Here at Jane White Tuition we love our overlockers! Read my ten top tips for buying an overlocker – helping you to make the right choice.
1. Buy from a ‘bricks and mortar’ retailer
You will get advice about features, the difference between models and, importantly, after care support.
The internet is convenient but you can’t beat face-to-face customer service.
When I supply Elna and baby lock machines I check them over to ensure they are working as they should. I thread them up so you are ready to go – no cut off threads or a tangled mess to cope with out of the box!
I’m here to help if you have a question about buying an overlocker and caring for it afterwards.
baby lock overlockers come with an hour face-to-face tutorial as standard
2. What’s your budget?
With the entry level Elna 664 priced at £269 to the top of the range Baby lock Gloria at £3195, there’s a model out there for you.
A knowledgeable supplier will find out what you want from your machine and suggest models personalised to you.
Sometimes you will find you don’t need to spend what you thought. But, it might be by spending a little bit more you will have a machine that not only meets your current needs but you can grow into.
3. Think about what do you want from your overlocker?
If you use it occasionally for neatening and doing hems an entry level machine may well do the job. If you are an enthusiastic or professional seamstress or you use a lot of jersey fabric, something like the Elna 664 Pro or a baby lock might be the best choice.
It’s worth writing a list of what you currently make and what you would like to be able to make. The dealer should be able to make suggestions as well.
Age is no barrier to using an overlocker. Yvonne and Evs enjoy sewing together and look fabulous modelling their Sew over it Heather dresses.
4. Are you scared?
If you are new to overlocking I agree they look scary. I promise they are not as bad as they look.
If the thought of threading the loopers and needles, balancing the tension control and choosing the correct settings is putting you off read my top tip number 10. Also consider the baby lock range which all come with air threading loopers.
The baby lock overlockers have needle threaders. The Acclaim even air-threads the needles as well!
Modern overlockers have come a long way in the past few years. If you see a three thread overlocker it’s old!
Modern machines are four-thread but you can use three threads.
My first overlocker, bought in 1995, was a four thread machine. To do rolled and narrow hemming I had to faff about unscrewing the standard base plate to change it to the rolled hem plate.
Narrow and rolled hemming is now automated. Different models have different mechanisms but they all do the same thing – remove a stitch finger to decrease the width of the stitch. The baby lock Enlighten and Acclaim will even do a decorative wave rolled hem.
It was also very fiddly to re-thread the lower looper on my old machine. With the invention of Elna’s easy lower looper threading mechanism, lower looper tantrums are a thing of the past.
The baby lock’s air threading looper make them a breeze to use.
Some machines, like the Elna 664 Pro and the baby lock range, offer two thread overlocking which is fabulous for flat locking and decorative stitching.
There are a lot of brands to chose from, more than I can include here. I can, however, talk confidently about the ones I use at the studio and personally.
You do, to some extent, get what you pay for but it is a very personal choice. It’s worth doing your research from other users.
I supply the Elna brand because I rate them as great machines for build quality and price.
Baby lock is the ‘Rolls Royce’ of the overlocker world. They are a higher price point but I can see why for their build quality and ease of use.
Those machines from the well known supermarkets – oh dear, I’m going to be controversial here ….. but if that’s your budget they will get you going even if some models are tricky and they may not have a long life.
7. New -v- second hand
I get asked this one a lot. I know a new machine comes with a price tag but I have seen some nightmare second hand machines purchased in good faith.
You don’t know who has been using it. Have they loved and looked after it? Have they thrashed it? Using a domestic overlocker for inappropriate fabrics and projects eg heavy upholstery (you need an industrial for this) won’t have done it any good.
One lady’s purchase from an internet selling site cost her so much to have it repaired that she could have bought a new one.
Some retailers offer reconditioned machines. They may come with a six or twelve month warranty from the seller (not the manufacturer) but a new Elna comes with a two year warranty and the baby lock brand a whopping four years.
Unless you know the machine’s history and the previous owner I would always recommend to wait until you can get a new model.
8 TRY IT OUT FIRST
In capitals – that’s how strongly I feel about number eight of my top ten tips to buying an overlocker. Whichever brand you decide to buy, you are spending your hard earned cash on something you want to love and enjoy using. Most people don’t buy a car without a test drive – it’s the same principle.
I have all the Elna and baby lock models at the studio for you to use at classes and to try out before you make a choice. There is no pressure, take your time, consider your options and then make an informed decision
If the dealer won’t let you try them out – walk away.
9 Overlocker, coverstitch or combination overlocker/coverstitch machine
I frequently get asked about hemming as seen on jersey garments – the two or three parallel lines of stitching with a weave of thread on the other side. This is done by a coverstitch machine and is not achievable on an overlocker.
A coverstitch machine can also be used to stitch a chain stitch. They can be used to adddecorative threads and ribbons etc.
A whole new world of possibilities will open up if you have a combination overlocker/coverstitch machine. I think of it of three machines in one – an overlocker, a coverstitch machine and the more ‘industrial’ combination of chain safety stitch and overlocking as seen inside commercial garments.
The opportunity to do two processes in one by seaming and neating in one go is not just amazing but time saving too
Elna and baby lock do a stand-alone coverstitch machine.
Baby lock have three models of combination machine.
The baby lock additional feet and attachments mean you can achieve a professional finish quickly and easily. Add elastic and lace, gather, apply binding, turn up hems, make straps – the possibilities are endless.
Having used a variety of makes of combination machine over the years, I can honestly say the baby lock is by far the easiest to convert from overlocking, to coverstitch to combination overlocker/coverstitch
10 Get some tuition!
“She would say that” I hear you say.
I’ll tell you about the lovely Cheryl who came to a recent How to use an overlock workshop.
Cheryl purchased her machine twenty years ago and it was still in the box. She was too scared to use it.
Thirty minutes in Cheryl had her machine up and running and had changed the threads
In a few short weeks Cheryl is hooked and is using it nearly every day. This is not an unusual story.
I have a number of workshop options from the two hour one to one Overlocking for the terrified and the three hour group How to use an overlocker. I will take you gently through how an overlocker works, how to re-thread without tear, balancing the tension dials, three and four thread overlocking, needles and how to change them, threads, stroppy fabrics, jersey, building up to narrow and rolled hemming.
If you fancy a full day of skills, we start with the above and also do some technical sampling, for example how to construct a T shirt and attaching neck bands, on the Making clothes using the overlocker day workshop.
Jersey Day is always popular. Learn how to match fabric to pattern and make something amazing in jersey.
For baby lock come along to the baby lock day
You don’t need a machine for any of the workshops – use one of the studio machines
You don’t know where an overlocker workshop will lead you. Read Nicky’s inspiring story of how coming along to a session led her to running a successful business designing and making pole wear!
Have a look at the www.elna.com.
But most of all, if you want to know more, arrange a free demonstration or book a workshop, please just get in touch.