A new set of knives may be the fix you need. Sharp knives on a serger make a world of difference. I bought a new one for ours but I think a person could put a keen edge on the old one if they so desired.
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I don't know your model in particular but generally this is how you set up a serger/overlocker to create a rolled hem. Remove the left hand needle and thread if 4 threads are threaded). Now there is usually a lever around the stitching area that you slide back towards you to remove the stitching finger back (disengaged). Then you adjust the top looper tension looser (about 2-3) and lower looper tension tighter (7 or 8). Leave needle tension at normal tension (5). You may need to move the cutting blade to the right too. The technique is to cut the fabric wider but with a narrow stitch so the cut edge rolls under within the stitching. You want the top looper thread really loose so it rolls right around underneath up against the needle thread, the lower looper thread needs to be tight and almost invisible, pulling the upper looper thread down. I usually do a few test runs and check the stitching. Once happy, I turn the stitch length right down to 1 so it is very dense. This uses a lot of thread up.
It is difficult to tell what exactly is happening with your serger.
First thing--make sure you RAISE the presser foot BEFORE you thread any of the threads. This releases the tension disks so the threads will seat properly. You may need to remove all the threads and rethread from the beginning, making sure you thread each in the proper order. Start out with the thread tensions set at the ideal setting--usually the halfway point between the high & low numbers. From there, you will adjust them to even up the thread tensions.
Are you actually trimming off some of the fabric as it is stitching? If so, you might try increasing the cutting width (moves the cutting edge further toward the right) so that there is more fabric caught within the looper threads. It also appears that the looper tensions may be too loose. Try tightening the upper and lower looper tensions so less of the thread loops don't fall off the fabric's raw edge.
Your owner's manual should have instructions for rolled hem settings. My Bernina manual has a the following settings:
Medium weight fabric
80/12 Universal needle
3 cones serger thread
Upper looper 3-5
Lower looper 7-9
Left needle (no thread)
Right needle 3-5
Stitch length 1-1.5
Cutting width 2-3
Differential feed N
Can use woolly thread in the upper looper, but the tension may need to be loosened since the woolly nylon thread will stretch.
First of all ensure that the serger is threaded correctly.
The two setting which you mention are really a 'range' for an 'average' setting.
Using 'average' fabric such as a medium weight cotton, flannel, etc.; set each of the tensions in the middle of the range and test the stitch. There may be minor adjustment required to get a perfect stitch.
Once you have stitched that first sample, here are some possible minor adjustments required:
1. Tear-drop shaped loops on the underside: Check that the thread is firmly set in the tension dial by giving the needle threads a good snug pull above the tension dials while the presser foot is down.
2. The zig-zag like thread on top should meet the ziz-zag like thread on the underside right on the fabric cut edge. If the meeting happens on top: reduce the upper looper tension slightly and increase the lower looper tension slightly ... test sew and recheck. If the meeting is on the underside: increase the upper looper tension slightly and decrease the lower looper tension slightly ... test sew and recheck.
3. If the meeting does happen along the fabric cut edge but the meeting is hanging beyond the fabric cut edge: increase the blade position (that is, move the blade to the right). If the fabric is creating a ridge or tunnel; move the blade to the left slightly.
Please let me know if this has solved your problem. Otherwise let me know what is happening with the stitch quality.
Are you wanting to use the serger to sew a hand knitted sweater together? or do you mean a sweat shirt knit or other knit fabric. If it is the first option, I'd say don't bother, as you can't do it with the blades working because it will cut your knitting and the wool will unravel in the seams.
If it is the second option then I would start with the following settings.
Four thread stitch, so both needles and the upper and lower loopers threaded. Set tension on all four dials to 5, stitch length to between 2 and 3, and differential on zero. Move the cutting blade over to the right for a wider seam. Now test stitch on some fabric scraps double layer and see what the seam is looking like.
Now you want to adjust a couple of things: firstly width of the seam. Is it the size you want? If you'd like it a little narrower, then adjust the cutting blade back a little to the left to narrow the seam slightly - just depends on the fabric weight. For example if it is a loose open weave like boucle you would want a wide seam to make sure it holds the fibres fully.
Now you can adjust the upper and lower loopers to get the thread wrapping around the edge looking nice. Look at the seam and the fabric inside it. Is it tunnelling and pulling up the fabric? if so, release tension on both loopers a half number to put more thread into the seam. Test stitch again and see if the loopers are meeting nicely on the cut edge of the fabric. Upper and lower looper threads should be meeting right on the cut edge so if this isn't happening and one showing on the other side, then tighten the looser one by half a number and test again.
If the threads are hanging off the edge then you have the choice of moving the blade to the right to cut less fabric off, or tightening up the looper tensions to pull in the thread.
That's it, hope this helps you to master your serger.
If you'd like some images and further explanations of other stitching you can do with your overlocker, then Debbie Coswell has some great information on line at www.sewing.about.com, just search "overlocker" to find the specific pages.
Serger may have a threading diagram inside the front looper cover which should show the various thread eyelets that you need to pull the threads through and they may be numbered one to 4 also to indicate order of threading. The diagram is usually colour coded to match the tension dial colours and serger usually has colour dots on the different thread eyes to help you follow the thread path for each thread.
This video is great and hopefully will help you http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zszJYQe2aws&feature=related, it has lay in tensions while yours has dials so just pull the thread around the dial right to left and then across to the next thread eye and this should pull the thread into tension. Dials are usually all set to 5 for normal stitch formation.
On my serger you thread up in the following order: top looper (second from right dial), bottom looper (right hand dial), then right needle, left needle; this video shows all threading going from right to left however, so if you have a numbered diagram inside your thread cover, then certainly use that order. But always loopers before needles.
Raise the thread aerial first before you start, put the cones onto the thread spools and if you have any cone holders (little plastic triangles) put them on the spools first to steady the cones. Now for each thread, take the thread tail from the cone, up through the aerial thread guide, then follow the coloured dots and take this down the front of the serger putting it into each coloured thread guide, through looper then up under the raised pressure foot. Repeat for next looper, then the needles.
Pull all 4 threads out under the foot to the left, lower foot, then chain off a little to start and test sew on fabric, adjusting the tensions if you need to.
Other adjustments are stitch length (usually a knob on right beside the flywheel numbered 1-4, blade position, a dial either left or right of the blade, press on the blade to release the tension on it before you try and move it. And differential feed, this is also a knob numbered 0.5 to 2 usually. If you can't see this on the right by flywheel then open up fabric plate (left cover) and look in there for these two adjustments.
I would suggest you start with tensions on 5, and stitch length of 2-3, and test sew on scraps of the fabric you wish to overlock. You can then either move the blade to cut wider or narrower to suit and adjust the two looper tensions if you need to close up the thread on the cut edge. There is no black and white settings as each fabric will behave a little differently, generally you adjust the looper tensions a bit until the stitch is encasing the cut edge and you have a seam width that suits the weight of the fabric.
Differential feed leave on zero unless you find you need it when a loose weave fabric goes wavy, then turn it down to close up the feeding. Sergers have two feed dogs, one before and after the foot and turning differential knob changes the ratio of feed between the two so either stretches the fabric, or pushes it together as it goes through the stitching sequence. So by turning differential feed up to 1.5 or 2 you are stretching the fabric and you can do a narrow rolled hem edge that is all fluted (lettuce edging).
I hope this helps you out a bit, if you are completely new to this machine and have never used a serger then I always suggest taking a class from a local dealer, it is really worth the money and time as they are quite different to sewing machines but once mastered, really change the dynamics of sewing and techniques are much more like commerical production with flat construction etc.
Stretch fabric is made for using the differential feed on your machine, sergers love stretchy things. Try widening the stitch you are using and turn your differential feed down one notch to allow the machine to get a good grip on the fabric, you may need to bump the differential feed up more if it still doesn't stitch nice, keep trying on a piece of scrap fabric of the same as you are using until you are happy with the stitch.Another solution is to put some lightweight tissue paper under the seams and then tear it off after you have sewn the seams, this works but will dull your blades over time.