Advice on Buying a New Serger (Fact or Fiction)

“I am too old to learn a new sewing machine.”


Sewing machines have changed a lot over the years on the peripherals, but their core essence has stayed the same. The stitch is still made between the upper thread and bobbin. it still remains the case that the motor drives the belt, the belt turns the upper shaft which makes the needle go up and down the needle.

Still, modern machines now come equipped with enough new features on the peripherals so that there may be a bit of a learning curve. For example, if you are garment maker who starting embroidery, or a quilter starting with a serger, there is definitely some learning to do. But this is not a bad thing. A recently published Harvard study says embracing a new activity that forces you to think and learn and requires ongoing practice can be one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy. Learning the different idiosyncrasies of a new machine or a new style of sewing entirely might actually have health benefits. Who would have known?

Just so everyone is aware, when you buy a new machine from The Sewing Machine Shop, it comes with a free owner’s class that you can repeat as often as you feel necessary. In this class we go over all the essentials you need to know to expedite the learning curve on your new machine. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to meet other people with similar machines as yours and socialize for a couple hours. If the class does not fit your schedule, ask us about free 1-on-1 assistance.

“Sewing knits is extremely difficult.”

Fact, if you don’t have the right equipment.
Fiction, if you do have with right equipment.

People who make clothes sew a lot of knits: sweatshirts, t-shirts, sweaters, etc. Sewing on knits is not the easiest thing in the world. It requires one to pay more attention to the type of needle and thread they are using (e.g. ballpoint needles and polyester thread). However, even when you get the needle and thread right, an additional problem we run into is that knit fabric stretches as it is fed through the machine. Because the knit fabric stretches as it is fed, stitches are made as the fabric is stretched out. This is a problem. If the knot is cinched as the fabric is stretched out, what happens once the fabric relaxes after the seam is finished? The fabric becomes wavy and distorted.

How do we solve this problem? With a technology called differential feed.
In order for a machine to have differential feed, it must have two sets of feed dogs. All home sewing machines only have one set of feed dogs; therefore, home sewing machines cannot offer differential feed. However, all the sergers we carry have two sets of feed dogs, and they do offer differential feed. Like the name implies, differential feed allows you to differentiate how fast each set of feed dogs feeds the fabric. By having one set of feed dogs feed the fabric faster than the other set, you are able to feed the fabric in such a way that prevents the knit from being stretched out as it is fed through the machine. Consequently, you prevent the machine from making a stitch as the knit fabric is stretched out, and avoid the wave/distortion problem. The end result? Beautiful stitches on knit fabric, no wave or distortion whatsoever.

“Sergers are terribly fussy to use.”

Fact, prior to the invention of AirJet Threading & ATD.
Fiction, following the invention of Air Threading & ATD.

I’ve heard many people in our store complain about their serger. Not because they don’t appreciate the function of their serger, but because it is such a hassle to use. First off, threading can be a nightmare. Older sergers have a million thread guides that need to be threaded in a specific order, and this process needs to be repeated every time a thread breaks or a different color is required.

On top of that, after you finish threading the serger, there is always the possibility of running into tension issues. Serger tension is notoriously difficult to balance. The tiniest external factors can throw it off, such as switching to a different colored thread that is more heavily dyed. For example, tension will naturally increase when you switch from white thread to black thread. How do you balance tension? Tinker with the different tension dials. This could easily result in at least 30 minutes of troubleshooting. Your tension is off? Adjust 1 or 2 of the tension dials, with lots of trial and error.

Fortunately, two particular innovations in technology have put an end to all this fussiness. First would be Air-Jet Threading. With air threading, instead of threading guides that properly guide the thread to the serger’s loopers and needle, threading ports are connected to the end of the loopers by two or three tubes.  These tubes connect when the threading system is engaged. Then, a jet of air is created when the pump lever is pressed and the threads are taken through the tubes with the air flow. With Air Jet Threading, you really can’t thread your machine incorrectly. Unlike traditional sergers, the order in which you thread your loopers does not matter at all. It really is that easy.

The other innovation is Automatic Thread Delivery (ATD), which puts an end to serger tension altogether. A serger that has ATD does not use traditional tension discs. Instead, ATD delivers the required length of thread to form a balanced stitch. This is achieved by an internal mechanism of the machine– sliding metal plates that determine the length of the thread delivered into the stitch. Machines with ATD work in a manner that is binary– thread is either being delivered, or it is not being delivered. There is no tension. Therefore there is no tension adjustment– no tinkering, no repeated trial and error. And, on top of all that, ADT is a purely mechanical feature. No computers are involved whatsoever.

Automatic Thread Delivery System lays the thread on the fabric as each stitch is formed. The fabric is not responsible for pulling the threads through the tension discs as on other overlockers. That means there is no stress placed on the fabric, allowing it to flow under the foot without being stretched or damaged. This allows you to sew from delicate tissue or silk chiffon through to lycra and layers of denim or fleecy without having to make any adjustments to the machine settings. Furthermore, the machine does not care what kind of thread you use– you can switch from white thread to black thread seamlessly, as well as switching between something like Maxilock to Aurifil 12 weight thread. Because there is no tension, the machine does not “feel” the thread like other sergers. No matter what you use, a perfect stitch is delivered every time. You will never have to tinker with tension ever again.
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