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Patterns and Equipment: Overclock Machines (Sergers): Serger Thread Tension and Special Serger Notions

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Serger Thread Tension

Thread tension on the serger is very different than the tension on your sewing machine. Often one of the biggest concerns for the sewer just learning to use her serger is dealing with the tension adjustments as most overlock machines have 4 to 5 tension dials or knobs to adjust. At first, these adjustments seem somewhat intimidating but become less so once their function is completely understood. Each tension dial or knob controls the thread for its corresponding needle or looper. The higher the number or a move to the +(plus) side means there is more tension on the thread -- less thread will pass through the machine. The lower the number or a move to the -- (minus) side means that there is less tension on the thread -- more thread will pass through the machine.

The trick is to find the perfect balance between all the threads. The upper and/or lower looper threads should lay on the fabric with the needle thread(s) looking like a straight stitch on the right side of the fabric. The looper threads should meet equally along the trimmed edge of the fabric. You will immediately know if the tension is incorrect by the appearance of your stitch.

There are many factors that can effect the thread tension such as the type of thread you use, the weight of the fabric, the stitch length and the stitch width. As with all sewing projects, it is also important to start with a new needle and double check your threading before starting to turn dials. Be sure to test your stitch on a swatch of fabric before starting any garment.

Most sergers today use standard sewing needles as described in a Needle and Thread Chart. As the serger can accommodate a variety of decorative threads, it is equally important to use the correct needle for the thread. A special needle is recommend by some overlock machine manufacturers if you are experiencing difficulties with your cover stitch.

There are a number of special presser feet and accessories available for your serger. Check with your sewing machine dealer to learn more about them.

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Special Serger Notions

There are a few notions that are important when using your serger. They make your surging experience easier and more pleasant. We have shown just a few for your use.


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This page was last modified on: Tuesday, 2007-09-11 2:50 PST