Serger vs. sewing machine: what’s the difference?

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Are you shopping for a serger and wondering what’s the difference between serger and sewing machine? Spending so much money buying different machines, you’re wondering whether it’s worth buying a serger or whether you can just use a much cheaper sewing machine to do the same job?

As a newbie in the sewing world, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with all the different machine types out there. The most common ones you will encounter are serger machines and sewing machines.

These two are used interchangeably yet they are quite different from each other. It’s important to differentiate these two machines before you decide which one you need to buy.

So what exactly are the differences between serger vs. sewing machine? Let’s take a look.


woman sewing using a serger with large text serger vs sewing machine what's the difference

Serger vs. sewing machine: what’s the difference?

What is a serger?

A serger machine is also known as an overlock machine. It has three main functions:

● Stitching seams
● Overcasting fabric edges
● Trimming excess seams

This machine uses multiple threads, and it can be used for both construction and finishing simultaneously.

A serger gives you a professional-looking finish to your garments while making sure the hems don’t fray. This is important when sewing clothing and especially if you’re running a sewing business and need high quality items.

What is a sewing machine?

A sewing machine is a term generally used to refer to machines used for stitching materials such as leather and fabric. It has a needle and a shuttle that carries the thread to make stitches.

Most people learn how to sew using a sewing machine, and you need a sewing machine to be able to do most basic sewing projects quickly and easily. Sewing by hand is the alternative, but can be tiring and time-consuming.

A sewing machine can be used to sew hems however they don’t offer the same stitches required for overcasting and stitching seams.

serger vs. sewing machine yellow checkered fabric and sewing machine foot

The difference between serger and sewing machine

Now that you have a clear idea of how a serger and sewing machine work, let’s take a closer look at the main differences between serger vs. sewing machine.


A sewing machine sews while a serger sews but also cuts the fabric as it’s sewing, which is what helps finish the edges. Sergers come with a built-in cutting tool.


The most notable difference between these two machines is evident in their design. Sergers typically have tall thread cone racks, while sewing machines use a single spool of thread and bobbin.

Aside from that, sewing machines have a long neck for more wiggle room when sewing materials like zippers. Sergers have a more squared design compared to a sewing machine.

Sergers also only sew on the left side of the needle, not the right side like a sewing machine does. This difference might take some getting used to!

Number of threads

Sergers draw threads from two to five cone threads simultaneously. In contrast, sewing machines only use one thread and a bobbin to stitch. This is exactly why there’s a notable difference in their design.

However there are sewing machines that use more than one thread. These are double-needle machines. But still, sergers generally draw more threads to create seams that won’t fray easily.

Number of stitches

Another important difference between serger vs. sewing machine is how many stitches they can do. Modern-day sewing machines can do many stitches such as:

● Straight Stitch
● Zig Zag Stitch
● Triple Stretch Stitch
● Triple ZigZag Stitch
● Slant Pin Stitch
● Stand Overlock Stitch
● Elastic Stitch
● Blind Hem Stitch

In comparison, there are not many options with the type of stitch that you can do on a serger but you can use a serger for different projects.



The stitching speed of both machines differs in terms of the model. Sergers usually have a higher stitch count per minute than most sewing machines. On average, sewing machines stitch 1000 to 1500 stitches per minute while sergers do 1300 to 2200 per minute.

Speed is important for those who are working on multiple garments, such as those running a sewing business. An efficient business with a fast machine that creates quality garments is very important.


Ease of threading

Threading either of these machines can be challenging, especially for beginners. It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of threading an ordinary sewing machine. The good news is that you only have to thread one needle, and you are good to go.

Some might find a serger machine more difficult to thread. You have to do it for several threads and remember the thread path that has to be followed.

It’s highly recommended to have the machine’s manual nearby whether you are using a serger or sewing machine. Some machines have a thread guide on the machine which makes it easier to follow rather than looking up a manual.

After a few goes, you should find it easier to thread and eventually you’ll be able to do it without any hassles!


Sewing machines are pretty straightforward, especially the newer models, because they are designed to be easy to use. Most sewing machines are geared towards beginners.

However, the same thing can’t be said for sergers.

Sergers work differently than sewing machines, so it can be a bit confusing at first. However, sergers have fewer features and so are not as complicated as sewing machines. Once you familiarize yourself with how a serger works, it will be easier moving forward.


Can you use a serger for regular sewing?

Some sewing projects can be done using a serger. However, it cannot totally replace a sewing machine because it won’t do top stitches and zippers.

You’re better off buying a sewing machine first before buying a serger.

Why use a serger instead of a sewing machine?

The cutting blade on the serger trims the edge of your fabric while the threads wrap around the edge of the fabric, which secures and protects it from fraying.


Serger vs. sewing machine: reasons why you need a serger machine

Why do you need a serger vs. sewing machine in the first place? These are the top reasons:

● To connect two seams

Sergers can seamlessly connect two seams together, making the garment more durable than if you had used a sewing machine instead.

● To make garments look more professionally made

Using a serger gives the garment a professionally made vibe. It also helps create a cleaner-looking seam. This is important when you’re selling you garments, because you want to sell high quality garments that will keep your customers happy and coming back for more!

● To prevent fraying

Another reason to buy and use a serger is to prevent garments from fraying. It finishes with a raw edge, making the seams more durable.


Is there a sewing machine with serger function?

Yes, some machines have the functions of both sergers and sewing machines. However, since these machines are more packed with features, you can expect that the prices will also be a bit higher than any serger or sewing Machine.

Then again, you’d be getting 2 functions in just one machine, which is a reasonable trade-off. It’s also space-saving since you don’t have to allocate two individual spaces for different machines.

Can you do a straight stitch on a serger?

No, you cannot do a straight stich using a serger. This is why you need a sewing machine- sewing machines have straight stitches and most sewing projects require a straight stitch. Sergers are used for joining seams and preventing fabric edges from fraying.


Serger vs. sewing machine: final words

A sewing machine and serger are two different types of machines, with each having an important role to play when working on sewing projects.

Although you can buy a serger and sewing machine combo, it’s complicated when changing needles and threads over so that you can swap from one function to the next. Most people opt to buy two separate machines.

If you’re running a business, you need a serger. If you want to create sewing projects that look great and last a long time, you need a serger.


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