Overlocker, serger or serger sewing machine? These are all different terms for the same type of sewing machine that allows you to sew a neat seam and more.
But what is a serger sewing machine? These special machines look similar to standard sewing machines but you can also use them for specific tasks to create overcast edges.
In this practical guide, we explore serger sewing machines, different types of sergers and what you can use them for.
A serger sewing machine is a special type of sewing machine that allows you to create professional-looking stitches. It can sew seams, trim fabric and finish raw material edges.
These three tasks can save you a lot of time when sewing which is the reason why serger sewing machines are often used by seamstresses.
While sergers and standard sewing machines may do some of the same things, there are clear differences.
For example, a specialty serger sewing machine only has a limited range of stitches. On the other hand, sergers can create an overlock stitch which most sewing machines can produce.
Types Of Sergers
There are a number of different serger sewing machine types which can create various stitches.
2-4 Thread Serger
A 2-4 thread serger sewing machine allows you to create a two-thread overlocked edge and a true safety stitch.
Thanks to the use of two threads at the same time, the machine can even create each stitch individually, working at a fast pace.
3-4 Thread Serger
A 3-4 thread serger can work with three or four threads separately at the same time. While any number of threads allows you to add more stretch to your sewn fabric, a four-thread seam is typically stronger.
Most serger machines also have a rolled hem feature. This means that the throat plate on your machine rolls the edge of the fabric to the bottom, enclosing it inside the edge thread.
This is a fantastic feature if you want to create neat-looking edges.
A 5-thread serger sewing machine is the most expensive model. It gives you all the advantages of the other models, including a straight seam line and an overlocked edge,
This type of sewing machine is commonly used for professional sewing and production work as it combines a strong seam with a good-looking seam finish.
What Can A Serger Machine Do?
There are a number of things that a serger can do, including:
- Cut off seam allowances while you stitch
- Sew a seam
- Create overcasting to cover a raw fabric edge
- Sew different types of hems, such as a rolled hem
- Attach zippers
- Create decorative stitches
- Sew stretchy fabrics, including knits
- Father fabric material, using differential feed
- Attach elastic to clothing
Keep in mind that not all serger sewing machines have these features. Generally, only more expensive 5-thread sergers come with all these capabilities included.
Sewing Different Hem Types
Sergers can help you sew a number of different hems, such as blind hems for dresses, pants or skirts. You just need a regular serger and set up a 3-thread overlock stitch with a single needle.
Sergers also come with a special blind hem serger presser foot that helps feed the fabric smoothly.
But one of the most popular hems to make with a serger is a rolled hem. While you can make this hem on a normal sewing machine, it is much faster on a serger.
A rolled hem is simply a folded hem that ensures the seam looks neat and withstands plenty of wear.
What makes a serger such a powerful tool for a seasoned seamstress is the gathering fabric feature.
Simply adjust the differential feed dial on your machine and put the fabric under the pressure foot. Try it out with a standard 3-thread overlock stitch with one needle.
The fabric will draw up quickly and create a stunning gathered effect in your clothes.
Sew Stretchy Material
Another big benefit of a serger is that you can sew stretch materials and retain their stretchiness. This is especially useful when you are working with knits.
Attach Elastic To Clothes
You just need to use a 4-thread serger with 2 needles to attach a basic elastic band to a piece of fabric.
Make Decorative Stitches
Sergers are perfect sewing machines to create decorative stitches, such as a wave stitch. You can even use different colored threads to make a pretty design.
Attaching zippers to a piece of clothing can be difficult but a serger makes quick work of this job. The only disadvantage is that you cannot sew invisible zippers.
Make Chain And Cover Stitches
Chain and cover stitches are classic knitting techniques that are often used for knit fabric.
A chain stitch consists of a number of looped stitches which can create a complex design when combined with other stitches.
On the other hand, a coverstitch is a popular stitch for knitted hems. It allows you to create decorative embellishments and a beautifully neat hem.
What A Serger Cannot Do?
While sergers are extremely versatile when it comes to sewing tasks, there are also a few things these machines can’t do, including:
- Sew button holes
For these sewing jobs, sewists typically use a standard sewing machine. However, they often also have a serger at hand for the more specialist tasks.
Are A Serger And Overlocker The Same Thing?
Yes, overlocker and serger are just different names for the same type of sewing machine. Overlockers are more popular around the world, while Americans commonly use the term sergers.
The reason why sergers are sometimes also called overlockers is that they can create an overlocking stitch which is similar to knitting rather than sewing.
A sewing machine has some overlapping features similar to a standard sewing machine but it can also create a variety of special stitches.
Most expensive sergers also combine classic sewing machine capabilities, so a seamstress doesn’t need to change machines for more complex tasks.