Friday, August 31, 2012

Serger Series: Wrap Up!

Yay! We've made it to the Relationship Rescue: You and Your serger wrap up! I hope everyone is better friends with their serger than when we started!

Before we wrap up I wanted to address something. I've had a nagging worry all month that this series might discourage new sewists. And really, this blog's focus is making handcrafts accessible to everyone-- no matter if they have a serger or not. So... to answer the question: 

Do I need a Serger or Overlocker to Sew?

And the answer is... NO!   The best analogy I've heard is that a serger is like a microwave. You don't need it, it doesn't do everything- but what it does, it does very fast and very well.

In the same vein, you do not need an serger to make gorgeous quilts, home decor projects or garments.  In the coming months there will be tutorials that use only a sewing machine (like the first skirt tutorial at SMS), and also some tutorials that require no sewing at all.

That being said--if you do have a serger, then I believe you shouldn't be intimidated by it, angry at it, or afraid of it! You should use it! And and have fun while you're at it! That's what this series is about.

Now, on to our wrap up!

My hope with this series was to address the most irritating aspects of serging. Here is what we covered:

Here some additional serger tutorials:

By Monday serger tutorials will have their own tab in the menu for easy reference!

Keeping these tutorials bite sized meant that I didn't get to cover everything I wanted-- and I got some great questions that I just couldn't fit in. There will definitely be more serger tutorials here in the future. If you have any requests, email me or comment--I'll try to do the most requested tutorials. 

I have to say-- the very best part of this series is getting to know all of you who read this blog! I've gotten so many wonderful comments and emails. Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to write back! 

I hope everyone can squeeze in some  handmade fun this weekend-- even if it's making messes with your little ones, or making time for your loved ones.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Serge Curves

I'm so excited for the last post in our serger series. Now that we know how to thread, adjust tension, and use all those features we are ready to sew!

The only thing is that garments aren't just straight lines. Since the serger trims and sews, serging curves can be intimidating and a little tricky.

Why serge curves?

Serging curves is the one technique that really speeds up my sewing. I most often use this technique when finishing off necklines and armholes for kid's clothes. Whether the serging is exposed or simply turned under, it eliminates the need for bias binding, lining or facing-- making summer playdresses quick and easy to make!

And since the seam allowance is trimmed as you sew, serged curves don't require much clipping or trimming-- what a timesaver!

Convinced? Click the link below to learn to serge curves.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Thread Your Serger Out of Order!

This is a little 'bonus tutorial' in our serger series.

We've all been there with our sergers-- it's late at night, you are tired, and you just need to finish that last seam on you serger. And then, your lower looper thread breaks. You know, the looper that you hate to thread!

It's so tempting to to try and rethread only that looper instead of redoing  everything. So you do. The serger seems to work at first, but after a few stitches, all you have is a tangled mess.

Why does this happen? How does it know that it was threaded out of order? Click to go to the Threading Serger Out of Order Tutorial!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Welcome to our new 'home' on the internet! You might be wondering what Make it Handmade is all about?

I've loved making things my whole life. Now, that I'm a mom I have a new appreciation for all things handmade. I've also realized the amount of time (and money) I can spend on these projects has shrunk considerably!

This blog will chronicle the small, simple touches that make our lives unique-- and teach you how to make them too. No matter what your budget, skill level, or timeframe is I hope you will be able to find a project here for you!

I will post here each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The last week in our serger series starts tomorrow! There will be a tutorial on Monday and Wednesday, and a wrap up on Friday. 

If you enjoy my posts, please  Subscribe (using RSS), Sign up for Emails, or Follow using Blogger!

Friday, August 24, 2012

No Refunds or Exchanges

With all the serger tutorials on the blog lately, you might wonder when you're going to see some whole projects.  I haven't had a chance to write up posts or tutorials; but I have been sewing!

Here's a sneak peak of what I've been up to:

I'm hoping to have tutorials or at least project posts up for these in the coming weeks. 

While I was taking some of these pictures, I happened to notice that Amaani was very quiet.

I swear she got in that cart all on her own. We think she wants to be returned to the toddler store!  Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

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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Monday, August 20, 2012

Sheet Music Dress

Amaani is at an odd size (at least in sewing patterns). Baby clothes seem too babyish for her but most girl's dress patterns start at a size 3.
I was so excited to find that some simplicity/new look dress patterns start at a size 1/2. I whipped up this cute number a few weeks ago.

The pattern is New Look 6974, just like the cotton candy dress. I just love the little details!

Like the gathered straps...
The godets... 

And the little bow in the back. 
The pattern is cheap and easy to find (I got mine at walmart *cringe*).  I'm not actually sure where the fabric came from and I can't help but wonder what song is on it! It makes a great play dress, though. I'm hoping to make another before she grows out of this size.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Happy Friday!!!!

The weather has finally gotten better here in Dallas. We hit 80 degrees this week while the sun was still up! We are going to enjoy our time outside with these two little hooligans.

For me, the change in weather was a wake up call. Fall is coming!

Last year the holiday season caught me off guard: Halloween, Diwali, Navratri, Thanksgiving, Christmas... everything happens within weeks (sometimes days) of each other! I was happy but exhausted. This year I'm going to be prepared. I plan to share the crafty portion of festivities on the blog along with a few themed tutorials.  I hope that you will stick around for the fun!

Have a wonderful (and cool(er)) weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Perfecting Serger/Overlocker Tension

We are ready for week 2 in our Relationship Rescue: You and Your Serger Series. Now that we have our machines all threaded, we get to do some actual serging today!

Why is tension adjustment important? A balanced stitch doesn't just look better, but it actually makes for a stronger seam. Once you get your tension right you won't have to reinforce a serged seam with the sewing machine.

So grab a scrap of mid-weight fabric (like quilting cotton), click the link below and I'll meet you by your machine!

This tutorial covers tension adjustments for the 3 or 4 thread overlock stitch.
Just as a reference, here is a picture with the serger's tension dials labeled. The serger I'm using is the Brother 1034D. The higher the number, the harder the tension disks will squeeze the thread and and the tighter the thread will be.
Labled Serger Tension Disks

I've threaded the machine with 4 different colors of thread:

Left Needle: Green
Right Needle: Red
Upper Looper: Black
Lower Looper: Sky Blue

Just like with our sewing machines, it's best to adjust tension using a similar weight fabric to our project fabric. This is a scrap of quilting cotton that I sent through the machine right side (pretty side) up.

If you are starting from scratch, start by setting all the tension dials at 4. 

Balanced Stitch

First, lets look at what we want. A balanced stitch is one where the looper threads (the black and blue threads in the picture) meet right at the edge of fabric and the needle threads do not pucker or gape.

Balanced Serger Tension

For 4 thread stitching you will need to adjust both needle thread tensions; in 3 thread stitching there is only one needle thread tension to adjust.
Tight Needle Tension: 

If the needle tension is too tight, the fabric will start to pucker and ripple. This is great for ruffles, but not for regular serging. If you see this, loosen the needle tension until the fabric doesn't bunch up.

Serger Needle Tension too tight

Loose Needle Tension:

If the needle tension is too loose, there will be loops on the back of the fabric.

Serger Needle Tension too loose

If you see this, tighten the needle thread tensions until the needle thread just barely shows on the wrong side of the fabric.


The loopers are a bit tricky since they effect each other. If the looper threads aren't meeting at the very edge of the fabric, take note of which thread is being pulled to the incorrect side.

Remember-- the upper looper thread should be on top of the fabric, and the lower looper should be on the bottom of the fabric. 

If the upper looper thread is being pulled to the bottom of the fabric...

In these pictures, the black thread is being pulled to the bottom (wrong side of the fabric). The upper looper tension could be too loose or the lower looper tension could be too tight. Here you have to make a judgment call about which to adjust first.

Try looking at the thread-- in this picture the threads look pulled tight, so I would loosen the lower looper tension.

Serger Lower looper tension too tight

In this picture the threads look loose and gappy, so I'd tighten the upper looper tension.

Serger upper looper tension too loose

If the lower looper thread is being pulled to the top of the fabric... 

In this picture, the blue thread has been pulled to the top (right side) of the fabric. This means the upper looper tension could be too tight or the lower looper tension could be too loose.

Again, if the threads look loose and gappy, tighten the lower looper tension. If the threads look pulled taut loosen the upper looper tension.

Tricks and Tips:

1) If you aren't sure what's wrong, start by adjusting the needle tensions, and then work on the looper tensions.

2) Try using a slightly different color thread in one of your loopers so you can easily tell which looper thread is misbehaving. For example, 90% of the time I use cream colored thread in my needles and upper looper, and white in my lower looper. I can tell the difference when I'm trying to adjust the tension, but it's not noticeable on my finished project.

3) You can use the same scrap of fabric over and over when you are adjusting--simply position the fabric so the serger trims off the old serging.

Once you've figured out the settings for a balanced stitch you should just need to make minor adjustments to accommodate different types/thicknesses of fabric. For the most part I keep the 1034D's tension setting on all '4's' unless I'm sewing something very thick or stretchy.

If you have any questions or tips of your own, leave a comment below or use the contact form on the menu above. I'd love to hear from you!

Hope to see you back here next week for the next  serger 'Relationship Rescue' post!

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Pants Are Trying to Kill Me

I'm sure you think I"m exaggerating, but I"m not. The other day when I was running around getting everything ready for our rakhi ceremony, my jeans pushed me down the stairs.
The view when you are walking dowstairs

Well... maybe they didn't push me, but they were long enough to to cause me to trip and crash into our bottom of the stairs baby gate.
The view from the floor.

I'm fine (well, a I was a little sore and embarrassed); but something had to be done about those homicidal jeans.

I'm short and love the clearance racks, which means I often come home with pants that are too long with plans to hem them up. I normally use the pinch hem (tutorial from Thinking In Shapes) method for jeans because you can't tell they've been hemmed at all. 

But this particular pair of jeans had a wide flare, and I had to take a lot off the bottom. Pinching was not possible.


This time I just measured how much to take off, subtracted my hem amount, and marked roughly with chalk

I serged along that line, then turned it up twice and topstitched. I didn't even have to cut them!
Voila, the jeans have been rehabilitated and are fit to become a contributing member in my wardrobe once more. The whole process took about 15 minutes--- so worth it!

A pinch hem would look better, though.

Does anyone know an easy way to shorten jeans with a wide flare but still keep the original hem? I'd love to know!