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The serger ate my homework

2014 March 16
by elizabeth_admin

So I finally jinxed myself.  I spoke (wrote) out loud about my white hot mojo and now I have a (possibly) broken serger.  Yep, jinxed myself.


Today I whipped out another set of leggings.  And, in my fevered sewing and planning, I thought could quickly knock out a t-shirt to match them.  Oh hubris.  Oh how the mighty fall.  But first the leggings.  Yes, they are KS 3661 again.  I love this pattern, did I mention that yet?  Oh yes, I did already.



Here’s an action shot that Jack took which shows the nice pattern matching at the inner leg seams.  Am I stretching before a run or holding up the tree?  Who knows!



This fabric was purchased at Yardage Town a few months back with my friend Susan of Knitter’s Delight.  She’s a pleasure with whom to talk shop and to shop.  Susan bought some of this fabric and made some leggings as well.

Now onto the serger trauma part of today’s story, the matching t-shirt.  I thought I would “perfect” my lace color blocked tee fascination.  After the high of the dot lace and turquoise t-shirt of a couple days ago, I thought I could make a black floral lace and green t-shirt, but this time with cut on cap sleeves like the inspiration shirt.  I just freehand drafted the cap sleeves.

I used the green t-shirt knit I previously used (and had no trouble with before, I might add) to make Jack’s and Thor’s baseball t-shirts for the base of the shirt and some black stretch lace I bought at Yardage Town a few months back to make a skirt I never ended up making.  Yet.   But back to the t-shirt. Everything went together great.  I got the front and back sewn, then sewed them together.  I added the neckband and was ready to serge the side seams.  I was in the home stretch.  I started to sew the first side seam and that’s when I heard some popping and saw this:



Disaster!  A first world problem for sure, but I was pretty bummed nonetheless.  I tried everything to get my serger to stop chewing up my fabric.  I disengaged the upper knife.    I rethreaded.  Twice.  I lowered the differential feed and changed the presser foot pressure.  I was able to reduce the chewing and broken stitches a bit, but not completely.  The weird thing is I didn’t have this problem with any other knits AND I didn’t previously with this very same knit in other projects.  How weird is that?

Here’s a sample after the changes to the tensions.


Her’s a sample of another knit having no problem before or after.



In a fit of disgust, I cut off the green knit and cut out a new front and back bottom to attach to the lace in a black knit.  Unfortunately, my black knit is a little to stable for the look.  I need a little more drape in the bottom knit to go with the lace.  This one is too substantial and stiff.  It doesn’t look… right.  For want of a better word.

See for yourself…



My photographer obviously thought that heads are strictly superfluous in photographs.  😉

What do you think?  A wadder?  I think I’ll sleep on it.  But as for my machine, I’m not sure what to do.  Was it just that the machine didn’t like this particular knit?  Or should I get it serviced?  And where to service?  I didn’t like the place I took it the last time.  Hmmm… More thinking must be done.

In non-sewing news, Little League has started and the little boy who lives with me and his team are already 2 & 0.  Very exciting.



I wish you trouble free sewing my friends.


14 Responses leave one →
  1. March 16, 2014

    Elizabeth, don’t get it serviced, yet! I had the same problem and all I did (after I tried everything else, I might add) was changed needles. See how that goes first. I also think the black t-shirt looks great! Very dressed up. Go with the mojo!

  2. Joy permalink
    March 16, 2014

    If changing your knife doesn’t work, then Henk, the sewing machine guy at Yardage Town will do a good job. He serviced my serger and I was very happy with it. Kind of pricey, though. I think I spent $80 or $90. I would like to try Derek the Sewing Machine Guy next to service my other serger. He charges $45. Derek is on yelp and craigslist and has great reviews. Good luck!

  3. March 16, 2014

    Likewise! My first thought was that you need new needles.

    Leggings are awesome!

  4. March 16, 2014

    The leggings are great! I see nothing wrong with that lovely black top either – at least from my screen 🙂

    Hope your serger issues get resolved soon!

  5. March 16, 2014

    Bummer about the T shirt but it seems likely that a new needle will fix the problem – esp. as the serger had no issue with the other knit (either before or after the issue with the lace T). I do love that post title.

  6. March 16, 2014

    If new needles don’t work, you may try adjusting the knife.
    My knife needs adjustment when switching between thick
    and thin fabrics.

    There are videos on the web that purport to show you how to do that.
    But, Brent, the sew-vac guy around the corner from my house
    does minor adjustments for me for free.
    I get regular overhauls of my whole-house vac and my
    sewing machines/sergers there.

    He says that he gives free minor adjustments for
    the first 12 mo after major service. He doesn’t tack
    on a minimum $80-90 charge like other shops.
    He charges straight time and parts (but major service
    is about $100).

    Between my 2 sergers and home vac, it’s always
    w/in 12 mo of a major service for our household.
    He just chalks all the minor stuff to ongoing
    maintenance (to any of my machines) at no charge.
    And he makes free house calls w/in a 2 block radius
    (as do many of the merchants in our urban village).

    • March 16, 2014

      I meant 2 sergers, 2 sewing machines, one whole house vac. 5 machines.

  7. Suzanne permalink
    March 16, 2014

    My two cents: Its the knife. Had the same issue. One a thicker more stable fabric it chewed it up. On a thinner one, no problem. Apparently the blade was sharp enough for thin fabrics, but not sharp enough for the thicker one. Replaced the knife, and no more problems. That doesn’t look like a needle issue.

  8. March 16, 2014

    1 – Try new needles. 2 – Try a new knife. My bet – the knife is dull, so not cutting the thicker fabric, thus causing the stitches to get stuck and look funky. Looks like the other knits you used were thinner/slipperier and maybe easier to cut? My machine does this when I need new blades – usually about once a year.

  9. March 16, 2014

    Wow, it really chewed up that fabric.
    I like the black lace with the black fabric. I think it looks great!

  10. March 16, 2014

    I love your leggings! The fabric is nice. The little boy that lives with you is oh so growing! I’ve been following you when you had your other blog. :-).

    I don’t have a serger, but I’m sure my day is a-coming!

  11. lynn permalink
    March 18, 2014

    I had the same thing happen with my serger a year ago and it was definitely the knives. Have them *both* replaced. I’ll have to try adding lace to a knit top. Neat.

  12. December 15, 2014

    I found your blog while googling images of serger stitches. I’ve been trying to troubleshoot my Bernette 234 for a while. I use if for my business and can’t afford a new machine right now so…
    I saw your old serger was doing something similar to what mine is and I was so disappointed that there was no diagnosis and cure.
    I did find something that has helped mine dramatically and if you’ve still got your old one hanging around, maybe yours too.
    I’m missing a needle-like piece in my needle plate. Picture on instagram for comparison.

    Anyhow… Something to look for for others that find your blog the way I did.
    I paid $50 for my serger probably 8 years ago. I don’t mind paying $59.99 + shipping to get this problem resolved! She’s worked hard for me. Still crossing my fingers that I don’t get an email today to say they no longer carry this item.

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