Machine Maintenance

My good old Baby Lock serger (shown far right) had been getting progressively looser in the stitch. I had named him Jonah Hex shortly after purchase on account of his retaining complete control over thread tension. He’ll do the job, he’ll do a damn fine job, and he’ll do it his own way. You don’t like it, tough.

The cool thing about Baby Lock sergers is the whole automatic tension thing and the threading with a gust of air. The bad thing about Baby Lock sergers is the whole automatic tension thing and the threading with a gust of air.

Having grown up with cars with manual window cranks, the increasing prevalence of automatic windows leaves me periodically nervous about ending up with a window emergency in a powered-off car. Like getting trapped in a car in a lake. Or that time in high school when I ran a lot of errands with a friend who had neither working power windows nor cranks nor A/C.

The front panel came off and is now propped in place by a thin strip of plastic, which I guess I should have seen coming after naming the machine after this guy:

Also, the blade, which immediately winds up going over a pin every freaking time I get it changed, and which had furthermore not been changed in probably about a year, had finally given up completely. After an extended period of iffy cutting, it was not longer even cutting this effectively:

So with all the work I had lined up and the heavy focus on serging, I decided to whip out my old serger. This is actually a fabulous serger (New Home HF504D, which is the last model in this series sold under the name New Home before they switched to Janome), and even after I had first bought Jonah, I was still using her the most because you can tell her exactly what you want her to do and she’ll do it without making you fight an alligator to get her agreement.

Which is why I’ve been referring to her as The Bitch for some time. This is not a particularly informative name, though, due to the double meaning. I can’t think of many characters who do whatever they’re told, so I’m not sure what to rename her. The first one who comes to mind is Jefe, who yes-manned El Guapo to the point of attempting to pretend he knew what a plethora was. But she’s not really a villain, and I’m not sure she’s got the bad attitude or stupidity to match Jefe, nor do I want her to get any ideas.  Perhaps a Disney princess? Snow White? She was pretty agreeable.

Anyway, back to the tale. Then someone with access to my studio while I was out of town used her in such a way that both loopers became twisted. I do not even know how this is possible, but there are some people who can manage to wreak havoc in ways you cannot fathom, and they should be cut from your life with the determination of Mr. Hex after a bounty before they wreak this havoc on your serger.

At the time I was going to a particular sewing machine mechanic who shall remain nameless, and who returned it to me “repaired” in such a way that the once-immaculate stitches were now pretty floopy. I tried to adjust it myself, but they were seriously irregular and that cannot be adjusted for by changing the tension. I also tried to get it to make its previously beautiful rolled hem, and that wasn’t any better.

I returned it to him, describing the ongoing problem, and received an insulting phone call pretty much explaining that I was too much of a moron to know how to use a serger properly or what tension-setting was for. He insisted that the reason the stitches were floopy was because I had changed the tension, which he had set perfectly to the only tension I would ever need. Furthermore, despite the fact that I had wasted his time by dropping the malfunctioning machine off for further/actual repairs instead of calling to ask him how my machine worked, he would graciously readjust the tension to straight 4’s all the way across without charging me, and I needed to stop messing with it.

There is a reason the tension is adjustable; it’s how you get different stitches, such as rolled hem or flatlock. Saying I shouldn’t change the tension on that type of machine is like saying that a sewing machine that can do decorative embroidery stitches REALLY only needs a straight stitch. Or that a stick shift car that’s stuck in 3rd gear is, on average, everything you’ll ever need, as long as you don’t get on the highway. Or come to a complete stop anywhere.

So anyway, I set that machine aside and exclusively used Jonah Hex for a number of years, and he was now coming to a point where he needed medical attention himself.

I checked them both over and after a brief wrestle with The Bitch, I determined that Jonah was the least malfunctioning, and lugged them both, as well as Jurgis, who had had a one-foot-high tumble off a cart onto concrete, to my favorite genius sewing mechanic: Antonio at Mr. Sewing Machine on Harry Hines, in the front section of the building they share with Golden D’or. (At this time on their website, you can get to a photo in which you can see Antonio’s ear by clicking on a link endearingly titled “Sarvice Department;” I love these people.)

I’d hoped I could get Antonio to work some sort of miracle to improve Jonah enough to tide me over until he could fix The Bitch, but he and the assistant mechanic were both out of town for a week to learn how to be even more awesome, and a backlog of broken machines was piling up in their absence.

I got Mr. Sewing Machine himself to replace the blade, then went home to see if I could figure out anything myself.

Here he is looking even more like his namesake:

From the side:

I blew the whole thing out with spray cleaner and an air compressor, then oiled everything that moved. Found some lint in various parts of the tension mechanisms.

Reassembled it all, tried it out. The needle tension is now passable, though it still needs some maintenance from an expert. Also, I ran over a needle with the blade.