What Does a Serger Sewing Machine Do?

Hello sewing enthusiasts! 

Ever heard of a serger sewing machine?

An overlocker, maybe?

This specialized sewing equipment uses multiple spools of thread to sew seams and simultaneously trim fabric edges. 

It turns out; this sewing equipment is a must-have for anyone who wants to speed up their sewing projects and come up with clean and professionally finished seams.

In this blog post, we'll be exploring the mystery of sergers plus all they're capable of doing.

We'll also help you decide if you need to get one and a few basics you'll need to master to use a serging sewing machine.

Ready? Let's get into it!

What is a Serger Sewing Machine?

If you're entirely clueless, your first question must be what sergers are.

In simple terms, a serger is a type of sewing machine that loops together multiple threads around fabric in order to seam the fabric and simultaneously enfold the raw edges, hence producing professional and stunning seams. 

A serger is also referred to as an over-locker or an overlocking sewing machine in some countries.

Do you know something else we find interesting about sergers?

These babies can perform almost all sewing machine duties, including gathering fabric, hemming knits, and piping.

However, does this mean that you can use a serger as a standalone machine?

Not at all.

Despite its impressive capabilities, you will still need to use it in tandem with an actual sewing machine. 

On most occasions, your serger will only supplement your real machine by finishing the seams already sewn by your machine.

A standard sewing machine remains unrivaled when attaching buttonholes, fixing zippers, or topstitching.

What Else Does a Serger Sewing Machine Do?


You can do many things with a serger, depending on how much thread you want to use and the type of stitch you opt for.

A serger performs quite impressively in constructing a seam, professionally trimming raw fabric edges, eliminating excess seam allowance, and overcasting the edge of your fabric.

Even more thrilling, a serger can merge all these three functions into one sewing operation.

And you know what this means, right? 

This one-step process results in quicker sewing projects since you don't have to perform the three functions separately.

Other sewing functions performed by a serger sewing machine include:

  • Decorative Techniques: If you're somewhat a neat-freak and a sucker for cute things, we highly recommend getting a serger for your decorative projects, especially lettuce edging. You'll love the finished product!
  • Create great rolled hems and cute edges.
  • Quilting: Yes, you can use your serging sewing machine to piece a quickly-done and fancy quilt. It doesn't matter whether you're using a chain stitch, two-head, or three-head serging stitch; a serger can handle it. Precisely, sergers will surprise you at how gracefully they can piece flannel quilts. Sergers offer unmatched security of the four-thread stitch. On top of that, the feeding system of sergers makes it ideal for accurately creating curved pieces.
  • Gathering and Fixing gathers: Not sure what gathering means in the sewing world? We'll tell you. This is a sewing technique that involves shortening a piece of fabric so that the sewist can affix a longer piece to it. Usually, You can do this using a narrow cover-stitch for fixed gathers and an overlock for adjustable folds. Also, gathering using an overlock machine is better done on lightweight fabric such as quilting cotton. 
  • Heirloom sewing and embroidery
  • Trimming fabric edges to prevent fraying when washed hence makes them last longer.
  • Make durable seams: This is made possible because the serger loops together multiple threads. However, we advise that you sew seams using your sewing machine first and then use the serger to finish the seams.

Difference Between a Serger and a Standard Sewing Machine


Of course, a serger is utterly different from a sewing machine. 

For instance, while most sergers use between 4 and 8 thread cones when coiling thread on the fabric's edges, a sewing machine will only use one cone of thread, or two as in double needles.

Another notable difference between a sewing machine and a serger is that a serger can sew and cut fabric simultaneously, while a sewing machine can only do one at a time. 

Finally, a serger is much faster compared to a sewing machine, and it can even multi-task.

So, Why Do Sergers Need a Lot of Thread?


The large amounts of thread needed for using a serging sewing machine is a concern to have.

At some point, you've probably wondered to yourself whether sergers have a bottomless belly that swallows thread. There's a solid reason why a serger gobbles up a significantly high amount of thread than an actual sewing machine.

And why is this? Well, what happens is that a serger works by looping multiple threads around the fabric.

The Best Thread to Use with Sergers

Usually, this won't be any thread. The most recommended type of thread to use on a serger is the polyester serger thread which is stronger and durable enough to withstand long periods of stretching, washing, and wearing. 

Occasionally, textured nylon thread can also work on a serger, thanks to its fluffy and stretchy nature that makes it suitable for stretchy fabric like swimwear.

It also happens that serger thread is only sold on large thread cones. This is because for an overlocking machine to create durable and professional seams, it needs to loop multiple strands of threads around the edge of your fabric.

The looping process also enables it to form zigzag patterns around your fabric's ends to prevent fraying. 

As you can see, a serger is usually on double duty-constructing a seam and finishing the raw edges of fabric-which qualifies the amount of thread it uses.

Who Can Use a Serger?


Practically, anyone can use a serger. Especially anyone that enjoys sewing knits, sweatshirts, and stretchy fabric in general. 

Although you don't necessarily need one, it's best to have a serger for convenience and aesthetics. Moreso, if your sewing is likely to be judged by the seams, you should have bought a serger as early as yesterday.

Most of the perfectly done seams of store-bought clothes are usually done using a serger, so if you want to produce pieces that look fancy and professional, you already know what to do.

What are the Basics of Using a Serger Sewing Machine?

Initially, using a serger sewing machine can be intimidating. Nevertheless, it isn't difficult at all.

When using a serging machine, the first step is assembling all the necessary tools or notions for your serger-related projects.

Some of the must-have tools to use alongside your serger include:

  • A stiletto: This is a long, slender sewing tool that's mainly used to feed fabric close to the presser foot or pick stitches from a seam.
  •  At Least four spools of serger thread
  • Tapestry needles: These are used for tucking back your thread chains into the seam to make them secure.
  • Fabric pieces
  • Thread scissors
  • Wonder cloves: Since using pins to clip fabric together is impossible with a serger; wonder cloves will come through. These are safer than sewing over pins, as you're probably accustomed to when using your normal sewing machine.
  •  A pair of sharp tweezers: These are used for threading loopers and accessing hidden fabric parts that your fingers can't reach.

Once you've collected all the necessary resources, the next step is to study your manual and understand your serger's different parts. 

What are the main components of a Serger Machine?

Essentially, an overlocking machine comprises four main parts:  The feeding system, the loopers, the cutting system, and the stitch fingers.

The Feeding System

The feeding system plays a mega-role in feeding fabric into your serger. On the other hand, the loopers are found under the needle and are categorized into upper loopers and lower loopers.

Are you familiar with bobbins?  Loopers work similarly.


In a nutshell, the loopers are responsible for sewing and finishing the seams. We also have the cutting system, consisting of twin knives that work together just like scissors do.

These blades trim the fabric and seam allowances as the serger is stitching. Also, be careful with these; they can bite!

Stitch Fingers

Lastly, we have stitch fingers. These act as knitting needles and they are found just next to the cutting blades. Shaped like a finger, you'll instantly notice them on the pressure foot's right side.

How Do You Use a Serger?

Since you already know what exactly a serger does, let's look at how these machines work. Essentially, the process of using a serger isn't too different from using a standard sewing machine. 

So once you remove your serger from its packaging box, you'll notice that it comes with a scrap of fabric beneath the foot.

Don't worry about this. It's just proof that the manufacturer tested the overlocking machine before they shipped it to you.

Now, can you see the door-like notion to the right of your serger?

That's a waste holder. 

When you open it, you'll get access to the inner parts of your serger, including the threading pathway. Now, we'll be honest with you.

Threading your serger sewing machine for the first time will require sweating slightly more than usual. Not that it's difficult; far from it. 

It's just challenging for first-timers, but you'll be in the loop of things as time goes by.

Step 1: Threading

Just like you do with your sewing machine, make sure your serger is turned off before you start threading it. 

Next, you'll use your machine manual to assess the correct threading direction/order.

You'll see a diagram drawn on it for some sergers, plus colored dots that will guide you on the right path to follow while threading your serger.

Start by positioning a spool of thread on the upper looper, then follow the dots on your serger down to the tension discs, then move the thread downwards until your guide tells you to attach your thread.

You'll be required to place the thread on the second spindle and repeat this same process when threading the lower looper.

You'll wind off the threading process by threading the needles of the overlocking machine. This is usually the hardest part, but as long as you stick to your machine's guide, you'll be good to go.

Also, keep in mind that you will need about four spools of thread for this process, so come prepared with those.

Step 2: Determine the best stitch to use for your desired results

Do you remember some of the functions of a serging sewing machine?

It turns out there are so many things you can do with yours, including sewing rolled hems, repairing torn seams, trimming fabric edges, and gathering fabric.

Therefore, you'll need to choose a stitch that matches what you want to do. This may point you in the direction of an overlock stitch, wave stitch, or chain stitch.

A chain stitch, for example, is best for someone who wants to sew woven pants such as jeans., while a wave stitch is a decorative stitch used exclusively or in tandem with other stitches to create special embellishments. 

Wrapping up the Post

After choosing your stitch, you will have jumped over most hurdles that come with using a serger. You can then go ahead and finish off your seams like a boss.

Happy sewing!


Shelly is the main editor and author of this website. She is passionate about helping fellow sewing enthusiasts find the right sewing machine for your sewing projects plus design beautiful sewing spaces that inspire your creativity. If you're ready to DIY a stunning sewing room (on a budget), be sure to check out the Sewing Room that Sizzles Workbook bundle (complete with a 50+ page workbook) and two Bonus Guides that will put you on the fast track to setting up, designing and organizing a sewing room that is TOTALLY you (on a shoestring budget).