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 many other questions you have about all-things overlockers.
Table of Contents
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Getting a Beginner Serger
This guide for sewists who are new to using a serger. Maybe you have a serger that you haven’t played around with much, or you are looking to buy a serger.
In either case, you probably have sergers on the brain and are looking for lots of info about how to start your overlocking career the right way. (Hey, fellow Type A! I see you.)
My Serger Story
I own a Baby Lock Imagine serger. It’s my first serger, but I wouldn’t call it a beginner serger.
I wanted to buy a serger that I didn’t have to fight with. I wanted a reliable, turn-it-on-and-go machine.
I felt this way because my first sewing machine, a low-end Kenmore that I bought off eBay for less than $100, was PITA to use. That machine literally brought me to tears multiple times.
I learned my lesson about buying cheap machines, which was why I was willing to invest more than $1,500 on my serger.
Yes, that’s a hefty price tag. But, my time is valuable — which is why I went for Baby Lock’s air-threading technology and automatic tension adjustment.
Also, not crying when you use your sewing machine is priceless.
How to Choose a Serger
When looking for a serger, I suggest evaluating machines on four key features:
1.) How Do You Thread the Serger?
Most overlockers have you follow a color-coded path to thread for different stitches. You move the thread through different slots in a particular order.
You also have to thread each cone in specific order (e.g., upper looper first, lower looper second, right needle third, etc.).
Some machines, such as my Baby Lock, have you thread to a certain point and then finish threading by shooting the thread along the path with a blast of air. (NGL, it’s cool.)
2.) How Do You Adjust Serger Tension?
Most overlockers have dials that adjust tension for each thread. Some stitches and fabrics work best with greater or lower tensions on different threads. There’s a lot of test and see.
My Baby Lock bills itself as having automatic tension, and, for the most part, I’d say that’s true. It can handle pretty much any combo of fabric-thread-stitch I throw at it.
It does have a fine-tuning screw for tweaking the upper and lower looper threads.
3.) How Many Threads Can It Sew?
In descriptions of overlockers, you’ll see them describes as “2/3/4 Thread Capacity.”
Those numbers indicate how many thread cones you can use to make a stitch.
My serger is a 2/3/4 machine; most domestic machines will have 2/3/4 thread capacity.
There are a handful of machines that can use more than four threads at a time. For example, Baby Lock has the Triumph and Accolade (both serger-coverlock combo machines) that can take up to EIGHT threads.
4.) What Stitches Can the Serger Make?
At the VERY least, a serger needs to make an overlock stitch… because it’s an OVERLOCKER. (Duh.)
The overlock stitch is a combo of straight and back-and-forth stitches, and it’s stretchy.
You can seam with an overlock stitch (especially good for knit fabrics), and you can finish raw edges with an overlock stitch (especially good for woven fabrics).
And, really, those are the two things most people get a serger for:
- To finish raw edges.
- To sew knits.
Other common stitches you might find a serger can make include rolled edge (nice for thin fabrics) and flatlock (nice for activewear).
Beginner Serger Recommendation
All this information considered, I have ONE beginner serger recommendation.
This is the serger I would have bought had I been looking for a budget-smart option. (I was not looking for the budget-smart option; I was looking for the “treat yo self” option.)
I would have put down my money on a Brother 1034D serger.
1.) The Price
You can buy this overlocker on Amazon, SewingMachinesPlus.com, and Joann for about $280, which is a reasonable price for any entry-level sewing machine.
IMO if you get under $200 for a sewing machine, it might not be very robust.
And hey, compared to the eye-watering price tag of my Baby Lock serger, $280 seem like a steal.
2.) The Social Proof
The Brother 1034D has more than 10,000 four-and-a-half-star reviews on Amazon. It’s the best-selling serger on the site; the next machine has about 1,400 reviews.
What’s more, Joann’s site has more than 500 four-and-a-half-star reviews, and SewingMachinesPlus.com has about 50 four-and-half-star reviews.
When sewists like this machine, they crow about it.
3.) The Support
There are more than 3,500 mentions* of “brother 1034d” on PatternReview.com.
A YouTube search came back with this:
Search for “brother 1034d” on Google*, and you get 293,000 results (17,100 of them videos).
All this means that if you have a question about your Brother 1034D overlocker, SOMEONE has an answer for you!
*Searches conducted Sept. 19, 2022. Try it today to see what your numbers are!
Building a Kit of Serger Accessories
When it comes to beginner serger supplies, if you bought a 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’ve collected many serger 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.
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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 machine 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 (i.e., upper looper and lower looper in an overlock stitch) 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. You get the idea.
5 Tips on Choosing Serger Machine Thread
1.) Use thread to experiment with tension.
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.
2.) Buy the best serger machine 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.
3.) Keep it smooth.
When choosing thread for you overlocker, take a hard look at one strand AWAY from the wrapped cone, and ask these questions:
- Does the thread appear fine (thin)?
—> Serger stitches are bulky, and using fine thread can reduce bulk.
- Does the thread appear smooth (free from excess fluff)?
—> The smoother the thread, the less lint it will create, and sergers basically are lint-making machines.
- Is the thread spun polyester or polyester core?
—> Polyester core thread tends to be smoother (and less linty).
4.) Choose neutral-colored threads.
It’s wise to have your serger threaded with neutral, blendable thread; that way you’re ready to rock for most projects. Workhorse colors include black, gray, white, navy, and pearl or oyster (almost white that matches a lot of fabric).
5.) Play in the shadows.
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!
The bottom line is if you’re struggling to match serger machine thread, go a tinge darker.
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. For 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).
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.
I’ve used 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.
I got a mini attachments kit, and it’s extremely satisfying to use. Highly recommend.
There also are tiny vacuum cleaners with tiny attachments that can help you banish serger lint.
Now it’s time for a hot take.
Do not use canned air to clean your serger!
Canned air 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.
I mean, a serger motor gets hot when you run it, and what happens to food when it gets hot? Think about it.
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 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 Alan, 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 accessories, 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. 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?)
I’m going to pitch that you practice your budding serging skills on the Sie Macht Cass T-shirt, a relaxed-fit tee in misses and plus sizes. When you buy the pattern, you also get illustrated instructions on how to hack Cass five (!) different ways.
This six-for-the-price-of-one pattern — designed for tried-and-true status in your sewing pattern library — will help you grow your serger skills and other sewing techniques.
RELATED: How Do I Choose a Knit Fabric?
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. 👌