Serge It!

Serge It!
Before the mid 1700’s, all sewing was done by hand with needle and thread, or bone and sinew. It took nearly another century for Elias Howe to produce the first practical sewing machine; a mechanical apparatus that used a needle and thread to join material to make clothing via a hand-crank. However, it was Isaac Singer who built the first commercially marketed, treadle and belt designed, manually powered sewing machine in the mid 1800’s. The treadle sewing machine is still in use around the world today and remains an enduring symbol of the sewer’s world.

Fast forward to modern times comes yet an amazing sewing time saver - a serger. Sometimes called an overlock machine, it gives sewers the equivalent of a movie’s special effects as it not only sews the seam but trims the seam allowance neatly and overcasts a thread edge all in one step and at an astonishing speed too.

Unlike the home sewing machine, instead of a bobbin and a single needle to create a stitched seam (although double or twin needles for decorative stitching can be used) the home serger uses two cutting blades, threaded mechanisms called loopers, three, four or five multiple thread cones and usually two separate needles. The serger can create beautifully finished seams and hems on all types of fabrics from the lightest of sheers to the sturdiest denims, from delicate laces to the loftiest of fleeces.

A serger can take you beyond simple seam finishing into the realm of decorative and creative stitching and embellishment. Sergers can gather and generate shirring, create a narrow-rolled hem edge as seen on table linens and as a sheer fabric edge treatment, do pin tucking and cording, as well as apply beading, sequins, and elastics on swimwear and athletic wear.

A serger, as versatile as it can be, has the potential to reduce your sewing time, however it does not replace the traditional sewing machine for it is not capable of making buttonholes, fabric is placed only to the left-side of the machine as it stitches, cuts and overcasts the edges (or if a coverstitch is available for topstitching without cutting), zipper insertion can be a challenge as well as facings, and sharp, crisp collar points or corner applications can be somewhat awkward.

If you have sewn for years quite happily without a serger, or if you are new to sewing, you might wonder if a serger is really all that necessary. A sewing machine can imitate many of the serger’s versatile stitches, even some sewing machine’s array of presser feet can imitate to some extent the serger’s overlock stitch, however the serger will be able to produce a seam with the same professional clean-cut edging seen in many of today’s ready wear clothing and it can sew much faster than a traditional sewing machine. A serger’s loopers have large eyes that can take wooly, metallic and decorative threads for enhanced decorative sewing treatments. A serger can be a time-saver when sewing long runs of even straight stitching as when making drapery, curtain, or bed linens.

These two icons of the sewer’s world – sewing machine and serger - are trusty companions, each a complement of the other, each prized for their versatility, flexibility, and portability.

Serging Projects, Tutorials, Ideas available on

Sew happy, sew inspired.

Related Articles
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Previous Features
Site Map

Content copyright © 2022 by Cheryl Ellex. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Cheryl Ellex. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.