Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Serger Research & Decision

By Leigh

In my Sewing With Handwovens (???) post, I mentioned that I was researching sergers. I was very interested in all the comments to that post; both the opinions and the advice. I wanted to share with you what I've discovered through my research and what I decided.

I started with the weaving lists I subscribe to, Weaving, WeaveTech, and the Online Guild of Weaver's, Spinners, & Dyers. It was interesting because the different lists had quite different ideas about serging handwoven fabric. The opinions ranged from "wouldn't be caught dead using it on my handwovens," to "use it all the time on my handwovens."

For those of the first opinion, the objection seems to stem from an association of serging with cheaply made, mass produced garments. This group primarily seemed to be those who've woven many years, and started sewing long before sergers became available to home sewers. The second group were largely younger weavers, who seemed to more readily accept serging as common practice.

One question that I needed to answer for myself, was what a serger could do for me that a sewing machine couldn't. Some of the appealing points were:
  1. Ravel-free edges and seam finishing - I learned to sew when pinking was enough. Not only is this no longer common practice, but handwoven fabrics especially need something to prevent unraveling.
  2. One step finishing and trimming. A serger/overlocker seams, overcasts, and trims all in one step. This is a big plus for someone like me, who wants to spend time on other things.
  3. Less bulky seams
  4. Rolled edges for things like napkins and fine fabrics.
  5. 2 feed dogs for differential feed - How often have I finished a seam to find that the two layers of fabric didn't finish up evenly! I always thought this was me, but it turns out that ain't necessarily so. It's also the fabric. The speeds of the separate feed dogs on a serger can be adjusted individually to take care of that.
  6. Decorative stitching wasn't so much a selling point for me. Having done a lot of hand embroidery in the past, any sort of machine decoration doesn't appeal to me much.
Now, it may be true that some or all of these things can be accomplished with a sewing machine. Mine is six years old and is a very basic model manual model. This serves me for what I am interested in doing: basic garment construction. Newer, upgraded machines do a lot more and are beginning to imitate overlock features. So, one possibility would be to replace my old sewing machine with a newer, upgraded model. However, those are all way out of my price range. Since I don't buy things on credit and my current sewing machine is still serviceable, I decided it to research inexpensive sergers to see what I could come up with.

Thanks to the customer reviews on, this is what I decided on.....

A Brother 1034D Overlock Machine.

For me, the selling points included:
  1. Compact - a must in our decidedly dinky living space
  2. Can use standard spools of sewing thread as well as serger cones
  3. Uses standard sewing machine needles (some sergers requires special needles)
  4. Choice of 3 or 4 thread overlock stitches
  5. Blind hem stitching
  6. Easy conversion to rolled hem function
  7. Easy threading
  8. Free arm capability
  9. Easy disengagement of cutter blades.
  10. Includes three, easy change presser feet: multipurpose, gathering, and blind hem.
  11. 2 instruction booklets and 2 instruction CDs, with tips such as: one doesn't have to thread from scratch every time; simply tie on the new thread and pull it through.
  12. Price - it was within my budget
  13. Value for cost - this per customer reviews.
Another nice feature is a built in threading chart for the loopers, though it came pre-threaded with sample spools.

... and the color coded tension dials ....

So there you have it. I still have the learning curve to face, but I'm not terribly daunted. Yet.

Posted 14 May 2008 at


Alison said...

Good choice, Leigh! I haven't been keeping up with OLG discussions - it's such a busy group recently! - but I'd use a serger on anything with even vaguely 'ravelly' edges. But I wouldn't use it for whole-garment construction with *good* fabric, at least, not wovens. I've made suits using the regular machine for the actual seams, and the serger (or 'overlocker' on this side of the pond!) to finish the seam allowances, just as you said. I've also serged each piece prior to seaming in very ravelly fabric, though you have to be very careful to gt the differential feed right so as not to distort any bias/curved areas. Have fun!! (I own 2 sergers, by the way...)

Anonymous said...

I am really ackward with sewing machine ;-)

Leigh said...

Thanks Alison! I should have mentioned that though we commonly call these things "sergers" over here, I learned that technically they are overlockers. A true serger overlocks plus seams with a chain stitch, which requires 5 threads.

Fleur, I'm awkward with both!

Amby said...

Hooray, that's the one I have too (for Julip Bags) and I LOVE it...I got it last September and have beat the crap out of it, and only in the past month had to change the blades, which was remarkably easy. I think you'll be pretty happy with it. :-)

Valerie said... always, great research and sharing of your thought process.

If at all possible, I highly recommend finding a place to take a serger class. Even if it's only 4 hours.

I took one when I purchased my serger. The four hour class provided the 5"x8" pieces of fabric of the type necessary (knit, woven, heavy, light weight, etc.) to try all of the different functions of the serger and the appropriate application. I then mounted each of those samples on a piece of cardstock with notes and labels. The result is a 3 ring binder reference book that shows me what function to use when.

The added bonus: in a class like that you end up rethreading and changing the needle positions on the serger umpteen times, so you also get that process into your 'muscle memory'.

Next best thing: get a good serger book out of the library and work through it.

Peg in South Carolina said...

for pure speed, you definitely made the right decision!


Good for you! My mom has a Yuki industrial strengh same with the sewing machine, these are my inheritance so she says LOL. But they scare the crap outta me. So I have a Brother sewing machine and am looking into a serger, the DH is going to die one day from all the stuff I need. hehehe.

Anonymous said...

Last month, I faced a similar decision. My 20+ year old Singer touchtronic (which was over $1000.00 when I bought it a million years ago -- had my own business then so it was a justifiable and much needed expense)died in the middle of sewing some birthday presents for my daughter.

Even an old used machine exactly like mine started at $400.00. Out of my budget now since I am not sewing for a living. I looked at the Brother serger that you picked up and was very tempted. In the end, I decided on an inexpensive sewing machine.

I'm looking forward to hearing how you use the serger and your take on its pros and cons once you get past its learning curve.

Happy weaving! :-)

bspinner said...

All I can say is "wow". I take one look at all those bobbins and dials and it blows my mind. Two instruction booklets and 2 CDs. I can't imagine. Of course you're talking the person who can hardly manage a good old run of the mill Singer. Leigh, if anyone can figure out how this machine works I'm sure it will be you.
Good luck!!!

Kathy said...

I think it's only fair to use any tools that make using our handwovens more that I mean if having a serger will allow a weaver to make their woven goods into something they love and cherish, or loved and used by others....then more power to the weaver! It does no one any good to have a stack of handwoven fabrics sitting around collecting dust and cat hair. (Sorry Catzee & Rascal)
I know - we don't have to send them to college, but I still ru across things I "saved to do something with".
And part of that is that as I have gotten older, I realize you use whatever it takes to get the results you want. That goes for hand-done or serged.
I say "Good onya, Mate!" Go for it!

Anonymous said...

I have been contemplating one of these as well. Still trying to decide based on the reviews at Thanks for your post.

Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

Leigh said...

Anonymous, I would google it. I've been able to find almost anything I've looked for that way. Good luck!