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Serger retiring: please advise on new.

momcat50 | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

Well – My four thread Babylock (10 yrs old) has problems. I just had it repaired to the tune of $140. The linkage had all loosed up and it would not serge at all  – only cut. I also had the blades replaced. However, the repair person said my tensions on the Babylock are wearing out due to how the thread wears on them. He said the tension takes a lot of fiddling around due to the problem and that there is no cheap way to replace the tension mechanisms. So – I want to know at what point do I say goodbye to my old Babylock? It is not doing the nice work it did new. It skips every so often and the tension seems erratic like once set it fluctuates. I cannot very well sell it – it is ill. If I would go to trade it in (which I am not sure anyone does), I would have to be honest about its difficulties. Another go round with repairs somewhere else would equal the cost of a low end serger. So….I guess I will try it for another few weeks and if it still seems to be “working but just barely” I need to start the search for a new one. I have a few questions:

What is the biggest reason anyone gets a 5 thread over a 4 thread serger? It seems like there are fewer choices in sergers than sewing machines. Please let me know if you have a newer serger you are pleased with.



  1. NansiM | | #1

    Hi Susan,

       Sorry to hear about your old serger.  We get so comfortable with them, it's hard to let go.  I'm an avid serger and sewing instructor and have always owned Pfaffs.  My ffirst one I had for 10 years and it was also a 4 thread.  I was waiting for the coverstitches to be added befor upgrading to a 5 thread.  I have the top of the line (til just this fall) a 4872.  It has 20 built in stitch programs for everything from 3 different coverhems to chainstiching, rolled hemming, flatlocking and regular ovelocking.  the tensions for each are preset (but you can override) and the setup fro each technique is right onscreen for you to follow.  The threading for the loopers is the easiest yet!  No plates to change, just snap-on feet.  I really love it for the ease and versatility it gives me.

       however, because I had heard so much about the babylock Evolve-an 8 thread!!! model, I had to check it out and was very impressed.  It has a jet-air threading system so you don't even have to look under the front cover!  For someone just getting into serging who doesn't have a lot of time to spend threading, it sure looks attractive.  It has even more stitch options than my Pfaff-more along the lines of some of the RTW garments that have decorative seging on the outside when they use the coverhem.

       You need to have a good idea of what you use your serger for and what you wish you could do when you go shopping for your new one.  Be sure to bring some of your own fabrics and things you'd like to try and test drive them yourself-not just watch the demonstrator.  Like driving a car, they all have their own feel.  we used to encourage this when I worked for a dealer-it really helped people make up their  minds.

      Now there's also a new 10-thread Pfaff serger out.  So you definitely have possibilities out there.  happy hunting!

  2. bellefille | | #2

    Hi Susan,

    I'm pretty new to serging myself, but I just bought a Babylock Imagine.  I has the loopers that thread themselves, like the Evolve.  From what I understand the Evolve, which has 8 threads can do the serging stuff, and the (is it called?) flathem. But the saleslady says that to go from one operation to the next you have to "undo" something.  Like I say, I'm really new to this.  For about the same price, she said, I could buy the Imagine, and another Babylock serger which does that flathem stuff, and I could move from machine to machine without the middle step.

    Anyway, so far, I really like my Imagine.  It all but threads itself, it adjusts the tensions automatically so you can move from fabric to fabric, and works easily for even a beginner.  I didn't do much research before I bought it, so I was glad to see your last reply was a favorable one for the Babylock!

    Happy Hunting!


    1. momcat50 | | #4

      My purchase for a new serger is going to happen sooner than I thought. Last night I was working on polartec hats for my son heading back to college. With each step, the stitching got progressively worse to the point half was stitching and half was not. Yes I liked my Babylock. It worked hard for many years. I am going to look at three or four before I decide on a new one. I was looking at getting a new Bernina 153. So I may start looking at Berninas first and then a few others before I make the decision. Thanks for your input. I will look at the Babylocks again!


    2. momcat50 | | #11

      FYI - I took a look at the Babylocks you mentioned. Twice. I came home today the proud owner of a new Babylock. The one that threads itself. I even got myself the 5 extra feet. The Babylock dealer took mine in trade. Even though it has problems that render it doomed for retirement, the dealer felt that there were parts he might be able to use as some parts have been discontinued on that model. Win-win. It helped pay part of the cost of the feet!

      I decided that the next one down in price was exactly like the old Babylock I was retiring, except that I would not have had to change needle plates like I did on my 5260D.  I decided that I wanted the change and a step up.

      I don't know if I would use the flatlock, but I did like the idea of the two machines. So if I ever decide I need the features of the flatlock machine, I will get another machine.

      Anyway, thanks for responding. It helped me think things through.


  3. BYDEZINE | | #3

    I think the main reason people get a 5 thread is to get the coverstitch and chain stitch, although there are some ancient machines that can do a chain. but I played with one and it was close to impossible to thread.

    If all you want is the overlock function, stick with a four thread.  I have found that the elna's are easiest to thread after the machines that have air threading.

    I also own a bernina 5 thread overlock/coverstitch and while it is like a cadillac, I am not sure it was worth all the money it cost. over 1400. my 4 thread elna's were $600  (new) and $350 (used) respectively.

    what sort of sewing do you do?

    1. momcat50 | | #5


      With the serger I do tablecloths and napkins with rolled hem, and garment construction with 4 threads. The serger came in very useful for helping do costumes for my son's high school musical last month. I used it some on each garment I did since I got it about a dozen years ago. I understand what a flat hem is, but not chain. So I guess I will find out this week....my serger absolutely went over the edge last night. I had just gotten it back Friday with a $130. repair bill. The linkage had all come loose and he had it over a week. It was not an easy fix and he admitted it was tenuous at best and that the tension system was wearing out - threads were cutting through metal. (I don't know this repair well - first fix - but he has been around a long time.) Last night I was working on polatec hats for the son in college. With each step I did after the first hat, the serger started skipping more and more. It was half stitches and half none when I finally quit and admitted defeat. So now I search. I have been eyeing up the Bernina 153 and was going to jump for it next week. So I think I will go play with the Bernina sergers first. I also have a Janome dealer close by. But I know nothing about Janome, so I will compare them and after that I don't know. My Babylock I bought at a fabric store that is gone. We have a Sears, Hancock Fabrics with whatever it has, and then after that the Elna dealer is about 40 miles away. So I really want to go through a true dealer this time. I do a little bit of everything in sewing. I like quilting, but smaller items. I sew garments and my next project is black corduroy bib overalls with black and red buffalo check lining in flannel for my husband. He helped pick out the flannel. I like to embellish clothes sparingly - cuffs collars. So all the 153's stitches would be fun, but at this time I am not interested in machine embroider. Thanks for your input.


      1. BYDEZINE | | #6

        as an owner of a top of the line Bernina and a middle of the line elna, the Elna makes the more beautiful rolled hem.

        1. momcat50 | | #7

          Thanks again for the input. I will be sure to see the Elnas. A friend is on her second Elna sewing machine and has always been very pleased with them.


          1. mommydionne | | #8

            Neat to hear all the serger info  I own a 3 thread singer I have had for over 12 years now and it is getting ill also.  I sew for myself and my three kids (5,3 and 4 months) and have both a Janome and singer dealer nearby.  Any more thoughts?


          2. momcat50 | | #9

            I have looked at 2 different serger brands thus far. The Bernina dealer showed me a an interesting stitch with 5 threads that I don't know if I'd ever use! Janome has good deals on their mid-priced serger, but I don't know much about the Janome serger as far as reliability. I hope to get over to see the Babylock dealer later this week. It will be interesting to see how they have changed. A friend said to look at the Elna - but I thought Janome and Elna were the same? Perhaps I am wrong. I thought the Bernina stitched nicely - but then until my 5260D Babylock got sick I thought it did too. Dealers seem to sing the praises of the little digital screens. I would rather get an REALLY good machine, and deal with manual settings. I have no fear of computers but I don't know if I trust "instant" settings. Especially if one does not have the capability to override default settings. Anyway...the search is still on!


          3. carolfresia | | #10

            Just to clarify: in the case of the Bernina machines with the LCD screens, the display is only that: a display. It doesn't automatically adjust any of the settings. What it does is to recommend tension settings, as well as needle positions, stitch length, cutting width, diff. feed settings, etc. etc. for a variety of stitches (from 2-thread to 5 thread), so the info. is right there in front of you. You still have to make all those adjustments manually; i.e., you'll still be turning tension dials. And since the recommended settings are for a sort of generic fabric type, you'll always need to test and make minor adjustments for your fabric anyway.

            I personally rather like having those recommendations and reminders right there in front of me, so I know where to start with each stitch. The other option is the old-fashioned way, in which you simply look it up in the manual (if you haven't memorized all the settings, that is!) That's equally effective, but I'm basically lazy!


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