Category Archives: Sergers

The History of the Serger

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This morning I was using my serger on a project. The serger is a mystery to me. When I use mine I often think to myself that whomever created this complicated piece of machinery must have been a genius. It finishes edges perfectly, trims while it stitches, makes perfect rolled hems a snap and is a life saver when it comes to knits. However, it is usually when I am threading it that I think about how complicated it really is. I lost my fancy tweezers when trying to thread the lower looper and was using facial tweezers. I find when I am frustrated I just need to walk away for a bit and come back. During this morning’s walk away I did some research and found out just who was the mastermind behind the serger. I found my information on Wikipedia, so we’ll take it with a grain of salt, but is still interesting.

Overlock History

Overlock stitching was invented by the Merrow Machine Company in 1881.

J. Makens Merrow and his son Joseph Merrow, who owned a knitting mill established in Connecticut in 1838, developed a number of technological advancements to be used in the mill’s operations. Merrow’s first patent was a machine for crochet stitching. Merrow still produces crochet machines based on this original model. This technology was a starting point for the development of the overlock machine, patented by Joseph Merrow in 1889. Unlike standard lockstitching, which uses a bobbin, overlock sewing machines utilize loopers to create thread loops for the needle to pass through, in a manner similar to crocheting. Merrow’s original three-thread overedge sewing machine is the forerunner of contemporary overlocking machines. Over time, the Merrow Machine Company pioneered the design of new machines to create a variety of overlock stitches, such as two, and four-thread machines, the one-thread butted seam, and the cutterless emblem edger.

A landmark lawsuit between Wilcox & Gibbs and the Merrow Machine Company in 1905 established the ownership and rights to the early mechanical development of overlocking to the Merrow Machine Company.

Throughout the early 19th Century the areas of Connecticut, USA and New York USA were the centers of textile manufacturing and machine production. Consequently many overlock machine companies established themselves in the Northeastern United States.

In 1964 Juki Corporation was formed; a precursor of the modern industrial overlock sewing machine company. Throughout the 1980s Japanese and Chinese sewing machine production came to dominate the industry.

In the United States the term “overlocker” has largely been replaced by “serger” but in other parts of the world (Australia, UK) the term “overlocker” is still in use.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overlock

Joseph M. Merrow

Joseph Millard Merrow (June 24, 1848 – March 27, 1947) was president of the Merrow Machine Company. Merrow was born in the community of Merrow, town of Mansfield in Connecticut. His parents were J. B. Merrow and Harriet Millard Merrow. He was educated at the Munson Mass Academy and Hartford Public High School. At the age of 15 he was employed as a pharmacist and a postmaster, appointed by Abraham Lincoln.

Established in 1838, the family business was the manufacture of knit cotton goods; it was the first of its kind in the country. In 1888 the family’s mills were destroyed by fire related to an incident with gunpowder. J. B. Merrow held a patent on gunpowder. The destruction of the mill allowed the company to further develop a small shop that had previously supported the knitting mill, and the Merrow Mills thus became primarily a manufacturer of crochet sewing machines.

Joseph Merrow was the driving force behind Merrow developing new technology, growing the new business and transforming it from a regional supplier of crochet sewing machines, to the market leader manufacturing hundreds of models of industrial overlock sewing machines. Under his leadership the company achieved a place of prominence in the industrial machine field with sales world-wide, hundreds of patents and the industries first industrial overlock sewing machine.

Merrow was also active in politics. In 1880 he was elected to the House of Representatives of the General Assembly. He was founder and president of the Hartford County Manufacturers association. In addition he founded the Industrial Memorials Inc, a business group that devoted its time to commemorating pioneer manufacturers by funding and locating plaques and statues. He was president from 1939 until 1946.

Merrow traveled the world, taking several dozen trips to europe and asia, while studying the industrial conditions of the countries he visited.

He was a writer and a poet. The Hartford Courant writing his obituary quotes him as having defined war as the ‘history of the human race in a single word, Greed the cause of war and brotherly love the cure for greed and the end of war’.[cite this quote]

Merrow never married, although his great nephews Owen and Charlie Merrow maintain his legacy as the current managers of the Merrow Sewing Machine Company.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_M._Merrow

Merrow Sewing Machine Company History

From gunpowder to knitting mills

In the early 19th Century Mr. Joseph Makens Merrow became interested in the manufacture of gunpowder and established a powder mill 24 miles from Hartford Connecticut. When the Mill was destroyed by explosion in 1837 it was decided to build a knitting factory on the same site using water power from an adjacent river.

At first the knitted goods were made largely of native wool which was sorted, scoured and dyed, picked, carded and spun into yarn and knitted into hosiery. The product was sold through commission merchants in New York and delivered to retail stores throughout New England by two-horse wagons. Following the gold rush of 1849 shipments of goods began to sail to San Francisco. As business increased, a small machine shop was started to support the equipment in the factory.

The first overlock machine

In Conjunction with the knitting business, the first Crochet Machines were constructed for finishing around the tops of men’s socks in place of handwork. The Merrow machine as it is now known, was an invention of Mr. Joseph M. Merrow, who was president of the company until his death in 1947 at age 98.

The Merrow Machines were constructed under his direction prior to 1876 with numerous patents granted. The machines were so useful that business was undertaken to introduce the equipment to other textile manufacturers. In 1887 the knitting mill was destroyed by fire and the company moved to Hartford and reorganized concentrating on the manufacture of overlock sewing machines.

The Merrow Machine Company

In Hartford the company focused on building lines of industrial overlock sewing machines that were used to overedge fabric, add decorative edging and support the fabric processing trade by joining fabrics.

Between 1893 when the company was renamed the Merrow Machine Company, and 1932 when a line of “A Class” machines was introduced, Merrow had a significant impact on the textile industry. The technology and rate of innovation in this time, spearheaded by Joseph M. Merrow was unequaled in the industry. As a consequence there were several high profile legal confrontations, including Merrow v. Wilcox & Gibbs in 1897.

Sales for overlock sewing machines were strong and Merrow grew to employ more than 500 people in Hartford Ct. The company also excelled developing international distribution and by 1905 had agents in 35 countries and printed manuals in at least 12 languages.

In 1955, Merrow patented the Merrow MG-3U Emblem Machine.

In the mid 1960s Merrow opened a manufacturing facility in Lavonia GA to reduce costs and maintain proximity to an American textile market that was moving from New York City to the American South East.

In the 1990s Merrow developed a new overlock machine called the Delta Class, but was never able to gain traction with the new model.

In 2004 shareholders of the Merrow Machine Co. agreed to a buyout of the company by Charlie Merrow, and it was renamed the Merrow Sewing Machine Company.

The Merrow Machine Company today

After the reorganization in Massachusetts, the company released notice that it would continue supporting most models of sewing machines manufactured after 1925, and would re-release to market new versions of its most popular models.

The company has capitalized on the trademarks “merrowed” and “merrowing”, working with manufacturers who use Merrow Machines to brand and market “merrow” stitching.

In 2008 Merrow developed a social network for stitching named merrowing.com, and introduced series of rich media web-based tools to help people research and understand the myriad of stitches produced by Merrow Machines.

Present day

The Merrow Machine Company is now based in Fall River, Massachusetts, and is managed by Charlie Merrow and Owen Merrow great great nephews of Joseph M. Merrow. The company continues to build many models of overlock sewing machines. In addition to being one of the most recognized brands of textile equipment in the world, it remains the oldest manufacturer of sewing machines still made in the United States.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merrow_Sewing_Machine_Company

Well, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to get back to that lower looper. Who knew the serger had such a rich history? I did visit the Merrow Company web site. It was a bit complicated to navigate, but it appears they are not targeting sewing hobbyists such as myself. They did have pictures of some of their stitches, and they are very nice. I think it is fantastic that the technology developed so long ago is now available to sewists like myself at an affordable price like my Janome. Sure, I’d like to upgrade to the great ones that thread themselves at some point, but to try it out in my home I took a low-end model. I use my segrer quite a bit and now when I am using it I can think of Joseph Merrow and the innovations he made with fondness.

Babylock Special Financing through 2/27/12

Special Financing on Babylock products now through Monday, February 27.

February Financing Special – 0% For Up To 48 Months

No interest for up to 48 months, with a minimum approved purchase on Baby Lock machines when you use your GE/Home Design card. This offer valid at participating Baby Lock Retailers 2/23/12 through 2/27/12 and applies to 24 months on purchases of $1,000 or more and 48 months on purchases of $5,000 or more. Subject to credit approval. Minimum monthly payments are required during the promotional period when you use your Home Design card. No finance charges will be assessed if (1)promo purchased balance paid in full within 48 months and (2)minimum payments on account are paid when due. Otherwise, promo may be terminated and treated as a non-promo balance. Finance charges accrued at the purchase APR will be assessed from purchase date. Regular rates apply to non-promo balances, including optional charges. Promo purchases on existing accounts may not receive full benefit of promo terms, including reduced APR if applicable, if account is subject to penalty APR. Not valid on previous purchases.

One-of-a-kind Zippers with Help from Babylock Sergers

Serger Workshop DVD with Nancy Zieman

Did everybody survive the Black Friday shopping mayhem?  Hopefully you found all the best deals and knocked out a lot of your shopping list!  I didn’t go out.  Instead I started making some gifts that would also serve to bust my fabric stash.

And, I saw something new from Nancy Zieman that is designed to help you get more comfortable with your serger.  It’s a Serger Workshop & DVD that Humble Sewing Center can order for you.

Now, if you prefer in person lessons, I’m your girl.  Click here to contact me about an appointment:  StitchinJenny

Anyway, Nancy Zieman shares a clip of her new dvd and I’m posting it here.  Gotta tell you, it knocked me right on my rear.  It’s showing a truly one-of-a-kind way to embellish your zippers that only the upper-line BabyLock sergers can do.  I’m now experiencing serger envy!!!  My old serger is a faithful friend and serves me very well but, she just can’t do this exclusive WAVE stitch from Babylock……   Technically, I could force my machine to do this stitch, but it’s kind of tricky to get it to turn out consistently or even pretty without using a BabyLock to do it.

Soooo, check out this clip!  I’m thinking of all the bags I make that could benefit from this embellishment technique….   Oh sigh!  Some day!

P.S.  Our very first Gift Give-Away now has 13 out of 25 winners!  It’s not too late to get in on the winnings so click this link and follow the steps to win:

Gift Give-Away Contest!

Let’s Get Sewing!

Jenny Gabriel – alter ego:  StitchinJenny

What is a Serger & why would I want one???

I recently put up a blog post with some shopping tips for sewing machines, embroidery machines, and also sergers.  An old friend, new to sewing, asked me for some more information about sergers, so I decided to shed some light on these mystery machines here.

A few samples of decorative stitches done by serger.

Short Answer:

On the practical side, a serger is a machine that people use to finish seams with a professional looking stitch. (Look inside of what you’re wearing right now. The seam was probably done with a serger.)

The serger has a built in blade and lets you trim the seam allowance, stitch the seam, and overcast the raw edge simultaneously so you get done much quicker than with a conventional sewing machine.

They also do decorative stitches that sewing machines cannot do and they have special settings that make it easier to sew on knits and tricky fabrics. If you’re just getting started sewing, you probably won’t need one of these right away.

Video Clip Answer:

As you may have figured out, I’m a fan of Nancy Zieman’s show, “Sewing with Nancy,” and I like to post some of her video clips here.  In the clip below, Nancy does a great job of showcasing the “Queen of all Sergers,” the Babylock Evolution.  Even though I don’t have the Evolution, watching the clip just now, reminds me why I love my trusty serger so much!

Oh, and if you’re brand new to serging, a really good book to get is:  Ready, Set, Serge  by:  Georgie Melot

Ready,Set, Serge by: Georgie Melot

It’s full of easy projects that also make great gifts.

Humble Sewing Center carries this one and you can find it online as well.

http://www.nancysnotions.com/product/ready+set+serge+book.do#

Enjoy!
Let’s Get Sewing!
Jenny Gabriel – alter ego: StitchinJenny

Machine Shopping Tips fm Jenny Gabriel

Jenny Gabriel - alter ego: StitchinJenny

The Holidays are coming and some of you may be ready to buy your first sewing machine, embroidery machine, or even your very first serger.  If so, good for you!  You’re worth it!

Choosing the right machine can be an overwhelming task so I’m posting some shopping tips here for your review.  Keep in mind, the ideas expressed here are my personal opinions and do not necessarily represent SewVac Outlet’s staff or owner.

Embroidery Machines:

Here’s some info. about embroidery machines that you may find helpful:
  • Ask your dealer questions about how to transfer embroidery designs to the embroidery machine.
  • Ask about the maximum size for embroidery. The least expensive embroidery machine has a 4×4 hoop size. As you go up in hoop size the price goes up as well.
If you have your heart set on a sewing/embroidery machine combo, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, the best deal I’ve seen lately is the BabyLock Ellure Plus.  BabyLock is a very good brand.  This model has a usb port and comes with 2 hoops:  5×7 & 5×12.  The 5×12 is awesome for sewing out larger designs.  I think it’s on sale at a reduced price right now at Humble Sewing Center.   I can’t quote prices here, but I can say that the sale price is a real steal.  Check out this link to find out more about the Ellure Plus:  http://www.babylock.com/embroidery/ellure-plus3/
If you’re looking for an Embroidery Only machine, I personally love the Janome 350E.  

Janome 350E

This machine is not a sewing/embroidery combo so it does not sew at all.  However, I own this model and love it!  It is very user friendly and has more on-screen embroidery editing abilities than most embroidery machines for the same price.  It definitely has more embroidery “muscle” for your money.   Check out this link to find out more:  http://content.janome.com/index.cfm/Machines/Embroidery/MC350E

Sewing Machines

My favorite Sewing Machine brand is Janome.  I own the MC6600.  This is one fully loaded workhorse of a machine!  However, most ladies don’t need so much sewing muscle, so the model I recommend the most often is the Janome DC2011.  When you start comparing features and prices, you’re going to find that, compared to other brands, Janome gives you a lot more bang for your buck.  Pretty much any Janome you get will be a good machine.
Here’s a link to check out the DC2011:
Here are some features to look for in a sewing machine:
  • drop in bobbin
  • speed control slider
  • one-step button hole
  • adjustable stitch width
  • adjustable stitch length
  • decorative stitches
  • 7mm widest stitch width
  • (I prefer the computerized machines that have an LCD screen.  They are going to include a lot more convenience features than a basic mechanical machine.)
  • Make sure the inside of the machine has metal parts and not plastic.  The computerized Brothers at Walmart have no metal frame inside and are full of cheap parts.  (Seen this first hand.)
Whatever brand you choose, avoid getting a machine at Walmart, Target, Sears, department stores etc.  The manufacturers do not support these models.  Only the models that are sold at sewing machine dealerships are supported by the manufacturers.
In other words, you won’t be able to get parts for a machine that you buy at Walmart etc.  If you are planning to buy your machine online, don’t purchase until you make sure that your local dealership will be able to get parts for it in case you need repairs in the future.  Also, dealerships are able to offer better warranties than online purchases, so be sure to do your homework before you buy!

Sergers:

Recommended Serger Features to look for: 
Any serger you buy should have:
  • at least 4 threads
  • differential feed (this is what helps you tame those stretchy knit fabrics with ease and it does other cool stuff, too)
  • it’s accessories:  long tweezers, screw driver for changing needles, etc.
  • If you get a Janome or a Babylock, both of these brands can usually do a pretty rolled hem stitch.  If possible, have the dealer demo the serger’s rolled hem before buying.
Recommended Serger Brands:
I consider myself a serger expert.  I teach a lot of serger classes each year.  I’ve seen almost every model and brand you can think of.  I’ve seen many a serger bite the dust in my Serger 101 class because of being a poor quality make & model.  In my opinion, any current model of Janome or BabyLock Serger will be a good machine that will serve you well.
My favorite Janome is the Janome 1110DX  and the Queen of all sergers is the Babylock Evolution.

Janome 1110DX

BabyLock Evolution

BabyLock Sergers:   http://www.babylock.com/sergers/
Janome
As far as price, there are some other Janome models for less than the one I’m discussing here, but this one’s a little easier to thread.  It’s the middle of the road machine.  Not the base model and not the top of the line either.  Many ladies have brought this with them to my classes and it’s always done great.
BabyLock
Another exceptional brand for sergers is Babylock.  They have jet air threading and automatic tension settings which makes them the easiest serger to use on the entire serger market.  Pricewise, lowest to highest is:  Imagine, Enlighten, Evolution (top of the line).
These machines typically cost more than other brands, but they are so easy to use that it’s worth every penny.
Well, I hope this helps you on your journey and machine hunt.
Happy Shopping!
Let’s Get Sewing!
Jenny Gabriel – alter ego: StitchinJenny

Holiday Home Decor – Serged Christmas Tree Napkin!

Oh Snap!  If you’ve invested in a serger, this blog post has a great project for you!  (You could also use a sewing machine to get this done, but you’d need to change some of the assembly instructions…)

Have fun watching the how-to video for making your own serger Christmas Tree napkins!  These make for easy and attractive table top decor as well as a thoughtful gift for a co-worker or loved one!

Let’s Get Sewing!

Jenny Gabriel – alter ego:  StitchinJenny