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How to piece a quilt using a serger

by Elaine Theriault

In yesterday’s post, understanding the basics of a serger, it’s a breeze to make things. The serging techniques finish the edges of your projects which is very helpful with fabrics that fray.

Today, I’m making a quilt with the Husqvarna Viking HUSKYLOCK s25 serger. Really? You can make a quilt with a serger? Oh yes! It’s super simple and there are some advantages which I’ll be sharing with you as I progress with the quilt top.

Let’s get started!

 

Husqvarna Viking HUSKYLOCK s25

 

I’m sure there’s someone out there who makes complex quilts on the serger. Since I want you to be successful with your first attempt, let’s start with something fairly simple. I’m sure you’ve heard of a jelly roll quilt – well that’s what I’m making today.

With my newly organized sewing studio, it was a breeze to dig through the box of precuts and come up with a jelly roll that would work for this project.

A quick note about my jelly roll in case you have questions as I show you the pictures. This was made by a local shop, not one of the mass-produced jelly rolls. The strips were not cut accurately. I didn’t worry about that and I’ll show you why as I make the quilt.

The math of the jelly roll quilt

Here’s a quick note about the size of the jelly roll quilt and how you can change the size if you want.

Let’s say I start with 40 strips of fabric that are cut 2½” wide and measure approximately 42″ – 43″ in length.

I’ll join the strips end to end with a diagonal or a straight seam or even by adding a small square in between the strips.

To keep this simple, I will assume each strip measures 40″ once they are sewn together. Once the 40 strips are joined together, I now have a 1,600″ (40 strips x 40″) long strip that is 2½” wide. That’s a very long strip and would make a very skinny quilt. I’m calling this 1,600″ the width of the quilt since the seams are horizontal.

Essentially what I’m doing is cutting the long strip into two equal pieces and sewing them together to get a new (double-wide) strip which measures 800″ wide x 4½” length. Still a very wide and short quilt.

When I cut the double-wide strip in half and sew the two halves together, the width is now 400″ and the length is 8½”.

Repeating the process one more time, the quilt is now 200″ wide x 16½” long.

One more time to get a width of 100″ x 32½”.

One last cut and sewing the two halves together will result in a quilt 50″ wide x 64½” long.

Isn’t it crazy how it works? It’s a perfect size for a quilt.

If you want to make the quilt longer, you must use wider strips. Using 2½” strips will always yield a quilt 64½” in length. If you want the quilt to be wider, then you add more fabric strips and make the initial length of the first strip longer than 1,600″.

Now that you understand that math, let’s get started making a jelly roll quilt with the serger.

Set up the serger

As I mentioned earlier this week, there are 25 different stitches on the HUSKYLOCK s25, including 2, 3, 4, and 5-thread overlock options, as well as chain and cover stitches. I’ll be using the 4-thread overlock stitch to assemble my quilt.

It’s a good idea to do a test run on a scrap of fabric before starting. This fabric should be the same type and weight of fabric as your project. This test will help to ensure all the settings are correct including the cutter, the tension, etc.

 

Running a test of the 4-thread overlock stitch

 

I mentioned the presser foot earlier this week. I’m chain piecing these strips together and I don’t need to lift the presser foot using the lever for each new seam. I simply lift the front of the presser foot and insert the next pieces of fabric.

 

Raise the front of the presser foot to insert the next pieces of fabric

 

There’s my 4-thread overlock stitch. It looks great. Now how does that equate to a ¼” seam allowance?

 

A 4-thread overlock test swatch

 

It’s an exact ¼”. Since some of my strips are slightly wider than 2½”, I won’t worry about a scant seam allowance. It’s possible to change the stitch width, but I’m happy with this width.

Remember, I’m using the Exclusive Sewing Advisor to get the best tension and stitch length for the fabric type and weight.

This is super easy. But wait – you’ll love what happens when I start to sew.

 

The seam allowance is ¼”

 

Step 1 – sort the strips

You can choose to sort the strips or not. I had two each of 20 colors in my jelly roll so I separated them into two piles.

 

The strips were sorted into two piles

 

Step 2 – sort by color

Within each of the two sets of strips, I sorted the strips by color. I did this to randomize the placement of the colors.

I should know better by now this will not always work. But it was fun petting the fabric. I could get technical and figure out the placement of each strip if it was really important, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, it takes up valuable time.

Go for somewhat random and it’ll be fine.

 

Strips are sorted by color

 

Step 3 – the selvage

Selvages are put on fabric to assist in the manufacturing process. They are not intended to be used in projects. Some selvages are white and some are the same color as the fabric.

 

Fabric selvages

 

One of the fabrics even has a number written on the wrong side (which shows through to the front) so I don’t want that in my quilt.

 

A black mark on the wrong side of one of my strips

 

If I were sewing this quilt on the sewing machine, I’d have to trim all those selvages off before I start to sew. No need when serging the strips together. The cutter makes quick work of trimming all the selvages off while I serge the seams. The cut-off ends drop nicely into the waste tray just below the cutter.

This saves a whole lot of time. And no danger of getting the strips mixed up if I had added in the additional step of trimming the selvages off.

 

Trimming the selvages while serging the seams

 

I chain serged (pieced) the strip ends together and the selvages were trimmed at the same time.

This was fast.

 

The strip ends were chain serged (pieced)

 

Once I was finished joining all the strips together, I chained off about 6″ of thread – this is a very important step as it makes it a whole lot easier to start the next line of sewing. No danger the needles or loopers will come unthreaded.

 

Chain off about 6″ at the end of the seam

 

There’s a handy built-in cutter on the back of the serger so I don’t need scissors.

 

A built-in thread cutter on the back of the serger

 

A serger seam is meant to have more ease in it than a seam created by the sewing machine. However, look at the quality of this seam. You can’t see the stitches from the front.

You’ll notice those threads at both ends of the seam. Don’t touch them. Wait to see what happens to them when I move to the next step.

 

The stitches do not appear on the front of the project

 

Step 4 – seam 1

Now I start to sew the strips together along the length of the strips.

Take both ends of the fabric and lay them right sides together. In my photo below, I had not cut the selvage off the ends before I took the photo. Make sure to remove the selvage from the ends before starting as you don’t want those selvages in your quilt.

 

Lay both ends of the fabric right sides together

 

Keep the edges together and serge down the entire length of the strip. You’ll notice nothing is being trimmed off by the cutter. The edges of the jelly roll strips are running right beside the cutter.

 

Nothing is being cut off while the seam is being serged

 

I made a MISTAKE

I was merrily serging along until I came to the end of the first strip. Oh – I forgot to offset one of the ends so the seams joining the strips won’t line up with each other. How could I be so silly? I was so excited to get to the sewing part I forgot that little step.

Now I not only have to rip out, but I have to rip a serged seam which isn’t fun – or is it?

I used a regular seam ripper to slice through the looper threads as shown below.

In a very short time, the errant seam was out.

 

Ripping out a serged seam

 

Once the stitching was removed, I cut about 20″ off the end of one of the strips.

I’m glad this happened. I know I’ve always been afraid of using the serger to sew because I was afraid of how I would deal with just such an incident. Clipping the looper threads with a regular seam ripper made quick work of the error and I was back in business.

 

A 20″ length of fabric removed from one end of the long strip

 

That’s all the time I have today. Make sure you come back tomorrow when I’ll be sewing the entire quilt together using the Husqvarna Viking HUSKYLOCK s25 serger and I’ll tell you how quickly I did it.

Now get out your jelly roll so you can follow along.

Have a great day!

Ciao!

 

This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2: Understanding the basics of a serger

Go to part 4: Finishing the serged jelly roll quilt off with a border

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2 comments

Carol Phillips September 30, 2019 - 10:18 pm

I have been doing about 90% of my piecing on a serger for about 15 years. I love having no rags on the backside. I only machine quilt so bulky seams are no problem. I love my serger!

Reply
Margaret September 25, 2019 - 3:09 pm

Hi. Here’s a really good method for cleanly removing serger stitching… check your inner top stitching line (made by the left needle)… there is invariably a tighter tension on the top or bottom of the stitching. Choose the tighter one and unpick about an inch or so of the thread. Grip the thread tightly and pull (as you would for gathering) it right out of the seam. Then remove the outer top stitching thread in the same way. The looper threads are then simply pulled away. Bonus – NO messy bits of thread to remove. If you’re frugal, as I am, the removed threads can be wound onto an empty real, and used for hand stitching, or basting.
Margaret

Reply

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