Sewing and the necessary machines should never be a gamble. There are so many different name brands and types of machines available that it is hard to know what to choose. Here we will compare a sewing machine vs serger vs coverstitch machine so you can be sure you have ‘backed the right horse.’
Sewing Machine vs Serger vs Coverstitch
Here are some guidelines and tips when comparing a sewing machine vs serger vs coverstitch:
- Think of the sewing machine as the ‘Workhorse’
- The serger as the ‘Racehorse’
- And the coverstitch as the ‘Gift horse’
What Does a Sewing Machine Do?
The Work Horse – what should you expect from the basic sewing machine?
A sewing machine is used to sew and neaten seams. A very basic machine should sew a straight stitch in different lengths and a zigzag stitch in various widths.
If you want to start sewing, a sewing machine is an absolute necessity whereas a serger and coverstitch machine are optional. Even if you used a serger for most of your project, you would still need a basic sewing machine for zippers, buttonholes, topstitching and basting.
A straight stitch is used to sew seams on woven (non-stretch) fabrics and a zigzag stitch is used to neaten the raw edges.
Seek the advice of a sewing machine shop or visit a trade show to see different machines on display. There is a vast difference between your entry level machine doing the basics and your top of the range computerized sewing machine. Technology has advanced incredibly and some of the top makes offer embroidery stitches, quilting gadgets, buttonholing and more. The dealer should offer lessons with these top-notch machines and that helps to set you on your way. There are also lots of free tutorials on my blog to help you learn how to sew.
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What to look for in a sewing machine:
- A clear indication of threading guides and markings for your upper thread. This makes it faster for beginners to thread.
- Stitch size and stitch selection for different stitches – both decorative and basic.
- Speed control and reverse stitch.
- Buttonhole stitch and button attachment to stitch on buttons.
- A removable free arm is a useful extra feature for sewing sleeves and other small accessories.
- A set of presser feet and attachments and instruction manual are essential items.
The Workhorse in your sewing room should be ready, set and good to go at any given time. Your basic sewing machine should have the ability to keep abreast of the day to day tasks as well as fancier ones too.
The well- known brands to look for are Bernina, Elna, Janome, Brother, Singer and Phaff. It is a good idea to do some research and see which of these workhorses are going to be best suited to your needs.
In Summary: A Sewing Machine can:
- Sew straight stitches used for seams on woven fabric
- Sew a zig-zag stitch used for finishing the edges and for sewing seams on stretch fabric
- Can sew buttonholes
- Gather fabric (you can manually gather or purchase fancy feet to do the job)
- Many can sew decorative stitches
What Does a Serger Do?
The Race Horse – the serger, as the name suggests, should be the machine that makes great strides ahead in your sewing world. The serger, or overlocker, as it is sometimes called, can race through the action of cutting, sewing and trimming each seam.
It has an especially sharp cutter and is great with stretch knits and lycra as it can sew and cut the fabric as well as take into account the fact that the material stretches.
It can also gather, make a rolled hem and with the elastic applicator, it can attach elastic. It is not as versatile as the sewing machine but it can sew and cut the fabric as well as take into account that stretch fabric needs stretch seams. The serger has a differential feed mechanism and that allows you to use more difficult fabrics, like stretch.
Once again the serger needs careful selection from a reputable dealer. It is good to try some machines out. Check on the threading as it can be a bit tricky until you have mastered the different threads involved.
If you have the budget, try and get a self-threading machine. I have a new Janome and a 20-year-old Singer and if you thread either of the 4 threads in the wrong order the machines won’t work correctly.
Before you go out and back a racehorse machine think about the kind of seamstress you are and if you will get good use out of a serger.
- If you are just sewing on the odd occasion you would be better using a zig-zag on your regular machine to finish seams.
- If you are sewing regularly, a serger can make your projects look more professional and they are generally enjoyable to use.
- If you are going to sew for markets or a small home business then a serger is a must.
The important thing is to make an informed decision, shop around and be sure the racehorse serger is going to be a good bet for you.
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What to look for in your serger machine:
- You can buy three and four thread machines. Determine if you want the three threads for neatening, or the four threads which do the job of neatening and sewing a seam for stretch knits.
- Thread guides and color coding to indicate the order and direction of the threads.
- Stitch dial for regulating the stitch length.
- The handbook and accessories and the special tweezers to thread the needles.
- Correct oil for the machine and indication of oiling spots.
In Summary: A Serger can
- Finish seams on woven fabrics and stretch fabrics.
- Sew seams on stretch fabrics (4 thread sergers).
- Gathering with a serger (the gathering done on a serger is more limited than on a regular sewing machine).
- Sew rolled hems.
What Does a Coverstitch Machine Do?
The Gift Horse – The coverstitch machine is a wonderful extra asset to your sewing machine collection and a great gift to give yourself but it does really have only one function. It is a specialized machine designed to sew hems on stretch fabrics. Grab any t-shirt from your cupboard and you will see hems with 2 rows of neat straight stitching on the outside and an interlocked row of stitches on the inside. If you pull the hem out you will see that the the stitches stretch and don’t break. This was done on a coverstitch machine.
The coverstitch machine gives that professional finish to a garment made out of stretch fabric. A stretch t-shirt will end up looking completely ‘store bought’ with a coverstitch finish.
The coverstitch is a lot like the serger but it does not cut the fabric. The coverstitch is there to put up hems primarily.
The threading and change over from one machine to the other is time-consuming so actually having separate machines for each process works better in the long run. Having a coverstitch machine tucked away in your sewing area is a great advantage to the person who dreads the hemming process. The coverstitch machine is there to be ready, willing and able to make really professional hems with very little fuss. The coverstitch can also hem around curved edges, armholes, necklines and sleeves too.
Some coverstitch machines are part of the serger machine; however, there is a slight frustration to having this set-up. The threading and change over from one machine to the other is time-consuming, so actually having separate machines for each process works better in the long run.
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What to look for in your coverstitch machine:
- Choose the number of threads on the machine from a single to triple, depending on your needs. Most sewers use the double coverstitch machine.
- Tension: The machine should have a tension facility to allow the coverstitch to handle different weights of fabric.
- Free arm: this is an essential feature to allow narrow sleeves and tubes to be easily neatened with the coverstitch hem.
- Adjustable presser foot, another feature to help with the different weights of material.
- Differential feed that adjusts the feed dogs to also accommodate different kinds of material.
Now get ready to ‘hedge your bets’ and do your homework before you go out and buy a new sewing machine vs serger vs coverstitch machine. Look at the different services they provide and make an informed decision.
Sewing Machine vs Serger vs Coverstitch COMPARISON TABLE
|Practical day to day sewing||Specialised seams and neatening with cutting blades||Specialised neatening of hems.|
|Different stitch lengths and decorative stitches||Differential feed tackles difficult to sew fabrics and stretch knits||Professional look neatening over stitch and two lines of hemming as seen on T-shirts.|
|Can do decorative stitches and gathering||Can gather, add rolled hems and attach elastic no decorative stitches||Cannot gather or make decorative stitches, but neatens hems professionally.|
|Makes buttonholes and sews on buttons using special attachments and stitches||Does not have attachments to make buttonholes, or other functions.||Uses presser feet and threads from other machines but does not make buttonholes,|
You will be so glad you did and then you too will say….
I cannot count my day complete
‘Till needle, thread and fabric meet!
(Anonymous quote from the ‘Quote Garden.com)