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Introducing Fred

26 Jul

The birthday arrived and Mr Frog delivered: introducing my Janome 6234XL Overlocker, or Serger a.k.a Fred

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Fred is ‘thread’ pronounced in my husband’s amusing half-French half-english accent when he is trying not to roll his ‘rrrr’s.  For those of you who own, or have used, an overlocker it uses a LOT of thread so is utterly apt!

If you want the process I went through when choosing this model in the shop click here

Initial thoughts on overlockers generally

My goodness they are fast!  That takes a bit of getting used to, but it is fun.  Having used the machine for quite a few days now I feel overlockers are much more ‘manly’ machines than the regular sewing variety.  The speed, oily smell, danger from the blade, delving in to the ‘workings’ to adjust it – just feels quite masculine.  You have to learn what each of the stitches is and then make minute adjustments to several settings, and there is nothing to tell you if you got it right.  There is something very satisfying about adjusting all those apparently identical dials and cranks in order to get it doing exactly what I want it to do.  They get really dirty really quickly – it would be sexist to link this to males here I think but you can fill the blanks!  Now I am not a clean freak by any means (reciprocal sexist joke could be levelled at women here I think!)  but fabric residue seems to be stuck to everything and I haven’t used it that much.  I think it is going to take forever to clean and the tiny little Janome brush which came with it certainly doesn’t look up to the task.

About this machine

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The machine can be adjusted from four thread down to two and tension is adjusted with four dials which are on the front of the machine.  The stitch length is changed with a simple dial on the side.  It also comes with a differential feed, this means the two sets of feed dogs can either work together, for normal sewing, against each other to stretch out a fabric for smooth sewing, or with each other, to gather.  I’ve used this to sew a knit and it worked perfectly.  Finally, it has a ‘rolled hem’ function where the machine will fold over the edge of the fabric then wrap it with stitches to look very smart.  With some cheaper models you have to remove the stitch plate to change to this setting – not so on Fred.  You just click back the ‘stitch finger’ and change the other settings. As standard, it comes with a range of accessories from spool caps, screwdrivers, spanner, oil, spare blade, tweezers, five needles, spool nets, funky needle threaded gadget and more.  All these little bits and bobs go in a lovely box which fits perfectly inside the waste catcher – it looks very smart indeed! However these items completely fill the container so you have to take everything out to access anything so I’d recommend having a separate container for the lesser used items.  The machine even comes with a cover of sorts – it is literally a plastic bag with a hole in the top but does the job; its hideousness will drive me to make a cover sooner rather than later though!  You get the standard foot when you buy the machine and it clicks on with a little shank, no screws to undo.

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Using Fred

I can’t really do a comparison as I haven’t used any other overlockers but haven’t found anything this machine can’t do which is important to me.  I’ve been through the  Beginning Serging course on Craftsy (my review here) and it seems I have bought exactly what I wanted – a solid mid-range machine.  Once you get used to creating a ‘thread chain’ where you run the machine before putting the fabric under it is pretty simple.  So far I have really struggled with locking the stitches using the various recommended techniques.  It either looks a mess, doesn’t work, or both.  To be clear, this is all user inexperience rather than the fault of Fred.  Online, everyone recommends buying a special glue called ‘fray check’, I have some British equivalent but it is thick and gloopy and nowhere near as elegant as the stuff on the videos.  Even if it was, I don’t particularly like the idea of using glue on a sewing project, feels a bit like cheating.  As I said previously, the 6234XL seems to be a slightly rejuvenated version of the 634D and I don’t really know what the difference is other than they have changed the grey and included a needle threading gadget.  Frankly there could be more differences but it isn’t documented online and I couldn’t really find any.

Threading

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One big plus which doesn’t seem to be advertised anywhere is – it comes threaded!  They are only small spools of 200m white thread but I think being able to start straight out of the box is a great bonus.  There are ways to just use this to pull through new threads so you never have to thread the whole thing, but that doesn’t seem right – you need to love your new baby properly and that includes threading it I’m afraid.  Threading is not easy with any serger or overlocker, but the machine helps as much as it can – the colour coded thread guides are pretty idiot proof.   The difficulty comes in navigating the tiny components and the tweezers are helpful for this.  One thing I’ve learned the hard way is you have to thread it in the correct order – if you leave the needle threaded and rethread a looper you’ll get another break.  There is a nice little switch to make the hard to reach apertures and hooks appear which is a nice feature.  There is a DVD which comes with the machine, it is for the old model 634D but gives a good explanation for visual learners.  The DVD is VERY old fashioned and is quite a laugh to watch – helpfully it is on you tube thanks to the Sewing Studio (which is where I bought Fred):

In Summary:

I love Fred the Overlocker.  A great mid-range machine from a trusted manufacturer which delivers everything I want, and a few things I am not sure how to properly use which means I can grow in to it!  I have already completed several projects and it is a fantastic machine that I am really pleased with.

Over to you:

  • Do you own a serger or overlocker?
  • Are there any features you wouldn’t be without?
  • Do you name your machines?!

Leave a comment: I’d love to hear from you!

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