Overlocking Slippery Fabrics

Whilst making The Mandy Skirt, I thought I’d take a quick photo of my work as I overlocked the seams on my cream satin lining.

Slippery fabrics can be quite tricky on the overlocker. The four threads, closely stitched, can make these less stable fabrics really pucker up as they go through the machine. To address this, I do the following.

As soon as an inch or two of the fabric has gone through the overlocker, I catch hold of the end and pull it really pretty taut. I keep it taut as the rest of the seam line moves through the overlocker. It helps a lot. A quick press with the iron, and wiggly, puckered seam lines are totally avoided. You may find that your stitching becomes more spread out because of the tug, but that’s no biggie. Here are my finished lining seams:

To some of my readers, I may just have pointed out the screamingly obvious – but to new Sewists or owners of overlockers, this may not be obvious at all. And never let it be said that I am above pointing out the screamingly obvious!

I’d also like to mention how I’ve been hemming the fashion fabric. I whizz the raw edge through the overlocker, turn over a scant 13mm, press and sew on the sewing machine. Job neatly and quickly done!

Does anyone else have tips for working with slippery fabrics on an overlocker?

STOP PRESS! Another Pattern Pyramid giveaway has just gone live over at Seersucker Sally in Philadelphia, USA. I think you really need to go and check out two of the vintage blouses you could win, right now. As an aside, I love seeing how much care and thought people are putting into the wrapping of their parcels. Aren’t we all lovely to each other?

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15 Responses to Overlocking Slippery Fabrics

  1. gingermakes says:

    Haha, thanks for pointing out the “obvious”! I’m pretty sure that NOT doing this is what screwed up my Chloe dress! :) Great tip!

  2. symondezyn says:

    Your seams look very tidy indeed! :D I don’t know why but I find I prefer using three threads instead of four, and I pull gently on the feed too but not on both sides, so I’ll have to try that and see if it helps! :)

  3. MrsC says:

    Karen if you overlocked the seams as opposed to finishing the seam edges with the overlocker, I’d seriously consider sewing it as well. Satin is VERY fray prone and will pull out of an overlocked seam with very little pressure. So, a full 15mm seam allowance and overlocked edges is a good belt and braces approach. This would apply more to a straight skirt lining than a gathered though, I guess!
    Also, satin loves not the previously used needle, and so nice new 70s on the overlocker would be a good thing too. The needles may even be the main cause of the prob!

    • Thank you, that’s really great to know. How do you know SO much – I am in total awe. And you always share knowledge in such a lovely, friendly way. Thank you.

      • MrsC says:

        Aww shucks. I know so much because I’ve made most of these mistakes myself LOL! And I’ve been sewing for 40 years, so I’ve had HEAPS of time to learn the hard way. I get such a huge thrill seeing so many people taking up sewing that I want yiz all to have the best wins possible all the time. It’s so defeating to have a make go BAAAD, And I also appreciate that you appreciate my wee suggestions and don’t think I am a nark for making them, because I really don’t think like a nark, and I really do want to be a contribution, so it is nice to know my intentions translate into the written word :)

  4. Molly says:

    Differential feed might help stretch the fabric too if your machine has that option? :) http://bit.ly/OELn1d

  5. punkmik says:

    Ooo great tip. I don’t own an overlocker yet. But once I do I will know how to handle this! :)

  6. oonaballoona says:

    i can’t wait to get my hands on my overlocker again. every seam i do with my featherweight takes 3 to 4 passes to hide those raw edges!!!

  7. I do the same thing as you – I pull the fabric very taut and then press afterwards (the seam has already been sewn FYI). Thanks for refreshing me on this tip!

  8. ooobop! says:

    I feel the lure of an overlocker! :-)

  9. Judith park says:

    Hi, I am fairly new to sewing and am considering buying an overlocker, i see that you need 4 cones of thread, do they have to be large ones? I can envisage having to buy huge quantities of thread ie 4 of every colour that I may need, also I have never seen cones of thread for sale in shops. What would you say is the best way to approach this issue?
    I would also like to say how much I enjoy reading your blog .
    Best wishes Judy

    • Hi, Judith. Yes, you do need to use these large cones of thread. The thread is finer than normal sewing thread, which is important when you consider that you have four sets of thread all working together – that could get bulky with normal thread. You actually don’t need to buy loads of different colours. A basic white and black can get you a long way! Whites for your lighter colours, black for your darker colours. (Remember that overlocked seams are often – not always – hidden from view.) If you’re using the overlocker to make the seam as well as finish it, you might want to check any show through of thread, but you’d be surprised what you can get away with. I buy my thread from Walthamstow market – of course! – but you’ll also find loads on Ebay. Hope that helps.

      • Judith Park says:

        Hi Karen, thankyou for the information,I didn’t realise that the thread was finer than the sort that I usually use. I’m a Northener so don’t get down to the Capital very often, but next time I will look up this famous market.
        Thanks again Judy

      • Molly says:

        The two colours I use most are beige and black (I hate changing the threads and would love two machines set up with just those colours!). I find beige blends into pretty much any light colour, including white without being as stark. Gray is a shade that is recommended too as it blends in well with mid-tone colours like reds, purples, bright pinks etc. Or you could blends two colours… But I do like to do contrast colour serged edges too – my daughter has some white cotton trousers which have brilliant yellow seams inside and some white cotton dungarees which I gave bright pinks seams. I keep meaning to use the idea to do some contrast pattern work on the outside of a garment too!

        Judith – overlocker thread usually come in the big tapered cones (5000 yards) and also 1000 yard cops that look like ordinary sewing thread reels (but because it is still the thinner thread, its supposedly not recommended for the sewing machine because it is weaker/snaps. I often use the Moon 1000yd cops in my sewing without problems or seams falling apart and I have a gadget that lets me use the 5000yd ones too). There are a lot of ebay bargains to be found (I usually get 10 cop colours of my choice for something like £7).

  10. Kessem says:

    Love this tip! haha I can totally relate to the screamingly obvious comment – every time I read a tip like this I feel like Doi! why didn’t I think of that???

    I read two great tips a while ago in Singer’s Sewing with an Overlocker (but have yet to test these tips):
    when sewing light fabrics, it always helps to reduce the needle tensions.
    also, changing the stitch length to shorter should help with puckering sa well.
    what do you think?

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