Tuesday, January 24, 2012

About Sergers

To make these Halloween bags, I used all three machines:
1) embroidered the orange canvas fabric
2) serged the raw edges
3) sewed in handles and the black and white lining  
What is a Serger? 
Sergers, also called overcast machines, finish raw edges. They are particularly useful for finishing the raw edges of knits. Look inside any t-shirt and you will see a serged raw edge on the sides as well as a bottom hem that has then been turned back and sewn down - probably with what's called a cover stitch. A cover stitch looks like two rows of parallel stitching from one side, and a zig-zag of several threads on the back. On an overcast seam, the machine cuts the fabric with a little blade and then does a sort of zig-zag-like stitch using 3 or 4 threads around the cut edge. Both seam finishes are designed to protect the seam from fraying or raveling. It's especially useful for knit fabrics of all kinds and woven fabrics that fray, shred, or ravel.

Some machines will only overcast, some machines will only cover stitch (though these are usually industrial machines), and some machines will do both. Most sergers will also allow you make rolled hems on lightweight fabrics - though they may need to be threaded slightly differently. Sergers are also less maneuverable than sewing machines. They do best on long, straight seams. On a sewing machine, you can easily turn on a dime and then go backwards, or go easily around curves. Sergers will go around curves and can turn sharp corners, but it can be a little tricky. And since sergers Industrial sergers (such as those made by Juki) are configured differently than home sergers, which allows them to get into tighter places.

Babylock makes sergers with auto-threading capabilities.
Originally, I was going to buy a less expensive serger, until I talked to my mom and a few other people. Sergers must be threaded in a very particular order or they simply will not work correctly. A lot of people I know have to reference their manual every time they need to re-thread their machine. (My mom, in fact, just gave up on hers and sold it to someone else while I was still a little girl.) From there, you may have to serge a few test strips on scrap fabric to get the tension right (depends on if your model has auto-tension). The Babylock machines have both auto-threading and auto-tension and can do both overcast and cover-stitching. I figured it was worth getting a machine where I could spend my time making items instead of fiddling with the machine's settings.
This pillow was made entirely with my serger. 

As an example of what a serger is really capable of, I recently made a pillow entirely with my serger. I used the cover stitch function to decorate a central satin panel. I used overlocking to insert lace to some dupioni silk, then attached them to the satin. I also added pre-made piping using a piping foot. On the back, there's a zipper (again, added with my Babylock serger). If I had wanted to, I could have easily ruffled the lace with my machine as well.

Sometimes I have trouble deciding whether I love my serger or my embroidery machine best.

No comments:

Post a Comment