By now, most home sewers would know what a serger is (also known as an overlock machine) and what it does – trims, stitches, and overcasts a seam edge all at the same time. Sergers are a type of sewing machine, with attitude. They sew incredibly fast, have "loopers" instead of bobbins that overcast the seam edge, knives that cut the fabric cleanly, use multiple thread cones at one time and one or two needles. They are compact and portable and do most of their sewing on the fabric edges or folds. All pręt-ŕ-porter (ready-to-wear) commercially sold garments are made mostly on industrial sergers.
The serger was first developed for the garment industry in the mass production of textile goods and used mostly by professional garment factory workers. In the later 1960s it was Baby Lock, an industry leader among sewing machine manufacturers, that introduced the home serger to the general sewing public. The popularity of the home serger continues to grow. As a companion to the traditional sewing machine, the serger vastly increases choices in the sewer’s world by adding speed to finishing techniques and producing professional quality, nearly flawless seam finishing and vast embellishment options.
It is good practice to not allow lint from fabric and threads to build up under the machine’s throat plate as this will clog the knives and feed dogs. A thorough brushing with a soft artists’ brush will take off the lint easily. A gentle burst of canned (compressed) air helps to dislodge lint from hard to see places in the serger mechanisms. The owner’s manual for the serger will inform where to oil the machine and how often. Use the oil sparingly. A 'drop' of oil would cover just the head of a flat head straight pin. Not any oil will do; use only oil specifically for sewing machines.
Sergers have two very sharp knife blades. How often knife blades need to be changed depends on the kinds of fabrics you sew with (cottons do not dull blades as fast as synthetic materials). Inspect the sewn, overcast fabric edge. If the trimmed edge is somewhat frayed, one or both of the blades may need to be replaced. Note: A word of caution - do not sew over pins ever.
Serger needles wear more quickly than sewing machine needles as the speed of the serger has the needles piercing the fabric many, many more times than a conventional sewing machine would. Use the best quality needles; change them after every one to three sewing projects for the best serging results.
Use the best serger threads if possible. Discount threads are cost-savers in the short term for sure, but some have a tendency to fray, break or produce just too much thread fuzziness that can interfere with stitch quality. Serger thread is light weight and manufactured with a special finish that is perfect for high-speed sewing. Although regular sewing machine thread may be used in a serger, the small amount on the thread spool can be a drawback if used in the loopers as much more thread is needed.
If using regular conventional sewing machine thread be sure to remove the triangle-shaped thread cone adapters on the serger's spool pins and place the notched or wrap-around end of the thread spool facing down. Older thread spools have a notch or small slit to capture a thread end to prevent unraveling when not in use; newer thread spools have a wrap-around tiny indentation slot at the thread spool top to do so. It is best to use cotton-wrapped poly threads for most serging, nylon threads work well for swimwear and fitness clothing, 100% cotton thread is not as strong as other serger threads but works well for close-woven fabrics, and wooly nylon thread is soft yet strong for knits.
Sergers are wonders of the sewing world. They produce beautiful rolled edges, ravel-free seam finishing, stretch seaming, gathering, properly tensioned pucker-free seams, hemming options, decorative ornamental embellishing, and stitching all at the rate of about 1200 to 1800 stitches per minute!
Thank you Baby Lock for beginning (in 2013) an awareness of the versatility and functionality of the home serger by proclaiming April as National Serger Month.