Gathering Fabric With a Serger/Overlock Machine the Easy Way

gathering fabric serger

When it comes to gathering fabric, if you have a serger or overlock machine, you’re in luck because I’m going to show you how to do it the EASY WAY. All you really need to do is adjust a few settings and you’re good to go.

There are a few ways to create gathers or ruffles with your serger/overlock machine. I’m going to show you two ways and give you some tips to make the process real simple.

Gathering Fabric Method #1

The first thing you’ll need to do is adjust a few of the settings on your machine. Note: you can use either 3 or 4 threads

DIFFERENTIAL FEED: 2

STITCH WIDTH: 5.5

STITCH LENGTH: 4

I recommend cutting some strips of scrap fabric to practice sewing on. Different weights and textures of fabric will gather a little differently.

gathering fabric reg foot

This first method does not require a special presser foot. Just leave your regular presser foot on.

  1. Place the fabric under the presser foot with the fabric edge along the edge of your presser foot. You’ll be cutting off just a little bit of the fabric as you sew.
  2. Start sewing. Hold the fabric loosely and allow it to slide under the presser freely. Guide the edge of the fabric along the edge to keep it aligned and straight.

With the machine at these settings, the fabric will generally gather up to ½ the length that you started with. If you want the gathering to be tighter, simply find the needle thread (which is the thread between the looper threads), and using a seam ripper, gently pull on it to gather more.

What I love about using a serger for gathering fabric is that it not only gathers the fabric, but it finishes the edge so it won’t fray.

gathering fabric foot

Gathering Fabric Method #2

This method requires a GATHERING FOOT. Some machines will come with this foot, and other models don’t. You can purchase one separately. If you do have to purchase one, it is well worth the money.

This is what the gathering foot looks like. Depending on the model of your serger, they may look a little different, but most of them will have this little spring plate on the bottom. Remove the basic presser foot and apply the gathering foot.

gathering fabricYou can create gathers by simply running a strip of fabric under the presser foot as you did with the other foot.

The cool thing about this gathering foot is that you can gather AND attach the gather to a non-gathered piece of fabric. For example: if you want to add a ruffle to a pillowcase, skirt waistband, apron, etc., it makes this task a SNAP!

Gathering Fabric and Attaching

To practice, cut a strip of fabric say 20 inches in length. Cut another piece of fabric 10 inches.gathering fabric

  1. Place the long strip (ruffle fabric) under the presser foot and take 1-2 stitches only. Grab your short strip and slide it into that little slot on the presser foot until the edge is lined up with the ruffle strip.gathering fabric hand position
  2. Take a few stitches only so the needles grab both pieces of fabric. Adjust your hands so the left hand is holding the top piece of fabric and the right hand is holding the ruffle fabric.
  3. Continue to sew letting the fabric slide easily and feed into the foot freely. While you sew, keep the two edges of the fabric lined up with each other and in alignment with the edge of the presser foot. (It takes a little practice, but you’ll get the feel for it quickly).
gathering fabric and attaching

Tadah! Open up the two pieces of fabric and look how cool that is! Such a faster and more efficient way to go about gathering fabric.

So, if you have a serger/overlock machine, adjust a few settings and have fun making ruffles!

What if you don’t have a serger?

No worries. Stay tuned because I will be showing you how to easily create ruffles and gathers on a regular sewing machine.

Have fun sewing!

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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Sewing Corners and Curves | Serger Tips and Tricks

sewing corners and curves

Serging around corners and curves can be a little tricky, but when you know these handy tips and tricks, it’s no problem at all.

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to easily sew around square outer and inner corners and how to sew curves without any puckering.

For those of you who are visual learners, you can watch the video tutorial at the end of the post. I give several other serger tips that you won’t want to miss!

Typical Corners and Curves Sewing Projects

Of course, sewing around corners and curves is not a big issue with a regular sewing machine, but when you are using a serger (3 or 4 thread) it is different. For one thing, the serger leaves a chain of stitching that can get quite messy and add bulk to your project if you leave them too long when turning. No more of that!

Before I learned these tips and tricks, I had stitching tails all over the place, which doesn’t look really clean and finished.

Before trying any of these tips, I recommend getting some scrap pieces of fabric and just practice. It takes a little practice and every fabric is different.

Tips for Sewing OUTER CURVES

Start with lining up the fabric edge you are sewing with the side of your serger plate (the side with the blade). This is where you want to keep your focus point. As you slowly sew, you’ll be gently rotating the fabric to the right, keeping the edge of the fabric aligned with the edge of the cutting plate.

Be careful not to twist too much or you’ll get puckers. Just let the machine feed the fabric and you turn the fabric. You’ll get the hang of it real fast.

Tips for sewing  INNER CURVES

The same thing as with outer curves, except instead of rotating fabric to the right, you’ll rotate to the left. Inner curves are a tad trickier because it is a smaller radius. Just go slow. Any slight puckering that occurs can be pressed out.

Most likely, you’ll be sewing a lot more outer corners than inner corners, but knowing how to sew an inner corner using this method is a GAME CHANGER!

Sewing Corners and Curves outer corners

Outer Corners

To sew an outer corner, sew up to the edge of fabric and then take two more stitches by TURNING THE HANDWHEEL TOWARDS YOU.

Lift up the presser foot, gently pull the fabric back a bit to disengage the threads from the looper hooks. This will enable you to PIVET THE FABRIC around. Align the fabric edge with the knife plate edge and the top of the fabric in align so that when the needles come down it will be at just inside the edge of the fabric.

Continue to sew. It’s pretty simple. Do some practicing on scrap fabric. It’s actually quite fun, and notice what clean corners you have all finished nicely!

Sewing inner curves

Inner Corners

Begin sewing and when you get close to the corner, flip the bottom of the fabric edge to line up with the knife edge of your serger. THIS WILL MAKE A NATURAL PLEAT! Flatten the pleat (it will look like a little ice cream cone).

Continue to sew straight, keeping the fabric along the edge until you have completed the corner.

Open up the fabric and BAM, there you have it!

If there is just slight puckering, this can be pressed out.

sewing corners and curves clip cornerNOTE:  if the fabric is thicker, you may need to clip the corner just slightly 1/16 of an inch before sewing. You shouldn’t have a problem with lighter weight fabrics.

Once again, practice and test out the fabric you’re using on your project to see whether you need to clip the corner or not.

I hope that was helpful. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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Unpicking Serger Stitches the EASY WAY

Sewing on a serger/overlock machine is wonderful, but when it comes to unpicking serger stitches, you may find yourself overwhelmed and dreading the whole process.  I used to feel this way until I learned this slick and easy way to unpick; and I’m going to show you how it’s done. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sewing or how good you are at it, there ARE going to be times that you’ll need to UNPICK! However, once you learn this technique, it won’t matter, because it is so easy to do.

A serger stitch will either use three or four threads to form the stitch: two looper threads and one or two needle threads. In the photo above, I have used a different thread color for each stitch to show you what it looks like. (four-thread stitch).

Before I learned this trick, I would grab my unpicker and try to unpick each stitch. There were little cut threads everywhere, and it took FOREVER! It was so frustrating! I seriously can’t believe and went so long sewing on a serger without knowing this little trick. It makes the process so quick and you don’t have all the cut threads to collect and dispose of.

UNPICKING SERGER STITCHES-HOW TO

The only stitches you are going to pull out are the needle threads. The photo above is a four-needle thread stitch. The RED thread is the left needle stitch, the TAN thread is the right needle stitch, and the blue thread is a looper thread.

1. Take the unpicker and with the point grab the red thread and pull it and cut it. Go down the seam another 1-2 inches and cut the needle thread again. BE CAREFUL NOT TO GRAB THE LOOPER THREADS, this will cause the seam to lock up and the threads will not pull out as easy. Get ahold of one of the tails of the thread you just cut and ease and pull it out of the fabric. (Sometimes you can do the whole seam in one go). Continue this process until you’ve removed that left needle thread completely.

2. If you are using a four-thread, you’ll need to remove the right needle thread as well. Finding the right needle thread can be a little tricky if you are using the same color of thread as the fabric. (A trick to finding the stitch, is to take your unpicker tip and glide it down the little v shape that the looper makes and it will slide right into the right needle stitch). It may seem like a lot of work, but trust me, it goes quickly and you’ll love the results.

3. Here’s the fun part! Once the needle threads are removed, all you need to do is grab the looper threads and give a little pull, and voilà! It will unravel like a dream. There won’t be all those little threads to gather and you’ll be on your way to re-sewing your seam.

I hope this saves you some grief while sewing. Be sure to leave a comment if you have some great sewing tips for us!

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Here are some other sewing blog posts you may be interested in:

OVERLOCK STITCH | NO SERGER NEEDED 

SEWING BY HAND | MOST IMPORTANT STITCHES TO KNOW

Have fun sewing and UNPICKING!

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Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More