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The Serger or Overlock Sewing Machine

Serger Sewing MachineSergers are specialized sewing machines that create an overlock stitch that can be used to cleanly finish or hem raw edges of fabric. To see an example of what sergers do, take a look at the seams of commercially produced garments. Sergers are able to create this type of overlock stitch through the use of two loopers and one (or more) needles that work in unison to create a looped overlock stitch. Sergers also have a cutting blade that trims excess fabric off just before it goes under the needle which creates a consistently sized seam every time. Sergers are wonderful machines to have, especially for sewing garments, because of the clean, professional looking seam finish they create.


Serger Sewing Machine Four Thread OverlockThis image shows a four-thread overlock stitch that was sewn as a sample in a serger class. The instructor had us use a different color for each thread so that we could clearly see what each thread was doing in the stitch.



What are Sergers Used For?


While they can be used to quickly sew up simple seams, most people tend to use them more for seam finishing than garment construction. I keep my serger and standard machine side by side and switch between the two as I sew. Typically, I will use the serger to initially sew straight side seams and finish hem edges in preparation for turning and then use my regular machine to sew the neckline and other rounded seams and then use the serger to finish the seam edges, trimming and stitching just outside the construction seam line. Another option is to serge all edges of each garment pieces before sewing them together if you prefer to press your seams open. This technique works especially well on fabrics that tend to fray.

serger sewing machine serged rolled hemOne of my favorite features of the serger is its ability to create a beautiful rolled hem. The serger trims the fabric edge and rolls it over a "finger" in the needle plate and then stitches a narrow satin stitch over the rolled edge and it comes out looking perfect. This is a wonderful way to hem sheer fabrics like chiffon that can be difficult to otherwise hem.


Sergers are also wonderful to use when sewing knits because the seam that the serger creates is stretchable and thus a perfect match for knit fabrics. Sergers also make sewing ribbing onto sleeve and neckhole edges a breeze.

In addition to seam finishing, sergers can also do decorative embellishing as well using specialty stitches like the flatlock stitch or chain stitch. There are a number of decorative threads that can be used in combination with the various stitches to create beautiful embellished effects. For more information on the creative possibilities of the serger, Sewing with Sergers is one of the best serger reference books to have in your collection.

serger sewing machine serged flatlock stitchThe sample seen here is a utilitarian flatlock stitch made decorative by the use of a heavy variegated thread.



Part Two: Care and Feeding of Your Serger

For more information on using sergers, refer to these books:



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