Sergers


What To Look For When Buying A Serger:

You know, if you buy a cheap serger from a box store, you will be very frustrated.  So don't!  What is the difference?  "Tolerance."  

When a machine is manufactured, the manufacturer sets a tolerance level.  "Low tolerance," means they don't tolerate any sloppiness in the manufacturing process.  A "low tolerance" factory will make a quality machine.  The metal has to meet a certain quality.  The parts have to fit together tightly, without any "play."  You can detect a serger that's made in a "high tolerance" factory (where they allow sloppiness), by grabbing the needle bar and see if it will wiggle forward and backward.  If it wiggles forward and backward, we can't set the needle/looper distance (a timing setting), because it's variable.  If the metal is cheap, the screws strip, and the parts wear out quickly.  It then becomes a disposable machine.  When you take a cheap machine in for a repair, we don't have much to work with.  Sometimes we will tell you it isn't worth the cost of having it repaired, because we CAN fix it, but it won't STAY fixed.

Three features that you really want on a serger are 1) a built-in rolled hem, 2) differential feed, and 3) a tall thread rack.

#1  The rolled hem is such a great way to finish a raw edge.  You can use it to finish the edge of a ruffle, instead of folding it in half.  You can finish table linens or anything else that you don't want to put a hem on.  On most machines, there's a switch in the front that's pushed forward for regular serging, and pulls back for a rolled hem.

#2  Differential feed means that you have 2 feed dogs.  The front feed dog goes the same speed all the time.  The back feed dog can be adjusted to go faster or slower.  So, if you're sewing on a stretchy fabric, and you don't want it to stretch out and be wavy, you can slow down that back feed dog.  However, if you do want it to stretch out and make a "lettuce leaf edge," you can make the back feed dog go faster.  Also, if you're sewing with a non-stretchy fabric, and you want to gather it up a bit, you can slow down the back feed dog, and it will gather it.  You'd need a gathering foot to get deep gathers, though.

#3  A tall thread rack may seem like a little thing, but the taller the thread rack, the nicer the thread feeds off of the spool.  And it is sooooo important for the thread to feed well off of the spools.  If it doesn't feed well, where the threads are supposed to lock on the edge, will wave. 



I'd like to show you a few things about serger repair.


Here's a common problem we see with sergers.  There are 2 pins in the needle plate that hold the fabric stable as the stitch is formed.  Sometimes they get bent or broken off.  Sometimes you can bend the bent pin back in place.  The pin on the left is too bent, and will have to be replaced.  The pin on the right is broken off, and will also have to be replaced.  Some sewing machine mechanics are willing to replace these pins, others will just have you buy a whole new needle plate.



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I worked on this serger a couple days ago.  The woman says she sews on flannel every day.  If you'll look closely at the needle plate, you can see that the center support is broken out and pokes up in the front.  And the support between the pins is broken and pushed down.  The cause of the break is the amount of lint that's packed into the feed dogs.  WOW!  That's a lot of lint!


You can click on the image to get a closer look.

Moral of the story...  it's a great idea to remove the needle plate, and clean out the lint every once in a while.

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Sometimes the thread pullers get knocked out of whack.  And no matter how much you mess with the tensions, you won't get a  good stitch.  This is a Bernette, but is the same on most Berninas.


In this picture, the thread puller is knocked out of position.

Here, I've loosened the black screw, and moved the arm so it's even with the looper arm behind it, then re-tightened the screw.
If you have a Bernina or Bernette serger, this is a simple thing you can do yourself!  

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When sergers sit unused for a long time, the old oil will turn into a gummy mess.  So, if you can't turn the handwheel, that usually means you have a gummy mess inside.  Then we have to remove the old oil with a "solvent," remove the solvent and whatever it disolved, then re-oil.

To prevent this from happening to your serger, just get it out and use it every month.
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This poor serger!  Its owner should be reported to the sewing machine abuse council!

Strike 1:  Bad thread.
Strike 2:  The thread rack is on backwards -- the thread needs to pull straight up off of the cone.
Strike 3:  The far left spool pin is broken off.
Strike 4:  The pad under the spool pin is falling apart.

Strike 5:  The thread puller is out of position.

This is a great serger!  We'll just clean it up and it will run like new.


After its been cleaned and oiled, we'll put the thread puller back in place.
Then we need to repair the spool pin.  I cut a spool pin off of another machine that was in the "bone yard."  

I used a Dremmel to make a hole through the bottom of the base.  Then I used the Dremmel to hollow out the spool pin.  

Select a screw that will stick up about 1/2" past where the old spool pin broke off.  Make sure the screw and hollow spool pin with fit together nicely.
 
Mix up some 5 minute epoxy, and put it inside the hollow spool pin.  Screw the new spool pin on, and let it sit until hardened.  Clean up any excess glue.


Not a very good picture, but you can see the position of the thread rack.  It even has a sticker on it that tells which side should go towards the front.

Didn't have time to take more pictures, but it sewed-off beautifully!

20 comments:

  1. The rolled hem is such a great way to finish a raw edge. You can use it to finish the edge of a ruffle, instead of folding it in half. You can finish table linens or anything else that you don't want to put a hem on. embroidery machine reviews

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  2. I have an Elna dcpro5 serger. I love the machine. Yesterday I discover 2 spool pins were broken. how can I fix them?

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  3. Why is my differential feed stuck? It won't move I can serge overlock but no gathering or anything that requires a cxhange in the differential feed.

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  4. I have a simplicity easy lock 850. Purchased used. The feeder dogs do not seem to move? Any suggestions? Rrgw45@gmail.com

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  5. I have a simplicity easy lock 850. Purchased used. The feeder dogs do not seem to move? Any suggestions? Rrgw45@gmail.com

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  7. My first guess would be that the feed dogs are packed with lint. So you’d need to remove the needle plate and clean any lint in the feed dog area. My second guess would be to check the stitch length, which would be inside the left side cover. Loosen the screw and slide the indicator to about 2 1/2. My third guess would be that the feed linkage is frozen up. Nothing that a little WD-40 can’t take care of.
    My first guess would be that the feed dogs are packed with lint. So you’d need to remove the needle plate and clean any lint in the feed dog area.
    My second guess would be to check the stitch length, which would be inside the left side cover. Loosen the screw and slide the indicator to about 2 1/2.
    My third guess would be that the feed linkage is frozen up. Nothing that a little WD-40 can’t take care of.

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  8. Any chance you know where I can purchase the pins that go in a needle plate? It seems easy enough to just replace the pins. Mine bent and I have purchased two entire needle plates that don't fit well.

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  9. It depends on what brand your serger is. I can get Bernina (and Juki) pins easily enough from Bernina. But any other brand I’d have to get from Brewer, and they just don’t exist through Brewer. Bernina pins are too thick to fit in other brands. So you’d need to call the dealer for your particular serger brand.

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    Replies
    1. Hello! I have had a pin on my Bernina 2000de come off. It's not bent and the needle plate looks good. How does one re-attach the pin? Thank you!! Susan

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    2. Hi Susan,

      You can glue the pin back in with super glue or a 5 minute epoxy. The first thing I do is clean the grove out with a small screw driver. Then remove the parts off the back of the needle plate. Have a pair of big pliers handy – I like to use channel locks. Use a big pin to put a little glue all along the grove. Both pins should be sticking out about the same length. Then squeeze the pin into the groove with the pliers. Wipe away the excess glue – top and bottom. When the glue dries, you can scrape it off with your fingernail or a small screwdriver. Then put the parts back on the back of the needle plate.

      Good luck with your repair!

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    3. Annette, I can't thank you enough for your quick reponse! I really like to fix things around the house and I'm very excited to have come across your blog. Your directions are great and I'm excited to tackle this repair! It was killing me to wait for a repair. Susan

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  10. Hi, I have a Singer 5 thread that won't feed fabric unless I place upward pressure on the leading edge of the pressure foot with my finger. It doesn't matter what pressure foot I use, I have the same issue. The machine will not feed fabric on its own. Any ideas as to what is wrong? It is clean. The stitch length is set to normal as or all the other settings. I just received this machine (used); however, the previous owner swears it works. It is several years old and was only used 3 times. Thank you.

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  11. Hi Vicky,

    My first guess would be that the presser foot tension is turned too low. The knob on the top, left side of your machine would be the presser foot tension. Turn that to the second from the highest number. My second guess would be that the presser foot shaft is gummed-up. A little WD-40 on the shaft would fix that pretty quick. One more thought would be the feed dogs may not be coming up high enough. I’ve seen needle plates packed with so much lint, they bow upwards, so the feed dogs are barely showing. I’ve seen some break, too. Another thing that keeps the fabric from feeding, is having burrs on the needle plate, stitch finger or support pins. Take the foot off and see what shape the needle plate is in. If there are rough spots, you can polish them with a very fine sandpaper (about 400-600 grit).

    I hope you're able to get your serger going.

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    1. I took my serger into the shop and it is the needle plate. It will have to be replaced. Thank you so much!

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  12. I have a BabyLock SE200 that has been sitting in my closet for a (shameful) number of years. It was a gift all those years ago and I never really learned how to use it. It was used when I received it but had been serviced by my local sewing machine store. I pulled it out tonight hoping to watch some YouTube videos and figure out how to use it. I got the thing threaded and it seems to be working just fine motor-wise, but the feed dogs won't engage and move the fabric through. I lifted the presser foot to look at them and they don't do anything. I'm assuming that this many years of not being used the oil is all gunked up. I'm willing to spray a little WD-40 to see if I can get things moving, but I don't know WHERE to spray it. I'm not sure exactly what's supposed to move.

    Also, would you happen to know if any of the more modern machines have presser feet that are compatible? The feet I have are the snap in kind, so I wondered if I could use any feet of that type.

    Thanks!

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  13. Hi Steph,

    If you remove the needle plate, you may be able to get to the feed dog linkage with the straw on the WD-40 can.

    Most modern sergers have snap-on feet, but not all brands are compatible with each other.

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  14. I have a singer serger. Was working fine but now the thread will not catch the fabric. Loops just fine without fabric...help?

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  15. Hi Halen,

    When a serger makes a chain without fabric, but not with fabric, there’s something that’s just a little off. First, replace both needles, then re-thread the serger and make sure everything is threaded like it should be, and be sure it isn’t tangling on the thread rack. Then check the tensions and make sure they haven’t been moved too high. It should be somewhere between 3.5 and 5.5. Next, make sure your needles are both pushed up as high as they can go. The needle on the right will be a little longer than the needle on the left. If that doesn’t fix the problem, then there’s a timing setting that’s off. Most repair shops charge $80 to $125 to time a serger. You have to decide if your machine is worth putting that much money into, or if you’d be better off putting your money on a better serger. With those Singer sergers, we can re-set the timing, but it’s very likely to go out again, pretty quickly. The quality of metal they use in those machines just can’t hold a timing setting.

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  16. Thank you. I have already tried with the threading, needles, etc...so I guess it's the timing.

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