Serger Tips:: How to Gather with a Serger

Serger Tips:: How to Gather with a Serger

Serger owners:  Did you know you can use your serger to gather fabric?  Imagine the possibilities ~ no more knotted or broken threads when you gather fabric.  It will be like you’ve died and gone to gathering Heaven.  Now that I know how to gather on the serger, I will never go back.

Here’s a quick recap in case you don’t really know what a serger is or what it does.  A serger is a unique sewing machine that cuts fabric and finishes seams at the same time.  Most sergers will do additional edge finishes such as a rolled hem.  Some fancy-schmancy sergers will do things like a chain stitch, wave edge, or cover stitch.

Today, I want to show you how to use your serger to gather fabric.  It is so unbelievably easy;  you will never go back to sewing a double row of gathering threads.  And, there are no special feet required ~ just your standard serger foot.

If you have a serger hidden away in the closet, now is the time to dust it off and put it back to work.

Learn how to gather fabric with a serger.


 Step 1:

Set your serger for 4-thread serging.

Gathering with a Serger

Step 2:

Increase your Differential Feed to the highest number ~ mine is a 2.

Gathering with a Serger

Step 3:

Increase your Stitch Length to the highest number ~ mine is a 4, but some sergers go up to 5.

Gathering with a Serger

 Step 4:

Serge along the raw edge.  You will notice that it does a little gathering.  This is normal.

Gathering with a Serger

Step 5:

Notice the two needle threads (the black threads).  Near the fabric edge, put a needle underneath the two parallel threads.  Be sure not to catch either of the looper threads ~ it will knot if you do.  Just the needle threads.

Gathering with a Serger

Step 6:

Pull the two needle threads out of the chain of threads.  Do not let these get tangled.  If you do this correctly, they will slip out easily.

Pull the two needle threads to gather your fabric.

Gathering with a Serger

Step 7:

Voila!  You have nice, even gathers that can easily be adjusted and then attached.  No stray threads that end up on the outside of your project.  What’s not to love about this!

Gathering with a Serger

Gathering with a Serger

Sew, sew easy!


Subscribe to Updates

...and receive a FREE Washday Chic Apron Pattern as a Thank You for signing up!


  1. says

    Nice tip! A real time saver…
    I’ve pinned it because my serger’s teacher showed it to me, but this is a photo lesson!!! Really better :)
    tx for sharing :)
    MammaNene from

    • Leslie says

      I think it would work with three threads ~ be sure to separate the needle thread and pull slowly. I am going to go try this now.

  2. says

    I just got a Serger, my granny’s actually after she passed away, and am such a novice at using it, but I am eager to learn!! Thanks for the tutorial. Now if I could just master threading it! Also, seems my seams aren’t real ‘tight’ when I sew them, as in, when you turn it over and press the seam open, it kind of shows the stitching. Not good. Any idea what might need adjusting? Visiting from Skip to My Lou and I will be back for more advice I am sure!


    • Leslie says

      Congrats on getting your first serger. I also own a serger I bought in the mid-80’s. I totally understand fear of threading. Consult an online guide for your machine’s threading instructions ~

      Try decreasing your stitch length to see if you get tighter seams. The machine may also need servicing. Good luck.

  3. says

    Sergers can be very temperamental (at least mine can :). Thanks for this great picture tutorial. I know our readers will love it, too! We have a weekly Thursday (today:) link up party at We would love to see this post!! We are also your newest FB like :)

  4. Julie Rathburn says

    wow this seems like it would be a great one to know…but there wasn’t any pics? just writing..I have a serger but have yet to use it been reading/watching stuff on puter to know how to start to use it gotta get my confidence going

  5. Marie says

    Great idea! I remember being taught this in a serger class but had completely forgotten it. I enjoy making doll clothes and this will be a real time saver, especially for the dresses on the 8″ Ginny doll.
    Thank you.

  6. says

    Do you have a tutorial on how to thread servers too? LOL I received a Janome Juno for Christmas and am still stuck. I love following your blog. Thanks for the tips. I do plan on using them soon!

    • Leslie says

      I’m sorry to say I haven’t done a tutorial on threading a serger. Since each brand is a little different, I would look at the manufacturer’s website to see if they have tutorials for their different models. Also, if you bring your serger to a local dealer, someone should be able to help you with threading.

  7. says

    Hi Leslie

    When I do gathering on my over locker (this is what a serger is called here in Australia) I do it slightly differently. The differential feed is still set to 2, you leave your looper thread tension as normal but you turn the tension on the needles UP (I set mine to about 8) and then you overlock as normal. With this method the fabric is actually gathered as you overlock. The amount of the gather is determined by the stitch length; the longer your stitch length the tighter the gathers. What I tend to do is to simply set the stitch length to it’s longest stitch and adjust the fullness of the gathers as necessary.

    How to adjust the fullness of the gather – easy. I make sure I sew a long chain before I start overlocking and also sew a long chain at the end of the fabric. To easy the fullness you simply sort of ease the fabric back along the chain. Now that sounds complex but I am sure it will make sense once you actually do it.

    I am not saying that this method is any better or worse than the method you currently using, simply that it is another option.


  8. Connie Jordan says

    I have a very old serger that sews beautifully once I get it threaded!! It does not have the differential feed, do you think it would still work?

    • Leslie says

      I’m not sure ~ why don’t you try setting the stitch length to the longest setting and serge on a scrap of fabric.

  9. Jackie Branscum says

    Thank you so much! I’ve been tying to gather a ruffle and threads kept breaking-I got so frustrated that I just put it away. Now, I’ve got to try this! lloks really easy.

    • Leslie says

      I knew there were lots and lots of you out there who didn’t know this. And, it is the easiest thing ever!

  10. Carol says

    Will this work with heavier fabrics like cotton duck? I make slipcovers, and making a gathered skirt is a huge pain. I’ve never used a serger but have considered getting one.

  11. Elaine says

    I have never seen this done and it sounds like a time saver. I never got lessons when I bought my serger. I have always zig-zagged over a piece of string with the widest stitch zig-zag stitch and then pulled that to get desired ruffle but this would be easier. Thanks!

  12. Linda Landrum says

    Thanks so much. This is a wonderful technique. I tried it right away. I was using a jersey knit, which was a little tricky for a first run, but it worked and I was able to attach a gathered skirt to a yoga waist band in a fraction of the time and without having to set up my sewing machine just do the gathering!

  13. Marylee Miller says

    Love this! But I have an older serger (a New Home) that doesn’t have a differential feed. What can I do to adjust tension discs for gathering? (I’ve misplaced my serger manual.)

  14. Rachel says

    Three questions:
    Does it matter what the thread tension dial settings are?
    Should the seam width finger be set in the “R” or “S” position?
    Is there a type of thread best suited for gathering, the way woolly nylon is great for rolled hems?

    • Leslie says

      Regular serger thread is best for gathering. Your seam width finger should be set in the same position as you would for 4-thread serging.

  15. Billye says

    For those without a differential feed, just tighten your needle threads! You may need to put them on the highest setting. Practice and see!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>