Sergers, or overlockers, are specialized sewing machines that stitch seams and decorative edges with multiple threads. In the same way as sewing machines, sergers are built to create certain stitches, and these stitches can differ from one machine to another.
How do serger stitches differ from other types of stitches? What are they used for, and how do you create them? This post will lay everything out for you.
An Overview of Serger Stitches
Regular sewing machines have built-in stitches, as you may know, if you have ever used one. Only one stitch design is built into some machines, such as a straight-stitch quilter. There may be hundreds of them, like the Quantum Stylist 9960.
Additionally, you can adjust parameters like stitch length, stitch width, and so on to expand your machine’s catalog of stitches. For example, using a zigzag stitch with zero width is similar to using a satin stitch.
These second types of stitches are referred to as “stitch options,” “stitch functions,” or “stitch configurations.”
A serger’s stitch catalog is very similar to that of a sewing machine. There is a full complement of stitches included with every machine. Additional stitches can be created by adjusting these.
Like the stitches of a standard sewing machine, the different serger stitches have different uses.
Serger Stitch Parameters
Sergers are mechanical machines, with very few exceptions. In other words, you adjust the device using knobs, levers, switches, and sliders. It is rare for an onboard computer to be present. An ordinary sewing machine and a serger can both be adjusted in the same way. There are others that are made differently.
The following parameters need to be adjusted on a serger.
Number of Threads
Earlier, we mentioned that sergers use multiple threads for sewing. What is the exact number?
Two, three, and four threads can be used on most home sergers. Only three or four threads are used in some budget models. There are a few that sew with two or three threads, and there are others that sew with up to eight threads.
You will need more threads when your fabric is heavier. Consequently, ultralight fabrics often have delicate edgings stitched with two threads. In contrast, three, four, or more threads will do better on stress-bearing garment seams.
Number of Needles
There are usually two needles and two loopers on a serger. Loopers seal seam edges by casting thread around them while needles sew straight rows.
Both needles and loopers are used in some serger stitches. The looper may or may not be used in conjunction with the needle in other stitches.
Serger stitch width can be adjusted by selecting the right or left needle. However, there are others that we’ll discuss shortly.
On sergers and manual sewing machines, stitch length adjustments are very similar. Stitch length can usually be adjusted with a knob or dial.
On the other hand, stitch width can be adjusted in a variety of ways. A few sergers have a knob for adjusting the stitch width. The other methods, however, aren’t available on most sergers.
A narrow rolled hem, for example, can be made using the right needle for single-needle stitches. A wider stitch can be made by using the left needle.
In addition to adjusting the cutting width, you can also adjust the amount of edge trimming the cutting knife does.
The stitch finger may need to be adjusted on some models. The stitch finger may need to be moved, switched out for a different one, or removed entirely.
The top thread’s tension is usually adjusted on a regular sewing machine. The tension of the bobbin thread might need to be adjusted occasionally. Sergers, however, have tension dials for each thread. Another way to create different stitches is to adjust the thread tensions relative to one another.
You feed your fabric through a regular sewing machine using one set of feed dogs. In a serger, there are two. Using differential feed, the two sets of feed dogs are adjusted at different speeds. As a result, the fabric stretches or compresses more (or less) when sewn.
Knits and stretch fabrics can be sewed more efficiently by adjusting the differential feed. As well as creating lettuce edges, ruffles, and pintucks, it’s how you create special decorative effects.
How to Use Serger Stitches
Which serger stitches are most commonly used? Is it possible to create them from the stitches on your machine if they aren’t already included? Let’s find out!
A serger’s fundamental stitch is the overlock stitch. There is a three-thread overlock stitch and a four-thread overlock stitch on almost every serger. An overlock may also be built into a 2-3-4 serger, such as the Singer 14HD854.
It is possible to create narrow and wide versions of all of these based on your stitch parameters. To create variations on the overlock stitch, you can also adjust the tension of different threads.
Overlocking with two threads creates a sealed seam that works well with lightweight fabrics. You can also use it if you want to minimize the bulk of your seams. Two-thread overlock stitches are made using one needle thread and one looper thread.
Make an overlock stitch with two threads using your right needle. Make an overlock stitch with your left needle using two threads.
The three-thread overlock stitch is one of the most commonly used for garment construction. Solid and stretchy seams can be made with this stitch with a variety of fabrics.
One needle thread and both looper threads are used to create three-thread overlock stitches. For narrow three-thread overlocks, use your right needle, and for wide three-thread overlocks, use your left needle.
Fabrics of varying thickness and weight can be stitched with a four-thread overlock stitch. You would use this stitch when making blue jeans, for example. Both needles and loopers are needed to create a four-thread overlock.
There are several variations of overlock stitches that you can create with your machine’s settings. You may need to experiment a little to get the stitches precisely the way you want them. For exact settings, consult your serger’s manual.
Your right needle should be used to create a two-thread overlock wrap stitch. The needle thread should be tensioned more, while the lower looper thread should be tensioned less. If you wish to create a narrow stitch, choose the right needle, and if you wish to create a wider stitch, choose the left needle.
Your right needle should be used to create a three-thread stretch overlock stitch. Lower looper tension should be increased, while upper looper tension should be decreased.
Creating an attractive, flat seam is the purpose of the flatlock stitch, as the name implies. Looper threads completely enclose the edges of the fabric, ensuring that the seam lies flat throughout. The seam is strong, enclosed, and minimizes bulk at the same time.
In the beginning, flatlock stitches were used to imitate cover stitches. A flatlock stitch is often seen on seams of athletic clothing today. The reverse side of flatlock stitches can also be used to create a decorative ladder effect. Stitching like this is also called ladder stitching or safety stitching.
Sergers can create flatlock stitches using two, three, or four threads. A one-needle flatlock stitch can be made narrow or wide by choosing either the right or left needle as with overlock stitches.
Your serger can be threaded for an overlock stitch to create a flatlock stitch. After that:
- The needle thread tension should be increased
- Set the upper looper thread tension to zero
- Lower looper thread tension should be increased to a near-maximum setting
- Depending on the machine, tension control settings may differ. For specific instructions on how to create this stitch with your serger, refer to your manual.
Rolling the edges of a single layer of ravel-prone fabric is an attractive way to secure them. On delicate scarves, for example, two-thread rolled hems are standard. A decorative lettuce edge can also be created with a rolled hem.
You can adjust the rolled hem with some sergers that have built-in settings. It’s not difficult to make the adjustments yourself if your serger does not have a built-in rolled hem. Three-thread and two-thread rolled hems are available.
Start by removing the blade or disabling it. Rolling the edges instead of trimming them makes them easier to manage. Even if your serger doesn’t have a retractable blade, you should be able to remove it easily.
Choosing the needle is the next step. A one-needle stitch is used for both two- and three-thread rolled hems. In addition to the stitches above, a narrow rolled hem should be stitched with the right needle, while a wider rolled hem should be stitched with the left needle.
Using the upper looper converter that comes with your serger will also be helpful if you make a two-thread rolled hem.
Mock Safety Stitches
There are three-thread and four-thread versions of the mock safety stitch. Strong and flexible, this stitch is used for stress-bearing seams on garments. Five-thread safety stitches are modeled by the mock safety stitch. Even though it’s not as strong, it does a pretty good job.
One or two needle threads are used in the mock safety stitch. Some overlock sergers come with a mock safety stitch built in, but not all.
Examples of Decorative Stitches
There are always exceptions to the rule, but sergers are primarily made for construction, not for decorative stitches. Sergers do not have a large selection of decorative designs like computerized sewing machines, but you may find one that does. Listed below are a few examples.
Picot stitches are delicate scalloped shapes that can embellish cuffs, collars, scarf edges, and more. A few serger models come with this stitch as a built-in feature. Sergers can also be used to create picot edges.
- The first step is to set your machine to roll hems. Using a three-thread picot stitch, I am demonstrating this.
- The next step is to lengthen your stitches. My serger has a maximum length of 4, so I set mine to 4.
- The lower looper thread must now be pulled around to the other side by increasing the tension on the lower looper. I have set the lower looper tension using the maximum tension setting on my machine.
- Keep your cutting blade retractable at all times!
One Baby Lock machine, the Baby Lock Imagine Wave BLE3ATW, comes with a proprietary stitch called the Wave Stitch.
In addition to using the wave stitch alone, you can also use it as the basis for other stitches, such as the wave flatlock stitch.
Two Blanket Stitches
Unsurprisingly, blankets and appliqué pieces are often egged with blanket stitch. It’s a wide stitch made of two or three threads and can be made on any serger.
The right needle should be removed first. Make sure your machine is set for a rolled hem next. You should retract your cutting blade as well.
To adjust the needle tension, select a middle or standard setting. Lower the looper thread to zero and set the upper looper thread to its maximum. Pull the lower looper thread to the top side of the seam to give your blanket stitch its characteristic look. You may have to experiment if you need to adjust it on your machine.
Chain Stitch and Cover Stitch
Among the stitches you’ll find on a coverstitch machine are the chain stitch and the cover stitch. Both of these cannot be made by a serger. Typically, sergers are used to make seams, whereas coverstitch machines are used to hem clothing. If you are still confused, check out our post on the differences between sergers, overlockers, and coverstitch machines.
The hybrid serger, however, performs both overlocking and coverstitching. Thus, it’s essential to understand what these stitches are and what they are used for.
Chain stitches are familiar to those who do embroidery or crochet. There are many similarities between a machine chain stitch and a hand chain stitch. It can be used in various ways as a separate stitch or as a joiner between two rows of straight stitching on the reverse side of the fabric. The right side of the fabric can also be decorated with a chain stitch.
Compound stitches consist of two straight lines of stitching on the right side of a fabric that is connected by a chain stitch on the back. As a result, you will have a solid and flexible sealed hem that is both professional and durable.
What Is Your Favorite Serger Stitch?
There is a catalog of built-in stitches included with every serger. With few exceptions, every serger makes a three-thread and four-thread overlock stitch as one of its built-in stitches.
You can create additional stitch designs by altering the stitch length, stitch width, and thread tensions.