Serging Links

I will be adding links to this post as I gather them. If the links aren’t clickable I will fix when I have time.


Serger Threading Problems

Thread, Thread, and Thread Again! and still… problems!

Once you have learned to thread your machine, (over and over and over) it will become second nature to you. But while threading over and over, be sure you note how the Lower Looper thread goes over the Upper Looper arm.

If you have a problem, most likely it is one of two things – missing that thread guide on the lower looper arm. There is a thread guide on the left bend or elbow of the LL arm. Or the LL thread isn’t correctly placed over the UL arm (see chapter 4 in your creative serging book, ‘Decorative Basics’)

Another thing that happens is that the needle thread(s) get tangled around the looper arms. This happens when the needles are threaded and you are trying to thread a broken looper thread in the middle of a
project. When this happens it could possibly bend a looper because the needle threads get caught and wrapped around the looper causing the thread to get tight. The needles must be unthreaded or pulled up and out of the way. Many times this is the problem… threading out of order. The needle threads have to be removed!!! order.. upper looper, lower looper then right needle and left needle.

One time I hadn’t raised my telescoping thread tree and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what was wrong! I cut the threads on the front of the machine, re-threaded and re-threaded and re-threaded.
Finally I decided to take the thread cones off and threaded the machine again and low and behold.. I had forgotten to pull up that tree!

Make sure to give your thread a little tug to be sure that the thread is between the tension discs. There will be times when you don’t want the thread in those tensioners and will want the thread to spool freely..a heavier thicker thread would be one of those times or a special decorative look you are trying to achieve. For the most part, always give those threads a little tug to assure they are in between the tension discs.

There may be times when the thread isn’t spooling off of the cone properly.. it does happen. Try moving the thread to another position or using another cone. When I find a cone that has a problem.. I wind a bobbin on my sewing machine and use the bobbin in the needle thread position on my serger.

When using standard sewing machine thread, make sure the cut in the spool to re-hook the thread, keeping it from unwinding, is on the bottom. Make sure you use “spool caps”, those flat(ish) discs on top of the spools to help keep the thread from catching and moving it away from the spool.

When using Woolly Nylon (remember this is a brand name and is referred to as Texturized Nylon in other companies), it may need the little netting around the cones to keep it from calling off of the cones
while serging.

Please see Chapter 3 in both Sewing with Sergers, ‘All about thread and easiest threading’ and Creative Serging, ‘Decorative Thread Glossary’.

Rolled Hem – Problems

Rolled Hem Problems


Pokies, fringe, or whiskers are the little threads that stick out when doing a rolled hem. This can usually be fixed by doing some minor adjustments on your tensions or moving the blade over. There are times when no matter what you do to adjust your machine nothing works. This could be due to the type of fabric being used.

Some problem fabrics are cotton and polyester blend, loosely woven fabrics such as sheers and netting. These fabrics do not make a great fabric for doing a rolled hem. In this case there are a couple of other things to try to remedy this problem.

There are many variables to be considered. How is your fabric cut? True bias, partial bias, cross-grain, lengthwise? There is a varied assortment of fabrics and blends, the kind of thread being used. There may not be just one answer but many and you will have to practice on scrap fabrics to see which one works best for that fabric.

One more problem is a rolled hem pulling away from the fabric. If after trying several adjustments and nothing seems to work. See if one of the other alternatives help.


The first step to eliminate pokies is to try adjusting your machine.

Increase the cutting width on your machine. This will help as the machine is rolling more fabric under and into the rolled hem. The wider the stitch, the more fabric there is to stitch. The width adjustment is the distance between the needle and the knife. The wider the adjustment, the more fabric is stitched. The smaller the cutting width, the less fabric will be incorporated into the stitch.

Increase stitch length. This will give a denser stitch and more coverage.


If your rolled hem comes off edge of fabric, try decreasing stitch length that gives the thread less coverage and less perforation. You can change the needles to a smaller size that will make smaller holes in the fabric.

If the edge puckers, your needle is too tight and needs to be loosened. If the Needle is too loose a V forms on the underside.


If your sample still has too much fabric poking through the stitches, lay a strip of Stabilizer over the top edge to be serged. When you serge the rolled hem stitch, the Stabilizer will help stiffen the fabric as the fabric is rolled under. This will help stop the fibers from poking out.

There are several different types of stabilizers that can be used to help control rolled hem problems.

There is Fusable Stabilizer, Tear-Away Stabilizer, and Water Soluable Stablizer.

The Fusible Stabilizer gets ironed on to the fabric and is permanent.

The Tear-Away Stabilizer gets sewn into the fabric and the excess is then torn away.

The Water Soluble Stabilizer will dissolve when placed in water.


Starch is another medium that can be used for stiffing a fabric edge. Starch restores body and sizing after the fabric has washed but also stiffens the fabric. Starch helps eliminate the fraying edges making them smooth and crisp. Be sure to test a sample of fabric before starching and pressing as some fabrics such as lace or tulle burn easily.

When spraying starch on your fabric, be sure to read the directions on the can. Spray an even light spraying of starch on the fabric. Give it time to penetrate the fabric before ironing, 1 to 2 minutes. As heat is applied to the fabric the starch dries, leaving the fabric stiff. It is best to apply starch 2 to 3 times then one heavy spraying as this will help prevent starch build up on both the fabric and the iron.

Ironing vs. Pressing

Be very careful when pressing that you PRESS and not iron. Ironing stretches the fabric and can cause it to be pulled out of shape as you are ironing back and forth. It also helps to use a pressing cloth made out of 100% cotton.


The use of a fabric sealant will also help stop the fraying of the fabric’s edge. Put a light beading on the edge of the fabric and allow it to dry, following the manufactures instructions. The fabric sealant will penetrate the fabric and when serged, the knife blade will cut most of the sealant off, leaving very few if any fringe or pokies sticking out of your rolled hem.


Double stitching or going over the edge twice should cover the edge completely. This may be necessary if using standard thread rather then textureized (woolly) nylon. Make sure that when going over a second time you do not cut your first stitches.

This creates a double layer that you may find too stiff or thick for your particular application. Be sure to do a test on scrap fabric before deciding on this technique.

If necessary, two threads can be used in the upper looper at the same time. This will offer better coverage if wanting to use some of the more decorative threads.


Woolly Nylon now comes in “Extra” Woolly Nylon. Extra Woolly Nylon is 3 times heavier then the woolly nylon we area so familiar with. The Extra Woolly Nylon offers more coverage with a heavier edge,


Press a narrow hem in what is to have a rolled edge. You will need to disengage the blade or be careful not to cut any of the fabric edge while serging. This pressed folded edge will give you a smooth edge that will be rolled under. Make sure that the fold is face down on the serger.

Make sure when pressing that the folded over fabric does not exceed the width of the rolled hem. The idea is to catch the raw edge under the thread. If there is any fabric not caught, you may have to do some careful trimming.

Polyester needs a pressing cloth so as not to melt the fabric. I find it easier to pin folded in place, cover with a pressing cloth and then press.

Scrap Catcher

When I am sewing I use a coffee can to put all of my fabric scraps from cutting out a pattern and a place to put the threads when I am trimming them after each seam, but for a serger… I need a scrap catcher.

If you don’t have a scrap catcher you will be sweeping up a floor or picking up on carpet! And if you have a nosy busy buddy wee dog that is intrigued by the falling strings of fabric and is determined to spread it around… you need a scrap catcher!

If you are ambitious and want to sew one here are links to patterns and ideas..

Janome Scrap Catcher

Scrap Catcher

if you are crafty…

you can decorate a cardboard box, using sticky velcro – velcro the bottom of your serger in two places and the flap of a box in matching places, the box is pretty- that is if you are crafty. Now cut or make
another box that fits inside.. easy to empty that way.

and the lazy way… my favorite

Hang a grocery store bag by putting the handles under the front feet of the machine. It stays open enough to catch the snippets from the cutting blade.

got an old baseball cap? slide it under your serger

I use the grocery bag…. I throw it away after I finish each project.

Cover Your Machines!!!

Be sure to keep your machine covered so that dirt and dust don’t find its way in.

If you don’t have time to make a cover then lay a towel or sheet over your machine or make or buy a machine cover! but keep it covered!

here are some directions on how to make a cover! perhaps you can measure your machines and start looking for fabric you would like to use.

machine cover

machine cover

machine cover

machine cover

machine cover

machine cover

each machine cover is different, all are great! or make up your own.

Cleaning Your Serger

Cleaning your Machine

There is probably 100 ways to clean our beloved machines. I am presenting the most common techniques used.

Did you know you should clean your serger after every 2 garments? I prefer to clean my machines out after every garment is completed. I take the needle out and run it in and out of the strawberry (on the end of the tomato pincushion) to sharpen it back up. There is fine grit inside the strawberry called pumice. This pumice sharpens the needles and knocks off any burrs.

With all the lint that is produced I certainly don’t want it to build up and cause any problems with my machine, especially when I am in the middle of a project.

Many people use those little mini vacuum. While vacuuming works pretty well, not every one has a mini vacuum. The vacuum can not reach in all the remote places that the lint can hide.

Others use compressed air (also called Can of Air) to blow out the lint. I prefer not to use this method because if you use this for more then just a few seconds, it starts to spray moisture out. This
moisture is caused from the propellant that allows the air to be canned under pressure. The moisture also causes rust, which is why you have been told not to blow into your machine. This can of air also makes everything very cold which is not real good for the metal or the oil.

What happens is the oil hardens and gums up and the metal parts become brittle. Using your serger could cause some of the smaller finer parts to break while they are still very cold. You will need to wait for the
metal to get back to room temperature before using your serger. The advantage in using the can of air is it blows lint out of hard to reach places a vacuum is not able to reach.

Most everyone has a hair blow dryer in his or her house. The blower placed on warm not hot is all that is needed. You might want to wrap your serger in a beach towel to catch all the fine particles that will be blown out and saves you from having to sweep or vacuum. The blow dryer with its warm air has the opposite effect of using a can of air. While both blows, the warm air will turn hardened oil into its natural state again.

The force of the blow dryer is adjustable, from low to high, and on low it is light enough to safely blow the dust away.

Many argue that using a can of air or blow dryer causes the lint to be blown back into those hard to reach places, but what it actually does is blow the lint out to the back or sides, around and out.

Most sergers need to be oiled and the best oil you can use is sewing machine oil. Get your manual out and find the oiling points. When in doubt, put a drop of oil on everything that moves.

Over oiling so the oil drips on all parts will cause the lint to and stick to the oil. Whether you use a vacuum or blower it won’t budge. That is when a flashlight, magnifying glasses, several brushes, and pipe cleaners, and a lot of patience work best.

Having good brushes will help get out any of the lint that has become packed in the corners or in cracks or even stuck to the oil that has gummed up.

I like to use those spiral dental brushes or pipe cleaners, but be sure to unplug the machine because both of these brushes have metal centers, Q-tips or inexpensive water color or similar paint brushes can be used. You can dip the brushes in some rubbing alcohol to remove lint, old oil and other buildup.

When it comes time for a serious cleaning, remove the outer casing and needle plate. Not all machines can be easily disassembled. Sometimes you just have to spend the money and take it to a repair center.

The tension disks also need to be cleaned from time to time. To do this, use a soft cloth or a piece of heavy thread, fine yarn, or even jeans stitch dipped in alcohol. Gently run cloth or thread back and forth, around the disks to remove any thread lint that has come off while running the thread between the disks.

If you are having a hard time getting the tensions to adjust, cleaning the tension disks may fix your problem.

Serging a Flower or a Pageant Dress Hem

Assignment ?

Serging a Flower or The Hem of a Pageant Dress

Flowers and Pageant or Formal dress hems are made the same way using a 3 thread rolled hem with monofilament inside that makes the edge stiff and helps the flower take shape or create that wavy bottom of a dress.

Monofilament is another word for thread. It is used on the edge to stiffen the edge and create the look of petals. The monofilament used is nothing more then fishing line. Fishing line comes in pound weights and using any weight between 6-10 pounds works best.

Some sergers have the ability to serge cording and the monofilament is then to be treated as cording, check your manual for specific instructions. However, if your machine is not capable of doing this cording technique then follow the information below.

To do a flower or Hem, set up your serger to do a rolled hem using a small stitch, the same size as is used for a Napkin.

The fabric that works best is silky, like satin, taffeta, organza, chiffon or other lining.

Cut the fabric on the bias about 2-3 inches wide and about 12 inches long. This size makes the best flowers. Though, smaller flowers and buds can be made using 1-2 inch wide fabric and cutting different widths for different flowers can be done with a little practice.
For smaller flowers, you will need to make sure there is enough fabric on the bottom to sew it together to secure.

Dress hems should also be cut on a bias but this is achieved by having a circular skirt.

Right Needle – standard serger thread
Upper Looper – Woolly Nylon, Rayon, metallic thread, or some kind of decorative thread
Lower Looper – standard serger thread

Lift up presser foot and place the monofilament right under presser foot so that it will get caught in the thread.
Bring the monofilament from the front of the presser foot and to the right, holding it in your right hand against the front of the serger to help guide the line away from the knife.

The monofilament goes up and over the knife and behind the door so as not to cut the line. The idea is to keep it from being cut by the knife blade.

Some sergers have a special hole for piping or fishing line that feeds the line and keeps if from the blade. Check your manual.

Place the monofilament under the presser foot with about 12 inches behind the presser foot.

Stitch about 5 to 6 inches of the fishing line so that it is covered in a serged stitch. Place the fabric in front of the presser foot so it gets caught under the presser foot and the knife blade skims the edge of the fabric as it serges catching the monofilament at the same time.

Slowly serge so the fabric is being rolled over the monofilament creating a rolled hem.

When you come to the end of the fabric, move fishing line to the left and toward the back of the machine, holding in the left hand. Serge off the fishing line.

Chain off but leave about 12 inches of the monofilament exposed.

The rolled edge goes on the outer edge of the rolled flower. To create the flower, hold onto one end as you gently pull and stretch the fabric toward the other end. Be careful not to pull the monofilament out of the stitched edge. Fold one end and then begin rolling the fabric, to create a flower. A tight roll creates a bud, while a loose roll creates a large flower. By twisting and folding as you roll creates beautiful and unique flowers. Sew by hand, sewing machine or serger the bottom of the flower/bud to keep it together. Leaves can be created the same way as a flower with less pulling. Secure it all together and sew on a safety pin. Use on a hat, lapel, clip in your hair.

You follow the same technique for the flower by stretching the fabric, gently stretch the fabric making sure to hold onto the end of the monofilament so you don’t pull it out. this will create that nice ~~~~~~~~~ wavy hem that finishes many formal dress hem. I serge one side seam, finish the hem and then serge the other side seam to secure the monofilament.