Here are some of the best beginner’s serger tips for getting started with a serger, aka overlock machine. Bringing home your first serger is a big step toward expanding your sewing skills. Producing professional-quality garments, bedding and other projects.
Many sewing enthusiasts, including you, may have successfully managed to create wonderful pieces without the benefit of a serger. But most serger owners insist that switching to a serger opens a whole new world of possibilities that sewing machines just can’t offer you. Here are a few tips to get you started on this new sewing adventure.
Sergers are entirely different animals than even the most complex sewing machine, so don’t jump in cold. Use the owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with your new machine’s parts and features. Make it your friend until you get comfortable with the machine.
Most new sergers also include instructional videos, so take advantage of it. Watching someone else perform various tasks and use different features will help you better understand the written instructions.
Thread The Machine
With four thread spools, two needles and a bewildering array of settings, your serger is obviously a complicated machine. Learning to thread one can be an intimidating procedure, but the best way to learn how to do it right is to do it.
The owner’s manual and video will both contain instructions on threading the machine, usually using the pull-through method. This allows you to change threads without completely re-threading the machine. It’s not hard to learn and it’s a great time-saving method if your machine doesn’t include a self-threading function. However, it’s important to practice basic threading too. The inside cover of the machine may include a threading guide.
Give It A Try
Once you’ve successfully threaded the machine several times, the next step is to run some fabric through it. Refer to the owner’s manual and try out each feature and function. Some of the more complex functions may involve swapping out a part or two, but it’s good practice.
Maintain a slow, steady speed and pay attention to your accuracy. Keep your eyes on the blade, not the needle as on a sewing machine. The blade’s function is permanent, so guide your fabric according to where you want it cut. There is no backstitch function on sergers, so you’ll have to knot the thread when finished.
Using scrap fabric, practice sewing with your serger, learning how to use the differential feed. The differential feed on a serger adjusts the speed of the front feed dog, so it feeds fabric to the rear feed dog at different rates. This feature is vital for preventing unwanted gathering and puckering.
The differential feed needs to be adjusted for seaming different fabrics. For example, serged seams on knit fabrics have a tendency to wave at neutral settings, or you can use the differential feed to create gathers in lightweight materials. Experimenting with scrap fabric helps you understand how to use this important feature of your serger and make the flat or gathered seams you want.
Keep It Clean
Sergers generate more lint and fluff than sewing machines, and this debris needs to be removed to keep the serger working correctly. Most manuals instruct you to oil the machine regularly, but if a serger isn’t cleaned, the oil can catch lint and dust and become clogged.
After every use, use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the serger, removing excess dust and lint. Use a lint brush to sweep lint out of narrow crevices and small areas.
Do not use canned air or a dust blower because it may force lint deeper into areas you can’t reach to clean; cover your serger when it isn’t in use to prevent dust accumulation.
A few times a year, remove the stitch plate, lower the upper blade, clean and remove lint around the blades and feed dogs. Once you have cleaned the serger, oil it according to the instructions in your manual.
The Really Important Tips
Everyone develops their own style, pace and tricks when using a serger. But no matter how you will eventually prefer to use your machine, the following do’s and don’ts are practical, universal tips.
- Sewing over pins is a bad habit when using sewing machines. Doing it on a serger is a sure recipe for disaster. A serger cuts the fabric as it sews, which means learning to sew without depending on pins or pinning much further away from the edge.
- Taking is slow might seem hard, especially if you’re used to speeding along on your sewing machine, but there’s no way to start over after the fabric has already been cut.
- Invest in good thread when you’re ready to tackle your first project. The machine will do its job better and there will be far less chances of thread catching or breaking as you work.
- If you haven’t fallen in love with the tweezers you used while practicing threading, it’s time you did. They’re useful for many tasks, including helping to untangle thread that shouldn’t be tangled.
- Read our beginner’s guide for selecting the right serger.
There’s a definite learning curve involved when starting out with a new serger, but once you get some experience with it, your serger skills will rock.
Take Threading Pictures When Your Serger First Arrives
Most sergers come pre-threaded from the factory. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to begin by carefully taking detailed images of the pre-existing threading, comparing it with the diagrams, and understanding how the machine is threaded before you start. These pictures may later serve as a good visual reference and reminder for your own threading.
Change Needles Often
Make sure you are using the correct needles for your serger that are new and sharp. Many serger issues that seem like thread or tension problems are due to old needles.
Remove unused needles when using fewer threads. It may be tempting to leave both needles in place even if you are only using one, but go ahead and remove the unused one. Even if you are only using one, having both needles in the machine causes uneven stitches and tension problems, so use your included screwdriver to take it out.
Best Entry Level Sergers
- This serger machine is on the cheaper end of the serger spectrum and is the best beginner serger machine
- This serger comes with a blind hem stitch foot, gathering foot and piping foot
- You can use this machine to sew 1,300 stitches per minute
- The machine comes with two sets of free thread to get you started
- It is compact for small spaces but powerful enough for a vast range of sewing projects
- Easy to use for learners and beginners
- This is an affordable serger machine
- It comes with 3 and 4 thread options
- Other features include easy lay-in threading, quick change rolled hem, and adjustable foot pressure
- This is a more expensive machine
- This singer lets you go up to 5 stitches
- You can use this machine to create 1300 stitches a minute
- This machine comes with an easy threading diagram and a fully adjustable tension system
- This serger has a rather hefty price tag
- Color coded threading
- You can control this serger with the touch of one button
- All accessories are included
Serging is a great way to get fast, easy, professional seams and hems on a vast range of sewing projects. It’s also the best way to work with knits and more difficult fabrics that need to move and stretch.
A serger can be intimidating for beginners because they are more complex and multifunctional than a typical sewing machine, but don’t let that stop you from getting an overlock machine of your own. With some time and practice, you will soon be speeding along, creating professional finishes in half the time.
Reading our overlock machine reviews and following our serger tips for beginners will help you choose the right serger for your needs, overcome the learning curve, sew quickly and successfully, and get the best use and performance from your serger for years to come.
However, it’s always essential to study the manual and features of your specific machine and follow the manufacturer’s guidance for the use, care, and maintenance of your serger.