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Sewing: Using a Serger

Learn to use the sewing machines in the lab.

Welcome to Serging!

Serging is a technique used to avoid unraveling fabric and will give your material a professional finish. Sergers can hem and finish your garment, create seam allowances, trim excess thread off finished edges, or take up slack in seams before stitching them down. 

The Innovation Lab here at Hale Library houses two different serger machines. While both machines share similarities, this guide aims to outline their differences while providing comprehensive guidelines for their operation. Happy creating!

Getting Started with Brother

Threading a serger is more complex than threading a regular sewing machine. Here are a couple videos to help you through the process on the Brother machine.


Know Your Brother Machine

1. Thread tree

16. Upperlooper thread tension dial

2. Handle

17. Lowerlooper thread tension dial

3. Presser foot pressure adjustment screw

18. Front cover

4. Spool pin

19. Material slide plate (for overlock stitch)

5. Spool support

20. Main power switch and light switch

6. Thread take-up cover

21. Stitch length adjustment dial

7. Needles

22. Differential feed ratio adjustment lever

8. Upper Knife

23. Lowerlooper threading lever

9. Presser foot

24. Stitch finger

10. Material plate cover

25. Stitch width lever

11. Spool stand (thread tree support)

26. Upperlooper

12. Left needle thread tension dial

27. Lowerlooper

13. Right needle thread tension dial

28. Free-arm cover

14. Presser foot lifting lever

29. Bed extension

15. Hand wheel

30. Knife lever

Brother Equipment Manual

There is a paper manual for the Brother 1034D located next to the machine. 

Getting Started with Baby Lock

Threading a serger is more complex than threading a regular sewing machine. Here are a couple videos to help you through the process on the Baby Lock machine.


Know Your Baby Lock Machine

1. Needle threader selector

16. Machine lock button release lever

2. Presser foot lifter/thread release lever*

17. Machine lock button 

3. Thread cutter

18. Looper threading lever

4. Needle threader lever

19. Differential feed adjusting lever

5. Needle height viewing area

20. Handwheel

6. Needle clamp screw

21. Lower looper threading port

7. Snap-on presser foot

22. Power switch

8. Throat plate

23. Looper threader selector

9. Stitch width adjusting dial

24. Accessory compartment

10. Cutting blade cover

25. Upper looper threading port

11. Cutting blade lock switch

26. Carrying handle

12. Stitch length/rolled hem adjusting dial

27. Telescopic thread guide

13. Needle drop drawer

28. Presser foot pressure adjusting screw

14. Subsidiary looper

29. Stitch selector

15. Front cover

30. Looper thread fine-tuning screw

* Raising the presser foot releases all threads

Baby Lock Equipment Manual

There is a paper manual for the Baby Lock Imagine BLE1AT located next to the machine. 

A Note About Threads

Pin free stock photoChoosing the right thread for a project is considered by many to be the most important part. Typically, it's recommended to but the best quality thread you can afford. The low strength of cheaper threads makes lint and fuzz build up faster which isn't good for your machine. They are also much more prone to breakage. Serger thread is finer than standard sewing machine thread to avoid bunching and bulky seams. 

Polyester is the most widely used type of thread of thread sergers due to its strength, durability, and flexibility. Different types of thread, such as nylon, cotton, wooly nylon, and other types can also be used for other projects. Though this can be overwhelming, the most important thing is to use high quality. Past that, it's personal preference!


Project Inspiration

Do's and Don'ts of Serging

DO use the tie-off method when changing thread colors

Changing colors can be such a hassle if you rethread every thread every single time. The tie-off method is where you cut each of your existing threads and instead of removing them just tie the next color to the end and pull it through the machine. Here is a link to a video demonstrating the process.

DON'T sew over pins

While you should never do this on any machine, it is especially important not to keep this in mind while serging because the machine moves so quickly and with such force it becomes dangerous if a pin goes through the machine. 

DO use high quality threads

Lower quality threads will break very easily. Because the machine is moving so quickly it is a problem when lower quality threads are used, they often break and leave more fuzz than a higher quality. 

DON'T serge at an unsteady pace

When you change speeds often, slow to fast to slow to fast, the stitching won't come out as even and tension will be much less even.

DO keep in mind rules of general sewing

Serging stems from the basics of sewing. Be sure to keep the do's and don't's from the last page so that your experience with serging can be as seamless as possible. 

DON'T pull too hard on the fabric

Whether from the front or the back, make sure to avoid pulling hard on ths fabric. This can cause the needles to hit and mess up the project you're working on.