Overlocker tips: unpicking seams

I haven’t got loads of tips for using overlockers or sergers, but the are a couple of things that for some of you, you’ll think, ‘basic!’ and not read any further. But had I found a few of these things out when I started out my relationship with my overlocker I’m sure we would have had less rows.

So one of the worst things apart from inadvertent cutting through the body of your garment due to enthusiasm and misapplied attention to the wrong part of the seam you are serging is finding out your seam needs to be re sewn. Because that means you’ve already lost your seam allowance right? Now I haven’t got a solution for the lost seam allowance, but what about unpicking serged seams?  Sometimes we make mistakes.  All of us.

Unpicking overlocker or serger seams

Look familiar?? The numbers of times I’ve fought tooth and nail with those irritating threads when I’ve made a mistake. And ended up resorting to doing this

Unpicking overlocker or serger seams

Cheats way out! Desperate absolute last resort. But you never need to get that far if you know how. It just takes a bit of understanding which threads to focus on. So I threaded my overlocker with different colours to show you- orange thread for the left needle, white for the right needle and red woolly nylon for the loopers.  I’m showing you a four thread overlock stitch, but the same principle applies to a three thread stitch too.

And sewing a four thread overlock stitch it looks like this

Unpicking serger seams
This is the top side. You can see that the needle threads show up nicely as the horizontal stitches, whilst this below is the wrong side where the needle threads are not so visible

Unpicking serger seams.

So bearing this in mind, let’s aim to take out those needle threads. There is a way to identify the needle threads in the chain at the beginning or end of your stitching (they are usually the straighter threads whilst the looper threads are loopier, around these straight threads).  So if you can find the needle threads you just pull them together like this with the effect of  “ruffling” the looper threads around your needle threads as you pull them.

Unpicking overlocker seams
And it’s a bit like reluctant gathering ! You’re pulling firmly and hoping for dear life that the threads don’t snap all the while the fabric often resists. But you can see it worked in this instance

Unpicking overlocker seams
You can see that all that’s left once those needle threads are pulled are the remains of the looper threads. They have nothing to keep them attached though and are history.  Just brush them away & into the bin!

But it’s often hard to pick out the needle threads from the chain if you are using four threads the same colour. There is another easier way – the way that I do it. Concentrating only on the needle threads place your seam so that you are looking at the top of it.

Unpicking serger seams

And unpick as you would a normal seam but only focusing on the needle threads.  But keep away from the loopers – that’s where the trouble starts.  Easy if you know!!

24 thoughts on “Overlocker tips: unpicking seams

  1. Jacq

    That’s so helpful – thank you. I still have a way to go before my overlocker and I have a happy relationship but his will certainly help! 🙂

  2. Wendy

    Been using my serger for more than 15 years and never knew I could just pull out the needle threads! Big thanks for this one Winnie, it’s going to save lots of angst 🙂

  3. Annette

    I spent a couple hours doing this yesterday. Black threads with black fabric. I started calculating if I had enough to recut the pieces and how long it would take to drive to the store, buy more fabric and prewash. I ended up cutting g every thread and leaving teeny thread pieces everywhere. I wish I read this yesterday. Next time…needle threads only!

  4. Annemarie

    HI, actually I do it the opposite way: I only unpick the loopers because I find it a lot easier to find them when the thread color and fabric color coordinate well. I just pass in between the two layers of fabric, no fiddely looking for the right thread. Then I take my serger-tweezers and pull out bunches of looper thread, it really goes quite fast. The needle threads then just fall off, because there is nothing that holds them to the fabric anymore.
    Obviously, if just pulling out the needle thread works (no snapping) that is much faster! I will try that the next time I’ll have to unpick a serged seam!

  5. Fougasse

    Thanks for the tips, I’m still swooning over my new overlocker but am slightly nervous of it……your demystifying posts are very useful!

    Incidentally, I still have the Bloglovin problem. I use my ipad and your posts just won’t open from my feed. I thought I was going mad until I saw you mention it – but it’s still happening, sorry!

  6. Vicki Kate

    Genius! I don’t know how many times I’ve had to unpick serger seams and it’s swear inducing! I think you may have saved my sanity in this situation!

  7. Helen

    This is really helpful, thanks! If you have any more “basic” overlocker tips, please share! I am an overlocker newbie, so the more info the better, to stop me being so scared of it!

  8. Joy

    Thanks for making this clear – I have no doubt it will be useful in the future. A number of times, I’ve accidentally picked the right threads and it all came apart magically; I could never figure out what I’d done right!

  9. Amanda

    ERH MAH GAH…. i wish i had known this when making my hoodie… I totally did the second thing, and just cut my serged seams right off HAHAH! Not the best solution but far better than the first solution you showed (yeah been there too LOL).

    This is so much easier… thanks for sharing! 😀

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