Monday, January 30, 2012

Serger Tips & Tools: Part One

serger tips and tools 1

I fell in love with my serger the first time I used it. And I’ve fallen in love with it more and more each time I’ve used it. I actually use it more than I use my standard machine these days (part of that could be due to the standard machine needing servicing though).


A serger is fantastic for sewing with knits and finishing edges on all sorts of sewing projects. It can also help you get through a project faster since it can sew more stitches per minute than a standard machine. I have the Brother 1034 D (top left corner of image above) and bought it off Amazon for just less than $200 with free shipping. I was impressed by the reviews and it serves my needs wonderfully. I’ve had it for just over a year now and can’t complain.

I frequently get comments on my clothing posts or see captions on pins of my projects that my fellow sewers wish they had a serger. It’s led me to wonder how many of you aren’t actually making clothing for yourselves purely because you don’t have a serger?

Over the next few weeks I’ll be using my Tips & Tools Tuesday posts to cover some of the ins and outs of using a serger. Granted, I consider myself a novice in this area of sewing. But while I may not be an expert seamstress, I am a confident one who isn’t afraid to go looking for the answers on how to make something work.

To start this series out, I’m going to look at whether or not you actually need a serger to be happy with the clothing you make.

standard only

All of the projects pictured above were sewn using only my standard sewing machine. All that’s just to show you can still make great clothes that are completely wearable (and washable) for yourself without needing a serger. If sewing knits with a standard machine is intimidating to you, check out THIS tutorial on sewing with knits.

serger and standard

The above pictured projects were all sewn using both my standard machine and my serger. Here’s a run down for each project what my serger was used for versus what the standard machine was for:
-Layered Strips Shell: Standard machine sewed all the strips on while the serger sewed the side and shoulder seams.
-Rounded Ruffles Shell: Standard machine sewed the ruffles on while the serger sewed the side seams, shoulder seams and attached the neck and hem trims.
-Little Boy Shorts: Standard machine sewed all the seams, hems and the elastic casing at the waistband while the serger was used to finish all seams so there were no raw edges.
-Delicately Ruffled Top: Standard machine was used to lettuce edge the ruffles and sew the ruffles to the shirt while the serger was used to assemble the top.
-Slubby Ruffles Top: Standard machine was used to ruffle the strips directly to the shirt while the serger was used to assemple the top.
-Polka Dotted Ruffle Top: Standard machine used for ruffles, attaching bias tape and top stitching. Serger was used for finishing all raw edges to prevent ripping of fabric and for side and shoulder seams.
-Knit Striped Skirt: Standard machine was used for top stitching on the seams and the hem while the serger assembled the stripes and the skirt.

2012-01-12 039

The only piece of clothing I have used only my serger for is my Softly Layered Shell. So you can see that I’ve used just my standard machine a lot more than I’ve used just the serger. (I will note, though, that I use just my serger on all the scarves you’ll find in my etsy shop.)

should i buy a serger

If you’re trying to figure out whether or not a serger is a worthwhile investment for you, here are a few questions to consider:

-How often do/will you sew? If you are regularly sewing and have the desire and time to do more, a serger could be well worth the investment. And by regularly I mean at least once a month, although I personally would want to be using it more than once a month to feel like it was worth the money. If you’re sewing less than that, you may not feel like you’re getting your money’s worth out of it.

-What do you sew? If you’re sewing a lot of clothing or using a lot of knit fabric, a serger would be a great way to go. If you’re mostly creating craft projects like sewing banners together, pillows for your couch, check book covers or small intricate crafts, your standard machine is really all you need and a serger really wouldn’t work for your projects.

-Do you like to sew quickly? A serger sews fast. Obviously, you have speed control with your pedal still, but a serger is a quick-sewing machine. If a needle flying quickly through fabric scares you, I’d say you should get more comfortable with your standard machine first. If you find yourself putting the pedal to the metal sewing style, you’ll love a serger.

-Are you dependent on pins and can’t take them out as you sew? Then you’ll need to stick with a standard machine. Pins can’t run through your serger, especially if you’re using the blade to trim the fabric as you go. If you’re comfortable removing pins as you go, or even don’t want to deal with them at all, you’ll enjoy using a serger.

-Do you have patience? A standard machine can be annoying enough to thread sometimes, but a serger is like 100 times worse. Some machines are simpler than others to thread (I chose mine because it was well reviewed for simplicity of threading), but they are time consuming no matter what.

-Are you ok with either spending a lot of money on thread or not always having the thread match your fabric perfectly? You use four spools of thread at a time with a serger. The cheap serger thread at Joann’s is $1.99/each. Because of that, I don’t change my thread for each color of fabric I use. I have cream and black. I use whichever one coordinates best with the project I’m doing.

-Do you plan to sell the items you make? I think a high quality product is a must if you’re going to sell it, and that means finishing touches. I wouldn’t feel comfortable selling shorts made from woven cotton in my children’s shop if I didn’t finish the seams with a serger. I also wouldn’t feel like my scarves were worth the price if the were just sewn together with a zig zag or knit stitch. A serger was an investment for my business. If these items were just being used within my home, such finishing touches would be nice, but not necessary.

-Do you have $200 to spend? My husband and I are committed to paying cash for what we buy (our home is the only debt we carry), so to me, a serger is not worth the credit card debt or the interest you’ll pay on it. If you do have the money to spend, go for it! But don’t feel like you’re needing to spend more than that. From what I’ve read, the machine I bought is a great deal and a great product. If you’re wanting to spend more money on a serger, you’re probably already experienced with the machine and therefore aren’t really needing to follow this tutorial (insert smiley face here).

While that list of questions certainly isn’t exhaustive, it should help you start thinking clearly through whether or not you actually need a serger to be happy with what you sew. If all this is beyond even where you’re at in the quest for understanding this complex sewing machine, and you just want to know what the point of one is or even what they are, or if you’re ready to buy and looking for more machine-based tips, I found few links I’d love for you to check out:

I’ll be back next week with part two of this serger series!

Thanks for stopping by!

Parties I like to link up at:


  1. I am sooooo excited for the rest of your serger series. I actually bought a serger a couple of months ago for my birthday and still have not got up the courage to use it. I'm certain this will educate and motivate me. Thank you!! (Oh and I have the exact same serger as you, so that will help!)

  2. I am excited for this series. My wonderful hubby bought me a serger for Christmas and it's still sitting in the box because I am intimidated! This will be a good push for me to get out the manual and start figuring this baby out.

  3. You wrote this post just for me right? No really, you should hear my conversations with my hubby... 'I think I need a serger' Him: 'Huh? Isn't that the same thing you have now?' Me: 'Oh no, it's so much better...' and on, and on... Looking forward to the rest of your posts though I think you have me sold.

  4. Great post! I don't think I need one just yet, but I've always wondered how handy they are. Sounds like yours gets lots of loving!

  5. YAY!!!! This was amazing!!! I do feel like a serger will be my next investment, but look at those things I can do without one, too! yay! AGAIN!

  6. i love your blog, you have so many great ideas. and the party for your son is awesome, i love the theme and what you did with it.
    i also was curious where you got the sewing machine pendant. i love it.

  7. Seriously I found your blog via Pinterest, and spent most of the morning looking through your posts and pinned a ton! Love your site! I'm your newest follower now!

  8. I got my serger as a Christmas gift (early from my dad!) and I got this one because of you! I just serged something and I'm giddy with excitement! Haha! I feel like I have A LOT to learn!


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