Shopping for a Serger
A serger not only speeds up the process of finishing garments seams, edges, hems and projects, it automatically trims seam allowances and encloses raw fabric edges with a variety of stitches that prevent fraying. A serger won’t replace your sewing machine, but it will expand your capabilities and sewing skills by allowing you to put a professional finish on every project.
Read reviews of the models that interest you
Every serger has its strengths and weaknesses and professional reviewers are paid to use every feature and function on new models and submit their opinions. In addition, private consumers like you will take the time to list every positive or negative experience they’ve had using machines they’ve recently purchased. Weigh all the reviews but take them with a grain of salt, but take note of the ones that describe the features or functions you’re looking for.
Take a few test drives
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. Create a list of the features you must have before including those you’d like to have. To familiarize yourself with each machine, try threading and unthreading it, use various fabric swatches of your own or on those provided by the machine dealer and don’t forget your list:
- Examine the serger to locate major dials, switches and controls.
- Assess the type and brightness of the lighting (LED or incandescent) and ask about which types of accessories are included with each machine you try.
- Is the switch for the presser foot in an awkward location? Does it respond quickly?
- Check the evenness of the stitching by holding the thread chain while you stitch without using any fabric.
- Sew and label several different stitch samples on different fabrics or combinations using two-, three-, four- and five-thread stitches.
- Take note of the vibration and noise levels while operating the serger. Will it require a pad to reduce both or are both acceptable on the type of surface it’s sitting on?
- Ask the dealer to demonstrate the following procedures, such as converting both cover and chain stitches and the most efficient method of engaging and disengaging the differential feed on different fabrics, then try them yourself:
- Check the sturdiness and ease of use by engaging and disengaging and replacing the upper and lower cutting knives, if applicable.
- Ask if any or what type of training and/or maintenance plans of requirements are included with the purchase of the machines.
What features will you use most often?
To help you decide which features are most important, consider which stitches and fabrics you’ll require most often. For example, it you don’t work often with knits or hem them if you do work with them, there’s little practical use for a coverstitch feature.
On the other hand, it’s also smart to take in account that your sewing plans and skills can easily change. Once you scale that first part of the learning curve and become more comfortable with your machine, new vistas of creative possibilities will open.
Before making any final decisions, take an honest look at your budget: serger prices vary from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. For average home sewing uses, a good basic model starts at about $200. It’s really not necessary to invest heavily in a new machine unless you plan on using it on a rigorous basis. Investing heavily in a high-end model you only plan to use infrequently makes little sense.
Shopping for a serger can be very intimidating for beginners, not only because there are so many models and brands on the market, but because no one wants to pay for features and functions they don’t need.