6 Things Sergers Can’t Do (Explained)

Sergers are the most capable and versatile sewing machines on the market.

Unfortunately, although they’re extremely handy, there are a few sewing tasks they’re not very good at and cannot do at all. This article contains a list of things sergers cannot do, such as things you should do by hand or use a different sewing machine.

Here are 6 things that sergers can’t do that sewing machines can:

1. Sewing Buttonholes

A buttonhole is a slit cut into the fabric with a hooked needle and thread.

Buttonholes are used to secure buttons or button-like material on clothing, although they can also be used as decoration. Unfortunately, a serger cannot make an internal buttonhole because it does not have the necessary loopers and looper attachments to create the necessary stitch.

Therefore, it is preferable to use a sewing machine to create a buttonhole because it can easily and quickly make accurate holes of the right size and shape.

A serger is an overlock machine which means it has three separate thread paths used to create a finished edge on fabric. A buttonhole, however, is simply an opening in fabric with threads going through it.

Therefore, they do not need finishing as a serger stitch would. As a result, a serger cannot create a buttonhole.

2. Sewing Facings

The facing is the part of a garment that is turned to the inside.

It forms the front edge of the opening, such as on a jacket or shirt. In some cases, it can be a separate piece of fabric. In others, it is folded over and sewn to the front edges of the opening.

Another thing that sergers can’t do is sew facings onto garments. With a serger, this job is made more difficult than it should be because sergers are meant for finishing seams rather than sewing them in place.

If you’ve ever tried sewing a facing with a serger, though, you’ll know it doesn’t work.

The problem is that the stitches pull the fabric away from the edge, and you can’t get a clean finish. The facing will be uneven and won’t lay flat against your garment.

It can be frustrating to switch back and forth between a regular machine and your serger to sew facings.

Some serger-specific techniques can help you finish the raw edges of your facings so they look neater. However, they still won’t provide the clean, crisp finishes that a regular sewing machine can.

3. Sewing Zippers

Zippers are a type of closure that runs along an edge of the fabric or other material, which can then be pulled up and down to open and close the gap.

Though they can be used in many different ways, zippers are commonly found on pants, jackets, and bags.

A serger also cannot sew zippers. Sewing zippers with a serger presents a problem because it is impossible to achieve the correct tension with one.

Managing a small zipper project on a serger would be nearly impossible if you’ve ever seen how quickly the machines move.

Zippers are made up of two tracks of interlocking teeth. When you’re serging something with a zipper, the track on one side of the fabric gets cut by the blade on the serger.

So, when you zip your garment closed, the zipper won’t close.

If your project calls for both seams and zippers, try using your regular sewing machine first and then finish with your serger. You’ll find that this approach makes much better quality stitches than trying to use only one or the other.

4. Reverse Stitching

Reverse stitching creates a stitch by passing the needle and thread from back to front through the fabric rather than from front to back.

Doing this creates a reversed stitch on the face of the fabric, also known as backstitching. Sergers, unfortunately, can only do forward stitching and not reverse stitching.

So, when you use your serger to finish a seam—or any time you want to make sure the seam is facing away from the dart—you’ll need to use another machine to do the reverse stitching.

Additionally, to fix a mistake on your seam, you’ll have to undo the whole thing and start over again. This can be extremely frustrating if you’re in the middle of a long seam and painful if you’ve just spent hours working on a project.

5. Topstitching

Topstitching is a type of hemming that adds additional strength and durability to your clothing.

It can also add decoration to the garment, such as adding contrast piping or embroidery on a garment. It is best for fabrics that don’t fray easily, like cotton and linen, but you can use it on any fabric if you take precautions to avoid fraying.

Sergers cannot sew topstitching. They can only sew with a special 4-thread or 5-thread thread that is only available in their machines.

6. Sewing on Either Side

Sergers cannot sew on either side of the seam.

Sergers can only stitch along one side or the other due to their design. Therefore, choose your serger’s stitch, and ensure it is aligned in the proper direction for sewing on either the left or right side of a seam.

They use loops instead of threads for the stitches, so there are no threads on the right side of the fabric. Instead, sergers use an overcast stitch and a seam allowance to create seams.

The machine trims the excess fabric as it goes. If you want to sew on the right side of your fabric, you’ll want to use a regular sewing machine.

Final Thoughts

Sergers are sewing machines with a continuous thread loop around the edge of the fabric. They can be computerized or mechanical, bringing many benefits to your sewing projects.

While they usually cost more than regular machines, they are worth their price because they can save you time and effort that you’d otherwise need to spend in finishing projects like drapes, pillows, garments, covers, bags, and similar items.

However, a serger is not a substitute for a sewing machine. It’s not meant to do all that a sewing machine can do.

If you want to do any complex project with many different parts or pieces, you should have both types of machines handy.