As we get closer to launching Jade, my next pattern for knit fabrics, I thought I’d recommend my (new-ish) serger for those of you looking for a good recommendation. I know it can be a bit overwhelming to wade through all of the options and figure out how much is reasonable to pay. There’s also something quite intimidating about the multiple cones of thread on top and the fact that it has knives (insert silent scream emoji).
I’ve been asked whether you really need a serger to sew knits, and I know that it’s all the rage to say that you can sew knits without a serger, but once you’ve tried it, you wonder why anyone would ever want to. Every knit sewing book and pattern I’ve ever read dedicates a section to patting you on the back and saying you’ll be just fine with a standard machine…but if you’re on the fence and you’re not on a super tight budget, I strongly recommend that you GET ONE. I might even say that if you are on a budget, saving up for a serger makes more sense to me than spending that money on knit fabric, since you can easily harvest knit yardage from thrifted or second hand garments and then you’re off to the races.
I got my first serger (a Brother 1034D, shown below) back in 2009, but my new favorite is the Juki MO654DE (shown at top of post), which I upgraded to a couple years ago, though it’s definitely still not pricey (it’s about $340 on Amazon at the time of this writing) when you look at the range of sergers out there.
When I got the Brother serger, I was unsure if I would possess the mental capacity to figure out how to operate it, so I went cheap and simple. This is, incidentally, why I still end up recommending this one to people; it really is a nice machine for someone who wants to learn how to use a serger with pretty small investment. I struggle a little bit with this, though, because I normally don’t subscribe to the “buy cheap stuff just to try it out” approach to purchasing in general, since it’s not nice to the earth and clutters up my life, but on the other hand, my Brother lasted quite a long time and is still going, so it definitely isn’t a disposable purchase. Mine is still in fairly good working condition, and that’s with pretty heavy use for almost a decade. I’m just reaching a point where I can tell it wasn’t meant to be used to the extent that it has, if that makes sense. It’s getting temperamental, even after being serviced, (differential feeds don’t seem to work well, tension iffy, etc), and it’s also VERY NOISY, though to be fair it was pretty noisy from the get-go. Like, can’t carry on a conversation while you sew, noisy. The new Juki, on the other hand, is really quiet, and the action is sooooo smooth. I’ve used it for over two years and it’s still just so very lovely.
Just in case you need a bit of an intro, a serger is a machine that creates a multi-thread overlock stitch around the edge of the fabric as it sews, using two (but sometimes just one) needles and at least three (but usually four or more) cones of thread. It goes only forward, not in reverse, and it has a pair of knives that trims the seam as it sews. It also has two feed dogs under the presser foot that can be adjusted to go different speeds to can prevent the fabric from stretching out or gathering, which is especially handy for sewing knits.
What I use my serger for:
- ALL knit sewing. I sew all my knit seams with the serger, with the exception of neckbands or ribbing, which I always baste on first with a sewing machine to make sure it’s even.
- Finishing edges of delicate and loose-weave fabrics before prewashing. Before I throw my new fabric in the wash (and I always prewash any fabric that will become a garment if I intend to machine-wash it, to prevent shrinking), I like to finish the raw edges so they won’t tangle and fray as they get tossed around in the machine. Usually I just use the zig zag stitch on my sewing machine over the raw edges. For fabrics like linen or double gauze, a serger is nicer because it finishes the raw edges very securely with the four-thread overlock stitch.
- Finishing edges of delicate or loose-weave fabrics after cutting/before sewing. Similarly, if I’m sewing something really delicate, I sometimes run the cut pieces through the serger to finish all the edges before I start sewing. This helps prevent the edges of the fabric from stretching out while they’re being sewn, similar to stay-stitching.
- Seam finishing for woven garments. I love a good seam finish (see this Super Seams post for a few examples/tutorials), and it’s super fast to run a seam through the serger after first sewing the seams on the machine (note: I don’t use the serger to sew the seams for woven clothing, though I do for knits). I was recently asked via email why not just sew all woven seams with the serger (a great question!) and the reason is that with woven garments, you often need to be able to adjust fit even after sewing seams, and that is really difficult to do once you’ve sewn a seam with a serger.
Since I use my serger constantly, I’m happy to have one I really love. It’s become an essential part of my process for sewing clothing and I can’t imagine sewing without one. Do you have a serger you love? And if you have any questions about sergers, I’m happy to answer them in comments!
PS. If you can find a local Juki dealer (you lucky ducks in Columbus have Sew to Speak), it’s so worth it if you can purchase a machine at a shop that will also be able to service it. Plan for the inevitable.
PPS. If you want a more thorough review of the Juki, check out Heather’s post.