*** This post was updated on: January 5, 2020 ***
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Are you looking to give your homemade clothes and sewing projects that professionally finished look? Look no further!
When I first started my sewing business I spent countless hours trying to perfect the seams on my napkins, pillow cases and homemade clothes.
While my skills improved with practice, it was still taking WAY too much time.
Then I read about sergers. After A LOT of research, I decided to bite the bullet and give one a try.
With just a bit of practice I cut my production time by over 30%. It also produced a finished look that was impossible without a serger.
Here are just a few things sergers can do that sewing machines won't:
My Favorite Serger Sewing Machine
There are literally dozens of sergers on the market with new models coming out all the time. I spent hours researching and returned several models before settling on my favorite. To save you some time I'm going to highlight the most important features and which models give you the most bang for your buck!
Just like anything else, the more you're willing to invest in your serger the more features and functionality you'll get. That's not to say you should just rush out and buy the most expensive model, but you should consider what features you'll be using on a consistent basis and decide if the price is worth it.
Advanced Users (Higher Priced)
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 machine can be a major source of frustration, so you can only imagine the frustration of manually threading four threads in a more complex serger. Automatic threading can be a much appreciated feature!
The Brother 3234DT is all about ease of use and reliability, producing a professional finished edge on all types of fabrics, including knits and wovens.
This high performance serger will perform the same basic functions as less expensive models, but has a number of bonus features including a removable tray for clippings, automatic threader, an instructional DVD, extra feet, and an extension table that doubles as accessory storage.
The large extension table is helpful when working with large pieces, and keeps the fabric from falling off of the side of the machine. This piece also contains storage spaces for accessories, keeping all of the parts handy and organized.
Sergers produce huge amounts of shredded fabric, that usually ends up on the floor. If you have a rolling chair, you will end up with strips of frayed fabric wrapping around and sticking in the wheels. This machine comes with a removable tray that catches the clippings, making cleanup a snap.
The presser foot lever is easily accessible; instead of on the back of the machine, the lever is located on the right front side. In addition to the standard multi-purpose presser foot, this machine comes with a blind stitch foot and a gathering foot.
While this model does not include auto-threading capability it is relatively easy to thread. If you're looking for something that includes an auto-threader you should be prepared to spend a bit more.
The included instructional DVD has all kinds of handy tips for using the machine.
Finally, this machine is sturdy and stays in place, where other machines might bounce and slide around while working.
I mentioned I would review coverstitch machines in a separate article, but I included this one in the serger article because it does both!
The Singer 14T968DC has a 5-4-3-2 thread capability and will achieve a narrow coverstitch, triple coverstitch, double chain stitch, or wide coverstitch in addition to serger stitches.
The serger stitches include a five or four-thread safety stitch, four or three-thread ultra-stretch mock safety stitch, three-thread overlock stitch, three-thread flatlock, two-thread wrapped-edge overlock, and two-thread overedge.
There are also four built-in rolled hems.
But with this complexity comes…complexity! Though there is a helpful CD workbook included, this machine is not recommended for beginners. Learning to use a basic serger takes some time and practice, and learning to coverstitch is another skill that will need to be learned. Threading will be more complex with this machine than with a standard serger because there are five threads instead of just four.
The downside of owning a machine that offers both serger and coverstitch capability, is that there is a process involved with switching from one to the other. This process involves replacing needles and re-threading the machine.
Though the threading is manual, it does come with a color-coded guide to help eliminate some of the guesswork. Additionally, the tension system is fully automatic and self-adjusting, which is a huge bonus!
A removable trimmings tray keeps threads and scraps confined, instead of all over the floor and workspace. As an added bonus, this machine comes with accessory snap-on presser feet including a multi-purpose foot, beading foot, blind hem foot, cording foot, elastic foot, shirring foot, and taping foot.
This machine comes with an all-purpose foot, needle set, tweezers, spreader, screwdrivers, clean pocket, serging knife, spool caps, anti-spill net, oiler, brush, cone adapters, soft-sided dust cover. Also included is a CD workbook and instruction manual with stitch guide, foot control and power cord.
This JUKI MO654DE is a step up from the less expensive starter sergers. Though the features are not much different, the general quality and ease of use is an improvement.
At 1500 stitches per minute, this machine is faster than some of the lower priced models. A micro safety switch prevents the user from serging while the swing cover is open.
A great choice for a small business or for high volume home use, the Juki MO654DE has been dubbed an "incredible bargain" by many users. It is our third place pick for all-around value!
This is another great machine for beginners who are working with a slightly higher budget. It is a stable machine and does not move around when sewing. Though the machine is threaded manually, the color-coded threading makes this task easier.
Another feature that helps with threading is the disengaging looper; the thread is simply slid into the slot before the looper is snapped into place.
This machine will produce a 4 or 3-thread overlock, a 3-thread flatlock, 3-thread narrow overlock, a 3 or 2-thread rolled hem, or a 2-thread overcast. This machine does not have a coverstitch, nor does it offer a free arm, which means that serging small pieces may be a bit more challenging.
Tensions are easy to set; normal tensions are highlighted right on the dials, saving the user time from consulting the manual.
The knife system is powerful, with it’s own dedicated drive mechanism, and cuts smoothly. We even managed to stitch up to six layers of cotton batting and two layers of denim using the JUKI MO-654DE. Crazy!
The unit includes a multi-purpose presser foot, large and small screwdrivers, spare lower knife, spool caps, oiler, thread nets, vinyl dust cover, pack of needles, brush and needle inserter, guide bar, 2/3 thread selector, accessory pouch, light bulb, instruction manual, and foot control / power cord. Want more information? Read our full review of the Juki MO654DE.
Intermediate to Advanced (Mid Price Range)
Sergers in this price range will perform the basic stitches of a serger, but offer a bit more quality and reliability than the lowest price tier. There ill always be a bit of a learning curve with sergers, especially when it comes to threading and adjusting tension, and these sergers are no exception.
That being said, these are all great options for beginners. With less automation and complexity, you will quickly need to learn how to thread, adjust tension, and use differential feed. Most machines come with a manual; and where the manual falls short, there are ample books, YouTube videos, and more resources online! The more you learn about your machine, the more use you will get out of it.
The Juki MO644D is a great option for beginners and experienced seamstresses, this serger has been noted for its speed and ease of use. It’s high ratings and happy owners have led us to choose this as our top pick!
The multi-function presser foot allows the user to easily add tape, elastic, ribbon, or sequins. Creating overlock stitches is a breeze. Color-coded threading guides make manual threading as easy as possible.
Built-in seam guides allow for consistent and accurate seam allowances. A heavy duty knife with it’s own dedicated drive provides easy and clean cutting for heavy or lightweight fabrics.
Easy cutting width adjustments help create beautiful seams and rolled edges, while the stitch length adjustments can be changed for specialty thread or overlock techniques.
The differential feed knob can be adjusted to keep seams even and clean, or create funky lettuce edges.
This machine is basic and powerful, and is highly recommended for beginners or for those that crave simplicity in a machine.
It comes standard with a multi-purpose presser foot, screwdriver, spool caps, oiler, thread nets, vinyl cover, needle pack, tweezers, brush and needle inserter, looper threader, accessory pouch, light bulb, instruction manual, and foot control / power cord.
The Brother Designio DZ1234 is a great all-around serger for basic clothing and home decor applications. It comes ready-to-use, straight out of the box. The machine comes pre-threaded with basic serging thread.
This can be helpful for users who are new to serging- threading can be complicated, and seeing the machine threaded will help you understand how to thread the machine yourself.
Some users may prefer to immediately switch the thread out to a higher-quality serging thread, as the included thread has been reported to be thin and easily broken.
A color-coded threading guide simplifies the process of threading the machine. This machine doesn’t require fancy, specialized needles; basic sewing needles will work, provided they are appropriate for the fabric being sewn.
Adjustable differential feed of .7mm – 2mm for most fabric types ensures consistency and durability. Stitch width can be adjusted between 3mm and 7mm, and stitch length from 2mm – 4mm, allowing further customization. Finally, the user can choose to use three or all four threads.
This serger comes with four accessory feet: a basic multipurpose foot, a blind hem stitch foot, a gathering foot, and a piping foot.
The gathering foot easily gathers, connects, and finishes the raw edges of fabric. Pins are not needed to keep fabric connected, as a special channel on the foot does that for you.
The piping foot is used to guide and/or hold narrow piping. You can also create your own custom piping using fabric strips and piping cord. Also works for zippers.
The blind hem and stitch foot works on a variety of fabrics and allows the user to create edge stitches, attach lace or fabric, or join edges. This foot is adjustable and has an open toe.
A free arm and flat bed convertible feature makes it easy to hem and finish sleeve openings and other cylindrical pieces.
Note: This machine is similar to the Brother 1034D, but with the addition of accessory feet. Some users prefer the dark blue tension dials of the DZ1234 vs the pastel dials of the 1034D.
The Janome 8002D is a great serger for beginners! Basic, compact, and lightweight, it is perfect for the at-home seamstress and is our 2nd pick for all around value!
This machine has a built-in rolled hem feature, meaning the user will not have to change any plates.
It will achieve a three or four-thread finish, quickly and easily. It is ideal for joining and finishing seams for all kinds of applications – home decor, clothing, accessories, and for working with knit and stretchy fabrics.
While beginners might struggle when first learning to use a serger sewing machine, it is actually fairly common when first moving to a serger.
Sergers are somewhat difficult to use the first time, and will require some learning and studying. Keeping that in mind, this machine is relatively easy to use and re-thread.
The thread guides are color-coded, so once you become proficient at threading the machine, you work will only get faster and easier.
Models for Beginners (Entry Level Pricing)
Sergers in this price range will be the most basic and sergers on the market. They will lend a finished, commercial look to home decor and clothing projects, and will make sewing with knits a snap!
As these machines come at a more affordable price, they are ideal for beginners, or for those who will need a serger for basic, home-based uses, or for those who just want to try it out.
These machines will not offer coverstitching, automatic threading, or automatic tension control. Though they will get the basic job done, they may be louder and less stable than machines in a higher price bracket.
Basic and easy to use, the versatile Singer 14CG754 offers two, three, or four-thread stitch capability.
This machine comes pre-threaded and ready to use, allowing the user to see how the machine is threaded. When the time comes to re-thread, the process is simplified with a color-code guide.
Rated as a great machine for beginners, this machine is heavy enough to feel sturdy, but lightweight enough to be portable. If you use it infrequently or have a multipurpose craft area, it is light enough to move when needed.
This serger has 2, 3, or 4-thread capability, which can save you time and money when finishing seams, and provides more stitch variety.
The upper knife is easily removable, allowing the user to prevent trimming of fabric while sewing. This feature is used for rolled hems.
Adjustable differential feed helps to eliminate puckering and stretching of the fabric, and four built-in rolled hems provide further finishing options. Stitch length is adjustable from two to four millimeters, and stitch width is adjustable from three to seven millimeters, keeping seams strong and preventing fabric from bunching.
Four built-in rolled hems makes finishing lightweight fabrics a breeze.
This serger comes with an optional free arm, allowing the user to quickly and easily hem sleeves and cuffs, and work with small pieces such as children’s clothing.
Includes a multi-purpose foot, needle set, tweezer, small screwdriver, foot pedal, spreader, and machine intro DVD.
Th Brother 1034D is a wonderful all-around serger for both home decor and clothing, lending a commercial-grade, finished look to your projects.
The manual threading process is simplified by a color-coded guide. This machine utilizes standard needles, so you simply select the needles that are appropriate for the fabric being used, and get serging. There is no need to order specialized needles that often are not available at craft and fabric shops.
Consistency and durability are achieved with the adjustable differential feed of .7mm – 2mm. Stitch length is adjustable from 2mm – 4mm, and stitch width can be adjusted between 3mm and 7mm, allowing further customization. Three or four threads can be used.
This serger comes with three accessory feet: a basic multipurpose foot, a blind hem stitch foot, and a gathering foot.
The gathering foot easily connects, gathers, and finishes the raw edges of fabric. A special channel on the foot connects the fabric, eliminating the need for pins.
The blind hem and stitch foot allows the user to create edge stitches, attach lace or fabric, or join edges on a variety of fabrics.
This foot has an open toe and is adjustable.
Sleeve opening hems are easily finished with the free arm and convertible bed design. This feature helps with other cylindrical pieces.
Note: This machine is very similar to the Brother DZ1234, but is missing the piping foot and has different colored tension dials.
If you're ready to take your finishing work to the next level any one of these machines can help. Just keep in mind that many of the options you pay for with the more expensive machines are designed to save you time and frustration.
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 traditional machine can be used to attach zippers, create buttonholes, and so many more specialty stitches. It can also be used for quilting and other topstitching applications.
Do you plan to only quilt? Stop right here! You probably won’t need a serger. Check out our article covering the best quilting machines on the market.
Do you plan to make clothing and home decor? 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 without a serger 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 attaching zippers, making buttonholes, 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:
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.
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.
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.
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 always, 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.
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.
A free arm makes hemming cuffs a breeze! Machines with this capability have a piece that is removed, allowing small, cylindrical pieces to be sewn easily and in a circular fashion.
Some machines require specialized needles that can be hard to find in basic craft and fabric shops. Other serger sewing machines will work with standard needles.
Will your serger occupy it’s own special place in your home? Or will it need to be stowed away when not in use? Who will use this serger? If the serger needs to be stowed away frequently, it is important to make sure that the primary user is able to easily pick up and move the machine.
Natalie V Mason is an ETSY entrepreneur that started her online sewing business in 2012. She specializes in fabric design, sewing, and dying. You can see her work on her ETSY page and on her website at natalievmason.com. You can also reach her via email. You can also read more about her here.