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Overlocker for Beginners—An Introduction To Sergers

Overlocker for Beginners—An Introduction To Sergers

Welcome to the world of overlockers! Maybe you have never worked with a serger before, or it could be that you just haven’t tried one in a long time. Either way, I’m here to walk you through all the essentials.

In this series of posts, we’ll start from square one and slowly walk through all the cool techniques your overlocker can do. By the time we wrap up this summer, you’ll be serging with confidence! Let’s start by answering a few basic questions.



What is an overlocker?

Your first question might about what this machine actually does. An overlocker (or serger) is a type of sewing machine that uses multiple threads to seam fabric while also overcasting to cover raw edges. It can be used for construction, finishing, or both at the same time. This can involve as few as two or as many as eight threads depending on the make and model of the overlocker and the stitch selected. Most stitches or technique use three or four threads—we’ll talk about the cases for all these different things later on.





What is a serger?

A serger is an overlocker. An overlocker is a serger. The terms are interchangeable—basically it boils down to who’s talking about the machine. Overlocker (and overlocking, as a verb) is the more common term in European countries, while serger/serging is more common stateside. Because BERNINA is a Swiss-based company, we tend to use the word overlocker around here.

What tools do I need for my overlocker machine and projects?

For your machine, the essentials for machine maintenance will come in the box (things like screwdrivers, thread nets, and oil). It’s important to know that the oil used on your overlocker is different from the oil used on your standard machine—these bottles are not interchangeable! There are some other notions that you might find handy to use alongside your serger:

· An awl or stiletto. A pointed tool like these can be helpful when it comes to feeding fabric close to the presser foot and more importantly, the cutting knife. Keep those fingers away, and use an awl to keep the fabric moving where you want it!





Wonder Clips by Clover. Aside from your fingers, another thing you want to keep clear of the cutting knife is a metal pin. Some of us are in the habit of sewing over pins on our standard sewing machine (tsk tsk!), but this is an absolute no-no, if not an impossibility, on a serger. Your cutting knife will be severely damaged if you accidentally clip one of those pins, and worse yet, you run the risk of being injured by the shrapnel in that incident. Avoid the chaos altogether by using Wonder Clips to hold your fabric together!





· Tapestry needles. At the end of your serged seams, your thread chains should be secured by weaving or tucking them back into the seam about an inch or so. This is most easily done with a large-eye, blunt-tipped tapestry needle.





· A pair of nice sharp tweezers comes with the L 450 and L 460 (stashed conveniently in the looper door when you pull it down), but I always keep an extra pair in my tool kit. They make it easy to thread loopers, needles, or in any tight spaces where your fingers might not be able to maneuver with grace.





· Narrow clear elastic. This one may be a bit more advanced, but layering clear elastic with knit seams can add stability. If you aspire to work with lighter weight or super stretchy knits, this is a great thing to have on hand!

·

What’s up with serger thread? Why the big cones? It seems expensive to buy so much thread to match every new project!

First off, it’s important to know that you can use lots of different kinds of thread in your overlocker. Just like traditional sewing applications, you just need to consider the project you’re working on and choose the best thread suited for that fabric and application. You may choose to use a decorative thread for some things.

That being said, most of the time you will want to use cones of polyester “serger” thread. Polyester threads are more durable and will hold up to more stress, stretching, washing, and wearing—all things that come in to play for the kinds of projects constructed on the overlocker. This thread is usually found on larger cones because an overlocker uses more thread to create a stitch than a standard machine. When those loopers are wrapping thread around the edge of your fabric, you end up using quite a bit more than a typical straight stitch would.






There is one type of thread that is occasionally used in overlockers that you may not be familiar with—texturized nylon thread. (A common brand is Wooly Nylon.) It’s a fluffy, stretchy thread that you may opt to use for a variety of reasons. Because of its fluffiness, it’s softer than typical poly thread, so it’s great for seams at cuffs or anything that’s close fitting. The added stretch also makes it the best choice for super stretchy fabrics like spandex or swimwear. We’ll talk more about this thread as we dive into those techniques, but I wanted to make mention of it early on because it’s often an overlooked choice for finishing.