Thursday 4 April 2013

Overlockers: How do you use yours?

A few weeks ago I became the owner of a shiny new overlocker. It was something that I had been thinking about buying for some time - I'm a sucker for a neatly finished seam and I always admire how professional peoples makes look if they have used an overlocker. I did quite a bit of research beforehand and decided on the Janome 9200D as it has excellent reviews. (How did anyone ever decide to buy anything before the Internet?? Any big purchase and I always google the reviews!).

I had a bit of luck when I went into John Lewis to make my purchase - they had one on the shop floor that had been returned by an elderly lady who had bought it but found it was too complicated for her to work out, so they offered me this machine for 20% off - bonus! I did feel a bit sad for the lady who had returned it though. I like to think that she would have been able to work it out eventually.

I had a bit of a play with my new toy when I got home. Although the machine comes pre-threaded (whoop!), something was not quite right. I suspect that the lady who had it before me had had a bit of a fiddle, because it was not threaded properly. Using the very helpful instructions I managed to thread it properly and get it working. I was rather proud of myself!! The instructions recommend that when you come to change the thread, instead of starting all over again you simply tie the new thread onto the old thread and pull it through the machine. Genius. So in theory I should never have to thread the machine again. In theory...!!

So, people with overlockers! I have a question for you. I'm all set up and ready to go, but I must admit I am still a bit stumped about when to use my shiny new toy. I know that when sewing jersey you can do the whole thing with an overlocker, without touching the sewing machine at all. Right? But when it comes to non-stretch fabrics you sew with a sewing machine and finish the seams with the overlocker, as i understand it. Do you serge before or after sewing the hem? Also, where is the best place to buy the large spools of thread for a good price? Any tips gratefully received!!

Don't forget there is still time to enter my blogiversary giveaway...the deadline is tomorrow! I'll leave you with the results of my Easter crafting...twit twoo!

K xx


  1. We all love a new sewing toy to play with - congrat's on your lovely new Janome! You will have years of fun ahead with it.
    As for tips, just Google/You Tube, practice and more practice. Start small with just seams and gradually build up to using the machine for its embellishment abilities. I use mine on nearly every garment, and really couldn't do without it.
    Can't wait to see your first garment whipped up with it ...

  2. I love my overlocker but I was just like you when I got it. I knew I wanted one but wasn't really sure how to use it, hehe. I don't know if there is a "correct" way to use it, don't know if how I use mine is the "correct" way and I am still learning and testing too.

    For knit projects when I know it will fit me without any faffing I 4-thread the whole seam, strong and stretchy. For other projects when I might be taking it in or letting it out and fitting as I go I still sew my seam on my sewing machine then finish my seams with a 3-thread overlock stitch (one needle, upper & lower loopers threaded). If the seam will be pressed open I finish each edge first on the overlocker, then machine stitch it together. It the seam is being pressed to one side I machine stitch is first, then overlock the seams together. I hope that makes sense! My machine has a threading diagram and you can do so many combinations of threading, two needles, one looper or two loopers either needle. Two thread etc, and it explains what each one is for. One day I'l get around to testing them all out.

    I know lots of people who thread their overlockers using the knot and pull method but personally I always thread mine from scratch. Plus that won't help you if you swap between three and four threading or other combinations. If you have any problems tension or otherwise, 9 times out of 10 it's a threading problem and starting from scratch will fix that. It's not that bad, I don't know why people are so scared of threading them, we are just so used to only threading one thread on our sewing machines? I still remember the first time I threaded the whole thing without looking at my manual, I did it without thinking and then when I realised I felt so happy, lame but true :)

  3. Oooh how exciting! I always re-thread my overlocker (Brother 1034D) from scratch and after the first couple of times it doesn't take long at all. I get my thread cones from here and so far the thread has been great - no problems with breakage whilst sewing. I've been too scared to try sewing jersey so I use my overlocker to finish seams on garments I'm making on the sewing machine. I tend to finish the seam on the overlocker before sewing the pieces together, but that's just my personal preference. I wouldn't be without mine now, I love it to bits:-)

  4. I have this machine too, it's been brilliant so far and I think I've had it for around three years now!
    I always tie the threads onto the existing ones instead of re-threading and I've also using the three thread overlock to save thread on the non stretch fabrics.
    as for when to overlock it's up to you I usually do it after I've sewn the main part of the garment together like on hems and seams. For facings I always overlook the edges before I attach it to the fabric. and if it looks like it's going to be fiddly to overlock once it's sewn together then I may overlock it first, but you'll get the hang of it as you going along :)

  5. Welcome to the fabulous world over overlocking! I am a 'pull through' threader as well (and I have been using overlockers for about 20 years - my current one is a Janome!) You do need to be careful though and ensure that your thread is still between the tension wheels for each thread, otherwise you could have a tension issue.

    My first overlocker was only a 3-thread, so I would go round the edge of each pattern piece before sewing my garment seams together on my ordinary sewing machine. Now, I use it as often as possible on my casual garments - jersey/knitted garments, woven skirts/tops etc. Pretty much anything that I would not be doing another seam finish such as a French Seam or a Hong Kong seam.

    A quick 'top tip': If you have to unpick an overlocked seam, take out the two lines of 'needle' stitching. One will be the row that runs down the middle of the stitching an the other is on the edge furthest from the cut seam. Once you have pulled these out - they should be relatively easy (perhaps you could practice a little with different coloured thread on scrap fabric) the looper threads are free and just pull off.

    I just thought of a couple of other things! Overlocking/trimming the edge of lining fabric makes the fabric much easier to work with - once you have overlocked a fraying edge, you will never go back! When it comes to sleeve, you can hem the sleeve before overlocking the side seam. When you have finished the side seam, you can press the last 1cm of seam (right near the wrist, the hem) and sew it down to the fabric just a couple of mm's away from the seam. Check out some RTW cardis or jumpers and you will see that this is used a lot.

    And lastly - keep it clean and fuzz free (especially around the needleplate and feed dogs) and don't be tempted to to what I did
    - I hope that hyperlinks!

  6. Congratulations! I generally overlock edges after sewing the seam but not always. The amazing thing about it is that it's so fast - much faster than zigzagging on the regular machine. I find I have to mess with the differential feed a lot on mine to get the best effect, which surprised me,

  7. I have nothing to add to the great advice already posted, but I just wanted to say yey to getting an overlocker, and double yey to 20% off!!

  8. How exciting :) I'd love an overlocker one day. I love the owls, very cute!

  9. Congratulations! Your finishing will look so good now. I have a three thread and one thing I've learned is the tying on method doesn't work for the needle thread because the knot won't go through the eye. I always overlock before sewing any pieces as it stops any fraying as you handle them.

  10. Hooray!

    I got an overlocker in February (the Brother one) and I'm still learning my way around it but I love it so far. Yesterday I rethreaded it from scratch for the first time and it was so much easier than I thought it would be!

    Some things I've done as a beginner overlocker user:

    - labelled what all the different knobs and doohickeys are (using the terms that the manual uses) and which order to thread it in

    - bought a large art brush (apparently make up brush works too) for clearing lint from it (so much better than the tiny one it comes with!)

    - set it on a tray so it's easy to move around (the handle for mine is under the thread tree thing so it's easier this way

    - just started using it! I haven't made any clothes since I got it but I've enjoyed just really going for it and funny little projects that don't have a huge time or fabric investment (like baby trousers and dusters and wedding bunting) (I learnt how to use the rolled hem feature for that! so much fun!)

    - for my overlocker there was a fantastic thread on pattern review full of helpful tips and stuff

  11. I use my overlocker on anything I can. I love it so. I use it finish seams (after sewing the seam line). I use it to sew together jerseys. Sometimes I have used it to sew together seams on woven fabrics without using the sewing machine. Regarding the huge rolls of thread - I get mine from my favourite haberdashery shop in Walthamstow. I bet there's someone on one of your Midlands markets who sells the stuff. Be warned - don't try and use sewing machine thread on your overlocker. Overlocker thread is finer because you're using four strands of thread at once. A lot of fluff builds up, so you'll need to give it a good clean every now and then. And be careful of pins - it's really easy to forget about the nasty little knife that runs ahead of the sewing. And make sure your make is perfectly flat going through the machine - again, you don't want that knife slicing through the body of your make by mistake. (It happens...) I don't find there's much science to adjusting tension - it's just fiddling with knobs until the stitching looks right. Finally, ENJOY!

  12. So much great advice already! Like Karen said, don't sew over pins as they will damage the cutting blade which can be expensive to replace.

    I love my overlocker and use it on pretty much every project, even if it is just to finish seams. I made a drapey jersey cardigan entirely on the overlocker although I know some people don't think an overlocked seam stands up to a lot of stress so they would advise that you stitch the seam on your sewing machine too.

    Since I mostly use the overlocker on seam finishes on the interior of a garment, I bought 4 spools of white and 4 spools of black Guterman thread, and they have lasted for ages:

    I don't bother trying to get an exact match unless it is going to be visible. My local sewing shop sells Moon overlocker thread (made by Coats I think) which is about 99p a spool so I use that if I want a specific colour:

    Definitely look at the rolled hem function, if you have that. It involves messing with the settings and taking one of the needles off, but it is great on fine jersey. Just read the manual and have a play around until you feel comfortable. Also I think and both do overlocker classes online.

  13. I've been through the overlocker thing and come out the other side, mostly, because I love the process of flat felling and french seaming and other finishes that don't use it so much. And knits don't unravel so technically overlocking isn't necessary. However, this is all partly down to my LOVE of the overlocked rolled hem. Mine is set to do this and it is the most beautiful way to finish a chiffon edge. And I seem to encounter more than my fair share of the stuff. I lend its use to others also who need to roll hem their makes.
    So, really I am saying that I still love it, but in a different way. And really, setting it up for a rolled hem is not difficult - I marked the settings with a black marker on the dials of mine! I am sure a tidy person would write them in the book! :)

  14. I overlock all my pieces before sewing, I hate re threading so I use quilt beige in almost everything expect black.



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