Can You Backstitch On A Serger? (Explained)

Whenever you start or end a seam, it’s important to give the stitches a little extra reinforcement. You can use the backstitch to ensure your new stitches won’t unravel on a standard home machine.

However, if you’re using a serger, you don’t have the same option. 

Here’s Why You Can’t Backstitch On A Serger:

Sergers are not designed for backstitching. Mechanically, they are designed to create overlock chains in a single direction. They are specialized machines and do their single task incredibly well. To reinforce your seams on a serger, you will have to use an alternative to the backstitch.

What Is Backstitching And What Does It Do?

Backstitching is when you sew in reverse on your sewing machine. You feed the fabric away from you for a typical straight stitch as it is sewn through your machine.

When you backstitch as the machine stitches in reverse, you draw your fabric toward you. Most machines have a lever or button that you press to activate your machine’s backstitch setting.

This type of stitching reinforces the seams you have just completed by stitching over them. A common practice is to backstitch every time your start or end a seam.

Doing this helps lock in the ends of the threads so they won’t come undone later on.

If you forget to backstitch the beginning or end of your seam, you can pull your fabric apart and start to undo the stitches. However, if that same seam has backstitching, it will be more resistant to attempted unraveling.

What Do Sergers Do Instead Of Backstitching?

Sergers are specialty machines designed to finish seams with stability and precision.

Sergers use multiple cones of thread and two needles to overlock at high speeds. The overlock stitch is ideal for finishing seams, so they don’t become frayed or begin to unravel.

While most home sewing machines have an overlock or finishing stitch option, sergers excel at the task. They run at extremely high speeds, neatly trimming off any fabric that goes beyond the overlock chain as they go.

Sergers are commonly used for the seams of knit fabrics, like t-shirts. They can also be for decorative exposed seams.

Sergers can handle thicker, more decorative thread than a standard home sewing machine. This makes them a great choice if you want to finish the edges of a napkin or other decorative item with a beautiful, unusual thread.

Sergers are not necessary for all sewers, especially when you are just starting. As your skills advance and you complete more challenging projects, you might find the specialty of a serger very appealing.

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Serger For Finishing Seams?

Sergers will give you some of the best results for finished seams.

The serger does its job effectively and at high speeds. You will be left with a high-quality, durable seam that looks like it was done by a professional.

Sergers come with blades ready to trim your seams as you go. As you sew, the machine will perfectly slice off any excess fabric. You will be left with a beautiful and professional-quality seam when you finish.

This built-in blade saves you the step of trimming excess fabric after you have finished sewing. It also provides a uniformity that you might struggle to achieve if cutting by hand.

If you work a lot with knit fabrics, a serger can be a dream come true. Sergers are particularly effective with knit materials, keeping the material’s stretchiness intact after sewing has been completed.

If you are looking to make garments that look like they were purchased from a store, the serger is the ideal machine for you.

When it comes to your user experience, your serger will have more settings specific to overlocking than your home sewing machine. These options will give you more control over exactly how your seams turn out.

Additionally, sergers can handle many thread types, especially for the upper and lower looper. The looper hooks can hold much thicker threads than a standard sewing needle.

This feature allows you to experiment with decorative, unique threads that are heavier than usual.

If you want to create an edgy look with exposed seams, you can do this flawlessly with a serger.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Using A Serger Without Backstitching?

Anytime you fail to backstitch, your seams are at a high risk of coming undone.

Sergers are designed to deliver you high-quality seams that are built to last. However, they are still at risk of coming apart without the reinforcement of a backstitch or a suitable alternative.

Many people invest in a serger and its specialty materials since it creates such sought-after, flawless seams. However, this investment will all be in vain if the seam edges aren’t reinforced, and the thread tails are not properly secured.

Since backstitching is a sewing essential and sergers do not backstitch, you will have an extra step of work cut out for you. This can feel like a drawback to using this machine, but you can quickly find the alternative that works best for you.

You can use several good alternatives to backstitching when you are serging. Once you get the hang of your preferred method, you will be able to enjoy the perfect seams your serger makes without worrying about durability.

What Are Some Good Alternatives To A Serger?

While you can’t backstitch on your serger, you have a few alternatives for securely finishing your seams.

It is important to secure the ends of your seams, so your threads don’t come undone and weaken the final product. You can use one of the below methods to get the job done using your serger.

1. Knot the Thread Chain:

On either side of your seam, you will have a chain of overlock stitches from before and after you started sewing.

Make sure to leave these a little longer to deal with them properly.

For this first option, tie the chain into a small knot as close as possible to the edge of the fabric. You can use a pin to help guide your knot to get it as close as possible.

Once your knot is secure, you can trim off the excess thread chain.

This won’t be the most durable option since it is not reinforcing the stitches themselves. However, it is a simple and basic way to ensure the thread doesn’t begin unraveling immediately.

2. Use a Seam Sealant:

You can use specialty fabric glue known as a seam sealant to help reinforce the beginning and ending seam stitches. You can find many options in your local fabric store or your favorite online platform.

You can check out Fray Check from Dritz right here on Amazon!

Once you have your seam sealant of choice in hand, add a few drops to where your thread chain meets your fabric. Allow it to dry, sealing the threads completely.

After, you can trim off the excess thread chain.

3. Hand Sew the Thread Tail:

For a stabler option, you can use a regular needle to weave your thread tail through the edges of your seams.

To hand stitch your thread tail, you will need a needle with a large eye for the thread to easily pass through. A tapestry needle or something similar will work well for this job.

The needle doesn’t need to be sharp since it will not be passing through the fabric.

Once the needle is threaded, pass the needle under the surface level of your stitching, between the thread and the fabric. Continue until you feel enough of the thread chain is secure.

Trim off the extra.

4. Use the Serger:

While you can’t do a traditional backstitch on a serger, you can reinforce the ends of the seams in an alternative way.

Stop after a few stitches when you begin to sew a seam on your serger. Lift the pressure foot, leaving the needle lowered down in the fabric. Take the tail of the thread chain and swing it around 180 degrees.

The thread tail should now be lined up with where you are about to stitch.

Lower the pressure foot down again and start stitching. Make sure you are stitching directly over where the thread chain is.

When secured in this way, it won’t have a chance to unravel and cause your seam to fall apart.

You can adjust the process slightly as you come to the end of your seam. Raise both the needle and the pressure foot as you come to the edge of your fabric.

Gently flip the fabric over so the bottom side is now face up.

Arrange the fabric in a way, so you are about to sew back over the seam you have just created. Lower your blade, so you are not in danger of snipping your seam, and sew over these fresh stitches.

When you have an inch or two of reinforcement, you can sew right off the edge of the fabric and trim the excess thread chain.

For a full demonstration of this process, you can check out the Youtube video below:

5. Use Your Home Machine:

If you have your standard home sewing machine available, you can also use its backstitching function to secure the thread tails.

Much like how you would sew the thread tails into the seam with a serger, you can do the same on your normal sewing machine as an extra step.

If you choose this option, bring your project to your home sewing machine after finishing with the serger. Go back and forth with a straight stitch and a backstitch a few times to ensure everything is secure.

Final Thoughts

While you can’t backstitch directly on a serger, it is still a popular machine for those who want high-quality, professional-looking finished seams.

To ensure these seams are as durable as they are designed to be, you can utilize an alternative approach to securing your final stitches and thread tails.

A knot, seam sealant, or a little hand sewing can do the trick. Reinforcing the stitches on the machine is even better.


Age Berry: What is a Serger and What Can I Do With It?

Sewing is Cool: What is a Serger Used For?

Youtube: What is a backstitch in sewing?