Several people have asked me about sergers (overlock machines) recently and of course my blog-mode mind automatically thinks: alert, turn this into a blog post. So here we go - - sergers are DIFFERENT than sewing machines. Why?? well, you sew with 3-4 threads instead of 2, but the biggest difference is that it cuts the material as it sews to give a nice edge. The threads wrap around that edge. You can have a sewing machine and not own a serger. But I don't think you can have a serger without having a sewing machine. Hopefully I can show you why with my pictures.
Take a quick pause reading and turn your t-shirt side seam (or, let's face it, the sideseam in your pj pants) inside out - see it?? That's what a serger does. That is a serged seam. It looks like this:
When 2 pieces of fabric are sewn on top of each other, it cuts the edge as it sews and then wraps thread around the edge, for a really nice finish. Here's the same seam, unopened, just as it would come off the machine.
I LOVE using my serger. The inside of all that I made just looks more finished and nicer. If I get lazy, I serge in conjuction with hemming. I run the edge through the serger, then fold it over once and on a regular sewing machine tack it down (see, you can't get rid of your regular machine) - - this is instead of folding and folding again when making a hem - - here's my visual, the underside of the bottom of a dress:
Another big difference in sergers - you feed your material straight through and pull it out the back - that means your foot still drives the machine even if there is no fabric directly under the needle (which is what you're taught NOT to do with a regular sewing machine). So the presser foot on a serger always stays down - you don't lift it to put your material in, you just feed your material through it. And you can go really fast with your serging. You can even make decorative chains and stuff with the thread, but I've never done that - see the chain coming:
Above I talked about a serged seam. That's one of two ways I mainly use my serger. The other is called a "rolled hem". A serged edge is not a finished edge - it's wide and not meant to be seen. A rolled hem, on the other hand, will finish an edge. It's a smaller, tighter stitch. I always use a rolled hem on the arm holes of pillowcase dresses - regular hemming you'd turn it under and then turn it under again, and that's hard to do in a curved area like an arm hole, so I just quickly zip it through my serger with a rolled hem. Here's what that looks like:
You see rolled hems a lot on the edges of tulle or netting, etc. Or even knit dresses might have a rolled hem edge. They work great for thinner fabric as well.
To switch from serging to rolled hem on my machine, I turn one dial and remove the "stitch finger" circled here, so it's not hard:
But anything else I need to do on my serger, I have to get the manual out and look up the how-to. Threading sergers is whole new ballgame - think of threading your sewing machine, getting it just right, times that by 4 threads that cross over each other - tricky (I opened my bottom panel in that first picture so you can see where it all threads). So tricky that a lot of people, instead of rethreading for a new color, tie the new color on the end of the old color and pull the new thread through that way. But once it's threaded right, you should be good to go.
My machine came with a how-to video which was actually helpful to watch. It does lots of things I haven't ventured into, like adding on ribbon and elastic. I did try out my Gathering Foot (see post HERE) and that was amazing, so I should probably branch out and try a few more features.
I think I mentioned that I bought my embroidery machine off of Ebay. So you won't be surprise to learn that I bought my serger off of CraigsList. I'm a big fan of buying used - highly recommend it. I paid $75 for mine and the lady had taken a how-to-use-your-serger class and then never used it again, so I thought I got an unbelieveable deal. I'm sure there are great deals out there waiting to be found.
So I've kind of rambled my way around sergers. Is there any questions you have that I missed? I'm not a serger expert, but I do love owing one and think it was worth purchasing. I use it in most things that I sew. I'll try to answer any questions you have about sergers. Also, if you have a sewing/crafting topic you'd like to see me talk about, just let me know (I know someone mentioned learning about the Cricuit - I wish I had one! but I don't - so I can't expound on that machine - if only...)