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Tools & Supplies

Shopping for a Serger

A serger will speed up your sewing and finish edges in a snap, but before you buy one, do your homework so you know what you're looking for.

If you’re in the market for a new serger, whether your first or as a replacement, don’t head to the store uninformed. Start by reading “What Kind of Serger Is Right for You?” in Threads #108 (Aug./Sept. 2003), which provides guidelines for analyzing your sewing needs, information about what various serger features can do for your sewing, and a comparison chart of 49 available sergers. You’ll be able to start narrowing the field to find a serger that will make your sewing faster, neater, and more efficient.

The test-drive: Get ready, get swatch sets, go

For the most realistic assessment of how a serger will work for you, plan to test-sew the sort of fabrics you use most frequently. We recommend bringing along some stretch knits as well as a selection of woven fabrics. Assemble a set of representative swatches for each machine you want to try, and print out the Test-drive checklist as well. Sew (and label) samples, take notes, and then do your own comparison.

A serger will speed up your sewing and finish edges in a snap, but before you buy one, do your homework so you know what you’re looking for. Use our handy Test-drive checklist to keep track of the machines you’ve examined.


Serger test-drive checklist

Model name and number:
Attach the dealer’s business card and any sewn samples for easy reference.

Familiarize yourself with the machine

  • Examine the serger, and locate major controls, dials, and switches.
  • Flip the presser foot up and down.
  • Evaluate the lighting.
  • Evaluate the noise level and vibration of the machine, and note the type of surface it’s sitting on.
  • Hold onto the thread chain and stitch without fabric.
  • Disengage and re-engage the upper knife.
  • Is a trim-catcher provided?  Yes ___ No ___

Sew stitch samples
Test the following stitches, if present, and label the samples.

       Two-thread stitches: Overedge/Rolled hem

       Three-thread stitches: Flatlock/Overlock/Rolled hem

       Four-thread stitch: Overlock

       Five-thread seam (overlock plus safety chainstitch)

       Cover stitch

Request demonstrations

Ask the dealer to show you the following procedures, and try them yourself:

  • Engaging the differential feed (sew samples on stretch fabric and tightly woven fabric)
  • Chain- and/or cover-stitch conversion

Other considerations

  • What kind of training is offered with the purchase of the machine?
  • What type of maintenance does the dealership recommend and provide?
  • What optional accessories are available for this model?

Photo: David Page Coffin

This post is an online extra to “What Kind of Serger is Right for You?” in Threads #108, Aug./Sept. 2003.


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  1. user-7805132 | | #1

    When considering buying a particular serger, one of the most important things to do is to thread it, beginning with loading the thread spools and go from there. I switched to a self-threading serger, which works perfectly with little hassle.

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