Sewing machines and sergers bring multiple threads together to quickly and effectively create stitches. Traditional sewing machines use bobbins as the source of the bottom thread.
Sergers, however, use loopers to create components of their unique overlock stitches.
Here’s What Sergers Use Instead of Bobbins:
Sergers use loopers instead of bobbins. Each serger has an upper and lower looper responsible for creating the signature loops of the overlock stitch. Each looper is a set of arms, hooks, and holes threaded individually and work together with the needles to overlock at high speeds.
Table of Contents
What Is the Difference Between a Bobbin and Looper Thread?
Both bobbins and loopers provide the necessary threads for making a stitch on a sewing machine. Both provide the necessary complement for needle thread (or threads) to sew effectively.
Bobbins work in conjunction with the needle to create a range of stitches on your home machine. The bobbin is hooked through loops made by the top thread to form a stitch.
Loopers are specifically designed to create the loops needed for overlocking. The needle stitches on an overlocker hold these loops in place to perfectly finish seams.
Bobbins are self-contained mini spools of thread inserted below the needle plate in your sewing machine. You can wind bobbins yourself on the top of your machine, using the same or similar thread to what you will use with your needle.
The top thread gets hooked by the bobbin as the machine runs and creates a loop. The bobbin thread is then pulled into this top thread loop, making a stitch.
You can install bobbins in two different ways. Your machine might be designed for a vertical bobbin or a horizontal bobbin. If you’re unsure about where the bobbin goes on your machine, your user’s manual will be able to guide you.
Vertical bobbins are held in a vertical position in the machine. If your machine is made for vertical bobbins, you will remove the arm of your machine and open the bobbin compartment. Inside you will find the bobbin compartment facing you.
If your machine is designed for vertical bobbins, you must place your bobbin in its metal case. You should insert it in the case to turn counterclockwise when powered.
You will need to properly guide the thread out of the case and install it into the machine.
Alternatively, you might have a machine set up for a horizontal bobbin. This bobbin style does not require any additional casing and is easily inserted directly below the needle plate.
Sometimes horizontal bobbin machines have a clear space in the sewing area where you can see your bobbin. This is handy to know how much thread is left or if there are any problems in your bobbin’s compartment.
Your bobbin will serve the same function no matter how your machine is designed. It will guide the top thread into a necessary loop and create the stitch from there. Make sure you purchase bobbins that are sure to fit your machine and check the compartment regularly for lint and other build-up.
Upper and Lower Looper
Instead of bobbins, sergers have two sets of mechanical arms in the machine that create the looper stitches.
These are called the upper and lower looper. They are both located in approximately the same place, usually in the right lower front of your machine.
You will have to remove the cover of your machine to access and thread these parts.
When using your serger, you create two distinct types of stitches: looper stitches and needle stitches. You can easily spot the looper stitches since they are perfectly loop-shaped. Needle stitches look like a regular straight stitch and are much smaller in comparison.
They help hold each loop in place.
You will need an individual spool of thread for every component you are using on your serger. Using four spools of thread is quite common, with two spools for the needles and two spools for the loopers.
These cones of thread are usually perched behind your machine and pass through a thread guide positioned well above the top of your machine. The thread then passes down and is either threaded through the needle or the looper.
If you purchase a newer serger with JetAir threading, you will be able to set up your looper threads effortlessly. With JetAir threading, you simply insert the end of your looper thread into a small compartment, flip a switch or a lever, and the machine does the rest for you.
You will have to thread your loopers by hand if you have an older serger or one without this feature. Each looper needs to be threaded slightly differently, and it is best to consult your instruction manual to make sure you complete the process correctly.
The threading process usually involves catching a few hooks on the metal arms and passing through a circular hole for the final step. A pair of tweezers can help guide your thread through the final hole for each of your loopers.
Can You Use Looper Thread to Quilt?
While quilting isn’t traditionally done on a serger with its loopers, it certainly could be if you are feeling creative and experimental.
You can quilt on your serger if you can take your quilting pattern and transform it into rows. You might even enjoy the speed and precision your serger will start to bring your quilt together.
You can take several different fabric blocks and piece them together to create long rows for your desired quilt length. You can put these pieces together with your serger and combine all of the rows with your serger.
Keep in mind that the seams will be a bit thicker if you are serging everything on your quilt. However, these will be strong and durable seams to help your quilt live a long life.
If you plan to make a quilt entirely on your serger, then a standard serger thread will work perfectly for this task. However, you shouldn’t use serger thread cones if you plan to quilt on a home machine.
Serger thread is not designed to be as strong as regular thread. Since serging usually combines several different threads together to hold the stitch, each thread does not have to be singularly as strong as a normal sewing machine thread.
If you are in an emergency, a bit of serger thread can get the job done when quilting on your home machine. However, it’s best to keep your serger thread for your serger and your standard thread for your home machine.
Committing to this thread distinction will ensure the best results for both machines.
Can You Use Looper Thread to Embroider?
Using embroidery thread for your loopers is a common and beautiful option for decorative seam finishing.
While older rayon embroidery thread was not up to the task, more modern polyester options are more than ready for overlocking.
Choosing a decorative embroidery thread with a beautiful sheen is a great way to make your loops stand out on a decorative project. If you are an avid embroiderer, you can easily share your embroidery threads between your embroidery projects and your serging tasks.
Can You Use Regular Thread Bobbins on a Serger?
Sergers don’t use bobbins at all– you won’t even find a compartment for a bobbin on a serger. Bobbins are specifically for standard home sewing machines.
Instead of threading a bobbin for a serger, you will thread the upper and lower looper on your machine.
If you have leftover bobbin thread, save it for the next project on your home machine. Regular bobbin thread used with a serger isn’t the most effective for either cost or performance.
Since loopers aren’t traditional needles, you can use thicker thread for them that would not pass through the eye of a needle. You don’t need to stick to the fine thread you would typically use for a bobbin.
What Kind of Thread Does a Serger Use?
You have many thread options when it comes to surging. You can purchase cones of serger thread optimally designed for your machine. Serger thread usually comes in cones and is specially wound to run smoothly when the machine is in use.
Purchasing thread specifically for surging is a great idea if you are a beginner. You are setting yourself up for success by getting used to how your machine runs with this ideal type of thread.
Sergers run at incredibly high speeds, and the thread has to be ready for this kind of task. Serger thread is created so it won’t create too much lint as it runs through your machine. This can be particularly dangerous for a serger since lint build-up can significantly impact your tension settings and machine operation.
Serger thread is also more economically friendly when compared to thread for your home sewing machine. Because of the style of stitches, a serger goes through high quantities of thread very quickly.
A loop takes up much more thread than a standard stitch, and your serger can make tons of loops at top speed.
You can use regular thread on your serger if you’re in a pinch. However, this will be more expensive than necessary. Plus, you make a habit of it. You can also clog your machine with lint since normal thread is more prone to this.
While you should avoid using regular sewing thread on your serger, you have many options for a decorative thread. Since your upper and lower loopers are a set of metal arms, hooks, and holes, they can handle thicker thread than the small eye of a sewing needle.
You can experiment with thicker, decorative threads on your loopers. Many people find variegated threads, metallic threads, or fine ribbons an exciting choice for the loop stitches.
The final result of using decorative looper threads is quite stunning. If you are working on a project where the edge of your fabric will be seen, you can take the opportunity to make it a beautiful, eye-catching stitch.
Instead of bobbins, sergers have upper and lower loopers to create their signature overlock stitch and finish seams flawlessly. You can use traditional serger thread for your loopers or choose a thicker, more decorative option.