Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Sergers! (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Happy National Serger Month!

Thimbles Quilts loves sergers and wants you to love them too. Whether you’ve just started on your journey as a sewist or you’ve traveled this path for a while now, you’ve likely heard about sergers. If you’ve never worked with a serger before, you might find—as with all new sewing skills—there’s a little bit of a learning curve. Well, we’d like to smooth the edge on that curve for you, which feels apropos for the topic at hand! First things first: 

What is a Serger? 

A serger, or overlocker, joins pieces of fabric together and creates a nice, finished edge at the same time. Sergers, unlike sewing machines, have multiple threads and a blade for cutting the fabric. A serger will neatly cut the edge of your fabric and then create a looping, “overlocked” stitch to reinforce the edge and prevent fraying. The result is a durable, professional-looking seam. Sergers can create several different kinds of finishes (some of which require different feet), like rolled hems, chain stitching, picot hems, flatlock seams, and other decorative edges. A serger complements your traditional sewing machine. 

Why should I get a Serger?

  • To create durable, sturdy fabrics. If you’re going to spend precious time, attention and money on sewing, you deserve fabrics that won’t fray! 
  • To sew garments that have flexibility. The beauty of the edge the serger creates is in its ability to stretch with the fabric. Sergers were originally designed to work with knits, which require ease so they can stretch without ripping. With a serger, you can create a clean, stabilizing edge on all kinds of fabrics, including knits.
  • To neaten up those edges. Sergers create beautiful, neat hems, and there are several different decorative edges to choose from.
  • To make fast work of projects. Most sewing machines operate at 700-1,100 stitches per minute. A serger can serge up to 1,700 stitches per minute. Sergers make short work of repairing torn seams, and because they have a blade there’s no need to first cut your fabric with scissors. 

Why does a Serger need so many threads?


The Baby Lock Triumph

There are several different thread options for sergers: 2-4 thread, 3-4 thread, 5-thread, 8-thread. The more threads, the stronger your finished edge will be. More threads also equate to a wider seam allowance and more elasticity. 

Each thread on your serger performs a different function with the edge you’re sewing. Some feed into the needles, which form the rows of stitches, some feed into the upper and lower loopers, which create the top stitching and the stabilizing stitches. For example, if you’re creating a 4-thread overlock seam, one thread will create the seam that binds your fabric together, a second and third thread will wrap the edge, creating the eponymous “overlocking” pattern, and a fourth thread will create a backup seam in case the first thread fails. As you can imagine, the more threads on your serger, the more durable and sturdy your seam edge will be, and the more decorative edges you can create. 

That’s really a lot of threads. Won’t more threads = more tension issues?

A lot of people who first start using a serger note issues with tension. It can be troublesome trying to identify which thread needs to have its tension adjusted—is it the looper, the needle, what? If you notice puckering in the hem you’ve made, or a loose overlocked stitch, it’s time to adjust the tension knobs on your serger. Here are some general pointers:

  • One knob at a time. You may notice several different problems with your hem and wonder, “How can this be both puckered and loose at the same time?” Don’t try to fix both problems at once. Adjust one knob, redo your work, and then re-examine. Otherwise, it can be really difficult to figure out exactly what is happening and how to fix it.
  • Different materials, different tensions. Light fabrics and threads will require tighter tension, heavier fabrics and threads will require looser tension.
  • Loosey goosey? Tighten up. Puckering Priss? Let loose! If you’re finding that the stitches are looping and loose, you need to tighten your tension. If the stitches are puckering, you need to loosen the tension. Think of it this way: if it feels loosey goosey, it needs to be reined in. If it’s being uptight and puckering, it needs to let loose a little. 

And if you really just want tension issues to be as painless as possible, check out our Baby Lock Sergers, which all come with either tension free or easy adjustable tension systems!

I’m still worried about all those threads. How do I get them all in place?

The biggest worry we hear from sewists about working with sergers is the threading aspect. Threading is a headache, we know. You’ve already spent some time mastering threading your sewing machine. And that’s only one, maybe two bobbins. But a serger involves what seems like a complex web of threads, all of which need to be in their rightful place. 

© Bernina 

Thankfully, Bernina wrote this fantastic blog post outlining helpful tips on how to thread your serger. They say, “Thread, Don’t Dread!” and we have to commend them for how easy they’ve made it to overcome that thread dread. 

Baby Lock has also provided several resources for how to thread their sergers, including videos like the one featured below for their Baby Lock Vibrant Serger.


I really don’t want to deal with all those threads? Is there no other way? 

Thank goodness for technology. Sewing and serging has come a long way, so if you still Dread the Thread, both Bernina and Baby Lock have you covered! 

Meet jet-air threading. Jet-air threading sergers utilize “jets” of air to push the thread into its proper place. You simply add your thread to the threading port and looper, press a button and <whoosh> everything is threaded! Jet-air threading allows you to thread your serger quickly and effortlessly, making it easy to change out thread colors.

Those Baby Lock sergers we mentioned above? Almost all of them use jet-air threading. As do the Bernina 850, Bernina 890, and the Bernette 64.

If you already own a serger and have issues with re-threading, we have you covered. You can bring your serger into the store and we’ll help you re-thread it!

Can Thimbles Quilts help me figure out this serger business?

Of course we can! We have a class called Serger, Sashiko, & More that explores a variety of techniques using the Baby Lock Ovation or Evolution Serger. We also host a Serger Club with different techniques and projects every month, classes on Exploring Your Baby Lock Serger, and today is our all-day Be A Difference Maker Baby Lock Serger event, where participants are assembling drawstring bags for children in need. Be sure to search our events often for serger-related activities—there’s usually something new on offer every month!

Do you have other questions about sergers? Don’t be afraid to ask! We want to know all your serger concerns. Contact us via email or call us at 815-836-8735.

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