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Pam’s Lesson in Serger History

Pam Mahshie, National Education Ambassador for Baby Lock

Pam Mahshie, National Education Ambassador for Baby Lock

Hi everyone,

It’s April so that means it is National Serger month. I want you to close your eyes and remember what it was like to sit or even see a serger for the very first time. My experience was in 1981 when I was touring colleges. I walked into a classroom and it was filled with many different machines, including a small machine with 4 threads on it.  Of course I was curious and walked over to it. The instructor said sit down and try it. And just like you, I said, “Oh no thank you. I have no idea what it does or how it works!”

I’m sure some of you felt the same way when you first laid eyes on your very first serger and now you wonder what you ever did without it. Right?!?

Sergers really hit their peak in the mid to late 80′s and some of you probably had some of the first Baby Lock sergers out there.

National Serger Month: 1984

Just a quick detour to answer the burning question about the Baby Lock name. There were 2 brilliant engineers (Mr. Suzuki and Mr Sukuma) who worked for an industrial sewing machine factory. They decided to develop a machine that could be used in the home to do the same type of sewing they did in the factory. Since industrial machines are quite big so scaling it down made it a “baby” version of an “overlocker.” So they combined the two making the brand Baby Lock. Mr. Sukuma, along with his son, designed the one of a kind Baby Lock Sashiko machine!

This is the first Baby Lock serger made:


The first Baby Lock sergers had tension dials with no numbers, and you had to thread it all manually. For those of you who have always had Jet-Air threading, you have no idea what it was like. It is like having your kids ride in a car with roll up windows and an AM radio. Baby Lock has always listened to the needs of their customers so when they said they needed a point of reference for the tension dials, they placed numbers on the dials, a big step when you had nothing to refer to. Then, they tackled the threading and gave us an easier lower looper to thread and built in rolled hem so you didn’t have to remove a plate to do so.

In 1997, Baby Lock introduced the very first serger with Jet Air threading, and it literally blew everyone away.


No more threading in any order, no more having to serge everything with the same color thread, because now you could change it with the push of a lever and no tension dials. We thought we died and went to sewing heaven! The doors were opened to ideas and techniques we had only imagined! That’s why it was called the Imagine.

Baby Lock then evolved into the next generation of sergers with the Evolution, combining the best of both worlds: overlock with chain and cover stitch.



There were feet and attachments made to meet the creative needs of those wanting to use their sergers for more than overcasting seams. Kathy McMakin started using her serger for heirloom serging, a technique that would take 4 steps on a sewing machine now took only one.

Now, with all of the space on the Ovation, quilting with your serger is more than just piecing!


I could go on and on. What I want you to do is have fun this month with your serger: do something different or try a new pattern with serger detail stitching. There are many books and patterns you can use! Nancy Zieman and I have done 3 different shows on serging that have accompanying workbooks for you to place your samples in. Joan Friedrich has a book on Serger Crochet, Missy Billingsley has patterns and DVDs with Martha Pullen Co, and you will not want to forget the inspiration guides for your machines! They are invaluable when it comes to learning about how your machine works. Don’t be afraid you will do great! I felt the very same way when I started, we have come a long way Baby!

See you soon,


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Posted in Serger 101

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Posted in Serger 101