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The Fail-Proof Guide for How to Thread a Serger

Looking for instructions on how to thread a serger? You are in the right place! Refresh your memory with these simple instructions and you will be overlocking again before you know it.

Materials Needed to Thread a Serger

The machine used for this tutorial is a Kenmore Model 385.16622. Other machines will be similar, but may have slight differences. If you have questions, please refer to your specific machine’s manual.

How to thread a serger

This tutorial will cover threading a simple serger with four threads. You can follow this tutorial for a three thread stitch as well, omitting the instructions for the fourth needle as indicated in your machine’s manual.

You will need:

  • Serger
  • 4 thread spools
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Scrap of fabric for testing
  • Recommended: Your machine’s manual

Step 1: First, place the spools of thread

Serger with 4 Spools and raised Guide Bar

Turn off and unplug your serger. View your serger from the top and add one spool of thread to each spool holder. Pull up the telescoping thread guide (A) to prepare it for threading.

Step 2: Thread the left needle

Left Needle thread in Guide Bar

Bring the left-most spool thread up and through the thread guide (A) from back to front and then back again.

Left Needle thread in Guide Plate

Take the thread through the guide plate (B). The thread goes down through the left hole and back up through the right hole.

Left Needle thread in Tension Dial

Next, use two hands to pull the thread back and forth over the tension dial (C). Pull the thread toward the left and back and forth gently four or five times to engage the tension discs.

Left Needle thread in Take-Up Lever

Draw the thread over and down through the take-up lever (D).

Left Needle thread in Thread Guide

Bring the thread down through the thread guide (E)…

 Threaded Left Needle

…and then through the left needle (F).

Left Needle Thread pulled to back

Finish by pulling the left needle thread under the presser foot and to the back of the machine.

Step 3: Thread the right needle

Right Needle thread in Tension Dial

Working with the second spool from the left, bring thread up and through the right needle’s thread guide position (G), guide plate position (H) and finish by engaging the right needle’s tension dial (J).

Right Needle thread in thread guide

Draw the thread down and to the left through the right needle thread guide (K).

Threaded Right Needle

Bring the thread over and down through the take-up lever (L), thread guide (M) and thread the right needle (N). Draw the thread under the presser foot and to the back of the machine.

Step 5: Thread the lower looper

This is the most involved part of threading a serger. Follow the steps carefully. You are almost finished!

Lower Looper in Guide Bar and Guide Plate

Use thread from the rightmost spool to thread through the lower looper’s position on the thread guide (O) and guide plate (P).

 Lower Looper in Tension Dial

Bring the thread through the looper thread guide (Q) and engage the lower looper tension dial (R) as with the needle threads before.

Lower Looper in Thread Guide 1

Move the thread to the left and up and over thread guide 1 (S).

Opening Looper cover

Open the machine’s looper cover (T).

Lower Looper in Thread Guide 2

Continue to draw the thread through thread guides 2 (U)…

Lower Looper in Take-up Lever and Thread Guide 3

…and then through the lower looper take-up lever (V), and thread guide 3 (W).

Close-up of Thread Guide 5

Open the left side cover. Rotate the hand wheel until you can see thread guide 5 (X). It is behind the silver knife release knob (Y).

Pull Thread through to Guide 5 with tweezers

Draw the thread through the machine from right to left with your tweezers.

Lower Looper threading through Thread Guide 5

Draw the thread through the hole in thread guide 5 (X).

Pull Thread through to Lower Looper with tweezers

Bring the thread back to the right side of the machine with your tweezers.

Hold Thread and Rotate Handwheel to view Lower Looper

Hold the thread and rotate the handwheel (Z) until the lower looper (AA) appears on the right side of the machine.

Close-up of Lower LooperThreaded Lower Looper

Thread the lower looper (AA). Draw the thread under the presser foot and to the back of the machine.

Lower Looper Thread pulled to back

Step 5: Finally thread the upper looper

Only one more thread to go — you’ve already threaded three-quarters of your machine!

Upper Looper thread in Thread Guide

As with the other three threads, bring the last spool’s thread (second from the right) through the thread guide and guide plate (BB). Also, draw it through the upper looper thread guide (CC).

Upper Looper Thread in Tension Dial

Engage the thread in the upper looper tension dial (DD)…

Upper Looper Thread in Thread Guide 1

…and up and to the left through thread guide 1 (EE).

Upper Looper Thread in Thread Guide 2

Bring the thread down through thread guide 2 (FF)…

Upper Looper Thread in Upper Take-up Lever

…and upper take-up lever (GG).

Threaded Upper Looper

Thread the upper looper (HH) from front to back.

All Threads Pulled to Back

Draw the thread to the back of the machine.

Threaded 4 Thread Serger

Your serger is threaded!

Now it’s time to test your machine

Serged Knit Test Swatch

Turn the machine on and stitch through a small scrap of fabric. If all is well, you will be rewarded with a neatly stitched row of overlocked stitches!

Tip: If your stitching does not look as it should, check your machine manual and go over the thread paths to ensure they are all correct. Your tension, stitch length and differential feed can make a difference, so double-check that they are correct as well.

serger stitches

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This is exactly backward of any serger threading instructions I have seen. They all say thread the upper looper first, then the lower, then the needles and it doesn’t matter which of those you do last. Has anyone tried this method?

Sherri Sylvester

Hi J. Thanks for commenting. Yes, I do this a bit unconventionally. Since the upper and lower looper threads don’t cross with the needle threads I like to do the needle threads first. Threading a serger is a lengthy process, and since the needle threads are simpler, it feels like you have threaded half the machine before you begin the trickier upper looper!

Sandra Mundt

Everything I have read threads a server in the reverse order to what you have here. That is upper looper, lower looper, right needle, left needle.

Sherri Sylvester

Hi Sandra. Yes! Conventionally, this is the order most commonly used. And, when in doubt it is best to follow your machine manual. My reasoning is that the looper and needle threads don’t cross, so it is nice to have the simpler needle threads finished before beginning the trickier looper threading.

Sue Young

From my experience, if you follow these instructions on most machines you are destined to fail. All of the machines I have seen must be threaded in this order: Lower Looper, Upper Looper, then the needle threads. The only way I know threading the needles first is if you don’t actually put the thread into the needles before you thread the Loopers first. Just saying’…

Sherri Sylvester

Thanks for commenting Sue. I have posted an unconventional order for sure. My reasoning is that since the needle and looper thread paths don’t cross I like finishing their simper threading first, before tackling the more complex looper threading.

Sharon Learned

Great tutorial on threading your serger; however on the newer machines you have to start from the right and go to the left in order to thread the machine.

Sherri Sylvester

Good to know Sharon! Thank you for commenting and taking the time to share your experience.

J Bryan

I agree — my Brother 1034D, a very common entry-level serger, threads upper looper, lower looper, right thread, left thread. I’ve sometimes got away with threading the needles in reverse order, but otherwise that is the way it has to be, else bad things happen. Your Kenmore must be different.

Sherri Sylvester

Thank you J Bryan. I have had great success with this unconventional threading order. I’m glad you know which order your machine works best in! Glad you shared your experience.

Wezi Foster

This is not the way my serger works. lower looper is first then lower looper; the needles are last. I have had both Bernina and Pfaff.

Sherri Sylvester

Thanks Wezi. Great to know! This way has worked well for me, but it is always best to follow the directions for your machine.


Wow. And here I was going to save these instructions because I always have trouble with my serger. I figured it’s because it’s old. Now I’m wondering about the comments of this being the wrong way. I hope the author comes on and says something. I pretty sure we won’t get personal responses. I’ve commented on these blog posts before with questions and never get responses.

K D Kelbert

Is this an early April Fools Joke???? Picture “U” shows the official threading diagram. Kind of backwards instructions seeing if we were all awake.

Sherri Sylvester

Hi Kathleen. Thanks so much for letting me know. If I’ve missed one of your earlier comments, I’d be happy to answer it! As far as the serger instructions, they have worked well for me. It is an unconventional approach to the threading, but I find it’s nice to thread the simpler needles first, then go on to the more complex looper threading path. If you have the manufacturer’s manual, or you can find it online, those instructions are always the best.


They are wrong follow these instructions and you will have problems.


We have 2 Brother’s and a Juki they all say lower then upper then the needles as does our fabric store. These instructions are wrong.

Sheryll Seidel

I have an older Kenmore very much like this. It is a work horse. I have never threaded the needles first, but I honestly don’t believe that will matter. However, I do agree, the book has you threading it in reverse order. The author did miss one thread guide next to HH. Other than that, I think she did a much better job explaining how to thread this serger than the manual. I have a jet air threading serger now. Better for my older eyes! Still, I won’t get rid of my workhorse!

Nan March

Threading a serger seems specific to the type of serger you have. Maybe have a few instructional variations for different serger types.
I was looking forward to a refresher, but this is totally different from my Viking threading instructions.

Simone Thompson

Oh thank you very much! I have acquired an older machine that did not come with a manual. It is the first serger I have every owned. I have used other people’s machines but have never had to thread a machine. This is very clear and helpful. I did see the one thread guild that was missed (as pointed out in one comment) which is near the HH location. Thanks for taking the time to put this tutorial together.


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