Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Making Old New Again

I taught a sewing class in July. I wouldn't really say teach, more like "oversee." There was much preparation involved, mostly creating space for three more sewists in my studio, and setting up another cutting and pressing area in the adjacent barn.

During the pre-class barn clean-up, I kept eyeing my old Baby lock serger (BL4-428), and remembered how the box fell off the truck during the latest move.  But it was packed in all its original styrofoam, so may be it's still functioning. Unfortunately, I don't have the manual. I think it's somewhere, but where after 20 years and a dozen different moves? I found one on eBay for $12.99. I think that's steep for a black and white, recopy.

After the sewing class was over, I took the serger out of the box to check its condition.  It was grimy, but maybe it was already that way when I placed it in storage. I decided right then and there that I could still use this machine and keep it set up with all four threads to do basic overlock seams.  I also have a new Baby lock Evolve which is capable of becoming a cover stitch machine. Even though it's not that big of a deal to convert the machine, why bother when I have two to work with right? Dedicated Baby lock cover stitch machines are $1,200. WOW! That's not even the full retail price.

Photo Image from

I decided to take both Baby locks and my Bernina 1130 into the shop for a tune-up. I paid $400 (three machines) in total to get everything done, and although all my machines came back mostly clean, I don't think they did much to any of them.  That's going to be another blog about finding a good technician that doesn't rip you off. Live and learn.

Last week, I started using my old Baby Lock and it worked great, until the presser foot started to spark and heat up. Then I remembered this was already a problem 20 years ago.  I found my friends over at Sewing Machine Parts Online, and emailed them about a generic replacement. Another $24, and I'll have a new presser foot too. But is it worth it? I'm on the fence.

I also remembered how I hated threading this machine, which was why I bought the new Evolve to begin with. I don't remember how to actually thread this little guy. The repair guy sold me an old beat up, original manual for $15. I think my misplaced manual is in better condition.

With the fear of starting an electrical fire, I did set up my new serger for four thread serging, and it did a great job. This has been my problem with the Evolve. I rarely use it. I keep forgetting how. I spend an hour or so figuring things out, and then a few weeks later, I forget again. If I were more experienced, I should be able to whip it into whatever kind of serger I need, which is what this machine is built to do. Don't ask me about a narrow-rolled hem. I haven't tried that yet. I spent a lot of money on a lot of machine, which doesn't get a lot of use.

How about my old Baby Lock? Did you know all the older Baby lock machines were made by Juki, using very similar industrial machine parts? This whole machine is metal, not plastic. It also uses industrial needles, which are more durable and last longer than home machine needles. It doesn't have differential feed, but I've never had much problem with the tension or fabric slipping.  As long as I'm not sewing things like sequined material, this machine does just fine. I think sequined fabric is a problem on all machines. This guy has really good bones, and should outlast some of those throw-away plastic machines.

What's the point of this blog? Well...if we have something useable, then use it. In my case, may be it's really time to just sell the little guy and focus on learning how to use my new machine. I'm also a little sentimental about the old serger. It made a lot of my children's clothes and t-shirts when they were small. many decisions.

Happy sewing!