Hey there, fellow sewing enthusiasts! Today, we’re going to dive into the magical world of serger machines. Now, you might be asking, “What on earth is a serger machine, and do I need one in my life?” Well, buckle up in your sewing chair, and let me unravel this mystery for you!

Picture this: you’re sewing a fabulous new dress, and you’ve just finished stitching the seams. But when you look at the raw edges of your fabric, they seem to be plotting a grand escape, fraying and unraveling like a poorly-kept secret. Enter the serger machine, our hero in this sewing tale!

A serger, also known as an overlocker, is like a superhero sidekick for your regular sewing machine. It’s designed to sew over the raw edges of your fabric, enclosing them in a neat little cocoon of stitches, stopping any sneaky fraying in its tracks. Think of it as your sewing project’s bodyguard, ensuring your seams are strong, durable, and looking oh-so-professional. And that is just the beginning of the story about the serger machines.

serger machines 101

What does a serger machine look like?

A serger machine looks like a sewing machine that’s been given a supercharged makeover that gives it ability to tackle those overlocking and trimming tasks. It is equipped with the few extra bells and whistles that make it a valuable addition to your sewing arsenal!

Main features:

  • Multiple thread cones: On top of a serger, you’ll find a mini forest of thread cones, usually three to five of them. These cones supply the threads that create the overlock stitches and give sergers their distinctive appearance.
  • Loopers instead of a bobbin: Unlike a regular sewing machine, a serger has loopers instead of a bobbin system. These loopers work in tandem with the needles to form the overlock stitches. They are located beneath the needle plate and are generally not visible unless the machine is opened for maintenance or threading.
  • Double (or triple) the needles: A serger machine typically has two needles, although some models have just one or even three needles. These needles are positioned side by side and can be used together or independently, depending on the stitch configuration you’re working with.
  • Cutter or knife: Serger machines come with their own cutting mechanism, trimming fabric edges as you sew. This little knife sits near the needles and is usually adjustable, allowing you to control the width of the seam allowance being trimmed.
  • Presser foot and feed dogs: Like a regular sewing machine, a serger has a presser foot and feed dogs that help guide and control the fabric as it moves through the machine. However, the presser foot on a serger is generally wider and may have specific markings or features to accommodate different stitch types.
  • Controls and dials: You’ll find various knobs, dials, and buttons on a serger to control stitch length, width, differential feed, and thread tension. They’re usually on the front or side, just waiting to be tweaked and twiddled for the perfect stitch settings.

What does it do?

what is a serger

Serger machines are specialized sewing machines designed to perform specific tasks that enhance the quality and appearance of finished sewing projects. Let’s explore some of the super feats these machines can perform:

  1. Seam finishing: A serger’s main purpose to finish seams with style. It sews over the raw edges of the fabric, wrapping them in a tidy blanket of stitches that stops fraying. Your seams will be strong, durable, and looking professional.
  2. Speed and efficiency: Sergers are known for their lightning-fast stitching speed, letting you breeze through seams and edges in no time. They can sew, trim, and finish all at once, making them an efficient multitasker in your sewing arsenal.
  3. Handling stretchy fabric: When it comes to sewing stretchy fabrics like knits and jerseys, a serger is your best friend. It creates stitches that stretch with the fabric, so your seams stay intact and comfy, even during those impromptu dance sessions in your homemade leggings.
  4. Creating rolled hems: Sergers can create beautiful rolled hems on lightweight fabrics with ease, adding a polished touch to your scarves, napkins, or skirts.
  5. Flatlocking: Flatlock seams, which lie flat against the fabric, are a serger’s specialty. These seams are perfect for activewear, sportswear, or any project where comfort and reduced bulk are key.
  6. Gathering: Some serger machines can gather fabric as they sew, simplifying the process of creating ruffles, gathers, or pleats. This is achieved by adjusting the differential feed or using a gathering attachment.
  7. Attaching elastic or trims: These machines can quickly and efficiently attach elastic, lace, or other trims to your projects. This is super handy for sewing lingerie, swimwear, or adorable children’s clothing.

A brief history of serger machines

Sergers, or overlockers, have been around for quite a while, with the first patent for an overlock sewing machine granted to the Merrow Machine Company in 1881. That’s over 140 years of serging goodness!

The early models were quite different from the compact and user-friendly machines we have today. These industrial ancestors were large, cumbersome, and heavy. They were primarily used in factories for the mass production of clothing and textiles, so they were built to be sturdy and fast. They were operated using a treadle, a foot-powered mechanism that you’d find on many antique sewing machines. This meant that the user had to manually power the machine, which could be a bit of a workout! But hey, who doesn’t love multitasking?

As for the appearance, they were typically made of cast iron and featured large, exposed gears and belts. The threading process was often more complicated than the modern machines we have today, and they usually had fewer stitch options. However, they laid the foundation for the versatile and efficient sergers we now enjoy.

Over the years, sergers have evolved significantly, with electric motors replacing treadle systems, streamlined designs, and user-friendly features like color-coded threading guides and built-in stitch options. These modern machines are more accessible to home sewists, making it easier for sewing enthusiasts like us to achieve professional-looking results.

So there you have it! The journey of the serger from its industrial beginnings to the sleek, efficient machines we have today is a testament to the ever-evolving world of sewing. It’s fascinating to see how far we’ve come, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds!

Is there a difference between a serger and an overlock machine?

The terms “serger” and “overlock machine” are often used interchangeably, but they essentially refer to the same type of sewing machine. The reason for the different names is mainly due to regional preferences. In North America, the term “serger” is more commonly used, while in other parts of the world, especially in Europe and Asia, it’s often referred to as an “overlock machine.” Both names describe the same sewing machine with the same functionality, and it’s just a matter of regional language variations that led to the two terms being used. So, whether you call it a serger or an overlocker, you’re talking about the same versatile sewing tool that helps you achieve professional-looking results on your sewing projects.

What is the difference between a serger and a coverstitch?

Both machines are used to create a professional finish, but they serve different purposes in sewing. A serger is used for seaming and edging, while a coverstitch machine is used for hemming and topstitching. I have made a thorough comparison of serger and covestitch machines in this article, I encourage you to read if you want to learn more.

Are sergers for professional use only?

Not at all! While sergers were initially designed for industrial use, they’ve come a long way since then. Nowadays, there are plenty of beginner-friendly serger models specifically designed for home sewists and hobbyists. These machines are more compact, user-friendly, and affordable, making them a popular choice for sewing enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Can a serger replace a sewing machine?

A serger and a sewing machine each have their own set of unique abilities, and they complement each other in the sewing process. A serger is excellent at finishing and trimming raw edges with overlock stitches, and it’s particularly adept at handling stretchy fabrics, ensuring your seams remain elastic and durable.

On the other hand, a sewing machine is the backbone of your sewing projects. It’s capable of performing tasks like topstitching, creating buttonholes, sewing zippers, and making a wide variety of decorative stitches.

So, can a serger replace a sewing machine? The answer is no. These two machines have distinct capabilities, and they work together to help you create beautifully crafted sewing projects. By having both in your sewing room, you can tackle a wide range of tasks and achieve professional-looking results.

Why do you need a serger machine?

Do you absolutely need a serger? Not necessarily. There are plenty of ways to neatly finish the seams without a serger machine. But, if you’re serious about sewing, it’s a fantastic tool to have in your arsenal. It’s like upgrading from a basic bicycle to a fancy road bike – you’ll feel the difference in the ride! Here is a few things that a this wonderful machine will do for your sewing:


Sergers are like the sewing world’s superheroes. They can finish edges at lightning speed, making them perfect for saving time on larger projects or when you’ve got a bunch of seams to sew. It’s like having a personal sewing assistant that specializes in edge-finishing!


A serger creates a strong, stretchy seam that holds up well to wear and tear. This makes it ideal for sewing stretchy fabrics, like knits, or creating garments that need to withstand a lot of movement, like activewear or kids’ clothes.


These machines trim and encase raw fabric edges all in one go, preventing fraying and creating a tidy finish. This makes your sewing projects look more professional, like they’ve come straight from a high-end store!


While a serger’s primary function is finishing edges, it can also be used for other creative techniques like decorative stitching or gathering. It’s like a Swiss Army knife for sewing enthusiasts!

Can a seger make buttonholes?

No, a serger cannot make buttonholes. That task requires a sewing machine equipped with the button hole function.

Can you use sergers without cutting?

Yes, you can use a serger without cutting. While one of the common functions of a serger is to cut the fabric as it sews, this feature can usually be disabled or bypassed. This can be helpful if you’ve already pre-trimmed your seam allowances or if you want to serge a seam without trimming it. The method to disable the cutting function varies by machine model, so it’s always best to refer to your specific machine’s manual for instructions.

Are sergers and overlockers hard to use?

Sergers can be a bit more challenging to use than regular sewing machines, especially for beginners. However, with some patience and practice, you can definitely master the art of serging!

The main challenges with using a serger include threading the machine and adjusting the tension settings. Sergers often have multiple thread cones, and threading them correctly is crucial for a smooth sewing experience. Some modern overlockers come with color-coded guides, which make the process easier.

When it comes to adjusting the tension settings, it can be a bit of trial and error to achieve the perfect stitch balance. Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to find the right settings for your fabric. The key is practice and a willingness to learn. Take your time, read your machine’s manual, and don’t hesitate to seek help from online tutorials or fellow sewing enthusiasts. With a bit of patience and perseverance, you’ll be serging like a pro in no time!

I’m not the one to get in front of the camera; my words are my spotlight, but here is a lovely video by wonderful Melissa, the creator of MellySews blog, explaining how to easily use serger even if you are a complete beginner:

What are some things sergers cannot do?

Sergers are fantastic for many sewing tasks, but they do have their limitations. Here are some things that sergers cannot do:

  • Straight stitching: Sergers are designed for overlocking, which means they’re not suitable for basic straight stitching. You’ll need a regular sewing machine for that.
  • Attaching zippers: In theory, you can attach a zipper with serger machine, but they aren’t ideal for this task. You’ll need a regular sewing machine with a zipper foot for precision and control.
  • Topstitching: Topstitching is a decorative or functional stitch visible on the right side of a garment, typically used to reinforce seams or add a professional touch. Sergers aren’t designed for topstitching, so you’ll need a regular sewing machine for this task.

  • Buttonholes: Creating buttonholes requires a controlled, precise stitch that sergers aren’t designed for. Regular sewing machines often have built-in buttonhole stitches or attachments for this purpose.
  • Intricate embroidery: While sergers can create some decorative stitches, they’re not designed for detailed embroidery work. You’ll need an embroidery machine or a sewing machine with embroidery capabilities for this task.
  • Sewing on thick or heavy fabrics: Sergers are primarily designed for lightweight to medium-weight fabrics. While some heavy-duty sergers can handle thicker fabrics, they may struggle with extremely thick or heavy materials like leather or upholstery.

In summary, sergers are excellent for finishing edges, creating durable seams, and working with stretchy fabrics. However, they can’t replace a regular sewing machine entirely, as they have limitations when it comes to certain tasks like straight stitching, attaching zippers, or embroidery. To tackle a wide variety of sewing projects, it’s best to have both a serger and a sewing machine in your toolkit.

How much do serger machines cost?

The cost of serger machines can vary widely, depending on the brand, features, and level of complexity. Here’s a general price breakdown to give you an idea:

    1. Entry-level sergers: These are more basic models designed for beginners or those on a budget. They typically offer fewer stitch options and may have simpler features. The price range for entry-level sergers is around $200 to $500. A great example is the Serger S0100, fast, easy to use, providing professional-quality stitching.entry level serger
    2. Mid-range sergers: These sergers are suitable for intermediate sewists or those looking for more advanced features. They often come with additional stitch options, better build quality, and user-friendly features like color-coded threading guides. The price range for mid-range sergers is around $500 to $1,000. Juki Pear Line MO-655 is user friendly, versatile serger, that offers excellent value for money.Juki MO-655 mid-level serger
    3. High-end sergers: These are top-of-the-line machines geared toward professionals or serious sewing enthusiasts. High-end sergers offer a wide range of stitch options, advanced features like automatic tension control, and excellent build quality for durability and performance. The price range for high-end sergers is around $1,000 to $2,500 or more. The Juki MO-1000 is an easy-to-thread, versatile serger with automatic rolled hemming and adjustable stitch length​​.professional juki serger

    Keep in mind that these are general price ranges, and you may find deals or promotions that could affect the final cost. It’s essential to research and compare different serger models to find the one that best fits your needs and budget.

And there you have it, my fabulous sewing friends! We’ve ventured into the wonderful world of sergers, discovering their superpowers, and learning how they work hand-in-hand with our trusty sewing machines. Hope this post’s shown you why a serger is essential for achieving professional-looking finishes, tackle stretchy fabrics with ease, and even whipping up some fancy hems and seams.

Until our next sewing escapade, stitch on! May your seams be strong, your stitches be smooth, and your sewing projects be as fabulous as you are.