hello serger! top: part 1 - creating the pattern

It is no secret that I have a serious affection for my serger. We've had our stormy moments, but, overall, I think we are in it for the long haul. Of course, when I first got 'Chopper', she scared the daylights out of me. Threads were mysteriously coming out of the closed hooks without breaking and needles would bend themselves at night while I slept. We battled, I wept. This went on for an embarrassingly long time before I wised up and put Chopper in Serger Obedience class. Turns out, all that time, she was factory set interally to a rolled hem tension when her standard switches were on. All my dial twisting and needle changing was for nought. No wonder she was always so grumpy.

Turns out many of you also have serger love. I'm quite sure you are not having the type of problems I did with Chopper, otherwise so many of you would not of been asking to learn more types of serger use beyond the basic finishing stitch. Now I'm still learning Chopper's mysteries, but I have figured out a couple of things and would love to tell you all about them.

To demonstrate a few serger stitches, I, in my usual fashion, went a bit overboard and created an entire garment to illustrate the stitches. Presenting my Hello Serger! top (cue, getting to know you theme song...):

Right. So, this top was done with both a regular sewing machine and a serger using just 3 needles, 3 spools of regular serger thread and 1 spool of wooly nylon, and 4 different serger stitches: basic, gathering, flatlocking, and rolled hem.

The front of the top is done with a flatlocking embellishment. The bottom of the front was gathered with the serger. The bottom was finished off with a rolled hem.To keep it simple, I finished the back with just a ribbon tie (I haven't put in a zipper with a serger yet... one day). Before you can go ahead and play with your serger making this top, however, you need a pattern. This you can make this by altering a regular A-line top (or dress, just shorten it) pattern for a woven fabric. I got mine by tracing out an existing garment. I also just used the back portion of the garment and used this for both front and back. A pattern by any commerical company will work also - just trace the pattern in the correct size and transfer any markings for darts if you are making an adult top. I think that this top will also work well for converting a regular pattern top into a maternity top. Just putting that one out there.

Before you begin you need:

-wax paper, tissue paper, or regular paper with a light table for tracing patterns.

- extra paper

- pens to trace with

- paper cutting scissors

- ruler, or straight edge

- scotch tape or glue stick

To alter a regular pattern:

1. Acquire a front and back pattern pieces for a A-line top (the kind that is intended to be placed along a fold). Seam allowances should be included in the pattern pieces. If they are not, add them on. Make sure that your pattern is on paper which you don't mind cutting up (don't use your actual pattern sheets).

2. On the front pattern piece, use your ruler to make a horizontal line about 1 - 2 inches below the armhole (see illustration). Cut along this line.3. With the front top portion, make a vertical cut somewhere in the neckline.

4. With the front bottom piece, make a vertical cut somewhere in the middle. Make another little cut to round off the corner on the bottom outside edge.

4. (yes, apparently I no good counter) Take the two pieces of your top front piece and lay them down in their correct position on top of your extra paper. Expand the space between the two pieces by the seam allowance times 3 (if your seam allowance is 1/4", expand the space between by 3/4"). Tape (or glue) the paper in the expanded positon and re cut pattern piece. This is gong to give you extra material to do the flatlock embellishments while still maintaing your pattern shape. See illustration.5. To add extra material for gathering, the bottom front piece is expanded in the same way by an extra 1/2 of material (width of pattern piece X .5). Recut pattern piece in altered form.

6. The back also needs altered if it was intended to be placed on fold. This top has a ribbon tie on top, and a seam that runs the length of the back. If your original pattern piece has a zipper seam allowance already built in, leave it as is. If you traced your pattern from an existing garment, add extra paper for a seam allowance on the middle part if necessary.

7. Trace the top part of your back piece, from about 1 - 2 inches below the armhole up (same size as front top piece). This will be your lining.

When you are done, this should be the pattern pieces you now have:The lining will be cut from the two smallest pieces, and the shell fabric should be cut from the back, the front top, and the front bottom. Make sure to use a light to medium weight woven fabric for the shell fabric. You are also going to need regular machine thread that matches your fabric, regular serger thread (coordinating or contrasting colours - either is good), and wooly nylon in the same colour as your serger thread.

I will be back very soon with instructions for constructing this top, along with a few jazzy serger moves. Til then...

part 2 found here

This is a free tutorial and I encourage you to use the information in any way you need to (check the disclaimer at the bottom of the page). If it works for you, please consider supporting my etsy shop by purchasing a Little Print Design pattern or toss a dollar or two in my paypal to show appreciation and to encourage me to offer up even more quality patterns and tutorials.

Thank you!
Questions about the Donation? FAQ here.


  1. that is just darling! I need to mess around with my serger more, I love the flatlock embellishment!

  2. Wow, do you give in-home lessons?! Please, come to my house and teach me something...
    Thanks for posting lovely things so I can learn something from you without you coming to my house.


  3. Holy cow you are awesome! My sewing skills are still sub-par at best. I can stitch stuff together without damaging it, the machine or myself... but that's the best I can say. This is a skill I definitely want to improve.

  4. I guess I'll come back later to read this:) It's almost midnite now here...Love the photos though and love to learn about serger...:)

  5. Nice skirt! I am wondering which serger are you currently using it's a little off topic but I have been following your blog for awhile and wonders if you have tips in getting a serger for someone who is new in crafting. Thanks!

  6. dee,
    I use a middle of the line Janome. Whatever serger you buy, make sure it is from a sewing machine dealer that offers maintenance and can show you a bit on how to use it. Saves so many tears to have place to go where they know your serger's name.