Your Serger is Not for Sewing Knits




serger pillows-1
The pillow on the left uses a Baby Lock Wave Stitch to make flat tucks; the other pillow is featured below

When I first started sewing, I didn’t really see the need for a serger – many sewers don’t. I constructed knits just fine on my sewing machine with its variety of “lightning” and triple-stretch stitches. I was finally sold on sergers though when I went to a demo and saw what they could really do – decorate! And they certainly do it well.

You know all those fancy threads that would never fit into a needle for sewing with? Yup, your serger can use them just fine. Because sergers have loopers they can use much larger diameter threads than a traditional sewing machine. Your coverstitch can use these threads too, as it has a lower looper. I happen to have a combo machine, which converts from serger to coverstitch.

serger threads and ribbons_2019 02 16_0070
Yes, all of that goes in your serger – the pearls and rhinestones are used with a beading foot, the lace and wide ribbons with a lace foot, the fishing line and beads with no foot(!) and the rest goes into your loopers

I think the most fun part of a new decorative serger project is auditioning all my decorative threads – I have dozens and dozens! And not just dozens of colors, but dozens of types; silk ribbon, pearl crown, décor 6, 12wt cotton, 30wt in cotton and rayon, candlelight, Cotona, decora 8 and 12, serger ribbon, variegated, glamour… not to mention crochet yarn, embroidery floss, hemp and linen cord, and basically anything you can get through your looper.

A while back I wanted to do something fancy for my bedroom, and got some nice silk dupioni to make boudoir pillows. (I’m not sure why I call them that, I just always have for as long as I can remember; maybe because they’re usually frilly and satiny.) Vogue Fabrics Store has silk dupioni that’s great for garments and home décor; it washes well and irons just fine.

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The fun part starts with choosing colors – I just lay out the fabric and start piling on the threads.

Here I’ve cut a strip so I can sample my threads: what type, which color, which stitch do I want to use? I started with a three-thread wide, but something is up…

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That is an ugly stitch as Ms. Joan would say… and she knows a lot about sergers!

Aha, I left the differential feed on from the last project! Let’s fix that and we get – still something funky.

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Ok, let’s try again with different settings and – still not great. What do we need? Interfacing! Or underlining as some may think of it. In this case I reach for my tried and true home décor interfacing, fusible tricot. Our wonderful local fabric lady Roz carries it in white and black, and at $6 a yard for 60” wide, there’s no reason not to have this in your sewing room at all times. This interfacing gives just enough weight and body to a variety of fabrics: dupioni, linen, light canvas, quilting cotton, and many other fabrics you might consider for your home décor. Unlike most stabilizers, interfacing stays with your project, providing support for your stitches after you’ve finished it.

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So much better!

You will want to sample different interfacings and maybe even stabilizers or underlining; you never know what’s going to give you the look you’re going for. Always try out exactly the combination of fabric, interfacing/ stabilizer/ lining/ underlining, threads and stitching that you want for your project.

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I re-threaded and ran several rows of test stitches, and in the end I chose a narrow hem (as opposed to a rolled hem) with a silver white décor 6 in the upper looper, and a dark grey 12 wt cotton for the lower looper (it wasn’t going to show, so it didn’t really matter much.) I also decided on a 60° diamond pattern, in which I did not use the knife; this allows the thread to bunch up a bit at the intersections and gives this nifty scaled look.

pillow close up

serger pillows-2

I also used a flatlock stitch on the back side of the pillow, and wove those fun threads in and out like ribbon insertion.

I did not come up with these ideas on my own; I got them from several Craftsy classes I watched on sergers. (Craftsy is now bluprint but I understand these classes are still available on subscription.)

Here are a couple of tips for using decorative threads in your serger:

You may need a thread cradle – a loop of serger thread that you pull through first, then put the end of the thicker thread into so you can pull it through the looper.

Also, your decorative threads may need different support from regular serger threads, like spool caps and holders

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Or thread nets.

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Have fun decorating your next project!

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