higher number of threads for:
- Strong, flexible seams in different widths
- Stress-bearing seams
- Thick fabrics and heavy work
What About a 3-4 Serger?
If a serger can handle four threads, it can handle both three and two, right? Not necessarily.
If you’re just beginning your search for the best serger, you might notice that a lot of budget sergers are 3-4 sergers. That is, they can do three and four-thread serging, but not two-thread serging.
Is that important?
Maybe, maybe not.
A lot of people use a serger to create strong, flexible sealed seams. You can absolutely do this with three and four threads. You can also use three threads to create a rolled hem, ruffles and pintucks.
There are situations, however, when you might want two-thread capabilities. These include:
- Decorative edgings
- A light, delicate chain stitch
- Working with wovens, lightweight, or sheer fabrics
If you think you will be doing a lot of decorative edgings or working with lightweight and/or woven fabrics, you might want to hold out for a serger that can do two-thread serging.
The majority of sergers today have two needles. However, you may come across an older model that only has one.
Though two needles may be a bit more work to thread, the versatility and flexibility that two needles offer are well worth it.
You might also come across higher-end sergers, like the Brother 2340CV, that have more than two needles.
Please note that some sergers use special needles, while others can use regular sewing machine needles. It might not make a lot of difference to you. On the other hand, you may find it easier and more convenient if your sewing machine and serger needles are interchangeable.
Stitch Length and Width
Every serger will have a knob for controlling stitch length, just like on a mechanical sewing machine.
Stitch width is controlled by the stitch finger. There are a few different ways that sergers allow you to manipulate the stitch finger. We’ll discuss them more in depth in a bit.
As for controlling stitch width, however, you may encounter a few different methods. We’ll also go over this later in this post as well.
In general, sergers are fast. This is because when you sew with a serger, you’re sewing seams and edges. You don’t have to negotiate turns, corners, and tight spots.
Most home sergers run at a speed between 1,100 and 1,500 stitches per minute. To compare, the average speed of a regular home sewing machine is around 800-850 stitches per minute.
As one might expect, higher end machines generally move at a higher speed. Depending on how you use your serger — for example, producing a line of items for sale vs. making clothing for yourself now and then — a higher stitch speed may or may not be important to you.
Almost every serger has a differential feed mechanism. As we said before, a serger has two sets of feed dogs. The feed dogs move your fabric through your machine.
The differential feed mechanism adjusts the speed of each set of feed dogs relative to each other. You could have both sets working together at the same speed. Alternately, you could have one set moving faster or slower than the other.
This can come in useful for:
- Preventing puckering while sewing lightweight, knit, or stretch fabrics
- Intentionally gathering your fabric while sewing
- Creating special effects like ruffles, pintucks, or decorative edges
Most sergers have a differential feed mechanism. A few do not.
The range of differential feed rates for many sergers is between 0.7 and 2.0. However some machines have a greater range, which allows for a greater ability to fine-tune the stretch and compression of fabric as you sew.
Many sergers will have a free arm. It’s possible, however, that you’ll encounter one that doesn’t.
Just like with a regular sewing machine, a free arm gives you more options for doing different types of sewing. You never know when it might come in handy, so for you, it may be a dealbreaker.
Working with a serger can be fiddly. So some manufacturers include different accessories that can make it a bit easier. You might find, for example:
Most sergers are compact in size. But even within the category, some machines are larger than others. If you have any specific needs regarding size or weight, always check the specs before you buy.
REMEMBER: Just because a machine boasts multiple features, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s the best serger for you or your needs. Think seriously about what you’ll use your new purchase for and base your decision around that, not the tempting marketing spiel found on manufacturer’s or retailer’s websites.
How to use a serger
Operating a serger is complicated, and can take some getting used to, but you can definitely do it. And once you master your serger, there’s no telling how far it might take you.
The first job to tackle is threading your serger. After that, most other tasks will seem easy.
Different sergers will have different thread guides and thread paths. However, the overall process is pretty similar across machines.
First, turn your machine off. This will help to prevent mishaps.
Now, place your thread spools (or cones) on the appropriate spool pins, using spool caps or cone adapters as appropriate. Place them so that the thread is coming off to the left, and so that the spools will unwind in a counterclockwise direction when you sew.
Lift the first thread through the back of the thread guide and pull it through the front. Repeat with the rest of the threads, so that all of your threads are hanging from the guide, ready to feed into the machine.
Now, go to the front of the machine to thread your first thread. Work from right to left. Follow the color-coded diagram to bring your thread through the thread guides, threading loopers first and then needles.
Every machine is different, but in general, you will feed the thread first through a metal clip at the top of the machine, then through the appropriate tension guide, and then through a series of guides at the bottom front of your machine.
For obvious reasons, many serger users prefer not to thread from scratch every time they sew. Once you have your machine threaded, you may prefer to use the tie-off method.
You can watch both methods demonstrated on a four-thread Babylock Vibrant right here:
Think you might like this model, but want to find out more? Check out our Baby Lock Vibrant Review for more details.
Getting the thread tension right can be tricky with two threads. But when you have four, five, or even more, it’s even more difficult. It’s also more important than ever.
Serger thread tension is controlled by the dials on the front of the machine. Lower numbers indicate lower thread tension, and higher numbers indicate higher thread tension.
Before starting to sew, serge a test strip to make sure the tension for all of your threads is optimal.
Your machine manual may have a tension troubleshooting guide, but here are some additional quick diagnostic tips:
Signs that a needle thread tension is too tight
If your fabric edge is bunching, puckering, or wavy, this is an indication that one or more of your needle threads is too tight.
Signs that a needle thread tension is too loose
Turn your fabric swatch over. If the needle threads are visible, or even forming loops on the reverse side, one or both of your needle threads is too loose.
Signs that a looper thread is too tight
If your lower looper thread is too tight, it may pull on the upper looper thread, causing the fabric to “tunnel,” or buckle in on itself.
If your upper looper thread is too tight, it will also show pulling and buckling. It may also pull the left needle thread up.
Signs that a looper thread is too loose
If the lower looper thread is too loose, you’ll see it on the front side of the fabric.
If the upper looper thread is too loose, it will appear loose and wavy on the reverse side of the fabric.
Having a hard time picturing what we’re talking about? This video makes things clear.
Stitch Length and Width
The stitch finger controls stitch width on a serger. Manufacturers have come up with different systems for manipulating the stitch finger.
Some sergers have one stitch finger, which you can remove to make rolled hems or other types of stitches.
A serger may also come with a dial or buttons to adjust the position of the stitch finger. This will allow you to control the width of your stitches without removing the stitch finger itself.
There might also be a screw that you tighten or loosen to adjust the stitch width.
Still other machines may come with multiple stitch fingers that you change in and out.
Which system do you think would be easiest for you?
As we mentioned, the differential feed adjusts the speed of your two sets of feed dogs relative to one another.
The differential feed control is often a knob on the right side of your serger. However, manufacturers have various labeling conventions for that knob, and that can be confusing. You might see, for example:
- Numbers corresponding to degrees of difference in feed rate
- Letters corresponding to preset configurations
- Glyphs denoting the amount of stretch that a setting will produce
No matter what your serger’s labeling convention, however, the principles behind the mechanism are the same. For example:
Negative differential feed (often represented by the numerical range of 0.5 to 1) means that the front feed dog doesn’t move as quickly as the rear one. This stretches the fabric while you sew.
Using a negative differential feed setting a good way to avoid puckering when working with stretch, knit, lightweight or sheer fabric.
Neutral differential feed (which you may see as “N” or the number “1”) means that the feed dogs are moving at the same rate. Use this setting when you don’t need either stretch or compression.
Positive differential feed (you might see this as the numerical range of 1 to 2) means that the front feed dog is moving faster than the rear one. This compresses and gathers the fabric. If you’re making ruffles, gathers, or pintucks, then this is your setting.
Check out how this sewist uses differential feed in the video below:
All sergers have a cutting blade to trim the seam allowance while you sew. Some sergers have two blades, which work together like scissors.
You’ll need to adjust your cutting width for different types of sewing.
If your cutting width is too wide, your blade isn’t cutting off enough fabric from the seam edge. This will cause the fabric edge to curl under.
If your cutting width isn’t wide enough, the stitches will be loose and will hang over the edge.
Also, there are times when you don’t want the cutting blade at all. For example:
- Rolled hems
- Applying elastic
- Decorative serging
Some sergers will allow you to disengage your cutting blade. Others may require that you remove it. When in doubt, check your machine’s manual.
Different types of serger stitches
Now that you have a good idea about the ins and outs of using a serger, it’s time to think about specifics. These are some common serger stitches that you might use in your next project.
Because different manufacturers have different labeling conventions and hardware adjustment requirements, each machine will set these stitches up a bit differently. For advice about the required thread tension, stitch finger position, and other adjustments, consult your users’ manual.
Strong, Finished Seams
Some seam types that you will probably use a lot are the three-thread overlock, the four-thread overlock, the three-thread wrapped, the three-threadflatlock, and the four-thread safety stitch.
A three-thread overlock makes a nice, stretchy seam that can also be used decoratively.
In this stitch, the looper threads interlace with one another at the edge of the fabric. They also lock with the needle thread at the needle line.
The four-thread overlock is a workhorse stitch that creates a strong, stretchy, stress-resistant seam. It’s good for both knits and wovens.
Three-Thread Flatlock Seam
Flatlock seams work best on non-raveling fabrics like knits. Most commonly, flatlock seams are made with three threads. You can also make them with either the left or the right needle.
The three-thread flatlock seam is reversible and lays flat. It’s a common seam in exercise and sportswear.
The three-thread wrapped stitch is strong and stretchy. It’s also very durable.
This stitch uses two needle threads and one looper thread. It’s an excellent stitch to use for high-stress seams such as you might find in swimwear or athletic clothing.
Four-Thread Safety Stitch
The four-thread safety stitch is a combination of a two-thread chainstitch and a two-thread overedge stitch. This is a very strong, solid, stitch that’s ideal for high-stress seams. It’s a good stitch to use with woven fabrics and lightweight fabrics.
One of the most useful things a serger can do is to finish the edges of lightweight fabrics. So, how do you do it? There are two ways.
Two-Thread Overedge Stitch
With a two-thread overedge stitch, the needle thread goes across the bottom of the fabric, while the looper thread goes across the top. The two lines of stitching intersect at the fabric edge.
A two-thread overedge stitch is a great way to secure the edges of lightweight and delicate fabrics.
A two-thread rolled hem is another way to edge sheer, lightweight, and delicate fabrics. A rolled hem is narrow and strong. This is a popular finish for scarves.
A two-thread wrapped stitch can be used for either seams or edging. In this stitch, the lower looper thread wraps around the fabric edge from front to back. The needle thread locks with the looper thread at the needle stitching line.
The two-thread wrapped stitch is stretchy and strong. You’ll see it a lot in sportswear and outerwear.
Many regular sewing machines have a blind hem stitch. But a serger not only makes the invisible hem, but also seals the raw fabric edge at the same time. It’s an extremely helpful feature to have.
Some of the best fun you can have with your serger is creating special effects and decorations. Here are a few you’ll want to try right away.
Ruffles add a decorative touch to skirts, blouses, hems, cuffs, toys, handbags, and more. Even better, they’re super easy to make with a serger.
The first step is using a positive differential feed, that is, the setting where the front feed dog moves faster than the rear feed dog.
Increasing your needle tensions can give you more and more dramatic ruffles.
You might also want to use a ruffle foot.
A “lettuce edge” is a wavy fabric edge that adds a decorative touch to cuffs, hems, and scarves. Lettuce edges only work with knit fabrics, and the stretchier the fabric the better.
When you make a lettuce edge, you’re using similar settings to what you would use for a rolled hem. That is:
- Remove the left needle and thread
- Remove or disengage the stitch finger
- Set the cutting blade to its widest setting (as far away from the fabric as possible)
- Set the differential feed to the lowest setting for maximum stretch
Keep a Stitch Diary
Many serger manuals will have a table of stitches and the settings used to create them. In addition, you can experiment with the settings to find the best arrangements for your projects and fabrics.
Keep a diary of your own favorite stitches and settings so that you’ll always have them to hand. Please feel free to make a copy of our one below!
Best Serger Reviews: A Selection of top-rated overlockers
Here are a few popular models you may encounter while searching for your new favourite machine:
Brother makes a range of budget sergers. They all get high marks from customers and professional reviewers. However, in our opinion, the Brother 1034D is one of the better ones.
First, it comes with a few features that you won’t find in a lot of cheap sergers, including many made by Brother.
One such feature is the trim trap. Many budget overlockers leave this out. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you decide you want one later on, you can expect to pay handsomely for it.
The Brother 1034D also uses standard sewing machine needles. It’s not a dealbreaker, but if your last serger needle breaks in the middle of a project, it will save you time and aggravation to be able to borrow the needle from your regular sewing machine.
In a world of plastic, this model’s heavy duty metal frame is a welcome addition. A metal frame means greater stability and greater ease working with heavier fabrics. Interestingly, the 1034D still weighs in at only a touch over eight pounds.
It also comes with several presser feet, each one of which costs more than you might think if you buy it on its own. You can also adjust the presser foot pressure.
Also, conveniently, you can adjust the stitch width with a lever, rather than by removing or switching out your stitch finger.
And, as is the case with many Brother machines, this model is excellent value for money.
On the downside, this is a 3-4 serger, which means you can sew with three or four threads, but not two. A 2-3-4 serger will cost you a bit more, but if you need those two-thread stitches — as you might for decorative edgings for lightweight fabrics — you’re unlikely to find them on many budget machines.
If you’re looking for a bargain, or are new to sergers, we think this could be a good way to go, provided you’re not looking for something to do lightweight decorative edging. Check out our deep dive on this model here: Brother 1034D Review.
Like many Janome machines, the Janome 634D is a bit pricey. At the same time, you do get more for your money than you would with a budget overlocker.
First, this is a 2-3-4 serger. That means that in addition to the strong, stretchy seams you can make with three or four threads, you can also use this machine for delicate two-thread edging.
The 634D also has a few handy convenience features, including:
- An included trim trap
- Color-coded upper looper threading
- Easy-threading lower looper
With some sergers, you need to remove the needle plate and make other adjustments in order to make a rolled hem. But, as we discovered in our Janome 634D review, this model allows you to quickly switch to a rolled hem setting without removing the plate.
Also, you can adjust the presser foot pressure. This makes it easier to work with a wide range of fabrics.
There are a few features that would make this model better, in our opinion. Specifically, it would have been nice to see a built-in two-thread converter and a free arm.
It does use regular sewing machine needles, however, which is always a bonus. And it also comes with a soft dust cover.
You might say that Juki invented the home overlock machine.
In 1964 a group of sewing machine engineers proposed the idea of a lightweight serger for home use. Their company rejected the idea. The engineers then broke away and began the Juki corporation.
So naturally you might have high expectations for a Juki home serger.
The Juki MO644D is a powerful 2-3-4 serger with some unique and ingenious features, including:
- A pull-away lower looper, which makes it easier to thread
- Advanced cutting blade system with a dedicated drive
- Built-in rolled hem
- High speed stitching at 1500 stitches per minute
And then there are little touches, like special markings on the thread tension dials to indicate optimal tension settings. There’s also a special multipurpose presser foot and a built-in seam guide for precise and perfect seam allowances every time.
As we saw in our JUKI MO644D review, it’s not perfect. There’s no free arm, for example. Also, this model comes in both electric and treadle-powered variations, so check the specs carefully before you buy.
But if you’re looking for a high quality, easy to use serger from the people who invented home sergers, this model might be well worth your time.
And if you find the right retailer, you can pay a lot less than you might expect.
Singer Professional 14T968DC
The Singer Professional 14T968DC is unique in our list, because it’s a 2-3-4-5 serger. That is, you can use it to sew with between two and five threads.
What can you do with five threads?
Five threads allow you to create a very strong, professional grade seam and finish. You can also sew a five-thread safety stitch, that is, a chain stitch seam with overlocked edges.
Five threads are also helpful when you’re working with heavy fabrics or creating stress-bearing seams.
That fifth thread can end up costing you quite a bit extra. However, at the time of this writing, there is a wide range of available prices for this particular model. If you do your research, you could end up with a real bargain.
The 14T968DC has some other really useful features that you don’t often find in less expensive machines. These include:
- Multiple built-in rolled hems
- Automatic thread tension adjustment
- Digital speed control
- Heavy duty metal frame
- Free arm
- Extra-high presser foot lift
If you’re looking for a serger that’s fit for a wide variety of projects, then this is definitely one to check out. Read the full Singer 14T968DC Review to find out more.
The Babylock Celebrate is one of the higher priced models on our list. But if you’re looking for a serger that’s easy to set up and easy to use, you won’t find many easier than this one.
That’s because so many tasks are automatic.
First, there’s the automatic rolled hem, but a lot of machines have that.
More interesting, however, is the automatic air-threading system. Yes, this is a self-threading serger, and at this price point, one should expect nothing less.
The ingenious fabric support system has stitch fingers that move with the cutting blade to automatically adjust the seam with the cutting width.
There’s also a built-in needle threading system, which is different from the looper air-threading system.
And the tension control is by dial, rather than lay-in tension, which some sewists may feel more comfortable with.
But just because it’s ridiculously easy to use doesn’t mean that it isn’t powerful.
The Babylock Celebrate is a 2-3-4 serger. It has a stitching speed of 1500 stitches per minute, which is a bit above average. It also has separate drive systems for the loopers and cutting blades. And the accessory pack comes with some very useful extras.
This is as far from a cheap overlocker as you can get. But for features and ease of use, it would be difficult to do better. Get more details on this fab machine from our in depth Baby Lock Celebrate review.
The Singer 14HD854 is a serger that’s specifically made for heavier work.
Its stitching speed, 1300 stitches per minute, is average. However, like the Brother 1034D, it comes with a heavy duty metal frame and an extra-high presser foot lift.
Unlike the Brother 1034D, however, the Singer 14HD854 can work with two threads, as well as three and four. This means that in addition to handling your heavy work, this model can also do decorative edging on your most delicate lightweight fabrics.
Other features include:
- Movable upper knife
- Automatic rolled hem
- Free arm
- Scrap bag
The 14HD854 has eight built-in stitches, which isn’t a lot. Plenty of similar models have twice this many. At the same time, you won’t find very many comparable models at this price point.
If you’re planning to use your serger for heavy work, this could be one to keep in mind. Check out our Singer 14HD854 Review for a comprehensive breakdown of its strengths and weaknesses.
Janome MOD 8933
The Janome MOD 8933 is a diminutive 3-4 serger aimed at novice serger users and hobbyists.
On one hand, it only sews with three and four threads. You may miss that two-thread capability, or you may not.
On the other hand, this model has some powerful features you don’t often find on a lower-end serger, including:
- A lower looper pretension slider
- Front panels that open on the left and the right
- An easy-access lower looper
Considering the fact that threading that lower looper can be the bane of a serger user’s existence, these threading simplifications can make a world of difference when you’re just starting out. There are other higher-end goodies, as well, like auto tension release, which can make sewing with this machine a pleasure.
The Janome MOD 8933 costs a bit more than most other 3-4 sergers, but considering what you get for your money, many sewists would consider it money well spent.
As ever, for a more detailed look at this serger, check out the full Janome MOD-8933 Review.
So, What is the Best Serger on the Market?
The answer, of course, depends on how you plan to use your serger. Do you need a good all-arounder for general purpose home serging? Or perhaps you’ll be working mostly with knits. Do you see a lot of heavy work in your future? Or do you just want a friendly learner’s machine to provide a gentle introduction to this type of sewing?
In any case, we have some best serger suggestions for you.
Best Serger for Home Use
If your home is like mine, then you have a lot of different things going on. “Home use” means general purpose. That is, you want as many different functionalities as you can get for your money, and hopefully a build that will last.
The Singer Professional 14T968DC could be the machine to make your home serging dreams come true.
The Singer Professional 14T968DC is a 2-3-4-5 serger. That means it can sew with two threads, five threads, and all threads inbetween. It’s as capable of delicate, light work as it is of creating heavy-duty, flexible, stress-bearing seams.
There’s a generous selection of stitch types and four built-in rolled hems, as well. And don’t forget the heavy-duty metal frame, extra-high presser foot, and automatically adjusting tension.
On top of that, if you do your research, you can find this model for a lot less than you might imagine.
If you’re looking for a machine that can do it all, and which won’t break the bank, the Singer 14T968DC is definitely worthy of your attention.
Best Serger for Beginners
If you’re looking for a first serger, and want one that will practically run itself, the Babylock Celebrate could well be your model.
Check this out:
- Self-threading loopers
- Automatic rolled hem
- Built-in needle threader
- Easy tension adjustment system
And that’s just for starters.
The Babylock Celebrate is expensive. It’s quite expensive. But it also removes all of the difficult aspects of serger use without taking away any of the fun. On top of that, it’s extremely powerful and versatile.
For a less expensive option, the Elna Elnita ES4 is an easy-to-use, budget-friendly 2-3-4 overlocker made with learners in mind.
Elna is a well-regarded Swiss brand that was recently acquired by Janome. So you know you’ll be getting quality construction as well. Read more about this particular model here in our Elna Elnita ES4 review.
Best Serger for Knits
All sergers can handle knit fabrics. It’s what they do. But the key to handling knits is the differential feed. And this capability can vary from machine to machine.
The first order of business is to make certain that your serger has a differential feed mechanism. The majority do. However, a few models do not.
After that, look at the range of differential feed. The range is represented by a series of numbers on the differential feed dial. The numbers refer to the ratio of movement between the front and rear feed dogs. A greater range means finer control over the stretching or compression of your fabric during serging.
The Janome 634D My Lock allows you to adjust your differential feed settings between 0.5 and 2.25. By contrast, a lot of machines have a differential feed range of between 0.7 and 2.0.
The extra range may not make much of a difference to your sewing. On the other hand, for some sewists, it may.
This model has a lot of other things to recommend it, as well, including:
- A quick change rolled hem setting
- Lower looper pretension control
- Included trim trap
Any serger will be able to sew knit fabrics. That being said, the Janome 634D My Lock will give you a bit more control over stretch and compression.
Best Serger for Thick Fabrics
There are two features that can make it easier to work with thick fabrics: an extra-high presser foot lift and a heavy-duty metal frame.
An extra-high presser foot lift allows you to work with thicker fabrics and thicker fabric layers. And the truth is, many sergers come with this feature.
A heavy-duty metal frame, however, is less common.
The Singer 14HD854 heavy duty serger is a model that is, unsurprisingly, made for heavy work. Like Singer’s 44-series heavy duty sewing machines, this model comes with that all-important metal frame. It also has the extra-high presser foot lift.
This is a powerful, versatile 2-3-4 serger. It also has a free arm, an automatic rolled hem, and a movable upper knife.
And if that’s not enough, like many Singer machines, the Singer 14HD854 is very, very budget-friendly.
Are You Ready?
A new piece of equipment is a big investment. It can be exciting as well as intimidating. Before you rush into a purchase, take the time to ask yourself:
- Will I use this machine often enough to justify the purchase?
- Do I have a clear vision for how I will use this new technology?
- If I need help, do I know where to find it?
If you’re ready to add a serger to your arsenal of tools, then think about the following:
- How many threads do you need?
- Do you see yourself working with heavy or thick fabrics primarily?
- Are you confident with complexity, or would you prefer automatic functions?
- What are your specific must-have functions and features?
The right serger for you is the one you will use, happily, and over and over.
Do you have a favorite serger? Or perhaps some advice to share with our readers? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section below ⤵️.
- Merrow Sewing Machine Company | Overlock History: 172 Years of Business | http://www.merrow.com/overlock-history
- University Libraries: The Factory | Serger or Overlock Machine?!? | https://blogs.library.unt.edu/factory/2020/03/31/serger-or-overlock-machine
- Elaine Theriault | How to piece a quilt using a serger | https://quiltsocial.com/how-to-piece-a-quilt-using-a-serger/
- Deb Canham | CREATIVE TOTE BAG ON THE SERGER | http://sergersanity.blogspot.com/2016/02/creative-tote-bag-on-serger-this-tote.html
- Over the Edge – Serging with Jen | Serger Double Fold Bias Binder Tutorial | https://overtheedge.blog/tutorials/serger-double-fold-bias-binder-tutorial/