Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

Using both sewing machine & serger

KraftyKandi | Posted in General Discussion on

OK – I’ve got a question to throw out. This has most likely been discussed before, and I did search the Archives for this topic. I’ve also read chapters in most of my sewing books, which were written years ago. But I’d love to hear advice from you talented sewers …

When sewing from a pattern, and not knowing exactly how it’s going to fit, do you use your sewing machine first to construct the garment, then take most of it apart in order to serge (finish) the seams?

I have been using a long basting stitch to construct the bodice and any fitted panels, but then I end up spending my time “ripping out” some of the seams that overlap/intersect each other (like facings) in order to serge them, then reconstructing it with my serger. And then (surprise!)… it doesn’t fit the same! And yes, most of these attempts have been with a knit jersey fabric.

Any suggestions to save time? (and REMEMBER – I’m going on the old adage “There ARE no stupid questions”, so go easy on me!)


  1. sewelegant | | #1

    I think you have just discovered why even experienced sewers like to make a "muslin" - a test garment before cutting out the fashion fabric.  Are you making the garment with the serger?  If that is the case and you are trying to figure out the fit before sewing it up I might first figure out just what my serged seam allowance is going to end up being and then baste the top together first with long sewing machine stitches at the shoulders and side seams using the same width as the serger finish.  You do not need to make the whole garment to check fit.  (you mentioned facings)

    Edited 8/10/2009 1:53 pm by sewelegant

    1. User avater
      KraftyKandi | | #3

      Thank you for your response. I'll try to explain why I asked the question.The blouse I'm having trouble with is gathered right under the bust on the bodice, then has a middle, fitted panel (like a fitted "band") that attaches to the gathered bodice on top, and then the gathered lower "skirt" at the bottom, similar to a "baby doll" style. The facing (next to the inside body) encloses the gathered edges from bodice and skirt. I've had trouble getting the "band" to fit closer around my torso so that the "skirt" will have a bit of a flare to it right before the hip.I've tried to serge the band to the gathered bodice after basting it together, therefore "constructing" the blouse to check the fit, but the "facing" has to be added at the same time or the fabric becomes too thick (due to the gathering) and won't lay flat.I have tried to make the seam allowance the same as the serger seam allowance, but since I can't get the fit correct, I don't want the serger to trim too much fabric until I know I won't have to "lenghten" it later to get the fit correct. And, yes, I know that I can lift the knife up so the serger won't trim.The part of the garment that I need to fit seems to need to be constructed in order to obtain the results I want, so I have several pieces of the garment that overlap in doing this. Hence my question.Does this make sense? I really respect your expertise, and appreciate your input!

      1. sewelegant | | #4

        I really did try to visualize the blouse (!?) but I'm sure the real thing looks quite different.  Unfortunately I am not the one to give you advice because I rarely make the whole garment on the serger.  Are you gathering with the serger too?  I have not tackled this kind of sewing.  Have you thought about making this band area with the sewing machine instead of the serger?  Since it is faced you don't need to finish the seam allowance and you would then have less bulk, especially since you could trim each layer to a different length (grading)  Pressing the seam open first, then pressing it toward the band also helps the fabric to lay flatter.

        1. User avater
          KraftyKandi | | #6

          You know, you and Tatsy are right! My sister, who also sews, told me that, with knits, you should serge ALL the seams...I was thinking in the wrong direction! It would be much better to just use the sewing machine seams around the fitted area and trim back the gathered fabric before pressing the inside facing down, instead of serging them - those seams don't show, anyway! I think her advice was more about the way a serger trims as it sews, making less bulk, when I can do the same thing with my sewing machine and scissors.I'm knew to using a serger, and I was overthinking the whole project, making it harder on myself than it needed to be. Thanks for both of your input, it really helped. And good luck, Tatsy! What a project you're working on - WOW!

          Edited 8/11/2009 10:33 am ET by KraftyKandi

          1. Tatsy | | #7

            Tee shirts are fast, especially when you do them in gangs of similar colors so you don't have to keep changing thread, about 20 minutes per shirt, 10 or 12 for boxers.The goal is supposed to be use up the fabric that's here and make more room in the sewing room, but in the scrap bag I found a piece of dinosaur fabric big enough for a front and back but not the sleeves--and you can't send a boy to school in a dinosaur wife-beater, so back to Beverly's for a piece of coordinating fabric.Of course, everyone knows where that went--but I should still be able to finish the new stripes and solids before bedtime. Then I can mail the box tomorrow. Oh, I think I said that yesterday? What's the phrase--Woman's work is never done? :)

          2. User avater
            KraftyKandi | | #8

            I thought I was the only one who called them "wife beaters"! My grandsons would wear dinosaurs no matter what, sleeves, no sleeves, no pants, and so on...You tired me out thinking of completing a shirt in 20 minutes! And now you're going to Beverly's ... I'm soooo jealous (hehe). Enjoy!!!

          3. Tatsy | | #9

            But it's a good thing I lost weight because there's so much fabric the door of my sewing room only opens far enough to let me in and out....

          4. Tatsy | | #12

            One thing to bring up here is that the knit sewing craze began long before most home sewers had sergers, and all seams on all garments were sewn on conventional straight-stich machines or zigzag machines with only a dozen or so stitch options, most of those decorative. Anne Person made a good business of figuring out techniques that worked better on knits than woven.If you really want to sew on knits, it might be a good idea to look for some of the old Stretch and Sew books and follow those techniques. A lot of them involved using a 3mm stitch length and letting the feed dogs stretch the fabric for you. With modern presser feet, such as the left-edge guide foot, many of these techniques are far more simple than they ever were when we learned them.

  2. sewluving | | #2

    Good question.  I've wondered that too.  I usually only serge first if making something I know is simple like p.j.'s, housecoats etc.

    Heather in Calgary

  3. Tatsy | | #5

    I do a lot of sewing with both the serger and the electronic machine. If I'm making a garment for the first, second, or third time, I use the serger to finish seam allowances and the sewing machine to construct the garment. That goes for knit fabrics too since I find the serger very helpful in keeping cotton jersey seams from rolling up.This week's project is to get a gaggle of tee shirts done for my grand-nephew to wear to school. Since the project includes a dozen tee shirts there's a higher level of confidence in the pattern and the main seams are done on the serger. However, I'm still setting the neck binding on the sewing machine and then using the serger to take off the excess fabric in the seam allowance. I don't trust the serger to put the neckline in right the first time.I only ever use my serger for mass production projects like this or for finishing edges. In reading your query, I get the impression that you think knit fabrics must be done on sergers. Sewing machines give a much finer seam line that fades into the fabric far better than the wide distance between stitches which a serger leaves. Also, there seems to be a difference in the tension a serger and sewing machine put on the seam. Let your intuition guide you. Use the serger for the tasks it works best for you and the sewing machine for anything else.The reason most people practice sewing on pajamas is that you can wear them when you're not having company. I hope this helps.

  4. jjgg | | #10

    It sounds like there may be a few different things going on here. Is there a chance you are stretching the fabric any when you take the seam out? You don't mention how it fits differently after re-sewing it,Seam allowances make a difference in fit too. -Please don't get insulted with me saying this - but when you serge it and then take it out to 're-sew' have you cut off some of the seam allowance with the first pass of the serger and then more with the second pass?I'm not sure why we think that knits HAVE to be serged, I guess it does help with fabrics that tend to curl at the edges, but not all knits need to be serged. many wont' ravel after they are cut, and many will lay nice and flat. As someone else mentioned, you get a nicer sewn line with the sewing machine.If you really want to serge the edges, you can
    A) serge the edges on all pieces before they are sewn together, (I really just do this on fabrics that ravel like crazy - wovens) When you do this DON'T cut off any of the seam allowance, just have the knife trim off the fuzz edges of the fabric. Then you can sew it together with the 5/8 inch seam allowance, then if you need to alter things it's fairly easy.
    B) sew the top together, on the sewing machine only , alter to fit, then serge the edges, at this point, you can trim the seam allowance with the serger if you want to.Form reading your description of the top, it sounds like it has a gathered and lined (faced) mid drift band? What you need to do is fit the band without the gathered piece first,That is what is going to affect the fit, if you want it snug to the body. Then, when you do the gathers, you gather it to the size of the band.

    1. User avater
      KraftyKandi | | #11

      Great advice about the fitted band - didn't think about it that way! And, I must have miscommunicated (I do this alot)...I use the sewing machine to construct the bodice and "band", then, any seams that "overlap" each other (i.e. underarm connecting with the band and facing, basically the pieces connecting underarm of bodice to the band - where all sewn seams connect), then I serge the seams following the sewing machine seam already made. I was "ripping out" the machine stitches only in those areas, then resewing using the serger. That's where the garment starts to not lay or fit right. I was having trouble with the thickness of the 4 pieces that come together at underarm, gathered portion of the front bodice and the overlapped pieces of the bodice, which is assembled like a V-neck. The "fitted" band under the bodice was where I had the trouble in laying correctly, as well as the band then not fitting as snugly around my middle as I'd like. The pattern I was using was McCalls 5662, if you'd like to reference my description.And you're correct - some people use the rule that all knits should be serged, and I see that was wrong advice now. The knit I was working on does not unravel, so I'm going to leave the sewing machine seams alone now and will trim the excess fabric with scissors. I also do not change the seam allowance after it fits correctly, I serge along the sewing machine line. I must have used a looser differential speed setting on my serger compared to the tension setting of the sewing machine.I have learned more about this subject than I EVER learned from my sewing books, and I just can't thank you ALL enough for helping me out! Hopefully, someone else having this issue will learn something new about this also, and learn from MY mistakes.

  5. sewcea | | #13

      You've gotten lots of good advice, so I'll add just a few things: knits,  especially when cut on bias, tend to stretch with handling. Most neck lines involve some bias. To check stretching, cut a scrap of pattern paper , (or a piece of ribbon) to the same size as your pattern neck area. After handling your cut knit pieces, lay the paper (ribbon) on the same area. Discrepancies will let you know if stretching has occured.

       To return the neck to it's original size, you can ease in the difference with a line of long baste stitching, placed just slightly inside the final stitching line, or you can use some lightweight clear elastic. I prefer to pull up the basting to further eliminate bulk.

    Serged seams do add bulk; I love serging garments, but often combine serging, regular machine sewing, and old-fashioned pinking shears for bulk reduction. Whatever technique works-- nothing is 'wrong', if you get the desired results.

    Don't get locked in by 'sewing must-dos'-- knowing that you have the freedom to experiment is very liberating.


    1. MaryinColorado | | #21

      A 2 thread stitch on the serger is great for finishing edges without that added bulk.  The serger thread being finer than sewing thread makes a finer finish than a zig zag.

      It took me years to figure out that the cutting/stitch width was alot of my problem. I was always adjusting the differential and the tensions to no avail.  I finally learned the  trick to getting smooth flat seams is to adjust the serger until the looper threads to meet at the edge of the fabric instead of wrapping around it. 

      This is all just my perception of it anyway.  Hope I didn't offend anyone.  We all have our own preferred techniques.  Mary

  6. Betakin | | #14

    I do as some have already posted. I serge all edges that will be exposed on the inside of the garment. Then I construct the garment with my sewing machine. I find gathering is done much faster by serger. Years ago I used to make my 6 kids tee shirts only on my sewing machine not having a serger then but now I do tee shirts only with my serger. Something considered in sewing 101 as a big no no that I do..is that I even cut out some fabric with my serger and finish the seam at the same time if the fabric is a large piece. I have used my serger edging tons of baby blankets too for my 28 dgk's and soon expecting #29 and also for making throws for gifts for many of the older kids and they last forever. There are many craft items that can be made with a serger too where a sewing machine is not required but a serger and a sewing machine usually go hand in hand working together on the same projects.

    Deco work with serged flatlock stitches in the center of the fabric in different types and colors of threads with your serger can make a total new look to a garment as well as using a serger that also does chain stitch and coverhem using deco threads to give a new look to fabric like coverhem and chain stitch plaids. Adding a reverse coverhem in the triple seam in a coordinating color than the constucted garment also gives a deco look. My sewing machine and serger sit side by side and are usually used equally.




    1. MaryinColorado | | #22

      Sounds as if you have the "urge to serge" too!  Thanks for the idea of using the serger to cut out garments too, I hadn't thought of that one!  Love it! 

      I like to insert ribbon inside the flatlock sometimes too for embellishment.  What glorius machines!  Mary

      1. User avater
        KraftyKandi | | #23

        Thanks to all of you that gave me suggestions and guidance! I can proudly say that I've finally completed the top, and it lays "just right". You all are so very talented!

        1. MaryinColorado | | #24

          yahoo!  It's great to hear of your success! 

  7. MaryinColorado | | #15

    The sewing machine's basting stitches won't come out the same as the serged stitches possibly because the Differential Feed on the serger is going to move the knit jersey fabric differently.  I wonder if that is why the pattern "fits" until you serge it? 

    Why not make a muslin out of a cheaper piece of knit fabric to get your fit right first? 

    What pattern are you using?  Perhaps check on http://www.patternreview.com for your pattern and see if others have had similar problems.  Mary

    I also think it is easier to rip out a serged stitch with a serger seam ripper or small scissors than a sewing machine stitch.  You can use a long stitch length on the serger just as you do the sm. Mary

    1. sewluving | | #16


      I have never heard of a serger seam ripper.  I'll have to check online to see what they look like.  Will have to buy one too. 

      Heather in Calgary

      1. MaryinColorado | | #17

        They are about the size of a pen, with about a half inch curved blade that is only sharp on one end.  They are a wonderful tool to have on hand, I think necessary if you use a serger.  They work great, the flat blade slips under the looper stitches.

        1. sewluving | | #18

          Thanks Mary,

          I will have to take a look for them here in Calgary.


          1. MaryinColorado | | #19

            My favorite serger book is Serger Secrets, lots of great techniques!  Mary

  8. Ceeayche | | #20

    While I think making a muslin first, as others have suggested, is the best way to go (My girls require special fitting efforts), I have had great success machine basting knits together, then serging right over the stiching.  Allows for fitting, secures the gathers and then finishes the seams nicely.  Also prevents the seams from stretching or shifting while serging.

    On some projects, I've serged the circumference of the knit pieces then assembled them with a narrow zig zag or stretch stitch  (like others I sewed knits long before I got a serger and this is what I used to do then, clean finish the edges--then with pinking shears-- then assemble).

This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All