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What Sergers Can’t Do: Explained (2024)

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things sergers cant do explainedAre you curious what sergers can and cannot do? If so, you’re not alone! Sergers are a great tool for sewing projects. But unfortunately, although they’re extremely handy, there are some tasks they just don’t excel at.

This article will go over the top things sergers cannot do—from creating buttonholes to dealing with zippers—so that when it comes time to tackle your next project, you know exactly which machine is best for the job.

Key Takeaways

  • Sergers cannot sew buttonholes due to a lack of attachments.
  • Facings on garments cannot be sewn with sergers, as they result in uneven finishes.
  • Blind hemming is impossible with a serger.
  • Sergers struggle with sewing zippers due to tension issues. The tension discs can have difficulty properly feeding and controlling the layers of fabric and zipper tape. This can lead to puckering, gathering, or stitch distortion. Careful adjustment of the tension settings, stitch length, and presser foot pressure may help, but sergers are really not ideal for installing zippers.

Sewing Buttonholes

Sewing Buttonholes
You can’t sew buttonholes with a serger since it lacks the necessary attachments. While sewing machines have specific attachments to perfectly measure, mark, and stitch the buttonholes, sergers simply don’t.

Without these specialized components, sergers are unable to create the bartacks that reinforce buttonholes or stitch around the hole in the precise manner required.

While sergers excel at finishing fabric edges quickly with their signature overlock stitch, buttonholes demand a level of precision and detail that sergers aren’t designed for.

You have a few options if your project needs buttonholes. For garments, it’s best to make the buttonholes with your regular sewing machine first before finishing the edges with a serger. For home decor items like pillows, you can hand-sew decorative buttonholes after construction instead.

While sergers are fantastic for many techniques, sewing strong, durable buttonholes is better left to your versatile sewing machine.

Sewing Facings

Sewing Facings
It’s a no-go for you to sew facings on garments using sergers, which results in uneven finishes.

Facings require precise stitching and tension to lie flat. Sergers can stretch facings unevenly.

Overlocking facings leaves messy thread loops along the facing edge. This looks unprofessional on the inside of a garment.

The knife cut of sergers trims facing seam allowances too closely. This leads to facings popping out and rolling along necklines or armholes.

Blind hemming is impossible with a serger. Machine blind hems give clean, invisible finishes on facings.

When sewing facings, opt for your trusty sewing machine over a serger. You’ll achieve flatter, neater results for professional garment finishes. Sew facings carefully with a narrow zigzag or blind hem stitch. Press well, understitch, and grade seam allowances.

Achieving clean neck and armhole finishes takes practice, but your sewing machine has the precision and options needed to master sewing facings.

Sewing Zippers

Sewing Zippers
Sewing zippers correctly requires adjustments sergers can’t make due to tension issues. Your serger may struggle with zippers due to its set tensions that differ from a sewing machine‘s. Using a zipper foot on your regular sewing machine allows more control. With the right presser foot, you can stitch close to zipper teeth.

Consider these solutions:

Challenge Serger Limitation Tips
Stitching close to teeth No zipper foot Use zipper foot on sewing machine
Adjusting tension Preset tensions Re-sew with sewing machine if needed
Securing zipper No reverse stitch Hand-sew a few backstitches at the bottom
Neat finishing Only oversews one side Use sewing machine for second row of stitching

In summary, while sergers have limits with zippers, you can still install them cleanly. Use your sewing machine and get creative with finishing stitches. The right tools and techniques make zipper installation smooth sailing.

Reverse Stitching

Reverse Stitching
Backstitching ain’t your serger’s cup of tea. A serger can’t reverse and reinforce stitches like a sewing machine. Without backstitching, seams and hems done with a serger may unravel. Sergers continuously feed fabric through cutting blades and loopers.

They lack reverse gears or levers to stitch backwards. The tension gets disrupted if attempting to manually back up fabric.

  • Thread bunching
  • Looped threads
  • Frayed seams
  • Weak seams

Unlike sewing machines, sergers focus on speed, efficiency and finishing edges. They excel at overlock stitches, rolled hems and preventing fraying. Sergers complement sewing machines for tasks like installing zippers, topstitching, and buttonholes.

While sergers work wonders on knits and stretch fabrics, sewing machines better handle structured sewn projects. For reinforced seams on apparel and home décor, rely on backstitching with a sewing machine over a serger’s fast overlocking.


Topstitching creates those beautiful lines of visible stitches on the outside of your project. Unlike sergers, sewing machines allow you to topstitch details that make your project stand out. While topstitching may seem daunting, don’t fret. Start by selecting the right topstitching thread and needle for your fabric.

Cotton and polyester threads add definition on denim, while all-purpose thread works for most woven fabrics. Tighten your machine’s top tension ever so slightly to keep the tension even and stitches flat.

Lengthen your stitch just a bit to 2.5-3mm for visible, defined stitches. Take it slow, keeping your speed steady. Guide the fabric gently, following marked seamlines. Don’t pull or push. Use an edge stitch foot for ultimate precision.

Topstitching requires a gentle touch, so be patient with yourself as you practice this elegant finish. With the right needles, threads, tension, and foot, you’ll be topstitching designs worthy of the runway in no time.

Though sergers excel at finishing edges quickly, they can’t add beautiful topstitched details.

Sewing on Either Side

Sewing on Either Side
The serger can’t sew both sides of your seam like your sewing machine can. With a serger you can only sew on one side, the right side, of the fabric. This makes perfect sense since the serger uses looping threads to bind and finish seams in one step.

But it limits what you can do design-wise. Want decorative topstitching on both sides of a jacket lapel? Need to sew on binding or trim that covers the seam’s wrong side? Have a project with pieces sewn right sides together then flipped right side out? Your trusty sewing machine is the tool for those jobs.

While the serger saves time finishing edges quickly with an overlock stitch, doing those narrow hems and mock flatlock seams, its mechanics mean it can’t form traditional seams or decorative stitches on both sides of fabric.

Knowing what your serger can and can’t handle lets you decide when it’s the best choice over your sewing machine and vice versa. Play to their strengths – serger for edges and stretch fabrics, sewing machine for details, closures, and seam options.

Sergers Vs. Sewing Machines

Sergers Vs. Sewing Machines
As a sewing machine technician, let me explain the key differences between sergers and regular sewing machines. Although sergers excel at finishing edges and sewing stretchy fabrics with their overlocking stitches, they cannot completely replace your trusty sewing machine for all-purpose sewing.

Read on to learn when each machine is the better choice and how sergers function to complement sewing projects with their specialized abilities.

When to Use a Serger Vs a Sewing Machine

You’ll want to use your sewing machine instead of your serger when constructing the main structure of a project, like sewing darts, inserting zippers, and joining major seams. A serger can finish edges quickly, but it lacks versatility. Focus your serger on its strengths like rolled hems and overcasting edges while relying on your sewing machine for construction basics.

Can a Serger Replace My Regular Sewing Machine?

You’d be hard pressed to find a serger that can replace your regular sewing machine, as sergers simply can’t perform certain essential tasks like sewing on zippers or buttonholes that you’ll need for most sewing projects.

While sergers excel at finishing edges and preventing fraying, their specialized nature means they lack the basic functionality of regular sewing machines. Focus on finding the right serger for finishing edges and seams after your main sewing is complete with your regular machine.

All About Sergers

You’ve got specialized abilities for finishing edges and difficult fabrics with your serger.

  • Thread Looper
  • Cut Fabric
  • Finish Seams
  • Handle Stretch Fabrics

Power and understanding come from mastering your serger. Experiment with specialty stitches to decorate hems or add professional touches to your sewing projects. With practice, you’ll maximize its specialized strengths while knowing when your trusty sewing machine is still needed too.


It’s clear that sergers are extremely useful for many sewing projects, from making strong seams to creating decorative edges. However, they have limitations. Sergers can’t create internal buttonholes, sew facings, or zip up correctly.

It’s important to know a serger’s limitations to make the most of it and use the right machine for the job. While a serger’s great for many projects, it can’t replace a regular sewing machine for complex projects with multiple parts.

Knowing the key differences between sergers and sewing machines is the first step to ensuring you have the right tools for your projects.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.