Wednesday, 16 March 2016

How to serge with a sewing machine

No serger required! In this article I will show you how to overcast stitch different types of fabrics when you don't have an overlock or serger machine. Overcast stitches are mostly used to prevent fabrics to fray but they also create a neat finish to a seam.
 Zig zag stitch
1- Start by taking a scrap of the fabric you are using. To overcast you will need to switch for a zig zag stitch. Length and width will depend of the fabric you are using. Start with a regular zig zag and always neaten the edges before overcasting.
2- Play around with the hand wheel on the side of the machine to position the needle down. Place the fabric edge against the needle.This way, you'll be sure the needle will fall at the right place.

An overcast stitch is basically a zig zag stitch along a raw edge, so it's very important to position the fabric in a way that the needle falls directly next to the fabric edge.

3- Then run along the edge and see how the fabric react. If a "tunnel effect" is created, decrease the zig zag width. If the fabric frays a lot, it's better to use a shorter zig zag length.

4- Once you are happy with the result, press the edges and run a straight stitch along the base of the zig zag (if you had to change the zig zag settings, note them down!). This step is optional but it will strengthen the stitches and will also create a look closer to an overlock or serger machine.

Slippery fabrics (Silk, chiffon, linings...) 
This is the most common way to overcast stitch but certain fabrics will not react very well to this method. Slippery linings, very light and silky fabrics are some of them.
First, you will need to use a much narrower and shorter zig zag. Then stitch the zig zag at about 6mm (1/4") from the raw edge and finally trim the fabric near the stitch. For that matter, is it very important that your pattern has a wide seam allowance of 15mm (5/8").
It must be done this way otherwise your machine will eat the fabric. Not kidding...

Presets on sewing machine
Some sewing machines also have overlock or overcast stitches presets included. To use them, you will need a special presser foot designated for overcast stitches, which usually comes with your machine. Follow the instructions in the manual to find out how to use it.
Note that these stitches need to go back and forth. I would suggest you to try both method to see which one you are comfortable with. I personally do not like the presets on the machine because of this back and forth motion - I find it very hard to make straight lines. Also the presets are usually not very flexible with adjustments and they might not be suitable for the fabric you are sewing with.

This tutorial will work best with woven fabrics and some double knits fabrics. I actually used a double knit fabric for the demonstration picture. Knits are another story and we will see this on another article.

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