Saturday 13 July 2013

Do You Need an Overlocker...

I purchased my overlocker (serger), when my kids were little; a Janome MyLock 203. It wasn't an expensive overlocker, but nor was it cheap. However, it was well worth the money. Back in those days, I did a lot of stretch sewing and so the overlocker was invaluable.

Fast forward many years and the overlocker was packed away with my regular machine, only to be brought out to hem jeans. There came a time when the kids no longer wanted handmade clothes, I was busy with other things, my interests changed and so sewing was rarely undertaken.

A couple of years ago, I left the workforce and found myself with spare time. My kids had left home, so my time was mine to do with as I pleased and so I began sewing again.

Until about 8 years ago, I sewed with the Lemair Helvetia I'd purchased when I was 19 years of age. It was a very basic machine, having only two stitches; straight stitch and zig zag, but that didn't stop me sewing everything I wanted to, including my wedding dress and three bridesmaids dresses. I then inherited my mother-in-law's Janome, which was still pretty basic. With all the sewing I'd done, I thought it was time to upgrade, and so two years ago, I bought myself a whiz bang Bernina.

My poor old overlocker was a little the worse for wear and no matter what I tried, I just couldn't get the tension right. I packed it away again and continued to sew without an overlocker. My first stretch garment on the new machine, turned out just fine.

And so I've been sewing almost everyday for the last two years, without an overlocker. There hasn't been one thing where I've needed an overlocker, which is exactly the same as when I was sewing with my old Lemair Helvetia pre overlocker days.

Recently, I came across a couple of articles on overlocker tension and thought... why not give it another try. I decided I would clean the machine first. On opening the cover, I thought I could see little pieces of broken needles. Hmmm... too many pieces and definitely not any broken needles. The shiny things I could see, were bits of thread from the numerous dance outfits I'd made over the years.

This was the first dancing costume I made for my daughter when she was just a tiny tot. Wasn't she cute!!! She still is!!! Over the years I made many, many costumes, as she continued to dance until she was an adult.

I can still clearly remember making those costumes. We would be given a hand drawn pattern with a few, vague instructions. Oh, sometimes there were tears as I'd try to work out how on earth to put it together. There was no Internet to search for how to's!!! In the end, they always came together and it was totally worth it to watch my little darling up on stage.

Well, the bits of dancing costumes, along with lots of other stuff, show that I really didn't clean my machine properly. It was about time I did. By the time I finished, the inside of the machine was spotless... well, no stray threads or fluff.

Before I set to fix the tension, I ran the machine to check that it was actually working and guess what? The tension was spot on!!! All it needed was a clean!!!

As you can imagine, I was thrilled. I am enjoying using the overlocker again. An overlocker is definitely quicker (than a regular machine using zig zag), to neaten seam edges, but I still often use the regular machine. It all depends on the project, how many edges need neatening and where the project will end up.

An overlocker is definitely not a necessity, even if you are sewing with stretch fabric. If you are lucky enough to own one, though, you'll find that it speeds up some things, neatens edges beautifully and it is great for stretch fabrics.

The following fabulous posts have all been linked to the Sewing Tips & Techniques link party, here at Threading My Way. If you have an overlocker, they are well worth a read...

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences about overlockers?

... Pam


  1. I have never owned an overlocker, they look like very scary machines to me Pam!

  2. I have been contemplating to get one. Since I'd like to sew stretch fabrics more, but... I got some great advice on sewing stretch fabric with a regular sewing machine. If you have some tips on that, I'd love to read a post on that!!

  3. I agree, Pam. Not necessary but very, very useful if you have space for one. Once I got over my fear of threading it (not helped by only having a foreign language instruction book for mine!) I really enjoyed using it.

  4. My friend just gave me her overlocker, my first one ever. Nothing fancy, but I just love the speed and the power. :) It is definitely my new toy. :)

  5. I have an overlocker that my hubby bought for me at Christmas a year and a half ago. I use it loads and it sure makes finishing seams a dream.

  6. I have never had a serger, but suddenly I want to go clean my sewing machine!! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  7. A serger is on my wish list! It is amazing how many old machines are tossed when all they need is a good cleaning and oiling!

  8. My overlocker is over 20 years old now. I would have to buy a new one if it went wrong. No, I know, it is not essential, but, boy, does it make life easier!
    That pink Sugar plum fairy you commented on, and the circular skirt on the previous post, were both done with assistance of the overlocker. And everything feels so much more professional with it!
    Sadly, mine is a discontinued manufacturer, so no spares are available any more. So when that knife wants replacing, it will be time to say bye-bye. Meanwhile, I still love her.

    And yes, my 2 hour time frame for the skirt did include the overlocking, I have a 4 thread overlocker. You can do a 3 thread stitch with it if preferred, but it does a lovely 4 thread stitch too.

    I do not understand why it makes everything so much simpler, but it does!


  9. I love my Janome Serger. I use it mostly when I sew up t-shirts or hooded shirts for my son. It cuts down a lot of sewing time. I also just serge the ends of new fabric before throwing it in the wash so the thread ends don't become a mess! It's also great to finish my seams after using my sewing machine to stitch first. I find it a necessity since I have owned one now for 10 years. Mine is not high end price, but works very well for me. I buy all my serger thread thru Threadart which I find is very reasonable.

  10. Great post, Pam! And awesome girl, she was surely a beautiful dancer... with a dress like this! You make me laugh when you say you were sure to find broken needles and they were pieces of dancing costumes LOL!!
    By now, my LilPotato is my fan n°1, she's proud of her mom sewing FOR HER... but I'm not mking any illusion, there will be a time when she will hate the dresses I make for her... it makes me feel so sad :'(
    And, my two cents for the serger/overlocker: I love it!!! I couldn't live/sew without it!

    By the way: thanks for including my threading post, I appreciate it a lot!

  11. I bought mine almost a year ago when I decided to make things for sale at markets. It is a good machine, and I enjoy it. Threading for a first time was a disaster, but then I sat down and re-threaded it a few times in a row and now I can do it with my eyes shut. I think it makes finishes on garments neater. I could probably do without it, but I really - REALLY - like it :)

  12. I love mine but it's definitely a luxury item. I am a bit lazy with the finishing details of projects, so my overlocker enables that laziness ;) It's not a necessary thing and when I'm writing up a tutorial on my blog, I'm always careful to say 'finish seams as desired' as I know a lot of people reading won't have one.

  13. I was very happy to inherit my mom's serger, i used it when i was a kid learning to sew! It's a nice to have over necessity. I will switch on and off using it depending. Honestly I don't love changing the thread so sometimes I will just use the regular machine :)

  14. loved reading this post Pam and hearing more about you and your daughter :)

  15. There was a time recently when I thought I had done my sewing machine in...but all it needed was a thorough cleaning. Amazing what a good clean can do! I love the little peek back of your daughter and your sewing.:)

  16. Overlockers are handy but when I looked back at my sewing on some baby dresses I did with out an overlocker and I think I was a much tidier sewer. But I'm pleased it just needed a clean save $...Enjoy overlocking

  17. I couldn't imagine not sewing with an overlocker - I use mine all the time and I hardly sew knits. Overlocking makes a finished garment more durable and longer lasting because the seams won't unravel, plus it looks neater and more professional. In fact I upgraded my basic overlocker for a $3000 model and haven't once regretted it

  18. I have never had one but I can certainly see the value! Your creations are lovely!

  19. I sewed on an industrial server for years in a factory and loved the absolute racing speed of them! I don't own one and can't imagine what I would use one for....but I know lots of folks want one. I love my Janome 1600P and my Husqvarna.

  20. I loooove my 30+year old mylock 203!!!
    But I would give my leftv0 arm for a copy of the manual and cut offs catchment thing :(

    1. Mr TMW found a PDF version of the Janome MyLock 203 manual online. Can't remember where he found it. I can send it to you if you'd like, Jean. My email address is at the top right of the blog, if you'd like to send me yours. I'm not sure how much machines and manuals vary from country to country, but hopefully the PDF will help you, even if there are differences. I don't know what country the manual is from, so obviously you would need to ignore any parts concerned with power or electricity.

  21. Hey Pam, nicely written reviews on Sewing machine, your daughter is so pretty, looking beautiful in that dress, well stitched, I am also sharing some my reviews on Serger Sewing Machine, visit my blog for more information, your reviews on that are valuable for me.


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