conquering the serger’s top stitching function

i actually made this uh… in april? seems i’m a bit behind in the posting since (despite wedding sewing) i’ve actually been churning out one to two finished projects a week for quite a while. and, much of what i have sewn has been knitwear. i’ve needed quick projects that don’t require much by way of fitting and that are well, practical. there is nothing like warm weather to dial up the need for casual tops and dresses!



this is the first t-shirt i’ve made and it was not without it’s challenges. as much as i prefer a woven stripe (as opposed to a printed one) when i washed this material, the whole thing twisted sideways. had i sewn before washing, the twist would have been a good six to eight inches! so cutting was something of a challenge as this is a very lightweight rayon (?) blend. near tissue weight. if you LOOK at it, it moves.



sewing it up however, proved to be much less difficult than the actual cutting. i did neck and arm bindings similar to the renfrew, only much narrower. i topstitched with a narrow zig zag to keep the bindings from going wonky. then, i hemmed the damn thing.


so this is where things went awry…


this stretchy, lightweight, tissue-thin material did NOT want to be hemmed. i know there’s a whole lot-o-people out there who are all like “AND IT’S KNIT SO IT WON’T RAVEL SO I DON’T HAVE TO HEM IT! YAY!” i am just not one of them. i don’t judge the non-hemmers (much…) but to me, it isn’t finished until it’s hemmed. it seemed my only recourse was to figure out how to do a top stitch on the serger. the instruction manual claims that this is possible, though my previous attempts to do so seemed to prove otherwise.

so close! looking okay from the outside, however my looper
was too tight… or maybe my needle wasn’t loose enough…
actually, it was probably both.


determined to figure this out, i spent 4 hours with a pile of scrap material until finally… finally! i achieved something that was passable. so if you’ve never tried this, it is worth fiddling with for the off chance it is needed for a hem or some interesting decorative stitching.

right side—this is one of my tests. i used a different color
for each thread as i figured out the proper tension.

wrong side—see how the raw edge is enclosed? happy me!


basically what you do is throw off the balance of the threads and fold your fabric similar to how you would for a blind hem stitch. the tension for the left needle is loosened, and tension for the loopers is tightened. then once you have sewn, you open up the fold and end up with vertical stitches on the right side, and what looks similar to a coverstitch on the wrong side. for the actual hem on my tee, i used thread that matches and it blends right in. but, you could definitely use a contrasting color for fun!



so take that impossible to hem fabric! you won’t see me with a raw edge.


—lisa g.

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7 thoughts on “conquering the serger’s top stitching function

  1. Gail says:

    I agree about the not hemming thing! I just can't bear to do it! (Well, OK, I didn't hem my maxi dresses because I wanted the bottoms to remain really flowy. But everything else needs to be hemmed!) I'd feel like I almost finished a project,and then gave up if I didn't hem!I'm so glad you posted this because I have been thinking about this – that it should be possible – but I don't think it's in my user's manual. So you saved me a bunch of time! Thanks!

  2. lisa g. says:

    so glad somebody is on my side here, i thought i may alienate the entire blogosphere with my radical ideas… ha! if i don't do a turned hem of some sort i usually do a rolled edge on the serger. while i'm far from an expert with the serged top stitch, an exhaustive google search on the subject left me empty handed. it's a pretty temperamental stitch, but on mine, the left needle tension was around 2-3, and my loopers were 7-ish. do play around with it, it's pretty cool! maybe someday i'll get around to posting about it more in-depth. good luck!

  3. Gillian says:

    I've been trying to figure out the same things, recently… today I'm wearing a t-shirt that I hemed with the stitch you are describing, and its pissing me off by constantly flipping up! Do yours do that too? I think the tension must be too tight or something… I'll keep trying! 🙂

  4. lisa g. says:

    mine has remained nice and flat, i would guess that the needle thread tension needs loosened a little more or maybe too much fabric is getting taken up in the stitch. it's such a delicate balance, and the slightest change can make a huge difference!

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