Do I Want An Overlocker?

janome 6234XL

Silly question, right? Choosing an overlocker (serger to our US friends) is possibly the second-biggest decision after investing in a sewing machine.

If you don’t know what an overlocker is or does, a machine like the Janome 6234XL overlocker allows you to quickly finish seams neatly and so that they don’t fray with wear or laundering. Your sewing starts to look more finished and that can be a big boost to your creative confidence.

I’ve had my Brother M1034D overlocker for seven years. I bought it in 2011 after shoving pound coins in a jar. (I still recommend this as a great way of saving up for goals – I currently have two jars on the go.)

The Brother M1034D is an affordable model. It’s pretty much perfect for beginners and has been a loyal friend.

Unfortunately, my head had been turned. Pretty much every sewing school I attended had a Janome overlocker – and oh, what a treat they were to use. Such even stitching. So fast! And their own little trays for collecting scraps. I was smitten.

how to choose an overlocker

I decided it was time for an upgrade and recently welcomed a Janome into my home. I timed how long it took to unpack this baby and start overlocking. Six minutes, from stripping back the sellotape to hearing the thrum of an engine. And that time included taking photos.

janome 6234XL in box

Highlights of this model include:

  • Colour coded easy threading
  • Uses standard ballpoint needles
  • Instructional DVD (though this home can’t play DVDs any more)
  • Differential feed
  • Easy rolled hem conversion
  • Lots of yummy accessories…

janome accessories

Tips for investing in an overlocker:

Test your commitment to sewing first. You don’t want to spend chunks of money, only to discover that this was a short-lived affair.

Do what I did – practise with overlockers at sewing school, a specialist sewing shop or at a friend’s. My first experiences with an overlocker was as a student at Morley College.

Buy sensibly, but don’t be scared of the budget option. As long as you do your research, buy a brand you or others are familiar with and avoid secondhand options.

Scared of an overlocker? Push through the fear! I know people who bought overlockers and then left them to sit in the box for six months. Really, once you’ve had your lightbulb moment, you won’t go back. I went to a one-off evening class to get over my overlocker fear.

Not ready yet? That’s cool. Remember, an overlocker is a luxury, not a necessity. There are loads of ways to finish a seam. Below, I used the selvedge on one seam as my finish.

selvedge

I’ll leave you with the deal breaker consideration. Do you love sewing with knits? Then you might want to start dropping overlocker birthday hints … ooh, about now.

Do you have any overlocker tips to share?

With thanks to Janome for the loan of their machine.

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51 Responses to Do I Want An Overlocker?

  1. I have been in two minds about purchasing an overlocker, for lack of space and a very minimalist take to sewing tools (which is very uncharacteristic of me!). I have been french seaming most of my makes, now slowly warming up to bias binding. The only time I really feel the need for it is to finish off knits. However they don’t fray I am quite annoyed at the messy guts of my knit garments. Until I up my knit game though (and move house!) I doubt I’ll get one.

  2. Fiona says:

    I went on an overlocking day course at Abakhan, Mostyn, and what a game changer it was.
    All of us on the course were astonished at how much we covered and how easy the tutor made it. Overlockers are not just for neatening seams!
    Since then I’ve sewn more knit fabrics than wovens.

  3. Janet says:

    Thanks for the prompt. I’ve wanted one for ages but have been a little reluctant to indulge myself. “But I have zigzag!” I’m off to drop my first £ in a jar.

  4. Wendy says:

    I bit the bullet about a year ago and bought a Babylock Evolution – it have everything you would ever need and more – jet air threading at the press of a button (pure joy!) and will, I understand, launch a space shuttle if I get the jiggly knob-thing positioned just right. I still get a thrill every time I sew a seam with it. I did take a one-off lesson on how to use it at first as I was completely scared of it, and I still haven’t used all the functions but I will eventually.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      I mean, really, there needs to be a children’s book about a Sewist who launches a space shuttle…

    • Katie M says:

      So jealous. I’ve been saving up for this for a year and a half, and I’m not even halfway there! It’s the air threading that does it for me. I HATE threading my overlocker.

    • I bit the bullet and bought a Babylock overlocker (the Enlighten) and love it, so quick and easy and perfect every time, a cinch to thread.

  5. Sheila says:

    I love my Juki MO654 and so does Heather Lou of closet case patterns. See https://closetcasepatterns.com/serger-review-the-juki-mo654de/ for comprehensive review and useful comments

    • didyoumakethat says:

      People seem to have very good things to say about Juki – thank you.

      • I had a (very expensive) Pfaff. It was user-hostile, so it sat in the garage for a number of years and a couple of moves.

        Last year, I bought a basic Juki at a reasonable price. I love it and highly reccommend it.

        (Note re the Pfaff, it was both an overlocker and a cover-stitcher. I have since learned these do not work well in one machine – better to have one of each.)

    • I just had a look at them online and they are almost double the price in the UK compare to the US!

  6. Jane says:

    Your post has come at a very good time. I’ve just dropped my 21 year old Brother 925D overlocker off for repair this morning as it stopped chaining over the weekend and started a nasty clacking noise (I can’t believe I’ve had it that long). The guy in the shop said he’d have a look at it but dosn’t think he will be able to get spare parts, and by the time he’s just serviced it and replaced the upper blade it will be over £100 without any other parts, if he can get them. He’s going to have a look at it and let me know before he does anything to it.

    It took many years before I got so fed up of being scared of threading the dratted thing (I’ve cursed it a lot over the years) that I sat down and mastered it. I’ve never been able to get to grips with the tension which is why I’ve never sewn with knits until this weekend when I was making up my first tee shirt, which is when it threw it’s final hissy fit. It’s only been used for neatening seams and over locking raw edges of new fabrics prior to washing. So perhaps the time has come to invest in a new one and really overcome my fear and make friends with a new one.

  7. Beth Duffus says:

    I am a switherer. My basic Bernina sewing maching doesn’t let me reduce the foot pressure (which would have stopped me buying it if I’d realised at the time, though it is otherwise wonderful), so it buckles knit fabric. I use my old Frister Rosmann to make T-shirts with zigzags. I went to a Brother overlock demo a while back and insisted the lady used knit fabrics before I considered a purchase. She was a bit flustered by this and the machine buckled the fabric no matter how much she adjusted it with a spanner! This has completely put me of overlocker, especially as space is limited at home. Was I just unlucky with this demo?

    • MizzBassie says:

      I think the lady who demonstrated your overlocker wasn’t properly trained on the machine. You don’t use a spanner to adjust the differential feed; you use a knob on the side of the machine and it should be super easy. You were totally right to ask for a demonstration on knits, they are the main reason to get an overlocker. Better luck next time!

  8. Kathy Lynch says:

    Oh, how I adore my Babylock Imagine, especially the jet air threading! One little push of a lever & the thread is “whooosh”, sucked right into position. It’s GORGEOUS! (I’ve had it for almost 4 years now & I still pat it & tell it I love it.) Also, I never have to adjust tension or feed or whatever it’s called; I can sew from the finest fabric to the thickest without adjusting a thing! Perfection!

  9. Olivia says:

    I bought mine second hand, and it sat in the cupboard until I did a course at Morley College and lost my fear of it. It’s brilliant for knits, I probably don’t use it enough and I could have sewn knits on my machine – but the way it zips through seams and cleanly finishes edges is amazing. (I’m a bit scared of French seams. Any chance of a post on them?).

    The biggest thing for me was realising that it’s not a fancy sewing machine, it’s a different beast altogether. Get your head round that and the fact that you will need to adjust various bits and remove/add needles, and it’s a wonderful piece of kit.

  10. Lucky Lucy says:

    I have been sewing for decades with a serger. My Janome 634D has been a workhorse for 25 years. My head was turned as well and I purchased a top of the line Bernina serger. Very fussy and tempermental machine. Then I discovered Baby Lock Ovation a couple years ago, that jet air threading is worth the price of admission. Never looked back. Traded the Bernina and got a good price. I keep the Janome threaded with dark thread and the Ovation with lighter thread and I am good to go.

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Oh my goodness – slight thunderbolt moment here. I can do the same! My Brother threaded with dark thread and my Janome with white thread. Thank you!

  11. Linda says:

    Ugh – it seems this model Janome 6234XL is not available in the U.S. In looking at Janome website this model doesn’t show up when you choose USA. Would you have any idea what U.S. model is comparable to this one? Thanks for any guidance you can give.

  12. I bought my first serger several years ago (Husqvarna S25) and it was a beast to thread. A BEAST. It broke one day and I was so tired of feeling stressed about the threading issue I bought the easiest to thread serger on the market 🙂 The Babylock Imagine and LOVE this machine!! It is expensive however, so I would say buy what you can afford but be mindful of it’s ease of threading. This can really dampen your enthusiasm 🙂 I do french seams on mine – starting with the narrow, three thread, then a good press and sewing the last seam right sides together on my machine. The quickest french seaming known to human 😉

  13. JenNYC says:

    I’ve been happy with my Brother1034D, that I got about a year and half ago. It’s beginner friendly, and a good (and very inexpensive) entry level machine. I got mine in an online bargain of less than US $200. Right now it does everything I want, from sewing any kind of knit, to making activewear, and finishing seams on woven fabrics. I have just started exploring the other features, like the faux flat-lock stitch. There is also a lot of information online (youtube) about using the 1034D, and so I would recommend that to beginners. I may upgrade some day too, but right now, this machine is doing everything I need.

  14. Jenny says:

    Can you not put a dvd in your laptop?

  15. didyoumakethat says:

    Nope – it’s a Mac.

  16. Nicola says:

    I went on an overlocker course at eclectic makers in Worthing before I bought my janome. Best bit she made us thread it loads of times so I.’m not scared of changing colours and can rethread quickly. Tip start it off with fabric under the needles to stop it unthreading

  17. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) says:

    nah, just think what else you could do with those pennies 🙂 you know my philosophy – I almost never use it! only for denim just to keep it from being raggedy after washing. To this day I don’t understand constructing on the serger – but I think I’m in the minority.

    • Sue says:

      I agree with you partly, Beth and don’t understand why they are considered nearly essential to sew knits. IMO, this is where they are least necessary as knits rarely fray and seams constructed by an overlocker look bad and are nearly impossible to unpick. However, I find mine invaluable for neatening the seams in most woven fabrics and I’m even considering a second machine threaded in a different colour.

  18. Kathy Lynch says:

    I feel like I’ve just been part of a lovely chat with friends…& yet we’re spread all over the globe. Thank you Karen! x

  19. Mrs J Tillotson says:

    Just bought a Brother 655D but can’t find much about it anywhere. Haven’t had time to play with it yet but I’m hoping for good things. Really drooled over the Juki 1000MO but they are soooo expensive here in Canada, thought I had best start off with the Brother as it was inexpensive and move on later maybe. Anyone have one of these machines

  20. Claire says:

    I treated myself to a Brother over locker about two years ago and love it! It’s made such a difference to all my sewing.

  21. Diane Hunter says:

    I have had an overlocker for four years it is out of the box but never been used. I did do a class on using it but that just made the fear worse😟

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Nooooooo! Diane – I am setting you a challenge. Come back to me in two weeks’ time and tell me you’ve used that overlocker. Just give it a tiny go. It shan’t bite! I’m making a note in my diary to hear from you. 😉

  22. Sam says:

    For anyone looking for an inexpensive option in the UK, LIDL sell a basic Singer overlocker for around £130 a couple of times of year, (I got mine in October a couple of years ago). It’s never been a minutes bother & does everything I need for home dressmaking

    • Teresa says:

      I invested in this one too, as an entry level overlocker, to see how it goes. It’s absolutely fine for what I need it for and it has never given me any bother at all.

  23. Marianne says:

    I bought a second hand Bernina 1100D from someone who didn’t test her commitment to sewing first 😉 Running like a charm! I can see no reason to steer away from second hand options. So many overlockers are bought by sewists who regret their purchase because they hardly use it, or rather have an embroidery machine instead.

  24. Sew Unseamly says:

    I guess you could say I went straight to high end. I INVESTED when I bought my overlocker and went straight to Babylock (I got the Enlighten, but I don’t think it has much advantage over its sibling Imagine, it was what the shop had immediately available, and I wanted immediate). If I’d pay it for a laptop, and I have the money available, then I’ll pay it for the overlocker… My mother was right, I use it a lot more (I hated hers as a child) because it is simple to thread and I don’t worry about tension. The delights of a well finished seam should not be ignored. (Next stop, coverstitch, though I’m resisting for a few years)

  25. Colleen says:

    I’m probably in the minority here, but the only time I want an overlocker is when I see how nice the neckline and hems are on knits. But….I prefer to sew with wovens and so rarely use knits. Plus….it just looks too hard to me.

  26. For Christmas I gave myself the Juki MO-1000 air threading model. My old eyes are in HEAVEN! It also has a built in manual needle threader for the needles as well. I am so glad I made the switch. I kind of regret selling my Brother, as I could have kept that and threaded it with white or a color that would blend, but oh well. I barely have time to sew right now, but one day I will! Enjoy yours, Karen!

  27. Victoria Line says:

    I bought the ‘Singer special’ that Lidl offers from time to time because I thought I needed an overlocker. Despite going to a adult ed evening class to learn how to lace it up, I never came to terms with the machine and sold it. An overlocker is not a necessary piece of equipment and you can even sew knits without one.

  28. liamarcoux says:

    I borrowed a friend’s unused serger (carried it home on my lap on the subway), used it once, broke it, begged forgiveness, got forgiven…and then got a new serger, ha ha (my friend is now all-knitting all the time and bought her serger used for $30, so hopefully this isn’t the thin edge of the wedge that splits us apart!).

  29. June says:

    I had a Singer serger for years and it was nothing but headaches from the beginning. Late in 2016 after a particularly awful day of making a knit top on the serger, I decided it was time to upgrade. I did a lot of research and I ended up going with a Janome too. Now I have a Janome 1200D Professional and it works like a dream (most of the time). When compared to the Singer one, they are like day and night.

    I mean, I REALLY wanted a Babylock Evolution, but I couldn’t justify it nor afford it.

    Anyway, enjoy your new machine!

  30. MrsC says:

    It’s so lovely to read all of this excitement. Whatever brings you joy! I have a Bernette ovelocker over 25 old now. I hardly ever use it. I used to use it all the time but at some point I began to feel averse to commercial methods and finishes and now I sort of find ways to avoid using it. It’s not IT that I dislike, it’s a lovely beast and does everything I could want and I can thread it in a jiffy, it’s just that I love the old fashioned look and feel of french and flat fell seams, bias bound bits and pinking.
    I think I need to find a middle ground as it is getting colder here and the only time of year I wear knits is winter and I do find myself reaching for the very few merino pieces I have made, and overlocked, quite often!

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