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How to use your Overlocker Course:

July 25, 2010


I’ve had my overlocker for a while now. A long while. I had just about managed to figure out how to thread it but other than that, I had no clue at all how to use it. It just sat in the corner, taunting me.

Finally, last week, I decided I needed to do something about it. I did a quick search for sewing schools or sewing courses nearby and this led me to Sue Hazell at who runs courses on a variety of different subjects including – thankfully – one on using an overlocker. One day’s tuition from 10am to 4pm costs £99, including lunch (and tea and cake later on, delightully!). Sue runs courses during the week and at weekends, which is perfect for those who don’t have (or can’t find) the time to go during the week. Interestingly, Sue also runs courses in a beautiful setting in France if you fancy a hobby-holiday somewhere although, at £995 per week, this would be slightly out of my price range.

Before heading to the class (which was held in Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire) I was hoping to learn the following:

  • how to correctly set the tnesion of my overlocker
  • sewing serged seams correctly
  • sewing stretch knits (this is the true reason I wanted an overlocker in the first place)

Really, what I wanted to know was: is this how it’s supposed to look?!

Before I launch into my review proper, I have to say what a beautiful area of the country this was to be learning in. I set off from home with ample time to cover the journey and got there a good 45 minutes early allowing me time to take this picture. I know that this is mostly road but look around: isn’t it a beautiful setting?

Sue was more than welcoming when we all arrived, coming out to meet us at the gate, and I was delighted to learn the classes were small – only four people in total – which meant we were all given due attention  and help. The day started with us being shown around and being supplied with much of the equipment we would be needing for the day. Each person received a personalised folder and worksheets for the course of the day (and we were given more as we progressed) as well as a personalised swatch for us to add to and complete. These touches were great as it not only guided us through what to do at the time but it is an enduring portfolio of the days work and a reference sources that we can go back to if we need to remember or to figure something out. I have to say, it also helped to break the ice between the four tutees as we had never met before and everyone was a little shy and awkward around each other. Obviosuly, this is natural and  it can be quite hard in that situation to all talk and get along, especially when you all feel like you know absolutely nothing! We were so owarmly received though that it wasn’t long before we were talking.

Moving on, each aspect of the overlocker was covered – sewing on the straight grain and on the bias, adjusting thread tensions according to your needs, gathering fabrics (which I didn’t know you could do with an overlocker – praise be, because I hate gathering!) and decorative stitches. I didn’t end up doing much with stretch materials as – and this is emtirely my own fault – I didn’t bring with me some ballpoint machine needles. However, I did get the stretch knits out anyway and have a good play around and experimented with different tensions and threads. Obviously, the results will be much slicker in future as I become more efficient and confident.

A handy tip which Sue gave us – and which seems obvious to me now – is to buy a shade extra fabric than what you need and to have a play with how it works on various machines and settings, so you can get it just right before you start. This will save time, effort (and potentially money!) and nerves by preparing for what pitfalls may lie ahead.

After a delicious home cooked lunch (spent outside, thanks to the nice weather) the afternoon was spent rethreading my machine, both the easy way and the hard way. I really hate threading my overlocker, and the first time I tried it, it took me well over an hour to figure it out so – suffice to say –  I was really not looking forward to this. The easy way is, obviously, easier and involves tying new and old threads together and pulling them through the machine. Easy as.

The hard way involves pulling out all the threads and redoing it. It’s not as hard as what it seems, but I’m not built for the frustration that it brings and I was huffing and puffing like a bad ‘un by the end of it. Still, it was satisfying to have done it and even more satisfying once I’d figured out what I’d done wrong…

All in all, this was a fabulous course. I really learned a lot from Sue who obviously has a lot of experience both with beginners, novices and advanced seamstresses.  She was patient, kind and friendly and gave us a lot of very helpful hints and tips. In fact, one other learner, who had never even switched a sewing machine on before (it was a joint overlocker/sewing machine day) came out of the class having made a really beautiful cushion. Sue even had little pincushion gifts for us at the end of the day. I would really recommend this course to anyone who needed a little help or setting in the right direction and i would like to thank Sue for all her help today.

One Comment
  1. Jo Benfield permalink
    December 29, 2016 8:56 am

    I have also done a few courses with Sue, and can’t recommend her enough! She seems to have never ending knowledge and tips and tricks for every situation – not to mention lovely lunch as you said.

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