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It helps a lot to use 4 different colors so it is easier to tell which thread tension needs adjustment.
Sergers have tension dials for every thread. Start out with the dials set at the midway point between high & low numbers (this is the factory standard, however, the settings can change with machine use and wear). Be sure to RAISE the presser foot while thread every thread--this allows the tension disks to open. It also helps to grab the thread with one hand below the thread tree and, with the other hand, grab the thread below the tension disk and give it a little tug to insure the thread is seated all the way in the tension disk. Check to make sure every thread is threaded in the proper order (consult the owner's manual) and that every thread follows the correct path.
Test. Tweak the thread tensions. Higher number usually tightens a loose tension, lower number loosens. The correct tension is when the looper threads meet at the very edge of the fabric without causing fabric pucker; needle threads should be smooth with no loops or pulliing.
Make sure the lower looper thread is seated properly in the tension disk. (RAISE the presser foot. Grasp the thread between the thread tree and the tension disk and with the other hand, grasp the thread below the tension disk and give a little tug.) When threading, always RAISE the presser foot so the tension disks are released.
If the lower looper thread is still too loose, set it to a tighter setting until it creates the stitch you want.
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.
Probably the best thing would be to consult the owner's manual.
BEFORE you thread the serger, RAISE the presser foot so the threads will seat properly and the thread will slide easily. Be sure to thread each thread in the proper ORDER! (Usually upper looper is first, lower looper second and the thread tail should always end up laying OVER the top of the upper looper before passing under the presser foot.)
It is also helpful to use different colors of thread so it is easier to tell which thread's tension needs adjustment.
Sergers require varying tension settings depending on the type of stitch and the appearance you prefer. To achieve the standard stitch setting on most sergers, start out with all the thread tension settings at the midway mark between the high and low numbers. Then test and adjust from there.
Verify with the owner's manual that you are threading everything correctly and not missing any steps. If any thread happens to break or come unthreaded, it is usually best to unthread EVERYTHING and start over from the beginning. (Sergers are very finicky, so if you are frustrated trying to get things to work, the last thing you will usually try is unthreading and rethreading from the beginning.)
I'm going to assume here you're talking about a serger. Unthread the lower looper and the eyes of the needle. Set the lower looper tension to 0. Rethread the lower looper, then the needle eyes. Then reset the lower looper tension (try about half a number lower) and see if it chains. If it won't chain, try replacing the needles.
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.
Have you changed the needles in your serger before this happened?
If so, check again that the left needle is fully up into its housing and that the needle is in the right way with the scarf (cut out) at the back. Have you got a ball point needle in one side and not the other perhaps. If you are seaming knits, then put in 2 ball point needles, if for wovens, then two sharp needles.
Now check tension on left needle, is the number on the dial the same as the right needle. Pull on the left thread just after the tension disc then the same on the right thread, does the tension feel the same on both?
Is the thread catching somwhere on the aerial, caught on the cone holder, or at the back somewhere or as it comes through the tension discs? Take thread out of the discs, turn dial to zero and give between the discs a good clean with the selvage edge of a clean piece of cotton waste fabric, saw it back and forwards to clean out the discs. Now thread the machine again again. I'm assuming this is a 4 thread serger, so thread order would be top looper, bottom looper, then right needle, left needle, turn tension to zero on all threads, pull all four threads out under the foot, loower the pressure foot, turn tension back to five on all (or whatever your normal setting is) then chain off a little and test sew.
If the bottom looks loose then this is usually a problem with top threading so rethread the machine and check that the thread has gone through the tension discs. Lower the pressure foot and pull gently on the thread just before the needle and feel if it is under tension. Is the top tension device set to the middle number setting? usually 5? Unthread the top path, turn the dial to 0 and run the edge of a piece of fabric through the tension discs to clean them. Thread shreds particles of dye and fine thread pieces as you sew so this area needs cleaning regularly.
Also a good idea to check the bobbin thread is under tension correctly and that the bobbin is in the correct way. On my Janome the bobbin thread winds off so that the bobbin turns in an anti-clockwise direction. Mine has a clear bobbin cover with a threading image to remind me of this but check yours and the manual if you have it. Janome bobbins are same top and bottom, usually clear plastic so it is easy to get it wrong sometimes.
Check out www.sewing.about.com for some good general advice on sewing machine threading and maintenance, it pays to always clean and maintain your machine regularly, use good quality threads and change your needle for EVERY project, don't try and reuse them.
Of course, if you know all this and have tried it already, then perhaps the top tension device has actually failed, if turning the dial up higher makes no differerence at all, then could be mechanic time.
The seam that is loose is formed by the left needle. It sounds like the thread is just not in the unit all the way. Using both hands, pull on the thread at the top and the bottom of the unit to force the thread deeper into the unit. Whenever you thread your serger, do this with each thread to be sure you get it deep into the metal discs that squeeze the thread. Always check by pulling on the thread through the eye of the needle before you sew to see if you feel resistance. Make sure you lower the foot that rests on the fabric when you do this test, because some sergers, "release" the tensions when the foot is up. If your tension is correct, the needle will bow slightly before the thread comes through the machine. The tension on the loopers is much looser than the needles.