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Serger vs Sewing Machine – What’s the difference?

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Are you debating if a serger or sewing machine is the right machine for you? Whether you are new to sewing or intermediate level and looking to upgrade your sewing quality, here is a comprehensive overview about the differences between a serger and a regular sewing machine for you to evaluate the right decision.

What is the difference between a serger and sewing machine? A serger is only able to sew an overlock stitch with multiple threads intertwined at the same time. However, a sewing machine can produce numerous stitches using a single thread and bobbin.

Overall, any sewing machine for beginner is practical day to day sewing for easy fixes, alterations and making clothes from scratch. It is a basic tool that you need to finish the raw edges separately, and then sew the fabric together.

On the other hand, serger or overlock machines provide stitches ranges from rolled to blind hems. However, the main purpose is joining fabric together with an overlock stitch.

There are many different name brands including Singer and Brother, and the types of sewing machines available offer different attributes for you to evaluate. This guide discusses the difference between a serger and sewing machines so that you can further develop new skills and enhance your sewing ability with the right tools. 

differences between serger and sewing machine

What is difference between a serger and a sewing machine?

When you are learning sewing in the beginning, you may wonder what exactly the difference between a serger and sewing machine really is. Serger is considered to be a specialized sewing machine compared to regular machine.

Sometimes its referred to as an overlock sewing machine. This machine is widely used in order to create beautiful, locked edges of any fabric. 

Typically, sergers use three to eight threads at a time and loop them around the fabric. In this way, the machine creates excellent borderlines across the edge of the fabric.

In general, sergers use three to four thread cones that are intertwined at the same time. These multiple threads are then looped and stitched together by a serger — the result is a more durable, professional, and seamless stitch that a regular sewing machine can not create.

On the contrary, a standard sewing machine uses either one or a maximum of two thread cones at once. A regular sewing machine allows you to play around and create different types of stitches.

Serger machines do not have the same facility and you can’t create a variety of stitches using sergers. Serger machines just have one main aim, that is to make an overlock stitch to encase and beautify the raw edges of any fabric so it doesn’t fray the seams.

Plus, serger machines operate very fast — modern sergers can perform 1700 stitches per minute.

To summarize, serger uses three to eight thread cones to create looping seams to lock and encase the raw edge sections of any fabric. The purpose of a standard sewing machine is completely different, it typically uses one or two thread cones (if you are using a double needle) to create a variety of beautiful decorative stitches.

Can you use a serger as a regular sewing machine?

Now, we have clarified that a serger is not a typical sewing machine. In fact, they are completely different machines with different uses.

If you are planning to use a serger to make creative stitching all over a piece of fabric, then it’s not the right away of usage! You will have to choose a regular sewing machine in that case.

However, consider a situation when the edges across a given fabric are unfinished and threads are coming out of it, then you can use a serger to bind and encase the raw fabric edges. The stitching mechanism of a serger involves the usage of the multiple thread cones — which is not possible by a standard sewing machine.

A serger will allow you to create neat piping and also exposed seams with knit fabric. It is a great tool to upcycle a sock t-shirt with colorful exposed overlock seam. 

Make sure you change to 2 ball point needle when using a Serger on knit fabric. The rounded needle with slide in-between the knit fabrication rather that poke holes that can damage the surface of the material.

Can you use a sewing machine as a serger?

The working principle of a sewing machine and a serger is completely different. Rest assured that both of these two machines do not fulfill the same purpose. 

A serger can only do an overlock stitch, while sewing machines have the capability to achieve multiple stitches. That’s why a serger can’t replace a standard sewing machine and vice versa.

The basic purpose of a sewing machine is to create different types of stitches on the fabric. It can also be used to create neat piping and narrow rolled hem stitches.

But, in the case of a serger, the primary aim is to make borderline cross stitches across the edge of the fabric using three – eight different thread cones at once. Serger offers durable and more professionally finished edges, however it can never be a stand-alone machine and that’s why it can’t replace a standard sewing machine.

The utility of a regular sewing machine is more versatile and diverse.

For example, you can use a standard sewing machine in order to create zippers, buttonholes, binding, facings, and much more too. These kinds of stitches are not possible only with a serger.

Should I get a serger or sewing machine?

If you are debating wether or not you should get a serger or sewing machine, understand sewing projects that you are mostly working on. In fact, sergers and sewing machines have separate purpose and one cannot really replace the other one.

As a beginner level sewer, you definitely need a sewing machine to perform a wide variety of stitching and sewing. On top of that, you can use a serger as an add-on. 

With the addition of a serger machine, you will be able to create beautiful and professional clean finished inside seams. This is the primary purpose of using a serger (locking up seams and providing a professional finish to raw edges).

Expert Advice: If you are on a tight budget, you may start with regular sewing machine and get an overlock foot. Here is a guide for the most useful sewing machine feet for beginners that will help you understand how to achieve the look of an overlock stitch without a serger. 

Do I need a serger and a sewing machine?

Serger and sewing machine — both are indeed great appliances to have and also great investment for developing a long term skillset. Especially, if you are a sewer or you have a solid interest in pursuing sewing, then consider owning both of these two different types of machines to accomplish quality DIY clothing. 

Both serger and sewing machine will allow you to create good-quality stitches and sharp edges. Similarly, you can also use both interchangeably to fulfill all your basic sewing purposes such as making from scratch, tailoring, alterations and quick fixes.

It takes bit of investment upfront, however the advantages for having both machines are:

  • Produce clean and professional finish on seams, hems, and sleeves.
  • With help of ballpoint needle, both machines are great for stretchy fabrics to avoid puckering seams on knit dress or tops. 
  • Provides secure and durable stitches to join the fabrics together and prevent fraying.
  • Sew DIY clothing that lasts for years. 
  • Save time when creating overlock stitch on seams.
  • Both sewing machines are easy to learn. Serger is slightly faster than a standard sewing machine. So, when in doubt, sew as slow as you go.

Serger and sewing machines are not the same. When you are new to sewing, it is hard to decide what is the difference between those two and if you really need both machines. 

If you were to only choose one, then a sewing machine is a necessary piece of equipment that provides tremendous versatility. However, it is wise to consider enhancing your sewing experience with the help of these two incredible machines — a serger and a standard sewing machine.

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