make your own serger cheat book

Hey, look what I found while digging through my books!

My serger cheat book! Remember a long, long time ago I kept going on about how handy this little binder I put together in my serger class was. The cheat book tells me how to adjust my dials to create the stitch or technique I need. The class came free-ish with the purchase of my Janome 1110DX, which is another reason to purchase from the independent dealer rather than the box stores. All told, the class was only 3 quick hours, just an intro really, and an absolute life saver (especially since I found my machine’s tensions had been set incorrectly at the factory and all the thread breaking was not my fault, damnit!) If you can go to serger class, go!

But for those of you who are intrepid enough to teach yourself, I highly recommend making yourself one of these. Very simple, just some written, printed or Xeroxed pages with spaces to write down what technique or serger stitch you are using, what settings your needles and looper tensions, the stitch length, and the differencial feed are set at, along with a space for a fabric sample of the stitch made from some scrap and stapled in. That simple, and mind bogglingly useful to have.

I have photographed my whole booklet, which I keep in a small binder. You can read what I’ve written (well, you can if you can make out my messy handwriting), but if you leave a comment with a specific question about any of the techniques I can provide additional specific information.

Here she is:

4 thread sewing: the base set up.

Ribbing: Just knit ribbing for necklines. Sergers are a dream for knits.

Clear elastic: where I discovered this amazing product. I would of never made more than one twirl skirt without it.

Differential Feed: to prevent the stretching of the knits and fleece, among other things.

3 thread wide: which I use now all the time. This is also how I found out about wooly nylon.
Flat-locking: way too fun, but I still hardly ever work it into regular sewing.
And wonderful, brillant rolled hem (along with faux-pintucks): Keep in mind that even if you have the same brand serger as I, you will have to make your own cheat book because every machine is set slightly different. As I said, if you have specific questions about any technique or the serger book set up, leave a comment and I will do my best to help you out :)

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. What an awesome book. Thank you so much for sharing! I was wondering, is it possible to get a closer up shot at flat locking? I'm very much interested in that technique.

    1. Click on the name of the stitch and it will open in another window. At that point you can enlarge the picture to allow you to read it.

  2. Hi,
    what a great idea - I keep some scraps near the serger for reference sometimes with the settings written on the fabric but I´ll make myself such a great book.

    I´d love to try to read what you wrote but the pictures are too small - do you have them a little bigger (maybe you could link the pics in the postings to ab bigger version)

    Thank you for posting this!

    Bye, Kati

  3. Excellent idea! Really good. I went to a serger class too and I am glad I did. I took home with me a little sample scrap that had one different stitch on each edge, in the different colored threads and wrote tiny post its on it to remind myself. Thought myself very clever then. Good idea at the time but now when I refer to it (and I do often!) I have to think very hard to remember which setting is for which since I obviously didn't manage to squeeze all that pertinent info on those elfin-sized post its. Yours is a way better idea - there will even be room to write silly messages to myself on the pages, like, "LiEr, you daft thing, you forgot to engage the blade again, didn't you?" Thank you!

    P.S. wv: "fixer". Apt, eh?

  4. This is such a smart idea!! One of my goals this year is to become better acquainted with my serger.

    I posted a link to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:

  5. No serger but I think the swatches are a really good idea. I starred the item and will try to incorporate this into my techniques: design and detail binder.

  6. Hey, thanks for the feedback! I embedded links to large copies of each photo in the the descriptions. click for a closer (readable) look of each page.

  7. I have a question about using the clear elastic for gathering. Do you do the gathering with the elastic and then sew the seam? There's no way to do that in one step, right?

    And I totally agree about the rolled hem! It's just plain awesome.

  8. This is a great idea. I have one of the Janome books that has settings and photos of samples for the different techniques. The pics can be difficult to see so I might make some of my own samples and add them to the book.

  9. i just picked up a juki at a garage sale! it was a steal :) no handbook, so this will definitly come in handy. thanks for the info!

  10. I just got a serger from Craigslist and I'm scared to death of it! Your offer to help with advice is so sweet...but I don't suppose you can swing by my house and hold one hand while I try threading the thing with the other? (I didn't think so.) So many spools of thread...shudder. When I do start, I'll compile my experiments--what a great idea.

    Anyway, love your blog. I especially love the "give with both hands" disclaimer at the end. Such a good reminder for all of us.


  11. I also have a little cheat book! Flat locking is so fun. I posted a similar blog,

  12. As a sewing instructor, a Technique Book is indispensible. I hand out a different page for each type of fabric that we work with (there are about 15). On the paper are the suggested settings for stitch length, tension settings, needle size and type, etc. We make several seams and edgings and take furious notes. In the end, we staple our sample to the page and move to the next fabric type. I can't tell you how many phone calls I've gotten to tell me the book saved their "life." I highly recommend them.

    Also, an annoying but VERY effective tip for learning to thread your serger (and hence not being afraid to change thread color when the mood suits you) is to take a couple of hours (best in large blocks of time to facilitate concentration) and thread your machine repeatedly. Once you have it threaded, run a scrap through it to test it. If it's not done correctly it will break. Repeat this process (thread, sew, thread, sew) for 20 times in a row. I know it sounds like a pain in the butt, but it really does work in learning to thread your machine and becoming more comfortable with it.

    BTW, I like your blog and your instructions. You take no assumptions in your steps and describe things thoroughly. Unusual yet crucial in good instructions. Good Job!

  13. what a great idea! Do you love your serger?? I tried this out and I wasnt sure if I should get it at 499. My dealer also offered alot of classes and such.

  14. oh me oh my ... I just bought (two days ago) my precious Janome 1110DX ... my class won't be until after the new year though... lots of time to get my pages set up with fill-in-the blanks!!! I really love the idea of your booklet - thanks bunches.