I had never used a serger (overlock machine) before I got my Brother 1034D, but I knew that I needed one if I wanted to sew knits and stretch fabrics (among a million other things) well. So, after being deterred for months by stories of fashion students taking leave of their senses at the mere mention of threading one, I took the plunge and selected a color-coded 4-thread model. I am happy to report that, not only did I not die a terrible, thread-entangled death, I was absolutely able to teach myself how to thread and use my serger. A year later, I donâ€™t have a single horror story share!
Things to know before you read the review:
1. I was already familiar with using a standard sewing machine long before I learned how to use a serger. This meant that I was already aware of sewing-related vocabulary, the names and functions of many of the sergerâ€™s parts, and the properties of the fabrics and threads I wanted to use.
2. The main sewing machine that I use is also a Brother machine (reviewed here), so I was familiar with Brother sewing machines and the Brother brand.
3. I read the instruction manual front-to-back before I even thought about touching the machine.
According to the Brother USA website:
â€¢Free arm/Flat bed convertible sewing surface
â€¢3 or 4 thread, cut and sew overlock stitches
â€¢Easy to follow lay-in threading
â€¢F.A.S.T. lower looper threading system
â€¢Differential feed improves results when sewing stretch, knitted or thin fabrics
â€¢Instant rolled hem
â€¢3 – 4 thread
â€¢Easy to use lay-in threading
â€¢Free arm/flat bed convertible sewing surface
â€¢Tension release for easy threading
â€¢Retractable knife blade
Accessory Storage: Accessory Kit Included
In the box: Manual, Instructional Video Tape
What I loved:
1. The threading paths are color-coded, plus the serger comes pre-threaded with matching color-coded thread so there are no mysteries about how the thread should feed through the machine.
2. In addition to being threaded with color-coded thread, Brother takes the next logical step and runs a piece of fabric through the machine. So, as soon as you open the box, you see the correct threading method AND you can see how each individual thread is represented in a stitch.
4. The machine can serge with 3 or 4 threads, making it versatile enough to use with almost any fabric, and allowing for both decorative and utility stitches.
5. The accessory kit includes blind stitch/multipurpose foot and a gathering foot. You can get other specialty feet (elastic foot and piping foot), but the machine comes with the two feet that you need for most projects.
6. Itâ€™s a free arm machine, so you can remove part of the bed to reveal a smaller arm for sewing around circles and tubes (collars, armholes, etc.) more easily.
7. The tension adjustment guide in the manual is excellent. Whenever a stitch doesnâ€™t look right, I can almost immediately identify the problem and the needed adjustment. They also had the good sense to include both photos AND illustrations of each problem, making it much easier to identify the part of the stitch that isnâ€™t right.
8. There was an accessory order form in the box. Now, call me old fashioned, but I love having every additional accessory I might ever need defined and available on one sheet. I may not be ordering by mail, but having a list in front of me makes it a whole lot easier when Iâ€™m hunting for parts online.
9. In addition to the manual, the machine also came with a Serger Techniques booklet, which shows the specific set-up and tension adjustments for pretty much any serger stitch youâ€™d ever need, and confirms the fabric type and thickness that will work best with each stitch. For specialty stitchesâ€”like rolled hems, pin tucking, or tablecloth edgingâ€”it also describes how the stitch is used.
What I didnâ€™t love:
1. The serger comes with 2 CDs (Windows compatible only *grumble*); one contains video instructions and the other contains serger techniques. After opening each clip individually on my Mac, I was disappointed to find that the instructions CD was comprised of grainy, low-res video that looked like it was shot in the early 90s, and was made for a similar (but older) machine. It wouldnâ€™t have taken very much time to update the videos, and including old clips that were NOT made for my machine seemed unprofessional. That said, if youâ€™re a visual learner, the video clips will certainly show you how to accurately and quickly thread your machine and get started with basic serging techniques.
2. You need to use an allen wrench to remove or change the needles. It seems to me like a hand-turned screw should be enough to secure the needles in place, and that it would be hard for people with less steady hands to work with a tiny hex key. Maybe they do this because sergers sew so fast that it would be quite dangerous for this screw to loosen while the machine is in motion?
3. This is not so much a con as it is a reality of sergers. Even with color-coded threading, there are quite a few tight spaces and small holes to feed the thread through. The serger comes with a pair of long tweezers to help out, but I definitely suggest picking up a good pair of comfort-grip precision tweezers to avoid additional headaches/fits of expletives. (I like Fiskars Fingertip Tweezers.)
Sergers (overlock machines) sew at high speeds, and there is a definite learning curve. With so many threadsâ€”not to mention a knifeâ€”itâ€™s much harder to take a seam ripper to mistakes. Once you take the time to learn the machine (or, if youâ€™re already an old serger pro), I think that youâ€™ll find this machine to be easy to work with, unlikely to get jammed, and extremely consistent with stitch quality.