So you bought a serger? Congratulations! And now you’re standing in front of the beautiful, colourful display of serger cones of thread, taking in the glory of it all. And then you see the price. And you do the math. And you wonder whether you’re going to have to choose between eating and setting up your serger…
Fear not! I have some money saving tips for you today.
There is no question that setting up a serger is expensive. Most people purchase 4-thread sergers (although there are 3 thread models too). That’s 4 cones of each colour. Now if you have the money to get 4 cones of every colour, all the power to you. Most people don’t. Yes the cones of thread last for a really long time, so you don’t have to buy them over and over like with sewing machine thread. But you do have to use 3 to 4 cones at all times.
There is a certain amount of thread you’re going to have to buy. You can’t run a typical serger with less than 3 cones. And if you have a 4 thread serger, running it on 3 cones is just silly. That extra needle makes a huge difference to the integrity of your seams; like an insurance policy. Besides, even if you sometimes only run 3 threads, you bought a 4 thread serger for a reason and you’ll want the option of using all 4.
So here’s the thing. The needle that sits to the far left above your work is the really important one. That’s the one whose stitches will reveal themselves (ever so slightly) when there’s a little stress pulling on the seam of the garment. That’s the one that needs to have a colour that will blend well with your fabric. The others are tucked away in the seam allowance. The right needle thread and the upper and lower looper can be a neutral colour.
But what neutral colours should I use?
I suggest that over time, you invest in four different neutrals. I wouldn’t buy them all at once; buy them as you need them. Understand that even though you will be using them for 3 of the needles/loopers along with other colours, you also want to be able to use them for all 4 (3 if you have a 3 thread serger) when they happen to be the right colour for your project. So invest in 4 (3) cones of each of the following.
you definitely need to have a full set of black cones. Yes, that’s 4 (3) cones of black thread. You can use black for all those dark colours like navy blue, dark brown, deep green, violet and so on; and of course you can use it for black.
White or raw-white:
either of these will do. This is another must have. When sewing light colours you can use a white or off-white in the right needle and the loopers. Again, you want a full set of these. If you buy what’s called a “raw white” which is not quite ivory and not quite white it will blend in nicely with all the pastel colours as well as whites and ivories.
For a lot of sewing, you can get away with just having black and raw-white for your right needle and your loopers. But if you sew a lot of mid range colours then there are two other neutrals that are worth investing in.
A warm medium neutral:
You will want taupe (yes I know that taupe is for grandmas). The thing about a good taupe is that it will blend with so many warm colours that you’ll be surprised. All your browns, greens and in-betweens will work with a nice warm taupe.
A cool medium neutral:
for this one, you want a medium gray. Now trust me there are so many grays it’s crazy. You want a gray that leans into blue. This will be your neutral for all your medium blue and purple options as well as, you guessed it… grays.
These four neutrals will cover a lot of ground for you.
They’ll work with a lot of different fabric colours on their own. When you choose to work with a fabric that has a strong and very obvious colour, buy one spool that colour on its own. You can often get away with using a normal spool of thread for these. I know the sales person told you not to use anything but serger cones. I regularly use 3 different industrial serger-style sewing machines and when I’m doing a job that requires a very specific colour that I don’t own on a cone, I will use a 100m spool of sewing thread instead of investing in a cone. The only thing that will sometimes happen with these is that as the thread gets down toward the end, the spool will hop around unless you have it in a little mesh thread bag. If your serger didn’t come equipped with these, you can buy these at a sewing shop. They may have to special order them. It’s not something that most places would normally stock.
Once you have your four neutrals, you will likely discover that there are particular colours you really want to have on hand. Any colours that you know you will use regularly will be worth investing in. Just get one cone and use 3 cones of the closest neutral colour. Obviously, you can get a full set of any colours that you want, I’m suggesting this as a cost efficient method to avoid having to do so. 🙂
As you use your serger with the neutals on 3 (2) “needles”, bear in mind that the loopers use a lot more thread than the needles do. Some people like to use the same cones for the loopers all the time so that they don’t run out of all the same colour at the same time. That way when they need to replace them, they don’t have to replace them all at once.
Now that you’ve invested in these cones of thread, you may also want to consider purchasing a cone thread holder to go with your sewing machine. It’s a heavy base with a guide that allows you to use your serger cones with any sewing machine. They are relatively inexpensive and allow you to avoid having to buy the same colour of thread in both formats.
And there you have it! Happy serging!