Sunday, June 10, 2007

Any Advice on Sergers?

Does anyone who reads this blog have any advice for me on Sergers? I'm in the market for one, but I'm having a difficult time getting good information to make a decision. There just isn't the critical mass of opinions online about this product - sewers as a group do not generally contribute as much content to online communities as computer people, or even car people. I'm getting suspicious because while there is a lot of "I wouldn't buy X because it is junk," there isn't much "I did buy X and it was junk." People seem to easily put down the brands that they did not buy, but when it comes to what they did buy, no-one is saying they screwed up. The negative reviews just aren't there, so I don't know how much I can trust the good reviews. Are the good reviewers just the lucky people who got the good machines, and the unhappy people just operate under "If you can't say something nice..."??? Or are we in a happy state where I can rest assured that whatever I pick is going to end up working just fine for me?

A serger is a specialized machine for sewing that uses 2 to 5 threads to form a different type of stitch than you can get out of a conventional sewing machine. (If you see a machine with more than one cone of thread behind it, it is probably a serger.) A conventional sewing machine has one needle and one bobbin. A serger has one, two, or three needles, two loopers, and a knife. They can do overlock stitches, rolled edges, flatlock stitches, and some convert into a coverstitch machine. They are also really, really fast at sewing. I'd use it in addition to my sewing machine (Pfaff Expression 2036) to speed up garment construction and get a more professional-looking interior finish.

But the question remains: what do I get? What do I want to spend? How can I prevent getting something now and regretting it in a year or two? The field ranges from $200 for a Brother from to $1500 for a Husky/Viking from Joann fabrics. You could spend more, but above this you are either paying for it to thread itself or for decorative stitch options. (My Pfaff does plenty of deco stitches, I don't need more.) I'm trying to look at it from the perspective of price breaks - when does each feature become available? Here's what I've got so far:

$200 Brother 3 and 4 thread serger, no dealer support, good reviews on, very basic machine, not able to try out before buying

$270 Kenmore 3 and 4 thread serger with 3 year service plan, was the front-runner until I tried threading one at Sears today and I kept breaking thread and tangling it, not an easy machine to work with, also one of those brands with almost NO reviews online...

$400 Husky/Viking 3 and 4 thread serger, Joann classes, most popular brand, I test drove one today and it was nice to use but the controls were not marked well enough that I could expect to find the same exact settings next time I needed them

$700 Husky/Viking 3 and 4 thread serger, Joann classes, bigger, roomier, free-arm option, controls done better, there may be more stitch options on this one but it was difficult to tell

$900 Pfaff 3, 4, and 5 thread serger, local sewing-store classes, huge advantage because this one does the cover stitch and a 5-thread safety stitch, but really, this costs more than the washer/dryer I just bought last month!

So, please chime in if you have an opinion! Do you or someone you know have a serger? Are you happy with it? Do you wish you had gotten a different machine with more capabilities? Is it sitting in a closet somewhere (maybe you would like to sell it???) or is it a valued member of your sewing-room team? Operators are standing by.


  1. I asked one of my friends who has a seamstress mom - she swears by her baby lock serger. Unfortunately, I didn't get any negative reviews second-hand.

    Words of wisdom were offered to the tune of, "The more expensive models, with proper care, can last a lifetime. But then again, if something *does* break, you might be more inclined to upgrade than shell out for the repairs." Also, many of the used sergers out there are being resold because of irreparable damage.

    Best of luck

  2. I have a Baby Lock and really like it. I've had it for MANY years and have had very few problems with it. My suggestion is to spend as much or more on your serger than you did on your regular machine because eventually you will usse it more.

    Junkyard Dogs Mom

  3. By now you've probably bought your serger, but my experience tells me to buy from a sewing machine/serger dealer who sells several brands. The reasons are dealer support, classes, brand choices and good sales. Dealers who sell several brands will tell you what they think about each specific model or brand. My favorite dealer, who also sells Pfaff, chooses not to push Pfaff sergers, at this time, even though they sell them. I recently purchased a Baby Lock, and am looking to sell a top line Bernina because I have had too much trouble maintaining the tension while using it. I'm told that the Bernina is top-of-the-line mechanically, but does have other problems, and my dealer doesn't sell them any more. Also, consider not getting a machine with coverlock unless you want to spend a lot of time converting. The trend seems to be to buy a separate coverlock machine. If you live in a rural area with few choices, don't be afraid to drive somewhere where you have choices. I drive between 80-90 miles to a dealer, but when it comes time to clean the machine, they will make a sort of appointment so that if it just needs cleaning, I can drop it off shortly after opening and pick it up a few hours later, as long as it doesn't need parts. That saves two trips. I love my Pfaff sewing machine, and so far I am happy with my new Baby Lock Imagine, but I don't want to say too much since I haven't done a lot of work on it.

  4. I bought a brand new Pfaff serger from a dealer and bought a new Pfaff sewing machine at the time. My sister and I bought the same Pfaff models and were each very happy with our machine for 20 years. Somehow I thought I needed more features. I really only needed a good serger.
    The serger broke at nearly every turn. I took it back. They retreaded it and said, "It was you!" I took it home, it worked for a bit then wouldn't. I took it back. They retreaded it and said, "Ya know, it's you!" This happened like a bad dream. Years later I took it back and the same old story. I've lost all faith in Pfaff and I don't go to that dealer anymore. They made it too personal and not the kind of personal customer service that keeps customers coming back!

    My neighbor owns a Baby Lock, loves it and tells me that it's never broken. Having dealer support is essential and also get a money back guarantee!!


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