I'm Trisha, 31 years old from Germany. I love to sew cute things with a punkrock attitude. Vegan. Feminist. Socially akward. I love my pet rats. Oh, and I am also a Zombie ... Guarr Argh Guh!
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How-To: Serge with the zigzag stitch (and why it is so important)

This DIY Friday is dedicated to the lovely Sal who asked me how to to that and to all the wonderful creative tutorial writers who always forget one little thing ;)

Whenever I see a pretty sewing tutorial around the Internet and see that the author does not serge (or doesn’t mention serging at all for that matter) it  makes me a little mad. The cutest little dress, ruffled blouse, skirt or whatever wont last very long if you don’t take the time to finish your project correctly. And that means serging the raw edges of your seam allowance. Of course not every fabric needs to be serged, but most of them and for some it is even essential that you do so (like corduroy). It is also a must for adding bias tape to the edges.
It is so easy. You don’t need a fancy overlock/serger to do so. If you have a sewing machine to begin with than you have everything you’ll need. The secret is the so simple: The zigzag  stitch. Sure it takes time to “double” sew every seam, so to say, but hey, it will be worth it. I’ll show you what I mean:

I sewed together two little pieces of  simple cotton fabric. One I serged with the zigzag, the other I didn’t. (I know it’s not pretty, but I’m just trying to proof a point here ;) )

Now I took these two and put it in the washing machine. And as I was done with that I even put it in the dryer for about 20 minutes (dundundun!). Here is what they looked like afterwards:

The serged piece. It looks pretty okay to me. The edges didn’t come apart and didn’t fringe very much since the fibers of the fabrics being hold together by the zigzag.

Opening it up we see that I can toss the fabric and nothing will happen. The seam is totally sturdy.

Now let’s have a look at the other piece.

Help! Fibers on the loose! Oh oh, see what I mean? All the raw edges started to fringe. The whole seam allowance has come undone.

When I toss just a little it even starts to rip apart (after washing it only once!). There is no stability, the fabric just dissolves. Now imagine that being your new skirt you’re so proud of or your new favorite dress.

So, how to serge? It’s so simple.

Just use the zigzag stitch of your machine. Every machine should have one. Use a large stitch width and stitch length.

Place your fabric so that the raw edge is just under the middle of your presser foot.

Now use the zigzag to sew along the raw edge of your fabric. The first part of the stitch will pass right by the fabric…

…and the second part of the stitch will go trough the fabric. That’s it!

It is that easy! Now you can go wild in your new garment and nothing will come undone… especially not you after doing laundry ;)

One more thing: It can happen that your stitch width or stitch length is not adjusted correctly and it might look like this afterwards:

When that happens, just play with the adjustments of your stitch width or stitch length. Every machine is different, so use a scrap piece to try out the optimal adjustments for your machine.

Any questions? Feel free to ask me :) Now I hope I could help you a little and you’ll have fun with your hand made goodies :)

Liebe grüße, TrishArgh


Comment from Cassi
Time September 17, 2010 at 8:49 pm

ahhh the one you told me about ;)!

Comment from Claire D
Time September 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm

fabulous tutorial!! I often have to re read my mums vintage sewing books!

Comment from TheraJoyce
Time September 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Awesome! Thanks for writing this tutorial Trisha!

Comment from Ashley!
Time September 20, 2010 at 4:15 am

I’m a believer!

Comment from Sal
Time September 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Thank you, Trisha, you are the best!

Vielen,vielen, vielen Dank für das Tutorial! :)


Comment from tami
Time April 28, 2013 at 10:30 pm

thank you so much your demo about serge stitch is great.

Comment from Sophia
Time May 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Thanks! very helpful tip for my first skirt and now I know what serge means :)

Comment from Rachel
Time October 29, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Thank you for this tutorial!!! I see all sorts of stitches on my clothes that I just don’t understand. And, I keep hearing how much I need a Serger, but I’m just a beginner who’s still just trying sewing out with a basic sewing machine. This helps a lot!