Nebraska Cooperative Extension NF 93-142

A University of Nebraska NebFact Publication

Buying a Serger

Rose Marie Tondl, Extension Clothing Specialist
Kathleen Heiden, Graduate Assistant

[Previous Category] [Catalog] [Order Info]

What is a serger? A serger is a sewing companion for the traditional sewing machine. Also known as an overlock, it can stitch, trim, and overcast in a single motion. A serger streamlines the construction process through convenience and speed. A serger can sew up to 1700 stitches per minute whereas the traditional sewing machine sews from 700 - 1100 stitches per minute.

Sergers can do wonderful things within the construction process, but they are a companion and cannot replace the traditional sewing machine. Sergers work well for making finished narrow seams, rolled hems, blindstitched hems, and overcast seams. Sergers alone can produce garments that only require those applications such as basic t-shirts, swimming suits, and table linens. But, sergers cannot do everything a sewing machine will do, such as install zippers in "inside" areas.

Types of Sergers and Stitches

Sergers may look similar and their stitches resemble each other until various serger types are identified. There are six types of sergers determined by the number of threads they use to create stitches. The types are: (1) 2-thread, (2) 3-thread, (3) 4/2-thread, (4) 4/3-thread, (5) 4-thread, and (6) 5-thread. Depending on the types of serger, the following stitches can be made:

Which serger is right for me? As with most consumer products, the more features a serger has, the higher the price. Do not buy more than you think you will use, but do not buy one that will quickly fall short of your needs. Determine your needs and what you want the serger to do before shopping.

To help determine your needs, ask yourself the following questions:

After asking yourself the previous questions, use the chart to determine which serger is for you.


Types of Stitches 2-Thread 3-Thread 4/2 Thread 3/4 Thread 4-Thread 5-Thread
2-Thread Overedge yes some models yes some models yes some models
2-Thread Chain Stitch     yes   yes yes
3-Thread Overlock   yes   yes   yes
3/4 Thread Overlock       yes   some models
4/2 Thread Safety Stitch     yes   yes some models
5-Thread Overlock           yes
Rolled Edge yes yes   yes   yes
Flatlock yes yes yes yes yes yes

Compare Operating Ease

Once you have determined the type of serger most suitable for your needs, compare the operating ease of different brands. Consider the following:

Shop Before You Buy

You have determined the type of serger best for your needs and the brand with the best operating ease. Now you must shop for your serger before you buy. Shopping before you buy includes "test driving" and shopping for a dealer. Use the Serger Buyer's Checklist to help you compare brands.

When "test driving" several different sergers, take scraps from recent projects and note the answers to the following questions:

The last consideration when buying a serger is a dealer. Having a good, local dealer will make operating a serger easier. When shopping for a dealer, consider the following questions:

  1. Is there a dealer in my city?
  2. What are the dealer's knowledge, services, and reputation?
  3. Does the dealer offer lessons?
  4. Will the dealer help you with serging problems?
  5. How fast is the dealer's repair service?
  6. Will the dealer keep you up-to-date on new accessories and techniques?
  7. Is the dealer an authorized dealer for your brand of serger?
Once you buy a serger, remove it from the box and begin to use it. Work through the owner's manual and take a dealer's class or enroll in other serger classes. Invest time in your serger so you can enjoy it and watch it pay for itself with every project you complete.


  Serger 1 Serger 2 Serger 3





   1. Number of threads used: 2, 3, 4, 5

   2. Type of stitches:

      a. overlock

      b. rolled edge

      c. blind hem

      d. chainstitch

      e. safety stitch

   3. Stitch quality on fabrics most commonly used

   4. Ease of changing stitch width and length

   5. Ease of changing to rolled edge

   6. Needle: conventional or industrial

   7. Knife blades: movable or stationary

   8. Location of needle guard or knife blade guard

   9. Location of presser foot lever

  10. Differential Feed: yes or no

  11. Threading: color-coded thread guide/threading charts

  12. Threading: ease of threading lower loopers

  13. Thread: cone adapters and spool caps

  14. Ease of adjusting tension: dials numbers, color-coded, or unmarked

  15. Ease of cleaning and oiling

  16. Power switch: yes or no

  17. Location of power switch and light switch

  18. Location of light

  19. Stability of machine when stitching

  20. Size of serger bed: adequate work space

  21. Instruction manual: easy to understand

  22. Attachments: availability and/or additional costs

  a. carrying handle

  b. free arm

  c. special table

  d. dust cover

  e. travel case

  f. accessory case contents

  g. waste container

C-4, Construction
Issued July 1993

Electronic version issued July 1995

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Elbert C. Dickey, Director of Cooperative Extension, University of Nebraska, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension educational programs abide with the non-discrimination policies of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture.