Advanced Serger Techniques
To many home sewists, the thought of using a serger for the first time can be intimidating. The sight of multiple thread spools and tension dials, often intricate and confusing threading paths, loopers and cutting blades can frighten anyone. But… if you were hooked the first time you ran a length of fabric through a serger, you’ve no doubt been enjoying your machine while perfecting your skills.
The speed, precise stitching, and beautiful edge and seam finishes would impress anyone who formerly worked only with sewing machines. This short collection of advanced serger techniques goes beyond the basics to give you a jump start on further advancing your serging skills.
Sheer Fabric Magic
Working with chiffon, silk, satin and other fine or slippery fabrics is often time consuming, frustrating and maddening. They fray easily, tend to get away from you and continually try to slide off the machine’s work area. Choosing the right thread and needles are a beginning, but basting the fabric together before you begin serging will drastically enhance your control while serging a rolled hem. The real trick to putting a perfect finish on these fabric types is simply to back the area to be stitched with tissue paper that can be gently torn off when finished. This prevents slipping, puckering or fluting.
Ruffles and Gathers
Some beginners hesitate on creating gathers on a serger, especially after years of doing so on a sewing machine. But gathering lightweight to mid-weight fabrics is a breeze. For near-perfect gathers, set the differential feed, needle tension and stitch length to their highest numbers: the looser the stitches, the better. Don’t be alarmed at the small gathers that will be created as you stitch along the raw edges of the fabric – it’s normal. Insert a sewing needle underneath the parallel lines of needle threads while avoiding the loosely stitched looper threads. Pull the threads out of the chain at one end of the fabric and adjust your gathers. Be careful not to tangle the threads. Voila! Perfect gathers or ruffles!
If you love embellishing your handmade garments and other projects, but lean toward a classic look, why not create your own fabric trims using 5/8-inch-wide strips of bias-cut fabric and decorative threads? Tricot produces great results, and this is one of those advanced serger techniques that will really come in handy.
- Using a standard presser foot, fold the fabric strip in half lengthwise to create a tube shape.
- Insert it between the knife edge and the needle, and pull about a 2-inch tail behind the foot.
- Pull the strip taut at both ends and use a 3-thread overlock of matching or contrasting threads to create the “braided” trim.
- Increase the stitch width if the fabric isn’t being completely covered and decrease it if the stitches aren’t close enough together.
- Threading the lower looper with fusible thread will allow you to expertly place the trim on your project fabric.
Lettuce edging is a sweet, delicate finish for lightweight knits and sheer fabrics. There are a couple of techniques for producing a lettuce edge finish on all types of garments and projects. You can also create strips of lettuce edge trim to create cascading, wavy layers.
- Using 2- or 3-thread rolled or narrow-hem stitching on very fine fabrics both work well with this technique. Set the differential feed to the lowest number and the stitch length and width to short and narrow before starting. This will stretch the fabric and create slight curls as it moves through the machine.
- Stitching fishing line into a rolled hem creates a more secure, long-lasting lettuce edge effect on light to medium-weight fabrics because the line holds its natural curl. The weight of the line will determine the strength of the curl. Use 10- to 15-pound line on lightweight fabrics and up to 25-pound line on heavier fabrics. Place the line over the front of a standard or rolled hem presser foot and under the back, keeping it between the cutting blade and the needle. Stretch the fabric as you stitch, keeping the line on top of the fabric. Continue stitching over the line 4 to 5 inches past the fabric end, cut the line and stretch the fabric by hand. Bury any leftover fishing line.
Flatlocking Decorative Beading
There’s no need to limit your decorative efforts to adding pearl or other beading types to the edges of garments and other sewing projects. By using this technique, you can quickly add a secure length of beads anywhere! Using a 2- or 3-thread flatlock stitch, 2mm to 4mm beading and “invisible” monofilament thread will make it look like the pearls are floating on the fabric. Disengage the upper cutting blade, attach a beading presser foot to your serger and set the stitch length and width to as long and wide as possible.
- Draw a guideline on the fabric face, fold it along that line (wrong sides together) and pin the fold into place, keeping pins well away from the fold.
- Insert the pearl string into the groove on the presser foot and leave a 1- or 2-inch tail behind the foot.
- Use the handwheel to get the stitch chain started.
- Place the folded fabric under the presser foot and slowly stitch along the folded edge, making sure the looper threads wrap along the beads.
- Pull the threads from around the last several pearls, knot the threads and cut off the remaining pearls. This will ensure you don’t hit a bead while stitching the project.
Joining Lace to Fabric
There are countless creative and decorative techniques you can use to attach lace yardage to fabric using your serger but this Is one of the most charming. Lace adds delicate texture and interest to any sewing project, especially lingerie, lightweight summer dresses, curtains, and infant clothes and bedding.
Narrow fagoting is a decorative way to join lace to lightweight fabrics, especially those that tend to fight laying or hanging flat. This technique works best using a standard presser foot, a 2-thread flatlock stitch and a narrow (3 mm) stitch width. Using a heavy decorative thread in the needle will make the ladder stitches strong and easier to see.
- Finish the edge of the fabric you intend to use and press the seam allowance to the wrong side of the fabric.
- Disengage the upper knife, then place the fabric and lace next to each other and serge the edges together, allowing about half of each stitch to hang free of either edge to create a small gap at the seam line. If the edges overlap, the needle tension is too tight.
- Thread a tapestry or large embroidery needle with a double (or more) strand of heavy decorative thread or a length of fine ribbon and weave it over and under each ladder stitch.
- Iron a narrow strip of fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the seam to reinforce it.
Once you’ve mastered the basics on your serger, it’s natural to want to learn new and more creative techniques. Every step you take beyond your comfort zone is another step up the skill ladder. A serger lets you do so much more than create strong seams and finished edges. There’s no end to the number of creative things you can make if you give more advanced serger techniques a try.