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Conversational Threads

Do I need a serger?

Flowergarden129 | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

Hi,

I’m new to this forum. I sewed almost all my clothes for many years (I’ve been sewing since I was 8), but have been on a 15 year hiatus. Having kids does that to you. Now, I’m getting back into sewing again. I imagine I’ll mainly sew clothes for work–dresses, skirts, semi-structured jackets. I’ve never used a serger, but lots of people seem to adore them. Other than offering more nicely finished inner seams without having to go to the bother of finishing them with a Hong Kong finish or whatever, what’s the advantage of having one? Plus, it seems like if you serge you need to have done a muslin first, since you can’t really adjust the fit once you’ve cut off the seam allowance with the serger, right? I sort of feel like I should think about getting one, but I don’t understand well enough what you can do with one to decide. Advice, please?

Replies

  1. MaryinColorado | | #1

    If you do a "search" here on "sergers or serging"  you might enjoy it.  I use my serger more than my sewing machine for most things. 

    You don't "need" a serger, but they are wonderful for speed, finishing seams, perfect coverstitching of knits.

    I go way above and beyond with mine.  You can do Heirloom serging with the 2 or 3 thread rolled hem (beautiful hems, necklines without facings, napkin edges, make cording, covered cording, make trims, pintucks.  I even finished a quilt with a "wrapped edge" instead of making binding.  It looks like a wide piping with varigated thick thread.  Make and finish fleece baby blankets, sweatshirts and pants, coats.

    Coverstitch and chainstitch:  knit seams, hems, belt loops, decorative stitching, embellishment with thick threads, and trims, even hem bluejeans. 

    Three thread overlock:  seam finishing, make scarves of thick thread or yarn lace (using water soluble stabilizer), quilting small items, seams in nonstress areas, make your own trims, make bias bindings, put in zippers, pintcucks.

    Flatlock:  heirloom ribbon insertion, decorative stitching, seams in nonstress areas, blind hem stitch, quilting small items. 

    Many more, some are quick to learn and some take practice.   Most people have a learning curve with threading at first and doing inside and outside curves.

    The book "Serger Secrets"  High Fashion Techniques for Creating Great-Looking Clothes is an excellent resource.  http://www.lindaleeoriginals.com is an excellent source for serger specific patterns and information.  The PBS show Sewing With Nancy is great, http://www.nancysnotions.com or http://www.sewingwithnancytv.com has alot of serger instruction, kits, books, DVDs, patterns, etc.   Mary

  2. JeanM | | #2

    I don't have a serger--never wanted one, never needed one.   Besides there isn't any room for it in my sewing room with all the other stuff.

    Mary in Colorado had a nice list of things one can do with a serger (they've come a long way since they first appeared for home sewers).

    More than half the sew-ers do have one.  You need to decide for yourself.  Go a sewing machine dealer and check them out; then decide if you need/want one at this time.  The type of sewing you do will help you determine if you need one.   I know several people who got one, used it a few times, then put it back in the box where it now lives.  Then there are those who use their sergers more than their sewing machines.

     

  3. Ralphetta | | #3

    I love my serger and use it as much as my sewing machine. It gives a really nice, finished look to quick things you whip up like unlined jackets or tailored shirts. With it sitting there, threaded and ready to go, it's amazing how much I use it.I use it a lot for alterations of RTW because I don't have to open the existing seam if I need to take something in. I can just sew the new seam in a flash and I'm done. I often need to lower the crotch of RTW pants. ZIP..zip and they're ready to wear...no ripping, etc. I got ready to go somewhere and decided my old bulky cardigan looked dated with its excess fabric in the sleeves and under the armpit. In less than 10 minutes I sewed from the cuff to the underarm seam and tapered into the side and removed fabric and "years' from it, (and it looked fine on the inside.) It looked much newer and I was out the door in no time. No way could I have done that with my sewing machine. When I prewash my new fabrics I always serge the cut ends and it doesn't ravel at all, unlike the sewing machine does. It doesn't replace couture work, but it gives you more time to indulge in it. Go play with one before you dismiss them.

  4. Crazy K | | #4

    I got my first serger about 12 years ago............and I don't know how I did all the sewing I did years ago without one!  I do lots and lots of kids things, casual things for me and some home dec.  I, too, use my serger more than the sewing machine.  I can make a sweatshirt or t-shirt for child or adult and use the sewing machine only to stitch the ribbing for the neckband, cuffs, etc.  That, too, can be done on the serger but I don't like the bulk.  A ladies' t-shirt with a jewel neck can be done completely on the serger ...........in about 15 minutes......and that includes cutting and pressing!!  I use a coverhem to finish the edges.

    I agree that you should not dismiss the idea without doing more research......and do it at a dealer where you can sit down and sew on one.

    Kay

    Edit:  OMG......I just re-read my post....I do attach the ribbing with the serger......always.........it's stitching the ribbing together to made the 'round' that I use the sewing machine.  Some stitch the ribbing on the garment and then serge it with the seam.........I like the enclosed seam on the ribbing better so I do it 'my' way!! ha ha

    Edited 1/8/2009 2:19 pm ET by Crazy K

    1. MaryinColorado | | #6

      I attatch the ribbing with a rolled edge instead of the 3 thread overlock for less bulk, works like a charm!  Have you tried the Success Serging Yarn by YLI?  It's acrylic and very soft for baby/childrens items. 

      1. Crazy K | | #7

        No, I haven't tried that.  Is it like Woolly Nylon?  I guess I'm just too lazy.  I use the 4-thread fromt start to finish unless I am doing a rolled hem finish on something!!  I surely haven't explored all my sergers can do........something I should really do.  Life keeps getting in the way of really serious 'play time' for me........but the alternative would be living alone and not having children/grandchildren nearby.........that being said, I'll take what I've got and sew when I can!!!!!!!!!!

        Hope you're staying warm..........are you in the area that keeps getting dumped on with snow?

        Kay

        1. MaryinColorado | | #8

          No, that's mostly North of here, there were terrible fires North of here too.  We could see the smoke and at night, the light from it.  My son was near it last night, they can't put it out due to Hurricane force winds (100mph).  I live between Denver and the mountains so we are protected from alot of the bad weather.  Last night a man was knocked over into a ditch from the winds while broadcasting the fire.  whew

          The acrylic is softer than Wooly nylon, more like a sweater knit.  It works great and there's less bulk with the two thread rolled hem.  Try it, you'll love it!  You can also do a wider rolled hem for a wrapped stitch on blankets that looks really cool with 12 wt. Sulky cotton blenders.  I love my serger and hope to explore more quilting with it this year.  When I get a round tuit....

      2. cafms | | #12

        Do you think the Success Serging Yarn could be hand wrapped on a bobbin as the woolly nylon could be and used on a regular sewing machine? 

        1. MaryinColorado | | #13

          I've only used those threads in the serger.  I haven't even tried wooly nylon in my bobbin so I don't know.  I would think it's worth trying though if you have a purpose for it.  Were you thinking of using a double needle to simulate the overlock on a knit?  The acrylic serger yarn stretches and fills in more than wooly nylon so it may give you tension problems and fuzz up the sewing machine.  I'd go at a slower speed and really listen to your machine for strange sounds in case it causes thread nests under the throat plate.  Maybe bypass the bobbin tension.  (I have a seperate specialty bobbin case that I adjust but don't advocate adjusting the one that is preset for regular sewing.  I even put it in a baggie while I adjust it so I don't lose the screw.  It's a different color so I don't mix them up.)  I think you might want to use mercerized cotton thread in the needles as I wonder if polyester thread would "cut" or weaken the acrylic thread with wear.

          I love using large threads in the bobbin and doing embroidery upside down so the bobbin thread shows on the surface (right side of fabric).  

          Good luck experimenting.  Please let us know what you discover on your journey. 

          1. cafms | | #14

            Thanks for your reply.  I have used woolly nylon in the bobbin with double needles.  I like that for hemming T-shirts but only have white and many times I don't want the white as it would be too noticable.  I haven't been able to find the nylon locally in a while either.  We have a couple more specialized stores here and I'll have to look for the serger yarn next time I am at one of them.   

          2. Sancin | | #15

            Another who doesn't have one or want one. Threading my machine is a job I hate, not that it is difficult. Just a waste of time considering all else that gives satisfaction.
            If you haven't been sewing for 15 years get to know the newer sewing machines and what they do. I find I can do a lot on my Janome, just by using decorative stitches. And I really don't want to learn yet another device. I am a senior have been sewing since a very early age, starting first with hand sewing, which I still enjoy. As someone else said, it is up to you to decide what you want to do. If you know what and how to do Hong Kong seam finishes you may be a little fussy about how the inside looks. ;-)

  5. sewingkmulkey | | #5

    I agree with JeanM and personally don't see the need for a serger.  I bought a mid-priced one a couple years ago and it sat in the box until last November when I gave it to my daughter who's doing lots of home dec sewing.  She thinks it's great so I'm glad it has an appreciative home. 

    I sew mainly lined jackets and have no real use for a serger.  You need to read some of the fabulous serger books out there to see their ideas excite you enough to make the purchase.

    Karen

  6. starzoe | | #9

    I am another sewer who doesn't have a serger and frankly, I could have used one when the boys were young. I have a 23 year old Husqvarna which is a workhorse, never gives trouble, has lots of options and although I have looked at sergers and newer machines I never could justify buying either.The type of sewing I do (off the grid and off the top of my head) would not be suitable for a serger until perhaps the very final stages. I am not looking for speed, enjoy hand sewing and couture finishing touches.

  7. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #10

    A serger is like any other new sewing tool.  You need to figure out first wether your style of sewing would make it a good tool.  I have one, but use it a lot less than I thought I would, but still use it a lot.  If you like fast and quick sewing, are the type to jump in and try new things easily, are willing to spend the time playing and learning a new tool, GREAT!  Then you would love having a serger.  If you are afraid of your tool, and are happy to keep doing things the same old way, then you are less likely to use it.  It is a real bonus for a busy person with little time for all the seam finishing the sewing machine only requires.  It is great for a creative person who wants to try new things.  It can do almost every thing a sewing machine can, but does not replace it.  But where it does speed up sewing, you have to spend more time fitting before you sew.  And Home Dec is a breeze if that is your thing.   If you get the serger, TAKE ALL OF YOUR CLASSES!!!!!!!Cathy

  8. Susan -homedecsewing | | #11

    Make sure it is one that you can thread easily, i've had both good and bad in that dept. and thats what seems to irritate me the most. so try before you by !

    1. San | | #17

      There is one serger I have seen that is self threading.   Does anyone have any experience with that machine?   I know it is expensive.    

       

      1. MaryinColorado | | #18

        People who have them seem to love them,  http://www.patternreview.com has reviews by owners that may be of help to you. ( I chose not to buy that one in spite of the arthritis in my hands because I love using thick yarns and threads in my loopers and we couldn't get them to feed into the air threading loopers at several shops I went to.)

        1. pinkit | | #25

          Hi Mary:  Glad to see you are out there encourageing people to take a look at the Serger.  I know your advice was very helpful to me in makeing a decision.  As you suggested, I have been very happy with my Viking 936.  The manager at the store is very helpful and this is very important.  There is serger club every month and classes are all free if you purchased the machine from their store.  It is about a  little over a year now since  I purchased my machine and I have had a great time with it.  I admit I have spent a good deal of time playing with it and the more I do so the more easily everything falls in place.  I made several polar fleece (two sided) blankets for Christmas gifts for the young adults and they were all thrilled. Very cold, snowy winter here in Vermont.  I am determined to learn all I can about this machine and am fortunate to have a great deal of patience.  Also, if I forget how to do something I can still return to the serger class at any time for a review.  I have also done several sets of napkins and placemats and have been giving them as gifts to my adult daughters.  On the matter of thread, I have discovered polyyarn by Superior Threads and I LOVE it.  I have been useing it for rolled hems and it rolls a beautiful narrow rolled hem for double sided napkins.  I have ordered a variety of colors so that I will have what I need when I go to work on something.  It was good to hear that you were not located where the worst of the winter storm landed.  We have a great deal of snow here and had a couple of bad travel days.  However, we have a very popular ski are here and that helps the economy so we really can't complain.  Thanks again for your always good advice for the serger.

      2. Palady | | #20

        >> ...  serger I have seen that is self threading.  ... <<

        If you mean a Babylock, I have a dedicated Cover Stitch that uses jet air threading for the lower looper.  It works very well. 

        Though, as with anything there, is a learning curve.  MO, the length of the thread tail has to as specified in the instructions.  If memory serves, it should be 6".  The machine et al is elsewhere at the moment.

        I purchased mine, circa Summer 2005, at what I felt was an afforable price.  Significant $'s less than the MSRP.  Reason?  The shop was clearing stock and planned to offer another brand.

        The caveat with this machine is a shallow throat.  I'm confortable with handling fabric & I've manged to use the stitch on rather deep hems so this limitation is a non issue for me.

        http://www.babylock.com/sergers/cover-stitch/

        me

         

        1. San | | #24

          I have been looking at the Imagine and it seems easy to thread and set up.                I assume you have the Evolve?   (which is even more pricey).    Do you use the coverstitch or regular stitches more?  Do you ever use the blind hem foot for hemming?  I'm wondering if I really need more feet than comes standard on the Imagine which I am considering buying.   Thanks for any feedback. 

          San

  9. starzoe | | #16

    After reading all the posts, I had this thought: how many name designers make use of the serger? Maybe lululemon with their high end sportswear, but they could hardly be called couture.I enjoy sewing, I enjoy hand-sewing, speed is not one of my priorities.

  10. sewelegant | | #19

    I think having a serger is a little like having a microwave.  You do not cook a whole meal in the microwave (usually) and you probably will not make all your sewing project with only the serger.  Once you get used to what it can do you can't imagine going back to life without it!

    When I first got my serger (the mid 90's?) I tried the different techniques, but never felt very competent so gave it up thinking I would work on that later... never did, but I use it for the seam edges on everything I make that I would otherwise pink.  It is invaluable on the hem edge of anything I hem.  It reduces the bulk and hems seem to lie flatter and circle edges are drawn in enough to make hemming a breeze.  I have made numerous napkins with the rolled edge, but because I have to re-finangle the machine for a rolled edge I rarely use it for anything else.  Reading Mary in Colorado's list I feel I am shortchanging myself by not pursuing more, but then I would just want to trade it in for a new streamlined model! 

    It is a great tool for quick projects that do not need couture sewing techniques to look nice and just like I am at a loss when my microwave is down, I feel the same way when my serger needs fixing.

    Edited 1/12/2009 12:25 pm by sewelegant

    1. MaryinColorado | | #21

      You don't need a fancy serger to do most of what I do.  Just fancy heavier threads in the loopers for the most part.  The crazy quilted Christmas stocking is done with a 3 thread overlock and the stitches show on the outside.  They are done with either metallic Wooly Nylon or Glamour thread and you put the wrong sides of the fabric together.  (My serger is about 10 years old but in perfect condition.)

  11. moira | | #22

    I just saw your question in the list and immediately thought, 'Yes!' Then I read through the other answers and fair enough, nobody really NEEDS a serger, but I wouldn't be without mine. It's a simple one, easy to thread -that's very important - and if I only use it to finish off raw edges it's worth it for that. I also love hand finishes and couture touches but this machine is still always up and ready to use. Clearly, though, there are those who differ. Can you borrow one for a week or two to see for yourself? That was how I got converted.

    1. Flowergarden129 | | #23

      I wish I could borrow one. Very few people I know sew. I have a friend who has (and loves) her serger but she lives half way across the country. I think it's still falling into the nice but not necessary category, but when I have some extra money I might get one. If worst comes to worst, I can always sell it I imagine.Hearing everybody's perspectives has been really helpful. I actually think I might like a coverstich machine better. I find it a real problem making rolled hems. My machine has an attachment to do it, but I've never really gotten it to work properly.

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