My First Overlocker Experience

Last week I was lucky enough to go to a workshop at Guthrie & Ghani where I had my first play with an overlocker! I have owned an overlocker for a good few years but I've been too afraid to learn how to use it (thanks, people of the internet!) and so it stayed in the loft, feeling unloved and never fulfilling its destiny!

Funnily enough, the week before I had been listening to the Love to Sew podcast on overlockers and sergers. The girls made it sound like they were not machines to be feared, but really useful pieces of sewing kit! I remember saying to my husband that I was going to stop being silly and asked him to get it out of the loft so I could have a play. A few days later it was my birthday and he gave me a voucher for the workshop... coincidence??? And the only workshop planned was in three days time! I arranged childcare, booked on and began stressing that I didn't have ANYTHING to wear and so set about making a new top! Daft, I know...

Anyhoo, I was really excited and arrived at the shop a smidge early! Layla (@oldfashionedway), the woman running the workshop, arrived on the dot of 11am after a rubbish journey up from London but she got straight into it making us drinks and asking our overlocker history. The plan for the day was to learn the basics and play with the machines in the morning then stop for lunch and make t-shirts in the afternoon using our new overlocking skills! We were asked to take a metre of fabric for the t-shirts or we could buy what we needed from the shop.

There were 8 people on the workshop and we each had a Janome 6234XL overlocker to work on which I think she said was roughly £400 to buy. Layla started with the scary bit - threading! But this machine was colour coded to help with that. Turns out they're not difficult to thread, you just need to be patient with the looper threads and use tweezers! I think I managed mine on the first go and it maybe took me 10 minutes. We were given a roll of scrap fabric pieces to play with and as soon as I got going I was addicted! Its soooooooo satisfying!

We were shown how to 'lock off' at the start and end of a seam, how to do a rolled hem using three threads, how to sew convex and concave curves and played around with the tension and differential feed. I came home with lots of fabric scraps with notes written on them regarding what was right or wrong! It was a really fun process that I'm going to repeat with my machine.

After lunch we were given the patterns for our t-shirts which was based on a pattern Layla had drafted herself. It had a neckband and I opted for sleeve bands too. I'd bought some lovely grey single knit from the rag market for only £2 and chose a large size to give me a baggy, boxy style t-shirt.

We quickly cut out our pattern pieces and sewed up one shoulder, then Layla showed us a new way of attaching the neck band. I had a practise first then jumped straight in! Then the other shoulder was sewn, the arm bands attached, side seams sewn and then all that was left was the hem. For this we got to have a play on their coverstitch machine, another first! That afternoon I walked out wearing my new, entirely-made-on-the-overlocker t-shirt!!!

So that weekend I made the hubby go get my machine out of the loft. Turns out its a Pfaff! It was in a Brother box so that's what I thought it was so this goes to show I never had it out of the box to have a close enough look!

To be honest I wasn't expecting much... I didn't even think it would turn on it was so old. So we plugged it in and... IT WORKED!!! I'm not ashamed to say I might have even yelped! Once I knew it worked I set about threading it and some lovely person (probably Joan who gave it to me) left the old threads in so I managed to thread it the cheats way (that is to knot the old and new threads together at the top and pass them one at a time through the machine). Looking at it, if I ever have to thread it myself from start to finish I can see a couple of areas I might struggle.

I immediately started sewing and O.M.G it's lovely! I actually think it's quieter that the ones at G&G and it does the job nicely. I'm now planning my makes based solely on the need to overlock!!!

I had a really great time at Guthrie & Ghani and would recommend their workshops (that's the second I've been to), but do you really NEED an overlocker??? Yes, you can sew perfectly well without one but, people, if you sew a lot GO GET ONE! You won't be disappointed!