Author Topic: Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?  (Read 293 times)

Offline bluefoxicy

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Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?
« on: February 02, 2014, 05:32:11 PM »
I didn't buy a $900 sewing machine because they do some fancy stuff you're better off using an overlock stitcher for.

Thinking on tailoring my own clothes, but have no idea how to do it.  Wondering if this should be done with a basic sewing machine (someone says I should be using a serger, but a lot of stuff online just says sewing machine... because that's what people have) or if I should throw $200-$300 for a serger and learn to do it with that.  I've been told that hemming is vastly superior when done with a serger, but then there are hemming settings on my sewing machine that do a passable (but not necessarily perfect) job--I haven't evaluated the difference or even determined if there is any difference.

I could pay to have my clothes tailored, but I'll pay more for that than for the clothes themselves--I can sink over $1000 into that, repeatedly, and machines and classes and learning and mistakes won't even cost me that much... nearly, but not quite.  I wear "Small" men's clothes and have about 30%-40% of the fabric bunched up behind me; around here plenty of guys have resorted to wearing babydoll tee shirts as casual wear because they fit nicer (and get you chicks if you do a lot of push-ups all the time), but that seems sub-optimal to me.

Anyone do the tailoring thing?  Worth sinking my time into or wot?  I know Cap forges his own swords and armor over there, maybe he makes shirts too.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2014, 08:39:26 PM by bluefoxicy »

Offline el_capitan

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Re: Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2014, 07:50:08 PM »
If you already have a sewing machine with some basic hem stitches, I'd go with that.  The real advantage of a serger is that it completely overlocks the hems so there's very little chance of them raveling, and it also cuts off extra fabric, leaving it very nice and clean on the inside.  However, you can accomplish much the same thing with a hem stitch, or even just sew a straight stitch once, then go back over the seam allowance with a zigzag stitch.

I used to sell sewing machines and sergers, as well as teaching quilting classes, etc.  IMO, a sewing machine is much more useful than a serger, unless you plan to do a LOT of garment sewing and not much else. 
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Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2014, 08:38:30 PM »
Yeah, I have a sewing machine.  I'm more interested in if a serger is the objectively "correct" tool for the job--if it would produce the best results, would require not-incredibly-greater time investment to learn, would be what most people who have both and have the skill to use either would use, and so on.

I'm a decisionary optimizer.  The machine is not expensive; that leaves the primary question of if the machine is objectively better for this task.  If so, that leaves the secondary question of if it's going to require a significantly large amount of additional applied skill, or be about as hard to learn and use as a basic sewing machine.  I've been told that you can use a sewing machine by buying one, looking at the instruction manual, and sticking fabric in it; but that a serger is impossible to use without taking a few classes first, which would be potentially less-optimal since I could sink some $1000 of education and hundreds of dollars in material--not to mention time investment--into trying to do something relatively simple that I could accomplish nearly as good without all that effort.

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However, you can accomplish much the same thing with a hem stitch, or even just sew a straight stitch once, then go back over the seam allowance with a zigzag stitch.

This is where I'm getting confused.  This statement sounds like "it's not really the best/right way, but it works".  Mind you we're dealing with verbal conversation:  93% of the communication is lost here, since I can't hear the tone of your voice or read your body language.  That part of the communication may be saying "this is just a flat technicality, I don't even know why I'm bothering to say it."

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IMO, a sewing machine is much more useful than a serger, unless you plan to do a LOT of garment sewing and not much else.

No doubts there.  I can't sew buttons on or make menial repairs with a serger.

Though, why not homebrew my own clothes...
« Last Edit: February 02, 2014, 08:54:43 PM by bluefoxicy »

Offline lornemagill

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Re: Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2014, 10:05:54 PM »
I learned to sew on an old singer when I was a kid, I remember them being able to do most things, especially simple hems and tailoring.  I also used an old foot powered one.

Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2014, 11:24:12 PM »
I learned to sew on an old singer when I was a kid, I remember them being able to do most things, especially simple hems and tailoring.  I also used an old foot powered one.

Treadle?  I've been thinking about getting a treadle table and a vintage sewing machine.  Just for the experience.  I recommended a foot pump for the OLPC charger ages back but they went with a hand pull string... those dunces don't know much about physiology; a pull string is probably the most difficult thing you could provide for manual power generation.  They probably looked around and noticed engines in boats and lawnmowers are started with a pull string.

I mean let's face it:  human legs.  Bunch of black people ran down a cheetah in Africa.  You can't compete with that.  Those animals run like 60mph, it's like chasing Usain Bolt.

Humans have leg endurance more than anything else.

Offline el_capitan

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Re: Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2014, 06:58:23 PM »
You lost me at "decisional optimizer."   ???

From my experience, sergers are complicated to use and overkill for a person who is just sewing for their own needs.  If you were running a garment shop, I'd encourage you to buy a serger.  Most hobbyists struggle to even get them threaded correctly.  There are four needles and four thread spools, with convoluted thread paths.  You do seem like a detail-oriented person though, so maybe you should go for it and buy the serger.  My main point was that a sewing machine is much more versatile.  A serger has pretty much one use.   

You can sew really nice seams with a standard machine.  It's not like you're going to be wearing your shirts inside out, right? 

Of course, you could always take a trip to a sewing machine sales rep and have a look for yourself.  A good salesperson should even sit you down and take you through a free tutorial on using each kind of machine.  Heck, bring one of your shirts with you and use that for a sewing test.  See what you think! 

Good luck, small man. 

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Offline euge

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Re: Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2014, 09:51:58 PM »
I inherited my mom's sewing machine. I shoulda grabbed the board too but am fairly sure this machine is versatile and fairly up to date since she liked to upgrade. She used to make some of my clothes when I was a wee lad.

Interesting this thread cropped up- would not mind sewing my own shirts and jeans perhaps. Not a skill I currently possess though.
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Online Slowbrew

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Re: Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2014, 08:36:18 AM »
One word of caution on the "vintage sewing machine" idea.  If you are only going sew cotton or other basic fabrics the vintage machines will work fine.  If you plan on using any polyesters or newer fabrics you should avoid using the old machines.  We replaced my wife's sewing machine because of the problems with "new" fabrics.

As for buying a serger, unless you have a demonstrable need for a serger you are just buying toys.  They are great to have if you are making sweatshirts or using fabric that tends to unravel.  A good sewing machine will do more than most people will ever need.

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Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Tailoring... serger or sewing machine?
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2014, 08:14:24 PM »
You lost me at "decisional optimizer."   ???

Satisfisers try to do what's "good enough".  For example:  Extract brewing produces excellent beer.  Additional work is not required.

Optimizers spend more time making (and more often regret) their decisions, attempting to produce the best result.  For example:  all-grain brewing with a mash tun (not a modified cooler) allows for the greatest level of control and the best beer; the investment is about 2-2.5 the initial cost compared to extract brewing, and the cost of materials (grain) is lower going out.

Of course, full decisional optimization requires a lot of additional consideration.  The above assumes that cost between extract and all-grain is important--additional equipment, additional work, and so on.  If the cost is extremely high for all-grain, an optimizer may avoid that route because spending more on your brew kit than you do on your car is non-optimal; whereas if the initial cost is twice as high, the effort is roughly the same, and the results are similar, a satisfiser may skip the extra work and stick with extract brewing, while an optimizer puts in the larger initial investment to achieve ultimately better results.

And complete decision making involves using a lot of the nervous system--firstly a full rationalization of the facts, exploration of fixed beliefs in the basal ganglia and how they affect your ability to use your prefrontal cortex to reason, and so on; then an accounting of internal emotional and biological factors, including hormones and stress signals from the 100,000 nerve endings in your heart (it does a lot in response to emotional factors) and from the completely independent neurological system in your digestive tract (the esophagus and intestine contain a fully autonomous neural network which responds to systemic issues).

Needless to say, decisions are hard to make.  You have to determine if you're rational, if you're rationalizing, if you're having an emotional or subconscious-systemic response ("gut feeling"), and if any of these additional factors are valid.

At this point I've muted some rationalization and pushed aside some emotional impulses to simply acquire new things to learn about--that's valid, and accounted for, but that impulse screams for more attention than it deserves--but also have taken account of the rationalization that the serger seems to reduce work (I don't have to cut with shears in a separate step) and (possibly) produces better results (overlock), along with a gut feeling that I think is accounting for the low tolerance for time-consuming excess processes (i.e. I might just sideline all of this because it takes too much time, so maybe I shouldn't buy moderately expensive equipment).

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From my experience, sergers are complicated to use and overkill for a person who is just sewing for their own needs.  If you were running a garment shop, I'd encourage you to buy a serger.  Most hobbyists struggle to even get them threaded correctly.

Reasonable mental and physical effort are not major concerns for me.

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There are four needles and four thread spools, with convoluted thread paths.  You do seem like a detail-oriented person though, so maybe you should go for it and buy the serger.  My main point was that a sewing machine is much more versatile.  A serger has pretty much one use. 

Everyone has eight thousand uses for a serger posted, but they're all for making frilly garbage and half of them are just decorative stitching.

I've found ones that you can use for garment repair--$450 five-spool with chain stitch, they'll do a straight chain stitch or go as far as a 3-thread overlock and then double-chain-stitch it so you don't need to go back and add one or two chain stitches with a basic sewing machine.  So cut/sew can become overlock/reenforce (two machines), or you buy a better machine and just run a 5 thread safety stitch in one step.

The basic sewing machine still handles basic repair better, since I can sew buttons and button holes.  You would not believe how often clips break and I need to remove them and install a button hole and button where none existed before.  Plus I can rig a twin needle on my 4411--there's no instructions other than "use the additional spool holder" (included with the machine)--although I imagine I could magic up (undocumented) settings on a 14T968DC to produce a double-chain stitch.

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Of course, you could always take a trip to a sewing machine sales rep and have a look for yourself.  A good salesperson should even sit you down and take you through a free tutorial on using each kind of machine.  Heck, bring one of your shirts with you and use that for a sewing test.  See what you think! 

It's a dying art here; the dedicated fabric shops have a billion crafts sections for glue and wax and coloring books and kitsch toys and pens and paint and wooden hobby crafts, with a tiny little section for sewing.  Last time I went to Joann Fabric, I asked some random old woman how to match thread to my pants for repairs... that was enlightening.  Staff sure doesn't know, they just eye up the spool to see if it's close.

Even in high school, they showed us a sewing machine and had us sew a pillow mostly because they couldn't talk about sex for 9 months straight.  Home Economics was a filler.  They even explained to us what a laundry machine was, but we never used one--there were three in the classroom.

At this point I'm even more confused.