What is a Serger?
Sergers and Overlocking machines are a type of sewing machine that creates an overlock stitch. With an overlock stitch, the thread is wrapped around the edge of your seam allowance, giving projects and garments a cleaner look and preventing the fabric from fraying. An overlocking machine is considered a "serger" when moving knives trim the fabric as it's fed under the presser foot, making seams less bulky and more precise. Mainly, sergers are used to produce garments and home decor; however, they also make great quilting machines when piecing.
Unlike traditional lock stitch machines, sergers employ the use of loopers instead of a bobbin. This apparatus creates loops that wrap around the needle thread, producing a thread chain that covers your seams. Because of this looper system, overlocking machines operate at a rate of 1000 to 9000 rpm and can handle most heavy-duty projects, making them more productive than a regular sewing machine. You can also convert your serger to perform a rolled hem stitch or flatlock stitches when working with stretchy materials.
History of the Serger
The Merrow Machine Company originated the use of an overlocking stitch in 1881. Merrow's original overlocker was industrial and used only three threads; however, modern sergers can use up to eight. Standard domestic models tend to use two, three, and four. Baby Lock, along with JUKI, is now one of the most successful sellers of overlocking, home sewing, and quilting machines. JUKI is also renowned for its industrial sewing machines.
Most Commonly Used Stitches
- 2-Thread Seaming: Used for projects that require minimal bulk, like those made with knits and wovens. Serging with two threads can allow you to hem, finish seam edges, stitch flatlock seams, and sew elastic to lace and lingerie.
- 3-Thread Overlock: Most often used with stretchy and woven fabrics, the 3-thread overlock stitch only uses one needle, giving the seam flexibility and less bulk. Other 3-Thread stitches include rolled hems, decorative edging, and pin tucking.
- 4-Thread Overlock: The 4-Thread Overlock is tough and durable, making it the most frequently used stitch — mainly when finishing off seams for apparel. Its strength comes from the use of two needle threads that securely lock in the seams.
- 5-thread Overlock: Typically used in manufacturing, the 5-thread overlock is sometimes called a "safety stitch". Like the 4-thread overlock, the 5-thread uses two needle threads. Rather than two, this stitch uses three threads in the loopers. The additional looper thread reinforces the seam and is most often used on projects that are going to experience more stress than normal throughout their use.
- Snap-On Presser Feet: Most domestic sergers use feet that snap on and off rather than needing to be unscrewed, allowing for quick changing of your presser feet when switching from task to task. Snap-on serger feet come in a wide variety with specialized options such as the blind hem foot, cording foot, elastic foot, beading foot, and ruffing foot. We carry genuine JUKI, Janome, Singer, Brother, and Babylock Presser Feet, as well as non-branded options for Viking, Pfaff, Bernina, and more. To view our selection, visit our Serger Feet.
- Differential Feed: As opposed to a regular sewing machine with only one set of feed-dogs (the teeth that feed your fabric from below), sergers have two. A good serger will have a differential feed dial or knob. This function allows you to change the speed of your front feed dog, allowing you to accommodate stretchy fabrics that won't feed evenly or have the ability to gather the material to make ruffles.
- Stitch Length & Width Adjusters: Like most sewing machines, sergers allow you to adjust to the length and width of your stitches, allowing for more versatility in your choices and the types of projects you will be able to accomplish.
- Threading Chart: Most modern machines include a chart that shows you step-by-step how to thread your serger. It is common for these threading charts to be color-coded, so it's easier to see each step, allowing you to follow along without confusion.
- Thread Trimmer: Often, there will be a thread trimmer located somewhere near your needle plate. In some cases, it's mounted to the face-plate of your machine, but in others, you can press a button or trip a lever to expose the blade only when needed. If you have a model that does not include one, you can purchase a Universal Thread Cutter that can be mounted wherever you find most convenient.
Some of our favorite serger sewing machines include the Babylock Vibrant and the Juki MO-644D.
- Automatic Threader: Though standard on home sewing machines, an automatic needle threader is considered an exclusive feature on a serger. This is because the needle bar and needle clamp are complex and require more time in design and manufacturing. Until you get the hang of it, threading a serger can have a learning curve. An automatic needle threader saves sewers a significant amount of time when setting up to sew.
- Simple Rolled Hems: In many cases, standard sergers require modification when switching to a rolled hem. Typically, you'd need to remove the stitch finger and change the needle plate. Deluxe sergers only require the tinkering of a knob and the switch of a tab to convert the machine— no removing or changing parts at all.
- Self-Threading Loopers: Some sergers use jets of air to thread both the upper and lower loopers for you. Air threading takes the headache out of feeding the thread through the eye of each looper.
- Adjustable Foot Pressure: Some models allow you to choose how high or low you want the pressure setting to be, allowing you to fine-tune it to match the material you are sewing. For example, you're going to want to reduce the presser foot pressure to allow more space when feeding thick fabric through the machine. Appropriate presser foot pressure will result in more precise, professional-looking seams.
- Noise Reduction Design: With the amount of power an overlocking machine has, serging at high speeds can create a lot of vibration and, consequently, more noise. Brands such as Babylock and JUKI have engineered top-of-the-line machines that can absorb some of the vibrations, reducing the level of noise they emit.
Our best-selling and favorite advanced sergers include the Babylock Celebrate Serger and the JUKI MO-1000.
For more in-depth information on owning and operating a serger or an overlocking machine, check out our Beginners Guide to Serging playlist on Youtube.
More Reasons to Shop at Sewing Parts Online
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