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Home Serger recommendations for under...

JeffTanner's picture

I want to get a new home serger for my spouse for b under $500
for edging
b polar fleece
b her knitting.
This would be a first serger for her, but she is experienced with sewing machines. No thrills and solid quality is a plus. Juki?


lin_hendrix's picture

(post #25470, reply #1 of 49)

Hi Jeff,

Try looking at some of the write-ups at the All Brands web site:

The absolute worst thing about any serger is the threading procedure... it's *really* tedious; I've had a Pfaff serger that took years to thread. I basically stopped using the Pfaff and sold it to some poor unsuspecting college student. In demoing other sergers I found most weren't any better, regardless of the price. The exception is the Babylock brand. Babylock has a patent on a vacuum feed looper auto-threading system which is built into their machines. I'm not sure if Babylock makes an under $500 serger but if they do you should seriously consider it. I wound up buying the Imagine model and I've been ecstatic with it.

Regardless of my enthusiasm for the Babylocks, make sure you get a demo of whatever models you're considering and make them thread the darn thing, both top needles and bottom loopers. This will tell you a lot about ease of use.


JeffTanner's picture

(post #25470, reply #2 of 49)

Thanks for your reply, but the
b Babylock Imaginé
lists at M.S.R.P. $1299.00. What about the Juki Home Serger products?

judi's picture

(post #25470, reply #3 of 49)

Jeff - I agree that threading is the biggest problem. but on the other hand, if you don't want to mortgage the homestead for a serger that will only have minimum use, I have an old kenmore that has served me well, and it was reasonably inexpensive. i wouldn't recommend it for fancy serging, just basic "keep the edge from ravelling" stuff. Whatever you end up buying, print the following, laminate it, and tape it in a prominent place near the serger (it saves me a lot of grief, even after all these years)

1. If the thread breaks, it's threaded wrong.
2. Always, always always check: lower looper thread over upper looper thread.

trust me.

lin_hendrix's picture

(post #25470, reply #4 of 49)

Hi Jeff,

I know Imagine lists for $1299. Mine cost $899. That's why you should do your homework ;). Most dealers have some sort of discount going on especially now with the holidays and such. Get the lowest price on the models you're interested in. Shop at an independent dealer (no JoAnne's or Cloth World). Their price shouldn't be much more than AllBrands; remember they have to be competitive.

Here's the text from the Allbrands page for some of the Simplicity sergers (same as the Babylock, manufactured by Juki):

V--SIMPLICITY SL890DK (Same as Baby Lock 428K, 838DK, 5360ED, and Clothworld BL90) Has QTS (Quick Threading System) and Knee
Lift, all by Juki Co, Ltd--manufactured in Yamagata, Japan @ $399 with Video and workbook ($48 value). Add $99 for all 5 feet.
Save $50 on all feet--regularly $29 each (Beading BF, Blind HemHF, Cording CF-Piping PF, Elastic EF, and Ruffling RF). Last of the
mechanical sergers under $500 made in Japan.

V--SL890DK Serger with Knee-Lift. Unique built-in 2-3-4 Thread. Manufactured by Juki Co., Ltd. in Yamagata, Japan. Auto needle &
looper threading, Knee lift for presser foot. With video and workbook @399.

V--4390 EXPERT @ $349D demo--1 left with video. (Same As Baby Lock 5370ED Protege @ JoAnn's for $449, BL402, + RICCAR
#739DE LEGACY) With Built In Rolled Hem, FREEARM, Self Threading Lower Looper and With Video Included.


JeffTanner's picture

(post #25470, reply #5 of 49)

Where did you get your BabyLock Imagine for $899? That's a good price! Did you do a trade-in?

I found a BabyLock Eclipse, refurbished, for $699. It has the "Instant Jet-Air Threader", but not the automatic tension adjustments standard as the BabyLock Imagine.

Other than than, I have found the "standard" sergers:
White 2000 ATS: $600
Husqvarna 905: $649
BabyLock 402 (Demo-model): $499
BabyLock 450 (Demo-model): $399

Are any of these a good deal?

JeffTanner's picture

(post #25470, reply #6 of 49)

Clueless about sergers, my spouse and I ask:

b "Why buy a serger with 2 or 3 or 4 threads when she can machine sew it with 1 thread".


b How do you assess quality on the under $1000 models?

The more we look at these appliances at $700+ with no consumer report, it makes us very very nervous. We can find a consumer report on a $20 toaster, but not on a such an expensive appliance.


Darlette's picture

(post #25470, reply #7 of 49)

Why not have your spouse take a serger class BEFORE the actual purchase is made...especially if this is not a "surprise" purchase (& at these kinda prices, you'd better think again about "surprising" anyone)? Check with local dealers. Heck, take 2 or 3 classes from different dealers to assess what their level of support would be after the purchase is made. The MORE you can research BEFORE the serger purchase is made, the better. Personally, I bought (Ok, my boyfriend bought it) a Kenmore serger. It was an exact copy of the Janome 634/D for about $400 less. I think with taxes & everything, the final price was under $375 a couple years ago. I am a serger weanie----I only finish seams, maybe an occasional rolled hem. Definitely no fancy stuff (not that the machine can't handle it...that stuff just doesn't interest me). The serger came with a video. Watched it a couple times & using the manual, had no problems threading the thing. I haven't had to change the knives yet & I hear with polarfleece, the knives dull a lot faster than with other fibers.

lin_hendrix's picture

(post #25470, reply #8 of 49)

Hi Jeff,

Here's the deal with why buy a serger and the # of threads:

> Sergers sew at a very fast clip. Much faster than a home sewing machine. About the same as an industrial sewing machine.

> Sergers have a super sharp cutting blade that (optionally) trims the seam before overcasting.

> The seam they sew is very elastic. For sewing with knits they surpass a sewing machine because the stretch is built into the stitch.

> Most sergers today come with differential feed; this means they have two feed dogs, front and back. They can be adjusted to "grab" the fabric at different rates thus eliminating the top fabric creeping--no mismatched plaids or stripes--it's like a built in walking foot. Because of this the diff. feed can also be adjusted to automatically gather the bottom piece of fabric to the top at a preset ratio (e.g. 1:1.5, 1:2, etc.) this is great for ruffles, trims, and adding a slightly gathered skirt to a dropwaist knit T-shirt dress.

> # of threads: Basically more is better. Look at your average t-shirt and inside seam of a pair of Dockers khakis. Generally small and wide overcast seam--two, three, or four threads; blind hem seam--two threads; two pieces of fabric butted or flatlock seam--two thread; overcast with one row of stitching nearby (wrong side)--five thread; overcast with one row of straight stitching on right side of fabric (cover stitch)--four or five thread; same with two rows of stitching on right side of fabric--five thread.

> All sergers don't do all these stitches, I didn't list every stitch. You have to ask when demoing.

I've heard the newest Babylock, Evolve, has eight threads and can sew decorative, embroidery type stitches. It lists for $1899. My only regret about buying the Imagine is that I didn't get the Evolve.

Yes it is a big purchase. I really think you should try the Allbrands web site and ask them about the top rated machines. They'll give you a rating and can tell you what year the last Consumer Reports was done on sergers.

Also I've found Consumer Reports tends to shy away from what they think is the esoteric stuff. I've never seen a Report on the motorized hand tools for jewelry making and their last, old, Report on knitting machines didn't do all the models(!).

Find a large, independent dealer or two in your area that carry the Babylock and Elna machines and just get a demo. Many of the larger dealers will offer a three to thirty day "buyer's remorse" option. Yes, they'll take it back and refund everything except $20. Many also offer a year in which to "trade-up" with your purchase price accounted in full. These dealers need to be aggressively competitive so they often do "bend-ever-backwards" service.

I bought my Babylock Imagine new, without a trade-in. Most of the MSRP is hooey. Ask about specials.


Bill_Stewart's picture

(post #25470, reply #9 of 49)

I am like Lin, I swear by Babylock. I own 2 - a 3-2, and a 4-3. They are no frills machines, but I hve sewn with the 3-2 for 16 years and never had any trouble. They 4-3 I've had for 10 years with the same results. I used them day in and out for alterations and tailoring custom clothes and swear by them. My female friends have brought me their's to show them how to use, and I've never found any brand that adjusts as easily. I wopuld never use any otaher brand. A model similar to mine should run about $300-500. Check several of the on-line machine store and compare prices. Bill

Dennis_Mattson's picture

(post #25470, reply #10 of 49)

I bought a Sears 234-D serger for $350 on sale, otherwise $425. It is a $600+ Janome machine in a different wrapper. Sears do not demo and do not have classes, so go to a Janome dealer to demo and see if the Sears version would do the trick. Accessories such as feet are available for the Sears machine.

Anastasi_'s picture

(post #25470, reply #11 of 49)

This is a good discussion. My Viking is in the middle of being repaired and the stretch stitch features may not survive. (I swear the repairman did something wrong, but that's another story) So, I'm contemplating making the leap to a serger. I have quite a bit of stretch knits to make, and I wonder if an overlock machine has more durability than a regular machine with stretch stitches. Also, how can I find out if there are hemming and topstitching features on it?

Anastasi_'s picture

(post #25470, reply #12 of 49)

Another question: what is a flatlock stitch, and is it a pricey feature on overlock machines? Please feel free to email me at

Allison_Churchman's picture

(post #25470, reply #13 of 49)

I have been contemplating getting a serger (overlocker for us Brits)for a while, but things keep putting me off - this discussion is excellent. The main sticking points for me are threading especially as my projects tend to be quite small and in all different colours/fabrics. Is it really that bad - how long does it take? The other thing I'm not sure about is getting hold of the thread cones - can you get a wide variety of colours? Do you need to buy say 6 cones and then use only a bit of each one. Actually, not sure why I am hung up on this, everything I make is usually black or navy!!

yeshua14's picture

(post #25470, reply #14 of 49)

For price and quality and old fashioned friendliness, don't know if that is a legal word or not --- try --- they are authorized dealers of what they sell, meaning the machines come with a full factory warranty. Some dealers sell machines they are not actually authorized to sell. They have several sergers listed under the $500 you mentioned.

Lee_Knott's picture

(post #25470, reply #15 of 49)

Threading doesn't have to be terrible. Once you've got it threaded (unless you are using decorative threads such as pearl crown rayon), you can simply tie on the new threads to the old, set your tensions to "0" and pull the threads through.

If you do have a jam up, you will need to rethread the needles, but that's not as difficult, generally. Elna makes it easier because they have a swing-out needle bar.

You should know how to thread from start to finish, though. Do it several times repeatedly and you won't have a problem. The lower looper tends to be the bugaboo.

The Baby Lock models are so popular because they have "jet air" threading: the loopers are tubular, you put your threads near them, push down a lever, and whoooosh.... instantly threaded. Really nifty. The newest BL not only has jet air threading but automatic tension. I tried one and it's nice. You absolutely should be able to get it for under $1000 US. If you use a lot of decorative threads in the looper it would be worth the price, or if you have the money, or if you are really chicken about threading, and the serger would be an expensive paperweight otherwise.

Serger thread - it's available in all colors of the rainbow. Just think, ready-to-wear garments are serged with color matched thread - it's out there. However, you generally only need a few toning colors, such as white/ivory/brown/rose/grey/navy/black. Serger thread is thin and does not have to match exactly, it will blend. You can get additional amounts by winding bobbins. The needles use the least amount of thread, the loopers the most.

Look up a good serger book and it will show you what you need.

Lee_Knott's picture

(post #25470, reply #16 of 49)

A flatlock stitch joins two butted seams together, with no overlap. If you buy yardage and it's pieced with a "ladder", that's a flatlock seam. It's used a lot for decorative seaming, such as colorblocking. You can also use it for faux fagoting. The Palmer-Pletsch books cover this well.

It's a function of tension and is available on any standard 3/4 serger. No, you don't pay more for it.

Look at a particular serger's manual and it will tell you how to get a flatlock.

Lee_Knott's picture

(post #25470, reply #17 of 49)

Actually, unless your wife is sewing with a chain stitch, she sews her seams with two threads on the machine, the needle thread and the bobbin thread.

The serger sews a seam and finishes the edges in one pass. It stitches faster than a sewing machine (unless you go commercial).

Serger thread is thinner than sewing machine thread, but even so, on thin materials you would not use as many threads.

It sounds like your wife will be sewing heavy-duty stuff. I personally would not use a serger to edge Polar Fleece. It dulls the serger knife like crazy and puts out all sorts of lint. She needs to be good at opening the machine up and maintaining it! PF doesn't ravel and so doesn't need edge finishing.

Sounds like she wants to do cut and sew for sweaters, though. That's a great use, particularly if she's a machine knitter. For that, all you need is a generic 3/4 thread serger but definitely get differential feed. You will want to check that the presser foot lifts high enough to get thick, spongy material under it.

There are books and videos out on cut and sew techniques (Kruh Knits has them). It's worth looking at those and reading some basic serging books, such as Palmer-Pletsch and Singer, before you plunk down your money.

Finally, Juki makes a highly reliable machine at a decent price. I took a class from an author who serged with all sorts of machine. I mentioned that I was looking for a plain-vanilla 3/4 thread serger, and was thinking about Juki. She was really enthusiastic about them - they are workhorses. Juki makes industrial sewing machines and sergers, and also makes home sergers for Bernina under the Bernette name.

Lee_Knott's picture

(post #25470, reply #18 of 49)

Sounds like you are almost doing production work, and if so, yes, you probably want a serger. It will be faster, because you will seam and edge finish in one go.

Though there are folks that DON'T like the sewing machine stretch stitches and DON'T like serged seams, Marcy Tilton for one. (Check out her book "Easy Guide to Sewing Tops and T-Shirts", she goes into great detail on knits, most of them don't need edge finishing at all). To get stretch, you use a serpentine stitch or a narrow ZZ to sew. Sandra Betzina uses that technique too.

Anyway, back to your question: hemming and topstitching are done via a coverstitch, not a feature you find on under-$500 sergers, unless it's a used Singer Millenium. You can get a cover-stitch only machine from All Brands. Bernina used to make one but it's discontinued.

Durability: like sewing machines, some are junk and some are great. Usually, the simpler the better. 5-thread machines with cover stitch can get persnickity and you have to convert them to do the cover stitch, cover a looper, etc. Jukis are pretty near indestructible, I've heard good things about the White ATS model, and some of the Baby Locks are great, but you can't use standard size needles in them.

As to your Vike, check out the Viking club on Yahoo: It was started by a retired Viking dealer, and he can give you suggestions on how to get your machine fixed properly. Plenty of people get told it can't get fixed, that they have to buy new. Hmmmmmm. Better save up for a bridge in Brooklyn....

Wil_Colvin's picture

(post #25470, reply #19 of 49)

There is only one true flat lock seam and it is a two thread. A three thread does not lie flat because of the straight stitch plus it adds extra bulk to your seam especially for underwear

Vickie_Hunker's picture

(post #25470, reply #20 of 49)

I'm an accomplished seamstress and in the market for my first serge. Bernina is a reputable brand (plus I can get good service and lessons) but price for a first-time buyer. I'm considering a discontinued 134D. I'm torn between it, White's 2000 AS, and Baby lock's Protege. If any of you own any of these models, please tell me why you like it or why you would "never own another one." My biggest problems is that I like the "looks" of the newer lay-in threadiewer can put up with the older dials if all talderatures are comparable. This is going to be the best birthday present ever, so any help would be greatly appreciated. TIA

Mary_Susan_Dinkel's picture

(post #25470, reply #21 of 49)

ELNA Pro5 is my first serger, a used one for under $500. from a local dealer who gives good support and guarantee. Five threads to serge, hummmmm. A class from April Dunn gave me the best advice...completely thread your serger the first 5 days you own it. Tieing knots to thread changes is a cop out. What do you do if one breaks while serging and you don't know how to thread it or are unfamiliar with your serger? It will happen. And it only happens on the last seam when you are in a hurry. As April Dunn says, "that's when Murphy visits your sewing room!."
I always thought I didn't need a serger, but it is a great investment--all 5 threads of it.

Stephen_Wick's picture

(post #25470, reply #22 of 49)

For ease of use and threading And price I like the White 2000 ast I saw listed at It was under $400. Unbelievable.

Betty_AnnRoscetti's picture

(post #25470, reply #23 of 49)

b RE Basic Sewing Machine

My 20 year old Kenmore machine has had it. I am looking to replace it with a basic sewing machine with maybe a few frills. Something that is reliable and easy to use and reasonably priced. I've been unable to find consumer comparisons of machine. Any advice/suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

Jean_'s picture

(post #25470, reply #24 of 49)

Betty, this web page may help you.

sanderson's picture

(post #25470, reply #25 of 49)

Jean, thanks for this site. I'm in the same boat as Betty Ann.

Jean_'s picture

(post #25470, reply #26 of 49)

Fancy meetin' you here! ;) Good luck with your search.

yeshua14's picture

(post #25470, reply #27 of 49)

I found A New Home Serger for under $300 at The people seem very knowledgable and had both online ordering or toll free numbers to call.

Toni_Rose's picture

(post #25470, reply #28 of 49)

The serger is not to be considerd a replacement for your sew. mach. but an addition to your sewing needs.The four thread, 2 needle is my favorite, I have a Riccar brand, it can do blindhemming, flatlock, and rolled hemming, very nice and affordable, mine was 399.95,purchased in a vac,sewing machine store.

Sheila_Israel's picture

(post #25470, reply #29 of 49)

I got a Babylock Proline, the most basic Babylock serger around for $275. I am no means a heavy production sewer, and the machine is O.K. for me. I would not recommend that a first time serger user get this without store support. In the beginning, it was kind of a bear and took a while to learn to use, but now I feel like I'm tuning up an instrument. It's not that bad. A-White sewing stores in my area had a special right after New Year--if two people came into the store and bought the same machine, they'd sell the second at 50% off. Watch your magazine Babylock magazine ads around the the beginning of the year (or the first three months of the year) for coupons that you can use towards machines that's almost as good a deal as buying the second machine 50% off. I finished the edges of fleece on this machine without any problems. All you have to remember to do heaving fabrics on this serger is to remember to start with your cutting knife up, but if you're going to do a lot of heavy fabrics, they tell me you might want to invest more in a machine.

Harding_Veronica's picture

(post #25470, reply #30 of 49)

For Jeff Tanner--my husband bought me a White serge for Xmas 1999. I think it's price was originally $299, on sale for $199, then a special that day only for $99. I doesn't do fancy stuff but it does what I want, which is to give my seams a nice finish.