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Advice About Sergers

RhodaGayle | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on


I’m a newbie on this list who joined yesterday for the specific purpose of asking experienced seamstresses about sergers. My daughter has a Riccar serger and loves it, but has not been able to get all the functions to work. I thought it was great, but did find it intimidating. Not to mention the thing costs nearly $400. Have done some research and it looks like both Janome and White Kenmore sergers are very popular, as well as cheaper. What do you all think?

Thanks for any advice you can give.

Rhoda Friend, Advanced Beginner seamstress

PS I read through the archives and did not find this topic–if it has been discussed, could someone direct me to the archived messages? TIA.


  1. solosmocker | | #1

    Many are intimidated by sergers including myself some 15 years ago. They are really rather simple machines and just need an uninterrupted afternoon sitdown with the manual to get over it. As far as the 400 dollar price, many are over a thousand dollars today. The higher price range gets you easy threading and automatic tensions and more. Once you have had a really basic simple serger you get to appreciate those more expensive options. Takes the intimidation right out of the equation.One thing I would suggest if you are considering a lower price range is to make sure it has differential feed. This will save you a lot of aggravation and give you some more options for creativity. I am not quite sure here what your question is. Are you looking for a serger for yourself or trying to validate your daughters purchase of a machine you say she loves? Or do you just need more info about her specific machine so she can utilize all of its capabilities? I think we can help you better once we know.

    Edited 11/6/2007 6:41 pm ET by solosmocker

    1. RhodaGayle | | #2

      Thanks for your reply. To clarify: I'm researching sergers to buy one for myself. The only machine I've personally handled is the Riccar that belongs to my daughter. It took her hours of work to "figure out" the machine, and she is mechanically inclined like her father. I on the other hand, have an abstract mind which grasps metaphors, symbols and arguments very quickly, but goes numb just looking at a machine. My point being that if it took her "hours", well, it could take me ??? At the same time, I'd rather not spend $750+ for a machine. So I'm looking for personal experience with various machines from people who actually use them--hopefully, you all. Pros, cons, tips for better function, ideas for where to purchase (I'm in Colorado), etc. are all welcome.Thanks for any help you can give.RhodaGayle

      1. solosmocker | | #4

        For what its worth, I have an aged Singer that I paid 299.00 for and would love to have a new one with all the bells and whistles. I have been researching them for some time myself. From what I have seen you can pick up a nice serger with some bells and whistles that has been traded in for an upgrade at most dealers. You may want to check there to begin with. A serger is something I would not recommend buying on Ebay as personally, I think you need the follow up lessons a dealer can provide. You might also want to check out http://www.patternreview.com . They have all sorts of sergers, old and new, reviewed by many many users. This can give you some real solid information. I bet they even have info on your daughters Riccar. Good luck with your quest and keep us posted on how it goes.

        1. RhodaGayle | | #6

          Thank you so much for your help. I'll check that website right away. Will let you know what I find.RhodaGayle

  2. Cherrypops | | #3

    I wonder By "Archives" did you mean the discussion topic?

    When you are in the discussion page: Use the "advanced search" function at the top of the page (left hand menu under START)and type serger or even overlocker ( i used that term) and you will find the past 200 messages.

    ** change the Order By from Relevance to Newest First and the most recent posts are the top.

    hope this helps

    Cherry - australia -



    Edited 11/6/2007 7:37 pm by Cherrypops

    1. RhodaGayle | | #5

      Thank you, Cherry. The place where old discussions are stored is termed "archives," and there is actually a section with that title. I tried searching as you had suggested before posting my question. And tried again just now--got 0 results both times. Thank you again for your suggestion.RhodaGayle

      1. Cherrypops | | #7

        I've searched again, and I still come up with the 200 previous messages. Yours is at the top!

        I don't understand why it didn't work for you?

        Any way here are some,  click on the numbers, they will take you to the discussions.

        Most members have posted their serger questions under Equipment and Supplies Topic


         7553.1 7300.1 7181.1 7204.1 

        1. user-217847 | | #9

          Hi there Cp,

          You mentioned some time back purchasing a book from Rodale,"Serger Secrets". Did you purchase it here? Itried earlier today and the woman insists there is no listing for such a book. So I was naturally curious.


          1. MaryinColorado | | #10

            Serger Secrets is available at several bookstores and online booksellers.  (It's by Rodale Press, Threads here is Taunton so they wouldn't have it.)  Some libraries have it if you want to look at it first.  It's my favorite book!  (I also like Secrets to Successful Sewing by the same publisher.)  You can also order it from http://www.lindaleeoriginals.com, she is one of the co authors. 

            She also has a good serger workbook.  Mary

            Edited 11/7/2007 8:15 pm by MaryinColorado

          2. Cherrypops | | #12

            Hi Mary,

            It was your comments made a long time ago, that enticed me to purchase this book - Serger Secrets...and I love it!

            Thank you for replying to Wombat, I did but I must have sent it 'reply via email', because it isn't showing up here.

            I bought the book from an Australian online bookstore..... Wombat is just a few hrs drive from me so I gave her the website address. Quick postage and great prices.



          3. user-217847 | | #13

            Hi Cp,

            I have lost your E mail un-read, don't ask where it is cause I have no idea. Would you mind sending it again?


          4. Cherrypops | | #15

            No problems,

            http://www.fishpond.com.au has the Serger Secrets book. yesterday there was 11 in stock and at a reduced price.

            on the homepage click on books and type Serger Secrets into the search bar.

            I am happy with their service.



          5. MaryinColorado | | #14

            Thanks.  Have you two met each other?  I went to lunch one day with a lady I met here.  We lost track of each other when my computer crashed, unfortunately.  She had sent me some wonderful information on landscape artquilts that was lost in the crash too.  Her artquilt was lovely. 

            I remember being surprised that you don't have to use two needles when serging.  Then it was a real odyssey to learn all they can do.  Have you had much time to play with your serger?  I am going to finish my grandson's quiltedge with it instead of using binding.  I will curve the edges using a plate for a template so I can do one continuouse row all the way around the edge.  My hands are a bit better today, yay!  Mary


          6. Cherrypops | | #16

            Mary, No we haven't met. No I haven't played that much with the overlocker, the manual was hopeless, but i found some workbooks on the internet, which show lots of tricks. I mainly use the 4thread, straight seams. has made it so easy to do the xmas costumes. so many things so little time.

          7. MaryinColorado | | #17

            I didn't know you did them on the serger, they sure turned out great!  Mary

          8. Cherrypops | | #18

            Thanks! It was much quicker to use the serger for them..I needed to remind myself they are only costumes, worn for one hour then put away for months. don't get me wrong, I did put the effort into making them look great,

            My husband was making me coffee and by the time he brought it up I had one done minus the hems...he said "you've done one already?" ...Sshhhhh we don't tell it doesn't take me long, serger runs full pelt. Teacher says 'all the hours, you put in thank you so much"...hehehehe

            I hope I didn't confuse you.....I wrote straight seams, meaning serged edge, seams done all in one go. I did the hems on the sewer. I don't have a coverstitch.

            Depending on my clothes, I normally do all seams on the sewer then use the overlocker/serger for neatening the edge.

            The dealer said to me " when it comes to seams I do not want to see you go from sewing machine to overlocker......pin/baste your seam line and run it through the overlocker."

            I am getting the hang of curves on the overlocker. I did collars for the kings ( yes, I will send photos). I am now hand sewing beads onto them.

            The children have seen what I've done are now 'eyeing' off which ones they want to wear. They are learning their lines, and Thomas cause he's clever, told me everybody's....gee I hope he doesn't forget his in the process.



          9. MaryinColorado | | #19

            I have another quickie tip for you.  Water soluble craft glue sticks instead of pins on costumes.  I wouldn't use it on fine fabrics using the sewing machine, but for serging, if you use in the part that will be trimmed off, it is a great timesaver.

            No worries, mum's the word on how fast you can work. 

            That Thomas is so precociouse!  Of course, it shows how much time you invest with being such a great Mommie!  Also his interest in music must help him alot  in other areas too. 


          10. Cherrypops | | #20

            Thanks! I've added that to my notes.

            I just have a sore ankle now (up down up down on the pedal)..haven't made this amount of clothing before..i'm usually one a week, not 6. Housework hasn't happened, but hubby has been cooking. so that's helped.

            I will soon go back to my start-stop button on the sewer and embroiderer.


          11. MaryinColorado | | #21

            Gotta love that cruise control!!!  Mary

          12. Cherrypops | | #23

            It's on my brother star 140. I got that one so I could do small quilts on it. Have I done quilts, yes, used the walking foot, and because I used a fleecy fabric (top was teddy bear print, middle was fleece, back plain fleece), I used the three thread and serged all the way round. My girlfriend loved it.

            My neighbour is expecting her first in march/april '08 so I will be making baby things again. Thomas was a winter baby (march), so I know what will suit. I made him bunny rugs while pregnant, the whirring of the machine put him to sleep. Probably why he is so interested in them working now!

          13. Crazy K | | #22

            Hi Cherrypops,

            Once you get the hang of that overlocker (serger in the US), you'll be using it for everything!  Unless I'm making something really special with really really good fabric, I use the serger for all seams........unless of course, I'm gathering something....then I gather, pin, sew with machine and then serger to tidy it up.  I make t-shirts or sweatshirts and the only time I use my sewing machine is to connect the ribbing into circles for the neck and sleeves (and waistband if applicable).  Flannel pants and little kids pants, same thing.........the only sewing machine use is to turn down the waistband after attaching the elastic.  Don't know what I did without my sergers...........

            Happy Sewing!


          14. Cherrypops | | #24

            I have done Thomas' clothes on the serger with ease. Like you the sewer is for the ribbing.....Cushion covers, pillowcases, sheeets, blankets. Need to do more for me..

            I was given an elasticator foot but haven't mastered it yet. I've got the bernina 800dl. and have had no problems at all with it.

            Did you see the Halloween pic of Thomas which I posted recently. That was all done on the serger, bar the hems.

            I'm very happy with my machines. Just need more time to play!

          15. Crazy K | | #25

            Yes, I did see his costume.........very, very cute.  Very authentic looking as well.....if my memory serves me.  I'm not much of a movie watcher but I remember seeing Beetlejuice somewhere!

            I like my machines, too.  Don't know how I managed to do some of the past projects with the old mechanical (and very tempermental) machine that had been my moms.  Now I am all grown up (I turned 60 this summer!) and have my own machines!  Whooo hooo!

            Happy Stitching!


          16. Cherrypops | | #26

            There was a cartoon made, which I don't remember at all, but my husband does.

            I have two older machines in the garage...they do work..one day i'll look at them...and then there is the singer treadle waiting for me from my mother-in-law. it was her mothers....

            I am going to need another rooom.

            But it's fun!

            Congratualtions on turning 60..the best time. My mother-in-law is 64, lost her husband earlier this year to a stroke, but has lots of friends, and goes to sewing class each week, and is doing well. She is learning more about her sewing software and the internet, just got herself a laptop/notebook just for the embroidery files.

            Aren't we all glad we can sew.

          17. Crazy K | | #27

            Ah yes, I am SO glad I can sew.  And, I now have the time (well, sometimes!),  the room and the machines to do all this fun stuff! 

            Happy Stitching!


          18. Cherrypops | | #28

            I hope to achieve all that when I am 60...another 30yrs. I don't like waiting..but I hear good things come to those who wait...here's hoping.

          19. MaryinColorado | | #29

            Why don't you gather with your serger? 

          20. Crazy K | | #30

            I think the last thing I gathered was a satin skirt with an organza overlay........did that the old-fashioned way.........well, due to the weight, I think I did the string with the zig-zag stitch.  Worked great.  I think you use your serger for much more than I do.  Sometimes its hard for this old dog to learn new tricks!!


          21. MaryinColorado | | #31

            Why not give it a try?  It makes nice puffing for Heirloom work.  You just open the differential all the way.  I also use the rolled hem for faux pintucks, you just fold the fabric wrong sides togeather and don't cut the fabric.  And I've used the flatlock for ribbon insertion.   I haven't done any of this for years but learned the techniques from a book by Kathy McMakin on Heirloom Serging.  Oh, and I used smaller needles.

            I love heirloom work and devoured the classes when I got the Rose.  Before I got around to learning smocking, life changed along with my decor.  I don't really have anyone to make all those pretty delicate items for.  Mary

          22. Crazy K | | #32

            I admire heirloom work but don't do it myself.  I mostly sew easy, quick things and I'm not into frilly garments for myself either.  I'm too short and round and busty......no need to draw attention so I wear to plainer styles.  Sounds boring, doesn't it?  Guess I've always been more of a tailored dresser, even when younger and thinner.

            There are some beautiful home decor things out there with heirlook stitches but I've just never gotten into that.  Maybe its something I should try.........never know........huh?


          23. MaryinColorado | | #33

            Remember those sleeveless tops with layers of ruffles going all the way down the fabric?  My sister wore them, she was always copying the Beach Party movies clothes.  My mother dressed me in so many puffy sleeved, ruffled, bowed, little girl dresses for so long that I ended up loathing them.  Because I was tiny, she wouldn't let me grow up.  She and my sister were "girly girls" and I was into being "natural".

            I wore alot of those "peasant blouses" in the early 70's.  Today, it's alot of jeans and t shirts or tunics.  I do have more tailored clothing for dressing up, but we rarely do that out here in the West.  I have lots of fun embellishing and love to make the patterns from http://www.kaylakennington.com  Kayla's serger techniques make it "sew easy" to construct.  Perfect patterns for art to wear.  I love to sew rayon fabrics. 

            I gained about 5 pounds last week, it's probably because I started that darn "chocoholics" thread.  Now with the holidays coming up I might end up as wide as I am tall (4' 111/2") oh dear!  lol  Mary

          24. Crazy K | | #34

            Ohhhhh yes, I remember some of those things.  And the mini skirt........oh what a scandal back then!  Now when I think of the length, they're quite modest by today's standards.  Need to get back to more modesty I think.  Maybe its just me........nothing left to the imagination these days!

            My mother didn't 'ruffle' me and I guess I was grateful.  I liked being a girl but without all the frilly stuff and of course, dresses and skirts were the norm in school.  Finally, Friday became 'slacks day' but no jeans...........only slacks worn with an appropriate blouse or sweater.  My how times have changed!

            I haven't gained weight in the past few weeks but I haven't lost any either.  I keep thinking I should/could exercise but, gollllly, that would cut into my precious little sewing time!



          25. MaryinColorado | | #35

            Our school went from a strict dress code to almost anything goes my Junior year.  It was wild at first, then settled down.  The teachers could fail you for the way you dressed by saying "for typing and business classes, you wouldn't be hired in the future if you dress that way"  boys with long hair were considered bad citizens and failed Civics and government or social studies.  I went from an A in home economics to a D because I wore coulotte skirts a few times that were above the crease in my knee!  ha ha 

             Kids complain nowadays because they can't wear sandals and spaghetti strap tops in grade school!  Oh, and my personal favorite is no "unnatural colored hair" until high school.  The neighbor girl has black with Christmas red highlights!  When I see the boys with thier droopy pants and thier undershorts showing, I tell them they look like they need thier diapers changed!  My grandkids crack up!  But they dress modestly!  So far.

  3. B | | #8


    Last year I bought a Janome MyLock 634D  from SewVacDirect for $350.  I am very pleased with it and find it easy to use.  I usually "tie on" to change thread color, but threading is no problem.  The directions for that are good.

    I bought a Palmer/Pletsch DVD on Basic Serger; wish I had bought it sooner.  I would recommend it even before buying a Serger.  Didn't buy the more advanced one as I my serger has only the 4 threads, but if I were considering a more expensive/advanced serger, it would have been worthwhile to see what they can do.  Also bought some of the books mentioned in another thread.  (Libraries are another source to check out which books you prefer.)

    If I had a really good dealer nearby, that would have been worth checking, even for used sergers.  I like to learn on my own, so my learning style suits the way I went.  Don't have anyone else to ask if I have problems, otherwise I might have bought the cheaper ones with knobs (they just looked harder to thread!)  I read a lot about sergers on PatternReview before purchasing. 

  4. MaryinColorado | | #11

    Lots of great info already given.  I would add: basic serger is all you need to finish seams, but, sergers are capable of so many other things.  I use my Husqvarna/Viking Huskylock 936 for most of my sewing.  Get a good serger book at the library or research the sewing machine companies websites to get a good idea what is possible. 

    You may want a serger with Coverstitch or a serger that is only a coverstitch machine. 

    Some machines are difficult to convert back and forth to coverstitch than others.  Some require changing more parts.

    You can do beautiful rolled edges, heirloomwork, pintucks, gathering, serger crochet, decorative work, flatlock, some give a choice of 2,3,4,5, or more thread capability.  I rarely use more than 4. 

    The most difficult thing about sergers is proper threading, it helps to put a different color thread in each needle and looper and study them for each type of stitch.  Some come with a video or dvd that may or may not be helpful.  I always ask if there is an extensive manual that has more info than the booklets that come with machines. 

    Good luck and hope this helps too.   Mary

  5. barbarar | | #36

    I know it is more expensive than you want, but I adore the BabyLock Imagine. The reason is the easy, easy threading--all you have to do is push a button and the thread shoots thru. As I have gotten older, it is so hard to see things, and I hated threading my old serger. I did not want to use my old one because it was so temperamental. A good serger seems to become absolutely essential to sewing, once you are used to having it.  It is also race-car fast!

    1. RhodaGayle | | #37

      Thanks so much for this addition to the discussion.  I'm still inclined toward the Huskylock, in great part because of the wonderful staff support and free classes the dealer offers.  However, I want to consider all angles before committing and will definitely check out the Babylock too.  Thanks again for the suggestion.


      1. MaryinColorado | | #38

        If you get the Huskylock, may I suggest that also purchase the Owners Handbook for the model you get. ( For instance, for the 936 it is part #430 000032.)  It is still a great help to me when I need to review.  I go to the Husq/Viking website, pull up my machine name, pull up accessories, and it has all the instructions for the feet, etc., I print these out and add them to the binder).  Also, under education, there is a projects page.  Other brands may have this also.  The video also helps alot.

        Your dealer might also have serger club.  I learned alot of my decorative serger techniques there, like serger lace.  Mary

        1. RhodaGayle | | #39

          Excellent information.  Thank you so much.  I will certainly do that.  RhodaGayle

          1. MaryinColorado | | #41

            You are welcome!

    2. MaryinColorado | | #40

      Are you able to use heavier weight threads and yarns with your machine?  When I looked at them, the dealers told me no.  I wanted to try it with my own threads but they wouldn't let me.  I love my Viking Huskylock 936, but have always wondered if the Babylock dealer was wrong in this respect.  Both brands have nice machines.  Mary

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