Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Understanding Your Serger's Features





This is the third post in the Relationship Rescue: You and Your Serger series. Just in case you missed it, here's what we've done so far:

Week 1: Threading Your Serger

Week 2: Perfecting Serger Tension

This post is going to take all the drama out of your relationship with your serger. No more late nights stressing over crazy stitches, or finishing seams with our sewing machine because we can't understand why our serger is acting up!

After this post, you'll know what all those dials on your serger are for, how they work and when to use them. Click the link below to get started.






First, let's find our dials. We'll be reviewing differential feed, stitch length, stitch width as well as, how to remove your stitch finger.
Mine are located on the side of my serger (I have the Brother 1034D and love it!).

Check your manual to figure out how to change these settings on your machine.

Differential Feed

 If your serger has a differential feed take a close look at your feed dogs. (I've removed my presser foot and ankle for this picture). You'll see two sets of feed dogs.


These two sets of feed dogs can move fabric (feed) at different rates. The setting for differential feed is expressed as a ratio. If the first feed dog is moving twice as fast as the second (a differential feed of 2.0) than the fabric will bunch up or gather. 



If the first feed dog is only moving three quarters as fast as the second one (a differential feed of .75), the fabric will stretch.

At a differential feed setting of 1.0 the fabric will feed through the serger normally.

When do I use this? Change this setting to:
  • Ruffle
  • Ease two peices of fabric together
  • Lettuce edge
  • Compensate for a knit that is stretching or bunching up under the serger's presser foot.

Stitch length

The stitch length on a serger works exactly like the stitch length on a sewing machine. The higher the number, the further apart the stitches will be.

 A small number makes stitches closer together.


When do I use this? Change this setting to:
  • Fully cover an edge with thread for a rolled hem
  • Controll how much a fabric gathers (increase stitch length for more ruffles)
  • Adjust stitch appearance.
Note: Since the stitch length effects how the thread wraps around the fabric edge, you might need to adjust thread tension and stitch width after changing your stitch length.

Stitch Width

My serger's stitch width setting confused me for a long time. I wasn't able to control how wide my stitches were. Here's a secret: adjusting the "stitch width" on your serger actually moves the cutting blade. The best use of this setting is to make sure your stitches wrap exactly at the fabric edge.

In these two pictures you can see the blade moving closer to the throat plate. 


If your cutting width is too narrow, the stitches will hang off the fabric edge.

 Increase your cutting width until the thread meets at the edge of the fabric.



When do I use this? Change this setting when:
  • working with very thick or thin fabrics
  • removing the stitch finger 
  • changing stitch length
  • decorative stitching. 

Stitch Finger

Removing your serger's stitch finger is the best way to get narrower stitching. If you look down at the machine's throat plate, you'll see these little pins or needle looking things next to the feed dogs. These are your stitch fingers. On the 1034D, there is a removable stitch finger right next to them.



The stitch fingers act like knitting needles-- the looper thread wrap around them to form the stitch. Removing a stitch finger results in a narrower stitch because there is less width for the looper threads to wrap around.

Most manuals will tell you to remove the stitch finger for rolled and narrow hems, but I lovity-love the look of a narrow 4 thread stitch on garments with exposed serging.



The process for removing or disabling the stitch finger varies from machine to machine. Some machines will require you to change out the throat plate. Some have a slider that moves back and forth. Mine has a little lever that releases the stitch finger attachment. Check your manual if you aren't sure how yours works.

When do I use this? Remove your stitch finger for:
  • rolled hems 
  • narrow hems
  • narrow four thread overcasting or seaming
Now you know your serger mechanics inside and out. If you'd like to learn more about some of the techniques mentioned in this post check out my other serger tutorials:


Next week will be the final week in our this series. But don't be sad! I"m going to have a serger post each day. Monday, I'll share a time saving serger threading tip (no, not tying on); on Wenesday we'll be learning how to serge curves, and we'll have a series wrap up on Friday.

This post was part of a month long serger series:
Week 1: Threading Your Serger
Week 2: Perfecting Serger Tension
Week 3: Understanding Your Serger's Features
Quick Tip: Threading a Serger Out of Order
Week 4: Serging Curves

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37 comments:

  1. Thanks you so much for this series! I received this exact serger as a gift last year and am very much intimidated by it. But I am learning so much from your tutorials and can't thank you enough!

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    1. Hayley, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! I really like this serger-- especially for ease of use. Don't be intimidated by it! If you have any questions, you can always contact me! I can answer here or in an email.

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  2. I'm also very greatful for these series of posts. I had stopped using my serger after few months of buying it in 2010. And I had recently also tried to sell locally but did not get reasonable offers for it. After reading through these posts I have started using it again and its all starting to make sense. Thank you very much for putting together these tutorials.

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    1. Anonymous, I had to smile at your comment about putting your serger up for sale! I often considered doing the same thing when I was frustrated with mine. I'm so glad that these posts helped you!

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  3. Wow, I love this series! I've only used my serger to finish seams, but maybe I"ll branch out a bit and gather or do a rolled hem or two. :-) I still have trouble with ending my serging if I do something in the round. Is there a trick to keep from getting the pile of thread that tapers off to the side at the end of your serging? Will this be covered next week?
    Thanks for everything you've shared so far!!

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    1. Threegirlsandaboy, I'm glad you are liking the series! I'll try to cover finishing circles next week. :)

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    2. Threegirlsandaboy, I'm sorry I wasn't able to cover finishing circles this week. I am compiling a list of questions like this and planning to do a second part in this series.

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  4. Thanks for this series, its a refresher course for me!

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  5. Sigh...my serger is 13 years old and I've really only used it to finish seams. Not sure it has some of the features you've talked about in this post, but I'm definitely going to branch out! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.

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    1. Sondray, Erin, I'm so glad these posts are helpful to you! Erin, I'm excited that you are thinking of branching out! I was hoping that these posts would encourage people to do just that. :)

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  6. Carmen (CountryMouse)August 23, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    This series is so wonderfully helpful! I've used my serger for three years but have always had questions about the how & why of many of the things you have discussed. Thank you so much for clearing things up for me!

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    1. I'm so glad it helped you! I've been wanting to write this up for a while.

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  7. Thank you for this post. I've driven myself crazy trying to get the threads to hug the side of the fabric. Now I know how to do it!

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  8. Such a great post! I've had my serger for a while and don't really understand it even though I've used it, lol. Pinning for future reference!

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  9. My husband bought me a Serger 5 years ago for Christmas without any input from me. It still has the original threading from the manufacturer in it because I have had no idea where to start on it. I have been scared to touch it. Your series is giving me hope that one day I'll be serging. Thank you!

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  10. hi its me again,please help. your older serger is identical to mine. /about threading a serger /tension.page was very helpful/.
    i just wondered what the looper distance setting are for it i beleive its a brother serger/i have a necchi but indentical loopers plate etc.secondly should the upper looper go past the 1st needle to the second needle. mine doesnot guessing i have a bent shaft.
    please help
    i love this blog appreciated,

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    1. Anonymous, Thank you for the kind words! If you think you ahve a bent shaft, I really recommend taking it into a shop. They'll be able to better help you than I can!-- I wish you the best of luck in getting it fixed!

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  11. I purchased a brand new Viking Huskylock S25, unboxed it, looked at how it was threaded, read the manual, and wondered how long before I started crying, LOL!

    It actually turned out to be a lot easier to thread than I first thought - but your tutorial on adjusting tension, probably saved me days of frustration! Just getting started with this beautiful machine, but it's already that much more enjoyable, since I'm starting with the tensions properly adjusted.

    THANK YOU!!!!!! For your time, and all the effort that goes into putting such a detailed tutorial together! Absolutely Fabulous!!!

    ~Jennifer

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  12. I have the same serger as you do here - the BRother 1034d - and I'm trying to use it for quilting. According to the very generic book I'm reading, the stitches need to be as wide as possible. I'm still not sure how to do that. I understand that removing the stitch finger will get me narrower stitches, but I want really wide ones - I've also gotten some conflicting info from different sites as to whether I should use the right needle or left needle, and what with having batting involved here I'm wondering whether I have my diff feed done right. In short, do you have any words of wisdom on this issue? Thanks for All your Help - Leslie

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    1. I've used my serger some for peicing quilts but never for quilting. I'm not sure that my machine could handle the batting. I'd love to know what book you are looking at!

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  13. actually, I'm trying to use it to do the binding. the book I'm looking at, and don't think a lot of is "Serge and Merge". I've seen some people do strip/rail (going brain dead) quilts with a serger - sandwich it, start in the middle, and go with strips around and around until you have it big enough. I think- I'm very new at this. At both serging and quilting and I say if you're going to jump in, jump all the way in.

    Can you tell me how you make your widest 3 thread overlock stitch on your serger? I would be happy to share with you how well it works on my quilt.

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  14. oh, a not too thick quilt sandwich will go through a brother 1034d. I've already tried.

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  15. I love my 1034 D. I used my Babylock for over 20 years before it froze up on me. You mentioned about a four thread narrow hem that you love. Do you have to remove the stitch finger for that one? I love a rolled hem, but hate to remove/replace the needle.

    Thanks
    Cindy

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    1. Yes... I just remove the stitch finger, (I also dislike removing/replacing the needle).

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  16. I DID IT I DID IT I DID IT!!!! SUCESSSSSSS!!!!! The settings (at least, for my brother 1040d serger) to go through the quilt sandwich and to do a WIDE overlock are: 6 (upper) 6.25 (lower) and 3.25 (right needle) REMOVE LEFT NEEDLE - OMG IT WORKS!!!

    I am not using a high loft batting - I am using thin cotton like Hobbs Natural Cotton, that said, I had to go through a double batted section and it STILL WORKS FINE - OMG - it is so WONDERFUL to figure something out!

    just wanted to share the wealth of knowledge!

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    1. yay! I'm glad you figured it out!

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  17. Hi- thank you so much for the posts! Any tips on getting the stitch finger back in after doing a rolled hem? I can put it back in and thread the machine again with two needles but I CANNOT get it to do a regular overlock stitch with the stitch finger in again! It works fine without it in there

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  18. Thank you!! So helpful!

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  19. Can you disable the cutter on your brother serger? I want to be able to hem some knit tops and am trying to figure out how to do it. Just took mine out of the box last weekend, lol.

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  21. Hi There Thank You so much for all this information. I just bought a Brother 1034d serger and the info in all the blogs has been invaluable. I am still having problems with stitch width on a lightish knit fabric though it seems to hang over the edge no matter where I set ig any suggestions?

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  22. This is an easy way to understand how to use my serger machine, I barely use my serger because I'm afraid to use it and get frustrated. Thanks a lot!!! :)

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  23. This is an easy way to understand how to use my serger machine, I barely use my serger because I'm afraid to use it and get frustrated. Thanks a lot!!! :)

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  24. I did a search on the stich finger of my brother serger and the first result was you, what a wonderful thingbas I have bought booksbmagazines and read so much but you have given awesome pictures with easy to understand language. I would be the first to purchase a booke frion you and now so anxious to start reading your blog. Thanks so much.

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  25. I have an old Elna T33 and I just could not get the thread tension right. Thanks so much for the info you gave on perfecting thread tension.

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  26. I have a Janome Juno 3434D. I *know* I've seen a reference on adjusting the pressure tension screw ~ not thread tension. Which direction to I (slightly) turn it for delicate fabric? For heavier fabric?

    Thanks a LOT!

    Deb Hash
    sew2say@gmail.com

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  27. Thank you so much, pictures and content are super helpful especially for a beginner. My product requires stretch fabric and I constantly have to adjust my machine settings so my fabric doesn't stretch while I sew. I think your fundamental concepts will help me get a handle on this. Do you know if any serger's come with adjustable foot tension?
    Thank you!

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