Blog, Sewing Machine Hardware

What Is A Sewing Serger?

By Jessica Strohlson

If you’ve never used a sewing serger before, you’re in for a treat. A sewing serger gives a tailor or seamstress the unique ability and opportunity to seam fabric with multiple threads at the same time. You can use a serger to seam fabric with two, three, four, or even eight threads at one time!

Different sewing serger models accommodate different thread use capacities, all while allowing you to overcast at the same time — concealing raw edges to blend colors and textures in a way that a normal sewing machine simply can’t accommodate.

With a sewing serger, you can put together complex stitching patterns and unique fabric combinations that will up your game when it comes to tailoring, tapestry work, and quilting. With the ability to construct and finish a piece all at once buoyed by the help of countless thread combinations, you can create professional-looking garments and art pieces that reflect both your personality and your creative ingenuity. 

Is An Overlocker Different From A Sewing Serger Machine?

sewing machine close up view

Nope! In Europe, a sewing serger is called an overlocker. In North America, it’s a serger. The terminology differs solely based on region. When you read a tutorial for an overlocker that provides handy tips for constructing or finishing a piece, you can rest assured knowing those best practices work with your sewing serger!

Since we’re writing this in North America, we use sewing serger or serger as our terminology of choice. For all of our European friends and readers, just replace that with overlocker and you’re good to go!

What Are The Differences Between Normal Sewing Thread And Serger Sewing Thread?

yarns and sewing thread working station
multiple fabrics and sewing equipment in a working area

For most sewing serger projects, you’ll want to invest in cones of polyester thread known as serger thread. Sewing sergers often use exponentially more thread per project than a normal sewing or embroidery machine. The loopers on a sewing serger will run through plenty of thread to wrap the edges of your fabric. Thus, you need a surplus of thread to complete a job!

Also, polyester serger thread is woven with a more durable construction that’s ideal for use with a sewing serger. It’s more stretchable and durable than normal sewing thread, and it holds up to stress tests and machine washing without loosening or fraying.

Another type of thread more commonly associated with sewing sergers than run-of-the-mill sewing machines is texturized nylon thread. When you’re working with stretchier fabric like spandex, the pliability and softness of nylon thread is a natural match. Fluffy and bendable, nylon thread is also a great choice for closing-fitting jobs like pant cutoffs and shirt cuffs. It’s a fantastic finishing thread that is much easier to apply with the help of a sewing serger than any other device.

Do I Have To Spend More Money On Thread Using A Sewing Serger?

sewing serger close

In the short run, giant cones of sewing serger thread will set you back more than smaller spools of more conventional threads. However, you don’t have to break the bank for every sewing project and purchase serger thread cones that coordinate with your fabric choices for said project.

The best way to save money is to purchase a few cones of serger thread in neutral colors. Grab some white, beige, off-white, and black thread and maybe a couple of primary colors for a little bit of variance. Neutral color threads don’t clash with simple fabric patterns nor do they detract from busier patterns. You can save money by using neutral colors and weaving in colored threads when you feel a project needs the pop. 

What Sewing Accessories And Sewing Tools Do I Need For My Serger?

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When you purchase a sewing serger machine, you’ll receive a plethora of needed accessories like thread nets, screwdrivers, and sewing serger oil. 

(Keep in mind that the oil used on a sewing serger is a completely different mixture than that used in common domestic sewing machines. When your sewing serger oil supply runs out, be sure to replace it with the same oil type, and don’t mix things up!)

While the most essential sewing serger accessories for your usage arsenal are likely to come with the device itself, there are other tools and accessories you should keep in mind to make your work (and play) that much easier:

  • Tapestry Needles — Using tapestry needles to secure thread chains at the end of your serged seams reinforces them and gives them a more finished look. A large-eye tapestry needle with a blunt tip makes tucking thread chains back into a seam an absolute cinch!
  • A Sharpened Pair Of Tweezers — Whether you have great dexterity in your fingers or struggle with afflictions like carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis, a handy pair of sharpened tweezers is still a great tool to have when doing work in tight spaces. Also, threading needles and loopers with a pair of tweezers is much easier and saves your hands from needless strain.
  • Wonder Clips — You may sew over metal pins when using a conventional sewing machine. But, doing so with a sewing serger could easily damage your cutting knife while putting you at risk of getting cut up by errant shrapnel. To remedy this, grab some of Clover’s world-famous Wonder Clips! They are much safer to use with a sewing serger!
  • A Stiletto or An Awl — Rather than placing your fingers close to a presser foot or cutting tool and risking injury, use a pointed tool like an awl or stiletto to guide the fabric where you want it. It extends your reach and decreases your chances of injury.
  • Clear, Narrow Pieces of Elastic — For those looking to work with lightweight and stretchy knit fabric, narrow pieces of clear elastic are great for layering on knit seams. These handy strips of elastic also help to increases the overall stability of the seam. And, they do so without messing with the fabric’s pliability.

Troubleshooting A Sewing Serger And Getting Started

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Once your sewing serger machine is fully loaded, you can hit the pedal and get moving! You don’t even need fabric under the presser foot. With a serger, you can create tiny stitched chains of thread in the air without a piece of fabric acting as a base!

For serger machines that are failing to complete stitches, take a look at the looper threading. Cut the two threads and restart. You may need to get repetitions in before you can complete complex jobs with a sewing serger. But, it’s a learning experience that bears fruit when you put the time and effort in!


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