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The Top Five Reasons to Add a Serger to Your Sewing Room

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One of things we are asked about on a regular basis is sergers. For many people, even seasoned sewers, they are equal parts tantalizing and terrifying. They can do so many cool things at once: seam, trim, and finish – all at lightning speed. But to make it happen, there are a lot of threads working together and… knives! Luckily, the benefits should outweigh your apprehensions. Adding a serger to your sewing room arsenal is a great way to save time and give your seams a professional quality finish. We put together our top five reasons for making a serger your sewing machine’s newest companion.

Our thanks to Janome America Education Coordinator, Nancy Fiedler for providing her helpful tips and samples. She worked on a Janome 1100D serger and used four different thread colors to make it easy to keep track of which thread was doing what. 

We just told you a serger does so many things. But in actuality, a serger does only one thing: it sews forward. To achieve the various stitches, settings and tensions are changed. The most important things to remember is to always, always test the stitch you want, using the exact thread and fabric as your project. Different fabrics and threads all behave differently. Testing is the only way to find the adjustments that will give you the results you want

Your serger should come with tweezers; they make it easy to reach into the tight spaces when threading. The second super handy tool is a brush to help keep the lint at bay. Sergers create a lot of lint, dust, and scraps because of their cutting action. A can of compressed air is also a good cleaning aid. 

The tolerances on a serger are extremely exact. All those rapidly moving parts have to operate in perfect unison. Make sure to only use the recommended needle type. This is so important, it’s usually printed on the face of the machine.


Reason 1: To secure and finish seams in one pass

A serger allows you to sew a seam, trim the seam allowance, and overcast the edge all in one step.

This stitch is called a 4-thread safety stitch and it can be created on all sergers.  A perfectly balanced stitch has the upper looper thread (red in our sample) and lower looper thread (green in our sample) meeting right along the edge of the seam, while the needle threads (yellow and blue in our sample) lay perfectly flat on the upper looper side and are barely visible on the lower looper side.

Use this stitch to quickly sew seams that will not ravel. It’s also a perfect choice for knit garments because the seam is secure yet still stretches with the fabric when worn.

Reason 2: To overcast raw edges

Sometimes you just want to overcast the raw edge of a single layer of fabric. Some common examples of this situation are facings, hems, or before sewing a traditional seam with your sewing machine on a ravel-prone fabric.

The best stitch for this is a 3-thread overcast. On most sergers, this can be done with a wide stitch (upper and left edge on the sample below) or a narrow stitch (lower and right edge on the sample below).

 

On some sergers the width is determined by which needle you remove. Other sergers allow you to change the width by moving the cutting blades. Refer to your owner’s manual for specifics about your machine. Or ask your dealer to demonstrate this adjustment.

When overcasting an edge, you simply skim the raw edge of the fabric with the knives to create a smooth, finished edge.

Reason 3: To make tiny, perfect rolled hems

Nothing is easier than creating a rolled hem with your serger. Napkins, scarves, bridal veils, and more are a snap to finish.

The stitch finger that the overcast stitches have been forming on is removed. The machine is then set up with one needle and thread in both loopers. The stitch length is shortened to .5mm-1mm, and the lower looper tension is tightened. Your manual will show you how to do all of this and will give you recommended settings; it’s not hard! 

The fabric is rolled around the serger’s pin and encased in thread. You have a beautiful hem in minutes. Use matching thread for an almost invisible edge or change to contrasting thread to create a decorative effect. 

Corners are just as simple. Sew off the end, turn the fabric, and stitch the next side. When the hemming is complete, place small drop of seam sealant on each corner, let it dry, and trim the thread tails flush with the corner.

NOTE: Remember, we are using different thread colors in our needles to help show the process. for a “real” rolled hem you would use all the same color, which will give your edge a more solid and uniform finish.

Reason 4: To create flatlock seams

A flatlock seam lays flat with no seam allowance and is also reversible. You can use it for color blocking or just as a cool decorative seam. Contrasting color thread will add an extra design detail. One side will display the upper looper thread (green in our sample) and is called the “loop side.” On the reverse side is the “ladder,” which is the needle thread (yellow in our sample).

Following the instructions in your manual, thread one needle and both loopers. To allow the seam to flatten, you loosen the needle tension (usually to about .5 - 1). Once set, simply sew the seam, guiding the edge of the fabric along the edge of the needleplate. When done, open the seam and give it a gentle tug to flatten.

As you test (because you have taken our advice and are testing before you start with your actual thread and fabric), you may find you need to tighten the lower looper tension slightly to best hide the needle thread. 

Reason 5: Because differential feed is super cool and helps edges to ease and flatten

A serger with differential feed has split feed dogs. There is one set of feed dogs toward the front and another set towards the back.

The speed ratio of these feed dogs can be adjusted to compensate for fabrics that stretch or pucker. Turn the dial higher to ease fabric that is stretching. Turn the dial lower to stretch fabric that is puckering.

Overcast the raw edge of a project with the differential feed at 1.5 - 2 to create what I like to call “automatic easing.” It can make the hem of an A-line skirt lay flat and add a perfect curve to a sleeve cap before inserting it into an armhole.

You can also use differential feed to quickly gather lightweight fabric. Adjust the stitch length to its longest setting, tighten both needle tensions to the highest number, and set the differential dial to 2. Sew at a medium speed and gathers will magically appear behind the presser foot!

Going forward

These are our five fave reasons to have a serger, but of course there are many more features to think about if you decide to follow your urge to serge.

If you use quite a bit of lightweight and sheer fabric, you may want to investigate 2-thread capabilities. A 2-thread overcast or rolled hem lays better because the lighter weight will not compromise the fabric. In the same way, if flatlocking is one of your favorite techniques, a 2-thread flatlock will be even flatter because, as with the rolled hem, a thread has been eliminated.

A serger with five threads gives you the option of a cover stitch. If you don’t have room for more than one extra machine in your sewing space, this may be the machine for you. We have another article just about the clever cover hem. 

As with all machine shopping, your very best option is always to visit your local dealer and “test stitch” several models for yourself. Check out the full selection of Janome sergers online to compare and contrast the features, including the Janome 1100D featured in this article. 

Our thanks again to Janome America Education Coordinator, Nancy Fiedler for her help with this tutorial. To stay up-to-date on all the news from Janome, visit their website and/or follow the creativity on their blog, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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Comments (21)

M said:
M's picture

Thank you so much for showing the different stitches a serger can make. My husband just surprised me with a Janome 3434D because I've been wanting a serger for a long time and am setting up studio for the different crafts and sewing that I enjoy. I have gotten so frustrated over the poor quality of fabric and few styles of tee shirts, pajamas and underwear. I learned how to make tee shirts and sweatshirts in a college sewing class--both on a sewing machine and serger. I fell in love with the serger but didn't have the money to invest in a machine or do the home sewing I wanted to do. I know I can create much nicer garments in real silk as well as more comfortable and beautiful undies and pajamas. I've also wanted to make my own silk scarves--hand painting and dying, as well as do some more home sewing. I have always loved Janome and am so impressed by the quality of my new serger. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ M - Congrats on your new Janome machine! You're going to have so much fun.

Iris Nicole said:
Iris Nicole 's picture

Thank you for the informational article. I just purchased the Janome 8002D and I love it so far minus the threading part. Eventually, I will get the hang of threading it sooner or later 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Iris - Congratulations on adding a serger. You WILL get the hand of it and it will become a much-used tool. 

Margaret Moffat said:
Margaret Moffat's picture

I've had my 3 thread serger for many years, I only use it for raw edges I know it can offer much more, looking for an instruction book recently to learn more, I find that the majority of books are for 4 threaders and only include a small bit of information about 3 thread machines. Can you recommend any old publications that might help me.tia.Margaret

I did find your article very informative but a bit daunting for me.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Margaret - glad we were a bit helpful... but sorry to hear it was still daunting .  You best bet on your machine is to try to get an original manual. I don't know about other manufacturers, but the Janome America website has an area where you can look or and download manuals for current models as well as several retired models. 

http://janome.com/en/support/manuals/

Judy Holland said:
Judy Holland's picture

Loved the information i have the Janine compulock

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Judy - Glad you found it helpful - and you get a gold star since you already have a serger 

Betty Dickhens said:
Betty Dickhens's picture

Great article!  I have the Janome 1200D and love it; your article has reminded me of how many things it can do that I had forgotten about!!  Thanks

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Betty - Thanks... and your 1200D thanks you too.

kim-the-girl said:
kim-the-girl's picture

I have a serger, but recently learned I won't be able to use it when I move to Japan.  Can you tell me if the Janome serger is 50 or 60 Hz?

Karen W said:
Karen W's picture

Kim, Good luck on your assignment to Japan.  When my husband was posted to Europe (England, Spain & Germany), I happily took along ALL of my machines - serger, regular sewing machine & bought my first embroidery machine there.  There are electric converters/ transformers - small ones, for use on lower-wattage appliances, which most sewing machines are.  None of my machines had ANY issues during the nearly 12 yrs and I did a LOT of sewing -- I've always made curtains/ drapes everywhere we've lived & even did uniform alterations as a side business.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Karen - thanks for posting about your personal experiences. Very helpful. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Kim - I don't have that specific detail on all the Janome sergers. You can visit them online or even reach out to them via their customer service email (custrel@janome-america.com). In general, if you buy a machine here in the states, it will be set up to work here. There may be a converter available to you for the plug. And remember, Janome's headquarters is in Japan - you could get a new one once you relocate. 

Jane Coombs said:
Jane Coombs's picture

Great tutorial. I love my serger and clean it and my sewing machine with a vacuum attachment kit. You should wait 20 minutes before using the machines as the static electricity builds up. The Serger's Technique Bible by Julia Hincks is a great resource. It is Janome friendly. Once you use a serger you will wonder why you waited so long to get one. You will see start to see serging everywhere.

M said:
M's picture

Thanks so much for the book suggestion. I was just browsing Amazon to see what serger books were available.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ CCrescentcity1 - You're welcome! 

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