How to Serge on Sewing Machines

Serged edges add strength and stability to a seam.
Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Serging the edges of some fabrics makes all the difference in whether the seams unravel or fray and whether the project lasts for years. Overlock, or serger, machines are often intimidating to even the most enthusiastic seamstress because of threading patterns and the multiple needles being used. Luckily, most sewing machine companies realized this and developed serging attachments and stitches for home sewing machines that eliminate the need for an overlock machine for most sewing projects.

Prepare the project, trimming any edges that need to be trimmed before sewing.

Thread the machine and insert a bobbin. The bobbin does not have to match the main thread color. Many effects can be achieved by using coordinating or mismatched threads.

Install the overlock foot attachment if you have chosen to use it. The attachment is not necessary, but will provide access to additional stitches and will also trim the fabric as it passes under the needle, creating the best possible serged edges. On most machines, the presser feet either snap or screw on.

Set the stitch dial on the machine. Newer and computerized machines will have individual buttons for each stitch. When not using the attachment, select any available overlock stitches that are included in your machine. If none are labeled as overlock, then choose the zigzag or blanket stitch. Any stitch that overlaps the edge of the fabric will create an overlock effect.

Insert the project underneath the needle and lower the presser foot.

Gently press your foot onto the presser foot to begin sewing slowly.

Guide the project under the needle as you sew, without pushing or pulling it. Pushing or pulling the fabric causes missed stitches, inconsistent stitch lengths and, if using the attachment, will cause misplaced cutting along the edges. It is also important to guide the edge of the fabric consistently if you are not using the attachment. In order for the stitch to overlap the edge, the edge must be consistently fed through so that the needle just misses the fabric while sewing.