Sergers: info and tips
I have received so many questions on sergers recently, I thought it would be a good topic to post. So you bought a serger and have no idea what to do with it. Maybe you’re afraid to take it out of the box. Or maybe you’ve seen one and can’t figure out what all those threads would be for. Perhaps, you’re puzzled when you hear other sewing enthusiasts rave about a serger. Why a serger when we already have really good sewing machines out there? What’s the difference?
A serger should be the work horse of your sewing room. Sergers are designed to be used for utility work. The sewing speed of a serger is faster, and can be 3 or 4 times that of your sewing machine. These machines stitch with multiple spools of thread at one time. A serger has more “oooomph” or torque on the needles, givng it more power to get through heavier or thicker fabrics. Sergers stitch a stronger seam in less time. And it’s a nicer looking, neater seam than your sewing machine. Also, sergers automatically cut and finish a seam at the same time! Whether you are a quilter, a crafter, or a garment maker, EVERY sewing enthusiast should think about investing in a serger!
Sergers / overlock machines often appear very intimidating when you first see one. The multiple thread spools sticking up from the back of the machine can be scary. And, if you like to sew, then I am sure you have heard at least one “serger threading” horror story! Get over your fears! Sergers are not as complicated as they look. Sergers are fun and fast, easy and efficient. And once you try one, you will want one. When you understand and see everything you can do with a serger, it will move to the top of your sewing wish list. Let’s see what a serger can do better, easier, and faster than your regular sewing machine:
What Sergers Do
Sergers and Quilting
You can piece a quilt with a serger! (You can even “chain piece”.) Yes, a whole quilt top can be pieced with a serger and I have done it many times. The seams are stronger and less likely to ravel. The quilts I have serged have been machine washed many times without any issues. They hold together and look just as good as the day I gifted them. (Basic knowledge of sewing here – make sure you preshrink fabric before cutting, make sure your batting is same fiber content as top and back, etc.)
You can make and attach a ruffle at the same time!!! No need to gather the fabric first. Since most sergers today have built in differential feed, ruffles are now super easy!!! In addition, you can use a rolled hem or 3 thread stitch to finish the edge of the ruffle either before or after you stich it! (Of course, you can also still take a fabric strip cut twice the width of the finished ruffle, fold in half wrong side together, and create your ruffle with the folded edge as the finished edge. )
Cording and Piping
When you use an optional cording foot, you can make and apply cording and piping all at one time! You won’t believe how easy this is. You will be stunned at how professional the results. And you will never avoid cording or piping again! Imagine, you will be able to feed both the cording and the cover fabric simultaneously while also attaching it to the fabric!
You can apply elastic to cuffs, ankles, waists, just about anywhere using the differential feed. It’s easier and faster than trying to apply elastic with a sewing machine! You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to stitch an elastic waist on a serger! In addition you’ll also find rib knit necklines, cuffs, and waistbands are so easy with a serger!
Specialty Sewing and Application
If your serger has a cover stitch, then you really get to do even more fun stuff! The cover stitch can be used in place of a twin needle! This is another amazing serger secret! I use the cover stich to apply decorative bias, rick rack, or ribbon instead of using the twin needle on my sewing machine. I get it done faster, with less frustration, and it looks more professional! The differential feed is the key to this tip. Your sewing machine doesn’t have it and your walking foot just isn’t the same. Sergers with a larger throat space make this application even easier.
Decorative Edge Finishing
Did you know that you can edge table runners, placemats, potholders, quilts, blankets, even wedding gowns with a serger? The 3 thread option gives you a great edging stitch for utility items like potholders, or decorative kitchen and tabletop linens like placemats. The rolled hem feature is great for hemming or edge finishing chiffon, silk, and other delicate fabrics. Use the rolled hem feature to easily add a wire edge to ribbons! And it really gives cloth napkins the perfect professional finish!
Into Heirloom sewing? Wait until you try it with a serger. Use the 2 thread flatlock stitch to join laces and fabrics together. You will be amazed at how easy this is – less time, less frustration, and better results than your sewing machine!!! A lace applicator foot really limits the stress for this task!
A blindhem is another task that is both easier and faster with a serger! Once you try this on your serger, you will find it difficult to go back to performing a blindhem on a regular sewing machine! You should use a blindhem foot for this to get optimal results with least effort.
Don’t forget- your serger is also great for working with knits. Not just t-shirt or lycra knits, but sweater knits, polar fleece, “slinky” knits, sweatshirt fabric, and rib knits are all much easier to seam on a serger. You will be amazed at how easy it is to handle knits on a serger. My mother found out I could sew the seams of her hand knit sweaters on my serger and hasn’t done one by hand since!
Specialty threads are no problem on a serger. Most thicker threads like crochet cotton, pearl cotton, wooly nylon and tapestry wool are much to large to thread through a sewing machine. On your typical sewing machines these threads must be used in the bobbin. But your serger was designed to take these threads! Try using pearl cotton for edging finishing your table linens! I used gold and silver pearl cotton with a 3 thread stitch to finish a Christmas table runner. The finished project is better than I envisioned. And while metallic threads seem to be finicky on a sewing machine, a serger handles them effortlessly.
We haven’t even touched on the chain stitch function! I think I would need to do a series of posts to give you just and idea of all the things you can do with a serger!
Important Serger Info:
A few notes about sergers:
Most sergers today have 2-3-4 thread capability. There are still some with only 2-3 thread or 3-4 thread, but not many. And some can take as many as 8 threads! The more thread spools a serger takes, then the more stitches it can create. A serger with more than 4 threads typically includes a cover stitch. And one that has 5 or more threads typically has a chain stich in addition to the cover stitch.
Make sure your serger has differential feed. While standard on newer sergers, older, less expensive sergers often lack this important feature!
If you don’t already own a serger, shop for one that has “air” threading or self threading. Threading any serger isn’t that difficult. but it is time consuming. The “air” thread and self thread models allow you to thread your serger in seconds instead of minutes.
Practice, Practice, Practice!!!!! The more you use your serger, the less intimidating it will be. Take your scraps and play. Don’t be afraid to try different stitches and techniques.
READ the manual. Take a class. Get to know your serger. Conquer your fears!!! I can’t stress this enough. Make friends with your serger! You will be glad you did. Remember it’s just a machine. It was invented to enhance your sewing journey in ways you never imagined.
A serger is not a replacement for a regular sewing machine. It is meant to be used WITH a regular sewing machine. Just as your serger does a lot things your sewing machine can’t, your sewing machine does a lot things your serger can’t.
Sergers At Rocky Mountain Sewing and Vacuum Stores
If you have never used a serger before, you really need to see one in action to appreicate everything it can do. Please stop by any Rocky Mountain Sewing Store for a serger demo. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff will gladly take you on a serger tour. Try before you buy! Come in and see all the current offers and specials on sergers and accessories at Rocky Mountain Sewing! Check out our calendar and class list to learn how to use your serger. Rocky Mountain Sewing offers FREE ongoing serger usage classes at all locations: Colorado Springs , Aurora, Littleton, and Arvada. Classes open to everyone, no matter where you purchased your serger!
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