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The best modern sewing machines offer all kinds of useful features, but there are times when there's no substitute for a good serger. You may be interested in this technology if:
Regardless of whether you're a beginner or a pro, finding the right serger (also called an “overlock machine”) isn’t easy. There are dozens of models to choose from, each with its own tempting set of functions.
Should you buy a serger that hails from the same manufacturer as your favorite sewing machine? Should you choose the one that offers the most features? Do you really get what you pay for? Our in-depth serger review answers these questions and more.
Helping you find the right answers is what BestReviews is here for. You can trust our results because we're independent.
Manufacturers do offer us free machines to test, but we politely refuse. Instead, we go out and buy our products, just like you would. That way, there's no pressure on our testers to be biased for or against any specific piece of merchandise.
After examining machines from all the top brands, we deemed the five models listed above as the best sergers currently available. But how did we come to those decisions? What are the important features you should look for when choosing a serger? The following review gives you the details.
What's the difference between a serger and sewing machine? It's a common question, especially from people looking at these machines for the first time.
Even the best serger will not replace your sewing machine entirely. Although they can do it, most are not great for zippers or buttonholes, and no serger can perform top-stitching.
A serger can use two to eight threads simultaneously. However, most machines use between two and four at the same time.
The numbers above represent the number of threads a particular machine uses to create a stitch. It stands to reason, then, that a 2/3/4 serger offers more stitch variety that a 3/4 serger. However, two-thread stitches are more specialized (you can use them for creating a rolled hem, for example), so for many consumers, a 3/4 machine is all that is needed.
The Janome and Brother models that made our final selection are both 3/4 machines. The SINGER, Tacony, and JUKI are 2/3/4 options.
On the surface, that would suggest that the latter group gives your more choice. But there's much more to choosing the best serger than the number of threads it uses.
Professional garment makers tell us that the most important single feature in serger stitching is differential feed. It controls the speed at which your material passes beneath the presser foot. It's vital for creating gathers and for the successful serging of fabrics without pulling. All of the sergers that made our final review have this feature.
A serger gives you control of thread tension and stitch length, but does not necessarily give you control of stitch width. Additionally, most manufacturers will make your life easier by providing a number of pre-sets for things like rolled hems.
Despite the fact that it’s a 3/4 machine, the Brother 1034D offers 22 stitch types, making it by far the most flexible serger of our final five. In fact, although this is a fairly low-cost machine, it's a feature you'll find hard to beat at any price.
A serger requires different thread than your sewing machine. Resist the temptation to use your sewing machine thread in your serger!
Is a serger difficult to thread? In truth, this can be one of the most intimidating aspects of using a serger. One thread is difficult enough; with a serger, you’ve got four to deal with!
Manufacturers understand this, but unless you're spending thousands of dollars on a professional machine that uses jets of air to blow the threads through, you’ll probably need a little time to get used to the threading process.
Colored thread paths and printed charts can help you along. Instructional DVDs are common, and there are numerous online videos at YouTube and other sites. The SINGER 14CG754 arrives pre-threaded, which is great the first time out, but it’s still criticized for its threading complexity, as are most of its rivals.
The results of our research suggest that this is an area where the Brother 1034D shines. The Brother’s bold, clear approach to threading attracts many compliments.
A free arm is a must-have if you work with sleeves and cuffs. The SINGER 14CG754, Brother 1034D, and American Home AH100 all offer outstanding free arm technology.
A foot control (similar to what you’d see on an ordinary sewing machine) gives you speed control and keeps your hands free.
All sergers have knives to cut away extra fabric, but the amount of control you have is often minimal. The Janome 8002D is slightly unusual here, as it offers adjustable cutting width.
The same motor that drives the sewing head also drives the knife. As such, snagging and poor cutting performance can be a problem with some machines. But that’s not the case with the JUKI MO644D, which includes an independent drive for this function.
Sergers come with a variety of accessories: screwdrivers for changing needles, tweezers, oil, a cleaning brush, a hex wrench, sometimes a pair of scissors.
The American Home AH100 comes in a particularly neat case.
However, while most of these things are nice to have, it's unlikely you'd find anything in the accessory realm that would “make or break” your serger choice.
How much should you expect to pay for a serger? It's difficult to find a capable all-rounder for under $200, though prices do fluctuate, and there are often sales or promotions you can take advantage of.
Professional sergers can easily cost ten times that amount, though it's our opinion that most home users can get the machine they need for less than $400.
There isn't a huge price window between the cheapest and most expensive serger on our shortlist. And truth be told, all of our finalists offer a tremendous range of capabilities. It's really a question of finding the feature set you want most, then choosing the serger that closely matches those requirements.
In addition to an actual sewing function, a top serger might include features such a presser foot (with various options) and retractable blades.
Many sergers come from companies you already recognize as makers of sewing machines or other home electronics. Brother and SINGER are two popular names in the industry. Others may not be so well known, but take a glance at these machines, and they look remarkably similar.
So how do you differentiate the good from the mediocre?
Speaking of price and quality, we certainly faced a challenge when deciding which of these five sergers should take the winning titles, Best of the Best and Best Bang for Your Buck. They’re all excellent, affordable models.
You can read about our two top selections at the bottom of this page, but we’d also like to give the other three sergers on our shortlist the attention they deserve.
The Tacony American Home Serger Sewing Machine, at a cost of $238, is a middle-of-the-road model with a corresponding capacity and performance. It's a little slower than the SINGER, but it offers more stitching options. It has plenty of useful accessories, though ease of threading – and ease of use – produce mixed reactions from consumers. Some aren't keen on the American Home; others are. It's fair to say that the American Home Serger Sewing Machine does most things well, but it's not exceptional at anything. The warranty is even more confusing than that of the SINGER, with 25 years on the casings, 10 years on mechanical parts, one year on electricals, and 90 days on labor.
Whatever the thread count of your serger, your stitching will only be as strong as the thread used. Be sure to buy good quality thread to complement your serger’s efficiency.
JUKI is not a widely recognized brand, yet this Japanese company is one of the biggest makers of sewing machines and sergers in the world. The JUKI Portable Serger certainly has an excellent reputation behind it. This is underlined by the fact that it is a “portable.” A carrying handle is built into the machine, yet it is approximately the same weight as the other sergers we reviewed.
In terms of performance and reliability, it's tough to beat. Owners think it's pretty much flawless, and if you're going to use a serger often, it's a series contender — though at a cost of $298, you do pay a premium for it.
As a 3/4 machine, the $299 Janome produces a smaller range of stitches than its similarly priced competitor, the American Home. And yet, with a speed of 1,300 stitches per minute, it's as fast as most. Owners find it quite simple to operate, thanks in large part to the high standard of the Janome's learning material. Few experience problems, although several say they wish that more accessories were included. The warranty covers five years on mechanicals, two years on electricals, and one year on labor.
Each of our finalists is a quality machine, and each might offer specific advantages that suit you. However, the winner of our Best of the Best award is the Brother 1034D.
As a 2/3/4 thread machine, the Brother offers as many feeds as most of its non-industrial competitors. In addition, it delivers up to twice as many stitches, for a total of 22! To that impressive range it adds adjustable stitch width and a differential feed that allows you to sew a wide variety of fabrics without fear of stretching or bunching. There's also a facility to create ruffles and gathers. All of this can be executed at up to 1,300 stitches per minute; only the commercially developed JUKI is faster.
A straightforward lever lets you get the cutting blades out of the way if you don't need them, and the stitch finger is removable. Two feet are included; others are available for separate purchase.
Just about all of the accessories a person could need come packaged with the Brother 1034D, including needles, tweezers, spool nets, a cleaning brush, a trim trap, and a hex wrench.
In terms of threading, the Brother is the best of the models on our shortlist. Even those who are new to this kind of sewing have said that the Brother's clear and informative instructions make the process much easier than expected. Threading is often a challenge with sergers, so this is a major selling point.
The Brother is not without its faults. In particular, its build quality has received some criticism. You could argue that the Janome and JUKI are made with better components, and that could be true, but no other machine on our shortlist has the combination of capability, flexibility, and value that the Brother provides. For a welcome price of just $199, this is a great all-rounder and the Best of the Best.
Our Best of the Best contender, the Brother 1034D, sells for an enticingly low price — and it's terrific. However, the SINGER 14CG754 is also a stellar contender, and at a similar price of $179, it's the Best Bang for Your Buck.
With the SINGER, you get tremendous value. This is especially true if you're looking for your first serger and don't want to spend an arm and a leg. The SINGER is a 2/3/4 machine, and while it offers only six preset stitch patterns, you still get the benefits of width and length adjustability and a fabric-taming differential feed.
The SINGER 14CG754 runs at a competitive maximum speed of 1,300 stitches per minute, and while it doesn't have a huge set of features or accessories, it does afford the free arm option that so many serger owners think is vital.
Threading the SINGER is thought by some to be a difficult process. Others disagree, and they point out that the SINGER's manual and DVD are quite helpful with this task. Although tension problems and breakdowns aren't unknown, experienced users tell us that the performance is amazing for the price. Beginners in particular are pleased with their purchase.
The contest between the SINGER and Brother is a tough one. Choosing between these two top-notch sergers poses somewhat of a dilemma. Both are excellent machines, and both are priced to sell. Whether you're a beginner or an advanced user, you certainly can't go wrong with the SINGER 14CG754.