I wonder if you might be as guilty as me when it comes to the proper care & cleaning of your serger? I wondered quite a few months back why my serger was no longer such a happy camper and was “chomping” my fabric edge instead of cutting it cleanly. I assumed that my blade was dull so I replaced my upper blade with a new one. OK……good, but sadly that did not solve the whole problem. It was a bit better but still “chomping”. So my next thought was that maybe the lower blade needed to be replaced as well? Actually no. My local Janome dealer serviced the serger for me and did not end up replacing my lower blade. He said it was still good (which is impressive as I have been using that serger A LOT for almost 10 years!) No, apparently I was the naughty girl who had not been keeping her serger cleaned and oiled properly enough and my lower blade had seized up with lint & “gunk” and was barely functioning. Lesson learned……proper housekeeping is SO important.
So the question begs to be asked: How do I care for and clean my serger?
It is obviously all important to show some care and attention to your serger to have it keep working for you the way you have come to expect and love. It needs to be cleaned and oiled regularly. This is even more important with sergers as the cutting of the fabric edge creates a lot more lint ….the fluff that collects is worse than the dust bunnies under my sofa – Really!
Try to make it a firm habit to dust off and clean out your serger after completing each serger project. Use your lint brush. The one that comes with the serger is OK but I prefer a larger one as its gets further into the spots that the smaller one does not necessarily reach. (see pic above). Resist using those canned air products as all you may do is force the lint further into the recesses of your serger where you probably will not be able to reach.
Removing the needle plate
About once a quarter, we suggest you do a bigger clean up: remove the stitch plate or needle plate and clean out the lint that builds up under that and on your feed dogs. Follow the instructions in your manual for how to remove the needle plate on your particular model or ask your local dealer to show you how to do this.
Clean the cutting knife – now this is where I think I came undone!
Lower the blade. Consult your manual or your dealer if you are not sure about how to do this although you should know if you took your owner;s classes as we tell you often! Once the upper blade is lowered, it lets you get in to clean between the upper and lower blades – the part that gets a lot of action! This is apparently the part I missed and learned to my detriment how crucial it is. I had been oiling well but somehow the oil mixed with the lint and “glued” my lower blade so it stuck. Not good.
Remember to raise the upper blade back up into cutting position once you have done all your “housekeeping”.
Oiling a serger:
You would not drive your car for many years without oiling and so it is with your serger (and sewing machine). It may eventually seize if you don’t oil it.
- Check with your dealer what is the best/correct oil for a serger. There should have been a little bottle that came with your serger but once you use that up, do check with your dealer to ensure you buy the correct product.
- If you oil too much and/or too often, that is as bad as too little/never. The oil will attract all the fluff like a magnet and grime will build up pretty quick in just the part of your serger which is doing the most work. So do avoid this.
- If you hardly ever use your serger, the oil will dry up faster than if you use your serger regularly. Think about it this way: if you park your car outside your house but only get into it and drive once every 2 -3 years, would you expect it to work well for you? I don’t think so. So, if you last used your serger several years ago, it is time to oil.
- If you serge regularly like I do, oiling after each major cleaning would be wise.
- There are only two points that need oil on most sergers: and both are on the looper shaft. If in doubt, look at the diagram located on the machine. and note the arrow in our pic below.
I think we are all guilty of forgetting to change out our sewing machine needles. Probably even more so with our sergers?
- Check with your manual and/or your local Jnaome dealer to establish what is the correct needle type for your serger. Some of our sergers require a EL needle (which is elongated as the EL suggests). It is essential you use these as the looper threads may not get picked up if the needles are too short. This causes skipped stitches and you wont be happy with that.
- The size and type of needle is usually determined by your project needs. The smallest size needle you should use in a serger is size 70. This is because you need a sturdy needle in a serger which sews very fast and could deflect and break easily if too small a needle.
- On the other side of the coin, dont use aneedle larger than a size 90 as you may affect the clearance between the loopers and that could lead to problems. Size 80 is probably about right for most projects.
- Change your needles about once a month depending on how much serging you do. Serger needles do last a little longer than sewing machine needles – as a general rule.
- Do not serger with bent needles. Change those right away.
Back to the anology of your car: you would regularly take your car to the shop to be serviced – especially if the car is sounding different or not operating the way you expect. Same with a serger: if you keep breaking needles, get skipped stitches or ride over a pin with your cutting blade, then it is probably time to take it to your local Janome dealer to be serviced. We recommend at least once a year is the general rule for a service at your dealer – with you doing regular “housekeeping” in between.
And BTW, the best thing I ever did with my serging was to stop using pins altogether. I had too many near misses or collisions with my blade. But since I started using Clover clips for all my serging, I am one happy camper. Less nerve wracking and so easy.
I find that the little brushes manufactured by Wilton, the cake and cookie decorating people, is the best cleaner for both serger and sewing machine. The spiral end really captures the lint and pulls it out. the brush end is good for the lint near the front. I was taught to clean after EVERY project. My more than 20 year old serger (an elna, which at least in the US where I am, is a Janome product) still operates perfectly, and is much easier to thread than the “:automatic threading” sergers sold by other companies. Proper oiling is imperative, too.
Thanks for the excellent article. It is relevant no matter what brand of serger. The pictures make it much more clear as to what to do. The one suggestion that I would have for the future is that needle sizes be referenced using both numbers. The article uses 70, 90, etc. The picture uses 11,14. Some individuals may not be able to easily make the connections. Thanks for your helpful suggestions.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” — Melody Beattie
I will take into consideration your suggestion about needle sizes. Many thnaks for the input.