What To Look For When Buying A Serger:

You know, if you buy a cheap serger from a box store, you will be very frustrated.  So don't!  What is the difference?  "Tolerance."  

When a machine is manufactured, the manufacturer sets a tolerance level.  "Low tolerance," means they don't tolerate any sloppiness in the manufacturing process.  A "low tolerance" factory will make a quality machine.  The metal has to meet a certain quality.  The parts have to fit together tightly, without any "play."  You can detect a serger that's made in a "high tolerance" factory (where they allow sloppiness), by grabbing the needle bar and see if it will wiggle forward and backward.  If it wiggles forward and backward, we can't set the needle/looper distance (a timing setting), because it's variable.  If the metal is cheap, the screws strip, and the parts wear out quickly.  It then becomes a disposable machine.  When you take a cheap machine in for a repair, we don't have much to work with.  Sometimes we will tell you it isn't worth the cost of having it repaired, because we CAN fix it, but it won't STAY fixed.

Three features that you really want on a serger are 1) a built-in rolled hem, 2) differential feed, and 3) a tall thread rack.

#1  The rolled hem is such a great way to finish a raw edge.  You can use it to finish the edge of a ruffle, instead of folding it in half.  You can finish table linens or anything else that you don't want to put a hem on.  On most machines, there's a switch in the front that's pushed forward for regular serging, and pulls back for a rolled hem.

#2  Differential feed means that you have 2 feed dogs.  The front feed dog goes the same speed all the time.  The back feed dog can be adjusted to go faster or slower.  So, if you're sewing on a stretchy fabric, and you don't want it to stretch out and be wavy, you can slow down that back feed dog.  However, if you do want it to stretch out and make a "lettuce leaf edge," you can make the back feed dog go faster.  Also, if you're sewing with a non-stretchy fabric, and you want to gather it up a bit, you can slow down the back feed dog, and it will gather it.  You'd need a gathering foot to get deep gathers, though.

#3  A tall thread rack may seem like a little thing, but the taller the thread rack, the nicer the thread feeds off of the spool.  And it is sooooo important for the thread to feed well off of the spools.  If it doesn't feed well, where the threads are supposed to lock on the edge, will wave. 

I'd like to show you a few things about serger repair.

Here's a common problem we see with sergers.  There are 2 pins in the needle plate that hold the fabric stable as the stitch is formed.  Sometimes they get bent or broken off.  Sometimes you can bend the bent pin back in place.  The pin on the left is too bent, and will have to be replaced.  The pin on the right is broken off, and will also have to be replaced.  Some sewing machine mechanics are willing to replace these pins, others will just have you buy a whole new needle plate.


I worked on this serger a couple days ago.  The woman says she sews on flannel every day.  If you'll look closely at the needle plate, you can see that the center support is broken out and pokes up in the front.  And the support between the pins is broken and pushed down.  The cause of the break is the amount of lint that's packed into the feed dogs.  WOW!  That's a lot of lint!

You can click on the image to get a closer look.

Moral of the story...  it's a great idea to remove the needle plate, and clean out the lint every once in a while.


Sometimes the thread pullers get knocked out of whack.  And no matter how much you mess with the tensions, you won't get a  good stitch.  This is a Bernette, but is the same on most Berninas.

In this picture, the thread puller is knocked out of position.

Here, I've loosened the black screw, and moved the arm so it's even with the looper arm behind it, then re-tightened the screw.
If you have a Bernina or Bernette serger, this is a simple thing you can do yourself!  


When sergers sit unused for a long time, the old oil will turn into a gummy mess.  So, if you can't turn the handwheel, that usually means you have a gummy mess inside.  Then we have to remove the old oil with a "solvent," remove the solvent and whatever it disolved, then re-oil.

To prevent this from happening to your serger, just get it out and use it every month.

This poor serger!  Its owner should be reported to the sewing machine abuse council!

Strike 1:  Bad thread.
Strike 2:  The thread rack is on backwards -- the thread needs to pull straight up off of the cone.
Strike 3:  The far left spool pin is broken off.
Strike 4:  The pad under the spool pin is falling apart.

Strike 5:  The thread puller is out of position.

This is a great serger!  We'll just clean it up and it will run like new.

After its been cleaned and oiled, we'll put the thread puller back in place.
Then we need to repair the spool pin.  I cut a spool pin off of another machine that was in the "bone yard."  

I used a Dremmel to make a hole through the bottom of the base.  Then I used the Dremmel to hollow out the spool pin.  

Select a screw that will stick up about 1/2" past where the old spool pin broke off.  Make sure the screw and hollow spool pin with fit together nicely.

Mix up some 5 minute epoxy, and put it inside the hollow spool pin.  Screw the new spool pin on, and let it sit until hardened.  Clean up any excess glue.

Not a very good picture, but you can see the position of the thread rack.  It even has a sticker on it that tells which side should go towards the front.

Didn't have time to take more pictures, but it sewed-off beautifully!


Skipping Stitches and Tension
(A reply to Anne B. that may be helpful to someone else.) 

The first thing we need to check when a machine is skipping stitches, is the needles.  Have you put new needles in?  And are they pushed all the way up?  When pushed all the way up, the needle on the right will be a little longer than the needle on the left.  Some Singer sergers take a very specific needle.  Go wherever Singer needles are sold, then look for the serger needles.  They’re different from other brands because the top of the shank is very small.  Use a size 75 to 90 needle.

The next thing to check is the needle guard.  This is under the needle plate and is like a shield on both sides of the needle (front and back).  Do the needles hit the needle guard?  That’s something you can adjust.

Then make sure there are no burrs or damaged needle plate pins.

If you’ve checked all of this, and you’re still skipping stitches, it’s time to take it to the shop to have the timing adjusted.  That’s something you don’t want to try yourself.  If you scramble the timing, it would be a disaster.

It sounds like the Juki’s timing is waaay out, or it has the wrong needles in it.  The older Juki’s also take a very specific needle, the BLx1.  The newer Juki’s take a regular Schmetz or Bernina        130 705H.  Use a size 75 to 90 needle.

The timing settings on a serger are quite complicated.  #1.  The needle bar has to be the right height.  #2.  The lower looper has to take the thread off the back of the needles, and hit just above the needle eyes.  #3.  The upper looper has to take the thread off the front of the needles, and hit just above the needle eyes.  #4.  The loopers have to be very close, but not touch, and the lower looper has to cross behind the upper looper, just under the bump.  #5.  Both loopers need to come very close to the needles, but not touch.  #6.  The feed dogs need to be going down at the same time the needles are just about even with the needle plate.  #7.  The cutting arm needs to be in sinc with the feed dogs.

As for the tensions, you’ve got to start with a good thread.  A couple that we’ve had trouble with are Mediera and Guterman.  There’s also some that comes on a very big cone, and is very stiff (don’t know the brand).  If you use Maxilock, you’ll always get your best stitch.  Then make sure the thread is pulling straight up, off of the cone.  The easier it comes off of the cone, the better your stitch will be. 

Turn the tension dials to zero, then blow them out with an air compressor or canned air.  Then put them all on 3, and start adjusting them by how your stitch looks.   

Start with the needle tensions.  They are the straight lines on the back of the fabric.  If they’re looping, tighten the tension.  If they’re pulling too tight, loosen them.   

Then work with your loopers.  You want the ridge, where the stitches lock together, to be balanced on the edge of the fabric.  If the ridge is coming tightly to the front, loosen the front.  If it’s coming loosely to the front, tighten the back.  If it’s coming tightly to the back, loosen the back.  If it’s coming loosely to the front, tighten the back.

I hope there’s something here you can use.


  1. The rolled hem is such a great way to finish a raw edge. You can use it to finish the edge of a ruffle, instead of folding it in half. You can finish table linens or anything else that you don't want to put a hem on. embroidery machine reviews

  2. I have an Elna dcpro5 serger. I love the machine. Yesterday I discover 2 spool pins were broken. how can I fix them?

  3. Why is my differential feed stuck? It won't move I can serge overlock but no gathering or anything that requires a cxhange in the differential feed.

  4. I have a simplicity easy lock 850. Purchased used. The feeder dogs do not seem to move? Any suggestions?

  5. I have a simplicity easy lock 850. Purchased used. The feeder dogs do not seem to move? Any suggestions?

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. My first guess would be that the feed dogs are packed with lint. So you’d need to remove the needle plate and clean any lint in the feed dog area. My second guess would be to check the stitch length, which would be inside the left side cover. Loosen the screw and slide the indicator to about 2 1/2. My third guess would be that the feed linkage is frozen up. Nothing that a little WD-40 can’t take care of.
    My first guess would be that the feed dogs are packed with lint. So you’d need to remove the needle plate and clean any lint in the feed dog area.
    My second guess would be to check the stitch length, which would be inside the left side cover. Loosen the screw and slide the indicator to about 2 1/2.
    My third guess would be that the feed linkage is frozen up. Nothing that a little WD-40 can’t take care of.

  8. Any chance you know where I can purchase the pins that go in a needle plate? It seems easy enough to just replace the pins. Mine bent and I have purchased two entire needle plates that don't fit well.

  9. It depends on what brand your serger is. I can get Bernina (and Juki) pins easily enough from Bernina. But any other brand I’d have to get from Brewer, and they just don’t exist through Brewer. Bernina pins are too thick to fit in other brands. So you’d need to call the dealer for your particular serger brand.

    1. Hello! I have had a pin on my Bernina 2000de come off. It's not bent and the needle plate looks good. How does one re-attach the pin? Thank you!! Susan

    2. Hi Susan,

      You can glue the pin back in with super glue or a 5 minute epoxy. The first thing I do is clean the grove out with a small screw driver. Then remove the parts off the back of the needle plate. Have a pair of big pliers handy – I like to use channel locks. Use a big pin to put a little glue all along the grove. Both pins should be sticking out about the same length. Then squeeze the pin into the groove with the pliers. Wipe away the excess glue – top and bottom. When the glue dries, you can scrape it off with your fingernail or a small screwdriver. Then put the parts back on the back of the needle plate.

      Good luck with your repair!

    3. Annette, I can't thank you enough for your quick reponse! I really like to fix things around the house and I'm very excited to have come across your blog. Your directions are great and I'm excited to tackle this repair! It was killing me to wait for a repair. Susan

  10. Hi, I have a Singer 5 thread that won't feed fabric unless I place upward pressure on the leading edge of the pressure foot with my finger. It doesn't matter what pressure foot I use, I have the same issue. The machine will not feed fabric on its own. Any ideas as to what is wrong? It is clean. The stitch length is set to normal as or all the other settings. I just received this machine (used); however, the previous owner swears it works. It is several years old and was only used 3 times. Thank you.

  11. Hi Vicky,

    My first guess would be that the presser foot tension is turned too low. The knob on the top, left side of your machine would be the presser foot tension. Turn that to the second from the highest number. My second guess would be that the presser foot shaft is gummed-up. A little WD-40 on the shaft would fix that pretty quick. One more thought would be the feed dogs may not be coming up high enough. I’ve seen needle plates packed with so much lint, they bow upwards, so the feed dogs are barely showing. I’ve seen some break, too. Another thing that keeps the fabric from feeding, is having burrs on the needle plate, stitch finger or support pins. Take the foot off and see what shape the needle plate is in. If there are rough spots, you can polish them with a very fine sandpaper (about 400-600 grit).

    I hope you're able to get your serger going.

    1. I took my serger into the shop and it is the needle plate. It will have to be replaced. Thank you so much!

  12. I have a BabyLock SE200 that has been sitting in my closet for a (shameful) number of years. It was a gift all those years ago and I never really learned how to use it. It was used when I received it but had been serviced by my local sewing machine store. I pulled it out tonight hoping to watch some YouTube videos and figure out how to use it. I got the thing threaded and it seems to be working just fine motor-wise, but the feed dogs won't engage and move the fabric through. I lifted the presser foot to look at them and they don't do anything. I'm assuming that this many years of not being used the oil is all gunked up. I'm willing to spray a little WD-40 to see if I can get things moving, but I don't know WHERE to spray it. I'm not sure exactly what's supposed to move.

    Also, would you happen to know if any of the more modern machines have presser feet that are compatible? The feet I have are the snap in kind, so I wondered if I could use any feet of that type.


  13. Hi Steph,

    If you remove the needle plate, you may be able to get to the feed dog linkage with the straw on the WD-40 can.

    Most modern sergers have snap-on feet, but not all brands are compatible with each other.

    1. Thank you for the reply. My son and I got inside the machine and sprayed WD40 on some random things and got it working again. Now to get the tension adjusted. Wish me luck! I just need some time to play with it. Thank you again for the time and effort you put in to answering everyone's questions.

  14. I have a singer serger. Was working fine but now the thread will not catch the fabric. Loops just fine without

  15. Hi Halen,

    When a serger makes a chain without fabric, but not with fabric, there’s something that’s just a little off. First, replace both needles, then re-thread the serger and make sure everything is threaded like it should be, and be sure it isn’t tangling on the thread rack. Then check the tensions and make sure they haven’t been moved too high. It should be somewhere between 3.5 and 5.5. Next, make sure your needles are both pushed up as high as they can go. The needle on the right will be a little longer than the needle on the left. If that doesn’t fix the problem, then there’s a timing setting that’s off. Most repair shops charge $80 to $125 to time a serger. You have to decide if your machine is worth putting that much money into, or if you’d be better off putting your money on a better serger. With those Singer sergers, we can re-set the timing, but it’s very likely to go out again, pretty quickly. The quality of metal they use in those machines just can’t hold a timing setting.

  16. Thank you. I have already tried with the threading, needles, I guess it's the timing.

  17. Hi I have a 5 thread singer server 14T967dc the machine will not chain thread anymore.I did have a jam which I cleared up now it will not chain is it possible one or both the loopers are off set?

  18. I hate to say it, but Singer has no business making a 5-spool serger. If it’s new, take it back and get your money refunded. If it’s old, don’t put any more time or money into it. Get a new machine. OR, get a used Bernina or Juki or Huskylock or anything else. If you want a chain stitch machine, buy a chain stitch machine, not a 5-spool anything. If you want a cover lock machine, get a cover lock machine, not a 5-spool machine.

  19. I recently picked up a singer professional 14u12 at a thrift store. The plastic has yellowed and it was pretty clear by the dust covering it that it hadn't been used in a while. Even so it looks decently taken care of and even had the manual so we got it.

    I spent a couple hours today dusting/cleaning/oiling and re-threading it. And when I started it up it was super slow to start almost like it was locked up. After cranking the wheel a bit it started to run albeit slow but it had a perfect stitch on my little tester fabric. It never really picked up speed and then started to smoke. A lot of things I'm looking up are saying it's probably just dust or residue that needs to burn off, yet it worries me to do that if there could be something else going on.

    I'm super handy with things is there anyway you could help me figure out which step I should take next? Should I open it up to see if it's just dust/old oil or should I try and see if I can "burn it off"?

    I just don't want it blowing up on me but I'm confident if it's a somewhat simpler deep cleaning dusting I could handle it myself.

  20. Hi Christine,

    If it’s stiff to turn the handwheel by hand, then it needs a good dose of WD-40. If the handwheel turns easily, then it’s probably just the motor burning dust, and the smell should go away after it’s been used for a while.

  21. Hi Annette!
    I have a Brother 1034d that I use at least once a week. Today I was working with it and a pin head got caught between the presser foot at the very back and the feed dogs. I thought I had cleared the pin, but no. After I pulled everything out and started again, the machine was feeding the fabric verrrrry slowly, so that the serged edge looked like a satin stitch! The stitches looked perfect, just very close together. No change in the differential feed or presser foot pressure seemed to make a difference. I opened everything up and cleaned it out, still no difference. The feed dogs appear to be moving correctly and coming all the way out. Any thoughts?


  22. Hi Beth,

    Did you try to adjust the stitch length? I wonder if the pin head jammed the stitch length linkage. If adjusting the stitch length doesn’t make a difference, your machine will need to go to the shop. That ‘s something you don’t want to mess with.

  23. I have a Bernette 334DS. It was serging perfectly the other night and then bam! it jammed up for seemingly no apparent reason. I have cleaned it, rethreaded, put in new needles, checked the plate pins, etc. I have watched the loopers move and they are both moving where they are suppose to, but it will not make a chain now. The thread moves through fine, just won't make a chain. Does this sound like a timing issue or something else? Much appreciate any help you can give before I have to resort to taking it in.

  24. Hi Melissa,

    Yes, it sounds like a timing issue. The first thing to check, is to make sure the needles are all the way up. The needle on the right should hang down a little lower than the left needle. If the needles are in right, and it still won’t form a stitch, then you’ll need to take it to the shop to have the timing adjusted.

    Those old 334DS sergers are pretty great machines.

    Good luck to you!

  25. Thank you for all the help. I took her in and turns out it was the lower looper timing. They fixed her all up and now she is serging great!

  26. Hello! I have a Bernina 2000DE that was a hand-me-down from my MIL. I don't recall ever having two pins in my needleplate, but I did have one and it's gone AWOL. Do you sell parts or know where I can find them? I just need the pins from this plate, but all I'm finding is the complete plate for nearly $100. And Bernina doesn't even list this model on its site anymore. I'm desperate!

    1. I managed to McGyver something out of a boutonniere pin and a doll needle, but I'm hoping to find something a little more secure. Any suggestions?

    2. Hi Indywriter,

      I didn't see your comment until just now. The part number for the roll hem pin is 502010.00.79. That's the pointed one on the right. The stitch plate pin is 502010.00.43. Any Bernina dealer can order these for you and ship them.

    3. Thanks so much for helping!! When I called my local dealer, they said these pins were parts for the 2000DCE and likely wouldn't fit my 2000DE. I know that these two machines have different needle plates, but do you think the same size pins will work? They'll order them for me, but won't take them back if they're the wrong size.

      Thanks again!!

    4. Your posts don't come to my email for some reason.

      All of the Bernina stitch plate pins are interchangeable. They want to sell you a whole new needle plate. They probably have never replaced the pins on a serger, or they would know that! There are long pins and short pins. If the pin is too long, you can grind it down.

  27. wow, you are awesome for sharing this info! thanks!
    I do have a problem with my 25 year old Juki 634DE. Trying to find the reason for breaking Right needle thread led me to listen for frequent "tink" sounds, which led me to tutorials on timing, which led me to get out the magnifying glass to closely examine the workings of loopers, needles etc.
    My problem is this: both needles are slightly askew. I'm unsure which is out of whack, but the Left needle is a slight footstep ahead of the Right needle (or perhaps the Right one is a small step behind). They are not both completely straight up and down.
    This makes one hit the upper looper on the uptake, and the other hits the lower looper on the downswing.
    I've tried 3 sets of brand new needles - Schmetz Universal 80/12 and 90/14 - and they all sit with this odd angle. I took out the tiny screws which hold the needles and one had a point on it, which I honed down just in case it was pushing the needle to one side, and have switched screws Right to Left and back; still the same angle.
    Thinking that the needle holes need cleaning out...? Any ideas?
    I'll be following you from now on!

  28. Hi Sandra,

    The needles on a serger are supposed to be different lengths. If you hold your right hand out in front of you, and point your pointer and middle finger down (close the other fingers), that’s what your needles should look like. The right needle should be a little lower than the left needle.

    If needles and loopers are “tink-ing” against each other, then the timing definitely needs to be adjusted. I don’t recommend that you try adjusting the timing yourself. It can get scrambled pretty quick if you don’t know what you’re doing.

  29. I have a White 534 and the wicking string for the oil has broken so it won't oil the parts properly. Do you think I can just use any cotton string to replace it? And also, my hand wheel won't turn so where exactly do I clean out the gunk. (I actually have 3 White 534's because I love them).

  30. I have an old White 534, too! One of the best back in its time!

    The wick inside the machine isn’t necessary. You can oil it manually if you remove the top and bottom covers.

    If your handwheel doesn’t turn, your serger is probably frozen-up with old oil. Sergers are particularly susceptible to freezing-up if they aren’t used regularly. That’s when we use WD-40. If you have any of the wick in place, you need to keep the WD-40 off of the wick or it’s reservoir. Here’s a link to how I use WD-40 on sewing machines. You’d spray all of the metal parts that move. The difficult part is removing the WD-40. We use an air compressor. So if you have access to one, that works best.

    Good luck to you!