Newbies may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of sewing machines on the market. It is not uncommon for even experienced sewers to hesitate to try specialized machines because they are confused by the wide range of models available. You probably want to know the difference between a serger and a sewing machine if you’re considering purchasing one.
Unlike other sewing machines, sergers have specialized capabilities. Sergers and sewing machines differ primarily in the fact that sergers are specialized in sewing seams, cutting seam allowances, and enclosing raw edges simultaneously.
As you’ll learn in this article, a serger works differently from a regular sewing machine. As you consider whether or not you need one, we’ve also included some key questions.
What is a Serger (Overlock Machine)?
Sergers sew seams closed while simultaneously stitching over the seam allowance to completely enclose them. As the serger sews, it trims the extra seam allowance as well. Precision-engineered machines produce neat, perfectly finished seams.
Overlock machines may also be referred to as sergers. Overlock stitches are used by these machines to stitch over the edge. These machines are usually called sergers by American companies. Overlockers or overlock machines are the terms used by European companies.
Multiple spools of thread are used at the same time in sergers, which is their most noticeable characteristic. Depending on your machine’s model, you may need to use between two and five thread cones.
You may have noticed that most sewing stores sell triangular-shaped cones of thread used by sergers. To create overlock stitching, they need a large amount of thread.
A polyester thread is usually used in sergers. Fast, precise sewing in these machines requires a thread with a bit of stretch.
It is probably a pleasure for you to match the right shade of thread to your material when you are sewing. This habit may need to be broken! The big cones of thread cost too much for many sewers to match their serger thread to the fabric color.
The process of rethreading these machines is also time-consuming. Swapping spools for every project isn’t something you want to do!
Overlock stitches can be created using multiple thread sources. Sewing machines typically produce one row of straight stitches per seam. In addition to those straight stitches, sergers also create patterns of stitches over seam allowance raw edges.
Differential feed is another unique feature of many sergers. At the same time, differential feed moves the feed dogs at different speeds in the machine. Using this method, you can create pretty ruffles and keep the knit fabric from stretching while you slide it through.
What is the process of serging? Bobbins are not used in sergers, unlike most sewing machines. The stitch fingers are used to lock threads over the edge of the fabric instead of creating thread loops. A needle plate is adorned with small metal prongs known as stitch fingers.
There are differences between sergers, but they can all make overcast/overlock seams. The stitch can also be used to create a tiny hem on these machines. In addition to flatlock seams and perfect cover stitches, most models can also create them.
How Does a Sewing Machine Work?
To put it simply, a sewing machine stitches layers of fabric together using thread. Straight stitches, zigzag stitches, buttonholes, and even pretty flowers can all be sewn on most domestic sewing machines.
Sewing seams can be done in many different ways, hemming fabric, setting zippers, creating buttonholes, and embroidering designs are also possible.
In modern sewing machines, stitching patterns are programmed into them and are usually computerized. Sewing machines have not changed much since the industrial revolution when the first machines were invented, though!
What is the mechanism behind a sewing machine? As the machine runs, the needle pulls a thread from the spool and pushes it into and out of the fabric. Bobbin thread (basically a tiny spool of thread beneath the needle) is caught and slipped through by a unique hook each time the needle pushes through. Stitches are created as a result of the thread being held on both sides of the fabric!
Setting your machine to fancier stitches makes things a little more challenging. A double-needle setting is also available on some domestic machines. While complex machines may have more complex mechanisms, the needle and bobbin still work essentially the same!
Serger vs. Sewing Machine: What’s the Difference?
Sergers use an overlock stitch to completely enclose seams as they sew, which is the main difference between a sewing machine and a serger. Most sewing machines are more general and have fewer capabilities than sergers. You can accomplish multiple tasks at once using a serger instead of a regular machine.
Generally, sergers have a rack of tall thread cones on top, which is a key difference in their design. A spool of thread and a bobbin are usually used on sewing machines. A serger uses looper threads instead of a bobbin and draws from three to five cones of thread.
The design of sergers is usually squatter and more squared than that of sewing machines. There is usually a longer neck on sewing machines. Sergers are designed to sew seams, while these machines require more wiggle room to sew in zippers.
Sergers are also manufactured and sold by the most prominent sewing machine brands. You can find Brother, Janome, and Singer models at any sewing store, on the manufacturer’s website, or on Amazon.
It is true that some sergers come with more bells and whistles than others, just as some sewing machines do.
Number of Threads
The number of threads used by these machines is a key difference between them.
(Unless you use a double-needle machine, which uses two spools of thread, sewing machines use one spool of thread and one bobbin to create stitches.)
In order to create a finished seam that will not fray easily, sergers draw from two to five cones of thread at once.
Sewing machines lack sergers’ features, such as a cutting tool for trimming seam allowances. In addition to sewing the seam, this creates a perfect finish.
It is possible to use a zigzag stitch to finish a seam on a regular machine, but this process must be completed in stages: first, sew the seam. Trim the seam allowance of the fabric after it is removed from the machine. The final step is to finish the seam with a zigzag stitch on your machine.
All of this can be done at once by sergers, thanks to their cutting tool!
Number of Stitches
There are dozens of stitch options available on most sewing machines today. It is usually not the case with sergers. While they provide a limited selection of stitches, these can be used for a wide variety of purposes.
While basic sewing machines can perform many tasks that overlocking machines cannot, they can also perform a number of unique tasks.
Easy to Thread
Getting the hang of threading a sewing machine takes a little practice. Threading sergers might be more challenging for you.
This is because you must learn the thread paths of three to five different threads instead of just one!
You should refer to the owner’s manual and perhaps watch some YouTube videos if you are unfamiliar with this process.
Getting your serger set up won’t take long once you’ve mastered the process.
Performance: Stitches per Minute
While sewing machines and sergers stitch at slightly different speeds, sergers typically produce far more stitches per minute than sewing machines. The average sewing machine stitches between 1000 and 1500 stitches per minute. Sergers average between 1300 and 2200 stitches per minute!
You may have trouble understanding sergers if you are used to sewing machines.
Almost everyone who sews at home learns basic skills like sewing straight seams, hemming garments, and adding zippers with a regular domestic machine. You decide to invest in a serger later on in order to create professional-looking finished seams.
How difficult is it to use a serger compared to a sewing machine? However, most sewers are already familiar with regular machines by the time they begin using these machines. A serger works differently from a sewing machine, which makes it confusing for someone who is used to sewing.
A serger does fewer things than most sewing machines, which is good. Then you’re ready to go!
A serger’s price range is similar to that of a sewing machine. For about $300, you can buy a basic serger, but for more than $2,000, you can purchase an advanced model!
The average price of a decent domestic machine is usually between $200 and $300. Hundreds of different stitches can be programmed into expensive sewing machines that cost as much as a couple of thousand dollars. Computerized embroidery machines are the most expensive sewing machines, but that’s another story.
Pros and Cons of Sewing Machine
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of the average sewing machines:
- A spool of thread and a bobbin are generally used
- The long-necked design allows for easier manipulation of fabric when setting sleeves
- A variety of sewing tasks can be performed with this machine, including sewing facings, hems, zippers, buttonholes, and ruffles
- Many come preprogrammed with dozens of stitches
- You can enclose the raw edge of the fabric by sewing a zigzag stitch around the seam
- Encasing the seam allowance at the same time as sewing a seam is not possible
- Overlock stitches cannot be sewn with stretch.
Pros and Cons of Serger
In addition, here are some quick pros and cons of the average serger:
- Three to five cones of thread should be used at once
- The neck is usually shorter, and the shape is smaller
- Can sew seams with encased edges for a limited range of specialized sewing tasks
- Typically sews 1000-2000 stitches per minute
- Sews a seam, cuts off the excess fabric, and encases the seam allowance edge at the same time
- Seams that are very strong and secure are perfect for children’s clothes or anything that will be handled rough
- Cannot set sleeves, sew facings, insert zippers, or sew buttonholes.
Can You Use a Serger for Regular Sewing?
Some sewing tasks can be completed with a serger, but others require features that an overlocker cannot provide. You should consider the type of sewing you plan to do when making this decision.
It’s likely that you can get away with using only a serger for your sewing project if it involves a lot of straight seams and maybe some hemming. Even better, you’ll save time this way! Despite not replacing all sewing machine functions, sergers can be more efficient than sewing machines because they accomplish several tasks at once.
Sergers are also excellent for sewing on knit fabrics due to their overlock stitches. It is possible to stretch these stitches a bit. A zig-zag stitch can be used on knits if you don’t have a regular sewing machine.
On the other hand, sewing a wedding dress involves topstitching, sewing in facings, setting sleeves, adding a zipper, and generally doing a great deal of fiddly, complicated tasks that are best tackled with a regular sewing machine.
Do I Need a Serger?
The kind of sewing you like to do will determine whether you need a serger. You can accomplish many simple sewing tasks more efficiently and easily with a serger.
Additionally, if you sew professionally, you probably prefer overlocked seams on your products. The look is much more professional now.
Here’s the answer to whether buying a serger is worth it: if you’re a regular sewer or plan to open an Etsy shop from home, you’ll benefit from having one. Overlocked seams last longer than unlocked seams, so you might want a serger if you sew items that will be subjected to vigorous wear and tear, such as sports jerseys or children’s clothing.
Your serger might become an expensive decoration in your craft room if you only sew occasionally for yourself or your family.
Having said that, your sewing machine probably can’t be replaced by a serger. You won’t be able to use it for everyday sewing due to its lack of capabilities. You’re probably better off buying a sewing machine if you only have space or money for one.
You can buy one of each if you want to have the best of both worlds! Combo machines are also an option if you want something fancier.
What Is A Sewing Machine with Serger Function?
With a tool called an overcast foot, some regular sewing machines can sew an overlocking stitch. By purchasing just one machine, you may save money and storage space by having only one machine to store!
Before investing in a sewing machine with an overlock stitch, you should consider a few potential issues. In spite of the fact that these machines with overlock capabilities still only have one or two thread sources, the stitch will never be as strong and stretchy as a real overlock machine. Additionally, your regular sewing machines lack the trimming tool that cuts away seam allowance while sewing, even with the overcast foot.
Do you think an overcast foot is worth trying? The gizmos can help you finish your seams and roll your hems nicely. You’ll eventually need a serger if you want perfect encased seams.
Sewing Machine Serger Combo
There is currently no proper serger/sewing machine combo from any significant manufacturers. For a short period of time, Singer sold a combination sewing and embroidery machine that combined lots of stitches with computerized embroidery.
This might seem like a marketing ploy by the big companies to get you to buy two separate machines. You’re probably right to a certain extent! Moreover, sewing machines and sergers operate in very different ways; combining their methods does not work well.
In contrast to the simple needle-and-bobbin of an average sewing machine, sergers make overlocked seams by looping thread. They all perform entirely different tasks using completely different processes.
Best Serger Sewing Machine
Choosing the right serger depends on what you need to sew. A model with three-to-four threads and color-coded threading instructions is best if you’re just starting out. In addition to stitch per minute, a four-to-five spool machine with more stitch options is also important for sewing professionals.
There are many places where you can find sergers for sale, either online or in person. A new machine with a warranty can be purchased directly from the manufacturer, found on Amazon, or purchased at a sewing store such as Joann Fabric. Various sewing machines are available on eBay and Craigslist if you want something cheaper but less guaranteed.
Prior to making a commitment, you should do some research to determine what capabilities each model has. The model of the serger you want to purchase at your local thrift store can be found on Amazon if you want to find out what features, limitations, and ease of use it has.
What Is The Best Serger For Beginners?
Beginners should start with a model that isn’t too expensive if they are new to sergers. Ensure the model has clear, color-coded instructions and uses fewer threads.
Also, you might want to stick with well-known brands like Brother and Singer. There are excellent machines available from both companies for beginners.
Are Sergers Better Than Sewing Machines?
There are slight differences in stitching speeds between sewing machines and sergers, but sergers usually produce more stitches per minute than sewing machines. Most sewing machines have a standard stitch speed of 1000 to 1500 stitches per minute. The average number of stitches per minute for sergers is between 1300 and 2200!
Can You Use A Serger As A Regular Sewing Machine?
While a serger can be used for some projects, it cannot replace a regular sewing machine. You will still need a regular machine for facings, zippers, topstitching, buttonholes, etc.. This cannot be done by a serger.
What Does A Serger Do That A Sewing Machine Can’t?
In a short amount of time, you can achieve professional quality stitching with a serger, an overlock machine that stitches a seam, trims the excess seam allowance, and overcasts the edge of your fabric. You won’t believe how fast they are!
Can I Make Clothes With Just A Serger?
It creates a more professional seam by stitching, finishing edges, and trimming fabric all at once. Examine your shirts and jeans’ inside seams now. In most cases, the seam is a serged overlock stitch of three or four threads.
The functions of a serger and a sewing machine are different. Each machine has its own unique design and way of operating, but they can perform some of the same tasks. Overlocked seams are the primary purpose of sergers. Overlocking seams is not possible with sewing machines, which offer a broader range of capabilities.