SPOTLIGHT ON SERGER TECHNIQUE: TURNING A CORNER WITHOUT TAILS OR LOOPS

Do you chain off when you get to the corner & then restart  the next side leaving a chain off tail? Do you then have to fray check this & cut off later to neaten up your project? Or alternatively weave the tail into your seam using a large blunt tipped needle? (No prizes for guessing that I very seldom do this……”dirty” H word and all!)

Well, here is a quick & easy technique tip: how to turn the corners when serging with 3 or 4 thread stitch programs so that you avoid tails or loops of thread at the corners!!

It is really super easy – follow along using these simple instructions:

  • Thread up your serger for the 3 thread rolled hem program (or alternatively the 3 thread narrow or 4 thread overedge seam programs). All 3 of these seams work in much the same way.
  • You may prepare the corners by snipping just a little (about 1/2 – 1 inch) to assist the “getting going” at each corner. However, I found I really did not need to do this and the disadvantage is that you end up trimming off more fabric and reducing the overall size of the napkin.  I cut my squares (napkins) at the rotary cutting table first and ensured that all sides were straight and the napkin was a true square – SO much easier to do that with my various rulers/squares & rotary cutter!  I also find it easier to serge straight and merely shave off the fuzzies as I go rather than a strip of fabric – But this is just my preference.

    Note that I have embroidered a little Christmas wreath in one corner of the napkin using same polyester embroidery thread in needle and bobbin (so that the design is reversible) See previous blog post November 16th 2012: Christmas embroidery project.

    Note that I have embroidered a little Christmas wreath in one corner of the napkin using same polyester embroidery thread in needle and bobbin (so that the design is reversible) See previous blog post November 16th 2012: Christmas embroidery project.

  • Start sewing down the first side of your project (a lovely white cotton table napkin perhaps?). You will note that the rolled hem (or other seam finish) is appearing to the left/behind the needle(s) and the sliver of fabric being cut off with the blade/cutter of the serger is to the right of the needle(s).
  • I used wooly nylon or (better still) wooly poly in the UPPER LOOPER. This has the desired result of stretching as it goes through the serger but “relaxing” once stitched so that the coverage on my rolled hem edge is even better than if done just with 3 cones of white serger thread. Some folk like to use the floss or wooly nylon in the lower looper as well. No harm if you do but I don’t think it is necessary: The top looper rolls over to the back & the lower looper is almost unseen if the tensions are working as they should and a proper 3 thread rolled hem is serged.  Hence I usually only use the floss in the upper looper. HINT: use a dental floss plastic loop or other needle threader to thread the eye of the looper. It is not easy to thread this floss without an helpful tool as it is so soft & floppy!
  • Why Wooly poly over wooly nylon? Nylon has a tendency to melt rather inconveniently when ironed at a high temp. You are very likely to spray starch & press your napkins on the cotton or linen setting if you are doing some fine dining in your home………….so avoid accidents and use wooly poly which does not melt at the temp that nylon decides is too hot!!
  • And yes, sometimes beautifully pressed & starched napkins are SO much nicer than paper napkins……although I would not use my lovely white cotton napkins if I was serving a curry or tomato based dish!!
  • When you reach the end of the first side of the fabric, stop when the needle reaches the edge of the fabric – Slow down so that you do not “overshoot” and go beyond the edge. PRACTICE this to figure out exactly the best spot to stop with your serger. I have found with my serger that if I stop a mm or 2 before the edge or beyond the edge, the corner is not as neat as I would like.
  • Raise the presser foot & gently raise the needle if the needle has stopped in the fabric. This is to allow you to turn the fabric at a right angle so that you are positioned to serge the next side of the napkin.
  • Before lowering the presser foot, gently tug all 3 (or 4) serger threads back into the serger/threading guides to take up any of the slack in the threads at the fabric edge. HINT: tug the lower looper thread first, then upper looper thread & finally needles. I got a better finish when I did the tugging in this order.
  • Now lower the presser foot, & start serging again being sure the pre-trimmed starting edge is held a little out of the way (IF you decided to do this).

serger tails 2

  • Now one thing you need to know is that there may still be a few fuzzies at the corners. This might happen due to the cut & type of the fabric used. We know that some fabrics are more tightly woven than others and the cross, bias and straight grain edges produce different amounts of fuzzies due to the weave of the fabric. This did not concern me much as there were only maybe one or 2 tiny fuzzies I needed to trim at some corners. The important thing is that I did NOT have long, thick serger thread tails that had to be ended off as discussed above except at the last corner serged: there is no avoiding this unless someone out there has some miracle tip to share with us???  I choose to use a dab of fray check & snip off the tail when the fray check is dry. But this technique of turning corners does reduce these serger tails from 4 to only 1. That’s good in my book!
  • Voila! You will notice that 3 of your corners have no thread tails, won’t unravel and are neat, sharp corners.  You may need to do a few practice corners before you get the hang of it to then apply this technique to your projects.
Here is a corner done using a 3 thread narrow serged seam instead of a rolled hem.

Here is a corner done using a 3 thread narrow serged seam instead of a rolled hem.

I refer you to a previous blogpost done by Linda P: see  What do I do with my serger? posted August 27th 2012. There is good information & more pics here.  Use the search box on the home page of this janomelife blog to find it quickly.

About lizafrica

I work in the Education Dept at Janome & Elna, Canada and LOVE to sew. I have been employed full time in the sewing and quilting industry for almost 30 years so I bring a wealth of sewing knowledge & expertise to this blog. I enjoy all forms of sewing from quilting to sewing garments to machine embroidery and software. Pretty much everything in my life is seen through the eyes of a passionate sewer! I am constantly on the look out for fun, innovative and inspiring ideas to share with you all on this blog. I also love to read, knit , travel and spend time with my family and friends.
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5 Responses to SPOTLIGHT ON SERGER TECHNIQUE: TURNING A CORNER WITHOUT TAILS OR LOOPS

  1. To avoid a tail at one corner, you can start sewing in the middle of a side. Trim the end (from where you started), and carefully continue stitching past the starting point. You’ll have a tail, but I’ve found it’s easier to run that tail back under the stitching (using a large-eyed needle) than it is to do so at a corner.
    (Of course, this may work differently for you– my serger cannot use the upper knife while stitching a rolled hem. Since yours can, we definitely have different machines. 🙂

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  2. Donna Webb says:

    Dear Liza–You wrote “gently tug all 3 (or 4) serger threads back into the serger/threading guides to take up any of the slack in the threads at the fabric edge.” Do you mean I should open the little doors on the front of my serger and pull the threads from there? I am new at serging. Thank you for your article.

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    • lizafrica says:

      Hi Donna,
      No, no need to open the doors. You can if you wish but I don’t. Just gently pull on the 3 threads (1 in needle and Upper looper & lower looper) AT THE TOP where they come from the cones/through the antennae and then down to the pre-tension guides. Tug the threads backwards/upwards where they are visible above the serger. Do this until you have no slack near the needles & fabric. if you do not do this, then you will have loops at the corners where you have turned to continue along the next side. OK?
      Liz
      Janome Canada

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