How Does a Serger Work

When sewing, you can add details. For example, the seam, decorations, exposed zippers, etc. That’s where a Serger comes in. Unlike a regular sewing machine, it has extra features. These extra features allow you to make artistic seams, decorations, exposed zippers, etc.

To use this machine, you first need to understand how it works. This article will explain to you how a Serger works.

How Does a Serger Work?

A serger works by enclosing the edges of fabric in a thread casing. It does this by using several threads to form an overlock. Depending on the type of machine, the machine uses two to eight threads to form an overlock.

The machine isn’t hard to use. All you need to do is understand how to use it and practice!

The Working Mechanism in Sergers

Before you get to know the working mechanism of your serger machine, it is better to understand how this machine forms stitches.

When you feed fabric on your serger machine, it will first reach the feed dogs. After that, the fabric will continue to move until it reaches the knife to trim the fabric edge.

Now, the needles and loopers will come to the play. They will help form stitches on edge. Fed off is the last stage that occurs with the help of stitch fingers.

Feed System

Once you feed fabric, it goes to the feed dogs. They are strips that look like teeth and are made of jagged metal. You can find them on the stitch plate, which is right below the presser foot.

If the serger has a differential feed system, you may find another pair of feed dogs.

Cutting Mode

Most sergers come with a movable knife that helps trim seam allowances. There can be more than one knife, depending on your serger model.

What’s more, this knife will work at the same pace as that of the needle.


In ordinary sewing machines, we find bobbins that help create stitches. But in sergers, you will get to see the lower looper and upper looper system.

Both needle threads and loopers usually lock at once to finish or sew seams.

Stitch Fingers

Lastly, there is a stitch fingers stage. In sergers, stitches occur nearby one or two stitch fingers.

Serger Versus Sewing Machine

You are right if your first thought was, “they are both used in sewing.” But, maybe your question would be, “what then is the difference?” Let’s try to answer this question by looking at a few fundamental differences.

A. Needles

That’s right! Needles! We know that regular sewing machines have one needle, but not the Serger. This one has more than one to get the job done. It should answer why we pointed out earlier that it uses two to eight threads.

B. Number of Bobbins

The more the needles, the more the bobbins. Each needle is attached to a thread or two or more. That is why the machine has several bobbins, which is quite different from a regular machine with only one.

C. Speed, Efficiency, and Design

Because of the several needles the machine has, you are likely to spend less time. It is faster than a regular sewing machine. Also, it performs three functions at once: trimming, seaming, and finishing.

You can create designs in much less time with the machine too. Remember, the two machines have different working methods. It is okay if you wish to own and use them both, depending on your project.

Why Should You Learn a Serger Machine?

It’s normal to ask yourself if you need a Serger and if it can work on any fabric. Here are a few crucial reasons why you would need it. We will also explore if it is suitable for any fabric.

#1. Why You Need It

The primary reason you need this machine is to “create clean edges on your seams.” Not only do you have clean edges, but they are secure too.

When creating the seam, the thread wraps around the Edge. It is excellent for fabric that quickly unravels. Wrapping of the edges controls the unraveling.

It also allows you to decorate the edges of your garments. From baby blankets to garments, purses, you name it!

The gathering is much easier with a Serger, and the gathers are much fuller if the fabric is light or medium weight.

You can also use it to create lettuce edging, a technique you see in baby clothes. If you are looking to have exposed zippers on your bag, purse, or wallet, then this machine helps to create such.

#2. Works With Tricky Fabrics

Some of the most tricky fabrics may include; lace, knits, wovens, etc. And Sergers can handle them all. The machine design lets it handle both lightweight and heavy fabrics.

But, it is vital to match your fabric with the stitching style. For instance, you cannot use eight threads on a lightweight lace or silk. It will damage the fabric. Using two or three threads would be ideal in this case.

You can also change the needle type to accommodate the different types of fabric. For instance, you can use a stretch needle for a knit garment.

Testing is the best way to pick the right needle and stitch type. One can do this by using a small piece of fabric on the machine. The results will determine your choice of needle and stitch.

Tips on Using a Serger

Most machines come with a manual or videos on using it unless it’s a pre-owned one. It is ideal to familiarize yourself with the machine by using the manual or videos.

But, it doesn’t hurt to get other tips on how to use your machine to produce great results. Here are five helpful tips.

1. Use a Good Thread

You can use any good thread on your machine, depending on the fabric and project you are working on at the moment. A good thread doesn’t break easily.

One of the most recommended threads to use is Polyester. It can withstand stress from the machine, washing, and even wearing.

Besides, it is ideal to use large polyester thread cones. That’s because the machine uses a lot of thread as compared to a regular machine.

You can also use nylon thread. It is stretchy and fluffy. It is usually suitable when close-fitting sewing clothes, for example, swimwear.

Your machine may also come with some thread. The best approach is to take a close look at it or even take a picture. You can use this as a sample the next time you get a thread.

Please note that it’s okay if your thread doesn’t always perfectly match your fabric. Trying to find a perfect match will be time-consuming, and you will also waste money.

Moreover, it is best to buy neutral colors like white, black, light grey, dark grey, dark blue, etc.

2. Avoid Sewing on Pins

We sometimes use pins to hold the fabric and stop it from moving. Though not advisable, some even sew above the pins and remove them afterward when using a regular machine. Never try this with a Serger!

Sewing above pins will make the machine’s blades (knives) lose their sharpness or, even worse, break them. If you want to use pins, place them at least 5cm parallel from the seam line.

3. Avoid Trimming Threads Too Close to the Edge

A Serger cannot backstitch! If you try to backstitch, you will end up cutting newly made stitches.

The backstitch helps to close all your stitches at the edge of your fabric. Without it, your seam stitches will unravel.

If you can’t backstitch, it means you have to find a way to fix and close the edges. Make sure you don’t cut the thread too close to your seam edge. Keep the thread “tail” or “chain” long.

Use a small tool, for example, a latch hook, to insert them back into the other stitches. It helps to secure the edges and prevent the stitches from unraveling.

4. Don’t Push Too Hard

As earlier pointed out, a Serger is faster than a regular machine. That being the case, make sure you don’t push your feet down too much.

If you push too hard, you lose control, especially when sewing angles and curves.

You have to make sure you are always in control. It will help you avoid sewing in the wrong place and damaging your fabric.

5. Clean Your Serger!

Your machine is usually cutting fabric. And its components keep rubbing each other, and this creates tension. Once tension builds up, needles and thread start to break. If you keep using your machine without cleaning it, it will get damaged.

So a little piece of advice, make sure you clean and oil your machine regularly.

How to Clean Your Serger?

You can do it at least every 24 hours or once a week. Here are a few steps you can follow for cleaning your machine.

Step 1: Open your machine and remove all protective covers. Clean the dust using a small brush.

Step 2: Oil or grease all rotating and rubbing components of your machine.

Step 3: Put back all the covers and take a small cloth and try to sew. The idea is to see if any oil will spill on your fabric if you start to sew.

How to Pick the Right Serger?

You can consider many things when selecting your machine, for example, features, costs, accessories, and user-friendliness.

A. Features

You first need to understand what you want your machine to do. It means outlining the features you want.

Understanding what you want it to do will make it easy to pick from the numerous brands out there. You can look for features like; available stitches, convertibility between stitches, needles that you can use, etc.

B. Cost

Consider how much you want to spend. Weight your cost against the features you want your machine to have. It will help you to narrow down your options further.

C. User-friendliness

You want to pick a machine that is not too complex or hard for you to handle. You can read reviews on the machines and easily select based on what you read.

D. Accessories

Who doesn’t like great accessories? You can compare the different accessories that each machine comes with when you buy. You can then pick the machine that comes with the accessories that suit your needs.

Is It Hard to Learn to Use a Serger?

Learning how to use a Serger can be tricky at first. For most people, the trickiest part is threading the machine. But thanks to the manuals and videos, you can read or watch videos to understand the process on your own.

You can also practice a few times. The more you practice using the machine, the easier it becomes for you to use.

Is a Serger Worth It?

Sewing machines can mimic the stitches of a serger, but they cannot match its stitches. For instance, a serged seam looks brighter than a sewing machine seam, especially on knitwear. It is even the standard seam for knit garments.

It provides the quickest way to finish edges for several fabrics. And it is also suitable for delicate or loose-weave fabric. In short, your project will determine its worthiness.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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