Serger Questions
Posted: 14 September 2011 07:36 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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A question for anyone who is familiar with sergers…

It sounds like sergers can really improve the quality of projects. I am wondering about one thing, though: if the serger cuts and finishes, how does that work if you’ve already carefully cut out your fabric with scissors or a rotary cutter?

In case I decide to take the plunge, I am wondering what I should be looking for in terms of capabilities… I would be using it for projects similar to TH’s kits: UL insulated jackets, quilts, shells, etc.

So basically I would be working with lightweight nylons, and down and synthetic insulations. It would be nice if it could also do things like Lycra bindings around cuffs or hems. That’s all I am planning on using it for.

So what basic capabilities should I be looking for?

The one I am looking at is the Brother 1034D 3-4 Lay-in Thread Serger.

Basic Features:
Threads: 3 / 4
Needles: 2
Stitch Fingers: 1
Differential fabric feed: Yes
Thread tensioning: Manual
Adjustment for thread tighteness: No
2/3 Thread Change: No

Sewing Features:
Overlock Seam Width: 3.0 - 6.0mm
Stitch Width: 4.5 - 7.0mm  
Stitch Length: 2.0 - 4.0mm
Differential Feed 0.7 - 2.0mm  
Presser Foot Adjustment: Yes
Free Arm: Yes
Change for Rolled Hemming: Removable
Double Chain Stitch: No
Cover Stitch: No

Accessory Feet: Blind hem stitch/Multi-purpose guide foot, gathering foot

Does this sound like it would be an appropriate choice?

I appreciate any input on this. I barely understand what they do but I am quite sure that I want one. ;)

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Posted: 14 September 2011 07:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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If you have to get a serger look for a 5-thread machine with auto-thread tension adjust for its 3-thread overcast with 2-thread lockstitch.  But I think you’d be way, way more satisfied with a top of the line sewing machine than a good serger like the 5-thread. A high quality modern machine with a variety of stitches and feet, including overcast, will approximate enough of what a serger does to keep you happy and productive.

Now you’ve got insulated apparel under your belt (no small feat—be proud).  If you get tarp, pack, and quilt projects done then you’ll have experience on a wide-ranging array of the types of things you’d want your machine to be able to handle.  With that kind of experience you’ll have no problem selecting the perfect machine for your needs.

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Posted: 14 September 2011 09:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Good points. I am a bit of a perfectionist so I probably won’t be moving onto packs, tarps, etc for awhile. I’m going to stick with the various types of insulated jackets until I get them pretty dialed!

I guess the appeal of a serger for me lies in the ease of finishing the edges to avoid the raveling issue. I really like the idea that it’s both fast and very effective at that task, vs burning, using a hot knife etc. If it really is the best way to solve that problem (raveling edges) I’d be fine with paying for the model I described - only $200. Might be cheaper than buying a newer, better machine…

However, I’m not sure that I would need a serger for anything else, if there was as an equally good and efficient method for dealing for dealing with the nylon edges.

Would an overcast foot deal with the raveling edges as well as a serger would? My current machine, while good, might not be able to accomodate an overcast foot - it’s one of those “Solid Seventies Singers”, with basic straight and zigzg stitches. Doing a quick search, I found one overcast foot (and only one!) that is supposed to fit low-shank machines but the Singer gets an asterisk (might not fit).

If an overcast foot won’t do the trick, do you think the Brother serger I referred to would be OK for that task, if its sole purpose was primarily to finish edges?

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Posted: 15 September 2011 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I wouldn’t buy a serger just for overcasting the edges of insulated gear in favor of spending your money on material experience with your current machine.  You’ll have to look up the specific capabilities of your Singer as it’s a machine I’m not familiar with.

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Posted: 15 September 2011 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Yeah, I think I will first try to find an overcast foot before going the serger route.

I have a low-shank Singer 237 but most of the overcast feet I’ve found are Snap-On. Not sure if they make adapters…

If I can find an adapter, then I should be good to go for using an overcast foot, not to mention any other possibly useful feet like a walking foot, etc. Seems like it would be a good solution if possible.

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Posted: 15 September 2011 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Make sure you can return it; it will surprise me if a straight&zigzag; machine will satisfactarily overcast.

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Posted: 15 September 2011 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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So in other words, my straight and zig-zagging machine will NOT do overcasting, regardless of whether or not I can find a foot which fits?

Aargh. Maybe I will just have to make friends with the alcohol lamp…

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Posted: 15 September 2011 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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The overcasting function on my Juki has a very complicated head movement. I don’t know your machine, but it would surprise me if your straight/zig-zag machine from the 70’s will overcast.

The conventional wisdom regarding modern machines is bunk; most of the modern machines I’ve used—nylon gears and all (the horror!)—are really capable machines with great features.  And the higher quality modern machines are incredible.

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Posted: 15 September 2011 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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AYCE - 15 September 2011 03:42 PM

The overcasting function on my Juki has a very complicated head movement. I don’t know your machine, but it would surprise me if your straight/zig-zag machine from the 70’s will overcast.


I’m starting to have my doubts too…

 

AYCE - 15 September 2011 03:42 PM

The conventional wisdom regarding modern machines is bunk; most of the modern machines I’ve used—nylon gears and all (the horror!)—are really capable machines with great features.  And the higher quality modern machines are incredible.


I have seen that a lot in the blogs (how terrible the new “plastic” machines are), which does surprise me a bit. How bad could they be? Especially for some of today’s UL fabrics.

What kind of price tags are attached to some of the lower end “higher quality modern machines”?

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Posted: 15 September 2011 06:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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I’m sorry but you’ll have to look into prices for machines on your own as it has been a number of years since I bought a machine.  I don’t recommend that you buy a new machine at this time in favor of getting a more broad based experience with a variety of textiles before making a decision.  Your current singer is capable of completing pretty much any project you throw at it.

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Posted: 15 September 2011 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Sounds good. I’m pretty sure it will be quite awhile before my skill catches up to my machine’s potential. ;) Thanks for your help!

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Posted: 26 November 2011 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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totalnewbie - 15 September 2011 03:21 PM

Yeah, I think I will first try to find an overcast foot before going the serger route.

I have a low-shank Singer 237 but most of the overcast feet I’ve found are Snap-On. Not sure if they make adapters…

If I can find an adapter, then I should be good to go for using an overcast foot, not to mention any other possibly useful feet like a walking foot, etc. Seems like it would be a good solution if possible.

The instruction manual for the Singer 237, which is online for viewing only at http://www.sewingonline.co.uk/instructions/singer237/
has no mention of the overcast foot or of the overcast stitch. The 237 is an excellent machine, but didn’t provide for all of the features possible in a zigzag machine.

I have a Singer 503 which does an overcast stitch and came with an overcast foot, but this was made a few years later than the 237 and it has mechanical cams to allow many more stitches than straight and zigzag.

Goodwill and Salvation Army are places where really good old machines show up inexpensively from time to time.

Your 237 is a “low shank” model and can accept screw on accessories from any other “low Shank” model or brand. There are both “low shank” and “high shank” assortments of feet and even snap-on adapters.

A couple of breakthroughs in sewing machines were the initial sideways motion of the needle for the zip-zag (and buttonhole) stitching and then the use of cams (or internal stacks of cams, called a camstack) for different patterns of sideways motion, and then more complex cams that not only moved the needle from side to side, but would switch the feed mechanism from forward to reverse during the formation of a stitch pattern. Later, stepping motors and digital control allowed ever more complex (and quieter) motions of the needle and fabric.

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