Serger vs. Sewing Machine: Which is Right for You?

Jean Chaney
Jean Chaney
Research Writer
Jean is the brains behind her fashion label. She's a whiz with a needle and thread, and has been sewing since she was old enough to hold a pair of scissors. Jean has always read more
Reviewed By
Isabel Misner
Isabel Misner
Expert Consultant
A professional seamstress. Isabel has her own video blog where she shares her experience about all the aspects of sewing – from choosing suitable materials to step-by-step read more
Last updated: August 21, 2023
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Many people new to sewing or those that want to expand their horizons a little are probably already familiar with one or more sewing machines. But, how many of those same sewers know what a serger is and if they need one for their projects? A sewing machine and a serger are very different, even though they may appear to be similar at a casual glance. If you’re planning to buy a serger, it makes sense to learn how it works and the types of sewing tasks it’s best suited for before committing to buy. In this article, we will look at the difference between a sewing machine and a serger so that you can make an informed purchasing decision.

What is a Sewing Machine?

For the absolute beginners, it may be useful to explain what a sewing machine is and how it works. A sewing machine is a device that’s designed to stitch together various fabrics. This is faster and more accurate than sewing by hand, and the stitches are stronger. The sewing machine has been around since 1790, but earlier machines were worked manually, usually with a foot pedal, and only basic stitching was possible. Modern sewing machines are powered with electricity, and they have a host of available features to select. Many sewing machines have a vast library of useful stitches, patterns to follow, and even connections to add other patterns later.

What is a Serger?

A serger is also known as an overlocker. The terms are interchangeable, but here in the US, serger is the preferred name. This type of machine performs a useful overlocking stitch that’s more similar to the knitting process rather than a more familiar sewing stitch. The serger trims the fabric and binds the seams, and this prevents unraveling. This machine is ideal for finishing the inside of a garment to a professional grade. On rare occasions, you may want to use a serger to finish a hem or embellish a seam, but a serger is best suited to construction tasks, and finishing should be carried out on a sewing machine. Threading a serger is more complex, three or four paths, and a pair of loopers require thread. The loopers perform the actual overlock stitching, and there are a pair of knives to cut the seam allowances during the serging process. A serger cannot replace a sewing machine, but it can complement one, and it’s capable of carrying out tasks that a sewing machine cannot.

What are the Similarities Between a Serger and Sewing Machine?

There are four main tasks that a serger can perform equally as well as a sewing machine; they are:

  1. Hemming knits.
  2. Create narrow rolled hems.
  3. Carry out neat piping.
  4. Easily gather fabric.

So, if you’re considering a rolled hem serger vs. sewing machine choice, you can see that both types of machines can perform this task well.

What are the Differences Between a Serger and Sewing Machine?

As you’ve probably guessed by now, there are more differences between a serger and a sewing machine than there are similarities. In fact, there are six main differences that you need to understand before making a commitment to buy a new serger, they are:

  1. A sewing machine has a single needle, but a serger will have multiple needles.
  2. A serger has multiple bobbins to feed the needles that require a number of different threads at the same time to complete the overlock stitching.
  3. A serger is more efficient; the machine can be threaded, and it’s ready to go at any time, which saves a lot of time. If you’re interested in starting a business, time is money, and a serger may take more time to thread, but it’s more time efficient in the long run.
  4. Every serger has an automatic speed function that controls the thread flow. But, many modern sewing machines require the sewer to control this feed manually, and this can be distracting. If you want to maintain your concentration and get more work completed, a serger is a sound investment.
  5. It’s likely that a dedicated garment sewer will have a sewing machine and serger because it boosts their productivity. But, both of these machine types have a very different workflow, and a serge can do more than stitching. For this reason, a serger makes good sense if you can only afford a single machine, but you want to get started making garments. A serger is an ideal way to become more productive when sewing clothes, and this makes it ideal for mass production.
  6. As you sew with a sewing machine, you can twist and bend the fabric at any point as needed. If you try to work this way with a serger, you will soon discover that it isn’t as easy. Making on the fly adjustments can really eat into your sewing time, and that type of sewing is better suited to a sewing machine.

Four Sewing Machine over Serger Benefits

Serger vs. Sewing Machine: Which is Right for You?

There are four main benefits of choosing a sewing machine over a serger; they are:

  1. A sewing machine is very flexible, and it’s easy to detect and adjust a wrong line quickly.
  2. If you want to work off grid without electricity, there are still manual sewing machines available to purchase.
  3. A sewing machine is easy to handle, and it has a shallow learning curve for those new to sewing.
  4. Many people prefer to sew at a slower pace and edit their work at the same time, and a sewing machine is ideal for this type of workflow.

Six Serger over Sewing Machine Benefits

Looking at a serger vs. sewing machine comparison to make slipcovers and garments highlight some of the best features of a serger. There are six main benefits of choosing a serger; they are:

  1. A serger is a faster machine, it can handle multiple threads at the same time, and much of the manual labor is reduced. This saves a great deal of time, and it is very noticeable when you notice the lack of cutting time required.
  2. These savings in time and labor are the primary reason why you would find sergers used in the sewing industry.
  3. It is true that a serger has a steeper learning curve when compared to a standard sewing machine. But, this time is well spent, proficient users can be far more productive with their time when using a serger.
  4. The cutting system on a serger will allow the user to cut and sew at the same time. This may sound intimidating, but most users grow to love this feature, and it’s another key time saver.
  5. A serger can produce that perfect finishing line that every sewer wants in their work. The side sew feature of a serger simply cannot be matched by a sewing machine.
  6. Using a serger gives the finished project a very professional look. Anyone interested in a commercial aspect of sewing or a career in design should be learning to use a serger. Anyone that’s attempted finishing on a sewing machine vs. serger will already know that it’s far harder to get the best results.

The Best Serger and Sewing Machines

We’ve taken a look at the serger and sewing machines available on the market today. Each machine delivers a different sewing experience; it’s important to evaluate your needs, carry out some research, and choose the best machine to match your needs. These machines are not listed in any particular order, and they are all excellent examples of serger and sewing machines.

Top 7 Sergers

Serger vs. Sewing Machine: Which is Right for You?

  1. Brother 1034D
  2. Brother 2340CV
  3. Singer 14CG754 ProFinish
  4. Janome 1000CPX
  5. Brother 3234DT
  6. Juki MO644D Portable
  7. Brother Designio Series DZ1234

Top 7 Sewing Machines

  1. Brother CS6000i
  2. Singer Heavy Duty 4423
  3. Brother Project Runyway CS5055PRW
  4. Juki TL-2000Qi
  5. Brother XM2701
  6. Singer Curvy 8763
  7. Singer Quantum Stylist 9980

In Conclusion

Getting used to the terminology involved in sewing may be tricky for newcomers. It’s easy to look at the merits of a serger vs. overlock sewing machine and get lost in the details. An entry level sewing machine represents a moderate investment that will certainly help to spark the imaginations of many users.

However, the best sewing machines on the market today can be expensive, and it’s important to evaluate your needs carefully before making a purchase. It is true that sergers are more expensive, but this is understandable, they are more complex machines, and that is reflected in the asking price. But, a proficient serger user can work quickly and efficiently. This saves time and money, which is essential if you want to make the move to professional level work.

A serious sewer is likely to have multiple machines set up to complete different tasks. This renders the coverstich sewing machine vs. serger arguments obsolete. As the user grows in experience and has more money to spend, it’s likely that they will want to invest in machines that can perform other tasks to a very high standard. Moving up to a serger will open up a whole new world of possibilities for creativity in your sewing.

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