Hello, New Serger!

I did it. After being gifted a new sewing machine (Brother cs7000i) by my amazing mom, I realized that new technology in sewing really does make a difference not just in the final product, but in the enjoyment of creating. So once I started making my self-sewn wardrobe plans, I began having a hankering for a serger. Lo and behold I got fed up with how long it was taking me to make a simple “Brunch Blouse” by Patterns for Pirates using rayon challis, that I decided, maybe a serger really would speed things up. It seemed especially justified considering how much knitwear I intend to make.

The Brunch Blouse in question.

And to a degree I was correct about the serger speeding things up. I’ll explain later.

So I ordered a Juki MO-1000 from Amazon.

Behold! My new serger!

I know, I know. These things should be ordered from a dealer, not only for securing a warranty (although I did buy the Amazon protection package), but also for the lessons you would get. But hear me out. There’s a freaking pandemic. The nearest serger dealer is about an hour away, and I don’t think in-person lessons would be happening anyway due to social distancing rules. Yes, I’d like the personal attention, but… I’m super resourceful. Like, ridiculously resourceful. And I spare no time with research. The Juki MO-1000 had the main function I knew I wanted (automatic looper air-threading), and it had incredible reviews. Also the price was right. I’m pleased to say, after completing a t-shirt (well, all the serged portions of it), I have total confidence I made the right choice.

Who am I even justifying this to? It was a great purchase.

The serger really does speed things up, and it just… works. I can’t believe how nice the seams look on this shirt I’m working on. No issues really. And in terms of speed, sergers move FAST. Mine doesn’t have a speed control (aside from the foot pedal), and it really zooms. That was the thing that scared me at first. Well, that and the fact that there is a literal a knife on this thing that chops up your fabric (and anything else in its path) with zero remorse.

So after about a day of learning A LOT, and practicing on scraps, and getting pretty darn good if I do say so myself, I realized a few things:

  • I may have preferred a machine with a seam allowance guide on it. However, I didn’t know seam allowances were so tricky on a serger. So I strategically placed some painter’s tape on which I drew lines at 1/8″ intervals using sharpie. File this under “Things to Do With the Machine Unplugged” as this job requires to getting your fingers dangerously close to the knife zone.
  • Unpicking a serged seam is super easy (search youtube). I had to do it quite a few times once I actually started a project. And if you do need to unpick a serged seam, you can still serge it again, but just graze the knife with the fabric (so your seam allowance will come in just a hair) to ensure placement of the seam. If something really can’t afford to lose even a millimeter of seam allowance, I suppose you could deactivate the knife but I think being a novice, I might have issues with the stitches either hanging over the end or the fabric bulging through the stitches. That said, screwing up a serged seam ended up not being nearly as fatal to my project as I envisioned. I thought once that seam allowance was cut, there was no going back. And as someone who makes a lot of dumb mistakes, that would be a big issue for me. I’m sure irreparable errors can be made, but that’s always a possibility with any project.
  • It’s all about the test run. And I don’t even mean a muslin – I mean testing some fabric scraps before even doing the muslin! I was worried that I be plagued with wavy seams or bunched up fabric. What I’ve learned is, those are problems that I can expect from my sewing machine, but not my serger. As long as I do a few test seams, the owner’s manual of my machine gives very explicit instructions (as do plenty of youtube tutorials) for how to solve for different issues like gathering and waviness. But frankly, I didn’t really find I had many of those issues. Once you understand what knobs address which issues, you start to get a 6th sense for how to alleviate problems. But even those issues were generally pretty minor and a layperson might not even notice. I’ve also started looking more closely at my ready-to-wear, store-bought clothes, and they’re not perfect either! You’ll find funky stitches on the inside of a shirt occasionally, or a gather at the curve of an underarm seam. Fabric is just really unpredictable sometimes, so testing things before going whole hog, ensures a better outcome.
  • The 3-thread overlock narrow is my jam and is probably the main stitch I’ll ever use. Okay, I’m sure there will be times when other stitches will make sense, but this stitch appears to be the one I’m going to rely on for most of what I intend to make.
  • You still need your sewing machine, and for knits, it could get rough. Despite the many joys of my new serger, it was the dang twin need needle hem (faux coverstitch, which is done on a regular sewing machine) that provided me endless grief on my first project. I will blog about how I finally arrived at a hem I’m mostly satisfied with another day, but I did not expect to spend the majority of my frustration at the sewing machine.

I feel like a real sewist now. That’s NOT to say that you must have a serger to be a real sewist. I just feel that I’ve “leveled up, in sewing. With knitting, I’ve developed a knack for just knowing what techniques, tools, and fibers to use to get the results I want. I have not quite developed that with sewing, but I can tell that I’m beginning to, and in time, I will.

I walked into my temp-check at work the other day in my “Brunch Blouse” and a colleague complimented my shirt. They had no idea that I made it myself. They just genuinely liked it. And I didn’t tell them, but I did walk away with a beaming smile. During a time when everything feels so very topsy turvy, having my hobby of garment-making (be it sewing or knitting) provides some normalcy and creative expression. I’m excited to see where this new hobby goes. I think I’m falling in love!

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