Do You Need A Serger and a Sewing Machine?

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Do I need a serger?  I asked myself this question for years before finally deciding, yes, I did need a serger.  Considering the cost of the serger and supplies and the space required for storage and use, this wasn’t a decision I came upon lightly. 

And now, I love my Brother 1034D serger and don’t regret the purchase.  It’s great for beginners and one of the most affordable, user-friendly sergers on the market.

But, is a serger necessary for you? To help you decide, I’ll walk through the role a serger plays in a craft room and describe the differences between a serger and a sewing machine.  In the end, you should have a better idea if you need (or even just want) a serger to accomplish your sewing goals.

Do you need a serger?

Do I need a serger?

No, you do not necessarily need a serger to make clothes or sew knits.  But would a serger make your job easier and the finished product more professional than just using a sewing machine?  Yes, of course!

Sergers haven’t been around near as long as sewing machines.  Sewists had been plugging along successfully for decades before the first serger made its debut.  With just a zigzag and straight mechanical stitch, my grandmother, for instance, sewed all her clothes, bedding, upholstery, and everything in her household.  I still have some of the outfits and doll clothes she sewed, and they are impeccable.  

Thus, you can accomplish so much with just a sewing machine, but why not look into a serger to see if it will make your sewing journey easier and better?

Why You Need a Serger

Here are some things a serger does better than a sewing machine. 

1. More Professional Seams

With a serger, you can create a seam, finish fabric edges, and trim fabric all at one time, creating a more professional seam.

Now, go take a look at the inside seams of your shirts and jeans.  More likely than not, the seam is a 3- or 4-thread overlock stitch done by a serger.  This is a strong, durable seam, giving that professional finish.  Here’s an example below.

sergers produce better seams

Sergers can also create flatlock seams, narrow or rolled hems, and several other stitch types, depending on the model.  Many of these stitches can even be used for decorative effects!

2. Trimming Fabric While Creating Seams

Your sewing machine will not trim the fabric edges while sewing.  While a specialty presser foot, called a side cutter foot, can cut fabric while you stitch with your sewing machine, it is in no way as good as a serger.  I’ve written a review of my side cutter overlock foot, and while it acts as a “faux” serger for cotton, its performance on knits was the ultimate reason I decided to purchase a serger.

When you engage the knife blades on your serger, they perfectly trim your fabric each time you sew!

3. Faster Stitching

Sergers stitch almost twice as fast as a household sewing machine.  This means you’ll accomplish tasks even faster! I detest finishing raw fabric edges, so I’m glad to do this task more quickly on my serger!

4. More Success With Difficult Fabrics

Sergers have effortless success sewing tricky fabrics like knits and sweater knits.  There is less stretching and a more professional appearance, thanks in part to its differential feed.  My sewing machine sews knits fairly well with a little finesse, but my serger slices through those stretch fabrics like nobody’s business.

5. Superior Rolled Hems

In my experience, rolled hems with a serger are easier to make and produce a better appearance than when made on a sewing machine.

6. Chainstitch and Coverstitch Options

example of a coverstitch on a serger

While many sergers, like my Brother 1034D and 1034DX (learn the difference in Brother 1034D vs. 1034DX), only have the option of 2-, 3-, or 4-thread stitching, others, like the Singer 14T968DC, have five threads.  This fifth thread means the serger can also create a coverstitch and chain stitch. 

If you take a look at your t-shirt hem, you’ll likely see two lines of parallel stitching on the outside and an ornate stitch appearance on the inside; this is a coverstitch.  While using a twin needle to sew parallel lines with your sewing machine can mimic a cover hem, a machine that produces an actual coverstitch provides a more professional appearance.

Since my serger doesn’t create a cover hem, I also have a specialized coverstitch machine, the Brother 2340CV. (You can learn more about it in my Brother 2340CV cover stitch review!)

Do you need a serger and sewing machine?

If you don’t own any sewing equipment yet, it’s important to know that serger is not a replacement for a sewing machine. Having a sewing machine in addition to a serger is important for many reasons. 

  1. Sergers can’t sew a simple straight stitch like a sewing machine. 
  2. Need to make a buttonhole and attach a button?  Done in no time with a sewing machine but very difficult using a serger.
  3. Sergers don’t sew tight curves well, and sharp angles such as those on slits are better and more crisply sewn with a sewing machine. 
  4. Accuracy is better with a sewing machine.  The bulky presser foot of the serger makes seeing the seam and maneuvering around more difficult.
  5. While you can lower the knife blade to serge without trimming fabric, consider using a basting stitch on a sewing machine if you’re creating a garment to be fitted.  This is easier to unravel and uses less thread.  Later, finish the raw edges or seams with the serger. 

Who Should Definitely Consider a Serger

Now, who needs a serger or would benefit from one?

1. Anyone seriously considering garment making, especially if wanting to sell items.  Do you need a serger to make clothes?  No, of course not.  You can make clothes with just a sewing machine.  However, your work might not be Etsy-ready without one.  Sergers produce a much more professional finish and work better on trickier fabrics.

2. If you’re planning to sew knits or other stretchy fabrics frequently.

3. Sewists who frequently sew enough that having a serger to make and finish seams will save significant time.  There will then be more time to sew more awesome projects.  Then again, not everyone hates finishing seams with a sewing machine as much as I do.

Who Should Not Get a Serger

There are a few subsets of people I recommend against getting a serger without some serious introspection first.

1.  If you don’t want to learn to set up and use a serger, skip on this machine.

A lot of beginners report frustrations learning to thread a serger and switch between stitches.  When you switch between stitch types, you have to add or remove a needle and rethread your machine.

There are also some basic rules regarding using the differential feed and knowing which tension, stitch length, and stitch width to use depending on your project.  I find I spend more time trying to troubleshoot serger issues (all of which are usually my fault) than sewing machine issues.  Sergers aren’t for the faint of heart!

2. Limited workspace or limited funds.  Sergers are pricier than basic sewing machines, and replacement parts and serger supplies are expensive as well.  Furthermore, even if a serger is in the budget, you may not have space for it.  Sergers take up a small footprint, but they still need a table that provides clearance on all 4 sides of the serger.

Do i need a serger?

Conclusion

To summarize, you don’t necessarily need a serger because a sewing machine will suffice in most circumstances.  However, given the superior seams, faster speeds, and better success on tricker fabrics, you might find you do really want one, just like I did!

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