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Understanding the basics of a serger

by Elaine Theriault

In yesterday’s post I showed you the features of the Husqvarna Viking HUSKYLOCK s25 serger, isn’t it totally amazing? I haven’t used a serger a whole lot, but I think after playing this week, I will keep the serger very handy.

Another area that scares us with sergers is changing threads and the maintenance. Today, I’ll have a look at both. You won’t believe how simple it is to change the threads or to maintain.

Let’s have a look.

Husqvarna Viking HUSKYLOCK s25 serger

Changing the thread

Here’s a great tip about the threads. Sergers usually come with four or five cones of different colored thread. Now, why would you want different colors of thread? That’s so you can understand which thread does what in the stitch. I know – how clever is that!

Yellow is for the left needle, red for the right needle, green for the upper looper, and the blue thread for the lower looper.

Each thread path is color-coded. This includes the tension slots on the front of the serger, as well as the thread guides for the loopers. When you start serging and you match the color of thread to the thread path, it helps to understand how the stitches are formed. Once you understand that, changing the tension (if necessary) is so easy!

Four different colored cones of serger thread

Now you know what those different colored threads are to be used for – make sure you play around with the HUSKYLOCK s25 serger so you get comfortable with the stitch formation and proper tension. We are afraid of the unknown so if you experiment and learn – using a serger will be easy! Once you know what thread forms which part of the stitch, then you can put the same color thread on all four or five spools and get started!

Each time, you try a new stitch, place these colored spools of thread back on the serger to help you identify which threads are forming each part of your seam.

Here’s a good question. When you want to change the threads, should you cut those threads, tie the new one to the ends and pull them through or should you rethread the serger from scratch? If you’re in a serger class, they’ll cut those threads so close you can’t tie them off. They want you to be able to practice threading the serger!

But once you’ve done it a time or two, there’s no need for that. I clip the upper and lower looper threads far enough back, so I can tie the new thread on. I usually thread the needles from scratch.

Once the threads are tied off or rethreaded through the needle, do a couple of practice runs to ensure everything is working properly and to ensure the old thread color has been used up.

Tie off the old and new threads when changing threads

The tension

Here’s my first test seam after changing the thread colors. You can see the yellow (at the very bottom of the seam) from the left-most needle, the red thread from the right needle, the green thread from the upper looper and the blue thread is on the back from the lower looper.

A test seam of the 4-thread overlock stitch

Here’s the reverse side of the seam. My blue and green threads are very close in color so they don’t show up that well.

Hmm – there are two things I’m not thrilled about. The red needle thread is showing a bit too much on the back, although it’s not a big deal as you would not usually have the thread colors so different.

But the upper looper thread is too loose – see how it’s folding over from the front to the back. Or – it could be the lower looper is too tight.

I did set the Sewing Advisor to Woven Medium, which automatically sets the tension, however, you may need to tweak the tensions from time to time.

The reverse side of test seam of the 4-thread overlock stitch

There’s an excellent guide in the User’s Guide for fine-tuning the tension settings. In this case, I increased the upper tension on the right needle (red). That reduced the amount of thread showing through to the wrong side. It also helped to correct the loose upper looper, but the green thread (upper looper) is still a wee bit too loose (also could be the lower looper is too tight).

The bottom example has better tension than the top, but still needs a bit of tweaking

I tightened the upper looper and you can see I now have a very nice 4-thread overlock stitch. In the photo below, you can see the loops are forming beyond the edge of the fabric in the top example, while the bottom example has the loops forming right alongside the fabric. That’s what I want.

Now I’m ready to serge!

The bottom example is the correct tension

When you change the tension settings, a pop-up window appears on the touch screen. When the numbers are highlighted in black, you know it’s no longer in the default position.

Tension settings pop up screen appears when you start to play with the tension

The lint!

If you’re using the cutter, a lot of lint can collect inside the serger. It’s a good idea to clean the area out frequently. It’s easy enough to do – open the two doors on the front of the serger and using a brush or a small vacuum, remove the lint. I like to use a small vacuum or even the large vacuum as it sucks the lint away, while a brush can push some of the lint further into the serger.

It’s not good to use canned air in this step as that just blows the lint further into the serger and that’s not what I want.

Lint collected inside the seger

You’ll also need to oil the serger according to the schedule outlined in the User’s Guide. The oil comes with the serger and you’ll have enough to last for a long time.

The tweezer (also included with the serger) are very useful when threading the serger. It helps for threading the loopers and the needles.

A tube of oil and a pair of tweezers are part of the serger accessories

Defining terms

Before I wrap up the post for today, I thought I would clarify a couple of terms I’ve used. You might be wondering what’s the difference between an overcast stitch and an overlock stitch.

An overcast and an overlock stitch are essentially the same in that they are both used to create and finish the edges of a seam.

However, the big difference is an overcast stitch is performed on a sewing machine, while the overlock stitch is performed on a serger. Check out the stitches on your sewing machine. You likely have several different overcast stitches available to you, at least one for woven fabrics and another for knits.

The serger will also trim the fabrics as it performs the overlock stitch, something a sewing machine doesn’t do.

While I can perform this step on the sewing machine, my preference is to use the overlock stitch on the serger. It’s much faster.

The cover stitch is a stitch that is used to finish off the edge of a garment, usually a knit garment. It provides the two lines you see on the hem of a T-shirt. A serger either comes with a cover stitch or it doesn’t. It’s not something that can be added later. There’s a special cover stitch table that fits on the front of the serger. A few other changes which are all very well outlined in the User’s Guide and you’re ready to serge a cover stitch. The Husqvarna Viking HUSKYLOCK s25 serger is a cover stitch machine.

A 4-thread overlock stitch, a sewing machine overcast stitch, and a serger cover stitch

Now that I’ve given you a tour of the main features of the Husqvarna Viking HUSKYLOCK s25 serger and I’ve shown you how easy it is to change threads and keep up with the maintenance of the serger, I’ll spend the rest of the week making a couple of projects. I can’t wait!

Have a great day!


This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: Quilting with the Husqvarna Viking HUSKYLOCK s25 serger

Go to part 3: How to piece a quilt using a serger

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