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Serger recommendations?

fschmom | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I’m a long-time sewer who has never gotten around to getting a serger. I’ve decided that it’s time and wanted to know if anyone had a good recommendation on a basic machine. I’ve been considering a Kenmore, as I remember reading once that the Kenmore serger is made (or was at the time) by Janome but at a better price.

Thanks for any input!


  1. Allyson | | #1

    I have sewn on a few different serger brands and I would recommend a Bernina HANDS DOWN over anything I have ever worked with.  I can't say enough about Bernina for sergers....

     FYI - all Bernina models are made with the same basic frame .... you simply are adding bells and whistles as you go up the line to the 1300 model (which includes the cover stitch).  In other words, even the basic Berninas are made very very well.

    Happy serging - you will LOVE it!

  2. PLW1017 | | #2

    For what it's worth... I worked for a Pfaff/Bernina dealer for 10 years.  I am trained and certified on all except the newest machines (2004 releases) including the full line of sergers for both brands.  When it came time for me to buy a new serger, I got a Pfaff.  In my opinion, it's a better, more user friendly machine than the Berninas.  I have both a Bernina and Pfaff sewing machine so I have nothing against Berninas.  They're well made and are great machines but the Pfaff sergers are easier to thread.  The tensions aren't as finicky and on the machines with coverlock, it's much easier to switch from overlock to coverlock with the Pfaff.  I always felt like I had to practically rebuild the Berninas to switch.

    So there, you have another side of the story! LOL


  3. DianeN8 | | #3

    I've had three sergers. The first was a Bernina. I bought it secondhand from a sewing store, and it was truly awful. The second was a Pfaff which worked really well and was quite reliable.  But my third was a Baby Lock Evolve. It is a great, though expensive, machine, but worth every penny because there is no tricky threading and no adjusting of tensions. I would hate to go back to manual adjusting because it's just too frustrating and time consuming.  Whatever you buy, take the lessons offered. Sergers can be complicated.


    1. Alison | | #4

      I've been sewing for almost thirty-five years, not a lot but pretty consistently. I like to make jackets, coats, shirts, dresses, skirts for casual wear, dress-up and and the office; I also do all my own home dec. My results are more funky and original than beautifully finished, though ideally I would like to aim for both.

      I have finally decided I want a serger, though I have never used one. I have started to work with knits, and while I know that theoretically knits can be sewn on a straight-stitch machine in practice I have found that many of the funky and original knits I want to use slip and slide and need tissue paper over the feed dogs and under the presser foot, requiring much use of tweezers to remove afterwards. This is not such a huge problem for basic seaming, but if I want to topstitch the seam allowances open... yes, it is a huge problem.

      Yesterday my husband and I went strolling through the fabric district of Montreal, thinking that we could pick up a rebuilt machine for around $300.

      No. I could get a new Consew 3/4 serger for home use for around $400 (CD and manual included); a new Janome 2/3/4 for $800 (9 hours of lessons and ongoing telephone support included); a new Pfaff Hobbylock 2/3/4/5 for $900 (unspecified lessons included); or a rebuilt industrial 2/5 or 3/4 for $700. Second-hand domestic machines are simply not available in this part of town.


      — I like the idea (and yes, looks!) of a nice old all-metal industrial machine.

      — However, I suspect that the Janome 2/3/4 is targeted at me, with the lessons and support and all the selling of / instruction on special feet they are going to provide me. My husband and I are both leaning toward it but I'm not entirely convinced.

      — I'm disappointed that even if I spend almost three times what I was originally hoping to, I still won't have coverlock.


      — Should I risk picking something up on ebay or in the classifieds?

      — Should I go to the suburbs and see if I can get secondhand domestic machines from dealers out there?

      — I want coverlock capability, but from what I'm reading people who have separate coverlock machines are the happiest. Should I rethink this, spend $700 on a higher-end domestic 3/4 from a local dealer and another $200 on a 2/5 coverlock from e-bay or the classifieds?

      — Will a coverlock machine allow me to topstitch seam allowances open?

      Edited 6/26/2004 1:39 pm ET by Alison

      1. DianeN8 | | #5

        Hi Alison,

             It seems you're going through the indecision we all go through when making a large purchase.  As I said, I'm extremely happy with my Baby Lock Evolve. I was also happy with my Pfaff Hobbylock (which I bought second hand from sewing store). It didn't do the coverstich, however.  I don't think I'd purchase a serger on e-bay or from classified ads. First, you can't know if they're working properly, and second, you won't have the opportunity for any lessons. They are really important with a serger because of the threading, adjusting tensions, etc. Even with a manual it could be confusing.  I'm not against a second hand machine from a reputable dealer. As far as your question about topstitching with a coverstitch machine, I don't think you'd like that. It would be a little bulky for topstitching, I think.  The coverstitch makes wonderful hems, however.  If you buy a machine that has the chain stitch, you could use that, I think, for topstitching.  My Evolve has so many things it can do I haven't even explored them all.  It probably has more capabilities than I need. But there are other models of the Baby Lock that are less expensive. There is also a separate machine for the coverstitch. The selling point on that is you can always leave it threaded when working on your main serger. I just figured I'd have the wrong color thread on it and have to re-thread anyway, plus I didn't have room for 2 machines.   Just a last note:  I have a Janome sewing machine, and have been extremely disappointed in it.  Because of that, I passed on Janome when looking for a serger.  Pfaff was a good, solid brand in my opinion.  Good Luck!


      2. FitnessNut | | #6

        I think you should consider going to the sewing machine dealers to see what they are offering before making a decision. Check the yellow pages....there are lots of them in Montreal and few dealing in domestic machines in that area of town, unless things have changed alot since I moved three years ago. You will find that a domestic machine will be more versatile than an industrial one, as the latter tend to be designed to do only one job. Don't forget to try out the machines you are considering with scraps of your own fabric. It is important to be comfortable with the machine and there is no other way to be sure than to try it for yourself.

      3. sewartist02 | | #7

        I own a Pfaff that is 10 yrs old and I like it except for threading the lower looper.  Big pain.  I bought a Husqvarna 910 from a lady on ebay.  She is a dealer and I am completely happy with my purchase (I saved about $350).  It only had about 30 hrs sewing time on it.  I can still get lessons from the local dealer in town.  I was told by the dealer that switching on either the Viking or Pfaff from 3/4 to coverlock is a pain.  I would rather have a sep. coverlock but I honestly don't need it.  Ebay is safe IF you do your homework. 

        If I had the bucks I would buy a Baby Lock Evolve.  I still have to mess w/ the tenstion on my Viking but it's much easier than the Pfaff or I am getting better at it. LOL.

        Good luck!  I couldn't sew w/out my serger.

      4. SkiNsew | | #8

        Hi,  I have a Huskylock 936 which does have 5 thread capacity and the coverlock.  The girls are right!  It does take about 5 minutes to change over to the coverlock function.  And you are right it is a wonderful function to have.  People who do not have a coverlock but like the look of the 2 parallel hem lines use a double needle in their sewing machine and wooly nylon thread in the bobbin.

        From time to time I have thought about getting a second serger so that I could keep my coverlock set up and have my other serger set up for a 3 or 4 thread.  I always come to the same conclusion----because I only sew for myself, my time is LESS valuable than the space I would have to make for a second machine.

        Just a word about ebay.  I agree with the other lady that said to DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  I belong to a serger group.  One of the ladies in the group bought a serger on line and it did not come with all the little accessory items.  She just did not realize what it should come with until after she had it and went to use it.  She had to go to a retail shop and order all of the parts that were missing.  It ended up costing her as much as a new machine and no warrantee.

        By the way, I am very happy with my 936 and it was worth the time it took to really learn all of the wonderful things it can do.


        1. edgy | | #9


          Please don't ever say that your time is less valuable!! We are only here once (it appears) and every second it precious.

          That said, space and $$ for another serger is a separate decision.

          :-)) Nancy

        2. TrishO | | #10

          Hi Mare,

          I've forgotten who makes Huskylock.   I am now in the process of buying a serger and have looked extensively.  The 4 machines I liked were the:

          Janome Compulock at $1400

          Pfaff 4872 at $1300

          Pfaff 4852 at $1000

          Elna 945 at $1700

          All of the above machines have a coverstitch capability.  The Pfaff 4852 is a mechanical.  Now, I have heard good things about this machine.  However, I'm going with the Elna 945, it is a quieter running and smoother machine.  My second choice would be the Janome, it is a great machine with many different features.  Originally, I thought of purchasing the Singer coverstitch, however, I found the machine ran a little too, rough for me.  You can find it online for $499 with 6 feet, a 25 year warranty, 2 year mechanical, 1 year parts and service. 

          I would like other people's input, ideas and experience with these machines.  Thank you for your input.  Who knows by the time I can actually purchase the machine I may have changed my mind.  lol


          1. SkiNsew | | #11

            Hi Trish,  Huskylock is made by Husqvarna Viking.  The 936 is the top of the line.  I bought one that had been used as a demo on the selling floor.  It came with a full warrantee and a set of optional cover stitch feet for $1000.

            Good luck with the serging.  I don't know how I could get along without mine.


          2. louise | | #12


            I have a Bernina 1100DA and I love it!  It cost about  $1300 Cdn after taxes.

            Here is what I have learned. 

            1)  Be specific when you are asking about the double-thread on top, serged underneath sportswear finish.  It's called a COVER STITCH and few machines do it. You have to ask specifically if the machine does it and then ask the store/dealer to demonstrate.  Usually they will tell you the machine does it, but it is rather a loosely serged seam which you then pull to make the two pieces lay flat.  One side looks somewhat like what you want but the other side is just a butt-ugly ladder.  I would not put that on my dog!  Why would you spend dollars and dollars on fabric and then use a finish that looks worse than any RTW you would find in a bargain bin?  Okay end of rant.

            2) Threaders for needles and loopers are worth their weight in gold, buy it no matter how decadent or redundant it seems.   It saves time, your eyes and your neck and your nerves.

            3) go the extra yard and get one with a scraps catcher.

            4) Realize that in all likelihood you have bought an outrageously expensive machine that does one thing.  (I know, I know, - I have probably upset 90% of sewers out there, but it's true).  The one thing it does, it does better and faster than you can imagine.  I have made P.J. bottoms for my adult son in under an hour that I was really happy with and I am a really fussy sewer!  It will cut sewing time and help make beautiful french seams "without whiskers".   I would never be without one.

            5) you need to use good serger thread and realize that you will be using a lot of thread.  There is no free ride on the thread side of the purchase.

            6) buy the right needles for the fabric and throw them out after every project or at least after every other project.  It will save your sanity when you've tried everything (except to think about changing the needles) and still cannot make the stitches look right!  

            Good luck and happy sewing

            Edited 7/20/2004 9:33 pm ET by Louise

          3. FitnessNut | | #13

            Good advice, Louise!

            I have a specific question with respect to your machine.....I haven't looked, so forgive me if this is a dumb question ;-) Is the Bernina 1100DA a cover stitch only machine? My dealer pushed me towards a very fancy, does-it-all machine when I asked about a cover stitch only. I already have a Bernette 334DS that is 12 years old, works like a charm, and does everything I could want....except a cover stitch. I see no need to replace it, but would like the option of the additional stitch for sportswear and exercise clothes, of which I make lots.

            Thanks for the info.

            PS Where in Canada do you live?

          4. louise | | #14

            Dear Sandy

            No my machine does not include the cover stitch.  I went through the exercise I described in my previous posting.  I was still under the impression that the machine could do a cover stitch.  After purchase is when I finally discovered that the dealer used the term cover stitch loosely.  I would have had to graduate to a much more expensive machine - with all the bells and whistles or by a cover stitch only serger, which was also among the higher priced machines.   In the U.S the Bernina sergers come with a "how to use" book in addition to the usual Users Manual.  In Canada, this handy reference is not offered and I must say I was quite disappointed with Benina's customer service, as they did not offer the book to me, despite several calls and emails about the cover stitch issue.  It seems to me that if they really valued  my custom they would have offered to send or sell me the book, but the answer was always "if you are in Canada, you can't have the book"!

            I make do now with a serged finish and a double needle in my Janome sewing machine. The finish is superior to the pseudo cover stitched version I would achieve with my serger alone.  If you are happy with the serger you have I would encourage you to use the double needle technique.  If your all-purpose sewing macine does not permit double needle use, you would be far better to upgrade your sewing machine.  My Janome 415 was purchased on sale for $300 Cdn.  This is far better value for your money in my view.  The reason I purchased it, in addition to my serger and industrial machine is that it has stretch stitches and zig-zag which I needed to make sports wear, lingerie and bra's.

            The machine (in the Bernina line at least) must include the letter CD or CS to indicate that cover stitch is included.

            Hope this helps!


          5. helenoftroy1 | | #18

            I bought the top of the line Elna 5 thread serger 10 years ago. I just love it. It still works great. I would consider the Elna if you can afford it. Good Luck!!!!

          6. TrishO | | #19

            Unfortunately, I purchased the Singer Quantumlock 14T957DC, and  hate it!  I'm serioulsy considering taking it back and purchasing the Elna. 

            Thanks for your help.


  4. IBCarolyn | | #15

    Hello, I think the answers in this discussion in regards to your question are very good.   I would suggest that you consider exactly what you would like to use a serger for.  Most people who use it to finish seams use the three thread overlock stitch and some prefer the rolled hem stitch.  Janome has some nice four thread machines at a reasonable price as do all the manufacturers.  The cover hem (the machine has to have a chain stitch looper to produce a cover hem) is a nice touch.  It is true that there is some changeover time and the question is how much will you really use it.  The Babylock machines are also nice.  I myself, have a five thread Elna that is several years old and is computerized.  It takes a lot of guess work out of tension setting.  But I think once you decide exactly what you want to accomplish with the serger and how it will save you time, which is what all machines should do, then you should go to different dealers as others have suggested in this discussion and try them out.  It's a lot to think about.  Good luck.

    1. Kiley | | #16

      Hello, I'm new here and I have to agree this is a very good discussion. I had a great Babylock serger for over 10 yrs but when I took it in for a tension knob repair I ended up trading it in for a Pfaff 4842. Both machines are good IMO. I have heard good things from Juki owners also. An on line advertisement states Juki makes Bernina sergers. There are so many good sergers and so many different features. I have found some features that are must haves..like auto looper threader, differential feed and built in features such as easy change of the stitch finger for rolled hem so you don't have to change the plate and converters for flatlock. Some of the new big sergers are so large and much heavier than others also. There is much to take into consideration. Another thing is noise and vibration. There is a machine I really thought I wanted after searching on line for the different features but when I test drove it at the dealers..it vibrated, was noisy and the light was behind the needle not over it. It is good advice to see it and test drive it before bringing it home.

      1. IBCarolyn | | #17

        Hi, you brought up two more features that are important about sergers, the weight of the machine and the ease of switching from regular to rolled hemming.  Sometimes, I think there is more to think about when purchasing a serger than a sewing machine.  I am very happy with my Elna.  But I know people who love their Vikings, their Babylocks, etc. 

        This is my first time entering an internet discussion.  I find it very informative.  Regards, Carolyn

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