Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What I'm Reading: beginner serger books

Y'know that scene in The Princess Bride when Vizzini and Westley are having their battle of wits? Sometimes I feel like Vizzini. Trying to be smarter than my own good. I have made exactly 0 garments on my serger (only pieces here and there) and yet I've read 3 books on the topic. I mean, I'm glad I read the books, and I've used my serger enough to use up the thread that came with it, but while writing this post I was thinking that I might have spent too much time reading. Nobody ever said "reading makes perfect" did they?! So here's to being more like Inigo and less like Vizzini : )

For once in my life, I actually did something in the right order. There are quite a few serger books on the market, and I've got three to talk about today. Each one has pros and cons, and quite by accident I read them in an order that allowed them to build on one another. No checking on what a rolled hem was before knowing how to adjust tension. Hooray for happy accidents!

The Complete Serger Handbook by Chris James is the #1 serger book on Amazon, for good reason. It's very basic, which is what you need when you don't know anything about serging (like me!). It carefully explains all the parts and has pictures of different brands of machines. It also spends a lot of time on thread and when to use what, and where. I found the section on tension the most helpful, because I've never adjusted the tension on my sewing machine and had no idea what tension was all about. I understand it a lot better now and can even apply this knowledge to my regular sewing machine.

Starting out with this book is probably your best bet. It comes with a spiral binding so you can lay it flat and keep it near your machine. You can also read it quickly because it's not too long. As a beginner's book, it's perfect, but if you're like me then you'll want to move on to more specifics once you've gotten the basics down.

Sewing with Sergers by Gail Brown and Pati Palmer is a perfect example of not judging a book by its cover. It almost resembles a pamphlet in its small, short, illustrated presentation. In a brief space, these authors fit a TON of information about garment sewing and all kinds of outside the box ideas. It's written in a fun, conversational manner that makes the projects seem easy. I noticed a few reviews on Amazon complained that there were no real pictures, just illustrations, but I didn't mind that. Simple illustrations of garments were easier for me to understand. This book builds on the previous one, because it shows how to implement the basics into wearable items. If I had to pick one book on serging to buy, it would be this one.

Serger Secrets has 5 different authors, who all contribute projects and tips. It spends a very short amount of time on basics, instead starting out with a section called "Beyond the Basics". If you want a more detailed, in-depth serging book, look no further. There are a zillion color photos showing stitch types, as well as a Garment Gallery to help you visualize what sergers can do. The bulk of the book is an alphabetical reference section covering everything from Beading to Zippers. My most favorite part of this book was about Heirloom Sewing. I had always seen that term floating around, but never knew what it meant. This book provides beautiful photos showing serging techniques with lace, pintucks, and even how to create your own fabric for those one-of-a-kind items that you'll want to hand down through the generations.

As boring as it is, your best resource for serging is always going to be your instruction manual and practice. Like everybody else, I was scared of threading, but when my lower looper thread broke in the middle of serging, I had no choice but to learn. It's not as scary as you think! There may be 4 cones of thread, but 2 of them go through needles, just like your sewing machine. It's not so hard learning how to thread 2 loopers, I promise!

And if you're more of a visual learner or are looking for direct feedback, check out the Beginner Serging class on Craftsy (affiliate link). I bought this class and it's an amazing resource for anyone who might be intimidated by their serger. There is no substitute for seeing something new done by a knowledgeable instructor.

What are your go-to titles for learning about serging? Are you a Vizzini or an Inigo?


  1. I checked out a few books on serging from my library and read through the manual, but mostly just played with it, actually i'm still constantly playing with it to adjust the settings. There's a creftsy class of serging that i've thought about watching - have you looked at that? and now i always change thread by tying off knots between the new and old threads and just pulling it through - so much faster!

    1. The Craftsy class on serging is definitely on my wishlist! I think it helps to see video so you can pick up on good technique. I have heard of rethreading by tying off knots, but I want to make sure I learn the "right" way just in case!

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