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A Quick Technique for Serging Smooth Hems

Serger expert Gail Patrice Yellen offers a quick solution to a serging problem.

Threads #194, Dec. 2017/Jan. 2018 Issue
Article Image
This small sample doesn't show a lapped lace application, but it does demonstrate how the gate disappears when you serge and trim.
Learn a quick step to take before you serge for smooth lace applications to hems.

Any time you serge a circumference, for example a hem, you confront a slight jog at the beginning/end of your serging. There is a simple way to prevent this serging problem. Just cut a “gate” in your fabric to get your serger blade in the right place to trim the cloth from the start.

Unevenness occurs at the spot where you angle the fabric to the right until the knife trims the fabric to the correct depth. This is the same spot where you must angle the fabric to the left to chain off and extract your work from the serger, as you finish serging the hem.

A quick solution for this situation was shared by serger expert Gail Patrice Yellen when she came to the Threads photo studio. She stopped by our offices in Newtown, Connecticut, to photograph her story “Specialty Serger Feet: Part 1,” featured in Threads #194, Dec. 2017/Jan. 2018. Gail was showing us how to use a lace applicator serger presser foot to attach lace trim to a skirt hem when she demonstrated this technique. The samples shown were made with the lace applicator foot and a hem lace application. Gail also has tips for successfully placing the lace to match smoothly.

Cut the starting gate in your garment to the same depth as you anticipate trimming off with your serger, and about 1 inch long. In this case, the gate was 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch long.

Cut a “gate” into the fabric edge to be serged.

Our example is shown for a lace application technique, but the same principle works for simply serging around an edge. Don’t cut the lace trim to the exact length; you’ll apply it almost completely before cutting the end carefully for a precise overlap.

Raise the serger presser foot and slide the fabric beneath, aligning the gate right up to the knife.

Insert the fabric in the serger, aligning the gate’s inner edge to the knife.

Lower the presser foot and serge, trimming off 1/4 inch or your chosen gate depth.

This technique works with an overlock or rolled-hem stitch—as you finish the hem and approach the gate again, just serge a small amount over the starting stitches and then shift the fabric to the left, chaining off.

If you are applying lace trim, as shown, pause your serging close to the end, a few inches from the starting point. Gauge the remaining length of unattached lace, and trim it to have a slight,  1/8-inch overlap. Adjust this amount if it will help you arrange the lace trim to diminish the join.

Serge/apply the lace trim until you reach the gate again, and chain off. Trim the thread chains (beginning and end) and use a few hand stitches in matching thread to securely, but invisibly, join the lapped lace trim ends.

This small sample doesn’t show a lapped lace application, but it does demonstrate how the gate disappears when you serge.

Do you have any serging tips to share? You can always send them in to to be considered for our Tips department. We pay for every tip, and award a “Best Tip” in each issue. If you love sewing short cuts, you’ll enjoy the more than 800 handy ideas in the book “Sew Smarter, Better & Faster” written by the editors, contributors, and readers of Threads.

If serging is your particular interest, check out this  content collection: “6 Serger Secrets.” 

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  1. User avater JasmeenSandle November 20th

    Really helpful for me...i just love sewing!!!

  2. user-6951359 November 17th

    I’ve been teaching this method for years with the addition of a chain-free join. So, serge up to where you almost meet up with the starting point and allow the blade to trim the starting chain. At that point, shy the fabric edge away from the blade and guide the needles over the edge, serging just a few stitches past the meeting point. (The needles are always at least an inch behind the blades so need to catch up!) Now here’s the trick, turn the fly wheel one full turn backwards so that the needles are at their highest points. This will convert the chain back into threads. Raise the presser foot and remove the work, cutting the threads leaving around six inch long tails. Pull away the extra loop that occurs and separate the four remaining threads into pairs. Tie two to the other two into a simple knot, steering it towards the back of the work and trim ends closely. There you have it; a very neat chain-free join!
    Janet Moville, founder, Modern Approach Sewing School UK

  3. TexAlaska November 7th

    WOW! This has so many more applications than lace. Thank you! I love it. What a clever trick!

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