My 5 best tips for choosing your first serger

  • Serger Pepper - Choosing Serger Made Easy

Lately, I’ve been working on a guest post for Deby @ SoSewEasy (which I’d suggest you to read and share, if you’re intrigued by the topic) about choosing your first serger, where I help you deciding which are the must-have features to ask for if you are just going start your journey in SergerLand!

It’s a really in-depth article that weights a lot of different useful (or not) options… and which made me think about what follows…

Here are my

5 essential tips that will hopefully help you choose your first serger

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1) Brand or no-brand?

Please choose a trusted brand – no cheap “off-brand” you could find on the web.

Why? Consider that:

1) sooner or later you could need to replace a piece… and if it’s not an internationally known brand (or you don’t live near the producer you could have some troubles finding the right pieces!

2) maybe you would like to buy new accessories, like a specialty foot. Not all the serger feet were created equal, usually you can’t swap them from one brand to one other!

I am the proud owner of a Necchi Lock 181, which looks exactly the same as the Singer 14J250 STYLIST II

I’m telling you this to say that almost all of the Overlocker you can find on the market are built  in Asian Countries from the very same manufacturers… Just choose the one it’s best for you (considering also if you have a local dealer available for buying accessories and for maintenance after purchase – and ask them if they can do that also if you didn’t buy your serger from them!)

2) Browsing serger’s brands sites

… where you can find truck loads of information that will help you compare different overlockers and narrow your field of choice!

I’ve listed below, in alphabetical order, some of the most well-known brands. I’d suggest you visit each link (by clicking on titles or images) and browse their sites to discover each brand/model features and steal some eye-candy projects from their “sewing suggestions” sections… you’ll be (even more) sure you NEED a serger…

Baby Lock:

Serger Pepper - 5 best tips for choosing your first serger

Their auto thread feature is the most awesome of all, if you don’t mind the price!

Bernina:

Serger Pepper - 5 best tips for choosing your first serger

 

Their sergers are usually filled with a wide range of different stitches, and support your creativity with a host of convenient functions.

Brother:

Their 1034d is one of the most affordable, with a good value for the price (hearing what iis owners have to say about it)

Elna:

 

 

Lots of different stitches and automatic tension settings are some of their goodies!

Husqvarna:

 

…nope… they don’t create chainsaws only! They makes awesome sergers too, with plenty of accessories, for each and every needs!

Janome:

Their range is wide, from the very basic to the computerized serger and coverstitch machines, coming packed with easy thread guides, advanced feed system, and more sewing space!

Juki  (& their accessories)

They make industrial sergers and their home versions are solid performers

Pfaff:

They have 2 Hobbylocks (overlockers) and 4 Coverlocks (with coverstitches) models for each and every sewing level

 

3) Other little helpers from around the web

A great way to help yourself to decide what brand/model you need, is reading (and eventually asking for a suggestion from other members/serger owners) a sewing forum: they usually have a search box: type in “new serger” or “first serger” or maybe “serger suggestions” and you’re hopefully going to have many un-biased reviews to read!
Don’t know of a sewing forum? Why not trying one of these:

Sewing forumThe Sewing forumArtisan’s Square – Everything sewing –  Sewing Mamas – So Sew Easy sewing forum (waving, Deby!)

 

BONUS TIP: When you’ve already narrowed the number of choices and you know the name of a few models you’re considering to buy, you can move on and search between previous owner’s experiences and reviews, reading sites like epinions or Amazon’s reviews!

 

4) The difference is inside

When I made my first choice, I’ve read almost everything I’ve found about  sergers and how to find one that had a great value, with nice features (for the price). One of my priorities was that it had to be cheap but sturdy, it had to be a machine that could last me for a long time!

The most important thing I learnt I had to consider (which, by the way, isn’t that obvious when you first look at a serger) was that its mechanical parts inside had to be built in metal and not in plastic!

In fact, I’ve heard that a lot of low-end overlockers are made with a high quantity of plastic mechanisms: when you heavily use it (or even when you do an average use of it), they break… so you need to take it to the dealer, who will fix it and you’ll spend some more money, then again and again and again… until you spend much more than if you started with a sturdy machine built using metal parts!

But… how can you choose the right one?

  1. ask to the dealer… they know how each model is built inside;
  2. … just try to lift it: a plastic-inside machine will be relatively light, while a metal-inside one will be heavier!

If you have a trusted source for an old metal model, have this one instead of a new all-plastic overlocker… you’ll need less maintenance (= less $ spent!!) and you’ll have a good powerful machine with a lot of strength!

5) Better try, before you buy!

When you decide it’s time to buy your fist serger, you should be prepared for spending some (a lot of) time testing different models and brands, just to be sure you choose the best one FOR YOU!

What you should test for:

If you’ve never tried (or even seen in it real life) a serger, you may find this list confusing and overwhelming.

Use it wisely: before you decide to buy anything, collect more than one test and sleep above them.

Even better: if you have a friend who have a serger and comes with you in this dealer’s trip, it will be so much easier for you not to be charmed by the dealer’s mermaids whispers!

One last thing: follow your gut! If you feel there’s something wrong… well, probably it’s wrong, so: don’t buy there!

Here’s My List “to watch for”!

  1. Hear the sound of the serger… it has to be smooth and not too loud;
  2. Feel how it feeds the fabric: the perfect one should be flowing and not jerky;
  3. Evaluate which stitches are available (a dealer can help you, showing you how to switch between different settings)
  4. Convertibility between stitches

A good question to ask is: “How easy it is to convert to and from a rolled hem?” Some machines require you change the throat plate making it more difficult.

  1. Check if there are accessories available (specialty presser feet, guides…) and a place to put them away while you switch to another stitch;
  2. Carry with you some “real fabric” scraps to test sergers: dealers often gives you stiff (and probably starched) woven cotton: better test a serger also with sheers, or spandex, or whatever specialty type of fabric you plan to sew with it, and see how it goes!
  3. Ask the dealer about which needles do you need do buy: serger’s needles (or even industrial needles, with all round shank) which are both built to resist to the fast speed you’re going to use them (around 1500 stitches/minute… which is 25 stitches each single second, if math is unquestionable!) or regular sewing machine needles (which in turn are easier to found and comes in several dimensions and for various fabrics)

My conclusions: do your tests at local dealers, then buy online to save some bucks. Consider asking your local dealers how do they manage maintenance after purchase: some of them may choose not to fix your machine if you haven’t bought it from theme.

 

… and now? Go and do your homework: choose your first serger right ahead… and read my twin post on SoSewEasy about your must-have #1 serger features!

 

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About the Author:

Hi there! I love sewing, creating my own patterns and refashioning pre-loved clothes... If you love the same things, why not be friends? See you on Pinterest http://Pinterest.com/MammaNene

13 Comments

  1. Becky December 12, 2014 at 16:42 - Reply

    What a great list of machines. I have one, but am thinking it might be time to upgrade.

    • Mamma Nene December 13, 2014 at 01:14 - Reply

      Thank you Becky!
      I would love to have a coverlock machine… but it’s not going to happen soon! What would you like to buy?

  2. San December 13, 2014 at 09:45 - Reply

    Thank you, this was very useful as I’m thinking of buying a serger pretty soon.
    I didn’t like your conclusion though… You’re suggesting that I should ask the person in my local store to spend their valuable time showing me different models and stitches and whatnot and then buy online?
    You do know that if we all did this there would in the long run be no more local shops?

    I don’t know how it is where you live, but here (Sweden) there are almost no local shops left… Oh, you have the big chains but that’s about it. In every town there’s the same shops and all the smaller ones go bankrupt trying to make a living while people are shopping online. Then people ask themselves why there are no small local shops left…

    Sorry, rant over. Wonderful points about what to think of when buying though.

    • Mamma Nene December 15, 2014 at 08:06 - Reply

      You are probably right San and, if you can afford to buy from your local dealer… do it! I spent one third less buying online (from a local dealer, by the way, who told me:” please buy from our site and not from our shopso we can raise our online presence, because that’s the future!”) and I wouldn’t have been able to buy a serger if I had to buy it in person… Probably in Sweden you have a different situation… but this is my experience here!
      I wouldn’t buy a serger from a big store chain and I choose this awesome local dealer gives a 3 years warranty with free pick-up and check-up for sergers sold online… The ones I’ve found near me were really bad at customer service, they weren’t trying to find new clients, probably! I live in a small rural hamlet and the nearest dealer is 45 minutes from here (by car) and they didn’t have any choice of sergers… they told me I had to choose on a catalog and they were ordering it for me… spending 200 euros MORE than the same model bought online… I ran out of the door, obviously 😉
      Happy to hear it’s not the same everywhere, San, thanks for adding your perspective!

  3. cucicucicoo December 13, 2014 at 12:40 - Reply

    This is a great thorough article with a lot of interesting tips for buyers. But I agree with San above and I was going to make the same exact comment, that I don’t think it’s fair to take up local stores’ time and expertise and then buying online. I honestly suggest that everyone buy in a local shop because you get that extra expertise and assistance that is so important in buying a machine and maintaining it in the future. Also, they will often give you a discount from the regular ticket price, or throw in extras, such as warantee extensions or accessories. Or often they’ll give you a good price if you trade in your old machine. Honestly, the only time I would say that it would be ok to buy a sewing machine online would be if you have already seen a machine at a friend’s house or something, and you know that it’s the right machine for you and you have enough expertise to not need help with it, or you have someone willing to help you with it. I’m a big fan of buying online, but this is one case when I really think it’s best to buy at a trusted dealer who will give you the assistance you need.

    But again, great tips! 🙂 Lisa

    • Mamma Nene December 15, 2014 at 08:39 - Reply

      I agree with you, Lisa, if you have a trusted dealer near you and you can afford buying there… go for it! I have no one near here and I bet a lot of other people lives in places like thjis… and, sadly, spending one third more wasn’t an option for me! As always, everyone must wisely choose what’s better for him/herself… I only tried to share one perspective: mine! Thanks for ading your one, I totally appreciate!

      • cucicucicoo December 15, 2014 at 08:57 - Reply

        Of course, every situation is different! I just always like to spend locally in brick and mortar shops, if it’s possible. But I agree that it’s not always possible and I, too, buy a lot of things online because I just can’t seem to find exactly what I want near me!

  4. B. Juliana Leo January 13, 2015 at 15:00 - Reply

    I just recently purchased a JUKI serger, and for a first time attempt (it came pre-threaded), I was very happy with the sound, movement and the additional DVD enclosed. I bought the one with a packaged deal – 8 serger feet, 8 threads, carrier, DVD, & several other items – for $499 on Amazon. After having a Singer serger for $99, from Walmart – it felt like it was a bit of a stretch, but to be honest…I never used the Singer. Somehow I could never get the tensions right, and ended up so frustrated with the dang thing, I never used it. Having the Juki DVD made all the difference in my comfort level. And the night I finally set up my Juki, I re-altered a skirt with no problems. If it wasn’t so late (midnite), I was anxious to find something else to work on!!!

    Thank you for this insight, I will now follow your blog to see what other wonderful things you have to share.
    Juliana in Woodbine NJ

    • Mamma Nene January 15, 2015 at 10:03 - Reply

      Thanks Juliana for sharing your experience! Your new serger seems to be packed with some really cool features… and the DVD certainly adds something!
      So happy to have you reading along with us and can’t wait to see a projects you will create with it!
      Happy sewing!

  5. Marnie December 14, 2015 at 01:26 - Reply

    I’m a bit late joining this party I know but I’ve just replaced my first serger for the Juki MO-1000 – the model you show. I think it would be most helpful for future readers who come across this post to note that this model also has auto-threading, after all, you say that’s the most awesome feature of all for the Baby Locks.

    Oddly enough that’s not why I bought it as my Brother 4234D was easy to thread and produced great results but the Juki is quiet, smooth and powerful, a really solid machine with lots of other great features.

    • Irene // Serger Pepper December 14, 2015 at 11:55 - Reply

      Hi Marnie!
      Thanks for adding your experience, I will update the post content (it is an evergreen post, you are not late at this party!)
      I have to add that I Actually love to thread my serger… Am I a weirdo?
      I have heard great feedbacks from Juky owners and you are confirming all what they say: thanks for sharing <3

  6. Susan Jensen January 23, 2017 at 15:13 - Reply

    Thank you for your blog and all of your experience. I too am looking to purchase my first serger. My only comment is, your blog is hard to read, as you have your :”Sharing is Caring” buttons on the side, coving part of your reading material. It became very distratcting. Perhaps you could change your margins and move your starting point of your information over by 1/2″ so it would not be covered. Just a suggestion, but other than that, I very much appreciat the wealth of information that you have shared here! I am looking at a Janome, Brother or a Singer, so right off the top, I have narrowed it down to a the Janome or Brother. Now I am headed to the link to see what features I am in need of. I have already pinned the stitch 101 sheet, as it in and of itself has me blown away and I can tell that I am going to need a lot of help! lol. The comment about regular sewing machine needles made a lot of sense as well as a storage unit to store accessories. Small hints, but great money and timesavers. Thank you again!

  7. Megan Blacker April 23, 2017 at 01:16 - Reply

    I’m looking at purchasing my first serger and am a little overwhelmed with all the selection. I sew costumes for my daughter’s theatre group once a year (about 4 months of sewing) and think the addition of a serger to my Janome sewing machine would speed up the process of turning out outfits. At this time, I don’t really use sew much during the rest of the year. Who knows that might change with the addition of a serger.

    I went to my local sewing shop to look at sergers today. It is the same place I take my Janome 344 (20 years old and never failed me) for service or tune ups so I know they really know there stuff and can help me out if I run in problems. They are distributors for Pfaff and Husqvarna but also sell gently used units as well. I figured as I didn’t use it constantly the used units would be my best bet.

    I looked at a used huskylock 910 ($500 CDN) but am unsure about the digital components of the unit. I’m nervous about any digital or automatic features (e.g. threading) as I’m afraid they might fail and could be expensive to fix but the unit would become useless without being repaired. The unit comes with 1 year warrantee and a 1 hour class.

    There was also a Bernina 1100DA ($300 CND) but they don’t offer classes or assistance as it isn’t a model they distribute.

    The last used unit was a Pfaff coverlock 4852 ($900 CND) which comes with 1 year warrantee and a 1 hour class. It is a 5 thread serger which was something I hadn’t even considered. On sale is a brand new Pfaff Coverlock 3.0 for $899 (regular price $1200ish) which comes with the warrantee and introductory class and bonus pack of feet.

    I’m more confused than ever. 5 vs 4 thread; new vs used; electronic vs completely manual…. It was about $800 to get a brand Huskylock s21.

    Do you have any advice?

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