If you’re looking for beginner serger supplies to help you tame your new serger (also called an overlocker in many parts of the world), you’re in the right place! There are many serger supplies that make using a serger more pleasant. Let’s dive into serger accessories and all the questions you have about them.
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Building a Serger Accessory Kit
When it comes to beginner serger supplies, if you bought a new serger, you probably have everything you need to get started (except for thread). Your manual should have an inventory of what came with the serger. Sift through the serger accessories and check them off the inventory list. That way you can ensure you got everything you paid for, and you can familiarize yourself with serger bits and bobs. What’s more, it gets you to use the serger manual, which is your lighthouse as you toss in the stormy sea of serging! (OK, that’s a little melodramatic!)
I own a Baby Lock Imagine serger, and I’ve collected many accessories over the years. If I were tasked with assembling a killer kit of beginner serger supplies, I’d include the following:
- Scrap catcher and pad: To capture trimmed fabric. Keep serger motor vibrations down with a pad that goes under your machine.
- Serger cover: Keep dust off your machine when you’re not using it.
- Long tweezers: Because sometimes your fingers are too big to manipulate thread.
- Lint brush, soft paintbrush, or makeup brush: To (frequently!) dust lint.
- Microfiber cloth: To (frequently!) dust the exterior of the serger and surrounding workspace.
- Fray Check or clear nail polish: Lock thread ends in place.
- Wig hook, tiny loop turner, or darning needle (large eye and blunt): Create a long thread chain at the end. Use one of these tools to pull the chain under the stitching to secure the stitching.
- Looper threader: To pull floppy, fluffy thread through the serger’s looper path. A clever sewist in a Facebook sewing group said dental floss threaders are a serviceable looper threader.
- Needle insert tool: To hold the needle in place as you screw the needle in.
- Screwdriver and/or Allen/hex wrench: Examine your machine’s screws to see what kind of screwdriver (flathead or Phillips) you need. (Pro tip: Sometimes you can use a coin to loosen and tighten screws! Test and see!)
- Extra upper cutting blade: It will take a while to wear out, but this way, if you accidentally serge over a pin and need to replace the knife, you’re prepared. Check your manual for specs.
- Extra needles: Check manual for specs.
- Thread nets: To place over cones of slippery thread (e.g., thread made from rayon, nylon, or silk). Thread that slips off the cone will not feed correctly through your machine. Thread nets keep thread from slipping.
- Spool caps: To keep thread from spools feeding correctly into your serger.
- Sponge disks: To keep spools from bouncing; sponge touches spool (not serger).
- Cone holders: Wedge thread cones atop holders.
- Books about serging:
- Sewing With an Overlock (Singer Sewing Reference Library): This book came up multiple times in a Facebook sewing group, and I tend to trust such collective wisdom.
- The Serger’s Technique Bible: The Complete Guide to Serging and Decorative Stitching: This book has more than 300 four-and-a-half-star reviews on Amazon.
- Sewing with Sergers: The Complete Handbook for Overlock Sewing (Serging . . . from Basics to Creative Possibilities series): This book is co-authored by Pati Palmer of “Fit for Real People” fame; she’s an accessible writer on technical topics.
Do You Need Special Thread for a Serger?
You do not need special thread for a serger. A serger can use the same all-purpose polyester thread that a sewing machine uses. To use regular spools of thread on a serger, set up the spool with a sponge disc (to keep it from bouncing) and an appropriately sized spool cap (to keep thread from wrapping around the spool/cone pin).
Before I had a serger, I also was confused about serger thread. I think the thing that throws most people for a loop are the thread cones. The reason why sergers use cones of thread is because the stitches created by a serger use A LOT of thread. Take a look at a finished fabric edge in a ready-to-wear garment. So many thread loops of thread, amirite? Loops require more thread than straight stitches, hence the need for cones with MANY more yards of thread than the average spool. I (mostly) use all-purpose poly thread in my serger, just like I do in my sewing machine. The difference is the yardage used when sewing!
As far as how many spools of thread you need for a serger, it depends on the type of stitch you want to make. You need three cones for a three-thread overlock. You need four cones for a four-thread overlock. My serger accommodates four threads, but I rarely use that many. It’s my observation that most sergers for home sewists are have 2-, 3-, and 4-thread stitch capabilities.
Tips on Choosing Serger Thread
With your new serger, I suggest buying the max number of thread cones your machine allows, threading all of them, and experimenting with tension (consult your manual for details). Choose thread cones of different colors. Different colors make it easy to isolate and correct problems.
Buy the best serger thread you can afford. Cheap thread breaks in your serger or in your garments, and I’m speaking from experience. The “savings” of cheap thread isn’t worth it. I like sewing with Madeira and Gutermann polyester thread. I sometimes use Wooly Nylon thread in the loopers for extra stretch (that’s when I use a looper threader). I’ve also heard good things about Maxi-Lock thread. I suggest visiting a serger dealership and observing the thread it has on offer; that’s the best quality stuff.
It’s wise to have your serger threaded with neutral thread; that way you’re ready to rock for most projects. Workhorse colors include black, gray, white, navy, and pearl (almost white that matches a lot of fabric). Consider using a dark gray in the needles, which create the most “visible” stitches. One smart sewist in a Facebook group said dark gray looks like the shadow of fabric (vs. a true black). Of course, if you want to match thread more aggressively, you do you, boo!
What Kind of Needles Do You Use in a Serger?
My serger manual recommends using Organ or Schmetz brand needles, system HAx1SP/CR. To compare, the hyper-popular Brother 1034D uses standard sewing machine needles. Check your manual to discover the kind of needles your serger takes.
I can buy Schmetz serger needles at my neighborhood Joann, so it’s not like I have to make a special trip to my serger dealer. These needles are semi-ball point, and they work for knits and wovens. Serger needle sizing is similar to sewing machine needle sizing. Use 75/11 needles for lightweight and medium weight fabrics. Use 90/14 needles for heavyweight fabrics. My manual advises changing the needle about every three projects.
Can You Use Sewing Machine Needles in a Serger?
In my research, I found that some sewists use sewing machine needles in their serger with zero problems. Apparently some newer sergers (less than 10 years old) can use sewing machine needles just fine. These sewists insert the sewing machine needle and turn the handwheel a few times to ensure nothing is colliding or making an odd noise.
Obviously it’s your serger and you can do what you want with it, but using non-serger needles freaks me out. If my manual, serger dealer, or machine technician says I should do something for “best results,” I’m going to do it that way. Serger needles are relatively inexpensive. To me, I wouldn’t risk damaging my serger so I can save money on needles or a trip to Joann.
How Do I Service My Serger?
The best thing you can do to service a serger at home is vacuum its interior after every project. A tiny lint brush also will help keep the inside from getting too fuzzy. Use a microfiber cloth to dust the exterior of your machine. It’s recommended that you take your serger in for professional maintenance annually, just like your sewing machine.
Between visits to the “serger doctor,” do your best to keep your serger free from dust and lint (also like your sewing machine). And if you thought your sewing machine made dust, mama, have I got some news for you. I’m pretty sure a serger’s second function, after creating stitches, is creating textile dust. It’s the fault of the blade, which is why maximum lintage lives around the knife.
When lint builds up inside your serger, its mechanical elements function less smoothly, which impacts your user experience and the serger’s performance. Lint accumulation is especially unwanted around the knife where there’s oil to lubricate motion. Lint + grease = tacky goo that’s hard to remove. That’s why it’s important to keep down dust in your serger.
I use the hose attachment on my regular vacuum cleaner to suck out serger lint. But, if you’re extra, you can get mini attachments for your vacuum that let you REALLY get into every nook and cranny (they’re also good for electronics and detailing a car, FYI). There also are tiny vacuum cleaners with tiny attachments that can help you banish serger lint.
Do not use canned air to clean your serger. It can blow dust deep into your machine, and we want to keep funk away from mechanical elements. Plus, canned air has moisture in it, and you don’t want moisture building up on metal machine parts.
How to Oil Your Serger
Check your instruction manual for insight on what kind of oil goes in a serger and even IF your serger needs to be oiled. The instructions for my Baby Lock Imagine say, “Your serger’s major moving parts are well protected and do not need to be oiled. … If the machine needs to be oiled, check with your nearest Baby Lock retailer for use of high-grade recommended sewing machine oil.”
You might see murmurs online about using mineral, olive, coconut, or other oils to lube your serger. Personally, I only would use oil designed for machines in my serger. Other types of oils (especially food oils) are not designed for use in machines. Your serger is an expensive machine; do your research to weigh the risk to your investment. (Besides, sewing machine oil and grease are cheap, and you use one drop at a time, so a bottle will last forever.)
Are Serger Feet Interchangeable?
Serger feet are not interchangeable; they are specific to machine models. I could not find universal serger feet in my research. It’s likely, however, you can find off-brand serger presser feet that are compatible with your model serger.
Your manual may list optional feet for your machine, and you might be surprised at all the cool stuff your serger can do! For example, my serger has feet for beading, cording/piping, elastic application, lace application, and ruffling.
I own two feet: the regular presser foot and the blind hem foot. With the blind hem foot and the two-thread overlock stitch, I can do a folded hem with my serger. The serger cuts and finishes the raw edge while stitching the fold in place. It’s a great stitch for knits, especially T-shirts.
Fancy serger press feet definitely aren’t beginner serger supplies, but it’s good to know they’re waiting for you when you gain more experience!
Online Classes for Beginner Serging
New serger users have many online course options to get familiar with their machines. I haven’t taken an online serger class, but I put on my journalist/white-paper-author pants and researched the bejesus out of the options I judged as best bets. As always, do your own research to determine the best online serger class for your needs!
Udemy: Sewing: Making Friends with Your Serger
This is Udemy’s highest-rated serger class. National Sewing Circle instructor Ashley Hough provides three hours of serger intel. There’s a 24-minute (!) free preview called “Getting to Know Your Serger.” The production value of this class is high, which is always nice for sewing videos because it’s hard to properly film sewing at a machine. Yay, visual learning! BTW, if you like learning with Hough, she has two more serger classes on Udemy: Making Friends with Your Serger: Decorative Stitches and Making Friends with Your Serger: Beyond the Basics.
Craftsy: Beginner Serging: Machine Basics & Techniques
What sets this class apart is that instructor Amy Amy, who teaches sewing in Portland, Oregon, takes serging beginners through three projects: a zipper bag, an apron, and a scarf. This four-hour class includes a lesson on serger feet. Students also receive printables that cover serger tips and techniques, serger supplies, and serger stitches. (P.S. When you’re ready, Craftsy also offers Creative Serging: Beyond the Basics with notable sewing educator Angela Wolf.)
The Stitch Sisters: Guide to Overlockers
I adore the Stitch Sisters, a pair of positively lovely U.K. sewing educators. (I suggest checking out their marvelous YouTube channel to see if you enjoy their personalities.) The class covers sergers from soup to nuts, and even includes several modules on serger troubleshooting. Check out the sample lessons before you commit.
PatternReview.com: Break Your Serger Out of the Box
This class, with sewing workshop teacher and pattern designer Jennifer Stern, is about making friends with your serger. The class description says, “If you’ve been hesitant to take it out of the box, or if it’s been sitting on the shelf way too long, this is the class for you.” Students get schooled in serger basics and move into techniques beyond finishing edges.
Annie’s Craft Store: Learn Serger Sewing
Bernina trainer Deborah Cacciamani shows students the ins and outs of serger tools, serger parts, and threading. She goes deep into serger stitching; that lesson is 40 minutes! You can watch a class overview and introduction for free.
LIfe Sew Savory: Serger Basics: Everything You Need to Know
Longtime sewing blogger Emily Thompson helps students gain serger confidence. The class is designed around the Brother 1034D serger, which is far and away the best-selling serger on Amazon. There’s a private Facebook group for this course for student questions and sewcializing. Thompson also sells gift certificates for this class.
Butcher’s Sew Shop: Virtual Serger Basics Workshop
Butcher’s sewing school converted its one-day, in-person serger worker for the internet. This class also is designed around the popular Brother 1034D serger. This class includes 2.5 hours of instruction over 30 lessons, and each lesson has its own discussion board for student questions.
I hope you have lots of fun with your new serger. It’s a powerful tool in your sewing practice, and if you sew knits, you might find yourself in front of your serger more than your sewing machine! Go forth with these beginner serging tips and stitch something mediocre — because you’re still learning, and that’s what happens! (Everybody was a beginner at one point, right?)
Over to you: If you sew on a serger, what’s the one accessory you can’t live without? What words of wisdom do you have for a newbie building her serger accessory kit?
P.S. Should you be interested, here are the best-selling serger and overlock machines on Amazon right now. If you’re doing serger research, I suggest checking out reviews for what other sewists have to say about specific machines and serger features. 👌