The Singer Tiny Serger: A Little Gem
In this post, I'll review the Singer Tiny Serger, a little gem of a machine that I only discovered recently. I have a full size serger, the Singer ProFinish, which I reviewed here. Before I bought my full-sized serger, I spent a lot of time agonizing over whether it was worth the cost, and ultimately, it was, because it made sewing much easier. You don't want your pieces to unravel as you wear them, and finishing raw edges with your sewing machine can be time-consuming. I went without a serger for awhile just because they're pricey, but if I'd known about the Tiny Serger, I'd have bought one immediately. I love this little guy.
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Where to Find the Singer Tiny Serger, Model TS 380
- Singer Tiny Serger: The easiest place to find this serger is on Ebay, but you can also check out Craigslist and your local second hand shops. On Ebay, with shipping, the total price is generally in the $50-60 range, but if you keep an eye out, you might find an even better deal. You can also find them on Amazon, but they're in the $90-150 range, at which point you could almost buy a regular serger, so I wouldn't buy them there. The Amazon page has some other reviews of the Singer Tiny Serger, though, so you can see what other people think of it.
How Tiny Is It?
The front is 6" wide, the sides are 6 1/4" in length, and it's 10 3/4" in height with the thread stand fully extended (the thread stand also folds down).
What Should Come with the Singer Tiny Serger?
Here's what to look for if you're buying this from a reseller. Make sure you have all of these items, especially the two cords for power and foot pedal.
- Spool caps with thread on spool pins
- Built-in accessories box with extra spool caps, threader, tweezers, and needles
- Power cord
- Foot pedal and cord (this is separate from the power cord)
Here's what it should look like:
Here are the main parts of the machine:
Free Copy of the Manual for the Singer Tiny Serger
Is your Tiny Serger missing its manual? Get a free pdf download from the Singer Sewing Company here.
How to Thread the Singer Tiny Serger
As mentioned earlier, there are two cords on this machine: one for power and one for the foot pedal.
The front cover comes off completely, rather than folding down like it does on my other serger. When you plug in just the power cord, a light comes on inside the machine to help you with threading. When you plug in the foot pedal cord, the threading light goes out. There's no built-in light for sewing.
The Tiny Serger has one needle and two loopers. You thread it in this order:
- Lower looper
- Upper looper
At certain points during the threading process, you'll have to turn the handwheel to move the loopers around to get them out of your way for threading.
You'll definitely need tweezers to thread this serger. The accessories tray comes with some tweezers, but I ended up using the tweezers that came with my other serger, which were a little smaller and gave me a better grip on the thread. If you have trouble threading this machine with the tweezers it comes with, try using slightly smaller ones.
Threading the machine from scratch is a little difficult, just because the space inside the machine is so cramped. The thread paths themselves are easy to follow, but maneuvering the thread in the small space is a bit difficult. It is doable; it just takes a bit of time and finesse to get the machine threaded properly. The open space between the side of the machine and the needle plate is a little less than one inch.
For easier threading, the manual recommends tying on new threads and advancing the new thread through the thread paths by turning the handwheel (see a tutorial here). Don't let your knot go through the needle, though, as it could break it.
How to Use the Singer Tiny Serger
It takes a regular sewing machine needle (style 2020, size 14), which is convenient. The flat side of the needle should face backward. I recommend getting Schmetz needles in bulk, as they're the most reliable and well made needles I've found.
The presser foot on this machine can't be removed, and you have to push the presser bar down to lift the foot, which takes a little getting used to, since you lift it up on most machines.
There are no numbers on the tension dials--just an indicator for more or less tension. I have a lot of vintage sewing machines, so I'm used to numberless dials. I set my dials to the default, which matches up the dots on the machine and the dial, and this seemed to work well on medium-weight cotton.
The thread stand can expand to fit bigger spools. Serger cones will fit on the spool pins, but they're a bit wobbly. On my other serger, I have spool holders on each of the spool pins, which do a better job of holding the cones in place, but you might want to make or buy a thread stand to put behind the machine if you want to use serger cones regularly.
There's no blade to cut the fabric as you serge, so you'll have to make sure your edges are nice and straight before you begin sewing. There is a fabric guide that helps you line things up to make sure the stitches are right on the edge of your fabric.
The Tiny Serger has two speed ranges, Lo and Hi, which is convenient.
Here's how it compares in size to my Singer ProFinish:
Here it is serging some fabric:
Here are the finished samples. The black thread is from the Singer Tiny Serger and white thread is from my Singer ProFinish.
The Tiny Serger makes a nice three thread overlock stitch! It's a lot better than I was expecting from such a tiny machine. The stitch is certainly on par with my regular serger.
Caring for and Troubleshooting the Singer Tiny Serger
The Tiny Serger should be oiled before or after each use.
And here is the troubleshooting chart from the manual:
Pros and Cons of the Singer Tiny Serger
In reviews I've seen of this tiny serger, people seem to either love it or hate it, so it has a polarizing effect. Personally, I love it, and I'm surprised that Singer stopped making them.
- Costs 1/3 to 1/4 the price of a regular serger. I hesitated to get a serger because of the expense, but if I'd known about the Singer Tiny Serger, I'd have bought one right away. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of a bigger machine, but it does a great job of finishing raw edges, which is mostly what I use my regular serger for.
- Takes standard sewing machine needles (style 2020, size 90/14), rather than specialized serger needles.
- Can use regular thread or serger thread. Thread stand expands to fit larger spools, and two different sizes of spool caps are included with the machine. Some people also add bigger thread stands behind the machine.
- Fabric guide is helpful for keeping your stitching right on the edge of your fabric.
- Threading light helps you see what you're doing inside the machine.
- Great for small spaces, travel, or just having a backup serger.
- Has two different speed ranges, which can both be used with the pedal (i.e, the slower speed goes from super slow to moderately slow with the pedal, while the higher speed goes from fast to faster with the pedal).
- There's an accessory compartment underneath the machine for handy storage.
- There's a threading diagram inside the machine.
- There's no knife, so there isn't a huge accumulation of fuzz and fluff every time you serge, and the machine doesn't require much cleaning.
- You can only find them used, so condition may be an issue. I can't speak to the hardiness of this serger--mine works great, but I might have gotten lucky to find one in good working condition.
- On a similar note, due to size and the fact that it's not made anymore, it would be difficult to get this machine repaired or serviced.
- The presser foot can't be removed. If you get a thread jam, it may be difficult to maneuver the fabric/thread out, especially since you can't keep the presser foot lifted without having to press on the lever.
- Only sews a three thread overlock stitch. You can't do flatlocking or rolled hems.
- No blade to cut the fabric as you go.
- No light for sewing (though it does have a light for threading).
- No free arm.
- Thread paths are not difficult to follow, but the space inside the machine is cramped, so threading takes a bit of finesse.
- Its top speed is not as fast as a regular serger, but it's still faster than using an overlock foot on your sewing machine.
- It might be more difficult to serge around curves or sharp edges, just because there's not a lot of room to maneuver.
- You can't adjust stitch length or width, and there's no differential feed.
The Final Verdict
It's not the fanciest serger out there, for sure, but I think it's a perfectly functional, useful machine that creates a nice-looking three thread overlock stitch. I love using some of the features on my big serger, but this one would fit my needs 90% of the time if I didn't have the Singer ProFinish Serger.
I thought the Singer Tiny Serger would be more like a toy or a curiosity, but it really impressed me with its functionality. If you need a simple serger, and you don't have a lot of space and/or money, this one is great!