Today I’m sharing with you one of my favorite articles: my Serger Dictionary appeared first on SewMcCool a while ago.

It’s no secret that I have a strong passion for sewing, I especially love anything serger-related (remember? I shared my Best Serger Tension Tips and a – gone viral on Pinterest- Stitches 101 Cheat Sheet).

When I’ve bought Santa took me my (beloved) serger (or overlocker, if you prefer!), I’ve found hard finding practical tips for using it at its best… … enter:

My Serger Dictionary

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - Title

Let’s collect some of the best info I’ve tried and tested for you, because your serger can do a lot more than simply finishing seams!

Note that some of the features listed below are optional (you can add some of them later, others you can’t… and maybe you won’t ever need them!).

Let’s organize them by alphabetical order, for quicker reference!

Warning!

It’s REALLY long page!

You’d better Pin it now!


 

Adjustable feet pressure

Search for a screw or a knob, usually placed right above your needles, on top of your serger,  that can help you adjusting the pressure of the sewing foot to accommodate the particular type of fabric you are sewing on.

Lower it for thicker fabrics, or really stretch ones, Increase it if you need to have more.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 1 Adjustable feet pressure

Automatic threading

I’m not so lucky to have this one: my serger is a first-price kind!

With some high-end (I’ve seen it on Babylocks, but maybe there are other brands too) you can have this feature that threads your loopers using compressed air: just plug your thread heads into their respective holes, press a button and… that’s it!

Serger is threaded!

Baste before you serge

Fact: serger feet are long.

This often leads to the upper layer of fabric separating from the bottom one before it reaches the needle and, when you start serging, it’s not caught in the seam.

There’s an easy fix for that: basting, either by hand or by machine!

Beginner’s tips

Are you a beginner? Try reading my 10 best tips for using a serger… and some are also intermediate-friendly 😉

Bobbins

You may think a serger can’t use bobbins… you’re wrong!

Usually I don’t bother using threads perfectly matching fabric’s colour for my serger: I use neutral blending colours (gray, beige, brown, black, cream, white, pale pink… ).

Sometimes (for example if I’m sewing a cardigan or an unlined hood) I absolutely need to have all the threads in the right shade!

Obviously (for me) I don’t buy 4 cones each time, I buy only one and fill several bobbins to be used in needle thread (and a looper).

Why in needle thread? Because loopers are much more thread consuming (they use about 2x the needle’s thread) and the risk is to finish the bobbin in no time (usually in the middle of a curved seam).

Always make sure you’re checking every now and then the looper using the bobbin and change it as soon as it comes to the end (this is why I told you to prepare several bobbins and not only three! You don’t want to un-thread your other looper every time you need to create a new bobbin… just knot-thread and pull the thread until the knot is out-of-the-way! … see “knot threading” in part 2).


Cheap machines

When you decide to buy a new serger, you need to set a budget… and you may be tempted to buy a cheap brand (or no brand at all), because of their supposed convenience.

Just think that *maybe* you’re going to need some maintenance… or spare parts… are they going to be easy to find?

I am reaaaaallly frugal and I accurately weighted all the offers from retailers and on the web, before buying (ehm… yes, I told you Santa gave it to me… you know…Santa do not exists… sshh!) mine.

I went for a Necchi (that may seem unknown to WordPress proofread tool and maybe to you too, but it’s a good old brand here in Italy), bought from an official big seller with an extended warranty and a little school for using it, with a real person teaching me… nothing against CD’s but (sometimes) a real person is better IMHO!

Cheat sheet stitches

When you first start using your serger, if you are like most, you’ll use it for finish seams and, if you’re really adventurous, maybe you’ll use it for constructing knit garments (I think this is the main reason for a lot of us for justifying the need of a serger!).

Then, if when you actually open your manual, you’ll see that you can do so many stitches, with a number of settings and knobs to turn, stitch fingers in multiple sizes (or even without), knives to engage or disengage… looks like a serger is daunting and paralyzing!

Too many options, if you’re used to your good old comfy sewing machine!

Please do yourself a favor, pin this Cheat Sheet on your Serger Board on Pinterest (because you have one, isn’t it? Here’s mine...) for future reference…

And try one new stitch every time you turn on your serger… you’ll see that it’s not that scary, at all: your projects will upgrade and hubby will understand why you spent all that money for “another sewing machine”!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 2 cheat sheet title

Check for lint

90% of the problems your serger is going to have their origins from… lint!

If you think “your baby” is starting to make strange noises or tensions are not like you would expect… my first suggestion is to completely un-thread it, release tension disks (just lift your presser feet) and give it him a good cleaning! … and this carry us to the next one:

Cleaning routine

Because of the speed, threads and fabrics are going to lose a lot of lint inside.

If you simply ignore them, you’ll end with a trip to maintenance-land very soon! My suggested cleaning routine:

a) completely unthread your serger

b) open the serger’s bell and give it a good blow with either canned air (the one you use for cleaning your keyboard… because you clean your keyboard, isn’t it? You can find anything inside it!) or, even better, an air compressor, like the ones that inflate car’s tyres! Someone will suggest you to vacuum clean it but, unless you have a really tiny attachment set like this you’ll end with an unproductive cleaning session, like… “nothing done”.

c) You should have a tiny brush between your serger accessories: use it to reach hidden zones! Even better, an old make-up soft brush, that will collect more lint than the rigid brush included.

d) releasing tension (by lifting pressure feet) first, floss your tensions disks using a white cotton thick thread, exactly if they were your teeth!

e) Add an oil drop at visible metallic joints (if you’re in doubt, consult your manual).

Cloth guide/cutting width gauge

Really cool accessory, some will hate it, some will love it!

It’s a metal piece you can slide on or screw in, depending on your serger model; some are even built-in!

It has lines that can help you serging using perfect and consistent seam allowances along your whole project.

Another tip that helps you keep seam allowances consistent when trimming is to mark them with little dots (use your favorite marking tool, I use my Frixion pen) every now and then, so you can cut with the blades exactly on dots!


Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 3 Cloth guide

Collars

Creating perfectly rounded pointy corners like the one you find in collars is a really easy task if you’re using a serger.

Start serging one edge, fold (and press to crease) along the just-serged seam.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 4 Collars A

Sew the second crossing seam right on the folded serged seam, turn inside out, press and admire:

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 5 Collars B

Color codes with nail polish

If you have a recently bought home serger, your thread ways are almost certainly marked with a color code.

If you have an older one or you’re the lucky owner of an industry second-hand serger, you can use a simple trick and put some nail polish dots following each way (choose contrasting colors!)

Another #1 trick is snap a shoot of your threaded serger to keep on your smart phone and easy to reach when you’re in trouble!

Convertible serger/coverstitch

Some high-end sergers can be converted to coverstitch.

If you think it’s cool, stop and carefully notice if the conversion is practical to do (you will need to un-thread the whole machine, change some parts like thew presser foot and disengage the knife, then re-thread… and repeat to re-convert…I’m tired after only writing it) and what’s the price for the serger/coverstitch Vs. a simple serger + a simple coverstitch you can leave threaded and ready for you, when you need it!

Corners and curves

They’re not the easiest thing to do with your serger!

They comes perfect, with practice, but you can always use some of my tips, learned on my skin…

a) do not look at the needle! Always look at the fabric guide and the knives: this is because your fabric is first cut, then sewn… the risk is that (such as in inner corners or curves) you cut the fabric where you shouldn’t… and this (usually) isn’t good!

b) be gentle and try not pulling your fabric on curves/corners, but guide it and rotate it smoothly for perfectly wrinkle-free serged corners/curves.

For concave curves, you need to gently straighten the fabric while you serge it; for concave corners, clip the seam allowance in the corner to help your fabric lay flat.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 6 concave curves and corners

For convex curves it’s easy to simply serge around the edge; if the curvature radius is big (and the curve is really accentuate), you may need to stop needle down, lift the presser foot and reposition the fabric below it just to keep the curve smooth.

For outward corners, best practice is to serge one side just a couple of stitches over the fabric, lift the presser foot and release the thread from stitch finger.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 7 outward corners A

Reposition the fabric under the needles and, before you start serging the second edge, make sure there are no loose threads by gently pulling threads right near to the spools, before the tension disks; lower the presser foot and go on sewing!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 8 outward corners B

  …. ta-dah!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 9 CURVES AND CORNERS

Decorative threads

You can easily achieve fancy effects just using yarn or rayon or even wool thread on loopers. Think of a shining silk rolled hem!

As always, better results comes with testing first on scraps, playing on tensions (thicker thread = lower tension) and stitch length/width, exactly as you were playing with your sewing machine.

Even if you don’t think you’ll use it again, I’d suggest you keep your tuned trial scraps, writing settings on them: they can be a good start point whenever you’re attempting something similar! if you’re more tech-savvy you can take a shoot and save them to Evernote (affiliate link, that gives you 1 FREE Premium month), keeping a collection of settings (I prefer having scraps I can touch… I’m an Old Fashioned Sewer, sometimes!).

Another suggestion is about giving a good cleaning session to your serger, after using it with thick threads that can do a mess with lint! Better clean it right before use than leave them stick in hidden places!

Differential feed

I think there are no more sergers without this feature.

Basically your serger has two independent feed dogs, one in front and one in back of the needles. They works together to pull the fabric, but they can work at different speeds.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 10 differential feed

It’s really useful to prevent knits from stretching and helps you to use stretch fabrics without damaging your material. You can play with it for gathering and easing!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 11 puckering, gathering and right tension

If you want to study it in deep, I’d suggest you Coleen’s video

Disengaging knives

If you start playing with your serger and become somehow more confident, you’ll notice that some stitches will need you to move your blades out-of-the-way, to be sure you’re not going to cut your fabric (think to pintucks or flatlock).

This is another moment where your manual comes in handy. In my serger, I simply need to press and turn the blade, others have a screw to loosen… today’s homework is trying to disengage your knife!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 12 knife

Download manuals

If your serger’s manual is lost somewhere, consider searching the web (a plain Your Serger Brand + Your Serger Model + download manual on Google will do the trick!) to find it right now: you’ll need to consult it several times, better save it on your pc 😉

Another nice place where you can find any kind of manuals is ManualsLib… and you can download them or save them on your personal library.

Dust cover

When you buy a serger, usually a dust cover is included in the box: use it, to keep dust away from your serger surfaces, but also for saving it from direct sunlight that will cause its premature aging of the plastic parts.

If you don’t have one, you can always sew your own, maybe using Chelsea’s (@GYCTDesigns) tutorial you can find here on SewMcCool!

Easing

Think to a rounded bottom edge of a pocket or an hi-lo hem… with the serger you can create subtle gathers that helps you easing a hem just increasing a tad the needles tensions, increasing the differential feed.

If your prefer, lengthen a 4 thread overlock and pull the needles threads to create some gathering… easy as 1-2-3 😉

Exposed seams

Another way to add some pizzaz to your next serger project is to sew it inside out: it gives your project a relaxed deconstructed look, perfect for sportswear or even loungewear.

To do that, just ignore your patterns instructions about putting right sides together, match wrong sides instead and sew using a 4-thread overlock, then press it to one side (usually toward the bottom or the sides) and topstitch to make them lay flat!

Cool, isn’t it?

Faux flat felled seams

Your jeans will look like you’ve bought them, noboby will see you cheated on flat felled seams! It’s fast and easy if you sew your inside leg seam with a sewing machine, serge seam allowances together and press to one side.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 13 faux flat felled seams A

Topstitch from the right side of the fabric, making two rows: one on the edge, the other parallel to it but still on the seam allowance… and maybe use two different denim thread colors, for a fashionable look!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 13 faux flat felled seams B

Faux piping

Using a narrow/rolled hem and, if you like it, a thicker thread on loopers (rayon, thick polyester) you can quickly add interest to any seam (like in a yoke on a button up shirt) without all the boring piping-related stuff!

Just turn under one of the two seam allowances, press to crease along the seam line and make a rolled hem on it (for thicker fabrics like denim, just cut along the seam line and sew a narrow hem on it).

Baste it above the other seam line and sew it in place using a sewing machine.

Finish seam allowance using a 3-thread overlock, or simply trim with pinking shears.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 14 faux piping

Finishing seams

Most of the serger’s owners will use their machine only for finishing seams, and there’s no doubt that it IS the king of seams finishings.

You can finish seam allowances together or separated, pressed open; you can finish them after you sew the seam or even before: if you’ve sewn a muslin and you’re sure that your garment will fit, you can serge all around your pattern pieces and finish them right before you start assembling, without the bulk of a garment in progress to move around a serger blade (and the risk to cut it when you’re nearly done – been there!).

As a rule of thumb, choose a 2-thread overlock for light-weight fabrics, a 3-threads for quilting cotton weights and a 4 thread for highly fraying and/or thick fabrics.

Fishing line

If you’re sewing chiffon skirts or dresses and you’re struggling on a flat hem that’s missing some body and movement, fishing line is the answer!

Add it to a 3-thread narrow hem, threading it into the hole placed in top front of the regular presser foot or a cording foot and keep an eye that it’s staying between the needle and the knife.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 15 hole on the presser foot

When you reach the end of the seam, cut it leaving a long tail and secure it on each end using some liquid sealant or a bar tack made using your sewing machine.

You can see a helpful video here.

Flatlock

This decorative and functional stitch is used mostly on sportswear; it’s easily achievable sewing with a 3-thread overlock (you can make a sample using these tensions: needle 1, upper 4-5, lower 7-8).

This stitch can be used on both sides, if you want loops on top, sew using wrong sides together; if you prefer the ladder stitch on the outside of the garment, sew right sides together!

When you’re done sewing, you need to gently open the fabric and lay the two pattern pieces side by side (the low needle tension will help you laying the whole thing flat, if it’s not sitting properly try sewing just a little more out of the fabric, leaving bigger loops hanging on the right side of it!)

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 16 flatlock

Free arm

Completely optional functionality: my serger doesn’t have it and I’ve missed it only when sewing cuffs on really tiny sleeves, because of the long presser foot sewing on small circles it’s hard but, if you sew on the inside of the sleeve it’s totally doable.

I wouldn’t change my serger for the lack of this feature… it’s a nice add-on but nothing I *NEED* to have!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 17 free arm

 

Gathers/Ruffles

Yes, you can gather with your serger! And it’s really easier than the

“two (or three) rows of stitches, pull the bobbin threads, OMG I broke the thread, let’s restart”

good old procedure.

In my opinion, better play with the settings to find the right ones before you start, especially if you aren’t simply adding a ruffled strip to the bottom of a dress (where the ratio may vary).

Generally, for full gathers, try with a 4-thread stitch setting the differential to 2 (highest number), needle tensions to 6-7, stitch length at the highest number too, minimum width. See that rich ruffles:

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 1 Gathers Ruffles

Hems

With a serger you can easily skip one step and halve the bulk on the usual hemming technique on a sewing machine (turn and press, turn and press again, stitch): serge the edge, turn and press then stitch the hem – perfect for reduce bulk in jeans, pair it with faux flat felled seams (see letter F) for greatest results!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 2 Hems

 

I have some store-bought garments that are simply hemmed with a 3-thread overlock on the bottom edge: think using a decorative thread (multicolored thread?) for a pop of color and add interest to your hem.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 3 Exposed overlock hem

 

Another good option to consider is a narrow or a rolled hem, that can be perfect for hemming reversible garments (because it’s awesome-looking on both sides!).

Knot threading

Sewing forums are full of people suggesting you to change your serger’s threads simply cutting them right after the spools, knotting new threads and pulling knots until they reach the needles/loopers.

I use this cheat technique every now and then, I really think can be cool and time-saving but, let me add just a couple of thoughts:

a) before you start using it, learn properly threading your serger, practicing until you can do it with your eyes closed: you’ll be able to troubleshoot, if (when) you’ll need it;

b) always lift your presser foot to release tensions on disks before you pull knotted threads;

c) never-ever pull your knots through your needle’s eye. Always cut knots and insert the new thread on the needle’s eye.

Learning curve

Right out of the box, a serger can be daunting (it shouldn’t – it’s really fun): you must put into account a (more or less steep) learning curve.

The easier way to learn faster is to ignore your fear and make mistakes: we all have scraps of different kinds of fabric only waiting to be used for tests: put on 4 cones and serge… sergers don’t bite!

Try each stitch you have on your manual, play with width, length, differential feed and all the stuff: you’ll be a Pro in no time!

Needles

Most of the home sergers will use regular sewing machine needles (130/705 H, the ones with a flat shank).

Being so much faster than a regular sewing machine, you should choose a needle size not smaller than a 75/11 and always choose a good brand (I am a Schmetz fan) to be sure you won’t broke them!

I’ve read that they produce also serger needles (HAX1SP) that are exactly the same as the flat shank 130/705 H but they’re nickel-plated for strength and durability. Still not been able to source them here in Italy, I’ll test them as soon as I find them!

Needle threaders (automatic)

If you’re so lucky to have this function, you’ll save yourself a lot of troubles: I hate threading needles in a serger because there is a very small room to work and, probably, I’m getting older and I start seeing less in the short distance…

Confidence: I have to confess that some of the words I say when threading needles in my serger

are words I wouldn’t like to hear my daughter repeat…. duh!

I help myself with tweezers, cutting thread tails with sharp scissors  (or the serger blade, or the thread cutter) and all the stuff but I can’t find the perfect receipt for threading some multi-plies polyester threads.

I’ve tried using a needle threader like the ones you use for hand sewing… but it’s not that easy!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 4 needle threader (manual)

Needle inserters

Some sergers (not mine) comes with a simple but handy tool: the needle inserter (often built in a lint brush or tweezers’ handle like this one): basically a hole, sized to fit the scarf but smaller than the shank.

To remove a needle from the serger, just insert your needle’s point in the hole of the inserter to hold the needle while you un-screw it from the serger: this way it won’t get lost inside the machine!

Needle down

Unlike most electronic sewing machines, I’ve never heard of a serger that can be set to always stop with the needle(s) down.

You must remember to do it by hand (turning the hand wheel toward you) every time you stop serging because you need to reposition your presser foot.

If you forget this simple step, your fabric will likely move and you could end cutting it in a wrong way/place (been there, done that… several times)!

New serger

If you’re not going to start a commercial empire and you’re “only” going to use your serger for you, your family and other small-scale productions, probably your first serger will last you for a while; if you’re in the market for buying one, you should make a list of awesome features you absolutely need, depending on what are you planning to use it for (sewing for small kids = free arm, sewing knits = super stretch stitch, need to hem a lot of knits = coverstitch… this list is potentially endless).

Aside from those, I would suggest you check for:

a) ease on converting between different stitches;

b) better easy and simple than complex and complicated: you’ll be ready to proficiently use it more rapidly.

If you’re in the market for a new serger, check my best tips for you!

Number of threads

As you may have noticed (LOL), a serger sews using more thread lengths than a regular sewing machine (there are 8-threads sergers!).

This means that you’ll end using A LOT more thread than you used to do: better start buying big cones (4000 to 10000 yards each one), maybe online to get the best price (I usually have mine on Ebay)!

Pins…

… they’re Serger’s Enemy #1!

If you decide to use pins on a project to be serged, remember that they MUST stay away from your knives.

Depending on your fabric, type of seam and project, you can decide to pin one inch to the left of your seam, parallel to it, so pins are out-of-the-way or pin perpendicular to the seam (and carefully remember to pull out your pins before they reach the blade)!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 5 pins

 

Ruffling with clear elastic

You can try this quick method for ruffling with a serger, perfect for knits, using clear elastic.

Cut a clear elastic length, long as your shorter fabric (the one that won’t be ruffled) + 10 cm (approx 4″); mark with a pen two dots, each one 5 cm (2″) from each end of the elastic, then mark the elastic (between the two dots) into fourth.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 6 gathering with clear elastic

Mark into fourth the strip of fabric you are going to ruffle, then sew it to the clear elastic, starting on the first dot on the elastic (the one 5 cm from the elastic head) and matching fourths/dots.

Keep the clear elastic it on top of your seam, not agains your feed dogs!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 7 gathering with clear elastic2

You need to pull the elastic while sewing, but don’t stretch it too much to avoid ruining the timing of your serger!

Enjoy your rich and easy ruffles…

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 8 gathering with clear elastic3

Serger Tensions

You need to play with your thread tensions to find the right balance between all the threads.

Using different colors for each thread can help you fixing the right thread… or, if you feel lazy, you can always try looking at this earlier tutorial  where I show you all the alterations in tensions.

Serge around pattern pieces before sewing

If you’ve ever tried sewing a fabric that heavily frays you’ll appreciate this little pearl of wisdom 😉

Overlock your pattern pieces around their edges, disengaging the blade, using a 3-thread overlock: you’ll save yourself some time later (no need to finish seam allowances) and some headaches while sewing!

My suggestion: use this technique when you’re going to sew a pattern you already know has a great fit (or you’ve sewn a muslin) or you could end re-finishing seams a second time!

Sewing knits

Personally, I’ve dreamed of a serger for sewing knits, just to discover that I can perfectly sew knits on my sewing machine too!

My mom used to say: “I can’t sew it, this is jersey!” and I simply trusted her… We were totally wrong!

With the right needles and a zig-zag stitch you can go far away with knits and your sewing machine… the real plus about sewing knits with a serger is having a differential feet that helps minimizing wavering, just raising it to a ratio >1.

Small pleats/Pintucks

You can add a touch of interest to any project by adding small pleats/pintucks: think to a detail into a girl’s dress yoke, or a pocket or even a pillow cover, just to name a few.

For sewing pintucks with your serger, try using the rolled hem settings (right needle = narrow pleats, left needle = wide pleats):

– disengage the blade

– Differential = 1

– Stitch length = R

– Tensions: 4-4-4

Tip: for keeping them straight, try to focus on a point in front of the presser foot, instead of the needle, while serging!

Mark and press pleats, then serge them and press the whole thing.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 9 Pintucks

You can create an interesting texture adding multiple rows of parallel straight stitch, sewn alternatively left-right, right-left for a fancy 3D look!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 10 textured pintucks

Special threads

Best choice for everyday serger thread is polyester or good quality cotton.

You can also choose special threads for adding interest to a special project (i.e. metallic thread, rainbow thread or crochet cotton) or for their properties (like nylon and wooly nylon, that are stretch and strong).

If you’re using thicker threads, you’ll need to increase stitch length and decrease tensions.

Special presser feet

When I had my serger, there were no specialty feet on the box, so I decided to buy at least one: I choose the blind hem foot for thin fabrics (like t-shirts), marked as 0.5 mm (there’s another one available, marked as 1 mm, for thicker fabrics). It has a metal guide screwed above it, extending to the front, that is useful to keep your seam straight while you secure the hem and finish it in one only time.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 11 blind hem foot

How to use it: with one only needle, engaging the knife, starting with these settings and making a trial seam on scraps:

Left Needle Tension 0-2

Upper Looper Tension 6

Lower Looper Tension 3

Stitch length 4-5

Turn up and press the hem , then fold it back against right side of the fabric, without pressing.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 12 press and fold the fabric

Place the fabric wrong side up under the foot, feeding the fold into the metal guide. See a test seam and check how it looks; if you see the thread on the right side too much (or, opposite, the hem isn’t sewn but only overlocked in the wrong side of the fabric) adjust the screw on top of the presser foot if needed.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 12A blind hem seam

When the settings are right, sew the actual garment hem; the outside edge will be cut and overlocked, while being secured to the wrong side of the garment… al in one step —> M A G I C 😀

Give it a good press from the outside of the garment and, if you used a blending color thread, your hem will be almost “blind”.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 13 blind hem

Accordingly to my owner’s manual, my serger have other special feet, and I’d really love to find them below the Christmas Tree (if Santa was reading, you never know…).

Elasticator

This foot guides the elastic and, at the same time, apply pressure to it with a tension controlled (adjustable) roller, allowing you to control the elasticity while sewing.

Basically, your fabric goes next to the feed dog, whileyou slide the elastic into the roller, right above the fabric.

Piping Foot

This foot has a groove on the bottom, front-to-back in sewing direction, perfectly fitting and guiding a corded piping, exactly like a piping foot on your sewing machine.

Gathering foot

This foot can gather a layer of fabric while it’s sewn into another layer which will stay straight, non-gathered.

You actually place the fabric to be gathered underneath the presser foot and slide the other one over the little metallic guide on front (and under the presser foot).

Be careful while guiding your fabrics, since the lower one will move faster as it is gathering!

Speed-up

The first time you’re pushing your serger pedal, you’ll immediately notice how fast is it he: it can be up to twice as much.

Be careful maneuvering with your hands next to the blade or you should end with personal injuries!

Obviously, this has a positive “downside” too: you’ll complete your projects faster, getting ready to start another one in no time.

Stable seams

Most home sewers will upgrade to a serger because it can sew stretching seams, but sometimes you need to sew a stable seam, like on shoulders… do you need to switch back to your sewing machine? Not at all!

Just serge over a strip of a stable fabric or ribbon (like twill tape, or a selvedge) if you’re sewing woven, or a clear elastic (or even regular elastic) if you’re sewing stretch or knits (but do not stretch elastic while sewing).

Test on scraps

This is always a good thing to do when you’re going to try a new stitch or setting, even more if you’re going to experiment with your serger: to figure out best settings better always try on scraps and maybe keep track of the most interesting, you never know if you’re going to re-try the same fabric/stitch combo: you’ll pat yourself on a shoulder for not having to reinvent the wheel every single time.

Thread cutter

I don’t know about you, I am the kind of sewer that owns more than 10 fabric-only scissors and never finds one when shee need it so this one is one of my favorite features on a serger and/or a sewing machine.

Depending on your serger model you can have it placed in different places and working in different ways; mine is built in needle plate and you can trim thread near the end of the fabric by pushing down the lever on the right.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 14 thread cutter

 

Thread nets

Polyester or bulky nylon threads can become loose when you’re unwinding them while serging.

To help consistency in feeding those threads, better wear your cones with these fancy nets (that always comes in your serger box)!

Thread tails

When you serge you have to leave long thread chains at each end of every seam because, if you cut it, your seams will unravel. What you need to know is how to secure tails.

My favorite way to fix and end-of-the-seam tail is tucking it in with a wool (or tapestry) needle, the ones with a ballpoint and really big eye, that allows you to thread all the serger threads in one only time (help yourself with a regular needle threader).

Feed the chain back into the stitch under the looper threads, then cut the exceeding chain.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 15 Tuck tails in

 

And what about the head chain? Easy Peasy!

Just gently pull it toward the front and serge above it.

Try not to cut your chain with the blade or, opposite, pull it too much to the left and leave it go over your needle!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 16 serge on the chain

 

You can even use a seam sealant, if you like! Just cut thread tails near to the end of the seam and put a dab of this special glue on it!

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 17 Seam sealant

Thread tree guide higher position

This is one of those little habits that can change your life: always check it before you start serging or your threads will go on breaking without any (apparent) reason!

Tweezers

A new-to-me tool are tweezers: sewing with a sewing machine, I never felt the urge of using them.

Now that I am a serger maniac, I really have a hard time trying to remember how could I have lived without them, and I use them to thread my needles, as if they were finger-extension.

Serger Pepper - Ultimate Serger Dictionary - PHOTO 18 tweezers

 

Used Serger

A little word of caution about used serger: they can seam a good deal but, if you don’t know (and trust) the seller, I’d suggest you to ask for a written warranty.

Buying a used serger online can be a major no-no and, if something isn’t working, you always need to at least send back the machine (and shipping a serger is costly) and (even worst) you must stay without a serger until you are able to fix it or have your money back.

Used serger yes, but from trusted sources only!

Waste Catcher

I had one coming with my serger, but I have really never used it… I don’t even know where it is!

It’s supposed to be catching strips of fabric that your serger trims while sewing but:

a) if they don’t fall inside it, they fall on the table and it’s as easy to clean it as much as is emptying the thread waste catcher;

b) it’s attached right in front of my serger belly, so every single time I need to open it (a loopers thread breakage, need to change stitch, change needle, engage/disengage knife, change stitch finger…) I need to pull it off and reposition it later: call me lazy, but I don’t want that extra job!

What a serger can’t do

You can’t replace a sewing machine with a serger: some tasks are out of its radius of action!

Just as an example, you can’t do buttonholes, topstitching or sewing (puckering free) darts

Zippers

Did you know that you could even sew zippers, using your serger?

Just use a longer zipper than required from the pattern (so you can keep the pull tab out-of-the-way while serging) and use a 3-thread overlock with basic settings and the left needle (so you can have more coverage).

You can leave your zipper exposed or topstitch it in place using your sewing machine (and, maybe, a decorative stitch).

Remember to carefully consider if you need to vary your seam allowances before you start!

… and this was the last one, for today!

I hope you’re enjoying this “little” serger dictionary 🙂 If you feel like you need to add something, please do it in comment section below! Let’s make this dictionary grow!

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