Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Buying a serger?


I'm finally getting organized enough to post something again. I don't really have an excuse except I sewed like a madwoman all fall and enjoyed the grandbabies over the holidays. Anyway, lots of people ask me what sewing machine I like the best, or they ask me to tell them what kind of machine to buy. My first answer is that a sewing machine is a lot like a car in that not everyone is going to like the same features and brands. My second answer is to tell them to make a list of all the kinds of sewing they want to do, gather an assortment of fabrics for trial sewing and head off to the stores. The samples the the demonstrators have you sew on in the store may not be anything like the fabrics you will be using.

In my experience, I think buying a serger might be easier than buying a regular machine. I've used 6 brands and 10 models of sergers over the years and I really feel I would be happy with almost any of them.

*My first serger was a Juki and it was one of those that had a chain stitch and an overcast stitch. The tension on the chain stitch could never be adjusted correctly, so I ended up using it mostly for seam finishes. It still works and my niece has it.

*My second and third machines were Baby Locks and I liked them for their durability. They were a little bit of a pain to thread and those models didn't have the adjustments for different fabrics like they do now. I've since had one more newer Baby Lock I bought used from the dealer and the feeding mechanism broke on it. The dealer said it was too old and would cost too much to repair, but I wonder. It was really noisy and I always wondered if it had been serviced correctly. I didn't get another Baby Lock because the serviceman said that they didn't handle the variety of fabrics as well as the newer Whites.

*I have two White sergers. One is a superlock 534 I bought used, and I have removed the left hand needle and use this machine for narrow serging. It has good give on knits this way and I can get almost a rolled hem look. To get a real rolled hem on this machine, I would have to replace the plate and make a lot of adjustments. It's a pretty sturdy machine and works well. The other White I have is a Superlock 2900 I bought new. It will do a fairly decent rolled hem on some of the sheers I use if I stabilize them first. It will also handle polar fleece by tightening the fabric adjustment screw. It is noisy though.

*The only other serger I have right now that I bought new is a Husqvarna Huskylock 936. I bought it for the options it offered, including a coverlock stitch. Considering the price I paid, it is not my favorite of the 5 sergers I am using right now. I have not ever jumped through all of the hoops to turn it into a coverlock machine however. I assume that when I do, I will leave it in that mode. This machine is quieter when operating it, but I really don't like to use it for knits.

* My favorite machine for sewing knits is a New Home Mylock 134D I purchased from Craig's List. It is noisy because of lack of insulation, but it is very sturdy and does a great stitch on knits. It has a lot of other options for stitches, but I keep it on regular 4 stitch.

*My latest serger is a Janome Harmony 91020 I also purchased from Craig's list. It seems to work about the same as the New Home machine so far.
*This last fall, I purchased a Singer 4 cone overlock machine also from Craig's list for my daughter. I found it to probably be the most user friendly of all of the machines I've used, and the instruction booklet was very well written. I used it a bit before I took it to my daughter and liked it. The only negative is that it still uses special needles. She lives near Mill End fabrics though and their machine supplies are great.
Because I do so much sewing, it is nice to have machines set up for rolled hem, heavier or lighter fabrics and basic thread colors. I will let you know how the cover stitch works when I finally try it!
Remember this when using a serger:
They need a stable, sturdy table as they create a lot of vibration.
They need oiled and cleaned faithfully
They are more delicate than a regular machine because of the higher number of moving needles
The knives must be sharp and in good condition, or the machine will not work well at all
If you are careful about tying off threads, you will almost never have to rethread the whole thing
You CAN'T pull or tug on the fabric or you will pull the machine out of alignment or break something. If you are someone who is hard on machinery, a serger may not be for you.
They are not necessarily machines you can tote from place to place--save your Featherweight for that.
You will initally spend more for thread
Once you get used to a serger, you will NEVER want to go back to having only one machine, although I must admit that there is still a place for French seams, flat fell seams and Hong Kong finishes in my sewing.
If you are a beginner, buy a serger from a dealer you like and trust and take the lessons offered. You will not regret it.
I'll include a couple of pictures of things I've made using lots of serging.