Over the past few months in my Craftsy class, I’ve had students ask me about the various ways to end serger chains. I review two different ways to end them in my class, but I thought I’d highlight the five main ones here, for my students and anyone else who is interested. Not all of these methods can be used for every stitch. For instance, you wouldn’t try to serge over the beginning of your thread chain if you were making a rolled hem, because it would be bulky and ugly.
Method One: Tail Tuck
The first way to end a serger chain is to feed the thread chain back into the stitching using a tapestry needle. When you have finished serging, leave a nice but somewhat short length of thread chain hanging off the end of your project. Push a tapestry needle threader thru the eye of a blunt tapestry needle (1), and pull the thread chain thru the needle eye (2, 3). Use the needle the feed the thread back into the stitch, feeding it under the looper threads for at least an inch (4).
Clip off any excess thread chain length, being careful not to cut the stitch looper thread. Dab a touch of seam sealant such as Fray Check on the end if you want to make sure the thread doesn’t work its way out of the end of the stitching.
Method Two: Serge Over Chain
The second way to clean up your thread chain actually begins before you even make a stitch on your fabric. This method is used at the beginning of your stitch, and can’t be used at the end of it. You could choose any of the other four methods for ending the bottom of your thread chain though.
Begin by making a thread chain on your serger.
Lift your presser foot, and pull this thread chain around to the front of your serger. With your presser foot still lifted, place your fabric under the foot so that the next stitch your serger makes will be on your fabric. Arrange the thread chain so that it will not fall past the left needle (or right needle, if you’re not using the left needle). Keep the thread chain between the needles and the blade, so it is not cut off, and begin serging.
You can make your serger thread chain shorter than mine if you’d like, and this will still work the same way.
Method Three: Thread Knots
The next method involves untangling your thread chain, and separating the individual threads to knot them off.
Use a tapestry needle or a long sewing pin to help you quickly untangle the threads. I cut off a bit of extra thread chain so I didn’t have to untangle as much, which was probably not the best idea. It’s harder to tie knots when you only have very short needle threads!
As you’ve probably noticed, I made all of these samples using a 4-thread overlock. This is the easiest thread chain to knot off, because you can match one needle thread to one looper thread, and they are evenly paired. If you are sewing a 3-thread overlock, then you should pair up the needle thread and one looper, and tie those around the other looper thread.
This is really nice to use for decorative threads on the outside of garments, where you don’t want to add bulk or sealant to the stitch.
Method Four: Seam Sealant
The most common way that I see students finish their serged seams is with seam sealant. My favorite brand of sealant is Fray Check, which is easily found in fabric stores and online. You can apply it to the ends of all of these thread chain treatments for extra security, if you like. However, I wouldn’t use it on fabric like chiffon and silk because it can make the end of the stitch very stiff. To combat the stiffness, you can place muslin over the sealant as soon as you apply it and then steam iron it to dry it. The glue will then be softer and more pliable.
I keep a plastic headed craft pin in the end of my Fray Check at all times. The cap still closes securely with the pin inside of it. It keeps the hole in the applicator tip from closing up with dried glue, and also keeps it from leaking out into the cap when the bottle falls over.
To use the sealant, simply dab it on the end of the stitch and clip off the excess thread chain. This is my favorite way to end rolled hems, particularly when I make fabric napkins.
Method Five: Flip and Serge
The last way to finish your thread chain is a very strong option, but it can look a little bulky. With this method, you complete your serging right up to the end or edge of your fabric, and raise the needles to their highest position (1). Give each of your needle threads a slight tug, to loosen the tension so the next step is easier (2). Raise the presser foot, and flip your project all the way over so that you see the back of the stitching (3). The loosened needle threads help with this step. Then, place the project (wrong side up) back underneath the presser foot, making sure to keep the original stitching and looper edges away from the blade (4). You don’t want to cut the looper threads! Serge over the existing stitches for at least an inch, and then pull your fabric to the left of your machine and serge off the edge of the project.
Clip the thread chain near the edge of the fabric. Notice how the secondary stitching came (very!) close to the original needle thread, but did not cross over it. Did you have any idea there were so many options? What is your favorite way to end your serger thread chain?