Overlocking Obstacles

I have a not-so-great overlock machine – a White Speedylock 1600 – that will no longer do a 4-thread stitch, but it still does an OK 3-thread stitch for finishing seams. I broke it years ago and got it serviced, but it never worked as well after that. It’s not worth spending money to have it serviced at this point – I’d be better off saving for a new machine.

I was inspired by this do-it-yourself serger repair post to try to fix it myself. I spent hours adjusting the looper timing trying to get it to catch the left needle thread, but I finally gave up. Actually, I had it mostly working at one point, but then I just had to try to get it a little better . . . you can guess how that worked out. I should have left well enough alone.

Even though I couldn’t get the looper to catch the left needle thread, I was excited to find that I could now use this machine on thin fabric, which had never worked before. I thought I’d adjusted my serger to work better than ever – I hardly had any skipped stitches, even on very thin fabric!

Well, it turns out that when I was adjusting my machine, I happened to have some black Tex 40 weight thread in it. This thread is heavier than the typical serger thread you will find at a fabric store (such as Maxi-Lock – Tex 27). Wikipedia has an explanation of thread weight and Tex numbers, if you care.

When I switched back to my regular thread, bam, the overlocker was back to skipping as many stitches as it caught on lightweight fabric. So the “fix” wasn’t from my mad mechanical skills – darn it. My overlock machine just does better with thicker thread. I only have the thicker thread cones in black and olive green, so I just ordered a Tex 40 cone in white (yay, on sale!). I probably won’t use this thread too often, so I’ll just split up one cone of thread. (Update – I got the thread, and it was disappointing, so I now I use regular spools of Gutterman thread in the needles and serger thread in the loopers, and it works pretty well.)

So really, my overlocker is back to working just like it was before I tried to fix it. Sigh. At least I didn’t break it. And I did learn something.

The lesson here? If your serger/overlocker is skipping stitches on lightweight fabric, try using thicker thread (like regular sewing machine thread). It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s what worked for me.

Thick and thin serger thread

I used on Tex 40 thread on the upper sample and Tex 27 thread (typical serger thread) on the lower sample.

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Posted in Sewing
3 comments on “Overlocking Obstacles
  1. Anita says:

    Dear Leila! Thank you so much for posting this! I got a secondhand serger (toyota sl3404d) last year. Couldn’t get an even seam. Went to servis, no solution. Ordered some new part few days ago. Was f*in with it for about 4-5 hours today, took it apart, cleaned just everthing, tried all tensions, searched the whole web, went crazy and was crying hysterically and then I found your blog. I tried now with changing lower and upper looper threads with thicker thread and it’s working!!!!
    Thank you so much, so so so much, sending virtual kisses and hugs and real love and gratitude your way!

    • Leila says:

      I’m so glad this helped someone! I’ve fiddled with my serger some more, and, I’ve discovered that I can use cheap serger thread in the loopers as long as I use good thread for the needles. Also, I put a ELx705 needle in the left needle, and now with the needle tension loose enough, I can use both needles without skipping too many stitches (on most fabric). I recently got the book The Ultimate Serger Answer Guide: Troubleshooting for Any Overlock Brand or Model, and it has been VERY helpful. You can get a used copy inexpensively on Amazon. I wish I’d had this book when I first got my serger.

      • Anita says:

        I wish I found your blog first thing in the morning! 😀 Everything else is working fine (at least for now), just thicker threads were a missing piece of this puzzle! You totally saved my day and restored my faith in Life. I’m so thankful now for internet and good people like you! ❤

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