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I have a friend who recently purchased a serger. She wasn't really sure what to do with it. So Tonya, this one is for you!
Flat lining with a serger, the comprehensive photo guide, step by step.
1. Of course the very first step is to cut out your pattern, in both the fabric and the lining fabric. I like the cut the lining first, and then the dress fabric second. The reason for this is that when you cut the pattern the first time, cutting through the paper along the lines, you get the cleanest cut. Subsequent cuts will usually be less precise as the paper separates itself from the fabric and the exact edge is harder to follow. This means that my lining is the best version of the pattern, and the fabric layer can just be close. This will become important later on.
This also means, I never trim my paper pattern to the cutting lines, before cutting the fabric. It just works better if you don't. If my scissors get dull faster cutting the paper, so be it. I can always buy a new pair or get them sharpened. The garment will come out better, and that to me is more important.
2. On the ironing board, press the lining out as flat as possible. In my photos, I am using tea-dyed muslin, which seems to have some permanent fold lines I can't press out. No worries; do the best you can, though. When pressing, try to move the iron only with the grain, or the cross grain. Pressing diagonally may cause the piece to stretch on the bias.
3. Lay out the fabric over the lining, with the correct side facing up.
4. Match up all the edges as best you can. It will most likely not be a perfect copy of the lining, and will usually extend out in places, or may come up short in others. If you have a slinky fabric, like the one I am using here, shift the bias around as needed to get the fabric back into the original shape matching the lining. Press the fabric smooth.
5. Pin through the pieces to the ironing board, about 1 1/2" in from the edge, with the pin heads towards the inside. I like to place my pins every few inches or so, and be sure to get every corner and high spot.
6. Gently, one pin at a time, lift the fabric and pin the pieces together without removing the pin, or disturbing the other pins. This will keep the fabric layers from shifting and keep everything as smooth as it was when you pressed it flat. The tips of the pins should be at least 1/2" away from the edge of the fabric, or it will jam the serger cutter bar.
Your piece should look like this on the front side:
And will most likely look like this on the back side. You can see the uneven edges not matching. This is why I cut the lining first.
7. Take your piece to the serger. Treat it gently on the way, so as to no separate the layers. Start at a corner, any corner. You will be using the LINING layer edge against the cutting bar as your sewing guide. Begin by lifting the front tip only of the foot and sliding the fabric under the front of the foot, just short of the cutter. There is never a reason to lift the presser foot up completely, just lift the tip and go, then run the fabric out from underneath at the end.
Trim off any excess fabric with the cutter. You can usually see the lining edge through the fabric to know where to run the cutter. If you have trouble seeing this edge, then flip your fabric over, and sew it with the lining side up.
Do not trim any parts where the fabric is shorter than the lining. The lining is always your guide.
When you come to a corner, run the fabric straight through and make a 3" thread tail. You usually have to pull the threads a bit to get the tail to form. Pull the threads only, not the whole piece to keep from stretching the fabric. Turn the fabric to start the next run. This will make loops of thread at each corner.
8. Once you have completed going around your entire piece, take it back to the ironing board. It will most likely look rumpled and sad, like this.
But it will look great again once you repress it flat. Sometimes your layers may have shifted a bit, so carefully press it all back out to the perfect match you had before. If you can't get it back to perfect, press the excess to the serge stitching, and it will be hidden later in the seam allowances.
9. Be sure to make a left and a right hand side.
And there you have it, perfectly shaped and flat lined, ready for construction!