The serger, or overlocking machine, is often classified as a utility machine just able to do the special technique of sewing and overlocking while trimming off excess fabric. However, this seemingly clumsy machine can turn gathering with a serger into an easy task. The most important part of the process is setting up the machine. Once this is done, away you go ‘serging up a storm’ of beautiful gathers.
Gathering with a Serger
Step one: Set the serger to a 4-thread machine. You need 4 cones of thread to gather with a serger.
Step two: Tighten the needle tension.
Neater gathers will occur with two needles engaged and the tension on the needles tightened. It is important to only tighten the needle tension and not the looper tension. It is the increased tension will cause the fabric to gather.
To tighten the tension turn the needle dials to a higher number. My dials are at the front of the machine but yours may be wheels on top. It is quite common for the needle dials to be the ones on the left but consult your manual if in doubt. (How to find sewing machine manuals)
See how my needle dials are now set at 9 while the loopers remain at their standard setting which is 3-4. Your machine will have slightly different standard looper settings but it is usually around the 4 mark.
Step three: Tighten the differential feed by setting it to a higher number. The higher the number, the tighter the gathers. My knob goes from 0.5 to 2.5 so I set it at 2.5. For normal serging it is set at 1.0.
About the differential feed: Your serger has two sets of differential feeds which are controlled by the feed dogs that move the fabric under the presser foot. A higher speed on the feed moves the fabric faster on the first set. The second set is slower and the fabric gathers as the feed dogs pull the fabric through.
Step four: Guide the serger along the edge of the fabric and the machine will do the hard work of gathering for you.
Remember the serger will trim the edges as it sews. Either factor this in as you sew your gathers or disengage the blade and do not trim the seam edge.
It is important to be certain that the line of stitching made by the gathers, does not exceed the seam allowance. If this happens then the stitches will end up showing below the finished seam or the band if you are gathering to fit a waistband.
Tips for Gathering with a Serger
- Remember to always experiment on a scrap first to test settings.
- Leave a long tail before and at the end of the gathered edge. This way you can make slight adjustments at the end.
- It is hard to tighten gathering created on a serger but easy to loosen it so don’t make your gathers too loose.
- Before gathering with a serger, write down the original settings for your machine. This makes it easier to get everything back to normal after you have finished.
- If the gathers are too tight, simply release the tail threads.
- You can adjust the amount of gathering on your machine by experimenting with different differential feed settings.
Now you are ready to surge ahead and gather up that row of super, special gathers using your serger machine where the only tension is in the fabric and not your shoulders.
Other Methods of Gathering
Gathering with a serger is just one way to gather fabric. Other popular gathering methods include: