Friday, 13 March 2015

Become the Boss of Overlocking.

Hi there! Overlocks/sergers can be scary and intimidating at first glance. Okay, they are still scary the second time you look at them but they are actually your best friend when you buck up and tame that beast of a machine. And to do that I have a little tutorial to share with you on how to improve your serger skills and build confidence so that you don't feel overwhelmed and scared next time you have to use one for your projects.

First you are going to need the following items:
  • A serger/overlocker that is ready to go and threaded with threads that are the opposite color of your fabric(so you can see your work better)
  •  These three templates. Two circles and one funky K shape. You can download the template PDF file here. The template is FREE, but if you wish to show your thanks in payment, you can donate to the blog by clicking the "Donate" button on the right.
  •  A piece of fabric (it doesn't have to be pretty, it can be any random piece you have lying around. I do recommend fabric with no or very little patterns/prints on it as it's easier to look at while you are concentrating and you can see better what you are doing)
  • Fabric scissors or rotary blade+cutting mat, and paper scissors
  • Thread snips

Step 1.
Cut out the shapes on the three templates. I also traced them onto a thicker and more durable paper that would last the pinning longer. Then place them on the fabric. Grain direction is not important.

Step 2.
Cut out your fabric pieces. You can cut out as many duplicates as you wish. I cut out two of each shape. Now put the smaller circle and the K-shape away for the time being. You'll want to tackle the bigger circle first to warm up and get the idea and feeling of the exercise.

Step 3.
Go to your serger and place your fabric under the presser foot so that the raw edge is barely touching the knife. Don't disengage your knife and try not to cut off any fabric. Slowly start going around the edge of the circle. Sew for a bit and when you see your knife or needle not hitting the fabric right, lift the presser foot and turn the fabric a bit. You are going to want to turn the fabric gradually and evenly to avoid sharp corners in the seam. Don't worry about going too slow, you are building your skills, so going slow at first is not a bad thing.

As you are going around the shape, you should start seeing your progress in no time.

Step 4.
Once you've gotten around the whole circle, you'll want to just simply finish the serger seam by "riding off to the sunset", or going straight off the edge(if you want to say it in a more boring manner). If your stitching is wobbly or has clear visible turning corners, you might want to take a new piece and try again. You want to get smooth line that simply follows the edge. If your swatch looks like mine below, you can move on to the next step (or try the same thing one last time, to be sure you've got this piece down)

Step 5.
Now take the smaller circle pieces and go around the edges just like you did with the bigger circle. As the curve is bigger on this one, you'll find yourself working harder to get around that shape. Just take your time, take a deep breath and keep going. Try to get the best result you can and once you feel like you have conquered this shape as well, you may eat a bit of chocolate(or any other kind of snack you like) as a reward and move on to the final shape.

Step 6.
Take that scary looking K-shape and put it under the serger. You'll want to start from a corner, I like to start so that the longest straight edge is the first seam I make. Serge the straight edge until you reach the next corner.

Step 7.
Once you reach the corner, go until you are at the very end of the line where the next time your needle would go down, it wouldn't hit the fabric anymore. Lift the presser foot and gently turn the next raw edge to the machine. You might need to pull the threads only slightly so that the fabric can go under the presser foot and needle better. Make sure that your needle would hit the edge of the fabric with the first time it goes down.

Step 8.
Now you should be heading towards one of those scary slits in the bottom and top of the K. Take a deep breath, it's not that scary. Just start slowly moving towards the tip of the slit.

Step 9.
Stop when your knife is just about to start cutting the slit deeper.Lift your presser foot and make tiny little folds on the fabric at the tip of the slit so that the raw edge becomes a straight line instead of a deep notch.

Step 10.
Now very slowly keep going until your needle is about to hit the first fold in the fabric. Don't let your needle go through that fold unless you want to have folds in your final result.

What you'll want to do is lift your presser foot again, release the first(or first two) folds so that the fabric starts to turn behind your needle. The already serged area will start pulling the corner form straight folded mess into a sharp corner. Slowly make a few stitches, make sure not to sew through any other folds, let the next folds free when you get to them and continue what you have been doing. Keep an eye open for the fabric getting pulled into the moving parts, you don't want that to happen so be careful and take your time here.

Step 11. 
Once you have gotten past the inner corner, go straight again until you make it to the outer corner and repeat step 7. And now just keep going along the edge, combining the methods and movements you learned with the circles and the first slit in the K-shape.

Step 12.
If you are anything like me, you are going to do the last shape A LOT before they look perfect. But in the end you should end up with shapes that are finished neatly and look like this kind of serging comes as easily as breathing. While we all know you considered attacking your serger with a hammer and swear to never use a serger again. I know I did when I first tried this to master serging. But the final result is worth it. Take  a step back and admire your work.

So that's it! I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial/trick/guide/thing. When I was studying tailoring, our practice teacher made us slave away behind the serger and master the dreaded K. But now I am grateful she did, because it has made serging all sorts of weird shapes so much easier. If you have ever tried to serge the front of a pair of pants and tried to get around that pesky little zipper facing, you'll know what I'm talking about. Plus this boosts your confidence and makes you get to know your serger a lot better. So the next time your project requires finishing seams with a serger, you'll have the security of knowing you have already bonded with your serger.

Did you find this helpful? Do you have any tips and tricks to improve serging skills yourself? Let me know and do share your thoughts if you try this method.


  1. My colleague just really got into crocheting and loves it! She is actually making some ties for some missionaries that we work with for our church. I was wondering if you had a pattern to make ties?

    Also, what inspires you?

    1. That's nice, to sew for charity. But I'm sorry, I don't have a pattern for a tie. I've been meaning to get one by tracing an old tie Mr.Man has but it's not an priority project for me. Sorry for not being able to help you.

      I get inspiration from literally everywhere. The world is a vast ocean of inspiration and I try to keep my eyes and mind open at all times. Sometimes I see only a little detail of something and get an idea for a whole project from it.

    2. That is okay, no worries :) My colleague and I are both missionaries as well, and we just enjoy giving to our friends :) They do a lot for the community and for the church, so we thought we would give them a little something. Have you ever heard of Mormon missionaries? :)

      That is wonderful that you receive inspiration from everywhere! I know exactly what you mean. I am actually going to school for English because I am a writer (well, I am taking a break from school right now since I am on a mission trip, so I won't be home or be able to write again until next December), and you are right, the tiniest thing could inspire the grandest idea! :)

    3. You might want to search a bit in the Craftsy patterns, maybe someone has uploaded a pattern that would suit your needs. And yes, I've heard of missionaries.