Beginner Serger Projects

I love teaching beginning serging, but I feel for all those who do not have a local teacher to help.  I learned on my own, and I know how hard that is.  Having someone by your side makes all the difference in the world, yet so often we don’t have that.

For all of you in that boat:  Keep trying.  You don’t need to be afraid of your tension dials.  You may eat up a lot of fabric and thread with just testing out your stitches, but if you’re willing to change those dials, you’ll learn more quickly how your serger works.  Don’t give up.  You may not quite get to projects right away, but you’ll never get there if you don’t dive in.

  1. Get out some scrap fabric because when you use a serger you will test your stitches EVERY time you change ANYTHING.  Even after you know what you’re doing.  🙂
  2. Be sure when you thread that you always thread the upper looper, and then the lower looper, and lastly the needles.  If you have a looper thread break, you need to unthread the needles, at least take the thread out of the needle eyes, before rethreading the looper.  If the upper looper needs rethreading, you must also unthread the lower looper eye before rethreading the upper looper.  In this case order matters a lot.
  3. When you start, it really helps to use 4 different colored threads.  And, if you have color-coded threading instructions, it helps even more if your colors match the colors for your machine.
  4. Set all your tensions to the middle of the road to start, probably at a 4.
  5. Serge slowly, if you can, and see what it looks like.
  6. Now change one of your tensions a notch up or down.  Serge again.  See what changed.
  7. Keep changing one thing at a time and see what changes. What changes when you modify tensions a little?  What about when you modify one of them a lot?
  8. There are several ways to deal with thread ends. The easiest is to run about 8″ of serger chain off whenever you finish a seam, and cut it in the middle, leaving 4″ on the fabric and 4″ on the serger.  Use a blunt needle to run the chain under the last 1-2″ of serger loops on the seam. You’ll increase your repertoire of ending skills as you go.

Play around with your serger.  If you play a lot before trying a project, you’ll be less frustrated when the time comes.

Then, what about a first project?  I recommend a simple pillowcase.  Cut one fabric 22-26″ x width of fabric.  Cut a second fabric 10″ x WOF.  Fold the 10″ piece in half lengthwise (hotdog fold), and press.  Lay the long edges along the cut edge of the right side of the large piece of fabric and serge with a 4 thread overlock stitch.

Press this doubled fabric away from the large piece.

Fold the whole thing in half lengthwise (hotdog fold) again, selvages together.  Serge the selvage seam, cutting the selvages off with the serger. Isn’t that convenient?

And finally, serge the bottom seam.

You have finished your first project.  Congratulations!

From this basic pillowcase you can change things up – put on a gathered ruffle, use decorative stitches, add piping, use French seams – lots of possibilities to develop and increase your skills.

Another very easy project that will help you use a rolled hem is the Fat Quarter Gift Bag, which can be found at Bernina USA.  You can also find other serger projects here, which can help you develop your serger skills even further.  I don’t own a Bernina, but I love their project pages.

I am always glad to answer questions, as well.  You can reach me at cherishedneedlecreations@gmail.com, or on my Cherished Needle Creations Facebook page.   I would be glad to help you out, or direct you to other resources that may help, since there are actually quite a few resources for sergers available on the Web.  I also have resources on my website, www.cherishedneedlecreations.com, and you can subscribe to my free monthly techniques and projects newsletter from there.

So, dive in!  The water’s fine!  Serging does take practice, so even if you’ve been sewing for years, if you are new to a serger, have patience with yourself.  It is a different animal than a sewing machine, and it will take time to get used to it.  As your skills develop, so many new options will become available to you, so persevere!

 

 

© Sherilyn Siegmund-Roach and Cherished Needle Creations

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Miranda van der Merwe
    Feb 09, 2016 @ 03:15:42

    Thank you Sherilyn, your kind and encouraging post comes at a much needed time for me, as a beginner serger user. I have a question. How does one slow down the speed of the pedal of the serger or what am I doing wrong? I have a beginners-type 4-thread Janome model, with no adjustments available inside the pedal or a slower speed adjustment knob on the machine. My husband tried to help, by opening the pedal and trying to adjust the speed, but with no success. I think maybe the angle of my foot might contribute to my runaway serger. 🙂

    Reply

    • Sherilyn, Cherished Needle Creations
      Feb 12, 2016 @ 11:18:40

      Dear Miranda,

      Pedal speed can be tricky, and it might be extremely difficult to regulate, depending on the machine you use. I have seen some machines that seem to have one speed only – supersonic. I hate to say this, but it really just takes practice to make the difference on those machines where the speed can be regulated somewhat. This is what I recommend you try:

      1) ALWAYS have scrap fabric to practice on every single time you change a setting. I know that seems like a lot, but if you get a pile of pieces sitting next to you, you’ll quickly find that this will actually save you time in the long run. You’ll never fully outgrow this step..

      2) Practice on a bunch of scrap fabric first. Put your fabric under the front of your foot, in front of your knife blade to start your seam.

      3) Place your whole foot on the pedal. I find this can really help. Try to have your heel off the floor as well. So, instead of using your foot to control the pedal, you will actually use your leg muscles. You’ll have a bit more control that way.
      This also means you will need to fully remove your foot from the pedal between seams or you may have a surprise serge (surge) when you are not expecting it.

      4) With your whole foot on the pedal, try to depress the pedal (front of foot) just to the point where the serger starts feeding the fabric. Finding this spot may be tricky, but practice. Try to keep a steady speed from there on.

      5) As you get more practice, the super speed of the serger will feel more comfortable. It IS faster than a sewing machine, but that is actually one of its strengths; one I hope you will come to appreciate.

      Practice on a LOT of scraps where you are serging straight ahead. As you serge, try to modify and change the speed without the serger stopping. See if you can figure out where to depress the pedal to find the speeds you need.

      This is why Baby Lock made a serger with a speed regulator on it. It’s super expensive for now, but perhaps that will give other manufacturers the idea that this is a good thing to have.

      I wish you well in your relationship with your serger! Please let me know if this helps.

      Reply

  2. Miranda van der Merwe
    Feb 15, 2016 @ 03:20:36

    Hi Sherilyn, I will follow your advice step-by-step. It actually makes a lot of sense. I think it is the fear of overcoming this new machine that actually makes one unable to think clearly. Practice makes perfect and it makes sense to practice on scrap material. There is no other way, I’m sure. Thank you for coming down to my level as an intimidated beginner. I am a bit of a hasty person, so I need to be told to slow down. Your kind directions in this is definitely helpful for me and an encouragement to alter my approach to the pedal. Many thanks. Miranda

    Reply

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