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Do You Really Need a Serger/Overlocker?

Serging Away

A few weeks ago, a co-worker who knows that I sew approached me to ask me if I have a serger. She wanted to know what a serger is, and if it was something that she should consider buying. I immediately started to show her the inside of my woven skirt with its raw edges finished with a serger, and the inside of my knit top, sewn with a serger. I was very excited for the opportunity to talk about one of my most prized possessions, my Juki MO654DE. By the end of our talk, I think I converted her.

What is a serger (aka overlocker)?

Image of a diagram of a serger, front and back
So Many Moving Parts!

A serger is a specialized machine that uses three or more threads to sew a seam, cut off the seam allowance, and finish the raw edge with an overcast stitch. You can use your serger to sew your garment, finish its raw edges, or BOTH at the same time. My Juki MO654DE has four threads–upper looper, lower looper, left needle, and right needle—but I’ve heard that some sergers can have up to eight threads! 

Image of a 4-thread serger knobs
Upper Left to Lower Right: Left Needle Knob, Right Needle Knod, Upper Lopper, Lower Looper

On a 4-thread serger, the upper looper creates the stitch on top of the fabric while the lower looper provides stability. The loopers work like knitting needles; they overcast over the threads of the left and right needles. The left needle sews the first row of stitches, and the right needle, the second row of stitching. Together, loopers secure the stitch at the edge of the fabric once it has been trimmed by the blade. This system allows for strong seams that are properly trimmed and beautifully finished.

Pros of a Serger

1. Beautifully finished raw edges: A raw edge finished with a serger is a thing of beauty. Most of my woven garments are finished like this. Of course, you can finish raw edges without a serger, but it makes the process much faster, and the results are very nice.

2. Sewing knits: If you sew a lot of knit garments, a serger is the ideal machine for you. Serger stitches have a good amount of stretch, which means that you don’t have to worry about some of the stitches popping. A serger will sew, trim, and finish your knit seams; sewing a knit garment is a much more efficient and faster affair.

Detail image of the inside of a knit dress showing the shoulder seam, part of the collar, and part of the sleeve
Sewing knits is a breeze with a serger

3. Speed: Sergers can sew more stitches per minute than a regular sewing machine. They can also speed up the sewing process by doing many things (trim, sew, finish) at the same time.

4. Design features: Sergers help you create rolled and lettuce hems, flatlock seams, and gathers quickly and easily.

Cons of a Serger

1. Cost: A serger is an extra cost. The cheapest sergers come at around $200 depending on where you buy them. This is not an insignificant amount, especially if you are on a tight budget. Sergers also use a ton of thread, so this is another additional cost.

2. Space: Some sewists are blessed with a dedicated sewing room; others, including myself, need to squeeze all they can from a corner of the room. A second machine will definitely take space.

3. Threading: While a sewing machine is pretty simple to get the hang of, sergers can be a bit of a (or a whole lot of) pain. Every time my thread chain breaks, I have to rethread the machine. It took me quite some time to get the hang of threading my serger, and I often need to refer back to the video manual. 

4. Noise: Sergers are noisy beasts. If you do a lot of night sewing, you might want to consider how much sound travels where you live.

5. Accidents: You know how a sewing machine is pretty forgiving? If your seam came out wrong or wonky, you can simply unpick, right? Well, because a serger has a blade, once you cut something, well, it is cut. I’ve cut plenty of holes in my garments because I was not paying enough attention to my serger. Fabric has a way of folding under, like when you are sewing a sleeve, and that makes for some very sad, tear-fueled times.

So… Do You Need a Serger/Overlocker?

Image of a Juki sewing machine and a serger
Jukis Hanging Out

If you are asking me, the answer is a resounding YES. Of course, if your sewing machine has a straight stitch and a zigzag stitch, you can sew woven as well as knit fabrics without any problem. The thing with a serger, however, is that it makes sewing life easier. You can give your garments a professional look while being faster and more efficient.

What Serger to Get?

Entry Level: Brother Serger 1034D

This was my first serger, and it lasted for 10 years. As a first machine, it worked well. If you sew a lot of thick fabrics or multiple layers of fabric, this is not the machine for you. Still, it is a good buy at around $250.

Mid-Range: Juki MO654DE

Don’t be fooled by the portable in its name. This serger works well, and it works hard. If space is an issue for you (as it is for me), this machine is small, relatively light (for a serger), and it has never let me down. It is a little more expensive than an entry-level serger–$350–but worth the extra bucks.

Hardcore Machine: Juki MO-6816S

This is an industrial serger. If you sew primarily heavy fabrics like denim, this Juki will do the heavy work for you. It comes at a cost, though–close to $2,000.

What Do You Need?

Ultimately, the choice of buying a serger is all yours. You have to consider your sewing needs in relation to another expense. I can honestly say my serger is an essential part of my sewing practice. I use it as much as I use my sewing machine, and I cannot imagine sewing without it.

Are you Team Serger or not?Leave a comment below with your opinion.

2 Comments

  1. March 24, 2022 / 5:56 pm

    I tried to rethread a serger and it was an utter failure so I have never managed to use one. I am happy with my zigzagged edges and try to tell myself it wouldn’t be better with a serger. I am also unsure how many extra disasters I could cause with a blade but I feel like that would need to be factored in.

    • SewGoth
      Author
      March 29, 2022 / 6:45 pm

      Threading is hard! I still have to watch videos to figure out how to do it. I’ve had my share of accidents, but now I am a lot more careful. Do you have one?

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