Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Portland, Oregon
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I would say that you need a sewing machine and that a serger would be a bonus. But it does depend on what you're sewing and what your budget is (or the serger that you have/are getting).
Basic sergers just serge. The more expensive ones also do hems, etc. But changing the threading is time-consuming on a serger and not on a machine.
I have a Pfaff serger that does the hems, etc. And I have a Husqvarna basic sewing machine which has served me well. I've had the machine for 11 years and the serger for a few months.
I like the serger for use with knit fabrics, etc. It does make sewing faster, if I'm doing a lot of it. I tend to cut out a lot of different projects then sew them all at once, being carefully organized on thread color and threading (i.e., hem, rolled hem, overedge stitch).
As an example, I'm making a girls romper with matching hat. I put together the seams of the romper on the serger, but the rest has been done on the machine. My serger does not do buttonholes, and it's hard to do fine curves using the serger, I find. When I do pajamas, I can do them on the serger entirely but sometimes it's not worth the effort. For small leg holes (like for kids' clothes, it's easier to do it on the machine because I can take the tray off and then the pantleg will fit around the base of the machine, whereas with the serger, I have to sew a few stitches then move the fabric, etc. For a very simple winter cap, though, I could use the serger and it was so fast and easy (fleece fabric).
So I'd say go with the machine if budget is a concern and if you'll be doing more intricate work (clothing, etc.).
The serger finishes off edges nicely (even e.g., when I'm making cloth napkins and can use a rolled hem) and quickly (after the threading, that is!), and it's great for knits because it has a stitch that has 'give' to it just like the knit fabrics.
OK. That's plenty of response and my son wants my attention!