I think I mentioned a while back that I had bought a Singer overlocker from Lidl. For those wonderful souls who don’t sew but still read this blog, an overlocker is a machine that gives you those neatly finished seams that you see in ready-made clothing and that apparently makes sewing knits and stretch fabrics a breeze as well as making a neat rolled hem. It can’t do simpler things such as straight stitches or a basic zigzag, and it doesn’t have a bobbin (which counts as a plus in my book). It needs threading with between 2 and 4 reels before you even get started. This is rather like threading an angry inside-out hedgehog that’s bearing knives, and does take a few minutes, not least because it has to be done in a particular order of threads.
Obviously, I’m a complete newbie to the world of overlocking. I’m not sure if they’d been invented when I did my 1982 vintage “Fashion & Fabrics” O level. The wee beastie is a sewing machine in about the same way that a thresher is a motor car. The fact that blades slice off extra fabric once the edge is stitched means that there are no second chances if you have the knife down and have inadvertently trapped extra fabric under the foot along with the fabric you wanted to stitch…
It’s small, noisy, messy, cantankerous and fiendishly efficient. It must have been inspired by Heath Robinson with touches of Dexter Morgan via the clinical blue lighting and slicing blades. Opinions in the sewing world vary about how useful they are and where they should come from (not everyone would buy from Lidl, despite their selling a widely available and respected model with a two year guarantee at a h.u.g.e discount). I’m definitely a fan, despite my limited use so far. It’s forgiving of being asked to attach 100lb fishing line to the hems of three circle skirts (it’s a long story and an even longer length of line). It’s very fast and very good, which does compensate for the longer setup time. It overlocked the raw edge at the waistbands of the same skirts in seconds. It’s neatened the miles of seams on the gored skirt of my By Hand London Anna dress. I know the pattern says French seams, but this cheap and cheerful cotton version will do fine without them.
It won’t be used for everything. I’d struggle with the idea of overlocking delicate or special fabrics (that’s when I would take the time to sew French seams), and there isn’t much point for anything lined, for example. It will however have a place for all the “quick and dirty” sewing/sewing processes that pass over my table. I certainly felt much happier stitching slippery shedding polyester to nylon fishing line with the wee beastie than with my sewing machine. It’s a lot less precious, in every sense of the word. I have to neaten seams, that’s in my DNA, but I have no problem with whizzing them through the wee beastie rather than zigzagging one side at a time. Not to mention easier and quicker ironing of all my handmades. Those perfectly pressed open seams never seem to come through the wash without snuggling back up to each other so they may as well be overlocked to one another to begin with, no?
So I’m a convert. Time to start thinking about nice jersey maxi skirts and dresses