All right folks, it’s time to say a proper hello to my shiny new toy, a Baby Lock Imagine serger! Am I in love? YES. 🙂 Am I confused and a little intimidated by this behemoth of a machine? Definitely. The vast majority of my sewing time lately has been devoted to figuring out all the nuances of the machine, and thankfully I’m making slow and steady progress. Man, sergers are so much more complicated than sewing machines! It’s been a fun challenge trying to make sense of it all.
Today I’ll share some photos of the machine itself, highlighting its many features and showing off all the shiny metal parts. 🙂 If you already own a serger, a lot of this will be familiar to you. If not, join me in drooling over all the mechanics! Let’s dive in, shall we?
Here’s a full view of the serger with the thread stand fully extended, ready to sew. I’ve set up the machine on my new Ikea table that I mentioned in last week’s video. The table is nice and sturdy, which is a must for sewing with this machine. My old, rickety folding table was no longer an option! To my extreme delight, the serger is permanently set up with the presser foot underneath the table. The power cord is plugged into a power strip under the table, and I used a heavy-duty extension cord to plug it all into the wall. When I want to sew, I just sit down and turn on the machine!
“Unboxing” the machine was quite an adventure, as it comes with about 4 million parts. Screwdrivers, spool covers, thread nets, spare screws and knife blades, the works! This is really a MACHINE and not nearly as user-friendly as my Bernina. It’s been a challenge learning which screw does what and when to move which lever and attach which supplemental part. The engineer in me loves it though. 🙂
The serger comes with a full-color thread guide cheat sheet (far left), a detailed full-color manual (center), and even a 102-minute DVD to illustrate each page of the manual. I’ve been impressed with the level of detail in the instructions and how well the video complements the written manual (even though the video is clearly from the 90s, LOL). I definitely referred to the video often while reading through the manual.
But wait, there’s more! A little accessory compartment underneath the far right thread spools contains even MORE parts, including spare needles, a lint brush, needle insertion tool, tweezers, etc. It’s amazing just how many bits and pieces come with this machine.
All right, let’s get to the business end of this baby!
Above you can see a few dials that are visible on the outside of the machine, before opening up the front panels. The top knob controls stitch width and uses 2 sets of numbers: the larger width applies when the left needle is in use, and the smaller width is when only the right needle is in use. The “M” is the standard setting. The middle knob is for locking the blade, and the bottom knob controls stitch length. There are two sets of length measurements: one set for regular stitching, and one set for rolled hems.
Opening up the front panels reveals the jet-air threading system, which apparently is the main feature contributing to the hefty price tag of this machine. I’ve never threaded a regular serger and can’t truly appreciate the ease of threading in this jet-air system, but I have to say, I still get confused threading it! The fully-illustrated threading cheat sheet on the inside of the front panel is a nice touch – a quick reminder of the basic threading steps. I think I’ll get the hang of it with more practice.
Here are the threading ports in all their glory. You can see the two looper threads extending down from the upper thread guides and into the threading ports below. The lever directly under the ports switches the air “whoosh” between the upper (left) and lower (right) loopers. To activate the whoosh, you press down on the lever on the bottom right. You can imagine the look on my face the first time I tried it. Pretty awesome. 🙂
The photo above also shows the stitch selector in the upper right. Stitches A, B, C, and D each have various functions and depend on how the machine is threaded. I definitely need to be glued to the manual to set up the machine correctly for each stitch.
At the very bottom of the photo, you can see the machine lock lever (the horizontal slit) and button (circular white plastic). The machine has to be locked when threading the loopers, presumably so that the threads can freely travel through the looper tubes in the right configuration.
Are you still with me? Hopefully! 🙂 Now let’s focus in on the sewing area. Above you can see the two needles and two loopers, presser foot, and feed dogs. My apologies for the slightly blurry photos – it was really difficult to get everything in focus with so many little parts.
Pressing down on the little white lever on the left engages the needle threader, which was pretty amazing…. until I broke it. OOPS. I’m pretty annoyed with myself for breaking something before I’ve even used the machine on a real garment, but hopefully this will be an easy fix whenever I bring the machine in for its first service. I suppose it was a good lesson learned: you have you be REALLY careful when removing and re-installing the needles, or when changing anything about the machine’s configuration. Sigh.
Anyway, here’s a better view of the loopers and the knife. It’s pretty hard to explain exactly which piece is which without making a fancy labeled photo (sorry, I’m lazy!), but suffice it to say that there are a lot of moving parts in this area. If you spin the handwheel and watch everything move slowly, it’s quite impressive how precise the movements are and how the stitches are made. Oh Baby Lock, how do I love thee? 🙂
The presser foot, here seen from the left side of the machine, is much longer and more substantial than the feet on my Bernina. It was interesting to learn that you don’t actually have to lift the foot to start serging. Since the feed dogs extend out in front of the foot, the machine just sucks up the fabric automatically. Cool! I guess you only have to raise the foot when you want to start sewing in a specific position. You can see the white horizontal lever to lift the foot toward the rear of the machine.
I tried to be good to my new machine and invest in quality thread: Maxi-Lock. I bought 4 spools for about $4 each – not bad, but the cost can certainly add up if you want spools of serger thread in every color of the rainbow! I started with gray because I hear it’s a good match for many colors of fabric.
Phew, that was a long post! I hope you enjoyed seeing all the guts of the machine as much as I did. 🙂 I recently finished going through the user manual and trying out all the various stitches, and I’ll be back soon with a post containing all my thoroughly-labeled samples. Yes, I’m a total nerd.
It’s been quite a long haul learning how to use this machine, but I’m glad that I’ve been taking a methodical approach. Yay for learning new skills and expanding my sewing horizons!
Hope you all had a good weekend! If you own a serger, did it take you a while to get the hang of it?