Mar 9, 2020

Top 5 Reasons You Should Have a Serger

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A Serger Makes a Special Type of Stitch

Sergers (or “overlockers”) come in a variety of formats but this article will focus on sergers that can use two three or four threads to create overlock flatlock rolled edges and rolled hem stitches. Sergers were invented specifically to work with knits – but they have potential past that application.

A serger creates a knitted stitch with one or two needles and one or two loopers (no bobbins!) that is less stable than the “lock stitch” on your sewing machine. This is an excellent asset when working with knits. Knit garments often have “negative ease ” which means they stretch when you put them on take them off move in them and so on. Think of swimsuits and workout clothes. An overlock stitch is stable enough to keep your knit garment together but flexible enough to allow it to stretch and move with your body as you swim jog or lounge around in your comfy knit leggings.

Conversely the lock stitch on your sewing machine created by two threads that wrap around each other from top to bottom doesn’t give the flexibility of an overlock stitch. It’s possible to sew knits on a sewing machine with a zig-zag or other “stretch stitches” (we show you how to do so in our Made to Measure Leggings Class) but the structure of the overlock stitch allows for more stretch and flexibility than a sewing machine can offer.


1. Constructing Activewear Swimwear and Knit Garments

Sourcing fabrics and notions for swimwear and activewear has never been easier. Home sewists have access retailers who sell materials that used to be hard to come by. Now that we can buy these fabrics so easily it seems like a no brainer to use the appropriate tool for the job – a serger!

You can use overlock or flatlock stitches to construct knit garments from the ground up with your serger. You’ll get a super-stretchy stitch and perfectly finished edges all in one fell swoop.

Have you ever had your sewing machine “eat” your knit seams? Depending on your equipment and the nature of the fabric a sewing machine needle may push a stretchy fabric down into the bobbin area and cause you a lot of frustration. Sergers have “stitch fingers” that support fabrics as they feed through the machine so your stretchy knits are better supported as they are fed through the machine. That’s why sergers are used in factories to create knit garments.

2. Mending and Altering Your Stretch Garments

If you are an upcycler or if you alter clothes a serger can make your efforts look as professional as possible. Most ready-to-wear knit garments are constructed with a serger. I’ve seen blogs and read books where this construction is ridiculed – but I’ll politely say that those people are wrong.

An overlock stitch is the best option for stretchy garments with negative ease. When you repair or alter a knit garment you’ll get a more durable result when you use the flexible overlock stitch. Just make sure that you trust your markings and alterations decisions – a serged seam is a permanent thing since the seam allowances are trimmed as you sew.

3. Neat Professional Seam Finishes

Let’s leave knits behind for a moment and focus on woven garments home decor and bags. Your serger will give you the fastest neatest seam finishes possible with the added option of trimming seam allowances all at the same time!

Depending on the order of operations for your particular garment you may finish some edges before sewing your seams and some after. For example when I sew jeans or make a shirt-dress where I topstitch the seam allowance after sewing I sew my seams with a sewing machine. Then I try on my garment for fit then use my serger to trim my seam allowance and finish the edges of both pattern pieces at the same time. I have a narrower seam allowance (less bulk – woohoo!) that I can press to the side and topstitch easily.

We use the three-thread narrow overlock stitch for seam finishing. It’s less bulky than the four-thread and perfectly capable of keeping our edges finished and neat through years of garment wear and care.


4. Stunning Decorative Edges

Sergers have a ton of potential beyond construction and we put a decorative serged edge on any project that will allow it!

Using decorative machine embroidery thread metallic threads or thick “non-needle” threads in your loopers you can create anything from “barely-there” finishes to bold edges using both the overlock stitches and rolled edge/hem stitches.

These are great options for when you don’t want to fold a hem up or make a facing. We finished the hem of my silk satin wedding dress with a the three-thread rolled edge stitch and metallic machine embroidery thread. The effect was perfect. It kept the hem light and airy.

On the other hand you can use your three-thread wide overlock stitch to create the serger-version of a satin stitch to finish an edge. This is wonderful on baby blankets and a great way to add color and shine to a garment.

The possibilities for mixing and matching different colors weights and fiber contents of threads are almost endless. I will mention that it’s easiest to switch around between different weights of threads when you have a serger with the automatic thread delivery system. But if you don’t just test to get the proper settings on your serger.

5. Down and Dirty Sewing

Zede and I are happy to admit that we sometimes use our sergers in unconventional ways. As we say on the podcast: “once you know the rules you can break them.” While we don’t recommend using an overlock stitch to construct seams on woven garments sometimes a quick costume piece or decoration has to make its way from the cutting table to the stage in 20 minutes and we’re ok with the fact that it might not last for 20 years.

We’ve serged out countless quick skirts and sashes to add splashes of color or just to ensure that someone is in a decent state before going on stage. Serged seams are secure enough for some woven applications (seams with low stress) and the edges get finished too!

Go Try Out a Serger at Your Baby Lock Dealer!

Zede and I used to be Baby Lock Dealers in our hometown. We loved it when a customer came in and asked to see what a serger could do for them!

Call or email your local Baby Lock retailer and tell them you’re curious to see how

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