Serger Stitches 101 Cheat Sheet: Never Ever Without It – Your New Must Have!

  • Serger Pepper - Serger Stitches 101 Cheat Sheet PIN IT now!

Two months ago I wrote a pic-heavy tutorial about serger tensions that went really well… this is something you definitely would pin for later, believe me!
Now I’m sharing with you my cheat sheet about how to better use your serger, because it can do a lot more than only finishing seam allowances… so many stitches are available with any basic serger, like mine!

Today I’d like to describe you all the other fun stitches I have on my serger (and chances are that you have the same stitches on your), just because you can use your serger for finishing seams (and it’s ok)  but: a serger can do a lot of other fun things, other than a 4-threads or a 3-thread overlock.

When I was approaching my serger, I’ve searched the web for an infographic collecting all those fancy stitches in one place, but I wasn’t able to find it! What could I do? Create one all by myself!

I hope you’ll enjoy my Cheat Sheet you can (and should) pin it and bookmark it for future reference!

I’m giving you some guidelines for using your serger’s stitches; for each one, I’m listing:

  • needles and loopers tension numbers;
  • if a stitch finger is required, and which one;
  • if a two-thread converter is needed;
  • if  you have to engage/disengage your knife;
  • your overedge cutting width and stitch length.

Consider that numbers I give are the settings I use, maybe you need to adjust them, keep them just for reference.

Like last time, I’ve threaded my serger using  the same color code I have on my machine:

green (left needle)

yellow (right needle)

blue (upper looper)

violet (lower looper)

I hope this will help you identify which thread goes where in every stitch!

I use a Necchi Lock 181, you are probably using a different brand/model: refer to your serger’s manual to see if your knobs/tools are different from mine and mark down any eventual difference.

Take your manual now, and search for:

1. Overedge cutting width dial

In my serger it’s placed on the left side of the machine and goes from 4 to 7 mm.

Tip: if fabric’s edge curls while sewing, you need to make it smaller; if you see loops hanging off the edge, make it wider!

2. Stitch length knob

In my serger is placed on the opposite side of the machine, on the right, and goes from 1 to 5 (plus 2 special positions: P and R: we’ll see later when we can use them).

The higher the number (normally) the longer the stitch!

My thread tension dials go from 0 (no tension) to 9 (stronger tension).

Need help to locate which thread needs a change in tension

3. Stitch finger

Your serger should have a thicker stitch finger on (A) but in most models you can change it to a smaller one (or none at all), depending on the stitch you’re planning to use and the material thickness.

As a rule of thumb, for georgette, chiffon and lightweight fabrics, in general, you could experience loops hanging off the edge while using a 2-thread or 3-thread (right needle) and using a medium-low cutting width. Change to the narrower stitch finger and your stitch will certainly be better (mine is B).

For a narrow hem, a rolled hem (2 or 3 threads) or a picot hem you can sew without any stitch finger on (or use the narrower – B).

Put away the stitch finger you’re not using in its case (mine goes side by side with the 2-thread converter), so you won’t lose it!

Please keep on reading on page 2!

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4. How to convert to the 2-thread

In my serger I have a little gadget to add if I want to by-pass the upper looper.

This is useful for 2-threads overlock, 2-threads narrow hem and also for 3-thread super stretch stitch because it is the only stitch that requires 2 needles plus 1 looper (the lower one).

Here’s where I have to place the gadget:

Here’s the gadget in place:

And this is the label, reminding how to place it, right inside the serger.

Check on your manual if you have something like this and how to convert your serger for sewing with only the lower looper.

5. Engage/disengage the blade

blade engaged

In some situations you’ll need to disengage the blade (i.e. when you need to sew a flatlock decorative stitch right in the middle of a garment): check your manual because I was pretty sure mine was hard to do and tricky, but I discovered that I only need to push the stud toward the blade and turn it to put it out of the way and sew without cutting edges.

push & turn…

… blade disengaged!

Tip: When your blade is disengaged, pay attention to your seam allowances not to be wider than the overedge width you’ve selected (see point 1), or you can damage your needle and/or the upper looper!

Some general notes about settings:

– Different fabrics and threads can need tension adjustments.

– When you need to adjust tensions/overedge cutting dial and stitch length, usually a little fine tuning will give huge improvement to your stitch.

Thicker thread needs less tension.

– If you experience skipping stitches, adjust tensions first.

– Always make sure your needle is inserted through and through.

– Always reposition everything as if you’re going to sew a 4-thread stitch at the end of the day, before closing your serger (needle, tensions, width and length), it’s easy to forget something!

I’ve sewn without my finger stitch for a while, before I noticed it!

– On serger stitches with one only needle, choose which one you’re going to use considering your thread’s and fabric’s thickness: use the left one with thicker and the right one for lighter ones.

Three more little tips:

  1. when you are sewing without using one of the needles, remove it and completely close the screw, to be sure it’s not falling down inside the serger;
  2. in the same way, completely un-thread the unused thread and wind it on its spool;
  3. LAST, BUT NOT LEAST: tweezers are your best friends!

Now, let’s master all those funny stitches.

Please pin this infographic, share it if you like it <3

UPDATE: I’ve been asked to make this infographic downloadable and printable… Here they are!

Serger Pepper - Serger Stitches 101 Cheat Sheet PIN IT now!
Now that you know everything about your serger stitches, you have no more excuses:

take it out from its box and use it… can’t wait to see your creations!

Would you like to get some free patterns & stuff?
And maybe a 25% discount on your first purchase, only for you?

 Subscribe now and you'll get them both, for FREE!

About the Author:

Hi there! I love sewing, creating my own patterns and refashioning pre-loved clothes... If you love the same things, why not be friends? See you on Pinterest


  1. Pam @Threading My Way September 20, 2014 at 13:30 - Reply

    There are so many functions on my overlocker that I have yet to use. Pinning so I can refer to your ever so handy chart to help me.

    • Mamma Nene September 20, 2014 at 16:17 - Reply

      I have to admit that I refer to my own cheat sheet every time I have to set up my serger… I sued the super stretch 3 thread stitch for a leotard last week and I have to admit that it’s a cool stitch! It’s the one with 1 needle and 2 loopers and it’s super stretchy!

  2. Karly December 30, 2014 at 13:09 - Reply

    I am an active seamstress and I just received a serger for Christmas! I’ve made it past the threading and I’m trying to figure out the different parts of the machine now. I sew a lot of knits and for the life of me, I can’t figure out the perfect tension settings, I changed the differential feed to .9 (suggested to me for knits) but not much else. Also, this probably sounds silly but when feeding my fabric into the machine, where am I supposed to line up the fabric so that as it’s fed through the machine the blade will cut evenly the whole way down? On my sewing machine, obviously there are marks on the throat plate. I am just having a hard time figuring out where I’m supposed to line up fabric. This was a perfect cheat sheet, thank you for sharing!!!

    • Mamma Nene January 11, 2015 at 11:16 - Reply

      Hi Karly!
      I’m so happy to hear you’ve found my cheat sheet useful to start using your serger!
      To find the perfect tension, nothing is better than trying! Every thread/fabric/serger combo is different, usually you should put your scientist hat on and try on scraps: you’ll find it easier and, with a little experience on your shoulders, you’ll be faster next timws to find a tension to start with. I usually put all knobs on 4 and it works for me!
      To line up the fabric, again, you should try! Take a white woven muslin, something like quilting cotton, measure its width and try feeding it: find a recognizable point on your (presser) foot (like the tiny hole it’s on front of it, or foot sides) and mark fabric with a pen while feeding. Then sew and see where pen marks are: you’ll see that one of them is hopefully right on one of your needle’s seams. Measure width again and you’ll see where the knife is. You don’t need to do that every single time, just try getting confidence with your serger and it will become a second nature for you!
      To make it simpler, some sergers has a cutting width marked on, not very precise but it gives you an idea!
      Please ask if something still sounds unclear to you: it’s hard to explain by words, but it’s really easy to do!
      Hugs from Italy,

  3. allyson December 31, 2014 at 06:43 - Reply

    So i have or should my mother has a bernena 1200da and I am wanting to know what is the best finish stitch to use on a minkie , fleece blanket. I use to have the info for what to use but lost the info in the last two move’s. Any thoughts? This is a bunting or pram that I’m making for my 3 month old.

  4. Rosemarie Fraser February 23, 2015 at 23:49 - Reply

    Wondering if Any 4 thread serger would be able to make this blanket stitch. I think it is awesome. I have a brother1134d

    • Mamma Nene March 5, 2015 at 13:04 - Reply

      Which one is the blanket stitch you’re talking about, Rosemary? I’d love to help you but I don’t get it 🙂
      Please let me know!

      • Rosemarie March 5, 2015 at 18:14 - Reply

        I was just wondering if I can do this blanket stitich in the video above on any serger. I have a brother 1143d or do I have to use the Evolution

  5. Kay Hutchin March 7, 2015 at 01:27 - Reply

    Hello Mamma Nene,
    I am very NEW to the world of the serger and would like to print off your wonderful pages of ‘Serger Stitches Cheat Sheet’ to have beside me as I sew, am I allowed to do this. I am also very new to the world of computers so it is all a bit scary.. Cheers Kay

    • Mamma Nene March 8, 2015 at 11:02 - Reply

      Actually there’s no way you can print this sheet… I would probably split it in a few PDFs, to print it. The problem is that pictures resolution wouldn’t work great for a printed version.
      Thanks for appreciating it!

  6. Sarah April 10, 2015 at 10:36 - Reply


    I just received an overlocker for my birthday and I cannot make it work! before i give up and send it back I was wondering if anyone could help me? my problem is that there is no chain of stitches and the machine is not sewing them or sewing anything! the blade works, its threaded correctly as far as i can see but there is no chain appearing!

    Please help!

  7. […] Serger Stitches Cheat Sheet […]

  8. joyce August 30, 2015 at 16:01 - Reply

    I have the Juki M1000 and I seem to be able to under stand every thing but Upper Looper Converter and what it does. Do I need the 2 needles threaded and the 2 loopers….can you help explain. I see where you need to push the little attachment to the left. Your site is so helpful. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Mamma Nene September 4, 2015 at 17:36 - Reply

      Hi Joyce, thank you for taking the time to contact me!
      I’ve looked into your serger manual and I see that it should have a 2/3 thread converter (see at this link, at page 51:
      They basically say that you need to:
      1. Turn off the power switch.
      2. Press the 2-/3-thread changeover attachment mounted on the upper looper to the left.
      3. Check that the projection of the 2-/3-thread changeover attachment is inserted into the hole in the top end of the looper.
      In the aforementioned state, the upper looper thread is not fed. However, the lower looper thread is fed to form 2-thread stitches.

      I hope this helps… Please let me know if you need more help <3

  9. Carol September 6, 2015 at 01:17 - Reply

    I’m having trouble getting my serger to sew out stitches. I’ve checked everything, including replacing the needles for a 4 thread overlock stitch. No luck, Only get needles indentations and no stitch. Any suggestions.

  10. Prima October 7, 2015 at 08:00 - Reply

    I just used a serger for the first time today, and it cut off a bit of my fabric! Now that little part isn’t straight (looks like a wave). Will I have problems while making my pajama pants?

  11. Di October 11, 2015 at 15:44 - Reply

    I would like to know how to do a cover stitch on a janome 8002dx please can you help? Thanks

  12. […] Serger Stitches 101 Cheat Sheet;  […]

  13. Linda July 15, 2016 at 19:37 - Reply

    I have lost my two thread converter. My machine is a husky overlock 905 . Does anyone know where I can find a replacement?

  14. […] When you start playing with your serger, you’ll see that it’s perfect for adding decorative details (like edgings and pintucks), for adding strength while keeping flexibility to your seams: just start playing with the various stitches (I even have created a useful Cheat Sheet for all the settings!). […]

    • Gloria October 25, 2017 at 19:25 - Reply

      Go to

  15. Paula November 15, 2016 at 07:07 - Reply

    I am trying to serger through double layer of terry/towel material. I have done this before a few years ago and I’m not sure if my blades are just dull or if sewing through two layers of towel material is just too much for serger blades to begin with. Do you have any tips?

    Thank you,

    • Frannie January 12, 2017 at 17:26 - Reply

      I too would also like some tips on how to sew double layer terry / towel fabric. Such as; tension, needle size, Differential Feed length & Stitch length and any other tips.


  16. Carol February 26, 2017 at 20:57 - Reply

    Hi there. I’ve really enjoyed reading the information on this page but Can you tell me why the thread won’t pull out after stitching? It’s very tight and when pulled sometimes breaks. Stitches seam okay.

    • Irene February 28, 2017 at 20:56 - Reply

      Hi Carol!
      Which thread are you pulling? All the four threads together?
      Are you lifting the foot, to release tensions?

      • Carol February 28, 2017 at 23:46 - Reply

        Hi. Yes I’m pulling all four threads and I’ve lifted the foot.

  17. Gillian Snoxall March 6, 2017 at 12:00 - Reply

    Hi Irene,
    I have just discovered your site and am keen to subscribe to your tutorials. However, I have a Babylock Enlighten overlocker and I am wondering if the tutorials would be “compatible” with this make of overlocker.

    Kind regards,


    • Dora mather April 3, 2018 at 00:47 - Reply

      Check yu two videos and your baby lock dealer

  18. Heather March 26, 2017 at 15:03 - Reply

    The lower looper setting on your rolled hem directions look incorrect. It should read 8.

    • Irene April 6, 2017 at 16:50 - Reply

      Sorry Heather if I am late to the party, I have somehow missed your comment.
      I have double checked my rolled hem settings and they are correct. 4 on each thread is what I personally use. I’ve tried setting the lower looper’s tension higher, but I always end up with a broken thread on the upper looper, no matter what I do.
      It probably depends on my serger model/brand, but this is exactly what works for me (and what my manual says).
      As I told in the blog post, each model/brand might need to adjust settings, so the first thing to do is to check in your own manual and to practice with scraps.
      I hope this helps <3
      Happy sewing,
      Irene // Serger Pepper Designs

  19. Ada April 4, 2017 at 21:36 - Reply

    Love it! I have a serger but because I hardly use it for much more than for a straight seam – I don’t really get as much use out of it as I could. I don’t even know what more I could be doing with it. Thanks for the cheat sheet.

    • Irene April 6, 2017 at 16:59 - Reply

      Hi, Ada!
      I would love if you could commit to trying something new with your serger. Maybe you could start from a lettuce hem, which is fun and frilly. Here it is:
      Can’t wait to see what you create: you will love your serger <3
      Irene // Serger Pepper Designs

  20. Cindy April 12, 2017 at 05:07 - Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to pose this information on servers. I have been usingmine for years and no issues. I changed the stitch width and now nothing but problems. I have loops on the underside of the fabric. I have changed needles., changed threads. Adjusted the tensions, etc….. I just can’t figure it out. It’s a Singer serger 4 thread overlock. I have literally spent over 6 hours trying everything. Hope you have a solution. Thank you for your time.

  21. Cindy April 12, 2017 at 05:08 - Reply

    Oops! Let me re-write the beginning of my previsou message. It should read “Thank you for taking the time to post (not pose) this information on servers (not servers). My apologies I didn’t catch this before sending.

  22. Tresa Combe May 27, 2017 at 08:33 - Reply

    Hi! Thanks so much for your cheat sheet 🙂 I’ll definitely be using it if I can get my new Serger figured out . I just received a Pfaff Hobbylock 756 and it is sewing to the cloth plate. It’s a cloth plate sandwich with my fabric on top and the cloth plate on the bottom. Helppp! I have to unscrew the cloth plate and cute them apart. Would LOVE any help/insight so I can get this baby running. Thanks!

  23. Alice Jones June 14, 2017 at 20:22 - Reply

    Wow, thank you for all these tips on how to seam correctly. I like how you explain how different fabrics will need some tension adjustments. My mother is interested in working as a seamer, so I’ll share this article to her.

    • Irene June 16, 2017 at 12:22 - Reply

      Always glad to help, Alice. And cheers to your mom 🙂

  24. susanjoanmorford August 2, 2017 at 18:59 - Reply

    Thanks for the Cheat Sheets & helpful tutorials. I haven’t used my serger in years & just decided to re-learn it. This should be most useful.

  25. Crystal Rodrigue September 29, 2017 at 17:59 - Reply

    I am also new to serging and have used the machine a couple of times {after spending days threading it 🙂 ) Wow, it is overwhelming..I found your page when looking for an answer to weather or not I can do a straight stitch and a serged finish stitch at the same time?? I have a 4 thread overlock.. I watched a tutorial and she did it with a 5 thread…so I guess my question is do I have to sew everything on my sewing machine? and then finish with the serger? or is there a way to do both at the same time on my 4 thread??

  26. JoAnn Dutton October 30, 2017 at 23:03 - Reply

    I also have just discovered your site and would like to subscribe to your tutorials. However, just like a previous post, I also have a new Babylock Enlighten overlocker and I am wondering if the tutorials would be “compatible” with this make of overlocker. lLease advise.

    • Irene November 2, 2017 at 17:58 - Reply

      Hi, JoAnn!
      Except for the threading tutorials, which you won’t need, it should all be working for your own serger too.
      Happy sewing 🙂

  27. Ingrid October 31, 2017 at 17:25 - Reply

    Hello Irene,
    thank you for the cheat sheet.
    I’ve bought my first serger just recently. It looks exactly as yours but goes under the name Medion 16600.
    Can you tell me witch spare parts fit your machine? I was thinking cutting blade or special feet.
    Thank you,

  28. cabirol November 8, 2017 at 21:29 - Reply

    bonjour, je viens de vous découvrir et de lire l’article si-dessus. Dans le manuel de ma surjeteuse il est dit que je peux coudre avec 4,3,ou 2 fils. Malheureusement je n’ai pas le petit ustensile qui permet de pouvoir coudre avec 2 fils . C’est exactement le même que sur les explications de l’article. Peut-être pourriez-vous me dire ou je pourrais me le procurer. Merci à vous.

  29. Linda Fitzpatrick November 27, 2017 at 18:10 - Reply

    I’ve just bought my first serger and if I’m honest I’m procrastinating even opening the box. I’m 50% excited and 50% terrified. I just found your site on pinterest and wanted to take a minute to thank you for all the work you have put in to it. I have printed off your cheat sheet and will laminate them. May even open the box today.

  30. Heather December 16, 2017 at 16:39 - Reply

    So I have a pfaff overlock 4862, had a heck of a time trying to take it from serger mode to overlock mode, and get the knife to stop cutting. Not that I have finished my overlocking portion and gone back to serving, I can’t seem to get the knife to cut once again. It is up and moves up and down, but doesn’t cut. Any tips? Thank you for the printable! I am so happy to have it by my machine.

  31. […] Serger Stitches 101 Cheat Sheet […]

  32. lynne August 8, 2018 at 17:34 - Reply

    I am new to overlocking, I have a Jaguar 097 and I am having problems overlocking a very fine fabric. I check all the settings and start to sew ,its perfect for about 4/5 inches then then the stitches come off the fabric, they don’t catch at all .just a chain is created then it goes back onto the fabric but all loose. Any ideas

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