Getting to Know My Overlocker

I suspect there is going to be a love/hate relationship between me and my overlocker at least for the foreseeable future!

Said overlocker has been sitting on the table in my sewing room since I bought it at the end of last year at a bargain price from LIDL.  I read the manual, checked out Portia’s tutorials on Makery and decided I needed adult supervision.  Thankfully I received this by way of a course at Fabric Godmother – a Christmas present from my parents.  My sister made the voucher!


Saturday was the big day and I headed off to Hove with my overlocker in the car.  W very kindly drove me – mostly because he wanted to spend a sunny day in Brighton with the added advantage of parking at my sister’s house and spending the day with her.  One of their activities involved him posing in a Punch & Judy stand – I have no idea what was going on there!  We also paid a flying visit to Emmaus on the way and acquired a lovely little copper iron which has subsequently been used to successfully apply wax to his skis.  Here it is being heated up on the hob.

Back to more serious things.  There were five of us on the course and there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out to work.  Tea and coffee flowed and there were even cute little cupcakes.  The lovely tutor, Julia, was very patient as two of us were complete beginners and slightly terrified of our machines.  Everyone’s machine was already threaded (mine came out of the box with starter threads in place) so we started by learning how to tie on new threads and pull them through – very easy and at that point I thought perhaps I’d just never unthread it.  Not a chance – we then had to cut the threads, pull them all out and do it ourselves from scratch.

Amazingly I managed to do this without too much difficulty, although stupidly I hadn’t twigged that we had four different colour threads for a reason, i.e. to match the colour coding on the machine so that just made life even more difficult for me.  Here’s the machine all threaded up.  I was so excited I had to post a picture on IG straightaway!

I even took a photograph of the tension settings so I wouldn’t forget where they were originally.  What I want to know is who the heck actually came up with the idea for this monster?  At least I pretty much understand how the sewing machine works and when it goes wrong I’m happy to poke around to try and sort it out.  The insides of the overlocker are a complete mystery at the moment.

There were piles of scrap calico to experiment with and the tension on my machine seemed to be the best behaved with everything looking pretty good straightaway.  We played around with different fabrics, altering the tension to suit each one. We then :

  • Learned about the differential feed
  • Changed stitch lengths
  • Removed a needle and disengaged the stitch finger to reduce the stitch width
  • Sewed a blind hem.

My first problem was with the sample of chiffon which became completely entangled and I had to spend some time with tiny scissors and the tweezers poking it all out.  Not to worry, I have no plans to make something in chiffon.

One of the things that impressed us was being able to do gathering by changing the differential feed.  Apparently there is also a special foot you can use that gathers one piece of fabric whilst keeping the other one flat.

Here’s my gathering sample – I’ve just realised the flowers are upside down!


The final event of the day was making either a snood or a skirt with an elasticated waist.  We were invited to take our own fabric but everyone chose to pick and buy something on the day.  A difficult choice given we were surrounded by fabric.

My mistake was to choose a really lovely jersey – with raised stripes.  There was obviously no way that I was going to be able to match the stripes as the day was almost over and we wanted to try and finish.  We drew up our own patterns direct onto the fabric with chalk,  based on our waist and hip measurements.  My first go at seams was pretty good but I had made the tube too big having measured myself over three layers of clothing. Whizzing down the seam again threw everything out.  The elastic went in quite well, although I think I cut it a bit too short so there was some undesirable bunching.  However, all in all I was quite pleased with it and having thought I would never wear a jersey skirt I decided I probably would.

Julia then demonstrated a blind hemming technique which gives a band effect at the bottom of the skirt.  I decided to wait until I got home to try this as we were running out of time and I didn’t want to rush it …. and this is where it all went wrong.  I pinned everything in place last night, checked the machine on a scrap of folded fabric and then launched into the real thing.  The machine went haywire with crazy loopy stitching all over the place. I then spent about an hour unravelling everything and re-threading with much weeping and wailing (actually it was more like much swearing).  It is now working again but the hem was ruined and having chopped it all off to start again I’ve ended up with a skirt that only a child could wear as it is so short.

I shan’t give up.  I can see what an advantage an overlocker will be so I’m going to buy some more fabric without stripes (maybe a scuba knit) and have another go at the skirt.  I thought I’d also try some nice simple projects – maybe a plain t-shirt and a cover for the overlocker – to build up my confidence.  In the meantime I have Julia’s book to study.


I really enjoyed the day, it was very relaxed, the other students were lovely and I would definitely recommend it to overlocker virgins.  One very important thing to report is that despite being surrounded by all that fabric I didn’t buy any, apart from the piece to make my skirt.  Such restraint.

42 thoughts on “Getting to Know My Overlocker

  1. I have that overlocker too. It is scary! Mine spent 3 weeks in the box before I opened it!
    here’s a tip…if you are sewing a good project, disengage the blade so you sew but don’t cut. That way if you mess it up you can unpick the stitches and you haven’t cut anything

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No wonder it all sounds terrifying. I didn’t realise new overlockers had so any functions! ? My ancient one is similar to industrial ones. It over locks the seam edge to finish it, that’s it! I don’t touch the tension or the blade until they don’t work.
    Maybe it would be a good plan to conquer one bit at a time and get used to the machine that way!! Happy overlooking.


    • I think it’s definitely worth spending a bit of time with an expert – the whole threading malarkey was putting me right off but although it’s fiddly I can actually do it now! There are quite a few courses around here so it is obviously a popular subject!


  3. You lucky thing! I could really do with that course myself. I got an overlocker for my birthday back in October, and although I’m not scared of it, I certainly haven’t seen its full potential. I can finish seams and knock up a T-shirt on it but haven’t yet tried any of that fancy stuff like blind hemming and gathering!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t remember my overlocker ever looking that clean! It’s over twenty years old and I’ve never changed the blade, shame on me, although I also only tend to use it for seams and hems rather than anything fancy. Sounds like I would benefit from a refresher course if I could find one near me. Looks like you learned a lot in just one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your blade has done pretty well then! I’m amazed at how much stuff builds up inside the machine in such a short space of time. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything too fancy either to be honest!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed reading about your overlocker exploits! Sounds like it was a great course to go on. I didn’t realise you could do so much on an overlocker! I need to get mine out again and have a good look at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I bought one from Aldi recently and like you embarked on a course locally where we had to make a t-shirt. You should see the end result – it’s like a dog chewed it ! How anyone can make a lovely garment is beyond me!! So far I can overlock edges where I don’t have to go round any corners!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Claire. At the moment I’m still at the stage where I’m amazed when I read posts where people say that they’ve made an entire garment using their overlocker but we’ll get there in the end!!


  7. Good for you conquering your fear, I hate being defeated too. I have only had my overlocker a couple of months and one piece of advice given to me was for the first six months thread it afresh each time you use it so it becomes second nature. I am definitely getting quicker at it. I am forcing myself to use it too as the more I use it the less frightening it will become (hopefully!). It does have the added advantage of making regular sewing machines seem heaven sent! Good luck with skirt two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s probably good advice – the threading needs to become second nature rather than a major ordeal every time you need to do it! Mine is threaded up with white thread at the moment which is not going to work with everything. I have used it to overlock the hem and sleeves of my latest dress before hemming them and it has started to feel less like it is going to run away with me!


  8. Hi Jane, I had my first Babylock to make my lace wedding dress about 25 years ago – and I have to say the overlocker vastly outlasted the marriage (and I loved it more!). When it finally gave up the ghost about a year ago I was lost, until I bought a shiny new one. I’m sure you’ll get used to it – I don’t do any fancy stuff, but when I make my Agneses (Agnii?) or a sweatshirt, I make them up on the overlocker and only use my machine to double stitch around the neck and hems. So much quicker and neater. Good luck with it! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ooh I’m rather jealous of this, it sounds fab!
    Sorry but it’s quite funny how everything messed up when you tried yourself at home. That’s so typical!
    I only do basic overlocking on mine – I didn’t know you could gather! But mine is playing up – there’s some kind of tension issue and changing the tension doesn’t do anything :/ it’s like the plates or whatever don’t work… but I figured out that if I gently pull the problem thread at the top whilst it’s running, it’s fine. So that’s fun!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funnily enough I am having the same problem with mine. It worked fine when I was on the course and the first time I used it at home but when I tried it again the stitches were all loopy and changing the tension seemed to make no difference and the thread is now all caught up inside and I can’t face trying to deal with it at the moment! I am just ignoring it for now!


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