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May 24, 2011

Do You Suffer From Serger-phobia?



Friends, I love my little Brother 1034D serger, which I've owned for nearly a year and a half.  It has performed flawlessly, cleanly finishing my seam allowances whether they be chiffon or denim.  But I'll let you in on a secret: these machines scare me.  I am a serger-phobe. 

My introduction to serging was unfortunate.  I purchased a second-hand Eighties-era Huskylock on eBay the summer before last and it was an absolute nightmare to thread (not to mention it came without presser foot, thread stand, or manual).  When I was finally able to get it going -- it took days -- I tried to serge through multiple layers of denim flat-felled seams and jammed the thing.  I must have knocked something out of whack yanking out the stuck fabric because it never worked right again.  Finally, tired of investing hours upon hours on it, I gave up.  I can't quite part with it yet (it sits on a high shelf in a closet) but it's a stinker.

Six months later I treated myself to the serger everyone on Pattern Review seems to love: the Brother 1034D, and boy am I glad I did.  It cost less than $200 refurbished  -- not a whole lot for a serger -- and it has more than earned its keep.  It's (relatively) easy to thread and uses regular sewing machine needles.  The hand wheel turns toward you just like a sewing machine's does (the Huskylock turned the opposite way, grrr....).  And the instructional DVD is posted on YouTube if you ever need to watch it.

But here's the thing: I use my serger for just one task -- finishing seam allowances with a 3-thread stitch (the Brother has a 4-stitch capacity).  I change the differential feed from time to time depending on the fabric, but that's it.  I haven't tried anything more advanced.  I'm scared to try.

The serged seams look great, though, as you can see, I'm not much of a stickler for matching thread to fabric.







Anyway, just yesterday I received an email from a NYC-based reader asking me if I knew someone who could help her learn how to use her late-model Singer serger (I don't -- do you?), and I realized that there are probably a lot of us serger-phobes out there.  There's something about all those thread spools and tension dials, the rapid speed, and the fact that these little monsters will chomp your fabric to bits if given the chance, that makes people afraid of them.

Who hasn't mistakenly fed their serger a piece of a precious garment not meant for serger consumption?  I have! (I try to serge only when I'm at my most alert, and never after a few glasses of wine.  Consider a serger heavy machinery.)



In case you're wondering, I do have what looks to be a wonderful book on serging, Serger Secrets.







I like to look at all the pretty pictures in it but I've never really sat down and read it carefully, or thought about what I could potentially create with my serger.

I also sense there's some snobbery out there about using a serger to finish seams -- like they should all be enclosed through a more traditional method (esp. menswear).  But I must admit I sometimes do serge seams instead of flat-felling them, as I did recently with my pajamas.  I mean honestly: who cares?



I picked up some lightweight blue knit cotton fabric last week, the same day I bought my seersucker, with the intention of making a tee shirt.  And I'm thinking maybe I'll try making most of the shirt on the serger -- it would probably take less than an hour to put together.  But I'm not convinced I have the skills.  Or do I?

Readers, I ask you:

Do you own a serger and, if so, what do you use it for primarily?

Do you mainly just finish seam allowances with it, or do you actually use it to construct your garment, using a 4-thread seam? 

Are you secretly afraid of your serger and what you might make (destroy?) with it?

Serger-phobes and serger-philes, I want to hear from you!

94 comments:

  1. OK, those machines go fast and they can be scary! I'm not afraid though. I have a Babylock Imagine and it's all that and a bag of chips. I also have Serger Secrets. Peter: Ain't no pretty pics in that book! It's an 80s monstrosity - though the text is useful... Although my machine is a 4 thread, I have only used 3 threads so far. Works perfectly for finishing or hemming. I don't like it when the snobs suggest that serged seams are cheating. Maybe I can see their point. But I'm a full fledged member of the modern age. I neat, secure seam is a neat, secure seam IMO.

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  2. I have that same serger and I love it, despite the fact that it ate a garment I was working on just last week. I actually JOIN my seams with the serger quite often. Saves time. But I definitely don't do anything fancy.

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  3. I don't own one; but I did spy one in a charity shop last summer-I ran the other way!

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  4. I guess I'm one of those serger snobs--been sewing for going on (ulp) 40 years, and see no need for one. OK, maybe for knits, possibly. But I'm also a possessions minimalist, avoiding buying anything whose function isn't covered by anything I already own. But the main reason is that I just don't like serged seams--the cheapest RTW has serged seams, and I'm aiming for something higher than that. Long ago I read that one mark of haute couture is that the inside is as pretty as the outside and that's what I'm always striving for. Where someone else would serge, I make french seams, flat-felled seams or linings. I'm in no hurry.

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  5. Hi Peter. :-)

    I totally agree with you on the fact that sergers can be quite scary. I remember when I learned how to use one (a huskylock in fact, but a newer model). I was terrified! I have owned two sergers at this point in my life; a cheap crappy one that I never made friends with and the one I have now.
    Got some money for my 30th birthday back in April So I was able to buy the only thing I wished for: A coverlock. I've managed to get it to sew regular 4 thread (I don't care much for the 3 thread version, but guess thats a taste-issue) and rolled hem. I haven't yet tried the coverstitches (it has a crazy amount of different stitches) but when my best sewing-buddy stops by in June, I'll have to try each and every one! I guess what I'm trying to say is: Don't be afraid! Don't let pins get near the knife and remember that most sergers are like people. It takes time and effort to get to know them properly. A little love may be well-invested too ;-) Have a great day!

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  6. OK - I'll admit it. I've been sewing for close to .. well, we won't go into that; just say I was a very precocious kid and leave it at that. Anyway, I have never had a serger. I've always made sure I had a stretch stitch and that funky 'sorta serge' stitch on my sewing machines, but those things terrify me, which is too bad because I love sewing knits and I know I'd do a much better job if I had one of those. But...ayyyyyyyy!

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  7. I have a Huskylock, and LOVE it! It's a 5-thread with coverstitch. The first year it didn't do much, I was intimidated by it. But then I wanted to start making baby clothes, and just started. Sometimes it's just making the mental decision that takes a long time like me!! Since then, I've made T-shirts, skirts, sweatpants, dresses, completely on the serger. For a long time I hardly even used my sewing machine, the serger could do the whole garment with a 4 thread. Lately I`ve been making nicer clothes and using it just to finish the edges.
    I`m not scared anymore to use it, but I did need that mental switch to go on!
    Go for it!

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  8. Most of the clothes I make for my kids, I sew on a serger. My youngest one go through a lot of pants so I make him jeans with no pockets and a rib waist with elastic in. I to the hemmning on my regular machine, the rest is done on the serger. The same with the thirts and other tops, I sew most of it on the serger.

    My own tops and as much of other things as I can, I serge as well. Except if it is a small project and the serger is threaded in a another color and I need that color for the next project, then I'm too lazy to rethread.

    If you match the left needle thread to your fabric, a wrong color won't stick out.

    I say go for it. The skills will come fast.

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  9. I love my serger and it doesn't scare me one bit - never has. My first serger was a Elna 3-thread I used only for finishing seams. I quickly outgrew that and upgraded to a Elna 5-thread. I used that for actually constructing the garments. The chain stitch makes a very secure seam and the overlock finished the allowances - at the same time! Now I have a Babylock Evolve which has 8 threads and coverstitch capability. If anyone invents a serger with 10 threads, I'll probably buy that one, too!

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  10. What do all those extra thread do?

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  11. If you make a tshirt on your serger, think about order of operations (shoulder seam, sleeves, then side seam instead of trying to set the sleeve). You could even use only two threads if your fabric is really stretchy. Good luck!

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  12. I have the same serger, and I need to use it more. I used it for most of the construction on a top and it was satisfying. NOM NOM NOM DONE! NOM NOM NOM SECURE!

    I anthropomorphize my serger. Into an I Can Haz Cheezburger caption. I know. I'm crazy.

    I don't use it as much as I SHOULD but I'm working on getting my sewing space well and truly set up so that it's within easy reach. I tend to favor french seams on certain kinds of fabric - I would not want to put poly charmeuse (I know, it's horrifying) through my serger and pretend I thought that was going to be sufficient. But I could definitely see doing the initial run with the serger and then encasing it with a nice smooth stitch.

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  13. I've had my serger for 20 years and wouldn't live without it. It's a Necchi prolock and it's a wonderful machine. I use it to sew all knits in the flat with the 4 thread i.e. tshirts, knit pants and shorts). You can also flatlock hems with it, but I haven't done that much. DD turned her nose up at knits sewn on a regular sewing machine. Too Becky homeecky for her. Also use it to finish seams on wovens. For example with pants, I 3 thread serge all pieces with a narrow seam all around the edges before the pants get sewn. Then the seams get pressed open. The pants look like anything purchased in Macys, which is my goal. It literally gets used in every garment that I sew. My favorite serger book is from the old Singer series and is called "Sewing with an Overlock." It only covers 2/3/4/5 thread sergers, but I believe has been updated and has a different name now.

    May 24, 2011 9:51 AM

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  14. I bought a 1034d in a fit of enthusiasm last December but am ashamed to say I haven't used it at all. I did take it out of the box, turn it on, and check to see if all the parts were there, but it's been sitting there ever since.

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  15. I just got a Bernina Bernette Funlock a couple of months ago. After getting it tuned up, I spent about $275 for it, which I was told at the tune-up shop was about as much as I should pay for one. I need to sit down with it and get to know it. I'm a little intimidated, mostly by the threading. I sat down with a friend and used hers for some rolled-edge hems on two pairs of Portabello Pixie's Ruffle pants for my four year old. AWESOME. Saved me tons of time - saved me from hemming all those ruffles! My more experienced sewist friends have told me not to bother using the differential to make ruffles, but that they wouldn't do the edges any other way. I have three months off from nursing school, and sewing is at the top of my list of things to do! Hopefully I'll get over my fear and break in my new serger!

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  16. I too have the Brother 1034D and love it (just got it). I only use it to finish my seams, but the other day I tried out making ruffles on it and it was pretty cool. I like to serge but I was raised on french and flat felled seams so I was one of those snobs and it was literally years before I bought my first one (now I'm hooked).
    Peter dear, I've just given you the Versatile Blogger Award, please stop by to pick it up :)

    http://slipstitchesandmore.blogspot.com/2011/05/versatile-blogger-award.html

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  17. I don't have an overlocker (ah, you Americans!) and do get rather envious of the neat, secure, FAST seams that I see them and their users producing.

    But the only time when I really crave one is when I'm dealing with fabrics which fray like crazy. Then, the ability to 'wrap' the S.A.s would be a nice one indeed. I do have an overlock stitch on my Janome sewing machine, but it's not the same - for a start, you've already cut the material so it's already fraying.

    I would be pretty terrified of using one, though.

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  18. As of a few days ago, I'm borrowing a serger. I believe it's the same Huskylock you mention in your post. It was a bore to thread--and I've only done 3 threads so far. But I must have to work on tension some more, because it doesn't look nearly as pretty as your serged seams.

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  19. Not scared, not intimidated. It's a tool. If anybody is going to feel intimidated here, it should be the serger :-)
    I typically use mine to finish seam allowances. I rarely work with knits but when I do, the serger does most of the seaming.

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  20. I am a (mostly) reformed sergerphobe. I use the serger for seam finishing and have sewn knit tops and lounge wear entirely with it. I recently bought a Janome Coverstitch machine to sew hems. I want my knit garments to look like high end ready to wear. I still love to do french seams, hong kong finish etc. but I think a serger is a very valuable tool in the sewing room. I will admit though, I still get an occasional flashback of when my serger devoured a chunk of a retro style embroidered western shirt I had spent hours making! What was I thinking using the serger on that?!

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  21. I bought one in June last year, haven't taken it out the box. I'm scared of it. And it wasn't cheap either, I could have flown to Europe for the money I paid for it. Hmm.

    But, Pattern Review has a serger class coming up, and I might take it, just to get me going.

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  22. On clothes, I only use my serger only to finish seams (3-thread). And I only use it for casual clothes, or in cases where the edge really needs a secure finish to prevent fraying. Otherwise, I find it way too bulky.

    Recently, I've been working on a volunteer project where I actually use the serger for construction. (I'm making protective cloth covers for dresses.) I like the serger for this project because it's fast and easy. And I never have to change the thread color. (Everything is white.)

    But generally, I don't find the serger fun or interesting to use. It's a boring machine and I find the serged finish very boring as well. I personally don't care to have all my clothes look like RTW. I want them to look custom made. So I'm fine with not learning to do anything more than a simple seam with the serger.

    Betty

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  23. I have the exact one you have, because I saw it on your blog and then read reviews on it. I've had it for a few months now, and I haven't touched it!! I'm terrified to use it. There is a local mom and pop fabric shop in Berkeley, and you can bring it in and they will show you how to work it and tricks you can do. I NEED THAT CLASS!!!!!!!
    I watched the CD that it came with about 10 times, and I think I get it, but then I look at it, and go.......ummmm well, I guess I can do a French seam here or finish it with another stitch on my Bernina.
    I think I just need to plunge into it and not worry if I'm going to ruin it or not be able to thread it. I have this great sewing machine shop locally, where the guy who owns it is like a sewing machine whisperer, so I'm covered on all fronts, but still terrified to even fire that bad boy up.

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  24. I'm starting to wonder if I have repressed serger-phobia. I keep claiming to want a serger/overlocker and I believe it would make my life much easier (and garments more professional), you I continue to delay buying one despite the affordability. Perhaps I have a deeper issue that I'm simply expressing as "but I'm saving for a new Bernina" or "but I don't REALLY need it now"

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  25. i had a bad first experience with a serger - i was passed down a singer quantumlock 4. what an awful machine!! ughhh i never did figure out how to thread it correctly.

    eventually, i ponied up enough money & bought myself a babylock imagine. it set me back $1200 but it was worth.every.damn.penny. the babylock threads itself! it automatically adjusts the tension for whatever fabric you shove into it! love love love love my serger.

    the instruction manual is really easy to figure (and it comes with a color-coded, laminated cheat sheet), so i've played with all the functions. like i said, it doesn't hurt that it's already easy to thread. i usually serge with a 4 thread stitch, although i also really like the 3 thread rolled hem, especially for lightweight fabric like chiffon. i have a gigantic collection of thread in every color, so i like playing around with matching colors.

    i get you on the elitist attitude, though. i occasionally find myself thinking that serged seams look kind of... amateur. like i should be finishing everything with a hong kong seam or a french seam or i don't even know. who cares?

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  26. oh, forgot to mention - the book 'sewing with an overlock' (it's from singer) is an EXCELLENT resource. very clear & straightforward... and lots of pretty pictures!

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  27. Yes.....I own a serger and I am totally terrified of it! My aunt bought it for me about 15 years ago and I rarely use it. It is a beast to thread, although probably not that difficult. I tend to make it more difficult than it needs to be due to the terror factor. I have used it ONLY to finish seams, but I would love to use it for many, many other things, which I know it is capable of. I am so scared of it, that I can't even remember what type it is! I think it is a Pfaff Hobbylock? Oh brother, I really should take it out and use it. I feel so guilty, it just sits there and stalks me. Thanks to you for admitting your fear of the serger. Makes me not feel so alone. Let's hope that we can all conquer the fear......soon.

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  28. I fought with a White serger for years, and when I upgraded to a Babylock Evolve, DH said he would miss the entertainment value. This is a dream, tension is always perfect. Baby blanket edgings with pearl cotton are a dream, cover stitch is flawless, napkins finished with wooly nylon are perfect, the only thing that seems useless to me is the chain stich. It unravels as fast as it goes on. Except for bird seed bags from the feed store, have not figured out when a chain stitch is useful.

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  29. I have an old (80's I think) brother serger that I inherited from my sister-in-law. I have had it collecting dust for about 3 years. I just recently got it out and working. I didn't have a manual so I needed to order one online. I feel proud of myself for getting it working (3 threads only, I can't figure out how to get the second needle in). I'm taking it slow and I am scared. I just took it in to get a service (which cost about as much as getting a decent newer machine!) My goal is to make a tee shirt with it, but I'm not there yet.

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  30. I have a Janome 1110DX and I *adore* it. I construct garments with my serger and only use my regular sewing machine when I absolutely have to. (Zippers and such.) I use the 4 thread stitch for most things and the 3 thread for really stretchy fabrics that need stretchy seams. I like to use the rolled hem on skirt linings and lightweight fabrics.

    I also don't give a rat's rear end what my garments look like on the inside, since no one sees them but me. I'll throw jeans on the serger and then double top stitch on the outside. Life is to short to be monkeying around with flat felled seams. My wardrobe is almost completely sewn by me, so sewing faster means I can have more clothes.

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  31. Isabel's DaughterMay 24, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    Peter,

    I love your blog, it is one of the highlights of my day. I am currently nursing a fractured knee and have not been able to get to my machines.

    I just want to tell your readers that the best way to learn how to use a serger is to track down a dealer and ask for owner's lessons. They usually schedule classes, a great way to learn. In a class you get to see just how to do things, like threading, and ask questions. Often, other people have questions you may not have thought of.

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  32. I have an industrial Juki MO-2300 serger and I looove it. I use it on practically every sewing project I do (except when I'm doing super duper couture or leather) I wasn't scared of actual serging as much as I was scared to attempt to thread the machine. My sewing teacher even made part of our basic sewing class final exam threading a beastly Pegasus serger without a manual. It was horrifying when he took scissors to the four threads and pulled them out so you could figure out the threading for yourself. I got used to it eventually and discovered several techniques so there would less hair-pulling and tears. Fortunately, my Juki is easier to thread.

    http://lyrakristine.blogspot.com

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  33. I adore my 1034D! :) Although like you, it's use mainly to finish seam edges... I honestly have been to scared to really dive into sewing knits. So far in the 1 1/2 years since I got my serger, I've used it only on a couple (slightly successful) knit tops and a long tube skirt that is something I can lounge around in. I keep telling myself I need to just get over whatever is keeping me from sewing more things with this--the possibilities are endless! But somehow I keep procrastinating. ;) I think partly because I'm so used to sewing on a traditional machine and using traditional methods, that a serger just seems to complicate things that I do fairly well otherwise. rofl.

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  34. My serger is not too scary, fortunately... It's an eighties three-thread only with no differential feed. It could theoretically do a rolled hem, I believe, but it requires accessories I don't have. It also serged happily for years before learned how to thread it properly. The tension can be a bit fiddly. I use it mostly for seam finishing, but have constructed a number of knit tees on it solo, although hem and neckline finishing is better done on my regular machine. Probably a four-thread would make better seams, though.

    I do occasionally dream of a full-functionality serger. Mine is a good beginner machine, though.

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  35. I have sewn since grade school and only just got a serger last year (because someone gave me one) and I am ambivalent about it. Too finicky, even when it is running smoothly. I think all sergers are trouble. Why else would there be so many books with titles like "taming your serger" I use it as you do, 3 thread seam overlock. all in all, I am underwhelmed by serger. Although lately I am intrigued by coverstitch machines, that seems useful.

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  36. i use my serger mostly just for sewing knits. knits are soooo easy with a serger, i used to be afraid of them but now they're one of my favorite things to work with when i want something to go from start to finish quickly!

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  37. My serger history is similar to yours. My first serger was an old second hand Singer Nightmare. The timing kept going off. I had it fixed twice and by that time I could have bought a new cheap serger. I sold the Singer and bought a Brother 1034D as you because my sister-in-law happily churned out many dance costumes on one. I love it. You have to make friends with it. Thread it properly, learn its favourite settings Then Write Them Down for future reference.
    I usually use four threads - it saves you from having to sew a straight seam first - fabulous for knitwear. Three thread is good for finishing edges on knitwear that need a lot of stretch.
    Sergers save a lot of time. I love them.

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  38. Just bought a Babylock Enlighten, and I'm learning to use it. I got frustrated with sewing clothing and having to flat fell all the seams.

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  39. I have an elna, I love it. I don't do anything fancy with it, but I finish seams and do construction with it all the time.
    I want to learn more tricks but I don't take the time to practice with it.

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  40. Wow -- sergers certainly evoke strong feelings! Let the healing continue...

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  41. I own the exact same serger you have and use it only to finish seams. I must admit I'm not really good at that either. It does scare me a bit and my seams aren't perfect. I would like to learn better ways to use it and what else I can do with it, I just haven't sat down with it long enough, I guess. Oh, and my cat loves to pull the threads and mess the tension. :-(

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  42. I'm serger FEARLESS. I love my Babylock Imagine and use it to both construct garments AND to finish seams. I'm not afraid of my serger at ALL.

    My first serger, however, was frightening. I bought it off Craigslist. It came with no instructions and it took FOREVER to thread. Ugh. I couldn't wait to pass it on to someone else.

    One day, I'll upgrade to the Babylock serger with jet threading and auto tension, but for how, my Imagine does everything I need it to. Be brave!

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  43. Ok, anyone of you guys looking to get rid of the serger you never use, contact me!!! I don't have one and I need it to whip out bathing suits and lingerie. I love using French seams and linings, but in southern California a lining can mean heat stroke, and I like to have something made for knits. Trying to do knits on my regular machine is so slow! In school I sewed with a professional machine that would eat up 2 feet of fabric before you know you stepped on the peddle!

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  44. I just bought my first serger (a Brother 5234) and am loving it. Although, at this point I have only used it for finishing seam allowances and have no clue about all the things it can do.

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  45. I own a cheapo, basic model 4-thread 'Delta OL-1000' overlocker/serger. I bought her pre-Christmas 2010 from a lovely old lady in Bognor Regis. She'd never used it & it was still sealed in it's box - only cost me £55 GBP ($89 USD) including delivery costs.

    But... I'm too scared to use it (ha-har!). I've opened the box to check all the parts are present 'n' correct, but I've not taken it out or tried it yet.

    In prepare-ed-ness for the day when I do use her I've bought a tonne of books I especially like this one which I've flicked through a few times at home The Ultimate Serger Answer Guide: Troubleshooting for Any Overlock Brand or Model (Creative Machine Arts Series) which comes highly recommended - it has lots of pretty pictures & photos in colour. You can see some of it here on Google Books

    I also own these:
    - The Complete Serger Handbook
    - Sewing with Sergers: The Complete Handbook for Overlock Sewing
    - Serger Basics: A Palmer/Pletsch Interactive DVD (2007)

    Plus, just this second bought Sewing with an Overlock (Singer sewing reference library) as recommended above by lladybird.

    I live by - you can NEVER have too many sewing books ;) !

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  46. Although I had bad experiences with an overlocker in my more youthful days (the knife had not been changed for ages and tended to gnaw at the material, more than cut it) I decided that the mock-overlock of my machine was no longer enough.

    I opted for a 5 thread coverlock by Babylock because it practically threads itself.

    I flatlock my underpants - and a dress and a jacket, I roll-hem silk scarves and sometimes even t-shirts. Admittedly with mixed results.

    Mostly I'm too lazy to put in a second needle so I construct 3-threaded t-shirts and they are fine.

    I must admit that I have difficulties going round corners so I baste in sleeves with my household machine outside the stitching line and then cut the basting away while serging them in.

    A t-shirt with a french seam simply would not feel right and I do not spend my life in difficult to wash and press silk blouses, so I think it depends what you want to wear.

    And when it comes to bulky seams I wonder... a Hongkong-seam or a nice satin-stitch overlock, which is the bulkier?

    Then there are some fashion forward high end RTW companies that experiment with gluing seams together (I have a MaxMara Coat made that way and I saw some Joop (?) jeans once).

    And if you really wish to avoid bulk, there is nothing like overcasting by hand. My stitches never are as regular as I would wish but I have done it when I felt it would materially improve the hang of a dress.

    So if you are one of the serger-phobes, but even your underwear is french-seamed silk, trade it in.

    If, on the other hand you want t-shirts for yourself and your family and seam finishes that never bunch up while you zigzag them, take that serger out of that box and use some scraps from your last project and serge away without fear.

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  47. I have the Brother 1034D. I mostly use it for finishing SAs, but I did put a few miles of narrow rolled hem on a couple of refashioned rayon 2-layer skirts with satisfactory results. I recommend: 1. Brown & Palmer's Sewing With Sergers, linked to by Claire above. Great for banishing fear; gives the impression that you can do ANYTHING with a serger, including add on to your house; the line drawings are very clear and amusingly 80's! 2. Avoid rethreading whenever possible by tying new looper thread onto old at the spool and serging it through (you still have to thread the needle(s) by hand, but you can do that). But if you have to rethread because a thread has broken, start over from over from the beginning in the order specified in the manual; and 3. Serge scraps, playing with the settings to see what they do, and save samples with the settings noted. It's fun!

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  48. Using anything except for a babylock will bring on anxiety attacks..Right now you can find an Imagine used for about $500 so I wouldn't even bother with a cheaper one as they are so trouble free.

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  49. No serger here; no serger lust....

    Perhaps if I had children? Perhaps if I wanted to sew bathing suits? Dunno.

    What I do have is a very nice Bernina, with bunches of stitches and all those Bernina feet (not that I own them all at this point, but...it could happen!).

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  50. I resisted buying a serger for years, now I don't know what I'd do without it. However because I always try things on for fitting, and sergers eat up your extra fabric, I usually baste before I serge. I don't do anything fancy on it at all and I do prefer the control on a sewing machine. And there's that pin issue. A sewing machine can actually sew over a pin without needing to replace the blade. I still have skill issues with it, such as the edge of a fly and then down to the crotch point in one pass without having some of the thread fall off the edge. I have practiced this skill and I still have issues with it.

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  51. I've been sewing since I could hold a needle at 3, but I've only used a serger twice.
    I'm looking into buying one, though, and will happily take suggestions. Sometime soon I'm going into my local sewing store to test drive some, though there's absolutely no way I'll buy it from them 'cause word is that they cheat people a lot. My last big project was large receiving blankets, and they were all serger. I borrowed time on a friend of mine's White serger to do a rolled hem on the edges. Easiest. Project. Ever. Took a yard of double napped flannel, cut off the selvage edges, rounded off the corners, and did a rolled serger hem and done!

    So, yeah. Don't have one. Want one. Looking for one that won't break the bank of my limited budget.

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  52. I inherited my grandmother's serger from probably...the 60s a couple years ago and I have been too scared to go near it since then. I don't even know if it's in working order, so I probably should have it serviced first? And then learn how to thread it and actually use it? Terrifying. But I would love to snap my fingers and have all those things done for me because I always hear how great and time-saving they are. Oh well!

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  53. I sew a lot of skating costumes and I really want a serger! I have had my eye on the Brother 1034D for quite a while now. I only have one (modern) Brother sewing machine, which has served me well thus far, but I really want to be able to have super nice finished seams on my costumes. They look pretty on the outside, but the inside... could be better. I think that using a server is a fine method of construction, and a good way to finish seams. I suppose I find the snobbyness unwarranted, I think seam finishing just depends on the fabric; serged seams on a sheer may not look as nice as a french seam, but on a t-shirt? Or pajamas? Meh, who cares. As long as it doesn't fall apart it's all good.

    I also have that serger book (despite not having a serger). It seems very useful, but I have only started reading it. I picked up a lot of sewing books on discount when the Borders were having closing sales... I am hoping if I read it first, then I won't be as scared when I actually get the serger, which hopefully will happen by the end of the year.

    I say use it and be happy! Who cares what the sewing snobs think? As long as you like what you make and it looks good in the end, then you should use whatever techniques you want to make it.

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  54. I have a used 3-thread single-needle serger from a garage sale, ($10.) Good thing I got it cheap because I am a sergerphobe. I've used it to finish some seams, but that's it.

    In theory, I'd love to sew simple knit tops and use a serger, but I have a poor track record with knits. Knits are another phobia.

    At one point, I bought the book, "Simple Serger Sewing". This book might work for someone with a newer serger that does multiple needles and 4-5 threads, but it's not for a newbie who just wants to get started.

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  55. After many years of not owning a serger, I bought one last year and I am in love.
    It makes sewing knits a breeze.
    I am still exploring but, please, TAKE A CLASS.
    I want to take another class because while I've mastered the basics, I am intrigued with all the decorative stitching one can do with the serger. Mine's a Bernina 1150.

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  56. I had a serger for a while, but honestly, I was so intimidated by just trying to thread the thing that I rarely used it. So I gave it away, and I've been serger-free for many years now. I do sometimes think about getting one again, maybe one that is easier to thread! But then, I don't have a ton of space. I like the simplicity of doing everything on one machine. I dunno. I might change my mind, especially if I decide to start sewing a ton of knits.

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  57. Ultimate reason for not owning a serger; in the book version of "Silence of the Lambs," the guy who was skinning women used a serger for his cloth clothes. I don't know what he used on the skins.
    Never will I own a serger. There lies madness.

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  58. I have the same serger (my first) and love it. In addition to finishing seams, I use it for the "rolled napkin edge" and blind hemming. For sewing jersey I just use it with four threads to sew seams and finish them all in one. The handbook for that serger is really easy to use. Just put the knife up if you're serger under the influence!

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  59. Wow. reading all these comments is really interesting! I don't have a serger and have never sewn with one. I'd love to try someday--but I know I'd definitely want one with the bells and whistle (jet threading? yes, please!)...so I think it is something I'll probably have to save up for--mostly likely when we move back stateside eventually. For the time being, I am blissfully ignorant...I think if I knew how much nicer my seams would look or how much quicker it would go...I'd be a little less blissful ;)

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  60. I do have serger-phobia, I am disgusted to admit. I've been a professional seamstress for 20 yrs, and have never owned a serger in my life! Way back when, a co-worker of mine purchased a serger for $600.00 and it never worked correctly - when I think of sergers, that's all I can think of!

    But thanks to your last post, and that pic of you and your serger (that works flawlessly) I'm seriously considering taking the plunge!

    BTW, I'm SURE you have what it takes to make that shirt completely on your serger - Go for it!

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  61. Can't imagine sewing without my serger! I've never been afraid of it, just a little confused at first. But that quickly wore off, esp. after an owner's class at my Viking dealer and a series of classes for any brand at the local Bernina dealer. I went for overkill thinking I'd be sorry later with a basic model, but I should've cheaped out in this case. I do use it for more than seam finishes just not the coverstitching function that it is. Oh well, the money was spent a long time ago and I'm still perfectly happy with my machine.

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  62. I love my serger and use it constantly.
    I am embarrassed to admit, however, that I have had a BL Enlighten for 2 years and still cannot figure out how to thread the needles using the automatic threader. Old dog..new tricks, you know the drill.
    Mermie

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  63. K,

    that was the best reason for not owning one that I ever heard. I do enjoy using mine and have used it to put in elastic make ruffles and other things besides finishing seams

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  64. I have a late 80s/early 90s Pfaff 4 thread with differential feed that just came out of the box this year. I bought it just before I got too sick to do anything. Well, it's on my sewing table with manuals and I'm going to learn to use it this year. I make curtains, bedspreads and other largish household things as well as a lot of knits. The only reason I haven't tackled it is the OMG I can't do this it's too complicated and hard to thread weenie factor. Well, of course I can. I also have a book with simple first projects for sergers which I think will give me a better idea of how not to wreck things while making something useful instead of just doing test swatches.
    Heather

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  65. I currently have a 25 year old 5 cone Singer Quantumlock 5 with a differential feed. It can use up to three needles. That feature and the differential feed would be the bees knees if I sewed with stretch or jersey a lot, but I dont.

    The plus is it still has its manual and that thing has saved my but. I LOVE MY SERGER! I just took it in to be serviced and the man took one look at it and said, "Oh, you're a commercial seamstress?" Ha! Nope, but makes me happy to know I have a machine that powerful.

    This one is a one step model upgrade from the previous one I owned which was my mothers. So it has sentimental value in that respect but its a grad machine.

    To anyone serious about sewing with thick or loose knit fabrics, an overlocker is a wise investment. You can totally make a garment without one, I've done it many a time, but finishing fabric with a regular machine just taxes that machine more and Id rather have a machine dedicated to that task.
    Yay sewing!

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  66. By the by, when I taught sewing, I taught how to sew with a serger. So Ive most likely fiddled with 20-30 different overlocking machines in my day. The intimidation is so gone for me :)

    Automatic threaders are a joke. And I recommend a 4 cone over a 3 cone. But anyone who has serger questions feel free to send me an email. :)

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  67. You do know how to provoke a slew of comments, don't you? ;)

    I was a serger snob for a long time, but bought one (second hand, it's a babylock) thinking I'd start sewing knits. I didn't get too much into knits after all, but the sewing expert I got a lesson from to prepare for sewing my wedding dress cured (mostly) my snobbery by insisting that serging the seams of my silk chiffon overlay was the right way to go, not french seams. I do think she was right - it created a very narrow and flat seam that hardly showed. I believe I stitched the seams first on my Featherweight.

    It was pretty terrifying to run hundreds of dollars of silk chiffon through the serger (7 seams, since it was princess seamed), but I didn't have any major disasters. One of the bust curves was a little imperfect (curves are so hard on the serger!) but I was appliqueing lace all over the bodice anyway, so I just covered it up.

    You can see a couple pictures and read more on my blog http://www.whattherestimefor.com/what-theres-time-for/2011/05/feel-like-royalty.html

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  68. I have learnt to use a serger long time ago, wenn I was doing sewing classes. As a student, with short budget, I could not afford one. So I got use to the traditional techniques of garment construction, but when I needed to do something simple and fast, I hated to use the zigzag stitch to finish SAs! So last year I decided to look for an used simple one. I found a great deal and got a "vintage serger" Juki 103, three threads, from the Eighties. I like to have it! It simple, but very strong machine and does what I need.

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  69. I also have a Brother 1034D. I've had it for a year but only started using it during the jeans sew-along because, I too, was afraid to use it. I fell in love with it! I even had to replace one of the thread spools and it was much easier that I had feared. I will use it more often to finish seams and I have some knit patterns I want to use it for.

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  70. I"m on my third serger. This one is a Babylock Evolve. I use my serger for construction of all kinds. BTW, I don't usually serge knits--they don't ravel, why bother?

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  71. I have a Baby Lock Evolve that I use for construction and seam finishing. It was the priciest of my machines, but that goes with how I sew. And yes, I've actually used the 4 thread for construction many times. The serger makes short work of projects like pj pants that I make in multiples, also knitwear. It's a great tool for sewing and I'm so glad I spent the money.

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  72. I have a computerized Brother that has up to 3 needles and 5 threads at once - that's crazy intimidating!! But I love it and use it as much as possible :) I can make whole outfits for my kids in under an hour. But some days I just have to walk away because it definitely has a mind of it's own!

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  73. Thanks for this post, it makes me feel a lot better. I purchased a refurb on Ebay about three years ago. The thing has never worked right for me and is a nightmare to thread. I never bothered raising a stink about it because I assumed it was me.

    I would love to invest in another one but am afraid of encountering the same problems. I sew a lot of knits and use the poor boy's method of seam finishing: straight stitch- then zigzag- then trim.

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  74. I have the very same Brother model - only purchased last November. Finally. I LOVE IT. I've wanted a serger ever since they came on to the home consumer market many years ago, but couldn't afford them.
    I'm still learning its capabilities at this point - so mistakes have been made...and I still have a little trouble figuring out the threading order. Regardless, it's wonderful and a relief to have the ability to finish seams in less than half the time. The faster the better :)

    Micky

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  75. I've had a serger for all of two weeks. I LOVE it! It's first project was a wrap dress for myself and it worked wonderfully. I'm not afraid - I want to use it more! Since 80% of my sewing is knits for my two girls, I think I will become efficient with it rather quickly.

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  76. Peter, take a serger class and get over it!! Sergers are great. Mine is 15 years old and I use it for as much as I possibly can. Grab that T-shirt fabric and whip up a shirt. It may seem fast at first but you get used to it. And once you master a rolled hem for Cathy's chiffon skirt, you will not want to be without it.

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  77. Jenny,
    Take the serger to a repair place and they can show you how to thread it and tell you if it needs to be services. Older sergers are awesome workhorses and can last forever with proper upkeep. Often you must thread the loopers in a specific order, and sometimes unthread one (often the needle thread) if you need to change colors on another looper.

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  78. I got my serger for a steal about eight years ago when there seemed to be a lot of Babylock Imagines on ebay. That jet-air-threading really saves me. I use it for a lot of stuff--finishing edges before I wash a ravely fabric, knits of course, seam finishes... I don't find the speed intimidating at all--I wish my sewing machine went that fast or I had space for an industrial. For some reason I never use the four thread stitching, I don't like the way it looks, so I do 3-thread but if it needs a stronger seam I make another pass with the sewing machine.

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  79. I own several sergers, I make custom figure skating dresses and a serger is a must. I make almost the entire dress with serged seams (wooly nylon thread for maximum stretch). I can whip up a quick practice dress in under an hour. I love the speed! I use my Viking set on a regular 4 thread stitch for seaming then I have a little Baby Lock 3 thread set up just to do rolled hems( I am too lazy to keep converting the big machine) and I don't really think it counts as a serger but I have my coverstitch machine set up to turn under the elastic.

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  80. I love my serger and I create complete pieces with them. Love how fast they go, love all the threads...cut, sew, finish...wham bam thank you mame.

    Not afraid- except of sewing over pins!

    ...( rolled hems rock- give them a go.)

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  81. I like to wear knits, so I use my serger for construction a lot. I love it. In fact, I can't live without it - last time I had a mechanical problem I got right on the net and had a new one at home in less than a week.. (janome)

    One thing though - I bought my first one from a good sewing shop, and it came with a class. I had been sewing for at least 30 years at that point. And you know what? I could never have figured it all out without that class, I'm sure it'd still be rusting away in the closet. These babies are serious machinery, and you need serious training if you're going to take advantage of them. But then, the pleasures of 1h t-shirts are not to be underestimated.

    I also recommend the Singer series serger book http://www.amazon.com/Sewing-Overlock-Singer-Reference-Library/dp/0865732485/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1306311896&sr=1-4 by far the best expose of tension I've ever seen anywhere. But just a careful reading of your existing book should bring your skills up a notch, especially now that you have some idea of the advice you need.

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  82. I LOVE sergers. I just can't afford one :( I miss the ones in the costume shop in college A LOT.

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  83. I have 2 home use sergers and an industrial serger. I can hardly use my small sergers anymore because they are painfully slow! I love, love, love my industrial serger! I was terrified when I first got it. I was certain it would eat my fingers if I wasn't careful. Now I feel comfortable enough to let my 8 year old daughter use it...and she's become quite the pro. It you think threading a home serger is scary...you should try doing an industrial one! Like everything though, once you do it a few times, you figure it out.

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  84. why is it that most of us (myself included) don't just sit down with our machines and spend time learning to use them? I find I usually don't try to figure out how to do something until I'm in the middle of a project, and then have to spend time with the manuals and practicing.

    I'm not really afraid of my serger (mid 90s White 234D), but I'm in trouble if I just start shoving fabric though it. If I take my time and check the manual and do some samples on scraps, things to much better. I use it most often for finishing seam allowances, followed by serged seams, the a couple of rolled hems.

    The big disadvantage of serging seams is it pretty much removes any possibility of letting the seams out if the fit isn't quite right.

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  85. Wow....so many serger tales!!!! My friend the designer bought a serger in 1988 and when I saw it I had to have one. I called my Mom and asked for all my birthday and Christmas presents all in one big check for $800. I bought my Pfaff that year and have used it ever since. Been to the shop for an occasional tune-up and it runs like a top. Even though I can be a total perfectionist, I use the serger to finish almost all my seams. I have lots of cloths to wear, instead of lots of projects sitting around waiting for the seams to get finished!
    If you are sure your t-shirt fits, just go right ahead and sew it right on the serger. It's a great way to become enamored of your machine. Someone already described the correct sequence of construction, and you could really just take a peek into your serger book (I have 2, never use them) to get some tips on doing the neck ribbing.
    Get over that fear! Sergers rock!

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  86. During my son's last year of high school, I worked a second job at a local (pre-Joann's) fabric store. This local store had an extensive fashion fabric selection, as well as home dec and a sewing machine department. As an employee, I decided to put my discount and use their layaway plan to purchase a Babylock ProLine. It was top of the line at that time (1989) with four thread capability and differential feed. It remains my serging workhorse and has given me no serious problems.

    It was only recently I even thought about how old she and I are now...and I no longer dream of the newer self-threading models. She and I are old friends...As long as she works, I'm sticking with her!

    Using her never scared me and don't hesitate to buy enough thread to use her on almost every project--mostly to finish seams. Still, it remains rather involved changing things around to do a rolled hem, but I've managed to do it a few times, too. So don't be afraid!...Surge forward and just Go for it! :)

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  87. Hello Peter:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting about your serger. I have looked and looked at this machine FOREVER but was afraid to purchase. I have a niece that received one as a gift almost 2 years ago and hasn't open the box yet! She claims it's her 5 boys that keep her too busy to try it out.

    Well, after your post I ordered mine through Amazon and it should be her by Tuesday. Yahoo!

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  88. I own this same serger. Sadly, I haven't used it a lot, just from fear I think. You've inspired me to drag it out later and give it a whirl.

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  89. Oh Peter, my serger Sally has me totally whipped. I've had her for about 6 months & i'm fully scared of that biarch lol i need to get a serger book to help me develop some assertiveness with Sally so she doesn't rule my world haha

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  90. Peter--

    I read most of the comments and cannot urge you enough to take a class. I bought my first Janome serger about 5 years ago and a class was offered at the place that I bought it. I immediately signed up and have not regretted it once.

    You are not going to believe this, but I now I own 4 sergers. Yup. I do a huge sewing/art project and most of them were donated by Elna. I have the 845 and the 745 models (both 5 thread but I mainly sew with 4) and they sew like a DREAM. Much more than the Janome models that I also own (but are great starter machines and workhorses and the blades are much cheaper). I keep the machines threaded with different colors of thread so I don't have to change them.

    Really, take a class, there will be no more fear and you will learn great tips. Promise.

    I would be more than happy to send you a bag if you would like one:
    www.greenbaglady.org

    :)Teresa

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  91. I have the Brother 1034D and I love the machine! I use it for finishing SA's and I have also used it for garment construction. It makes easy work of all. My Brother 1034D is a workhorse!!

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  92. I only use mine for finishing seams so far, but I'm going to take the plunge and make a t-shirt sample out of cheap thrift/salvation army type fabric. I just can't get the hang of lining the seams up under the machine......I can't determine where the 1/2 or 5/8" guideline is!

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  93. My first serger was one that my (at the time) boyfriend bought me for $150 on ebay. The seller supposedly got 2 of the same model for a baby shower gift, so she was selling the 2nd one, which was the one I got. It was brand new in the box, never used,w/instruction manual, and made somewhere in Asia...I can't remember the brand, but I do remember that I never figured out how to thread it. I ended up putting it in the back of my closet. A few years later, I brought out the box to take to a local sewing machine sales shop that I've been going to since I was 16, intending to ask to trade it in towards an easier to use serger....My dad thought the box was put out to go with the trash, which he takes to the dump once a week, and he threw away my serger!! He felt bad, and paid me $100 towards a new one, which went towards the Brother 3034D that I now own, which I bought specifically because it is very user friendly in terms of threading, although personally, I think it's rather cheaply made, but it's served it's purpose so far. I also found a Singer 14U44 Merrittlock Serger which came in it's original box w/the instruction manual for $30 at a local thrift store and took it in to be checked out, and it works...but since it is difficult to thread, and has no differential feed, I keep it as my backup serger, and haven't really used it on any projects. I also have the Brother 2340CV machine, which I got on sale for $425 this year. It still sits in it's box, unopened. I'm scared to use it.....LOL.

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  94. I'm so afraid of using my serger as well. And I feel so ashamed...shamed I tell you. It was a gift from a lady I hardly knew! Oh I've tinkered around with it and yes, it sure did do some chomping. Hell! It's like a Cadillac when I'm used to driving a Toyota pick-up. I stepped on the gas and Vroom! It took off with me just a hanging on the fabric and screaming my little ol' hillbilly nelly self and not knowing how to stop the dang thing from eating anymore of my fabric. That's when my head cleared alittle bit and I realized I could just take my foot off the pedal. I also marveled at how much fabric dust it made out of my wonderful print fabric. And that knife! Mercy. It made Freddy from Nightmare on Elm St seem like a teddy bear. Nope. So I assigned it the task of examining dust particles in my storage unit just down the road. Every now and then I go down there and look on it lovingly as if I just knew in my heart that we could be best friends if it could just learn how to be a bit less...greedy with it's sharp lil' tearing, knawing, slashing, sharp teeth. Sorry, I got carried away there for a moment. It was like a nightmare happening all over again down memory lane. I would really welcome some hints at taming the lil' beast.

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