Serger vs Sewing Machine – What is The Difference?

The craft of sewing has endured for generations. While traditional hand-sewing is still an important skill, modern technology has revolutionized the way we sew, providing us with a sheer volume of sewing machines.

If you’re a novice in the sewing world looking to expand your crafting capabilities, you may come across a debate on serger vs sewing machine. This might leave you perplexed about what these are, which is a better option for sewing or whether it’s a wise decision to invest your hard-earned money in a serger.

Serger vs Sewing Machine – What is The Difference?
Serger vs Sewing Machine – What is The Difference?

“In essence, a sewing machine is a versatile device that can create a variety of stitches, ranging from basic straight seams to intricate embroidery. Conversely, a serger is also a specialized sewing machine that differs from a regular machine in the way it can sew a seam, cut off the seam allowance, and enclose the raw edge, all in a single step, thereby creating a professional-looking hem.”

Although both machines have many similarities, differences do exist, and one can’t replace the other. Instead, they complement each other quite well. Today, in this article, we’ll delve deep into the topic to help you understand the difference between a serger and a sewing machine. So, whether you’re an experienced sewist or just starting, continue reading to learn more about serger vs sewing machine and find out which one is the best fit for you.

What is a Serger/Overlock Machine?

A serger is a special type of sewing machine often referred to as an overlock machine (Serger vs. overlock: Different names for the same product; American companies usually refer to it as a serger, while European companies call it an overlocker). It trims excessive fabric, stitches and overcasts the fabric edge simultaneously. These actually make the type of seams you see in t-shirts or in the interior of almost any store-bought (ready-made) garments where seam allowances are finished professionally. 

What is a Serger/Overlock Machine?
What is a Serger/Overlock Machine?

The Serger machine takes several spools of thread (3-8 tread cones) at once that lock around the seam, which prevents fraying. Without serging the edge, it will look unprofessional, and the fabric will fray over time. A question normally arises “can you sew with a serger?” Yes, a serger is not just a finishing machine; it can sew knit garments (From sweater knits to spandex) more quickly. These sergers mostly use large, triangular-shaped cones of 100% polyester thread to sew patterns of stitches over the raw edge of the seam allowance.

So, how does a serger work? These sergers don’t use bobbins as the case with other sewing machines. Instead, these create thread loops and use stitch fingers (small metal prongs to the side of the needle plate) to loop thread around the fabric edge as they sew. Another special feature of many sergers is something called “differential feed,” which causes the feed dogs in the machine to move at different speeds to sew very stretchy fabric without stretching.

Merits of Sergers

  • Effeciant for creating a finished edge.
  • Create a neat stitch ideal for knit fabrics or create decorative stitches.
  • Perform multiple tasks at a time and reduce the amount of work to complete a project.

Demerits of Serger Machine

  • Not ideal for basic sewing tasks such as hemming, adding buttons, or creating zippers.
  • A bit complicated to operate.

What is a Sewing Machine?

For those looking for “What Does a Sewing Machine Do?” Here is a detailed answer. A sewing machine creates a series of secure stitches by looping and locking the top and bottom threads. This machine covers at least a basic straight stitch, zig-zag, and chain stitch, along with many design-focused and decorative stitch (buttonholes or even pretty flowers) options as well. You can use these domestic machines to sew seams, facings and set zippers.

What is a Sewing Machine?
What is a Sewing Machine?

Most modern sewing machines are computerized with hundreds of stitch patterns preprogrammed. In spite of this, their basic working mechanisms have not changed much over the years. What is the working principle of a sewing machine? A sewing machine operates by feeding fabric through a needle that moves up and down, creating small holes. A hook or shuttle mechanism catches the needle’s thread and pulls it through the fabric, forming a loop on the underside. 

A second thread, typically wound on a bobbin (a tiny spool of thread beneath the needle), is fed through the machine and catches the loop, creating a stitch that holds the fabric together. The machine moves the fabric along, repeating the process to create a continuous line of stitches. The process becomes more complicated as you go for fancier stitches, some machines have double-needle settings, but the main concept of needle and bobbin working remains essentially the same in all cases.

(I also have tutorials about how to sew a scuba dress and how to sew patches)

Merits of Sewing Machine

  • A versatile machine to tackle with variety of stitching projects.
  • Easy to operate.

Demerits of Sewing Machine

  • Not ideal for finishing edges or creating seams in knit fabrics.

Serger VS Sewing Machine – 10 Key Differences

If you still don’t get a clearer idea of “when to use a serger vs a sewing machine,” let’s take a closer look at their functionalities and capabilities to point out the main differences between a serger vs sewing machine.


The main difference between these 2 machines is evident in their design. The domestic sewing machine usually uses a single spool of thread and a bobbin, while the serger has a specialized rack of tall thread cones (2-8) on top and uses looper threads instead of a bobbin. The sewing machine has a longer neck for more wiggle room for sewing zippers, while sergers have squatter, more required designs.


Sergers come with a built-in cutting tool to help cut the fabric to create finished edges at the time of stitching, while sewing machines only sew.

Number of Stitches

When looking at serger vs sewing machine seams, there comes a big difference in the available stitch types. Most modern-day sewing machines are programmed to provide arrays of stitch options like zig-zag stitch, straight stitch, slant pin stitch, triple stitch, blind hem and many more. When coming to overlockers, there aren’t many stitch types.

Speed: Stitches Per Minute

The average performance based on stitch per minute in a sewing machine is slightly less than serger machines. Segers can accurately give 1300-2200 stitches per minute on average, while sewing machines only stitch 1000-1500 stitches per minute.

Number of Threads

Serger vs sewing machine thread number is another key evidence of difference. Sergers draw more threads (usually 2-5, but in some cases, the number reaches up to 8) to create seams that don’t fray, compared to sewing machines (usually 1 thread or 2 in the case of double thread machine).

Cutting Knife

Serger machine has specialized cutting knife to cut the sewing allowance, while domestic sewing machines lack this feature.

Ease of Threading

For novice users, threading a serger machine can be more challenging than threading a sewing machine. This is because a serger requires you to keep track of the path of 2 to 5 threads instead of just one. However, it’s recommended to keep the user manual nearby while threading any of these machines. With some practice, you’ll get the hang of the process, and setting up the thread will become effortless.

Learning Curve

The learning curve of the serger machine is a bit confusing and slow when we look at serger vs sewing machine thread and seam. As a result, some beginners may find it challenging to understand how to use a serger effectively.


When it comes to usability, in serger vs sewing machine, the latter is generally straightforward to operate, especially the latest models which are designed to be user-friendly. We can say that domestic sewing machines are easier to use compared to sergers, which may not be as beginner-friendly.


When looking at the price range, you can buy a pretty much decent domestic sewing machine at around few hundred dollars. However, if you’re looking for computerized machines with advanced features, you may end up spending thousands of dollars, which is a whole different ballgame!

Turning to sergers, the basic models usually sell for a reasonable price. However, if you want a more advanced serger with additional features, the cost is a little higher than that of a domestic sewing machine.

The Verdict: Serger vs sewing machine

We’ve tried our best to provide an in-depth serger vs sewing machine comparison. Putting it in a nutshell, both are 2 different machine types that do share some common tasks, but fundamentally, both are unique in their own way when looking at their design and in-depth functions. Sergers excel at producing overlocked edges, while sewing machines offer a broader range of stitch options and can fulfill various sewing needs.

Investing in a sewing machine serger combo is recommended to enjoy the benefits of both machines in one package. However, the ball is in your court to peruse the entire guide and decide which machine best suits your preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

No you can’t use a serger as a regular sewing machine. Although a serger can 100% help you complete some sewing projects, it can’t replace a domestic machine as you still need the latter for topstitching, buttonholes, facings etc., that a serger can’t perform.

Yes, some regular machine brands are incorporating an overlock function in the latest models (sewing machine serger combo). However, these machines are feature packed and can demand a bit higher price compared to normal sewing machines or sergers.

If you’re a beginner, then the normal sewing machine is enough to meet your sewing needs. You can do pretty much everything without a serger. However, having a serger can be a good addition to your sewing toolkit.

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