A serger is a wonderful complement to a sewing machine. There are functions that a serger machine can perform that a sewing machine cannot, and vice versa. Do you even need a serger? Well, that depends on what kind of work you need to perform.
In addition to joining pieces and hemming, a sewing machine can be used to attach zippers, create buttonholes, and so many more specialty stitches. A sewing machine can also be used for quilting and other topstitching applications.
Do you plan to make clothing and home décor? Do you want your projects to be durable, and have a beautifully finished appearance? Do you crave quality and speed? If so, you should consider purchasing a serger.
Where a sewing machine falls short, is when it comes to “finishing.” Seams made with a standard sewing machine will have raw edges along the seam allowance that will either need to be covered with hem tape, finished with a zig zag stitch, or trimmed with pinking shears. The hem tape option looks nice, but is time consuming. The zig zag finish is lackluster. Trimming with pinking shears is both lackluster and time consuming.
A serger is great for eliminating this problem- it can make the seam, trim and finish the seam allowance, all in one pass! A serger can also create decorative rolled hems, and is great for sewing stretchy and knit fabrics because the stitches will stretch with the fabric, unlike a standard sewing machine stitch. A serger is not ideal for standard hems as the edge will want to roll.
A coverstitch machine is wonderful for hemming stretch fabrics and will help you achieve that lovely hem that is commonly found on t-shirts.
Sergers and coverstitch machines are not useful for making buttonholes, attaching buttons, quilting, or decorative topstitching.
If you already have a sewing machine, a serger or cover-stitch machine will be an excellent addition to your sewing arsenal. Many seamstresses will acquire machines in the following order:
1 Sewing machine
3 Cover-stich machine
Have you ever used a serger before? If not, you may consider investing in some extracurricular reading. Though most machines will come with a manual, they aren’t always the most comprehensive. To fully unlock the potential of your machine, we recommend keeping this book on hand for reference.
Features to Consider When Shopping for a Serger
There are any number of features incorporated into a quality serger. Here are a few of the key ones to look for in a model that you might be considering.
A serger has two sets of feed dogs that push the fabric through the machine. Differential feed is what controls the feed dogs. By adjusting the differential feed ratio, the user can achieve an even finish to the seam. Conversely, a decorative, ruffled edge can also be made.
Automatic vs Manual Threading
Seamstresses around the world can agree: the single greatest frustration when using a serger is threading, and it isn’t just a matter of getting the thread through the eye of the needle. Each thread will have to travel through multiple channels, some in hard-to-reach places, and in a very specific order. Tweezers will usually be required; most manual-threading sergers will come with a pair. Even for experienced users, re-threading a machine properly can take fifteen minutes or more; for new users, thirty minutes or more is common. For this reason, many people opt to pay hundreds more for a machine with automatic threading capabilities.
Number of Threads
The most basic of sergers will use at least four threads, and some machines work with up to eight threads.
Most home-based users will only need the four-thread machines.
Stitch length on a serger is the same as stitch length on a regular sewing machine; the smaller the length, the closer together the stitches. For a rolled hem, the stitch length will be small.
This controls where the blade cuts the fabric. Ideally, the thread will huge the fabric just tight enough for the seam to sit flat. If adjusted improperly, the thread will hang off the edge of the cut fabric or there will be too much fabric inside the thread loops, causing bunching.
As with a regular sewing machine, thread tension has a lot to do with the overall look of the final project. Tension will need to be adjusted differently for a rolled hem, and for different fabric types.
Most sergers will come with a pack of needles, a multi-purpose foot, and tweezers. Some basic sergers will also come with a few accessory feet. If you are using a serger primarily for finishing inside seams, you will only need the multi-purpose foot.
Stitch Configurations: 3-4, 2-3-4, etc
All sergers will have at least four threads. Most sergers will allow only three to be used, and some will allow only two to be used. A four-thread stitch will be stronger than a two or three-thread stitch.
A serger will perform a variety of stitches. What to use will depend on the project.
A four-thread overlock stitch is the most common and is noted for its durability and strength. It is often used on clothing seams.
A three-thread overlock is also very common, but is not as durable as a four-thread overlock. This stitch can also be used for a blind hem.
A two-thread overlock, if possible, is not recommended for seams, but is great for finishing raw edges while keeping it light and flat.
A two-thread flatlock stitch is like a faux coverstich. (A coverstitch is accomplished with a completely different machine.)
A rolled hem, using two or three threads, is often used for decorative purposes and is a great option for quickly hemming lightweight fabrics.
Models $300 and Up
Sergers in this price range will perform the same basic functions as the less expensive models, and will sometimes offer more than five threads. They will offer 2, 3, 4, or 5-thread stitches, they will trim the seam allowance, and will have differential feed to prevent unwanted puckering or stretching.
Where these machines rise above the rest is in durability, stability, and reliability,
Some have additional features, including automatic threading and coverstitch capability. Threading a regular sewing machine can be a major source of frustration, so you can only imagine the frustration of manually threading four threads in a more complex machine. Automatic threading can be a much appreciated feature!
Please stop in and visit us at Daley by the Yard for all of your Serger needs and questions.