Whether you are a professional seamstress or this is just your hobby, you will find that a serger is a useful addition to your arsenal. Though it is not absolutely required of you to have one, it is said to make life much easier. In addition to being fast, a serger can add a lot of strength to many seams. This is especially true for children's clothing, as children are particularly active.
Regular sewing machines and sergers indeed do look alike to the inexperienced eye. They both have a similar mechanism, and they both use needles and thread. But looking at their use, one will find them completely different in that respect. So we could not help but wonder if the two machines have any interchangeable parts.
Besides, it would be much easier if one could use their sewing machine needles in their serger as this saves the tailor from buying more needles. Doing this, in turn, saves them not only money but also time and storage space.
Even though it is rumored that today's sergers can use regular sewing machine needles, this is not always the case. In fact, many sewing experts find it hard to agree on this, as it depends on the type of serger – its brand, model and specifications. Having said that, many serger manufacturers choose to design their own needles, while also adding specialty needles to the mix.
For this exact reason, we decided to do some research, hoping to clarify the differences between the two types of needles. We will also be briefly touching upon related topics along the way as well.
Let us begin by getting ourselves more familiar with the different types of needles, as well as their “anatomy.”
If we take the top-down approach, we first start with the needle shank. This is the part of the needle that you fit into your sewing machine. In order to prevent incorrect insertion, it has one flat side.
Next is the needle shaft, which could be called the “body” of the needle. Running along the length of the shaft, we have the needle groove, which holds the needle thread.
Then, there is the needle blade, which determines the needle size. Additionally, the scarf of the needle allows the bobbin hook to grab the threads with ease, allowing for a proper stitch.
Finally, the point (tip) of the needle varies greatly between different types.
As far as needle types are concerned, there are three of them:
Of course, there are also specialty needles for sewing various other materials such as denim, leather, and suede. One could also use specialty needles for needlepoint, topstitching, and embroidery.
Now, let us take a closer look at sergers and the needles they use.
Sergers, also known as overlockers, are machines that tailors use to perform an overlocking stitch. Even though sergers share some similarities with regular sewing machines, what they do is much more similar to knitting than it is to sewing.
When a tailor overlocks two seams, they do so to prevent the fabric from unraveling. On rare occasions, one might use a serger to finish hems or embellish outside seams. However, tailors more often use sergers in construction, and less often in adding the finishing touches.
In addition to knitting more than they are sewing, sergers differ from regular sewing machines in another way. Instead of threading one, sergers thread three or four pathways, two loopers included. These loopers are responsible for the knitting part of the process.
Therefore, serger needles come with their differences too. They have a sharp point that can pierce all types of fabric. Manufacturers suggest that tailors use Ball Point needles when performing knits. This is because the needles go between the threads instead of piercing the fabric. For example, the needle shank may vary in both shape and thickness. Of course, there is also the variety in length.
For those wondering if they could use a serger instead of a regular sewing machine, the short answer is no, they could not. At least not 100% of the time. Even though a tailor may do entire projects on a serger, they would still need a regular sewing machine for zippers, buttonholes, facings, and topstitching.
Sergers may have one or two needles. While the older models only have one, all modern sergers have two needles. Optionally, you can remove one, but the serger will work with three threads in both cases.
The positioning of the needles seems confusing to users, especially those who are just starting out. Oddly enough, the two needles are not level with one another. The right needle seems to sit a little lower than the left needle, which means they are not parallel. However, one should not confuse them with a twin needle a regular sewing machine uses.
The serger machine has two separate needle clamp screws that hold each needle. To replace the needles, simply unscrew the used ones and dispose of them. When inserting new ones, push them deep into the slot making sure that the flat side of the shank faces the front. Finally, screw the clamp screws back into place and test your serger.
All serger manuals indicate the type of needle one should use for a particular model. Therefore, it is recommended that you adhere to this standard and use needles indicated in the manual that came with your serger.
As mentioned earlier, some serger needles have differently shaped shanks. Although certain sergers use round-shank needles, most of the newer models have a flat shank similar to the one sewing needles have. In addition, needle shanks can also vary in thickness and length.
While sizes 60-65 are used for satin and thin silk, sizes 75-80 are used for cotton jerseys and cotton cloth. As for the medium weight fabrics such as denim, cotton or woolen fabrics, they usually require sizes 75-90. Finally, there are the heavyweight fabrics that use sizes 90-100. These include thicker wool and denim, as well as canvas.
For maximum precision, use a magnifying glass to determine this difference. As for the length, one can easily measure it using a ruler.
Now, let us observe the differences between serger and sewing machine needles.
Obviously, it is easy to identify serger needles in the package. However, one might have a hard time distinguishing between the two types if they keep both types in a sewing box. This may be especially difficult since one has to consider certain minute differences.
Of course, the naked eye will easily identify needles that are unique in shape. But what about other types, the ones that look like any other sewing machine needle? If that is the case, one should equip oneself with a magnifying glass.
Let us see how we can distinguish between the two types. As we have already classified regular sewing machine needles, we will now focus more on what makes serger needles different.
Firstly, we will look for the differences in needle grooves. While universal sewing needles have smooth shafts, serger needles may have one short groove either on both sides or just the front. Instead of feeling for the groove, we can also use a magnifying glass to look for a short groove near the eye of the needle.
Secondly, we will look to find if the company name was stamped on the shank. The usual company names we will look for are “Elna,” “Bernina,” “Pfaff,” “Janome,” and the leading manufacturer “Organ.” In addition to the company name, the manufacturer may also have stamped the word “serger” on the shank as well.
On the other hand, universal sewing needles may have the names “Schmetz” or “Singer” stamped on the shank, right next to the size mark.
Another difference we found tailors agree on is that serger needles are typically shorter than sewing machine needles. Additionally, out of the two needles a serger uses, one is almost always curved.
Finally, the needle shanks are labeled with unique numbers, but these are separated by a slash mark on serger needles. While a universal sewing needle is usually marked with a number such as 11, 14, and 16, serger needles could be numbered 11/75, for example.
Now, let us take a look at the specifications for three well-known brands of serger needles:
The most popular among the needle systems are ELx705, ELx705CF SUK, and EL705CF. These needles differ from home sewing needles in the following way:
Singer also offers three popular models, which are Universal (0524-42), Ball Point (2054-06) and Chromium (2022). The differences between them are similar to the ones between the Schmetz models:
In order to simplify the process of selecting a needle, Klasse recommends tailors to use the Klasse’ Type G. This includes needle systems like 130/705H, 15 x1, HAx1, and 2020.
However, since certain models use different needle systems, Klasse also produces five more systems in order to cover most serger models.
Here’s an overview of all six types Klasse offers:
As we have previously mentioned, many tailors find it hard to reach a consensus on this issue. What we do know is that serger manuals are something one ought to stick to. The manuals contain a choice of overlock needles compatible with the serger in question. However, in case sticking to the manual is not what one prefers, then one ought to consider the following.
Now that we know that serger needles are not the same as sewing machine needles, another question arises — is it possible to use sewing machine needles in a serger?
Remember that two things are at stake here — the safety of the tailor and the finished product.
Using incompatible parts for any machine may prove hazardous to the user. Since needles can be especially harmful, it is best that we proceed with caution. To quote the usual adage: “It is better to be safe than sorry.”
On a different note, using parts that do not fit almost always results in a ruined product. Such a product is now useless, and your time and resources are wasted.
In our search for a definitive answer, we decided to consult some experts on the matter.
While there are users who definitely agree that is possible to use sewing machine needles in a serger, their opinions slightly vary.
Most experts agree that a relatively new serger (less than ten years old) will be just fine using sewing machine needles. What they do recommend, though, is turning the wheel manually a few times just to check that nothing sticks and that there aren’t any weird noises coming from the serger.
While the Singer ProFinish sergers should, by default, use Singer Serger Needles, some users report that they’ve successfully used Schmetz sewing machine needles. In fact, this does not apply only to the Schmetz Universal, but also Stretch, Topstitching, Jean and Ball Point needles as well.
The Tiny Serger model also takes regular sewing machine needles (style 2020, size 14). However, this is not the case for all Singer models, as some require special serger needles.
Babylock serger users also agree that regular sewing machine needles work just as well, without causing any problems.
Same goes for the Bernina sergers as well, which use the usual type of needle that fits most sewing machines: 130/705H. However, the JLx2 and the Bernina 5 are exceptions. Furthermore, some users of Bernina 5 report having been limited to Bernina needles only, as others tend to continuously break threads.
While it is safe to say that sergers can use regular sewing machine needles, it all depends on the model of the serger. Mind you, one brand of serger needles is not always compatible with different brands of sergers.
Most importantly, always proceed with caution when using a sewing machine needle in a serger. Any strange noises or movements should prompt you to stop immediately.
Though one should frequently clean their serger, there are fewer steps for general maintenance. It is necessary to use a large brush in order to brush the lint away.
Smaller angles can be dealt with using a Q-tip. In fact, the bottom of your serger is said to collect a ton of lint. One can also use dental floss or cotton thread to clean the tension disks. After brushing, a hair dryer or an air compressor should blow the rest of the grime away.
Oiling always comes after cleaning. Also, it is important to always use serger-specific oil and not to go overboard with it.
Finally, the table one works on should be clean, and while on it, one should also clean the floor.
Both sewing machine and serger needles come in many shapes and sizes. While their respective uses might vary depending on the type of fabric, one thing is for sure — sewing machine needles and serger needles are not the same. They serve different machines used for different types of work.
While it is possible to use sewing machine needles in a serger, tailors agree there are exceptions. That being said, we wholeheartedly suggest that you first study the manual well. However, if you do decide to experiment, thread carefully and good luck! May your sewing experience go as smoothly as possible.
We hope this article was helpful, and if it was, share it and tell us what kinds of needles you use on your serger in the comments below.