Serger Narrow Hems & Rolled Hems


A SINGER serger is a wonderful addition to your sewing room! The serger sews a seam and seam finish at the same time, while simultaneously trimming away excess seam allowance. Not only is the serger a great time saver, but your projects will have professional finishes as well. Sergers offer a variety of stitch choices for different applications, depending on model. Two very popular serger stitches, though, are the narrow hem and the rolled hem. These hems are often seen on the edges of napkins or table linens, the edges of ruffles, scarves and much, much more. The type of fabric being sewn basically determines whether you use the narrow hem or the rolled hem.

As this is National Serger Month, we’d like to share with you some tips for achieving the best results possible when sewing narrow hems and rolled hems on your SINGER serger. We’ll start by explaining basic machine set up (regardless of which type of hem you want to sew). Then we’ll explain the differences between the narrow hem and the rolled hem, how to do small stitch length adjustments to fine-tune the look of the stitches just the way you want them, and a few troubleshooting tips as well.

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Basic Machine Set Up

No matter which hem (narrow or rolled) you want to sew, the stitch finger must first be adjusted accordingly. Doing this means that the width of the finger (on which the stitches are formed) becomes smaller so that machine can sew narrower stitches. For most current machine models, this is done simply be moving a lever at the front of the machine (forward position for narrow and rolled hemming). Some older models required changing of either the stitch plate or the changing the stitch finger itself, so check your machine manual.


The stitch length is usually shortened so the stitches sew closer together and less fabric is visible between the individual stitches.  The smaller the stitch length setting number, the closer together the stitches will be to one another. The larger the stitch length setting number, the farther apart the stitches will be. Some models may have a setting designated by an “F” which means “fine”, indicating that model’s shortest stitch length setting. Changing the stitch length will change the look of the hem, depending on the fabric you are sewing. Experiment on scraps before sewing your project.


Only the right needle is used. The left needle is not just unthreaded – it must be completely removed from the machine or the stitches will not form properly.


Leave the cutting blades engaged. Fabric is sewn with the fabric right side up, and as you sew, the excess fabric is trimmed, providing a cleaner finish than if you try to stitch without trimming.


Adjust the position of the lower cutting blade, setting it so that the fabric is trimmed more narrowly than it is for regular serger stitching. With less fabric in the hem, you’ll have a cleaner, finer finish. For most current models, the lower blade adjustment is done by turning a dial near the front of the machine. For details on how to adjust the position of the lower cutting blade for your particular serger model, consult your instruction manual.



Narrow Hems

When sewing a narrow hem, the threads ‘meet’ at the very outside edge of the fabric.   The fabric edge remains flat and is not rolled over to the back side as the stitches are formed.  The narrow hem is a good choice for medium-heavy weight fabrics, as these fabrics generally resist “rolling”.  This hem is typically slightly wider than the rolled hem due to the fact that the fabric isn’t being rolled, but it is narrower than using a regular 3-thread stitch as an edge finish.

A narrow hem is sewn with 3 threads – the upper looper, the lower looper, and the right needle.  You can use serger thread in both of the loopers and the needle.  Generally, the thread tensions will be set very similarly to the way they are for regular 3-thread overlock stitching.



Rolled Hems

When sewing a rolled hem, the fabric edge “rolls” over as the stitches are formed.  The stitches that appear on the top side of the hem are also visible on the bottom side of the hem.  The rolled hem is a good choice for lightweight, medium weight and sheer fabrics like cotton, organza, organdy, silk and chiffon.

A rolled hem is sewn with 3 threads – the upper looper, lower looper and right needle.  You can use serger thread in both of the loopers and the needle.  However, the thread tensions are adjusted to create the “rolling” effect at the edge of the fabric.  The upper looper is loosened, allowing more thread into the stitch so that it can appear on both the top side of the fabric and the bottom side.  The lower looper tension is tightened so that there is less of the lower looper thread on the underside, since the upper looper thread will wrap around to the back.



Adjusting Stitch Length

Whether you are sewing a narrow hem or a rolled hem, sometimes small adjustments to the stitch length will allow you to fine-tune the look of the stitch just the way you want for your particular project.  Always test-sew on a scrap fabric so you can adjust the stitch as desired for the particular fabric you are sewing.

You can sew hems with a longer stitch length setting, which means that there is more space between the individual stitches.  This will allow the hem edge to be more ‘fluid’, especially with softer fabrics.

You can sew hems with a shorter stitch length setting, which means that there is less space between the individual stitches, but this will usually require some adjustment to the tension settings.  When the stitch length gets shorter, there is usually too much thread for the space allowed with each stitch, so it will be necessary to adjust the tension to compensate for this.

(See photo:  Left shows shorter stitch length, right shows longer stitch length)


If sewing a narrow hem on a project where you want the fabric edge covered completely (no fabric showing between stitches), but the stitch length setting is set the way you want it for your project, you may want to consider using a texturized nylon thread in both the upper and lower looper.  This thread is thicker and provides more coverage than regular serger thread.  When using this thicker thread, you can leave the stitch length setting a bit longer than when sewing with regular serger thread.




If the hem is tearing away from the edge of the fabric, it could be that the stitch length is set too short for the fabric being sewn, causing perforation.  Try increasing the stitch length, which should eliminate the perforation effect.

Check your manual for the correct style of needle to be used with your serger model.  For sewing medium weight fabrics, use a size 14 serger needle.  For lightweight or sheer fabrics, use a size 11 serger needle, which is finer.  Using a needle too large for the fabric may result in holes at the stitching line.

If the fabric seems a bit “puckered” along the stitching line, you could try decreasing the differential feed setting slightly.  This will cause the front part of the feed teeth to move a bit more slowly relative to the back part of the feed teeth, which works to help remove puckers as you sew.

Depending on fabric type and weight, you may see thread bits – sometimes referred to as “pokies” – showing at the fabric edge and sticking out between the stitches.  You could try spraying the fabric with fabric spray starch, which will put a little more body and stability in the fabric as you sew.

Sew a thread chain before placing the fabric into the machine.  Hold the thread chain lightly as you begin to sew.  When you finish sewing the fabric edge, or when you sew off to form a corner, apply a drop of fabric seam sealant.  Let it dry completely before trimming away the remaining thread chain – if you trim the thread chain before it is dry, the stitches may begin to come undone.

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Enjoy sewing with your SINGER serger!


Applique Inspiration

Learn The Basics, Quilting, Sewing Projects, Tips & Hints, Uncategorized

March is National Craft Month, and it is also National Quilting Month!  One thing that crafters and quilters usually have in common, though, is a love for applique.  So, this month we thought we would share some fun ways we have used applique recently, in hopes of inspiring your own creativity – no matter what type of sewing you like to do!

One very popular use for applique is to create monograms.  Both examples shown below were sewn onto the base fabric with a satin stitch (zigzag stitch with shortened stitch length).  When the appliques were finished, the fabric with the “b” design was stretched around a fabric canvas, to hang on the wall.  The “H” design became the center of a pillow for a girl’s room.


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Here are some images from a simple quilt for a baby’s room, which features basic applique.  Many of the pieces are large, making it easy to stitch around them with a satin stitch.


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It’s also fun to applique as an alternative to machine embroidery.  This baby onsie features a simple cupcake design.  The bottom of the design was first embellished with a straight stitch, creating the “ridges” of the cupcake bottom. The top and bottom were applied to the onsie with a zigzag stitch, then the whole thing was topped off with a little purchased flower bud.


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You can embellish appliques by adding surface texture instead of the traditional satin stitching.  In the pillow shown below, we used a Cording Foot.  A single cord was placed in the foot’s center groove, then set the machine for a narrow zigzag stitch to add the cord as a ‘border’ around the appliqued shapes on this pillow.


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When it’s time to think about sewing for the holidays again, here are some ideas from projects we’ve done that might inspire you!

First is a placemat and napkin set.  The “trees” were first embellished, then trimmed to size and appliqued onto the base fabric.  Two of the trees feature a scallop stitch sewn with rayon thread, two of the trees feature a serpentine stitch sewn with a twin needle, and one tree has small fabric circles applied to the tree fabric with free-motion stitching.  The coordinating napkin has a decorative stitch that has a triangular shape, complementing the shape of the trees appliqued to the placemat.


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We also made a couple of Christmas stockings.  One features a simple diamond shape (super easy!), but then a straight stitch added for embellishment – the result is an ‘argyle’ effect!  Our other stocking features a little Scottie dog applique, sewn on with a simple zigzag stitch.


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Of course, we had to make some pillows as well!  These appliques were made from felt, cut into the shapes of holly leaves, berries and stems.  Because they were made from felt, there was no need to finish the outside edges of the shapes to prevent fraying.  Free-motion stitching was used to applique these to the main pillow fabric.




Another pillow was made featuring “ornament” designs.  The “ornaments” were done in a similar manner as that used for the “trees” placemat.  One (below left) was embellished with decorative stitching.  The other (below right) was first textured with stipple quilting.  The shapes were then cut out and then appliqued onto the base fabric before assembling the pillow.


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We hope you’ve been inspired to look at applique in a new way!  For more ideas, go to www.singerco.com.


Stabilizer Basics


What is Stabilizer?

When doing machine embroidery, most fabrics will require that you use stabilizer in order for the embroidery design to stitch out successfully.Stabilizer serves as a foundation, helping to support the fabric while the embroidery machine stitches out the design. If you don’t use a stabilizer, you may experience issues like fabric distortion, puckers within or around the design, or stitches ‘sinking’ into the fabric – just to name a few!



Though there is a large selection of stabilizers available today, the 3 basic categories of stabilizer are tear-away, cut-away and wash-away.

• Tear-away stabilizers are temporary, supporting the fabric during embroidery. They are usually recommended for woven (non-stretch) fabrics. After embroidery, the excess is carefully removed from area around the design.
• Cut-away stabilizers are permanent, meaning that the stabilizer stays in the design after embroidery is finished. Only the excess around the outer perimeter of the design is trimmed away. Cut-away stabilizers are usually recommended for stretch knits and unstable fabrics. Even after frequent laundering, the embroidery design will stay intact because the stabilizer stays in the fabric.
• Wash-away stabilizers are a good choice when embroidering light weight fabrics, fabrics with a nap, or on fabrics where the design will show on both sides. After carefully removing the main excess stabilizer, the excess is simply rinsed away.

Within these three main categories, however, there are variations such as lightweight, medium weight, heavyweight, fusible, non-fusible, mesh and more. Knowing how to properly stabilize involves a little trial and error at first. Follow the stabilizer manufacturer’s recommendations for best results!

Stabilizing for Common Embroidery Projects

Here are tips for some of the most common embroidery projects. Check out our handy reference chart at the end of this article for information on choosing stabilizer for additional fabrics!


Towels can introduce challenges because of their thickness and texture. A towel’s thickness can make hooping difficult, and a towel’s texture can cause embroidery stitches to become ‘buried’. Choose embroidery designs that offer good coverage of the towel. Avoid tiny design detail or tiny lettering.
Stabilizer is used not only on the back of a towel, but also on the top to help prevent stitches from getting buried in the towel’s surface texture. The “topper” is usually a wash-away stabilizer, placed on the top of the towel, either hooped with the fabric or secured with pins. The “backing” is usually a tear-away stabilizer on the back side of the towel. It may be hooped along with the towel or hooped alone, depending on the thickness of the towel.
Hoop the towel and backing stabilizer. Place the wash-away stabilizer on top of the towel, then use straight pins to pin the topper and towel to the hooped stabilizer. Make sure the pins go through to the backside and that they are outside of the area to be stitched. Embroider the design, then carefully remove the stabilizers.

T-Shirts, Sweatshirts & Fleece

To embroider T-shirts, sweatshirts, or fleece, apply a cut-away stabilizer underneath.
This will stabilize the stretch and provide a soft, permanent backing. For non-fusible cut-away stabilizer, it may be helpful to use a temporary fabric spray adhesive to help prevent the fabric and stabilizer from shifting.  Alternatively, you could opt for a fusible cut-away stabilizer. Hoop the fabric without stretching it, and don’t overly tighten the hoop adjusting screw.  If desired, a wash-away topper (see the “Towel” section, above) can also be used, particularly helpful for embroidering fleece, so the machine’s presser foot can move more freely.

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Sweater Knits

When working with sweater knits, the best sweaters to work with are those that have a small, even rib, rather than heavier bulky knits. To embroider directly onto the sweater, first hoop a cut-away stabilizer. Apply a temporary fabric spray adhesive to the stabilizer, and then place the sweater directly onto the stabilizer. It is important not to “hoop” the sweater, as hooping it will cause distortion of the sweater and likely leave hoop marks. If you pin the sweater to the stabilizer, make sure the pins are outside the area to be embroidered. A wash-away stabilizer can be used as a topper.





Denim or Twill

Denim fabric is actually an unstable twill weave, and a firm weight of cut-away stabilizer is recommended. If the embroidery design is very dense, more layers of stabilizer can be added to support the heavy stitch count. After embroidering the design, trim away the excess stabilizer, leaving about ⅛” – ¼” of stabilizer around the outside area of the embroidery.



Napped Fabrics

Fabrics like velvet or corduroy have a nap, and therefore will show “hoop marks” if hooped in the traditional way. The inner hoop will crush a “ring” into the napped fabric that will be nearly impossible to remove!

To embroider napped fabrics, first hoop a medium weight tear-away stabilizer. Apply a temporary fabric spray adhesive, then, place the fabric on top and secure with pins outside the embroidery area. Carefully pin a wash-away topper over the fabric. Embroider the design, then carefully remove the excess stabilizer from the top and bottom side of the fabric.

For even more helpful tips, check out our Stabilizer Recommendation Chart.


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Troubleshooting Tips for Successful Sewing

Learn The Basics, Tips & Hints, Uncategorized


Troubleshooting Tips for Successful Sewing!

Whether you are a more experienced sewist or you’re just getting started, here are a few tips we’d like to share with you to help keep your sewing easy and fun!






If Thread Loops Are Showing on the Underside of the Fabric

Thread looping on the underside of the fabric is always an indication that the upper thread is not correctly threaded.  This happens when the upper thread is not correctly placed in the tension mechanism and has not been threaded through the take-up lever.  To resolve this, rethread the machine, making sure to first raise the presser foot lifter and raise the needle to its highest position, so that the thread can be properly seated in the tension mechanism and take up lever.



If Bobbin Thread Is Showing on the Top of the Fabric

This can be caused if the top thread tension is too tight, or if the bobbin thread is not in the bobbin case tension.  Check that the upper thread is feeding freely without obstruction (like getting stuck behind the spool cap or getting caught on any rough spots o the thread spool itself).  Make sure the bobbin is correctly seated  in the bobbin case (bobbin holder), and check that the upper thread tension is not set too tightly.



If Thread Is Shredding

Thread can shred when you sew if it is old or poor quality.  Thread can also shred if the machine needle is worn out, or if the needle is the wrong style and size for the thread being used.  The thread should pass freely through the eye of the needle in order to sew properly.  Use threads that have a smooth, even filament.



If Fabric Is Not Feeding Properly

If the machine is not feeding fabric when you start sewing, it could be that the presser foot lifter has not been lowered before stepping on the foot controller.  Lower the presser foot and resume sewing.

Another reason the machine may not be feeding fabric is that the feed dogs (or feed teeth) are disengaged, so make sure that they are properly engaged for sewing.  (Note:  If your machine has drop feed, resume normal sewing by moving the drop feed lever to regular sewing mode, then turn the hand wheel toward you one full revolution to re-engage the feed dogs).

The machine may also not feed fabric if the stitch length control is set to “0”.  Increase the stitch length setting and resume sewing.

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If Needles Are Breaking
Needles can break if they are bent, dull or damaged.  Discard the old needle and insert a new needle, appropriate for the thickness and type of fabric being sewn.

Needles can also break if you are “pushing” or “pulling” the fabric while sewing, as this causes the needle to deflect.  The feed dogs (or feed teeth) are actually designed to do the work of drawing the fabric under the foot as you sew – you just need to guide the fabric!

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If Upper Thread Is Breaking

If the upper thread is breaking, it could be that the thread path is obstructed, the machine is not correctly threaded or the upper thread tension is set to tightly.  Be sure that the machine is correctly threaded and there are not obstructions (for example, thread getting caught behind the spool cap or a “rough spot” on the spool itself).  Check also that the upper thread tension control is set correctly (consult your machine manual).



If Stitches Are Skipping

If your stitches are skipping on the fabric as you sew, this could be an indication that the needle was inserted incorrectly.  Make sure that the needle goes all the way up into the needle clamp and that the flat side (at the top section of the needle) is facing toward the back.

Another reason stitches can be skipping is if the needle is the wrong style for the fabric.  For instance, if you are sewing a stretch knit fabric using a regular point needle, you could be experiencing skipped stitches.  Switching to a ball point needle will prevent stitches from skipping on stretch knit fabrics.

Worn out or damaged needles can also cause skipped stitches on a variety of fabric types.  Discard the needle and insert a new one, appropriate for the fabric you will be sewing.

Check out our blog on needles to learn more.

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If Thread is Bunching at the Beginning of Sewing

Threads can get bunched up at the beginning of sewing if the top and bobbin threads have not been properly placed underneath the presser foot before starting to sew.  Ensure that both threads are under the presser foot and placed toward the back of the machine before lowering the presser foot to start sewing.

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If Stitches Appear Distorted

Stitches can appear distorted on the fabric if you are “pushing” or “pulling” the fabric as you sew.  Just let the feed dogs (or feed teeth) do the job of drawing the fabric along under the foot.

Another reason stitches could appear distorted is if the incorrect presser foot is used.  For example, dense stitches usually require the use of either a Satin Foot or Open Toe Foot, so that the stitching can pass freely underneath.  If the regular, All-Purpose Foot is used for dense stitching, stitches could get “stuck” under the foot.  Just switch to a presser foot more appropriate for these types of stitches.



If Fabric Is “Tunneling” or “Puckering” under the Stitches

If fabric appears to be pulling together under the stitches, this is a good sign that you should use a fabric stabilizer underneath the fabric.  Generally, use a tear-away stabilizer for woven fabrics and a cut-away stabilizer for stretch fabrics.



Sewing Machine Needles

Learn The Basics, Tips & Hints, Uncategorized

Does this describe you?

You’ve heard that sewing machine needles should be changed frequently, but you’re not totally convinced that this is necessary (after all, you’ve been sewing with the same needle for several projects!).  When you sew, however, you’ve noticed stitches skipping on some fabrics, while at other times you’ve seen little ‘snags’ or ‘pulls’ along the seam lines.  Your thread is shredding, or your needles are breaking. Perhaps you’ve even come to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with your sewing machine!

But did you know that many of these common problems can be fixed by simply using the correct needle in your machine?  Read on and allow us to demystify sewing machine needles!  We’ll explain basic needle parts, styles and sizes, how to choose the right needle for your project and how to avoid some common mistakes so you can sew with success!

Needle Parts

The main parts of the needle are the shank, groove, eye and point.

  • Shank:  The shank is the top part of the needle that fits up into the needle clamp of the sewing machine.  The front side of the shank is rounded, and the back side is flat. The flat side of the needle always goes toward the back of the machine.
  • Groove:  The groove runs down the middle area of the needle, starting below the shank and ending above the needle eye.  The groove helps guide the upper thread as you sew.
  • Eye:  The eye is the hole through which the thread passes.  The size of the eye is proportionate to the needle size.
  • Point:  The shape and size of the needle’s point varies, depending on the type of fabric it is designed to sew.

(Example shown is Style 2020, size 14/90)

Example Needle Parts

Needle Styles

Needle style indicates the type of fabric the needle is designed to sew.  For general sewing, the most commonly used needle styles are SINGER Style 2020 and SINGER Style 2045.

  • The SINGER® Style 2020 is a Regular Point needle, designed for sewing woven (non-stretch) fabrics.  It is usually indicated as a regular point needle by a red color on the top. Regular point needles are sometimes called ‘sharp’ needles.

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  • The SINGER® Style 2045 is a Ball Point needle, designed for sewing stretch (not woven) fabrics. It is usually indicated as ball point needle by a yellow color on the top. Ball point needles have a rounded tip, allowing them to “push” their way between the fibers of stretch fabrics without snagging.

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After you determine which needle style is right for the general type of fabric you want to sew, then select the size of needle that is appropriate for the weight or thickness of the fabric (see chart below).

Needle Size

Needle size refers to the thickness of the needle’s diameter, which essentially determines the weight or thickness of fabric it can sew.  The smaller size numbers indicate a smaller (thinner) needle size, used for lighter weight fabrics.  The larger size numbers indicate a larger (thicker) needle size, used for heavier weight fabrics.

There is a wide range of sizes available, but the most common sizes used are SINGER® sizes 11/80 (for light weight fabrics), 14/90 (for medium weight fabrics) and 16/100 (for medium to heavier weight fabrics).  There is also a size 9/70 available for very light weight fabrics (chiffon, lace, etc), and a size 18/120 for heavy weight fabrics (upholstery, etc).

Needle sizes are displayed by two numbers, simply due to the use of two measuring systems – American and European (Imperial/Metric).

Choose the Right Needle for Your Project

Here’s a guide to help you select the right needle for sewing some common fabrics.

Choose Needle Chart

Top 10 Needle Troubleshooting Tips

1. For best sewing results, needles should be replaced every 8-10 hours of stitching time.

2. Snags or pulls in woven (non-stretch) fabrics:
This can occur if the needle is either bent or dull, or you are using the wrong style of needle. Use a regular point needle (Style 2020) for woven fabrics.

3. Skipped stitches on woven fabrics:
This can occur when the needle is old, bent or dull.
Remove and discard the old needle. Replace it with a new regular point needle (Style 2020).

4. Skipped stitches on stretch fabrics:
This can occur if you are using a regular point needle instead of a ball point needle.
Switch to a ball point needle (Style 2045) which is specifically designed for sewing stretch fabrics.

5. Popping sound while you are sewing:
This is a good indication that the needle is bent or damaged. Remove and discard the old needle.  Replace it with a new one that is appropriate for the type and weight of fabric.

6. Thread is shredding:
This can mean the needle is too small for the thickness of thread, so change to either a larger size needle or a finer weight thread.
Shredding thread can also occur if the thread is old or poor quality (uneven filament).

7. Needles are breaking:
This can be an indication that the needle size is too small for the thickness of fabric being sewn, so change to a larger size needle. Additionally, when you sew, do not “push” or “pull” the fabric, but rather, let the feed dogs draw the fabric along. If you push or pull the fabric as you sew, the needle could deflect causing it to break.

8. Large holes in the seam line of lighter weight woven fabrics:
This can be an indication that your needle is too large for the weight of the fabric.  Change to a smaller needle size.

9. When removing and inserting needles, it can be helpful to place a small piece of paper over the presser foot area, so that you don’t accidentally drop the needle down into the machine!

10. When inserting a new needle, be sure that is inserted correctly into the machine, or it may not sew properly.  The flat side of the needle should be facing toward the back of the machine. Make sure it is all the way up in the needle clamp, then tighten the needle clamp screw securely. Check your machine manual for specifics on your machine model, or contact SINGER Customer Care at 800.474.6437 for personal assistance, or email them at talktous@singerco.com.