Serger and sewing machines

This morning I sat down to make wedding table runners.  There are 10 to make, each measuring 78″ x 12″, so quite a lot of cutting and hemming – and before hemming – serging (yes, I know I am English and we call them overlockers, but I actually prefer the US name of serger for these amazingly useful machines as I happily surge with my serger along the edge of my fabric!).

Don’t you love the fabric?  It’s the hearts design from Emma Bridgewater.  Anyway – back to my serger.  I put off purchasing one of these machines for a very long time as, to be perfectly honest, they looked extremely scary with not one, but four tension dials, lots of thread going this way and that, and generally appearing very complicated.  And to begin with, I didn’t love my serger at all.  Not one little bit.  I struggled with threading, lost my temper and said lots of very bad words(!).  But I persevered, and I’m so glad I did as now I love my little serger to pieces.  It’s not a big, expensive model, just a basic little Janome. I adore the way it turns messy raw edges into perfectly finished ones …..

Forgive the fluff – I keep a lovely soft brush to dust it down, and I think it was just about due for this.  And then there are the heaps of trimmings ….

Though if I had one complaint it would be that there’s nothing to catch and contain these pieces.  Both I and the floor end up covered in masses of threads.  But I couldn’t have completed so many of my wedding projects without my serger – it’s been vital for invitations, napkins, confetti bags and now table runners.  I think I’m in love!

My serger isn’t the only machine on my workroom table though – in fact there are three.  My other favourite machine is also a Janome, again a basic, but very reliable model ….

I keep it permanently set up for free-motion quilting and freestyle machine applique/embroidery and it chugs along quite happily at both these tasks.  My least favourite machine is certainly the best looking of the three – my Singer ….

It stitches very nice and evenly and is great for multiple-layers of fabric, but in general doesn’t live up to its looks – in my opinion anyway.  My main issue with it is that if I attempt to sew at anywhere near full speed – on a long hem for example – the needle thread breaks – always!  I have tried all sorts of tweaks, but no – I can only stitch at up to 3/4 speed unless I want to keep stopping and re-threading the needle.  I also wish there was a function to stop sewing with the needle down for pivoting, or simply pulling up more fabric, but it always stops with the needle up which means I have to position it manually.  The presser foot doesn’t exert a lot of pressure so if I try to adjust my fabric with the needle up then it slips and I end up with a misplaced stitch.  But it does look nice, though next time I think I’ll go for another Janome – we seem to suit each other!


  1. Regena Fickes says:

    You have given me courage to pull out my serger. I bought it from a dear friend who does not sew and have been trying to get up the nerve to give i a go.
    My best machine is also a Janome, I also have a Kenmore and a Brother, but Jennie and I roll along so well, I hardly ever us the others.
    Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Thank you for the information regarding the Janome sewing machine. I have been looking at various machines within my budget and liked the various reviews of the Janome. It has been (hundreds!!) of years since I last used an electric sewing machine so will need lots of practice to sew a straight line!
    Many thanks for your lovely newsy newsletters, they are a delight to receive and read.
    Lynn x

  3. Too bad for your Singer. I liked its looks so much I considered getting one but not now. Perhaps they will read your blog and do some modifications. I gave my original one up 28 years ago for similar reasons.
    My sister just bought a Janome this past year with a wonderfully big flat sewing top. This makes it great for machine quilting and piecing. It does lots of other things too including stopping with the needle down. Great machine!
    For myself, I have been using a little Tipmatic Pfaff (28 years) that is light weight and carries well. It is perfect for taking to classes and is a great little work horse. I can’t imagine life without it.
    It would be interesting to hear about other’s favourite machines. There are so many out there.
    Thanks again for the advice on machines.

    • Hi Susan, pleased you enjoyed my post, but do try the Singer for yourself – it may just be me, or perhaps I had a “Friday afternoon” model?

  4. Linda B says:

    So glad to hear that you love your serger! That’s encouraging! I’ve wanted one for a very long time, but I’m not certain I’m up to the challenge. They DO look very complicated, and I’ve heard so many stories of sergers being returned to their boxes and stuck very deep into closets….I, too, love Janome machines and have two of them along with an older Husqvarna. When I finally gain enough courage to add a serger to my sewing machine family it will be a Janome, for sure.
    X Linda

    • Yes, do take the plunge Linda – I love my serger now and it’s also encouraged me to start dressmaking again – all those lovely finished seams! x

  5. Hi Helen,
    Thanks for your interesting comments about machines. I have a Pfaff Quilt Expression that I’ve had for about 10 years and it’s just so easy to use and the manual that comes with it doesn’t blind you with science. I hope it ‘lives’ for a very long time! I did invest in a Bernina Activa about 8 years ago as it has a knee lifter, which is handy for applique, but you need a degree in hand to eye co-ordination for that one so I don’t use it much – the manual leaves a lot to be desired, too. The June magazine is great – thank you for more super ideas.

  6. Hi Helen, re: thread breaking for Singer machine. I recently bought an industrial sewing machine and hated it right from day 1. My thread kept breaking. I went to Bernina and asked them and the girl there said I had to wrong thread (eventho they looked the same) – and walla! Now I sew without breaking a thread even at top speed (and I mean real roaring speed industrial style) – the spools look the same but thread is much stronger. Hope this helps. Yuki. Love your site.

    • Hi Yuki – thanks for that suggestion, I hadn’t thought about a different thread, I always use Gutermann Sew-all but I will definitely try another brand. xx

  7. Near where I live a place that does sewing lessons offer a 1 day overlocker workshop. Perhaps there are other places around the country that offer a similar thing. I’m not at the stage where I need or want an overlocker but would definitely give it a try if I got to a more advanced level and thought it would be useful to me.

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