Tag Archives: Overlocker

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!

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!!

Not quite Salome: me-made silk scarf

I’ve really got into scarves recently. Get the right colour combo with the rest of your outfit & it can create such an impact, lifting something a little dull or adding a spark of retro to an otherwise sane look. Ages ago the lovely Roobeedoo sent me some silk. She had thought I’d be able to make something with it, at the very least use it for a scarf.

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This silk was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l: navy background with gymnasts (or if you are obsessed with swimmer related decoration like me you can convince yourself that they are actually swimmers) frolicking across its expanse with stars too. Of course I loved it & draped it across Barbarella thinking about the worthy use I could put it to. But you know what’s coming next don’t you? After a few months of gazing at it, I felt that sewing a silk scarf was how it would be most loved & appreciated by me. And, as long as I kept to its original dimensions I could always make it into something later, the scarf could actually just be a temporary make that got it into use & allowed it out into the big wide world.

Having already made napkins using the rolled hem on my overlocker I determined that provided I tried really hard to get the corners neat, I should do the same to this piece of fabric. It is 140cmx120cm, not a standard scarf measurement, quite large in fact.

scarf 1

Now, it’s the corners that are the tricky part – what you do is sew right up to the edge & one stitch more over the edge. Then, with needle at its highest, lift the foot & swivel the corner off the stitch finger (I know what this is now – it kind of sits inside the rows of stitches & gets bound by them …) – yes, swivel off the stitch finger & turn around 90 degrees. You then put the needle back in the fabric where you want your new seam to join with the previous seam at the inside corner. When I did this before I had a less consistent result, but this worked out OK with neat-enough corners. Phew. I didn’t want to cheapen my scarf through tatty shoddy loopy corners!

scarf 2But the thing is, big scarf, many options! Salome had 7 veils I believe. Here are 7 looks for my fab scarf …

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An obvious first choice, slung over one shoulder….

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Rolled up along its diagonal & tied tight around the neck. There is so much more area of this scarf than the usual scarves I wear like this, it would be perfect I think if I suffered whiplash and had a neck brace to disguise…round & round & round ….

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As a shawl it might look chic as a cover up for a cocktail dress. But not having one of those you’ll have to use your imagination!

scarf 6Dial 999! Someone’s stolen my convertible!

scarf 7Another instance where imagination is needed – could this be a summer top? It’s big enough. Thing is you’re not going to get me exposing myself in these temperatures PLUS I can see far too many stripes through even two layers of this silk! No chance I’ll be wearing it like this!

scarf 9Believe it or not this is my homage to the Jedi….

scarf 10But this is how I really like to wear it!

Thank you Roobeedoo for parting with such a special piece of silk! I’ve had fun styling it many different ways, but have worn it lots & love it to death.

Maybe this will result in other people discovering lengths of fabric they can bring out of a drawer and breathe some near instant life into. I do hope so 🙂