Like sewing machines, sergers range from the very basic to models with more bells and whistles. In general, the more threads a serger has, the more functions and stitches it can perform—and the more it will cost. Review the tips in "Shopping for a Machine" in the first issue of Sew Simple. The same tips apply to buying a serger.
A serger creates finished seams as seen on ready-made garments, such as side seams in sweatshirts and T-shirts. A serger speeds up the sewing process because it can stitch a seam, finish the raw edges and trim off excess fabric— all in one step. To accomplish the same results using a regular sewing machine would require three separate steps. But a serger isn’t a substitute for a regular sewing machine. It can perform a variety of functions and handle many different fabrics, but it can’t do everything a sewing machine can, like make buttonholes.
The most basic stitch on a serger is the overlock stitch. A serger has upper and lower loopers that carry the threads that form loops on the fabric top and bottom, binding the edge. The looper threads engage with the needle threads to form an overlock stitch. A 3-thread overlock stitch uses one needle thread (1 needle thread + 2 looper threads). A 4-thread overlock stitch uses two needle threads.
Each thread path on a serger has tension. This is an advantage, because the ability to adjust each thread's tension allows you to sew any fabric. When the tension is adjusted correctly, you'll see two lines of straight stitching on the top made by the needles, and the upper and lower looper threads will meet perfectly on the edge. On the underside of the fabric, you’ll see dots where the needle threads are. Thread tensions can also be adjusted to create various specialty stitches.
4-Thread Overlock Stitch
SERGER DOS & DON'TS
DON'T—buy your serger, bring it home and leave it in the box.
DO—Set it up right away. Cut out pajamas, T-shirts and shorts, and get started. The sooner you get comfortable with the serger the sooner its new feeling will become second nature.
DON'T—Put off taking new-owner classes.
DO—Sign up right away for classes. You'll learn so much more, and more quickly, in a class environment than at home. Everyone benefits from things that happen in classes, such as seeing how other's problems are solved and sharing serger experiences with other students.
Standard serger thread is 2-ply, which means it's made from two strands twisted together, and comes on a cone. Thread used with standard sewing machines is 3-ply. Serger thread is thinner and more lightweight than standard sewing thread to help eliminate bulk at the seamlines. When you become more comfortable and experienced with your serger, experiment with decorative threads in the loopers to create different effects.
As a beginner, you'll use a serger mostly for finishing seams. As you get more experienced, you'll use the serger for seaming (you can make entire knit garments using only a serger), gathering, rolled hems, decorative effects and more.
When you buy a serger, look for a dealer who offers "New Owner" classes to learn the basics of your new machine and expand your knowledge of its capabilities. Ongoing support classes are also important as you build your skills. A serger may look intimidating, but with a reputable dealer as your guide you’ll be able to thread your serger and learn how to incorporate it into your sewing life. <
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