Sergers add a versatile element to any sewing
create the type of professionally finished seams you usually see on
commercially made garments. This is done by using up to a dozen threads to
wrap, or overlock, the fabric, while simultaneously trimming away the waste
with a built-in cutting device. A serger's special mechanism keeps fabric edges
from fraying and rolling. Sergers are particularly useful for stretchy fabrics,
since serger stitches are able to stretch with a garment. In addition to
finishing seams, many people also use sergers to create ruffles, sew elastic
and create overcast rolled hems -- a decorative finish that's nice for lingerie
and for ruffles on dresses. Serger sewing machines are fast, too, with some
working at speeds of up to 1,700 stitches per minute. Sergers cannot, however,
be used to topstitch, to put in a zipper or to make buttonholes, so a serger
can't replace a regular sewing machine, which we cover in their own
Some sergers are available online, but many
can only be purchased in retail stores. Part of the reason for this is that buying a serger is such a big
investment, and such an individualized purchase, that very few serious sewers
would shell out the cash without a hands-on test. Still, a good serger is
considered a must for the dedicated sewer and crafter because it makes quick
work of otherwise difficult -- or impossible -- jobs. A reputable local sewing
machine retailer won't mind you spending the time to get to know a machine
before you buy, even if it takes several hands on tests.
Most sewers can get by with a basic serger
If you just
need a basic serger for finishing seam allowances and creating decorative
rolled hems, the Brother 1034D is a great choice. Owners say it's a
great value, with good features for the price, including 3- and 4-thread
overlock, a differential fabric feed and color-coded thread guides. It also has
an adjustable stitch width and a free arm that users say is handy for sleeves
and cuffs. It sews up to 1,300 stitches per minute and is reported as easy to
clean. The one consistent complaint we saw is that it's very noisy.
say the Brother 1034D handles different types of fabrics very well, from silks
to fake fur to heavy canvas and its differential fabric feed and thread tension
control help to keep stitches smooth and even. Owners say their biggest fear in
buying a cheap serger is tension issues but this machine gets virtually no
complaints in that area.
complaint -- as it is with all non-auto-threading sergers -- is that the manual
threading on the Brother 1034D is difficult to learn, although users say it
gets easier with practice. To help with that process, the serger comes
pre-threaded and has color-coded thread guides and an instructional DVD. An
analysis of forum threads and consumer reviews seems to bring a consensus that
it takes at least three uses to begin getting the hang of threading the 1034D.
Some say they never get it; others say their young children can even figure it
out. This is a situation when it's probably worth trying before buying -- maybe
more than once, although the Brother 1034D is available online through
retailers like Home Depot.
Auto-threading sergers make sewing a breeze.
ease-of-use factor of a self-threading serger can't be overstated -- it saves
that much time and frustration, especially if you're talking about five or more
threads. The downside is that this convenience comes at a price and only a few companies
make self-threading sergers.
say that once you try a Baby Lock serger machine you'll never look back, and their
patented Jet-Air Threading technology is without equal when it comes to easy
threading. The most affordable in the Baby Lock line of self-threading sergers
is the Baby Lock Eclipse DX Serger (Est. $1,200). Baby Lock's auto-thread sergers get
raves from anyone who has ever used one; owners say this is an incredibly
intuitive machine. The Jet-Air system whisks the thread through the threading process
in seconds, with just a touch of a button.
its highly praised auto-thread system, the Eclipse is a basic 2/3/4 serger that
performs the same functions of our Best Reviewed Brother 1034D, albeit with
higher-quality components, say reviewers. It has a fabric support system and
differential feed, and a variety of stitches, including a unique wave stitch,
complete with an easy-to-follow seam guide. The cutting system is reported as
crisp even on heavier-duty fabrics, and it has a large, well-lit work area. All
in all, it's a high-end, basic serger, but with the extreme convenience of a
self-threading machine. Baby Lock sergers are not available online, only at
authorized dealers. We provide links to the manufacturer's website where you
can find a dealer near you in our What To Look For section.
Coverstitch capability is a nice addition to
is a type of stitch used on stretchy fabrics to make them appear to be
topstitched, but without compromising the elasticity
of the fabric. This is especially handy for sewing workout clothes, dance
costumes and swimwear.
The Juki MO-735 Serger with Coverstitch (Est. $900) gets good reviews as a decent all-in-one machine for those who can't
have, or don't want, a separate machine for coverstitching. It's a five-stitch
serger that reviewers say is easy to learn to use, but many say that switching
between the serger function and the coverstitch function is complex and there
is a learning curve. The manual, according to users, does not help with that
curve as it's described as nearly useless -- difficult to read and interpret.
Instead, users turn to YouTube videos and forums to learn how to use the serger
and to switch back and forth between the two options. We read a few complaints
about fabric jamming, mostly at the beginning of seams.
Aside from that
complaint, people love this machine, saying how impressed they are with the
high-quality results it turns out. The Juki MO-735 gets raves for producing fine edges, straight stitches, working on
a variety of fabric types and weights, and for its smooth, quiet operation.
Like all high-end sergers, the Juki
features adjustable stitch lengths and widths, an adjustable presser foot and a
differential feed. Owners say the heavy-duty knife system results in a
professional-looking finish. Although this Juki serger is close to $1,000,
there are a number of small, convenient extras included, such as tweezers, a
needle pack and an accessory pouch. Reviewers agree that the Juki MO-735 with Coverstitch is a
sturdy, durable, versatile machine at a great price. As with the Baby Lock, Juki
machines are only available at authorized dealers.
Some prefer a separate coverstitch machine
capability is not standard on sergers, and many hobbyists have two machines --
one for serging and one that can coverstitch. Many
prefer this, saying it's easier to use a dedicated coverstitch machine than to
switch back and forth on a serger with coverstitch capability. One caveat:
dedicated coverstitch sewing machines will not trim the fabric as sergers do.
well-regarded, yet very affordable option in coverstitch machines is the (Est. $400). It gets rave reviews for its ease-of-use and its
professional results. It has a very large workspace and extra-long free-arm,
which makes it suitable for a wide range of projects -- even difficult-to-sew
items like yoga pants. The variable stitch adjusts from 1 to 5 mm, and it sews
up to 1,000 stitches per minute. We read several reviews from professional
tailors and seamstresses who say they use the Janome CoverPro 900CPX in their
shop, and it's a sturdy, durable, consistent workhorse.
sewers who love their sergers say that investing in the CoverPro 900CPX has
made a huge difference in the finished quality of their knit and stretch
garments. This machine comes pre-threaded, but users say it's extremely easy to
rethread when you need to change colors -- more like a traditional sewing machine
than a serger -- and that it sews smoothly and evenly, even over bulky cross
Expert & User Review Sources
a lot of professional review sources for sergers, but there are plenty of great
discussions and reviews by enthusiasts -- from beginner to advanced -- on
sewing sites such as PatternReview.com and SewingInsight.com. In-depth
reviews can also be found for some brands at retail sites like Amazon.com, SewingMachinesPlus.com and JoanneFabrics.com. These user reviews
are invaluable in helping us find the best sergers by performance and ease of
use -- as well as the easiest on the wallet.