Tag Archives: finishing seams

Overlocking / serger tips: finishing your seams

Something for the weekend! I’m so thrilled that some of you found my last tip on unpicking overlocker seams useful, but let’s hope that you don’t have to use it too often!!
Today I’ve collected three ways to finish overlocker seams, but this is by no means definitive! These are just the three that I am aware of…

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So the first method must be the most common way to finish serged hems: using a large needle (? Darning needle?) with a large eye to darn your chain back into the seam. It’s quick, effective and easy. But tedious don’t you think? All those hanging chains left after such a quick pass through the overlocker and you’ve got two ends to darn back in for every seam you sew ( or do you see thoughts later)

So another method I’m aware of ( but don’t practice) is to use fray check.

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Now Fray Check is a glue type stuff – thin and solventy. You can tie your chain as close to the seam as you can get. ( use a pin, needle in the middle of your knot as you tie it to position it close). Snip the ends then apply Fray Check.

The third approach requires some familiarity with your overlocker and a degree of comfort using it. You need to meet your ‘stitch fingers’. They are fiendishly difficult to photograph so I have taken off my machine’s foot to get in there for a peep.

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Ok. If you can ( squint through one eye if it helps) look at what’s in the circle. The stitch fingers are the two prongs, really thin, and about 1cm long. Now I am not au fait with the engineering and mechanics of sewing machines and reckon that sewing machines create stitches with a number of threads by *magic*. But I have worked out that the overlocker uses the stitch fingers as part of its magic to wrap the two, three or four threads around that then creates the chain which when around fabric becomes the miracle of the wonderfully secure, bound and neat set of serged stitching.

Ok, so you have now been introduced to the stitch fingers. These guys stay very close to your fabric when you are sewing. Remember that. And now let’s see how this knowledge is useful for finishing the start of your seam.

Get your seam ready to sew with your overlocker and sew very slowly until the needles take their first real stitch into your fabric. Use the hand wheel if you want and leave the needles down in the fabric.

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Lift your foot up and grab the chain at the beginning of the seam. Give the chain a little tug backwards to remove it from the stitch fingers, then bring it forward, in front and underneath the foot. You want the chain to be taught so that there is not any excess hanging around at the beginning of your seam.

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Lower your foot and sew the seam, and you will nicely finish the end in your seam. No darning! Kaboom!
So what about the other end of the seam? Well, ok. It’s got a different technique. Overlock your seam until you get close to the end.

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As soon as you reach the end of your seam stop and raise your foot, I’ve left my needles down.

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Ok, grasp your garment and pull it backwards off the stitch fingers. You want to create a small amount of slack in the threads to do this, but not too much otherwise you’ll end up with a whole load of thread spaghetti and it won’t look neat.

Flip the garment over so that the seam you’ve just sewn is on the right hand side and carefully slide this upside down seam underneath the foot of your machine and butt (?) the edge inside the cutting knife ( we don’t want or need to cut any more of this seam) and position it so that you can sew over your original seam, starting at the original seam’s end ( which is now the beginning!). If that sounds complicated it’s just words. All we are trying to do is to oversew – retrace our steps over the original seam.

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Over sew then, the flipped over side of this seam for a couple of centimetres then veer off to the right to end. Then snip. All done.

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Try it and see?

So what do I actually use most when I’m overlocking? I use a mixture of the first and the third method. I am trying to form a habit to use the third method more as it is the neatest and less faff ( and machine always wins over hand for me). But with the third method you’ll find that the neatness of your finish depends upon how snugly the loose chain is brought back into your finishing- too much excess and as I said above it becomes a spaghetti of birds’ nests.

And here’s the thing. Think about when you are sewing your garment using an overlocker. You do not have to finish every seam. Depending about the order of construction there are seams that you can just leave the chain hanging because that chain will get captured and finished off as it is incorporated into other seams. Eg think of a simple tee shirt.
Leave the chains on the Shoulder seams as both ends will be finished with either a sleeve or the neck band/ facing. Side seams now – depends on what the hem finish is going to be. If a hem band like the Renfrew, then the chain can hang, because there are other pieces to attach and capture those chain ends. If though you will be making a turned up and stitched hem, you need to finish the chains.

But why finish two when you can get away with one plus make it easier to hem? Want to hear another of my cheats? For any folded hem that I need to make on knits I tend to overlock the hem edge, thereby clearing off all of the dangly chains ( even more useful if you’ve made something with a number of different panels as it means even less darning in!). Once I’ve overlocked the hem edge I just have one chain to finish. But overlocking the hem also helps as you can make sure your seam allowances are set towards the back at this stage and also, the stitching sometimes provides a bit more structure for turning your hem. There might be reasons not to do it this way, but so far it’s suited me fine.

So any more finishing methods that anyone else uses? I’m interested to try more!