Home » DIY Tutorials » DIY Sewing » Using a Serger…

Using a Serger…

Many of you have noticed.  And many of you have asked.
And yes, I finally am using a serger.  (Or overlocker…….same thing.)
Here was the issue.  A serger is an investment.  And I already have a fantastic sewing machine (Bernina Aurora 440) that does all sorts of great stuff.  (Thank you Bernina……we are getting along perfectly!) But I love sewing on knits and let me tell you, you can still sew knits with a regular machine……but a serger handles a knits completely differently.  I also wanted to quickly finish an edge of any type of fabric without folding, folding again, and sewing.  Or zig-zagging all of my edges.  It still works but takes so much more time on a regular sewing machine.
However, if I had to pick between a sewing machine and a serger, I would hands down choose a sewing machine.  It can still do so much more.  But my swerger {sigh and swoon}………she is like my little happy-to-please assistant, trying to eliminate extra work as she happily hums along at ferocious speeds for me.  Love her.
So what type did I get?
I read online, looked at reviews, checked out all different brands, tested some out at stores, etc.  I did it all.  In the end, I decided to stick with my little Bernina brand…….just because she has been so good to me.  But I do know that many other brands of sergers work just as well and have different features that people really like.  I just happen to be loyal to the good ‘ol Bernina brand now.
Here are the types of sergers that Bernina offers:  (Complete list with details here.)
The 700, the 800, the 009, the 1150, and the 1300.
The 700 does a certain number of things, the 800 does even more , and the 1150 even more.  And then the 009 is a coverstitch machine (which is like a serged top-stitch seen on knits around collars and sleeves, etc) but doesn’t cut through the fabric at all.  It doesn’t do all of the other serged edges like the other 3 I mentioned……but all in itself, it is capable of a really nice finishing stitch.  I really wanted this feature and really had my eye on 1300….because it had it all, including that coverstitch.  But let’s be realistic.  It’s a lot more pricey.
So I decided that I liked the 700 but I liked the 800 just a little bit more. And while sewing on the 800 vs. the 1150, I liked how the 800 sewed just a little bit better.  It seemed to really bust through those seams and I liked that about her.  I’m not sure why the 1150 didn’t win me over, and maybe it was just the particular machine I was sewing on…….but that 800 and I got along great. And had everything I needed.  And it was right before New Year’s and the sales were fantastic.  The dealer didn’t want any more sergers in their inventory before the new year began.  I’ll help you with that, thank you!
So, if you have never used a serger, or seen one at work…….you may be confused as to all the fuss.
Let me show you a bit more about using a serger/overlocker.
  • Save
Have you noticed those really fancy stitches on the inside of most manufactured clothing?
This is the work of a serger.
  • Save
First of all, a serger uses more than 2 threads at a time, like a standard sewing machine does.  It can use up to 5 threads but my machine only uses up to 4 threads.  2 threads on the top and 2 threads on the bottom.
  • Save
Some people hate threading their sergers and talk about the extra time it takes to load her up.  Yes, it does take a little longer, but isn’t as bad as I was led to believe after reading reviews about threading a serger.  But because there are 4 threads (maximum), it does take a bit more time and practice to get it right.
You have to thread the 2 bottom threads (lower loopers), which are the 2 spools on the right, that you thread through the bottom of the machine and that can seem complicated.  But most machines have diagrams right on the machine to help you out.
  • Save
Then the 2 top threads (upper loopers), which are the 2 spools on the left, which you thread through the to part of the machine and into the 2 needles.
  • Save
And again, you can sew with 2 or 3 threads as well, it just depends on the type of stitch you want for the type of project you’re doing.  And a user’s manual would show you how to achieve each stitch.
  • Save
The diagram in my manual, shows me just how to adjust the thread tension for each thread…
  • Save
……and how to adjust my stitch length and differential setting.
  • Save
You can also adjust your cutting length, your stitch width, etc……..but playing around with it has been most useful for me.
When everything is set up and ready to go, you can hold onto your strings and just start sewing away.  With a sewing machine, you don’t want to sew without your fabric under your presser foot…..but with a serger, you can push your pedal down full speed and watch as the serged stitch is created.
  • Save
With a serger, there is a little knife that cuts your fabric as you slide it under the presser foot.  This trims the edge perfectly before the machine creates the nicely finished edge.  As shown below, there is an upper knife and a lower knife.  They are both really sharp……so don’t let you pins go under there.  They will get sliced in half and will nick your blades.
To serge on your fabric, you lift the presser foot up the same way you do with a regular sewing machine and slide your fabric under the foot.  Line up the right edge of your fabric with the seam allowance you need to use, just like a regular sewing machine.  Then your machine will cut where it needs to……but just follow the seam allowance markings on the machine.
  • Save
You will begin to see the far end of the fabric coming out behind the presser foot, with a nice serged edge.
  • Save
Once you have finished serging your edge, just keep the presser foot down and allow a trail of thread to continue sewing.  And then cut off.  You always want to leave a trail of serged thread attached the machine, so that the threads stay in place.
  • Save
And to show you the different threads at work, I used 4 different colors.  See how they all work together?
  • Save
If you are sewing around a project and want the end of your serged edge to meet back up with the beginning……here’s what I do.
I sew all the way around……..
  • Save
  • Save
………..and then overlap the beginning of my serged edge.  Then I gradually run off the fabric, leaving a trail of fabric behind.
  • Save
Then I just trim off the ends.  Easy.  (And when sewing with all of the same color……this transition won’t be so noticeable to the eye.)
  • Save
**You can also untangle your loose ends and tie them in a knot to assure nothing unravels……but I never take the time to do that.  But maybe I should. :)
When sewing a corner……here’s what works for me.
I begin by serging along a straight edge and then when I get to the corner, I move one stitch past the end.  Then I lift up the needle and presser foot, turn my fabric, lower the foot and the needle, and then start sewing again right at the very top of the fabric.
  • Save
Now you have a nicely finished corner, without any mess or loose threads.
  • Save
How about sewing on a curve?  That can seem tricky on one of these powerful machines.  You can still sew on a curve though.  Just do so slowly and re-adjust your needle, presser foot, and fabric as you go.
  • Save
  • Save
And you will achieve a nice little serged curved edge.
  • Save
And don’t worry, you can pick out a serged edge just as easily as a regular sewing machine stitch.  Just slide your seam ripper under the long stitches, and cut through them.  This will release the other threads that you can now pull right out.
  • Save
If you want to change your spools of thread, you cut your threads up at the top……then start pulling on the threads as you sew for a bit with your foot pedal activated.  This will clean the threads out of the machine.  Then re-thread and start again.
And surprisingly, a serger/overlocker really can do a lot.  You have just to play around with it and see how all of the functions work.
I love that it can create a nice and narrow rolled edge.  This works great as a hem and also adds a great little detail to any project.
  • Save
Also, you may be surprised to know that a serger can gather.  Oh, yes it can.  And it does quite a nice job at it too.  And this way, you don’t have all of the frayed edges coming apart at the top……
…….because they’re all serged and encased.  Love it.
  • Save
All in all, I am very pleased with my little Bernina serger.
She’s my little work horse and happily finishes off all of the monotonous sewing I have to do.
And after a year or more of trying to decide……..I don’t have one bit of buyer’s remorse now that I have her.  She has been worth every penny.
Anyway, I hope that was helpful for those of you interested in the hype about sergers.  And maybe helped show you a little more of what they can do.  If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments below……or send me an email (makeitandloveit{@}gmail{dot}com)
And if you are a serger user yourself, tell us what you have, why you love/hate it, or any other helpful tips suggestions, etc.  I would love to hear what others are using.
Ashley Johnston
  • Save

Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
  • Save


  1. grandmajessie says:

    This is a perfect overview of serger sewing machines. I bought one a few years ago and can’t imagine going back to not having it. The amount of time I’ve saved alone is worth every penny.

  2. Dani says:

    This post is the coolest thing ever in the world. Makes me want a serger even more! thank you for the detailed information and pictures!!

  3. Katie says:

    I know this post is years old but I just picked up my Bernina 800DL yesterday and am loving it! Your tips and advice are great for me as I had never even seen a serger working before buying this one. Thanks for sharing. Cheers

  4. Yolanda says:

    por favor si me pudieran decir donde la puedo encargar, pues en mi país no venden esa marca, gracias

  5. Diego says:

    I also bought a serger and it took me a week to get used to it. It is a serger machine of Brother brand. It uses the manual so very convenient. This article will be very useful to me and the novice seamstress.

  6. kathleen says:

    Please could tell me how to gather on the serger x

  7. Dani says:

    Really helpful blog, Thank you!
    Just a question, I’m trying to use asserter to sew lycra (stretchy Fabrics) and Im not sure where to thread the floss and where to thread the reg thread??
    hope that makes sense…

  8. corolyn clay says:

    To all you who post on this site. I am new to sergers an looking for one that is approved by some of you. Tried and tested and loved. Wish you would post your favorite and why it is that you love it. I am presently making hats and other accessories and would love to use a serger to make my life easier. Your input would be valuable to me. Thanks and I’ll be looking for your posts. Corolyn, (not CArolyn.) Good Sewing!

  9. corolyn clay says:

    I love this site. Am looking for a serger as a first time user. I know only that it will make my sewing easier. Wish someone would post a recommendation as to a mid price machine that does a great job. A machine that one of you have tried and tested and fallen in love with. I’ll check back to see if any feedback is posted. My price range is less than 300 if possible but can go a little higher if the machine is worth it. Thanks to all of you great sewers for your posts. Corolyn

  10. susan says:

    Not sure if this is of interest to anyone and not trying to upset anyone with the following link is to start selling hand printed fabrics, so could be a great chance to get some amazing fabrics to use on an overlocker


  11. Charisse says:

    I am sure this is a lame question… everyone says how great a serger is for sewing knits I decided to get one because I LOVE working with knits so much. When I sew knits with my serger though, for test runs, it always gets bunched up, or when I stretch it, the thread comes loose. So my questions are… 1. When serging knits (like a waist band for a skirt) do I need to sew it first with a zig zag, and then serge it? 2. When I serge knits do I stretch out the fabric as much as I can while serging, or just a little, or not at all? Thanks for your help! I LOVE trying your projects!

  12. Sue says:

    Please show us how to thread the covestitch machine in simple photos like the serger


  13. Linda says:

    I think it is cute that so many of us have Brother 1034D sergers.. I got this one about 4 years ago and love it . I love that itI has a differential and that it has a free arm and that it handles thicker decorative threads or even yarns and it is so easy to thread with its color threading .

    I love this little machine and I am so grateful to Brother for providing a affordable machine for me to learn on and have all of the benefits that I need.?

    I lost my dear hubby last year to prostate cancer and it seems that we live in a sewing machine mechanic Poor place! We do have a dealer in the local town but she only carries Bernina and Elna machines. Most dealers here will only service a machine bought from them. The kids accidentialy broke my little 1034D and I am unable to drive that far,without the love of my life.

    Do you all have this problem- how do you get something fixed ????

  14. Dana says:

    Can’t trust blogs anymore with companies paying them to write reviews about them…. so obvious Bernina sponsors this blog… bummer! Would be nice to get a unbiased perspective on sergers out there.

    1. Ashley says:

      This was a tutorial about how to use a serger, and less about a brand. A serger is a confusing machine for most, so I was simply sharing what a serger does, what all those strands of thread of for, and how it differs from a regular sewing machine. I do work with Bernina on some projects, but I wasn’t paid for this post or given that machine to use. I researched sergers and purchased this one one my very own. I wrote this post over 2 years ago, hoping it would ease the fear that many have about sergers.

      So no, this wasn’t a paid post and I apologize if it seemed like it was.

    2. Lisa fouser says:

      I loved this post. It was so extensive and so many people participated. Never once did I think you were a ‘shrill’ for Bernina. While admirable that you apologized to Dana, I found it unnecessary. You love to sew and share and for now, you’re doing it on a Bernina. Good for you!

      I love my bernina serger, my bernina 630, my featherweight, my treadle, and because of you, I’m going to dust off my huskylock serger.

      You inspire me to create!

      Thank you!

  15. Shannon says:

    How do you use a serger to sew a polyester knit? I recently bought a used serger and it did come with a user manual, but it is an old serger and does not have the useful charts like yours does… I’m trying to sew my first maxi skirt.

  16. mutuelle santé fonctionnaire says:

    le blog est vraiment bien , merci beaucoup. Je dois dire que je ne regrette en rien de m’être abonné à votre weblog. Continuez !

  17. Willie Branagan says:

    I have fabric and patterns waiting, as well has some tailoring I’d like to do. I’m thinking that having a server would be SO much easier to use. I, too, am one to overcast, or roll and stitch, edges to prevent fraying before I even start assembling. Yuck! This makes procrastination SO easy. I want to make a new robe…the one I’m wearing doesn’t have any holes, but it certainly is getting thin. This was a great video on the use of a serger. Thanx so much for posting it!

  18. Cindy says:

    I just won a Babylock Eclipse DX. I’ve only run some rags through it, to see how it works. This is my first serger, and I am lucky enough to have a great one. I’m looking for projects, since I am clueless about the variety of things I can do with it.
    Also, does anyone have any thoughts about investing in the different presser feet available for sergers?

  19. Amanda says:

    Thank you for your post on sergers. I have a Brother 1034d and FINALLY threaded it today.
    However, my stitches are loose and keep them tight. Reading the manual is tough for me, dyslexia at it’s worst :(

    I wish i had a troubleshooting video that I could watch but haven’t been able to find one. Any suggestions?
    I am attempting to work on knits, what setting are the best?
    Anyhoos, any friendly pointers would be a huge help!

  20. Bettijo says:

    I am in the market for a serger and just signed up for two courses on The instructor for the first course goes over all the parts of three different makes of sergers. She explains tensions, threading, everything. The second course is more advanced and assumes you already know the basics. I have learned a lot about sergers and what features to look for from watching these two courses. The basic course is the best for beginners, but I am looking forward to using some of the techniques from the advanced course as I progress. I think it was well worth the cost of the basic course to learn as much as I did about sergers and what is important and what are differences between manufacturers.

  21. Angela says:

    I recently bought a serger and I love it! It’s a babylock brand (I love them too) Evolution. It can do a decorative wave stich, cover/chain stich and can have up to 8 threads! Best of all, it has jet-air threading (you push a button and it does the threading for you) and its tension free! It is wonderful!

  22. Revival says:

    How can I attach elastic lace using a serger without using the cutting blade. Thanks

  23. Tereza says:

    Thank you for great post and all the usefull info on your web. I would liketo ask you for help – I got a serger few months ago (a Brother 4232D). And so far everything was ok, but the true is I did not sew anything particulary stretchy. Now I decided to reporpous my old caschmere sweater for my baby girl pants. When I sew it it looks ok, but it seems the seams are not stretchy at all, becouse when I put the pants on her they broke. Please donot you have any idea where is the problem?
    Thank you for any idea and help.
    Kind regards

  24. référencement site web gratuit says:

    Salut ! Avez vous démarché un expert en technique seo pour le référencement internet ?

  25. knitbunnie says:

    I really lusted after a Babylock Jet-Air Wave serger, I have two Babylock sewing machines – a Maria & an Ellegante, so I’m pretty brand-loyal, but I just couldn’t justify the thousands of dollars, not knowing if I’d really use a serger, so I took the “cheap” serger plunge and got a Brother 1034D or under $200 new on Amazon – shipped free & no tax! I LOVE that thing!!! I’ve had it for two months and I’m still learning, but everyone on my Christmas list is getting rolled-edge linen napkins, and my new grandson is looking fabulous in all the baby clothes I’ve made him from knit fabric. I pull out the books a lot, and I do trial runs on scrap fabrics, adjusting dials and re-adjusting, until the threads look balanced, the seams are flat, and I’m happy with the stitch, I think that if my 1034D stops working I now know that I can justify the Babylock Jet-Air or another top-of-the-line serger, but my little Brother was definitely worth being my trial run. I’m not sure I need a machine that does anything more.

    I learned, after running out of thread and a 20 minute threading struggle, to pay attention to one little line in the manual – after threading the lower loopers, RETHREAD THE NEEDLES. I don’t know why, but you HAVE TO rethread the top needles or it won’t serge.

    I do a lot of small things like baby clothes and I’ve learned that I can get by with just one or two spools of thread. I usually wind two bobbins on my sewing machine and use them on the needles and use the spools on the loopers. If your machine won’t take the bobbins without tangling the thread on the spool spindle, put regular-sized spools of thread under the bobbins to raise them up. With this trick, I can match just about any color and not have to buy 4 cones of thread for each project. If it’s a really small project, like a baby t-shirt, I can get by with just one spool and three bobbins. I know I could get by with non-matching thread on the loopers, but I really like it when everything matches, even on the inside.

    1. Kristin D. says:

      That is the greatest idea I’ve heard yet! I have wondered how to save money on serger thread but still have a matching color for each project! Voila! Thank you so much!

  26. Nancy says:

    Sewing since I was seven. Retired two years ago and want to start again. I sewed everything at one time. Bought a new machine and a serger. Little scarry…until I saw your recomendation. So excited – now I need to find a place for both machines. Thank you sooooo much

  27. GT says:

    Hi there,
    I am wondering is there any sewing machine with sergers function? Or we need to buy one sewing machine and one serger?Thank you!

  28. Gk says:

    I have a Bernia 800DL but when I wanted to shorted a tea shirt I wanted it to look like a hem in a bought tea shirt. I did not have the coverstitch so this could not happen. What do you do to hem a tea shirt with this model of serger?

  29. Leslie says:

    I just got a Juki mo654DE, it came with a bunch of bonus items, free shipping and was reasonably priced and had really great reviews, so far I love it, it wasn’t that hard to thread, did it the first time from the manual in under an hour, I’m gonna take a class at a local sewing/craft shop and can’t wait to learn all the wonderful things they can do!!

  30. BigIslandBehr says:

    I’m in the process of increasing output of messenger bags I make from recycled/repurposed items. I’m debating switching from a regular sweing machine (2nd hand Singer that is constantly needing to be in shop to get timing tweaked) and a serger.
    Costco has a Brother 1134DW Serger Machine for $219.99 delivered and I’m really leaning toward it. It would definately fix the excess material issue and the stronger stitch issue.
    Any feedback, especially on the Brother 1134DW Serger Machine.

  31. shannon says:

    Got a 14 u85 singer off CL. New sewer (got singer 6268 at same time). Is it worth $25living estimate fee to check out or does sewing shop just want to sell me a new high $ one?

  32. Annielu says:

    Can a serger be used for all kinds of sewing? I’m thinking of getting one and using it to replace my standard sewing machine, though I would still keep my sewing machine…

  33. anne says:

    which is better for sewing clothing a serger or a sewing machine

  34. Audrey says:

    Too funny I was searching frantically for instructions on how to adjust the tension on my Bernina 800 D and was surprised you had basically the same machine, yours is the DL though, not sure the difference. I lost my manual and my daughter kindly set the tension to 0. Thanks for the sewing on a corner tip, never have been able to figure that out and I didn’t know I could gather with my serger. Guess I need to find that dang manual!

  35. daria says:


    Thanks for the terrific pictorial! I just ordered a Brother 1034D and cannot wait to use it. I have a wonderful Babylock sewing machine, which I love, but after years of struggling over to serge, not to serge, to serge has finally won! I look forward to visitng your sight often!

  36. Summer says:

    Great post! I also received a serger for Christmas and I’m just taking it out to get acquainted. You make it seem much friendlier!! Thanks!

  37. Shannon says:

    I have my Grandmother’s Babylock. I LOVE IT!! :-)

  38. joy says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post! My husband surprised me with a serger this Christmas, and all of your tips, photos and success stories are just what I was looking for!

  39. Lottie Czosek says:

    Thanks for the tutorial on the serger. I will have to give it a try
    it later. I can sew no problem, but my mother passed away and gave me her serger. However she was too ill to show me how to use it. She left details instructions and stitch examples but I am still struggling. When I attempt to use 3-4 threads they break. 2 threads works great. I tried a few months ago and have been to afraid to try again. Thank you.

    1. Leslie says:

      I’m new to serging too, but I did a lot of research and most of what I have read says if your threads keep breaking it is not threaded correctly and/or in the proper order! Hope that helps!

  40. Van says:

    I recently received an 800DL serger as part of my sewing machine (430) purchase. I do mostly quilting and have just started sewing some basic skirts, tops and crafts. I don’t plan to make anything fancy or sew a lot of clothing. Although I love the finished look of the overlock stitch and the ruffle/overlock feature is nice, I can’t see myself using any of the other decorative stitches. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but am I missing something about why sergers are so wonderful? I’m going to take the free master classes offered at my Bernina store in a couple of weeks and I’m hoping to learn about other features that would apply to my basic sewing needs. What type of sewing are you doing with your serger? I appreciate any feedback/recommendations anyone has. Thanks….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

Back to Top
Share via
Copy link