We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
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. 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.
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 requires different thread than your sewing machine. Resist the temptation to use your sewing machine thread in your serger!
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.
On the surface, that would suggest that the 2/3/4 sergers gives your more choice. But there's much more to choosing the best serger than the number of threads it uses.
A serger can use two to eight threads simultaneously. However, most machines use between two and four at the same time.
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.
You can use a two- or three-thread stitch to create a good hem, but the three-thread stitch might be a bit more bulky.
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. Some sergers even come pre-threaded, which is great for beginners.
Because several interlocking threads are used to create a seam, serger threads are thinner than standard thread. This prevents your seams from being too bulky.
A free arm is a must-have if you work with sleeves and cuffs.
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.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
JUKI MO644D Portable
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. The JUKI also advertises itself as portable, thanks to a built-in handle, but keep in mind – this serger weighs approximately the same as most others we reviewed.
Sergers come with a variety of accessories: screwdrivers for changing needles, tweezers, oil, a cleaning brush, a hex wrench, sometimes a pair of scissors.
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.
With several threads to deal with, sergers aren't always easy to set up. A conscientious manufacturer takes this into account and makes the process as easy as possible.
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?
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Brother 1034D Serger
Stitch Number and Speed
Even as a 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.
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.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.