Let me share with you all the good tips I’ve learned about sergers (after the threading tutorial  you love!)

If you’re more a sewing machine type of sewer… check my Top 15 Beginner’s Sewing Tips or my 30 Best Sewing with Knits Tips! 

First of all: what is a Serger (or Overlocker)? 

It’s a sewing machine who can also cut (and finish off) your seam allowances while you sew, saving your precious time and leaving clean and tidy all your seams.
It’s not difficult to use, you only need some practice and I hope you’ll take advantage of my
SergerPepper - Best Beginner Serger Tip


italian version

1. Buy good quality thread

First time I’ve used my serger, it was already threaded from the seller (it was cotton, n°50): everything went smooth for a while, then I decided to change and use a polyester thread I bought, thinking it was better, stronger and ideal for the serger: nothing worse (probably quality wasn’t one of the best)! It started to broke on my upper looper and I’ve been re-threading for a whole afternoon: not that good, I started to think I wouldn’t be able to use the serger without help (I’ve bought it online, it was a great deal but included a serging lesson only several weeks after receiving the serger). Tip: I’ve found that the big store located 45 minutes from home has better prizes (and a quality you can touch by hand) than ebay good deals on huge cones (5-10000 yards), so better compare before buying!

SO: Please try changing the thread spools

if you start experiencing multiple brokes!

SergerPepper - Best Beginner Serger Tip

2. Take several pics of the original threading

As soon as you open the box containing your new serger, open his “belly” and take some pics (with your phone is perfect, you’ll have them always on hand when needed!) before starting to play with it: recreate the same threading will be a breeze!

SO: Do not procrastinate: take some shoot!

SergerPepper - Best Beginner Serger Tip

3. Learn soon to re-thread from scratch, not to knot and pull thread

Someone will tell you to start like this, but I think it’s better to start your relationship with your new machine knowing her, and which better way to know it than learning to thread her? You’ll be ready and not scared when (and it will happen) things will go wrong and thread will make a mess and broke!

BUT: When you’re in a hurry, you can knot-and-pull, only please don’t let the knot pass through your needle’s eyes or you’ll end with broken/bent needles…


4. A serger can’t backstitch

Well, in fact, it can… but you will not desire to do so, because it will cut your newly made stitches!

You have to leave long tails and fix the in some way (post full of pics coming soon), just NEVER cut chains near the end of the fabric, as my mother-in-law did with my Recycled Pajamas when came to my home and saw the tails dangling from LilPotato’s sleeves (because she couldn’t wait me to fix them, she had to wear her new pajamas NOW!) or the seam will unravel soon!

SergerPepper - Best Beginner Serger Tip

OR: you can turn your fabric and try to sew a couple of cm without approaching to your knives, but it’s not a beginner’s trick, believe me!

5. Never Sew on Pins (or at least put them far from the knives!)

This is a Rule!

I never baste (and my mother always turn up her nose when I say that) and often use pins (well, in fact, now that I’m a serger owner, I often sew without pinning too…) when I use my sewing machine, I often leave pins in and sew above them (I know, it’s not good, but I’m so lazy sometimes often!). With the serger you can either pin on the left side, far from the seam and paralleled (or perpendicular as on sewing machine, if you put your pins at least 5 cm far from the seam line) or

Do Not Pin At All

(It depends on what are you sewing, obviously!)
But, if you pin, keep them far from knives or they’ll probably lose their sharpness (or, worst, broke)!
SergerPepper - Best Beginner Serger Tip
Can you see the pins? Hint: they’re inside the black ovals!!!

6. (This is a savvy/frugal tip)You don’t really need to buy 4 cones of each color

When I started serging, I was worried about the huge quantity of thread I was going to buy: a serger uses a lot more of thread then a sewing machine, due to the fact he sews mostly with 3 or 4 threads.

If you’re sewing a (let’s say) purple dress, you’ll be worried to show white stitches when seams stretch, so you’ll go to the store and buy ONE ONLY 10000 yds cone (because it costs less than the little spools you used to buy until now), to be put on the left needle, which is the most noticeable on the right side of the fabric; while you’re at the store, buy some white and black and neutrals (grey, nude, pale pink, and so on) HUGE cones (you’ll use them onto the right needle and the loopers, WHICH AREN’T SHOWING AT ALL on the right side of your dress!!!).

Buying huge spuns, will grow your thread collection, you’ll end with a lot of colors in no time and without spending a lot every time.

By the way: if you’re sewing a cardigan or a piece of clothing that will show the inside when you wear it (or you have a lot of money): buy 4 cones of the perfect shade of your fabric

OR: you can buy one only cone on the perfect shade of color and make 3 bobbins to be loaded on needles and one looper (remember that loopers uses a lot of thread, so you’ll end bobbins in no time!)

SergerPepper - Best Beginner Serger Tip

7. Create Your Personal Serging Book, using different colors for each thread and moving tensions around

This is a good advice: to learn which thread makes what, try threading your serger with 4 differents colors (using the same drawn on the machine makes things simpler) and start sewing; try moving tension around (marking down variations you made) and see what happens to stitches… You’ll learn soon which thread stitches are from and which tensions change to make perfect seams, where looper’s threads meet on the middle and nothing seems too tight or loose.
If you want to do something smarter, you can write down the four tension numbers and pin a piece of scrap on the same page, showing the kind of fabric and the kind of stitch you used: you’ll use it when, in the future, you’ll need to sew the same kind of fabric…

I’d really like to see some Personal Serging Book,

you can share your on SergerPepper’s flickr group

8. A Serger goes faster than a sewing machine (a.k.a: don’t push down your foot!)

You’ll learn it the hard way if you start pushing down your feet: the serger goes A LOT faster and when you reach curves or angles it’s harder to control where you’re sewing and go out of way! Being a serger, you won’t only sew on the wrong place: you’ll CUT your fabric… and this is harder to be fixed!

SO: slow and steady wins the race!

9. Differential feed: my new friend!

This is a staple to have on a serger: it means we have two different feed dog, one in front and one right below your feet (well, not Your Feet, your serger’s feet!!!); changing the ratio between the two speeds, you can sew different kinds of fabric and obtain/avoid different results (think ruffles!): it’s like stretching or pulling your fabric while you sew.
SergerPepper - Best Beginner Serger Tip
Normally you have a knob or a switch that will let you change the number from 0,5 to 2,5  (or something similar, mine has a range 0,7-2): this is one more thing to sew and add to Your Personal Serging Book.
SergerPepper - Best Beginner Serger Tip

10. Clean. Your. Serger. FULL STOP

You can’t sew with a serger full of lint: someone says you have to clean it at least every 3-4 hours of sewing: because of the knives cutting and cutting your fabric, your serger will soon change from a dream to a nightmare: threads and needles will start to broke, tensions will get worse, nothing will seems right. It’s time to spring cleaning: open your serger’s belly, unthread and clean around with a brush, then with an air compressor (or a can of compressed air, like the one you can use for cleaning a keyboard). When all is clean: a couple of oil drops on every metallic connecting, then sew on a piece of rag just to be sure your oil won’t go staining your good fabric!

Read more here!

HOMEWORK: Try to clean it a little every time you’re going to stop to sew.