by Daughter Fish

Last Christmas, Mr. Fish and I made a deal: I’d sew him a felted wool suit jacket (ahem), and he’d buy me a serger. Almost a year later, said jacket (and another!) still hangs half sewn in my sewing nook. There’s probably a special ring of sewing hell* for this sort of transgression. Of course, on Christmas morning, dependable Mr. Fish came through with a Brother 1034D.

I, however, never quite learned to use the Brother. I don’t like to read manuals. I scanned my serger’s just long enough  to figure out the threading, then tossed the booklet on a pile of magazines and cranked through a few garments. The results were, how should I put it? Unimpressive. Missed stitches, spreading seams, raveling upper and lower looper threads. I spun my tension dials and cranked my stitch length and differential knobs to no avail.

I resisted cracking open the manual for 8 months. I started sewing my knits on my dependable Janome straight-stitch machine. But, as one of my best friend’s mother used to say, if you don’t use it, it dries up. This truth may only tangentially apply to sewing machines, but I didn’t want to find out.

Over the past couple of weeks, I sewed two dresses for a friend, and used them to figure out this dang serging business. One thing I like about sewing for others is that I usually push myself to learn new techniques that I would rarely bother to do for myself.

After relocating the manual, I got to work. As the manual suggests,  I used a different color thread for each needle and looper, so I could more easily determine the proper tension and stitch length (and where things were going wrong). I liked this so much, I decided to actually sew the dresses with the four different colored threads. I chose a macaron palette for the purple shift.

Serendipitously,  The Ultimate Serger Answer Guide arrived in the mail. Holy wow, why didn’t I have this before? Excessive stretching? Lengthen the stitch and adjust the differential feed. Seam spreads or unravels? Reinforce with straight stitches. Everything I’d been having trouble with clearly pictured and solved in this book.

They say beauty comes from the inside, and I’m feeling almost as pleased with the guts of these dresses as the with their exteriors.



Since the chevron dress is cut on the bias, I didn’t need a zipper. But I did add a lapped zipper to the purple shift, using this super awesome tutorial from Gertie. I’ve made lapped zipper closures before, but they’ve all been a little off. But Gertie’s technique makes me want to go back and fix all of them!

Mr. Fish just asked if now that I’ve figured out my serger, will I finish his suit jackets? When I find the manual, my man. Hopefully before Christmas.

*I know a few other seamstresses who have committed similar sins, promising their men shirts and jackets, and not producing. Shall you join me in the sewing Inferno? I’ll bring the rum, if you bring the mixers.