Monday, February 27, 2017

Overcoming Your Fear Of the Serger Knife

Where do you look when serging? Do you follow your needles, the presser foot, or the knife blade? Join me for the next 24 hours on Instagram and view the short stories where I demo an exercise that will help you overcome your fear of the serger knife blade. You can find me at but will only be able to view the stories through your mobile app.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Inserting Zippers With Your Serger: Easy Clutch Tutorial

Sergers are meant to make your life easier. Today's tutorial is going to show that and more! I really wanted to give you a call to action during the Love Your Serger series that will help gain skills and build confidence. These zipper clutch bags require only 2 materials and are so useful. Did I mention they can be made in 10 minutes or less!? 

You'll need: 
(1) Placemat 
(1) 22'' Polyester Zipper 

Yep that's it! I promised it was easy.  The placemat works well for repurposing in this project because they can be easily found (at thrift stores for a dollar or less or in stores for a little more) and are interfaced to offer support. We're going to be focusing on the 4 thread overlock stitch. It is the most secure stitch and one of the most used on a home overlocker. 

1. Lay out the placemat right side up. Align your zipper along side the short side edge of placemat.

NOTE: The zipper we are using is much bigger than the length of the placemat. This is intentional. We want the largest zipper you can find because later in tutorial we're actually going to use our sergers to cut/overlock the zipper ends into the clutch bag. The serger blade will cut through your polyester zipper with ease- using the longer zipper ensures we are cutting through only the zipper teeth and tape- keeping any metal parts far away from the blade. When placing the zipper on the bag in the first step make sure you have 2-3'' of zipper overhang on either end. Use clover clips to hold in place if you need to.

2. Make sure your machine is set properly to create a 4 Thread Overlock stitch. Understanding how the stitch forms on your machine will be a great benefit read; How Your Serger Actually Works. With your presser foot in the upright position, situate the placemat and zipper 1/2'' away from the needle. We will begin stitching on the zipper overhang first and gradually onto the placemat. You do not need to worry about securing the beginning stitch here or on the end- they will both be enclosed in the final seams of the bag.

Tip: As you come to the end of your fabric continue stitching. You should always have about a 6" to 8" chain tail of stitches from the backside of your machine.

NOTE: When serging I am watching the knife, keeping the edge of my zipper tape and mat in line with it so that it rides along side shaving just a smidge of fabric as it goes. While serging zippers into bags I also want the edge of my presser foot to ride directly on top of the zipper teeth. You can use either of these as a guide for you, or both.

3. Fold the other short end of place mat up matching right sides together with zipper. Repeat step 2 using 4 thread overlock stitch.

4. Now you've created a tube. Keeping the pretty inside the tube- situate your placemat so that the zipper is 3'' from top edge. Use clover clips to match sides.  Remember to move your zipper pull to the middle otherwise, you will serge your bag closed with no way of opening. I cut 1/2'' from the edge of fabric, because the bulk in seams of this placemat. To do this I line my bag up on the front feed dog and allow it to pull the fabric through. You can run your serger without having the needles penetrate directly onto any materials.

NOTE: Anytime I am inserting zippers with my overlocker I serge so that I'm able to see the zipper. This allows me to visually see the approach of the nylon or poly zipper teeth as they make their way to the cutting edge of the knife. Be sure to keep a steady and consistent speed as you are cutting through your zipper.

5. Repeat step 4 on last edge. Use a fray check type product or tuck thread tails on all 4 corners. Turn right side out. And you're finished! Hooray! You can create a beautiful and unique clutch bag or zipper pouch in 10 minutes or less! 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Keeping Your Serger Clean

Proper maintenance of any machine help keep you from costly repairs. You'll find your serger needs to be cleaned much more frequently than your home sewing machine because they operate at a much higher speed and those internal parts are rotating more often.

Cleaning & Oiling A Serger 

Serger knives create a great deal of lint, which must be cleaned from the machine- try using a dry lint brush for this. In my Serger Tool Kit post, I recommended sourcing a larger sturdy bristle brush to help cover more ground.  I also like to keep scraps of batting nearby. As I catch the lint on my brush end, I swipe it onto the batting. The batting helps to keep the small piles of lint in place as I work my way through the machine.

The points of which you must oil your serger will be noted in your machine manual. However, it's important for me to mention to use only sewing machine oil; household oil is too heavy and should not be used. Here's where I oil mine (video)

Typically, you will need to oil your machine every 8 hours of actual serging time (pedal down.) Your serger should run with a smoooooooooth humming sound, if it doesn't it needs oil. Also, any overlocker that has been sitting unused for two months of longer needs to be re-oiled because the oil drains to the bottom of the machine.

Replacing Needles 
Serger needles wear out quickly! Needles that are dull, bent, or burred will cause your stitches to form improperly. If you're ever experiencing skipped stitches, uneven stitches, or puckered seams; the first troubleshooting solution is change your needles! I also covered this in an instagram post, but just in case you're not yet following me there (here's another tip!)

On a serger, your left needle should sit slightly higher than the right. If both needles are not correctly inserted into the needle bar (even the tiniest bit) your serger won't form a stitch. I love that my @berninausa L450 has this viewing window to help me. #tips2sew by @jmontilone

Cleaning Tension Discs 
Tie several knots of 6" to 10" of a heavy duty thread, soak it in rubbing alcohol (optional.) Work the knotted thread between the tension discs several times to remove lint build up.

We've covered a lot of ground so far this month in the Love Your Serger blog series, including What is a Serger?, How Does A Serger Work?, What to Ask When Buying A Serger?, The Essential Tools You Need For Your Serger, and now we're keeping it clean. Next Monday I'll be posting the first tutorial of the bunch- teaching you how to use your serger to insert zippers! If you're up for the challenge the only thing you'll need is 1 place mat, 1 22'' Nylon zipper, and your serger (with thread!) I hope to see you back here Monday!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Your Serger Supply Kit

You know the old adage, there's the right tool for every job. That absolutely applies when it comes into play when having a positive relationship with your serger or overlocker.

Break Down The Essentials for Serger Supply Kit

Machine manual
Small scissors
Fray Check
4 Cones of Thread (More on thread soon!)
Large Tweezers (Buy a quality long pair with a crooked neck- nothing more frustrating than a crummy pair of tweezers when you need them)
Lint Brush (Sergers make a mess! Upgrade your lint brush with more bristles to machine coverage like this one)
Wonder Clips (not pins! Never pins! A 10ct box will get you started)
Tapestry Needle
Needle Threader
Clover Stiletto
Universal Needles No. 70-90
Ball Point Needles 130/705
Choice Marking Tools (Chalk, tailors wax, a pen- I keep one of each)
Seam Ripper (Love love love my seam ripper from Havel's Sewing)
Edge Guide
Cone Nets
Stitch Guide

Some of the items you'll find were included with your machine purchase others are not. The accessories provided with your machine will depend on your make/model. I keep a separate serger supply kit from my other sewing notions. I'm fortunate that my serger (a BERNINA L450) comes with a small plastic case (sort of like a eye glass box) but my kit outgrew that size and I'm currently using a pretty tupperware box to keep things together. It includes all of the items listed here plus a small print out of stitch settings, sample swatches, odd decorative yarns in various weights, small squares of batting (I keep these for machine maintenance) and 4 mini screw drivers. Let's be clear, I do not need 4 mini screw drivers.

Do you have a serger kit? What type of products or tools do you keep inside? Get social and share a photo of your serger kit, serger, or ask a question using #LOVEYOURSERGER on Instagram. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Top 30 Places To Buy Knit Fabric In The US

Working with sergers and teaching workshops on the road, I'm often asked where are the best places to find knits. I'll always urging you to check with your local shops but the truth is, not many quilt shops sell beautiful knits. If they do: I often find their offerings limited. Here are 30 stores (a mix of Brick and Morter shops, online retailers, and some that are both!) that offer up organic knits, jersey knit, ponte knits, interlock knits, and double knit fabrics for sale.

1. Alabama Chanin 462 Lane Dr, Florence, AL 100% Organic medium weight jersey knit

2. Britex Fabrics 146 Geary St. San Francisco CA Stylish and sophisticated knit blends, imported styles, and even double faced reversible cotton knits

3. Cali Fabrics Eclectic mix of prints and solids with a variety of weights and blends. Something for everyone including patterned knits that would be great for men.

4. Cedar House Fabrics Specializes in eco-friendly fabrics, many designer knit options

5. over 4,000 knit offerings including scuba knit, stretch knits, and double knits something for everyone

Denim Navy Quilted Knit // Marcy Tilton Fabrics 

6. Fabric Mart 3911 Penn Ave, Sinking Spring, PA  NY and Italian Designer fabrics and patterns are available

7. Fabric World 256 W 38th St, New York, NY Apparel fabrics, metallic spandex. stretch sequins, stretch lace and more.

8. Fabric Worm  Well-rounded collection of designer knit offerings online.

9. Fashion Fabrics Club boasts over 20,000 fabrics in their online store! Jersey knit offerings include apparel fabric, cotton knit fabric, printed knit fabric,double knit fabric, stretch knit fabric, ponte de roma knit, rayon knit, wool knit, silk knit, linen knit, jersey knit, sweater knit

10. Girl Charlee Go to resource for trendy jersey knit fabrics including florals, chevron, and stripes

11. Harts Fabric 1620 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA Soft comfortable knits, designer knits: excellent selection of quality apparel fabric

12. Hawthorne Threads 54 Elizabeth St, Red Hook, NY Novelty prints but majority of offerings are solid colored

13. HoneyBGood Eco-friendly jersey and interlock knits selection

14. imagine gnats  fresh collection of curated offerings many quality solids with sweater knits, athletic mixed in

15. Marcy Tilton Fabrics Hand selected knits- sophisticated high quality designer apparel fabrics

16. Michael Levine 920 Maple Ave, Los Angeles, CA Great variety of apparel fabrics not limited to burn out knits, textured knits, sweater knits, sequined knits, and so much more.

Alabama Chanin Color Card

17. Mood Fabrics 225 W 37th St, New York, NY Every type of knit fabric you could imagine + designer fabrics as well

18. Nature's Fabric Bamboo, wool, hemp, organic cotton, cotton knits, and a selection of Euro Knits too

19. Nick of Time Textiles 1701 Union Blvd Allentown, PA Huge selection of knitted fabrics as low as $.50/yard on clearance

20. Organic Cotton Plus Grown and manufactured in the USA, many undyed options.

21. Print Knit Studio Unique high quality knits for children clothing designers. Made in USA.

22. Sew Baby Knit prints, solids, and ribbings mostly kiddy themed and coordinating

Face Collage Viscose Knit // The Sewing Workshop

23. Sewing Workshop 301 S Kansas Ave A, Topeka, KS curated fabrics by Linda Lee. Unique and modern prints, solids, stripes, and novelty knits available.

24. Spoonflower  custom printed fabrics you design or choose from 1,000's of indie designers. Performance, cotton knit, and organic interlock options are available.

25. The Fabric Fairy wide variety of fabrics available including juvenile prints. lycra, swim fabrics, organic, bamboo, and other knit blends

26. The Fabric Store USA  136 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA (Online Sale Going on Now 20% Off!) Lightweight knits available

27. Thread International Recycled jersey knit fabrics made from soda bottles limited color availability

28. Vogue Fabric Store 718 - 732 Main Street, Evanston, IL Over 230 knit fabrics available.

29. Crimson Tate  845 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis, IN Great variety of modern knits

30. Mercer's Fabric 121 Charles St #2, Boston, MA Dress making fabrics from around the world

Bonus: I'm including some of my favorite shops outside of the US just to round it out.
31. Kitchy-Coo Funky, fun, and bright knits, interlock, and ribbing available (Ships around the world)

32. Ray Stitch Lots of great prints, stripes, and confetti-flecked knits

As we round out the first week of the Love Your Serger blog series, I'm enjoying seeing you dig out your machines and share serger project photos on Instagram. This is a great starter list of knit suppliers but if you have favorite online or local shop please leave a comment below- I'd love to check them out and I know others would too!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What To Ask When Buying A Serger

The world of online shopping has completely revolutionized how we shop- that includes how we shop for sergers and sewing machines. There are many options out there when it comes to purchasing an overlocker, and just as many opinions on what machine is the best for you.

We all know what they say about opinions, don't we? Using the internet and trusting your friends online is a fantastic place to begin your serger journey- but the most valuable asset you will have when buying a serger... is visiting your local shop.

Pennington Quilt Works, NJ - sergers there just behind the cupcake! 

Your local shop, and by shop, I don't mean Joann Fabric. I'm referring to a specialized sewing machine store or quilt shop. Did you know many quilt and fabric shops also carry sergers!? Here you have a knowledgeable staff who are ready and willing to answer all the questions you have and help you make a purchase that fits both your needs and your budget.

  1. Bring along several different weights or scraps of fabrics you want to sew.  Ask the store staff demonstrate using these fabrics
  2. Ask the dealer to explain the stitch width and length adjustments; these will vary from one model to the next
  3. Have the serger specialist explain the stitches that are available and adjustments needed for changing from one stitch to another
  4. Have all the features, such as rolled hem and differential feed explained and demonstrated (And find out what other accessories may be available as add ons)
  5. Use a striped fabric to practice cutting exactly on the line with the knives; then stitch so that the needle runs along the line to help you get comfortable controlling the machine
Last year I published a complete post Shopping For A Serger: 9 Questions to Ask on WE ALL SEW check it out to see what other questions you should be asking.

Are you currently shopping for a serger or overlocker machine? What features are most important to you? Leave a comment below.

Join #LoveYourSerger on Instagram all month long- tag your serger and serger projects! I'll be featuring my favorites. Read: my intro post to Love Your Serger Series and find out what the difference is between a serger and an overlocker and find out How A Serger Actually Works here.

Monday, February 6, 2017

How A Serger Actually Works

Have you ever wondered how a serger actually works? All month long we're digging deep and learning to love our sergers. Last week I explained the difference between a serger/an overlocker and briefly covered what a serger does. Today you'll walk away with a clearer understanding of how serger stitches are formed and be able to recognize the different elements that help to create that perfect stitch. This specialty machine performs many functions simultaneously to create stitches. Let's get started!

As fabric is fed onto your machine, it meets the feed dogs first. The fabric is moved along until the knife trims the fabric edge. Next, the loopers and needles form the stitches on to the fabric edge, and the fabric is fed off the stitch fingers behind the needle. Now we'll take a closer look...

Feed System: First up, the feed dogs. As your fabric gets fed onto the machine it first reaches the feed dogs. Your feed dogs are the jagged metal teeth-like strips that are located on the stitch plate just beneath the presser foot. The feed dogs, needle plate, and presser foot all work together to move fabric along evenly. You may even notice a second set of feed dogs- some machines have a differential feed system which helps to prevent puckered or stretched seams. (We'll dive more into that later this month!)

Cutting System: Seam allowances are trimmed with a movable knife. The knife or knives on your machine move at the same speed as your needle.

Loopers: Upper looper (figure a) and the lower looper (figure b) are used instead of a bobbin to form the stitches. These looper and needle threads lock together to sew seams or finish seams. Looper threads do not penetrate the fabric.

Stitch Fingers: Serger stitches are formed around one or two stitch fingers. These are small projections or prongs on the needle plate.

The threads lock around the seam to prevent fraying, and the machine also cuts off the seam allowance as it sews. Sergers are very fast and make sewing knits much easier! Do you currently have a serger of your own? Join our growing community, help cheer on a neighbor, or get troubleshooting help this month by sharing a picture of your machine or current projects with the #LOVEYOURSERGER on Instagram or Facebook.

Bonus: Find inspiration & tips in groups like the  BERNINA Overlocker/Serger Facebook Group  and/or Serging For an Answer: Serger Support Group.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Love Your Serger Blog Series

Welcome to February ya'll! This month I'm encouraging you to love your serger with a new blog series: LOVE YOUR SERGER! Together, with expert help, we are going to tackle some of the troubles and fears you might have operating your machine. You'll learn how to hem two ways, sew seams and set perfect seam allowance, how to use flatlock for embellishing, creative overlocking techniques, and more technical aspects of how your overlocker/serger actually works. Do you understand how those stitches are actually formed? Plus! I have compiled a motherload of resources for you to find the best knit fabrics here in the USA!

What's the difference between a serger and an overlocker? 

Don't get confused. I'm sure you've heard both terms: serger and overlocker. These machines are the very same thing. Overlocker refers to the stitch formed, it's an overlock stitch. In the US we refer to these machines as sergers but across the pond they're widely known as overlockers.

What does a serger do? 

A serger doesn't replace your sewing machine, instead, I like to view it as an additional tool to round out your home sewing studio. It can be used a variety of ways but it most wildy known for it's importance use in garment construction. Speed alone. A serger allows you to cut, sew, and finish edges in one step- talk about saving time!

Durable and professional seams for your quilts or garments can be quickly achieved with a serger. Have you ever tried sewing knits on your domestic sewing machine? If you tug at the seams where you've stitched you may notice that it's easy for thread breakage. We'll discuss how these serger stitches are made and why they're so dang durable on Monday.

Sergers can also be used to create a perfect rolled hem (great for napkins), add elastic, speedy patchwork quilt piecing,  embellish items using ribbons, beading, and more, or even create ruffles. 

I now have a BERNINA L-450 Serger (pictured above) I shared some of my past serger experience here on the blog last summer. Man! I wanted to smash that other serger. What it came down to, I believe, we so often don't take the time to understand how a serger functions and assume it's just like our sewing machines. I've overcome that hesitation and fear a new serger instills. You can too! This past year I traveled around the country helping others fall in love with serger projects with my workshops. If you're committed to spending a little time with me each week I promise you'll walk away excited to serge and even have a few tricks up your sleeves that will be sure to impress your friends!

Do you have any specific serger questions I can help tackle this month? Leave a comment below- I'd love to find out what serger you own and what your favorite projects to make are.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Free Valentines Day Applique: Stuck On You Cactus

If you're looking for a stylish & fun Valentine's Day t-shirt for boys (or anyone!)- you've come to the right place. I'm sharing with you a free downloadable pattern to make your very own Stuck On You Cactus Applique. I've always found it hard to find cool tees that work well for holidays but aren't so over the top that they're limited to being worn one day.

Learn how to applique t-shirts in my book The Upcycled T-shirt or repurpose some old scrap knit & t-shirts using my Free Build Your Own Monster Applique or Build Your Own Monster Truck Pattern.  Want to resize the applique to fit a baby tee or enlarge it for a pillow? Check out this post for instructions & tips. 


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