The Best
Sewing Machines

What Is a Serger

what is a serger

Are you ready to take your sewing skills to the next level? Well, prepare to be amazed by the serger!

Have you ever wondered what this magical machine can do for your sewing projects? Wonder no more, because this article will introduce you to the world of sergers and all their incredible capabilities.

A serger, also known as an overlocker, is a specialized sewing machine that will transform the way you finish your seams. With its ability to trim fabric, overcast edges, and repair seams in a flash, the serger is a must-have tool for serious sewers like you.

But that’s not all – a serger can also insert elastic, decorate garments with trims, and create professional cover stitches.

Get ready to elevate your sewing game with the amazing power of the serger!

Understanding the Serger Machine

To understand the serger machine, you need to know its key components and functions.

A serger, also known as an overlocker, is a specialized sewing machine that’s designed to create professional-quality finishes on seams. Unlike a regular sewing machine, a serger can simultaneously sew, trim off seam allowances, and finish raw fabric edges in one step. This is achieved by using an overlock stitch, which is a type of stitch that encases the raw edge of the fabric with thread. The result is a neat and durable seam that prevents fraying.

Sergers use multiple spools of fine thread and looper threads instead of bobbins, and they’ve upper and lower knives to cut the fabric as it’s sewn, allowing for the overlocked edge.

These features make the serger a versatile tool for various sewing projects, including creating decorative edges, inserting elastic, and sewing hems.

To fully understand how a serger operates, it’s crucial to familiarize ourselves with its key components. An understanding of the serger’s anatomy plays a pivotal role in troubleshooting and maintenance, ensuring optimal performance and longevity.

The main components of a serger include the stitch finger, looper, needle, differential feed, cutting knife, and tension dials. Let’s delve deeper into each component to gain a comprehensive understanding of their functions:

1. Stitch Finger

The stitch finger, also known as a stitch plate or throat plate, is a small metal plate located beneath the presser foot. It has a small hole through which the needle passes to create stitches. The stitch finger helps to guide the fabric and maintain consistent stitch formation. It is important to keep the stitch finger clean and free from debris to prevent any interference with the stitching process.

2. Looper

The looper is a critical component of a serger that works in conjunction with the needle to create various types of stitches. There are two types of loopers in a serger: the upper looper and the lower looper. The upper looper carries the thread from the upper thread cone and forms the upper part of the stitch, while the lower looper carries the thread from the lower thread cone and forms the lower part of the stitch. Proper threading and tension adjustment of the loopers are essential for achieving balanced and even stitches.

3. Needle

The needle in a serger is responsible for creating the straight stitches or overlock stitches, depending on the chosen stitch setting. It works in coordination with the loopers to form the stitches. It is crucial to use the correct type and size of needle for the fabric being sewn to ensure optimal stitch quality and prevent needle breakage.

4. Differential Feed

The differential feed is a feature that allows the serger to handle different types of fabrics with varying degrees of stretch or thickness. It controls the movement of the fabric layers through the machine, preventing puckering or stretching. By adjusting the differential feed settings, you can achieve smooth and even stitches on a wide range of fabrics.

5. Cutting Knife

The cutting knife is a sharp blade located near the presser foot that trims the fabric edges as the serger stitches. It ensures clean and precise cutting, preventing fraying and unraveling of the fabric. Regular maintenance of the cutting knife, such as sharpening or replacement when necessary, is essential to maintain its cutting efficiency.

6. Tension Dials

The tension dials control the tension of the threads in a serger. There are usually multiple tension dials, corresponding to each thread (upper looper, lower looper, and needle). Proper tension adjustment is crucial for achieving balanced stitches and preventing issues like skipped stitches or thread breakage. Understanding the relationship between the tension dials and the desired stitch outcome is essential for obtaining professional-looking results.

Maintaining a serger involves proper threading, regular cleaning, and oiling. By following the manufacturer’s guidelines and investing time in maintenance, it’s possible to enjoy crisp and professional results for years to come. Remember to consult the user manual for specific instructions on how to care for your serger’s components.

The Capabilities of a Serger

With a serger, you can consistently achieve professional-quality finishes on your seams. One of the main capabilities of a serger is its ability to create an overlock stitch, which not only sews the seam but also trims off the excess fabric and overcasts the raw edges, preventing fraying. This gives your garments a clean and polished look.

Another useful feature of a serger is the differential feed, which allows you to gather fabric or sew stretchy materials without causing distortion or puckering. This is especially handy when working with knits and other stretch fabrics.

Additionally, a serger can create a rolled hem, which is perfect for finishing edges on lightweight fabrics or creating decorative edges on projects. With different settings and attachments, a serger can also create a variety of serger stitches, such as flatlock, chain stitch, and decorative stitches. These stitches can add unique and professional touches to your sewing projects.

Limitations of a Serger

You might occasionally encounter limitations when using a serger. While sergers are versatile machines with multiple threads and the ability to sew seams and trim excess fabric, they do have some limitations that you should be aware of. Here are a few limitations of a serger:

Limited Stitch OptionsSergers are tailor-made for construction and finishing, shining in overcast stitches and fabric trimming. However, they’re not cut out for straight stitches or folded hems, a stitch in time for those who need versatility.
Not Suitable for Intricate Decorative WorkSergers can throw in decorative trims, but they’re not the bees’ knees for detailed embroidery or delicate decorative finishes. For such intricate work, a regular sewing machine is your go-to.
Thread Tension AdjustmentsAdjusting the thread tension on a serger can be a bit of a pickle, requiring a dash of practice and a spoonful of patience. Nailing this skill is key for a professional finish, so don’t throw in the towel too soon!
Limited Seam AllowancesSergers stick to a standard seam allowance of about 1/4 inch, which might not cut the mustard for many sewing projects. If you’re after a larger seam allowance, stitch your initial seam with a regular sewing machine and then serger the edges for a neat finish.

Despite these limitations, sergers are still valuable tools for creating professional-quality finishes on seams and adding decorative touches to your garments. Just be aware of their limitations and use them in conjunction with a regular sewing machine when necessary.

Serger Versus Overlock Machine

An overlock machine and a serger are essentially the same type of specialized sewing machine. However, there are some key differences between the two that you should be aware of.

Here’s a breakdown of the main differences:

  • Function: Both sergers and overlock machines are designed to create professional finishes on seams. However, sergers offer additional functions such as trimming and overcasting, making them more versatile for various sewing projects.
  • Stitch: Sergers create an overlock stitch that standard sewing machines can’t produce. This stitch is ideal for finishing raw fabric edges, preventing fraying and unraveling.
  • Gathering: Overlock machines have a feature called differential feed, which allows for quick and easy gathering on various fabric types. This isn’t a function that’s typically found in sergers.

Multiple Thread Spools Usage

To explore the functionality of a serger further, let’s delve into its utilization of multiple thread spools. Unlike a regular sewing machine that typically uses one spool of thread and a bobbin, sergers and coverstitch machines can accommodate multiple spools of thread simultaneously. This allows for more efficient and versatile stitching options.

Most sergers have the capability to hold between 2 and 6 spools of thread. The number of spools will depend on the specific model you have. Sergers use these multiple spools of thread to create various types of stitches and finishes, such as overlocking and coverstitching.

When using a serger, it’s important to consider the number of sewing machine needles required. Most sergers use two needles, although some models may have three. These needles work in conjunction with the multiple spools of thread to create the desired stitch.

By using multiple spools of thread, sergers are able to create stronger and more durable seams. The additional threads help distribute the tension evenly, resulting in a more secure stitch. This is especially useful for sewing projects that require added strength, such as garment construction or working with heavy fabrics.

Bobbin-Free Operation

A serger offers a bobbin-free operation, allowing for efficient and hassle-free sewing. With this feature, you no longer have to worry about winding and inserting bobbins into the machine. Instead, sergers use looper threads to create the overlock stitch, eliminating the need for a bobbin.

Here are three reasons why the bobbin-free operation of a serger is beneficial:

  • Time-saving: Without the need to deal with bobbins, you can start sewing right away. This saves you precious time, especially when working on time-sensitive projects or when you need to quickly hem a garment.
  • Easy threading: Threading a serger can be simpler compared to traditional sewing machines. With no bobbin to thread, you only need to thread the upper and lower loopers, making the process quicker and more straightforward.
  • Continuous stitching: Since sergers don’t require bobbins, you can sew continuously without interruptions. This is particularly useful when creating long hems or stitching large pieces of fabric together.

Multi-Needle Functionality

With multi-needle functionality, you can expand your sewing possibilities and achieve more intricate and decorative stitches on your serger. Unlike traditional sewing machines that typically have just one needle, sergers with multi-needle capabilities allow you to use multiple needles simultaneously. This means you can incorporate different colored threads or use different types of stitches in a single seam. By utilizing multiple needles, you can create beautiful decorative effects, such as pintucks, fagoting, and flatlocking, that add flair to your sewing projects.

Multi-needle sergers are especially popular among sewists who enjoy embellishing their garments or creating unique, eye-catching designs. With the ability to thread multiple spools of thread, these machines make it easy to experiment with color combinations and create stunning effects. Whether you want to add intricate details to a quilt, create decorative edges on a garment, or experiment with different stitch patterns, a serger with multi-needle functionality will give you the versatility and creative freedom you need.

In addition to decorative stitching, multi-needle sergers can also be used for practical purposes. For example, you can use two needles to create a stronger, more durable seam, perfect for sewing activewear or items that require extra strength. So, if you’re looking to take your sewing to the next level and explore a wider range of possibilities, consider investing in a serger with multi-needle functionality.

Cutting Features of Sergers

When exploring the cutting features of sergers, you can take advantage of their specialized knives to achieve clean edges and finished fabric edges in one simple step. Here are some key points to know about the cutting features of sergers:

  • Sergers use upper and lower knives that cut the fabric as it’s being sewn. This creates clean edges and finishes raw fabric edges simultaneously, saving you time and effort.
  • Most modern sergers have a special rolled hem stitch. This stitch is perfect for creating narrow, folded hems that are less likely to fray. It’s commonly used on garments like slip dresses and skirts with elastic waistbands.
  • Sergers with differential feed make gathering fabric quick and easy. By adjusting the differential feed dial, you can control the amount of gathers, allowing for versatility when working with different fabrics.
  • Sergers use multiple spools of finer thread simultaneously. This prevents bulky seams and ensures a professional finish.
  • Sergers have upper and lower knives that can be engaged or disengaged. This feature allows you to create different stitches and accommodate different fabric types.

With these cutting features, sergers make it easier to achieve professional-looking finishes on your sewing projects, particularly when it comes to creating folded hems and clean edges.

Speed of a Serger Machine

To maximize your sewing efficiency, a serger machine operates at a high speed, allowing you to complete your projects in a fraction of the time compared to traditional sewing machines. The speed of a serger is achieved through several key features and functions.

Firstly, sergers can combine three essential sewing steps into one. They can trim excess seam allowance, sew the fabric together, and finish the edges all in a single pass. This eliminates the need for separate machines or manual finishing, saving you valuable time.

Secondly, sergers use a chain stitch, which is known for its speed and strength. This type of stitch allows the fabric to stretch without breaking, making it ideal for stretchy fabrics like knits. By using a chain stitch, sergers can sew at higher speeds without compromising the quality or durability of the seam.

Lastly, sergers have built-in knives that cut the fabric as you sew. This not only creates clean, professional-looking edges but also contributes to the machine’s speed and efficiency. The knives eliminate the need for manual trimming and finishing, making the sewing process much faster.

In summary, the speed of a serger machine is a result of its ability to combine multiple sewing steps, use a fast and stretchy chain stitch, and incorporate built-in knives for cutting. These features allow you to complete your projects quickly and efficiently, saving you time and effort.

Combines three steps in oneTrims, sews, and finishes in a single passSaves time and eliminates the need for separate machines
Uses a chain stitchFast and stretchySew at higher speeds without compromising the quality or durability
Incorporates built-in knivesCuts the fabric as you sewCreates clean edges and eliminates the need for manual trimming

Choosing the Right Serger for Your Needs

With so many options available in the market, choosing the right serger for your needs can be a daunting task. However, by considering a few key factors, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your sewing goals and budget.

When buying a serger, it’s essential to consider factors such as your sewing experience, desired features, budget, and long-term goals. Assessing your needs and understanding the different types of sergers available will help you narrow down your options.

If you’re a beginner, opting for a serger with user-friendly features and basic stitch options is highly recommended. On the other hand, advanced sewists might prefer a serger with a wider range of stitch options, adjustable settings, and additional features such as automatic threading and differential feed.

When it comes to brands, several reputable manufacturers specialize in sergers. Researching top serger brands and reading reviews from fellow sewists can provide valuable insights. Consider factors such as customer support, warranty, and availability of accessories when evaluating different brands.

For first-time serger users, starting with a beginner-friendly model and taking advantage of available resources, such as online tutorials and classes, will ensure a smooth learning curve.

Pricing of Serger Machines

Serger machines can vary greatly in price, depending on factors such as the brand, model, and features. When it comes to the pricing of serger machines, there are a few key things to consider:

  • Basic serger machines: These machines are suitable for beginners and usually range from $200 to $400. They offer essential features for basic sewing projects and are a great starting point for home sewists looking to experiment with a serger.
  • High-end serger machines: If you’re looking for advanced features and superior performance, high-end serger machines are worth considering. These machines can cost anywhere between $800 to $2000 or more. They often offer a wider range of stitching options and are designed to handle complex sewing tasks with ease.
  • Combination serger/coverstitch machines: For those who want even more versatility, combination serger/coverstitch machines are the way to go. These machines not only have the capabilities of a serger but also offer additional stitching options for coverstitching. The price range for these machines can be higher, ranging from $500 to $3000.

When deciding on the right serger machine for your needs, it’s important to consider your budget, the type of sewing you’ll be doing, and the features that are essential to you. By understanding the pricing options available, you can make an informed decision and find a serger machine that meets your requirements.


So there you have it, the serger is the ultimate tool for taking your sewing skills to the next level.

Did you know that a serger can sew up to 1,500 stitches per minute? That’s more than double the speed of a regular sewing machine!

With this incredible speed, you can finish your projects in no time and tackle even the most complex designs.

So why wait? Get yourself a serger and unlock a whole new world of possibilities in your sewing journey.


What is the purpose of a serger?

The main purpose of a serger is to neatly finish the raw edges of fabric so they don’t fray or unravel. It also sews seams on stretchy knit fabrics and allows you to sew with a professional overlock stitch.

How is a serger different from a sewing machine?

A serger uses 3-4 threads to create overlock stitches that go over the edge of the fabric. A regular sewing machine only uses 1-2 threads for straight or zig-zag stitches. Sergers also trim the seam allowance as they sew.

Do I need a serger if I have a sewing machine?

No, you don’t absolutely need a serger if you have a sewing machine. A sewing machine can do most basic construction. However, a serger makes sewing knits and finishing seams much easier and neater.

Can you use a regular sewing machine as a serger?

No, you cannot use a standard sewing machine as a true serger. Sewing machines don’t have the overlock stitch capabilities or the knife to trim seam allowances that sergers have.

About The Author

2 thoughts on “What Is a Serger”

  1. Pingback: Sewing Machine vs. Serger: What's the Difference? - The Best Sewing Machines

  2. Pingback: Introduction to Sergers: What They Are and Why You Need One -

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *