Sergers, 3 thread or 4?

beverlyjulietbravoOctober 18, 2008

Hi everyone, I'm not new to sewing and serging but am interested in purchasing a second serger for my daughter and am thinking a 4 thread model would be preferable to a 3 thread. I've had mine, which is a 3 thread, since the 80s and haven't thought much about it, until I started shopping for another. What is the advantage to having 4 threads?

Also, I'm having a problem with not being able to make my seams tight enough with my present serger and am wondering whether that's due to being a chowderhead and not having the tensions adjusted right, or if it's due to an inherent characteristic of the 3 thread sergers. I make my own exercise wear and the seams on the legs of my stretch pants always pull apart so I just go over everything I've done with the serger with the sewing machine to make sure the stitching is tight enough. That's labor intensive so I'd rather avoid that step, either by figuring out what I'm doing wrong, or by buying the 4 thread serger if that's the issue.

Thanks in advance for your input.

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I would not purchase a 3 thread - at least get the four thread (one can always use only 3 threads, if they wish) .. I wish I had purchased the five thread!

In fact, i wish I had purchased the one that does the stitch that looks like the double row of stitching (overlock?) that you see on the hem of a T-shirt.


    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 4:06PM
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With the 3 thread you will always need to do the cover stitch. You want to look for a machine that does the cover stitch for you. I don't think any of the 4 thread sergers do that, only the 5 threads.

I love my 5 thread....


    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 4:06PM
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I would purchase a five thread myself. I have a four thread and it does fine but the stitch you want I've only seen on a five thread........ four thread machines can always be made down to a three my best advice is look at a five thread, but if you only want to purchase a four thread or three thread , buy a four thread.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 5:22PM
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Thanks everyone, I guess I just haven't been paying attention, now there's a FIVE thread serger.... So, just to make sure I get this right, the serging then is just to finish the edge, you always have to use a regular machine for the seam? I guess I've been lucky over the years that the stuff I've made didn't self-destruct and fall off in public since I've just been using the serger. Talk about being asleep at the wheel, sheesh.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 11:39AM
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Give your DD the 3 thread and buy yourself the 5 thread.Problem solved!! LOL

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 2:40PM
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I would suggest you get no fewer than a 4 thread serger. The one I have, a Viking 936, has 5 threads. The fifth thread is used to create a safety stitch, and that will prevent your seams from pulling apart for sure. It also will do a wide cover stitch (what you would see on the hem of a RTW t-shirt, for example), narrow cover stitch, and triple cover stitch (three needles, lower looper). It will do a rolled hem, useful for finishing the edge of napkins, etc. or finishing yards and yards of ruffles for square dance dresses that I sew.

The Viking 936 will let you put in the type and weight of fabric (lightweight woven, medium woven, heavy woven, lightweight knit, etc) and will figure out the tension settings for you, although you can also tweak them if necessary (I hardly ever find it necessary, tho).

Get the most expensive machine you can afford, but try to get it from a dealer who will give you invaluable lessons. Then take it home and thread it, thread it, and re-thread it until you are very comfortable doing so. Tying off is ok, but I find better stitch formation when I start from scratch each time.

Several goods books on the subject of sergers: "Creative Serging" by Bednar and van der Kley; "Serger Secrets" by various contributing authors; "Serge With Confidence" by Nancy Zieman (Nancy's Notions owner).

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 3:44PM
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Thanks Mary, as I said I'm no newcomer to serging and sewing, I've had this machine over 20 years, and I'm a part time boat canvas fabricator and sail repairer so I'm conversant on commercial and technical sewing machines. I just don't remember - 20 years ago when I bought this thing and took their class on how to use it - anything about needing to also use a sewing machine to secure the seam. I have quite a few books, and I've used this machine regularly over the years - mostly for finishing edges and making rolled hems and things, so it's not that I'm unfamiliar with its operation, just a misunderstanding about its fundamental purpose I guess. My stretch pants will get an extra going over with the sewing machine from now on, I don't want to end up walking around naked!

P.S. - I bought a four thread Huskylock from an ebay auction this weekend, it's probably a train wreck as most ebay machines are......but if I can get it functional I'm keeping it and giving the DD the 3 thread! Thanks for suggestion Kathi!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 11:27AM
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Hi, Beverlyjulietbravo,

I didn't mean to offend or disrespect your experience as a sewist. Just offering my humble opinions. I have not had to go over the seams with a sewing machine with a 4-thread overlock stitch. I can see where that's necessary with a 2- or 3-thread overlock, tho. I've only used them to finish the seam edges before constructing. I use the 2-thread overlock on seams where the fabric is lightweight and might press through. I hope your new machine is a good one! Always fun to get a new toy!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 9:55PM
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