Monday, February 1, 2010

Moments of Misery

Stacking - that is when the thread is wrapping around the needle plate and the fabric is not moving. Yipes. If you notice it right away you can gently tug on the fabric and help it move past the stacking. Or at least avoid the thread knot. But if you have a lump or birds nest - then get the sharp scissors and snip the threads to remove them from the needle plate. If it is a mountain of thread you may have to remove the needle plate and the needles to clear the way. Sometimes this happens because the fabric is not advanced far enough under the foot for the feed dogs to grab it. Of course check the thread path to see that the lower looper thread is not wrapped around something and catching. Another reason is that the presser foot is not down. (been there done that too, so I know.)

Skipped stitches (I may have addressed this before, but it is worth repeating). First check to see that the needle(s) are inserted as high as they will go. Check the thread path to see that you have passed through all the thread guides. Change the needles. Another reason is that the needle thread tensions are too loose or too tight, This you will have to test to determine if this is the culprit. Old thread that has passed it's expiration date. It is dried out and needs to be replaced.

Rolled hem peels off the edge of the fabric - yes it is your fault. :-)
When serging we have a tendency to pull the fabric to the left away from the needles. Try, TRY to push the fabric toward the knife as you pass under the needles. If you are sure you are doing that then move the blade (upper knife) a little to the right to take a bigger bite of fabric. Especially when you are serging a curve it is important to watch the knife and not the needles. Whether it is an inside or outside curve keep your eyes on the curb (knife). The needles know their job but the fabric has a mind of its own and will drift away from the needles and the knife if you are not careful.

Thread keeps breaking and it is the lower looper. Most sergers have an order in which they are threaded. Some upper looper first, some lower looper first, check the manual. If you tie off and pull the thread through sometimes you may miss a thread guide for the lower looper. But let's say that the lower looper thread broke and you just re-thread the lower looper. Ain't gonna work. As you turn the hand wheel the needle threads are wrapping around the lower looper and a knot forms and the thread breaks again. If you want to just re-thread the lower looper then remove the thread from the eyes of the needles and then re-thread the lower looper. Trust me those needle threds love to form knots underneath where you can't see what's happening.

The knife is cutting the fabric but it is catching between the knife and the serged edge forming a sort of ragged knot of fabric. (Not sure how to describe it but hopefully you know what I mean.) Most likely the knife is too far to the right (too much space - a gap) and it may need to be moved further to the left. If that doen't work, then I will grab the tail of the fabric cut and guide it down into the waste receptacle. More often this happens with high loft fabrics like fleece. AND I go slow so I can maintain control of the fabric. Rarely, but sometimes the knife needs to be replaced or sharpened. If you serged over a pin then there may be a nick on the cutting side of the knife. Rub an old pair of pantyhose across the blade and see if it catches - that will be a sure sign of trouble in paradise.

I will give you some more info another time- my brain is tired.


  1. Okay maybe you can help me. I make dancewear and I am having such a problem and having some real moments of misery. The kind when you want to just sit and cry. Okay. The needle thread in my serger gets too tight and when I stretch the fabric that I have just sewn, the needle thread pulls in and the looper threads unravel. So the crotch seams on the bootie shorts are coming unravelled when they are stretched. I originally thought that I'd just beaten my poor old serger to wearing out and it just couldn't hold it together, but now my brand new serger is doing the very same thing. I may just have to bite the bullet and buy an industrial, but I really can't afford it and my little home serger has worked for years. Do you know what is causing my problem? I need help. Thank you.

  2. Usually when the threads unravel it is because they have not formed a secure stitch. Are you sure you are inserting the needles as far up as they will go. I am sure you are but I have to mention it. When I used to make swimsuits - I often used wooly nylon thread in the needles. It is softer on the skin and the seam holds better. Is it unraveling at the end of the seam or in the middle? If it is at the end then you may not have left enough of a thread tail. Don't cut the tail, tie it in a knot and then cut it. The other thing is to adjust the differential feed to a slightly lower number. (Test first)

    What stitch are you using, what stitch length, what thread and what cutting width? Are you using the needles recommended for your machine? What model do you have? I will do some more research after you let me know.
    I have to tell you this sounds familiar but it was so long ago.

  3. I am having trouble with my rolled hem coming off of the fabric. I read above about trying not to pull the fabric to the left, do you have any other tips? I tried the rolled hem out for the first time yesterday with my new serger (Brother 1034D). It has rolled hem settings for the width and length. All my test strips where great, but when I did the neckline of a peasanat dress, the rolled edge pulled away in several areas, I do suspect it was from me pulling the fabric to the left as mentioned above, and from what I can tell it happened on the most curved parts of the neckline. I was really dissappointed, and am now hesitant to ruin another project by trying again. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on your blog.

  4. First of all if it is a neckline - then you need to push the fabric towards the blade. Also, I usually move th blade a little over to the right so that I am getting a biger bite and the rolled hem won't peel off. This does take practice - but once you get used to pushing the fabric towards the needles/blade then it will be fun. You could also if you wanted lower the knife and that will assure you that it will catch the fabric.

  5. Thank you for your reply. I've been reading in my serger manual, I'm still trying to understand what everything does. I have a knife lever to retract the upper knife when not inuse. Would I then remove the lower knife too? If I retract/remove the knives, how do I account for the seam allowance that should be trimmed off? I think I will start with a wider stitch width and see what that does, on my machine there is an R setting on both the length and width dials for a rolled hem, but I read on another blog that she uses the 5 setting on the stitch width dial for a rolled hem. Again, thank you for sharing what you know with people like me who are just learning.

  6. Hi I'm also having trouble with my rolled hem peeling off the fabric. I read what you said about pushing it towards the blade, I'm trying but it's not easy when you are a beginner.
    You could also if you wanted lower the knife and that will assure you that it will catch the fabric.UNQUOTE
    As in de-activating the knife totally? I'm going to give that a shot.
    I have a JANOME 8002DX, 4 thread with diff feed, it's about a year old. I removed the left needle, set the stitch setting to R, the lower plate setting same, adjusted tension according to manual, lower looper highest tension. Trying on georgette + chiffon, I've ticked all the boxes... but...not working... sigh....please help if you can, thanks!

  7. Thank You, Thank You Thank You!! It worked, I de-activated the knife and now my rolled hem does not peel off the edge of the fabric, with a bit more practice my rolled hems will be perfect. Yeah the knife is handy but if you're working with pre-cut pattern pieces you don't really need it, I don't know how to thank you enough!!!!!

  8. Hello, I just added a 2nd needle and a 4th thread to my serger and instead of being able to sew, the threads seem to be looping around the plate and jamming under the pressure foot. I have tried re-threading the machine already and that did nothing to improve the mess. Help!

    1. Did you ever figure this out? I'm having the exact same problem. Ugh!

    2. Did either of you find out what was wrong? I'm having this issue after fixing the timing.

    3. Did either of you find out what was wrong? I'm having this issue after fixing the timing.