May 30, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of Your Serger

Perhaps my relationship with my serger will offer some insight to someone else: I bought mine a few months ago, and until last week, it served as a stylish metal sculpture, decorating my sewing room table. Because I wanted to move forward with my doll clothes design business, I didn't want to take the time to learn my serger; so there it sat.

I have spent so much time trying to make the inside of my garments pretty with my regular sewing machine. I simply don't want my name attached to something sloppy.

After bumping "learn serger" from my TO DO list several times, I made a commitment to be mature about this wonderful machine that I'd yearned for. When I read the threading directions, I fell asleep. Fortunately, my Brother 1034D came with two instructional videos. I was serious about learning, so I turned off the TV and my iPod. I closed my window shades and put my telephones in another room. No distractions.

But what happened? While watching the video on learning to thread, I kept nodding off.
B-O-R-I-N-G. Geez, this was painful.

Fortunately, I'm a resourceful person, especially when it comes to getting sidetracked and goofing off. I thought I'd do better with sewing lessons. If I could find a real person, a warm body, demonstrating how to thread the machine and watching me thread the machine, I'd have better luck. Unfortunately, I found no sewing classes in town or even nearby. We have a Michael's. No Joann's. I found a local woman who teaches children how to sew. I sent her an email, asking her if she taught serging. Or did she have any recommendations for me?

No response. The good news is that once I get the serger figured out, there is probably a demand for a local sewing (and serging) instructor, if my doll clothes pattern business doesn't fly.

Finally, some light at the end of the tunnel: I went to YouTube, looking for better instructions, and I found a woman who posts as "ArtistKae," with updated instructions for the Brother 1034D. While listening to her describe her relationship with her serger, I realized that my "sergerphobia" was common indeed. She had also been frustrated with the Brother instruction booklet. After watching her video, I realized that I was only confused about one small part of the procedure, and she cleared up the fuzziness for me.

If you are having trouble threading your serger, I suggest searching the internet, especially YouTube, to find up-to-date instructions on your exact serger model. Then consider these thoughts:

1. The serger uses two needles and two loopers. The thread from the loopers is not part of the actual seam. These two spools stitch the outside of the seam. Understanding how the machine actually works helps to make sense out of threading it.

2. Most of the actual threading is easy. Only one of the loopers is confusing, and it's only one of the steps of that particular looper that creates confusion. In other words, out of 30 or so threading steps, only one step is confusing.

3. The looper compartment is difficult to see for someone with old lady vision. Once I realized that my vision was contributing to the "fuzziness" of my brain, I looked at the compartment through a magnified class to get a clear view of what ArtistKae was describing. Once I got a clear view, I didn't need the magnifying glass.

4. Threading a serger is awkward. I have two left hands while threading my machine (apologies to my two sisters who are "lefties"). Pulling the thread through the needles and loopers feels especially strange during the last step. All threads must flow in the same direction, underneath the feed dog to the left. Long tweezers are helpful here.

5. Last of all, you can put pedal to the metal and off you go, even if there's no fabric between the presser foot and the feed dog. The serger doesn't tangle like a regular sewing machine with a bobbin.

Here's my first attampt at stitching. Kinda pretty, isn't it?

But I still need to make adjustments. This stitch is a bit wide. I ordered a book that will help me adjust the tension nobs, and the width and lengths of the stitches. I'm determined to MASTER this machine. My goal is to be able to actually sew several doll garments in one afternoon so that I can spend my time designing clothes. (To be continued....)


  1. Thanks Jane for sharing so much info on the patterns, sewing techniques and working with a serger. I know exactly how frustrating a serger could be, I have to "invent" mine each time I want to sew on it because of the time that went by without using it!!
    Mine is a Bernina and works fine after a struggle threading it. So I really have to start using it on a regular basis. Good luck with sewing and designing for dolls, I'll follow your blog.

    1. Stella....Thanks for your comment. Hopefully I'll be tending to this blog on a regular basis very shortly. I wanted to take care of some things before delving further into the world of the Serger. I bought a great book that I referred to in one of my last blog entries, and the next thing I'll do is go through the various settings until I really understand the Serger. I'd love to have a Bernina, you lucky woman.


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