Serger Machines: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: 5 days ago

Written by: Carol Sutherland


If the sewing bug really bites you, the collection of useful tools expands. There are clever ways to measure, cut and organize your sewing space to make the process simpler. And as your sewing expands and project ambitions multiply the one thing that most of us can’t add to the sewing room after a point is TIME. How do I make time for all those things I want to make?


The answer is to add efficiency. While the tasks involved in sewing don’t change, the means for accomplishing them can. One way to expand your sewing efficiency is to add a serger to the sewing room.


Serger vs. Sewing Machine


What is a serger sewing machine? The difference between a serger and a sewing machine has to do with the number of threads used to join fabric and the number of operations the machine completes.


While a sewing machine joins fabric by interlocking an upper thread and a bobbin thread to create a single line of stitching, a serger uses two to five threads to simultaneously join two fabrics together while finishing the raw edge. A serger machine also incorporates a cutting blade so that seam allowances are uniformly finished.


You can find serged seams on almost all commercially-produced garments. The seams are strong, secure and generally lay flat without puckering. A serger reduces the task of sewing and finishing a seam from two operations to one. Because it uses multiple needles a serger does this one-step sewing operation about three times faster than a standard sewing machine.




How can I Use a Serger for Quilting?


If you are primarily a quilter, or are using your sewing machine primarily to quilt, you might wonder how a serger would make your quilting more efficient. To answer that question I did a survey of expert quilters and various sewing sites. Here is a brief list of quilting tasks made easier and faster with a serger:

  1. The stitching a serger provides is fast and precise – something any quilter can appreciate. Once the spacing is set up on your serger and you feed the fabric through uniformly, you can make seam after seam at an accurate ¼”

  2. The simultaneous seaming and finishing is especially efficient when doing strip piecing. Piecing long strips is substantially faster on a serger. If you are making simple pieced baby quilts or picnic quilts and want to be finished quickly the serger will help. There will not be any raveled edges, either. The serger keeps your project neat and reduces the need to hunt down and clip all those hanging threads. Look here for a strip quilt done with a serger: Thirteen’s a Charm Quilt.

  3. Using quilt as you go techniques and the serger, you can complete a quilt in no time. Here is one example: One hour serger quilt as you go.

  4. Serging the edges of your quilt before binding will make the process much faster. The quilt will have a uniform edge and all those threads will be securely bound.

  5. Sergers have stitches that can add visual interest to the surface of the quilt. With proper adjustments a serger with differential feed can sew through up to 6 layers, making it a great option for joining your quilt sandwich.

What to Look for in a Serger

  1. Differential feed. On most sewing machines the feed dogs that move the fabric through put more pressure on the top layer. This becomes an issue in quilting or in sewing very thick layers because the layers will slip and create ripples while you are sewing. A differential feed solves this issue by feeding the layers uniformly. If you plan to use a serger for quilting, this feature is a must.

  2. Ease of use. You will want your serger to be easy to set up and easy to use. Because sergers have multiple threads, you will want to make sure threading is easy and can be done accurately every time.

  3. Versatile. You will want to be able to adjust the stitches for different types of projects and different weights of fabric. For example, some sergers are also able to sew a coverstitch. When you look at t-shirts and at leisure clothing, the cover stitch is the one that has a double row of straight stitches on the right side and an overcast stitch on the wrong side. Coverstitches are valuable when hemming knit garments because it allows the knit to stretch without bursting the stitches.

The New BERNINA Sergers


Here at Stitchin’ Heaven we are just wild about BERNINA. BERNINA has a great following in the quilting community. Their machines are known for their durability, excellent engineering and ease of use. Berninas stand the test of time and have features designed to make sewing more enjoyable.


So when BERNINA decided to design a serger from the ground up, they brought all their design and engineering experience to bear in the planning from the very beginning. The result is the BERNINA L890 Overlock, a machine that certainly performs the basic functions of a serger and so much more. For our money, we think the L890 is the best serger machine on the market.


For ease of use, the L890 is without parallel. It supports two to five thread seams. One of the most difficult parts of using a serger is feeding the threads through the machine. The BERNINA Air Threader makes feeding the five threads through the machine accurately a snap. The BAT automatically calibrates the looper so that there’s no guesswork.


The color touch screen allows you to select the stitch and change its settings even while you are sewing. The automatic thread tension and differential feed will make the sewing task easy because the machine will make adjustments to ensure a perfect stitch. Have a question? The color screen has a graphic interface that shows as well as tells you the answer.


Because BERNINA knows that simplifying repetitive tasks makes for a more pleasurable experience, they have incorporated the knee lifter for the presser foot, too. A tap with your heel raises or lowers the needle, a feature Stitchin’ Heaven’s expert quilters absolutely love.


Probably the most noteworthy aspects of these machines is that they have the profile and appearance of a BERNINA. With 143 mm, or just over 5 1/2 inches, to the RIGHT of the needles, it looks comfortingly like a sewing machine. If you’re wondering if a serger would complement your sewing room, we can’t recommend the L890 enough.


Conclusion


There you have it. If you really get the sewing bug bad, a serger can help you get through your projects more quickly. It’ll allow you to finish all of those creative projects without being quite so hindered by the pesky constraints of linear time.


Interested in the ultimate sewing machine for quilters? Check out our blog on "The Best Quilting Sewing Machine".


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Stitchin' Heaven Howdy is a blog designed to inspire and draw out the creativity of the quilter, sewer and the crafter. If you love fabric as much as we do, we look forward to building a great community.  

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