I have never owned or operated a serger. I was a garment sewer for a lot of years, made all my own clothes in high school. But after awhile, it got to be more expensive to make them than to buy them off the rack. And that was about the time I was having babies and raising a family, and there just wasn’t much time. I made Halloween costumes for the kids once or twice and made Easter outfits for them. Home sergers didn’t exist then (at least not to my knowledge) and I never liked the homemade look of seam allowances, even though I could have overcast or zigzagged them (I think my old Kenmore had those capabilities), but that was an additional step. And over the years, I just didn’t know what I’d do with one so didn’t really give them much or any thought. And I really never gave them any thought when I started quilting.
But after watching a Sewing with Nancy episode series on sergers a year or so ago, I decided that should I ever sew garments again, I’d get one and take a chance on if I’d really use it or not.
My office closed at noon on Wednesday, so I took that time off to do a little shopping. I have done a little internet research and learned that I probably will want a 5-thread machine so that I can do a coverstitch (because even if I never ever really do a coverstitch, I’d be much more upset if I wanted to and couldn’t, right?). I learned that I’ll want differential feed. I learned that threading these machines seems to be way more difficult than it needs to be (doesn’t it?) So I stopped at the Bernina dealer and looked at theirs. He didn’t have a 5-thread model on the floor but let me play with a sample on a 4-thread. Wow do they ever sew fast! I intended to ask him to show me how to thread it so that I could see for myself just what the fuss is, but after I saw it, was too intimidated to ask. One feature of the Berninas is some kind of automatic tension thing. The salesman made it sound like it’s the big selling point, but I don’t know. My friend Kay has a Bernina serger (I don’t know which model) and doesn’t like it. She says it gets out of alignment easily and I’m not sure what she means by that. I’ll have to ask her. Her sister had a couple of Berninas, didn’t like them either, sold them and bought Viking. She loves the Viking.
From there I went to the BabyLock dealer (this is the store that carries Koala cabinets). BabyLock invented the home serger 40 years ago (really? where was I?) and the woman kept effusing about the Japanese engineers who design these machines. She sounded a lot like the Mercedes Benz, VW and BMW commercials that effuse about German engineering. Where are the American engineers? BabyLock doesn’t have a 5-thread model anymore, they have an 8 thread machine. If you think threading with 4 or 5 threads is intimidating, try 8. Holy cow! She didn’t let me do any of the sewing, I got to watch her do it. But she did let me take home the sample. Man oh man does it have nice stitches. But let me tell you about the threading on the BabyLocks. You stick the end of the thread into a hole and push a lever. A puff of air sends the thread through the machine and it comes out right where it’s supposed to. Sweet! Also, they have a patented “tubular” threading system where the threads travel through, you guessed it, tubes. You’d have to see it to understand what I mean but I imagine it’s related to the air method. One other nice thing about the threading is that you don’t have to do it in any particular order like other manufacturers’ models and you can change out one thread if you want to without having to unthread and re-thread everything else. That appeals to me. The 8 thread machine is quite pricey.
Then I went to the new Joann’s which has a Viking dealer inside. Unfortunately the lady in charge does not own a serger and couldn’t figure out how to thread it, even referring to the owner’s manual. Viking has a brand new 5-thread machine, cheaper than the BabyLock but still pricey. So I didn’t really have a quality experience there since I felt like she didn’t know enough about her products to actually sell them. Another lady came by who wanted to look at a sewing machine and with her hanging around waiting made me feel like I was putting her out even though I got there first. But I think I saw enough of the threading process to know that maybe I don’t want a Viking. She did some stitching on a sample with another machine that was already threaded and let me take it with me. The stitches are nice enough, but the BabyLock’s are better. One thing about Vikings is that they never need to be oiled. That’s one thing I love about my Viking sewing machine but it isn’t enough of a benefit to make me want one of their sergers all that bad. Again, I’ll have to ask Kay what it is about them that her sister loves so much.
When I got home, I compared all the brochures I’d brought back and decided that maybe the coverstitch isn’t all that important to me. I definitely won’t buy the 8-thread BabyLock, but one of the 4-thread models looks do-able. I’ll have to go back and see what the stitches on it look like. I think for me, the air threading thing is the killer feature.
From what I saw, all sergers have the same capabilites of basic stitches so the manufacturers have to really stretch to come up with new features to justify price increases and stay current.
Do you have a serger? Post a comment and tell me what you have, what you like/don’t like about it and what your next one will be (there’s always a next one, right?)