When to use a serger vs sewing machine

Ultimate Pro Guide | When to Use a Serger Vs Sewing Machine?

Whether you’re an aspiring fashion designer or someone with a passion for creating beautiful garments, understanding the differences between a serger and a sewing machine would help you a great deal. While both machines play crucial roles in the world of sewing, knowing when to use each one can make a significant impact on the quality and durability of your projects. In this article, we will explore the features and purposes of both sergers and sewing machines.

It will be helping you make decisions when it comes to your stitching needs. From the key differences in their functionality, stitches produced, and the types of fabrics they are good at handling. To ensure the optimal result for the further venture you’d be working on the will depend on how you figure out the information from the discussion we’d be putting onward without skipping any steps mentioned.

Key Takeaways

  • To know the proper use, it is better to strengthen the ground information about their real-life usage in projects.
  • Take note of the criteria that make up the decision whether you’d need any of the equipment for your project or not.
  • If you want to try something different then there are a bunch of other great alternatives that serve the same purpose and brings effective result.

Use Serger vs Sewing Machine

Let’s talk about when to use a serger versus a sewing machine. here’s a brief overview of each sewing project in more detail along with a few examples:

1. Zipper pouch

Zipper Pouch
Zipper Pouch

When making a zipper pouch, you’ll need a straight stitch, which a serger doesn’t offer. A sewing machine is ideal for adding zippers because it can provide the necessary straight stitches. Additionally, since the raw edges of a zipper pouch are concealed inside the layers of the pouch, there’s no need to overlock them. Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re making a small makeup bag with a zipper closure. You would use your sewing machine to stitch the zipper onto the fabric and construct the pouch.

2. Baby quilt

Baby quilt
Baby quilt

Quilters sometimes use a serger to conceal the raw edges of a quilt before adding the binding. However, this is more of a personal preference. If you know someone who owns a serger, you can try using theirs to see if you like the finished look before deciding to purchase your own serger. For instance, if you’re making a baby quilt with multiple fabric pieces, you might choose to finish the edges with a serger to give it a neat appearance.

3. Making a dress from scratch

Making a dress from scratch
Making a dress from scratch

For making a dress from scratch, having both a sewing machine and a serger can be highly beneficial. You can use the sewing machine to piece the dress together, add zippers or buttonholes, and create the main structure. Then, take the dress to the serger to conceal all the raw edges with overlocking stitches, giving it a professional finish. Here’s an example: Imagine you’re sewing a fancy evening gown. You would use your sewing machine to sew the fabric pieces together and add the necessary closures, and then use the serger to neatly finish the raw edges, ensuring the dress looks polished.

4. Hemming curtains

Hemming curtains
Hemming curtains

Although it may seem like a serger could hem curtains, a sewing machine can actually do this beautifully. If your sewing machine has “fancy” stitches, you can even use them to add decorative elements to the curtain hem. For example, let’s say you have a pair of plain curtains, and you want to add a unique touch to the hemline. You can use your sewing machine to create decorative stitches along the edge, enhancing the curtains’ appearance.

5. Pillowcases


The choice between a serger and a sewing machine for pillowcases depends on the type of seam you prefer. If you want to use French seams, a sewing machine will work just fine. However, if you want a basic seam on the inside of the pillowcase, using a serger to conceal the raw edges is recommended. Here’s an example: Suppose you’re making a set of pillowcases with a standard seam. In this case, it would be best to use a serger to finish the raw edges, preventing fraying over time.

6. Scarf


Creating scarves is often as simple as cutting a rectangle from a beautiful lightweight fabric and serging (overlocking) the edges. This type of sewing project becomes a breeze with a serger. For example, if you have a piece of silk fabric you’d like to turn into a scarf, you can use your serger to neatly finish the edges and create a polished look.

13 Criteria That Help to Decide to Use Serger or Sewing

Criteria that help to decide to use serger or sewing
Criteria that help to decide to use serger or sewing

Here are 13 points to consider when deciding whether to use a serger or a sewing machine for your projects:

  1. Fabric Finish: A serger is excellent for finishing fabric edges professionally. It trims the fabric, encloses the raw edges, and creates a neat, durable finish. If you want a clean and polished look, a serger is your go-to.
  2. Seam Strength: Sergers create strong and secure seams, especially when dealing with stretchy or knit fabrics. The multiple threads used in serging provide added strength, preventing seams from popping under stress.
  3. Speed: Sergers are typically faster than sewing machines when it comes to finishing edges and seaming. Their specialized design allows for quick and efficient stitching, making them ideal for projects that require speed.
  4. Rolled Hemming: If you frequently need to create narrow rolled hems, a serger is your best friend. It has a dedicated rolled hem stitch that produces beautifully finished edges on lightweight fabrics, perfect for scarves, tablecloths, and delicate garments.
  5. Versatility: While sergers excel in finishing edges, sewing machines offer more versatility overall. Sewing machines can handle various stitches, buttonholes, zippers, and decorative techniques that are not possible with a serger alone.
  6. Precision: Sewing machines provide greater control and precision for intricate sewing tasks. If you need to sew curves, corners, or detailed designs, a sewing machine allows you to adjust stitch length, width, and tension to achieve the desired results.
  7. Seam Types: Sewing machines are better suited for constructing different types of seams, such as flat felled, French, or princess seams. They offer a wider range of stitches and techniques to accommodate specific sewing requirements.
  8. Gathering: Sewing machines have specialized gathering settings that make it easier to create ruffles and gathers. By adjusting the stitch length and tension, you can achieve even gathers without needing a separate gathering foot.
  9. Decorative Stitches: If you enjoy adding decorative touches to your projects, sewing machines are the way to go. They offer a variety of decorative stitches like zigzag, satin, and embroidery stitches that can enhance the aesthetic appeal of your creations.
  10. Quilting: While both sergers and sewing machines can be used for quilting, sewing machines are often preferred for this task. Quilting requires multiple layers of fabric and intricate stitching, which sewing machines handle with ease.
  11. Cost: Sergers tend to be more expensive than sewing machines due to their specialized features. If budget is a concern and you primarily need basic sewing functionality, a sewing machine may be a more cost-effective choice.
  12. Learning Curve: Sergers can be more challenging to learn and operate compared to sewing machines. They require threading multiple threads, adjusting tensions, and understanding different stitch options. Sewing machines, on the other hand, are generally more user-friendly for beginners.
  13. Space Considerations: If you have limited space, it’s worth noting that sergers are usually bulkier and take up more room than sewing machines. Sewing machines come in various sizes, including compact models, making them more suitable for smaller workspaces.

Sewing Machine: Definition and Features

Sewing machine definition and features
Sewing machine: definition and features

Let’s start with sewing machines. A sewing machine is a mechanical or computerized device that stitches fabric or other materials together using a needle and thread. It’s a versatile tool that can be used for a wide range of sewing projects, from simple repairs to intricate garment construction.

One of the main purposes of a sewing machine is to make sewing faster and more efficient. It automates the process of stitching, allowing you to create neat and professional-looking seams and stitches with relative ease. Imagine hand-sewing a straight line on fabric— it can be time-consuming and not always perfect. With a sewing machine, you can achieve straight and consistent stitches in a fraction of the time.

Sewing machines come with various features that make sewing easier and more enjoyable. Let’s discuss a few of the main features:

  1. Stitches: Sewing machines offer different stitch options, such as straight stitches, zigzag stitches, decorative stitches, buttonhole stitches, and more. These stitches provide versatility and allow you to create various effects and finishes. For example, if you’re making a garment, you can use a straight stitch for basic construction and a zigzag stitch for finishing edges or sewing stretchy fabrics. Additionally, decorative stitches can add flair to your projects.
  2. Speed Control: Most sewing machines allow you to control the stitching speed. This feature is handy when working on delicate fabrics or intricate designs, as it allows for better precision and control.
  3. Thread Tension Adjustment: Adjusting the tension of the thread is crucial for achieving balanced stitches. Sewing machines typically have a dial or knob that allows you to fine-tune the tension, ensuring that the upper and lower threads interlock correctly.
  4. Automatic Needle Threader: Threading the needle can be a frustrating task, especially if you have poor eyesight or shaky hands. Some sewing machines come with an automatic needle threader, which simplifies the threading process and saves time.
  5. Attachments and Accessories: Sewing machines often come with various attachments and accessories that enhance their functionality. These can include presser feet (e.g., zipper foot, buttonhole foot), extension tables, quilting guides, and more. Each attachment serves a specific purpose, expanding your sewing possibilities.

Serger: Definition and Features

Serger definition and features
Serger definition and features

Now, let’s move on to sergers, also known as overlock machines. A serger is a specialized sewing machine designed to create professional-looking, finished edges, and seams on the fabric. It trims the fabric, sews, and finishes the raw edges simultaneously, giving a neat and polished look.

The main purpose of a serger is to prevent the fabric from fraying and unraveling. It’s commonly used for constructing garments, sewing knits, and working with woven fabrics that require seam finishing. Sergers are particularly useful for creating durable and stretchy seams, such as those found in activewear, swimwear, and lingerie.

Sergers have some distinct features that set them apart from regular sewing machines:

  1. Multiple Threads: Sergers typically use multiple threads (usually 3 or 4) to create different types of stitches. The most common stitch created by a serger is called an overlock stitch, which secures the fabric edge while providing elasticity.
  2. Differential Feed: Sergers have a differential feed mechanism that controls the movement of the fabric layers through the machine. This feature allows you to adjust the stretchiness or gather of the fabric as you sew, preventing puckering or stretching.
  3. Cutting Blade: Unlike sewing machines, sergers have built-in cutting blades that trim the fabric edges as you stitch. This feature eliminates the need for trimming the fabric separately and helps achieve clean and professional-looking edges.
  4. Rolled Hem Capability: Some sergers have a rolled hem feature, which allows you to create narrow and decorative hems on lightweight fabrics. It’s perfect for finishing edges on napkins, tablecloths, or lightweight garments.

3 Alternative of the Sewing Machine and The Serger

While sewing machines and sergers are the most common types of machines used in garment construction, there are other options available as well. These include:

  1. Embroidery Machines: These machines are designed specifically for adding intricate embroidery designs to fabric. They often have built-in patterns, allow for digitized designs, and come with hoops to secure the fabric.
  2. Quilting Machines: Quilting machines are specially designed for quilting projects. They offer a larger throat space, which allows you to work on larger quilts comfortably. Some quilting machines also have features like built-in stitch regulators for consistent stitch length.
  3. Coverstitch Machines: Coverstitch machines are another type of specialty machine that creates professional-looking hems, especially on knit fabrics. They can produce a double or triple line of stitching on the top with a separate looper thread on the bottom.


Can you use a serger like a regular sewing machine?

Although some projects can be done 100 percent on a serger, a serger cannot replace a regular sewing machine.

Who needs a serger?

People who often sew knit fabrics will love having a serger. Even if it’s not clothing, but knit burp cloths or baby hats, stretchy headbands, etc.

Can you use a serger for everything?

Sure! Sergers are designed to handle many different fabric types; lightweight fabrics and heavy fabrics, wovens and non-wovens, fabric with texture, and even vinyl.

Final Thoughts

From the above discussion we’ve made throughout this article knowing when to use a serger vs. a sewing machine is a valuable skill for anyone engaged in the art of sewing. By understanding the unique capabilities of each machine, you can elevate your sewing projects to new heights. Whether you’re aiming for clean and polished finishes or tackling intricate designs, choosing the right tool for the job will ensure that your creations stand out with durability and finesse.


Hey I’m Sherry Howes an expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, and embroidery. With a passion for fiber arts and a talent for crafting, I Have spent years improving my skills and sharing knowledge with others. Whether teaching a class or creating a new project, I’m always excited to share my love of crafting with the world. I like researching new techniques and trends in the crafting arts community.

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