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- Getting Started Tips & Hints

Top Tips and Hints for Successful Serger Sewing

An overlock machine makes sewing many of your projects fast and easy.  It can sew a seam and seam finish, and trim the excess seam allowance, all at one time!  Your fashions get that ready-to-wear look that only a serger can provide!  It’s important, though, that your machine is set up properly to give you the best stitching results.  Below are a few top trouble-shooting tips to help you sew successfully with your overlock machine.

Top Tips and Hints for Successful Serger Sewing

1.    Thread Should Feed Freely Into Machine Thread Path

Make sure each thread passes freely through its entire thread path with no obstruction.  When threads unreel irregularly on the serger, the result is often unevenness in the stitch formation, possible thread breaks and even needle breaks.

Cone Thread
Cone Thread

Cross-wound spools, like serger cone threads, are recommended for serger sewing because the thread feeds more evenly and consistently off the spools than when using regular sewing thread spools. 

Regular sewing thread spools are not cross-wound and therefore may not always unreel as consistently.  They may also have slight irregularities on the edges which can “catch” the threads during sewing, in which case a spool cap could help. 

Regular Thread
Regular Thread Spool


Some decorative threads may tend to “spill” off the spool.  They could possibly get caught around the base of the thread stand.  Use a thread net to help control the flow of thread off the spool.  If the spool itself has a base (so it can stand on its own), try setting it on the table behind the machine as well.


Decorative Thread
Decorative Thread



2.    Raise the Presser Foot Lifter Before Threading Machine

Raise the presser foot lifter before threading to make sure the threads are seated properly in the tension disks.  You MUST raise the presser foot lifter BEFORE you begin threading the machine, so that the tension mechanisms are opened to receive the threads.  When the presser foot lifter is down, the tension mechanisms are unable to receive the thread, and the result will be distorted stitches.  It will also be helpful to “floss” the thread back and forth over the tension disk to ensure that it slips into place.  Always raise the presser foot before you begin threading!

Correct Threading


3.    Thread Machine in the Correct Order

There is a correct “order” for threading your overlock machine, to help ensure that the stitches form properly. The loopers are threaded first, and THEN the needles are threaded.  Start by threading the upper looper first.  Then thread the lower looper after the upper looper is completely threaded, checking to be certain that the lower looper thread sits over the upper looper or the stitches won’t form properly.  Once the loopers are threaded, you can thread the needles.

Thread Correct Order
Lower looper thread properly is placed over the threaded upper looper


4.    Use Differential Feed to Fix Distortion of Seams

If fabrics are distorting or puckering when you sew, you may need to engage your machine’s differential feed to adjust the way the feed teeth feed the fabric through the machine.  The serger has two sets of feed teeth – one in front and one in back – located under the presser foot.  The differential feed lever at the right side of the machine controls the movement of the front feed teeth relative to the back feed teeth.  For most sewing, you can leave the lever set at its “normal” setting of 1.0.

Differential Feed

For seams and hems on stretchy fabrics that tend to get “wavy”, set the differential feed lever toward the larger number setting.  Exactly where to set it depends on the type and thickness of fabric, so experiment on a scrap fabric to determine the best setting for the fabric you are sewing.


Fixing Seams


For seams and hems on sheer or very lightweight fabrics that tend to be “puckering”, set the differential feed lever toward a lower number setting.  Exactly where to set it depends on the fabric, so experiment on a scrap fabric first to determine the best setting for the fabric you are sewing.

Fixing Seams 2



5.    Machine Needles

The overlock machine has two separate needle clamp screws that hold each individual needle.  Make sure that each needle is properly seated in the needle clamp.  You may have noticed that the needles in the overlock machine are not level with one another.  The left needle sits a little higher than the right needle.  They are not “parallel”, such as when sewing with a twin needle on a regular sewing machine.

When removing a needle, lightly loosen the screw to take it out of the needle clamp.  When inserting a needle, make sure it goes all the way up in the needle clamp, or stitches will not form properly.  Use only SINGER® overlock needles in the style and size recommended in your machine’s instruction manual.

Machine Needles