Sewing Basics: Ruffling + Easing with a Serger

on August 2 | in Sewing Essentials, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 15 Comments

Palak from Strawbazies is back with more information on working with a serger. Don’t miss her first post on Narrow + Rolled Hems with a Serger, and learn more about Palak in her introduction. Palak has a serger series running all month long on Strawbazies. Enjoy!

For me, gathering on the sewing machine is tedious and frustrating but gathering on the serger is fast and easy. Gathering is made possible by the serger’s differential feed. A setting higher than 1.0 will cause the fabric to ‘bunch up.’

You can use the bunching to create even gathers that won’t shift or pull out.

For ruffles we need to crank up the gathering power on the serger. Each of the following will cause more voluminous ruffles:

1. Increase your differential feed.

2. Increase your stitch length. The longer stitch length gives the fabric more room to ruffle with each stitch.

3. Increase your needle tension.

4. Loosen your presser foot. Not all sergers will have this option. Look for a little knob over the presser foot. Some machines may have a digital setting. You can check the manual if you aren’t sure.

Run your fabric through the machine and watch those beautiful ruffles form.

If you find you want fewer ruffles, adjust either the differential feed, stitch length, needle tension or presser foot pressure until you get the desired amount of ruffles. Here are a few examples of the variety you can get.

Now you can attach your ruffles to your project using either a sewing machine or your serger. Remember to change your serger settings back to normal stitching!

You’ll notice that serged ruffles are more evenly distributed and less likely to shift and pull out during the sewing process than those done by sewing machine. For more information you can check out my tutorial on gathering feet for sergers.

Easing is like ruffling’s uptight older sister. This technique still uses gathering; but the gathers need to be very even and controlled. Easing is used to sew a seam where two fabrics are different lengths or curvatures. The extra fabric is ‘eased’ into the seam by slightly gathering the longer fabric to match the shorter fabric. Easing is used to set in sleeves, attach bodices to skirts and on some skirt hems. The trick is gathering the fabric so slightly and evenly that no tucks or puckers show on the finished seam; that is where a serger’s differential feed shines.

1. Here are two uneven length strips.

2. For normal sewing the differential feed is set at 1.0. To cause the fabric to gather, increase the differential to 1.5 (increase this number for more ease, if needed).

3. Leave the stitch length and width at normal. Having a normal stitch length will prevent your easing gathers from become tucks or ruffles.

4. Serge over the strip to be eased; making sure to leave a long tail on either end.

5. You’ll see that the fabric is gathered ever so slightly. Compare your eased piece to the fabric you are sewing to. Adjust the piece by pulling on the thread and fabric until it’s a perfect match.

6. Reset your serger’s differential feeding setting to 1.0. Serge both pieces together.

7. Be sure to press your piece to block it into place, especially if it’s a curved piece.

Finding the best differential feed setting for a particular pattern and fabric combination takes a little trial and error. If you find yourself consistently having problems, try increasing your differential feed to 2.0 and letting out the gathers until it fits the fabric it’s to be seamed to. This way requires more hand manipulation, but it is sometimes easier than trying to hit on the perfect settings. Now you can say goodbye to basting and pulling bobbin threads on your sewing machine! Happy serging!

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15 Responses to Sewing Basics: Ruffling + Easing with a Serger

  1. Linda says:

    Very informative. Thank you so much. Am going to try this out tomorrow.

  2. palak says:

    Ann, a 3-4 thread serger will not be able to make ruffles through the middle of a strip of fabric, since your looper threads have to wrap around edge of of the fabric. You can always make these kind of ruffles with your sewing machine, though!

  3. Ann says:

    I’ve used my serger to make ruffles for my new grand-daughters cribskirt and curtains. They turned out beautifully! But, is there a way to ruffle thru the center of the fabric, creating a ruffle on both sides of the serging stitch? I know some high end sergers can do it, but can’t figure it out on mine (and I think our sergers are the same). I see alot of that design lately, but can’t figure out how to do it.

    Netty – I think I remember having that same problem, and found that since you have to remove the stitch finger and left needle for a rolled hem, I had to rethread in the correct order when putting those items back in. The sequence for threading is Upperlooper, Lowerlooper, right needle and then the left needle. I hope this helps!!

  4. Great tutorial!

  5. Irma says:

    Hi, my serger only has one needle, in other words its a 3 thread serger, I love how it works and more than that I love your tutorials, what great help to make my granddaughter’s wardrobe!
    After this post I will head straight to my sewing room to test out the gathering!

  6. This is a great tutorial. I hate easing on my machine…

  7. Amy says:

    Thanks for a great tutorial!

  8. Anshu says:

    Last time I looked for a way to sew ruffles with serger, I couldn’t find any info. Thanks for the great tutorial, I’ll definitely bookmark this.
    Looks like you really mastered your serger.

  9. palak says:

    Edna, I’m glad you pointed that out! Loosening the presser foot pressure is more accurate. I hope the photo will guide people in the right direction!

    Netty, my first thought is that your left needle is not pushed in all the way. I’m planning on addressing this in my serger series at; but the needles should be uneven. I’d try removing both needles and pushing them all the way in.

    Steph, Christine, Kirsten and Webbing– You are welcome! I hope this helps!

  10. Webbing says:

    Thanks so much for the guide! This is really helpful, ruffling has always been a challenge for me.

  11. Christine says:

    Wow! Thank you so much.

  12. Kristin says:

    Thanks! I’ve read this in my serger book a few times but the pictures really helped explain it all better! 🙂
    Great job!

  13. Netty says:

    This is wonderful thank you! I have the same serger and reading the instruction manual is always a tough task for me…. I’ve figured out a lot but it takes me a LONG time. 🙂

    Not sure if you can do a post on trouble shooting with sergers…but when I tried a rolled edge hem for the first time it worked great, but when I went to put everything back to normal (2 needles, etc.) the left needle no longer cooperates….I can serge with 3 threads but the left needle thread just sits there and doesn’t incorporate with the others. I’ve looked online and it seems other people have had the same problem. Any ideas would be VERY much appreciated. 🙂

  14. Steph says:

    I am new to sergers and had no idea it could do this – thanks for a great tutorial!

  15. Edna says:

    Great tutorial, except I would change the wording regarding “loosen the presser foot” to something like “lighten the presser foot pressure”. Reading it, I thought you meant to loosen the screw for the presser foot which might confuse someone not as serger savvy. Otherwise, fantastic information!

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