I can’t remember learning to use a sewing machine. My mom always had a machine at home, and we studied Textiles at my secondary school, in my case up to GCSE level (without wanting to start moaning about UK education I’m not convinced I learned all that much from Textiles class at school. I still have the dress that was my GCSE final project, which received a grade of A*, and the sewing skills displayed are not great…).
Overlockers are different though. My mom never had an overlocker and I don’t remember school having one (if they did, I didn’t use it. Although, to be honest, my main interest in class was using the auto embroidery function to embroider garish coloured seahorses on everything I made). So, the first time I ever used an overlocker was when I received one as a birthday present from my parents last year.
On first attempt, I was pretty stumped. My overlocker wasn’t stitching correctly and the manual that came with it wasn’t particularly helpful. But with repeated attempts, and the aid of the internet, I figured out what I was doing wrong. I’m still no expert, but I’m improving, and I’ve noted a few common issues that I thought it would be worth sharing.
1) Is your thread secured in the tension disks?
When I first unpackaged my new overlocker it was pre-threaded. That seemed like a positive, but it was actually more trouble than it was worth, as, despite it not sewing correctly, I was reluctant to unthread it. After a little while I realised the issue was that the thread wasn’t secured in the tension disks – and so wasn’t running through the machine at the correct tension.
When you pull the thread through the tension disks you should hear a click and/or feel the thread being secured. Make sure this is the case for all 3 or 4 threads you have in use.
One of the most likely causes of any issue with the stitch is that the tension isn’t set correctly for your fabric. Your manual may provide advice, but personally I didn’t find mine of much help. I’d advise starting with a ‘basic’ tension (e.g. 4), sewing a test swatch of your fabric, and then adjusting as required.
3) Thread quality
Using cheap thread has never caused me any trouble with my sewing machine, but with my overlocker buying £1 thread cones has resulted in threads snapping frustratingly easily. If your threads are snapping with any frequency this could be a cause.
4) Correctly threaded – from begining to end
Obviously its important to thread your overlocker correctly. I thought I was, I was following the diagram on the machine to the letter, but realised that the image didn’t show the very last part of the process (how the lower looper thread should be pulled through to the throat plate over the top of the upper looper). This information was included in the more detailed instructions included in the overlocker manual. Make sure you are following the threading process to the letter (including those bits that may not be pictured on your machine).