Puns N Needles

Dispatches from my adventures: sewing, knitting, and otherwise.

A sewing machine autopsy?

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I had been waiting for months to try out my new serger – a Christmas present. Technically, it’s an industrial 3-stitch overlock machine. I actually found it on craigslist, and then the Machinist picked it up about an hour away. He bought it from the daughter of the previous owner, who’d let it sit in a barn for years. And before he bought it, he consulted Joe, our trusty sewing machine mechanic in Rhode Island.  Joe’s response when the Machinist asked if we should grab this machine: “Can’t go wrong for fifty bucks” — in the end, purchase price was $25.

Being unfamiliar with this kind of machine, and knowing that it likely needed some work, we decided to let Joe have first crack at it. My parents were here just after Christmas and again a few weeks ago, so they kindly transported it to and from Joe’s shop. It gave me some time to re-organize my sewing room to make room for the new machine (born in the 1980s, we believe), which sits in its own table with attached motor.

Memorial Day weekend gave me the chance to see what the machine could do. I whipped up a simple A-line skirt in just an hour or so — quickly finishing inside seams with the serger.


All inside seams were finished with the serger

All inside seams were finished with the serger

For those unfamiliar, these machines will wrap stitches around the edge of fabric and trim it all at once — most store-bought clothes are finished in this manner. Before I made the skirt, I finished sewing a top in lightweight fabric with raglan or baseball style sleeves.

Inside seams finished with the serger - speeds up the garment construction process

Inside seams finished with the serger – speeds up the garment construction process

And afterwards, I re-finished the seams in a handmade blouse and dress that was starting to ravel inside.  Then I started working on a wrap skirt in a loose-woven cotton or linen that my mom gave me years ago. I was serging all around the edges, preparing to hem it when the serger stopped.  It just quit moving.

I went to find the Machinist and his preliminary diagnosis was that it had seized because oil was not getting to the proper places. His rationale was that we were running the machine with a slower motor which may not give enough oomph to the oil pump.  Fearing the worst, I finished the skirt with a regular zig-zag stitch and my Singer 201-2.  The Machinist called Joe after the weekend, and neither were very optimistic, but Joe recommended opening her up and applying penetrating oil. Before we could get to this, the Machinist left town for a long weekend.  I sent him a couple ads for sergers from craigslist in the city where he was attending an antique truck show and did some research on what I’d like to replace this Juki with — I had been bitten by the serger bug and felt it would be difficult to go on sewing forever without this handy tool.  But I didn’t want to pronounce this Juki dead – not until after we were certain it couldn’t be revived.

The Machinist checking out the Juki overlock machine

The Machinist checking out the Juki overlock machine

So yesterday we set out to see why it wasn’t moving.  We found a broken oil line and on further investigation, and spraying of PB Blaster, were able to get the parts moving smoothly again.  It started out as an autopsy but turned out to be exploratory surgery, I guess.  Once we find some hose that’s good for oil lines in the correct size, and perform an oil change, and replace a gasket or two, I should be back in business.


Broken oil line caused the machine to seize up

Broken oil line caused the machine to seize up

Do you have a serger? What do you most like using it for?



Author: Accacia

I'm a librarian at a college in Lexington, Virginia. I sew, I knit, and I cook.

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